“Rumination tends to be eased if we are mindful; if we are able to be aware of, and understand how our own thoughts work.”
— Peter Kinderman
At the end of a long day or a particularly heart-wrenching breakup, you might find yourself lost in a storm of ruminations.
You are not alone.
90% of the population struggles with rumination, whether they have a diagnosed anxiety disorder or not. The difference is that someone with a condition will often experience deep shame and fear about a certain thought, while someone without one will simply move on and go about their day.
What Is Rumination and How Does It Differ from Emotional Processing?
It is truly important to engage in emotional processing if you find yourself in a jarring, abusive, or toxic situation because you will likely need to weigh the pros and cons realistically before making a decision. However, rumination entails only focusing on the negative aspects of a person or circumstance.
6 Coping Strategies
We all ruminate for different reasons: Some are struggling with deep fears or residual trauma from previous experiences. Others are dwelling on a mistake they made that they fear is unforgivable.
Whatever the case may be, it’s important to develop the tools you need to work through distressing and relentless thoughts when they are swirling around in your brain.
1. Plan to Take Action
When you find yourself ruminating, you will want to create a plan to take action. This gets you into problem-solving mode.
The first thing to remember is that this is just a thought. However, you may want to question why you are ruminating: Are you worried about an upcoming test because you haven’t studied for it sufficiently? Is a romantic partner’s behavior weighing on your mind because you are in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship?
2. Take Action
Taking action will almost always help those ruminations leave your mind: Preparing for an exam well in advance can help you feel confident and prepared to ace that test while letting go of relationships that are not serving you can leave you with increased peace of mind.
3. Readjust Your Life Goals If Necessary
Sometimes, you might be ruminating because you are feeling uncomfortable with your life choices. This is certainly a hard pill to swallow for many, but, if you are studying to become an accountant and know you’ll be absolutely miserable for the rest of your life if you keep going down that path, it might be time to rethink your professional goals.
If you are in an abusive relationship, it’s time to leave and tend to your mental health. It can be deeply disorienting to do this, but the reward of emotional well-being is absolutely incredible.
4. Work on Increasing Your Self-Esteem
You may be ruminating because you are extremely concerned with your relationships, to the point where you sacrifice parts of yourself for other people. This is a very painful place to be in, but it’s one that you can work through with diligent effort.
These issues may stem from trauma during childhood, painful events from your past, or experiences of abandonment that left a scar.
Sometimes, it’s an issue of insecurity and shame about a condition you may have or a feeling of guilt about your actions. It could even be a result of societal conditioning: Many women struggle to set boundaries, and some people give away their self-respect to connect with others.
Thankfully, all of this can be remedied through hard work, patience, and determination. Seeing a counselor will likely aid in the healing process.
If you can sit down and unplug for even just a few minutes, you’ll likely be able to distance yourself from your thoughts and emotions.
This will almost always help you feel more grounded in yourself and less consumed by everything external.
At the very least, you might be able to understand why you’re ruminating.
6. Ask for Help If Necessary
For a long time, there’s been a pretty strong stigma surrounding people who seek counseling.
Thankfully, the tides are changing, and a lot of people are now going to therapy as a form of preventative care.
Counseling isn’t for everyone, but it can make a world of difference for quite a few individuals, as long as you’re willing to do the work.
You’ll only want to take counseling if you’re truly ready to change the patterns that haven’t been working for you.
That being said, there are plenty of folks who swear by it and treat is as a form of preventative care, including Jennifer Aniston herself!
While rumination is never pleasant, there are times when our intuition could trying to tell us something: Maybe you need to quit that dead-end job or leave that person who you’re just not in love with anymore.
Perhaps they are mistreating you and this has led to a great deal of racing thoughts on your end.
Whatever the case may be, it’s almost always okay to change course if you need to, so that you can set sail on the waters of your life.