7 Steps to Stop Ruminating in its Tracks
What is ruminating? Ruminating is repeatedly going over negative thoughts in your mind. It could take the form of thinking about your perceived flaws, rehashing a painful experience, or persistently thinking through a problem with no identifiable solution. Ruminating can prolong depressive episodes and make recurrence of depression more likely. Although it may feel like you are taking steps solve a problem, in reality ruminating removes you from participating in rewarding activities and increases isolation and passivity. The following are cognitive behavioral techniques that may help you stop ruminating.
1. Try the cognitive therapy technique of considering the costs and benefits of ruminating. Do the benefits outweigh the costs? And are they really benefits at all? What are you missing out on when you ruminate? When was the last time you actually came to a new understanding about yourself by obsessing over past failures and perceived weaknesses?
2. Ask yourself whether rumination will solve your problem. If not, identify actual solutions and commit to taking action.
3. Set a time limit to your rumination. If you’ve been thinking about the same issue for more than 10 minutes with no discernible increase in insight or problem solving, it’s not working. Let it go.
4. Turn your mind to something else. Once you notice you are ruminating, make the conscious choice to think about something else. You can shift your attention to something pleasant, or to some problem in which there’s an identifiable solution. Even more effective is to engage in some activity, like talking a walk or making a snack, and put your mind on the activity. Maybe there are even actual problems you could solve.
5. Sometimes ruminating is a way of not accepting reality. Think about what accepting reality in this situation would involve, and weigh the pros and cons of taking this different orientation to the situation. Acceptance can be a very powerful way of dealing with difficult situations.
6. Accept that sometimes things are unfair or they don’t make sense. Shrug it off, and smile at the chaos of the universe. Accepting it, and don’t let it trip you up.
7. Recognize the ruminating as part of an age-old pattern, and allow it to be there without believing it hook, line, and sinker. Treat it as though it were an infomercial playing in the back room. Just noise. Don’t fight it, just do what needs to be done, and allow the chatter to go along for the ride.
Ruminating is often a symptom of anxiety or depression, and thus can be very difficult to handle on your own. There are numerous cognitive behavioral treatments for anxiety and depression, that are clinically-proven to have very high rates of effectiveness in as few as six sessions. Click here to learn more about CBT for anxiety and CBT for depression.
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