If you deal with PTSD, anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders you may find yourself stuck in cycles of rumination. Rumination is a term that means you repeat the same thoughts in your head over and over again. It’s also known as obsessive thinking and it can be debilitating to people who deal with it.
An example would be if you were involved in a car accident and developed PTSD. Then, you would continue to replay the accident in your mind constantly to the point that it interferes with your functionality and quality of life.
When you are in a cycle of rumination, it can deepen mental health symptoms and make it challenging to think and process emotions. Many people who ruminate also say they feel isolated and it can lead them to push people away.
According to the American Psychological Association, common reasons for rumination include the belief that you’ll gain insight by doing it, or having a history of emotional or physical trauma. If you are facing chronic stress exposure that can’t be controlled, you may also be more likely to ruminate.
Right now, with all that’s going on with the media and the Covid-19 outbreak, even people who don’t necessarily deal with mental health concerns may find they’re ruminating.
The following are some tips that can help you break this cycle.
Identify the Fear
Sometimes you might ruminate without even really understanding what your underlying fear is. You need to be able to identify your fear, and then that can help you start to address it.
If you aren’t sure how to identify your true fear, you might want to start journaling because people often find this helpful.
If you start to find that you’re ruminating, it can be helpful to break the cycle by distracting yourself. Find something else to do, even if it’s something that seems simple. For example, take a short walk or do a chore in your house.
Maybe you call or text someone close to you or read a book.
Just breaking your thoughts for a moment can be helpful to prevent ongoing rumination.
If you can’t break the pattern, have a plan for what you’ll do to deal with the problem.
Question Your Thoughts
If something traumatic happens or we feel like we’ve done something wrong, we might be more likely to ruminate.
If you are ruminating, start to question the validity of your thoughts.
Ask yourself how realistic they are, and delve into why you’re thinking the way you are.
You might also figure out what the worst-case-scenario is. That can sound counterproductive, but you may find that by questioning yourself about the worst-case outcome, you may actually see that you’re more resilient than you give yourself credit for.
Give Yourself a Worry Break
Something that a lot of people do when they’re dealing with anxiety and rumination is to schedule a worry break. This is a concept that works well for a lot of people.
Essentially you set aside 20 to 30 minutes each day that is your worry time, and you push the worry out of your mind the rest of the day.
You sit down and go over your biggest worries during this time, and then throughout the day, you can tell yourself you’ll worry later.
When we ruminate we’re either thinking about things in the past or we’re worrying about the future. In neither of these scenarios are we in the present?
Practicing mindfulness can help you stay in the present, and over time you can train your brain to do that more regularly.
When you practice mindfulness, you slow your thoughts and enjoy small things happening right now. You can train your brain to move back to the present if you feel it wandering.
Set Small Goals
Sometimes we overwhelm ourselves and make our rumination worse by setting only big goals and then thinking that our success is dependent on reaching them.
Set small, attainable goals for yourself.
Finally, if you try strategies on your own and you can’t stop the cycle of rumination, then you might want to consider therapy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a good option for people who deal with rumination as well as anxiety and depression because it asks that you examine your thoughts and then take steps to change them.
Much of what CBT is all about is breaking the ruminative thought cycle.