So have you ever thought about something over and over? Something didn’t go the way you wanted and your thinking about all the things that went wrong. You think about various scenarios and different factors for an extensive period of time, but you aren’t coming up with any solutions. You may feel very stressed out and exhausted at this point. Well what you did was a lot of ruminating.

I’ll tell you now that I have done this numerous times myself. I guarantee you that you that pretty much every person out there has done at some point in their lives. Your definitely not alone in this.

Why Do We Ruminate About Things Especially the Negative Ones

We’ve all heard of ‘critical thinking’ at some point. It’s what we do when we’re trying to figure something tough out, coming up with something new and creative, and thinking outside the box. Critical thinking requires some deep thought and brainstorming. In doing so though, we can get caught up in the process to where we’re stressing ourselves out and not getting solutions.

Obsessive, on-going, ruminating can be bad for our mental health. According to Wehrenberg (2016), “Rumination is one of the similarities between anxiety and depression. Ruminating is simply repetitively going over a thought or a problem without completion. When people are depressed, the themes of rumination are typically about being inadequate or worthless” (para, 1). When our self-worth is down, the feeling of being inadequate and inferior will raise our anxiety and can bring about depression. Our brain can replay different scenarios where other things in our life went wrong or didn’t work out. We can have trouble coming up with simple solutions to simple problems. The easy things can become hard. This kind of thinking can be a downward spiral that can also affect our energy level and possibly cause fatigue and weakness in our muscles.

The Toll You Take

Obsessive ruminating can take a toll on our mental and emotional health, however it can even take a toll on our physical health.

One thing this can do to us is cause our stress levels to go out of whack. Our cortisol levels go up which then results in our anxiety going up which can lead to muscle weakness, possible weight gain, possible skin changes like bruises, increased thirst, frequent urination, osteoporosis, a flushed look on your face, and mood swings. For those of you who don’t know, the society of endocrinology (2019) states that “Cortisol is a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of vital processes throughout the body, including metabolism and the immune response. It also has a very important role in helping the body respond to stress” (para, 1).

The second thing obsessive ruminating can do is cause us a negative state of mind. Our stress vision goes out of control and we can easily succumb to becoming depressed and unhappy. We can become pessimistic about people’s actions and words, loose hope on different things in life, and be rude to our friends and family.

A third thing that can happen is that we start to be less proactive in our daily lives. We start to put off things till the next day and before we know it, we have put those things off for 4 days. It can reach the point where we are not eating or getting enough sleep.

A fourth thing goes back to my post on self-sabotage. Obsessive ruminating can lead to developing negative coping behaviors like stress eating. This can lead to more unwanted stress and a downward spiral of negativity.

A fifth thing is that hypertension (high blood pressure) is connected to obsessive ruminating. Elizabeth Scott (2019), mentions that “Rumination may prolong the stress response, which increases the negative impact of stress on the heart” (para, 17). You can feel yourself getting worked up when you have the same constant thoughts run through your mind over and over and your not getting any solutions or the solutions you think you should get.

Here are some ways you can stop obsessive ruminating thoughts:

  1. Distract yourself by doing something you enjoy or examining an object like how that lamp in your living room was built or how they designed that colorful pattern on your shirt. Anything to take your attention away from your thoughts.
  2. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, listening to music, yoga, and meditation for example.
  3. Socialize with people. Talking to people will make you listen and pay attention to them and get you out of your head. Ask them questions and talk about things you enjoy, that they enjoy, and what you both enjoy.
  4. Identify what thoughts and or fears cause you to ruminate. Is it a person, word, phrase, behavior, place, something that happened in your past, worried about something happening in the future? Whatever it is, identifying these things can help you to avoid ruminating about them. In time and with practice, you can develop a better handle on controlling your thoughts so that you don’t obsessively ruminate about them.
  5. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Knowing what you are capable of handling can help you to stop obsessively ruminating. Should the worst case scenario happen, you know whether or not you can handle it and most of the time it’s not life or death or the end of the world.
  6. View those mistakes you made as learning experiences. Mistakes aren’t always permanent. As I mentioned in a previous post about mistakes, you can learn what went wrong so that in the future you don’t repeat them. ‘What’s done is done’ and ‘What’s gone is gone’ are phrases you may have heard at some point in your life. You gotta keep moving forward.
  7. Exercising is a great way to focus on your work out and get your mind off your thoughts.
  8. Get more in touch with your five senses. What are you hearing? What are you seeing? What are you smelling? What are you touching? What are tasting (if you have food in your mouth or are drinking something)? Putting more focus and attention toward your five senses can get you out of your mind and focus more on the present instead of the past and future.
  9. Seeking therapy is another way to help you to stop ruminating if you are really struggling to do it on your own. There is no shame in seeking professional help.

Wrap Up

Though ruminating is associated with depression and not good, under the right certain conditions, it can be helpful. In this case, you can call it critical or deep thinking.  You’re able to think and talk about your feelings and emotions in more depth which gets them off your chest and they’re no longer bottled up. Now keep in mind this doesn’t work for everyone. Whatever your thinking style is, it’s up to you to figure out. Once you know that, you can get better at not ruminating on your thoughts and or fears. If your able to think deeply and come up with solutions to things and not ruminate, that’s good. If thinking deeply is causing you to stress, get worked up, or drain your energy where you feel tired and fatigue, your probably ruminating. Now you can go back and think of fond and happy memories, but keep moving forward. Try not looking back on the bad ones. This is where obsessive ruminating can take place and become unhealthy especially if you’re spending a lot of time thinking back on those negative things. I’ll leave you with this quote. Until next time.

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Reference

Scott, E. (2019). “Rumination: Why Do People Obsess Over Things?”. Retrieved from                     https://www.verywellmind.com/rumination-why-do-people-obsess-over-things-                   3144571

The Society of Endocrinology. (2019). “You and Your Hormones”. Retrieved from                           https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/cortisol/

Wehrenberg, M. (2016). “Rumination: A Problem in Anxiety and Depression Springboard           out of negative networks into new solutions”. Retrieved from                                                     https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/depression-management-                                       techniques/201604/rumination-problem-in-anxiety-and-depression

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