Treatment

9 Ways to Stop Obsessing or Ruminating

Eileen Bailey Oct 23rd, 2012 (updated Nov 19th, 2014)
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I recently went through a personal crisis and found myself obsessing about it. Every waking minute was consumed with thoughts about the situation. I went over it and over it, all day, everyday until I thought I was losing my mind. While individuals with generalized anxiety disorder are prone to constant worry, everyone can fall prey to ruminating or obsessing when faced with a difficult situation.

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Decide what you are ruminating about
Decide what you are ruminating about

Figuring out exactly what it is you are obessing about can be helpful. For example, you might obsess over a mistake at work, a conversation or your company's financial stability. But your real worry is that you may lose your job. Try to sum up your ruminations into one single sentence. "I am worried that I may lose my job." By doing this, you gain control by being able to address the real situation.

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Examine your thinking process
Examine your thinking process

Many people with anxiety use an "all or nothing" type of thought process. You may be focusing on one specific problem, assuming that the sum of all your years of work is defined by that single event. Remember, most situations are not defined by one single moment but instead a result of cumulative events. Try to balance your thinking by writing down a list of what you have accomplished.

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Allow yourself time to ruminate
Allow yourself time to ruminate

Accept that you have the right to worry about your situation, but limit the time you will do so. Give yourself a short period of time, maybe 15 or 30 minutes, a day to worry. During this time, write down your obsessive thoughts.  If you find yourself worrying about the situation at other times of the day, remind yourself that it needs to wait until your specified worry time.

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Use a journal
Use a journal

Writing down your thoughts can help you gain control over your ruminations. Using a "Worry Script" may help you to relieve your anxiety, especially if you are worrying about events that have not yet happened.

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Write down pleasant thoughts
Write down pleasant thoughts

When you tell yourself to stop ruminating, what are you going to think about? Having a list of pleasant thoughts can help you move from the rumination to thinking about something else. You might list things like an upcoming vacation, spending the weekend with friends, going out to dinner with your partner. Make sure your list includes situations you are looking forward to or pleasant memories.

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Use behavioral techniques to help stop ruminating
Use behavioral techniques to help stop ruminating

One woman I know kept a rubber band on her wrist and would snap it every time she began ruminating to remind her to stop. Another used visualization, imagining herself driving and getting to a stop sign. When she reached the stop sign, she needed to stop ruminating.

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Focus on the lesson learned
Focus on the lesson learned

Every situation we go through has the potential to teach us something. Think about what you are ruminating about and see how to use it to improve yourself. For example, if you are ruminating about a mistake you made at work, think about steps you can take to make sure the same mistake doesn't happen again. By looking at how you can improve, you begin focusing on the positive of the situation rather than the negative.

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Talk about your worries with a trusted friend or relative
Talk about your worries with a trusted friend or relative

Often, when we talk out the worries, we can begin to see it from a different perspective. Looking at the situation from different points of view can help you find options for solving your problem.

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Seek professional help
Seek professional help

Seek professional help. If your obsessive thoughts are interfering with your daily life, it may be time to talk with a professional therapist or medical professional.