Ruminations on Ruminating or How to Stop Thought Vomit
So you have been having a pretty good day. And you even feel peaceful. But then a thought enters your mind. And the thought grows. And before you know it, the thought has magnified and cloned itself. Before you know it, this army of thoughts invades your brain until there is no room for anything else. Your peaceful feeling has been vanquished. You wish to expel the thoughts but they keep coming. It feels like vomiting. Nobody likes to vomit. But you hope that by getting everything out that you will feel better. Not so with ruminating. You just keep regurgitating the same old undigested thoughts.
I am betting that many of you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Some days I wake up ruminating. I will be in that lovely state of coming out of dreaming and then suddenly I begin to remember all my worries. And they come at me like I am being pelted by rocks. Sometimes I envision that I have a shield to deflect them. But undoubtedly some get under my armor and begin a new attack.
How does one stop this?
I have to tell you that I have no easy fixes as I am still coping with this myself. But after living with myself after all these decades, I do have some tricks up my sleeve to decrease the time spent ruminating.
- The first thing you have to do is simply be aware that you are ruminating. If you are having the same thoughts over and over you are probably ruminating. If you are having thoughts you really don't want to have you are probably ruminating. If these thoughts interfere with your sense of peace, with completing your daily tasks, with attending to things you should be attending to, or keeping you up at night then yes you are probably ruminating.
- Recognize the fact that replaying a thought over and over will not bring resolution. This is sometimes hard to accept as I mistakenly think during this process that a solution will come to me if I just worry enough. This simply isn't true in most cases. Ruminating is primarily a waste of time. And some things cannot be solved in a day, a week, or even a year.
I am going to say this because I think this is a message my fellow ruminators need to hear:
There are some things in life which cannot be resolved or fixed. Some of the best advice I give to myself is to either.
Do Something or Let it Go. If you are ruminating about something which requires action then take a small step towards working on the problem. You will feel better if you at least try to work towards a constructive resolution. But in some cases you are just going to have to let the issue go. Easier said than done I know.
- Get a different perspective. It can help to talk things out with a friend, therapist or loved one. But you also have to be careful that you don't get stuck in a groove and talk about the same topic for hours. If you want to just vent make sure you tell the other person that you don't want advice but simply wish to get something off your chest. Sometimes someone offering a quick fix is not what you want, but rather, just to be heard and validated as in, "I can see why you would be worried about that. I would be worried too." But too, a second opinion can offer you insight that you didn't see before. A good friend can be honest about whether they feel you are seeing things from the lens of depression and are skewed in your perception of reality.
Schedule your worries. Give yourself an allotted time period to fuss and worry and when the time period is up then you go do something else.
Replace this time you spend ruminating by doing something else. Don't worry. Your worries will still be there. But you can always take a break from them. Get involved with something you enjoy which keeps your mind actively engaged. I find it next to impossible to do things like read or watch TV when I am in a ruminating mood because my thoughts wander too easily. I find that action helps such as cleaning or organizing help me to feel more productive and puts that worry energy to use. Also just getting out of the house is good for the soul. If you sit in one spot, you are going to get stuck on those unwanted thoughts.
Keep a worry journal. Write your worries down. And then keep asking yourself "what is the real worry here?" or "What is my greatest fear with this?" Try to get to the root of what is really troubling you. Then apply logic to ask if this is really true. And do you have control over this?
Envision yourself with horse blinders on. Only focus on what is right in front of you and stay in the present. You don't have any control over the past or future. You only have right now. So what do you want to do with your time?
Develop a mantra. Have a word or phrase that you repeat in your mind when you begin to ruminate such as "Whatever" or "Buzz off" to ward those thoughts away.
Like I said, there are no easy fixes for ruminating. Some people are just natural worriers and fretters. Life is like this video tape we keep rewinding to replay the past. But in the meantime life goes on around us. Don't get stuck in the muck of your thoughts. Live now. Now is all any of us really have.
How about you? Do you ruminate? What do you mostly ruminate about? Have you had any success in stopping your ruminating? If so tell us what you do. We are all ears.