Ruminating Thoughts are Ruining My Life!
So you are just going about your day trying to live a life but you can't stop thinking about that one thing you said a year ago and it just keeps coming into your stream of thought without your permission and it's really messing with you. You know that it's not logical to keep obsessing over this one event but you can't control your brain moving a million miles a minute and there's no way to change it. This is called rumination and it can be highly debilitating. Ruminating thoughts can be a product of anxiety, trauma, or just good old-fashioned stress. Everyone has experienced ruminating thoughts at some point, including children, but some people experience this constantly. When your mind is constantly being bombarded with these thoughts it makes daily life taxing, causes anxiety, won't let you focus, doesn't allow you to connect in your relationship, ruins your quality of sleep, and makes it impossible to ever feel relaxed or grounded.
Some may people think this is just something you can snap out of if you try... well gee thanks, why didn't I think of that? It's not that simple... Learning to control ruminating thoughts can be quite difficult but it can be done!
The first step is to realize that these are ruminating thoughts and make a mental effort to categorize them as such. Ask yourself these questions:
Am I actively working to solve a problem or an issue by thinking about it?
Am I coming to a solution?
Is this helping me or hurting me?
Do I bring up the thoughts in conversation to seek validation?
What do my friends say about these thoughts?
Are these thoughts based on logic or emotion?
When you ask yourself these questions and your response is something like: "No I am literally solving nothing by doing this, these thoughts are perpetuating my anxiety and sometimes panic, when I bring this up in conversation I just want someone to tell me I'm okay." Then you are just ruminating and it's serving no healthy purpose in your life.
The next step is to categorize these thoughts as ruminating by saying them out loud and making a visual mental step of filing the thoughts under THIS SERVES NO PURPOSE.
Finally, you need to get grounded. Mindfulness meditation is a great way to be in the moment and appreciate the world around you rather than living in your head. Taking strategic deep breaths can help to slow your heart rate and allow for clear logical thinking. If you're not a meditation kind of human then you can redirect your thinking by doing something that gives your body a bit of a shock like putting a cold ice pack on your neck and chest; this will help ground you and bring you back to the here and now. Once you return to earth you can do something that provides a much-needed distraction like video games, going for a walk outside, cuddle your pet, listen to music, or work on a building project.
For long-term recovery from rumination, you will want to challenge perfectionistic standards; cut yourself some slack and learn to accept you are perfectly valid just the way you are, flaws and all!! Ask yourself if you are being judgemental and how does that help you live a happy life? Are your thoughts unrealistic? and are you discounting all of the positive and amazing things you have accomplished in your life?
Still not sure if your thoughts are just rumination? Then imagine this: When a cow eats grass it has been called rumination or "chewing the cud" It's called this because the cow does not just eat and digest the grass right away; they chew it, swallow, and regurgitate it back into their mouth and repeat the process. If you are doing this with your thinking; stop chewing the cud and allow yourself to process these thoughts and gently let them go.
You have my permission to let it go. Be kind and gentle with yourself today.