Stressful habits: Ruminating

Have I Forgotten Something? (8401169019)

By Michael Coghlan from Adelaide, Australia (Have I Forgotten Something?) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In this post I am going to be talking about a habit that most stressed out people indulge in too much, ruminating. According to the Merriam – Webster online dictionary. to ruminate means “to think carefully and deeply about something.” By itself that doesn’t sound too bad, except ruminating when you are stressed is different from ruminating when you are in a more peaceful state of mind.

When you are stressed you almost always think about something that will make you feel sad and more stressed out. For the most part ruminating is not seen as a good thing at all. According to this Wikipedia article titled, “Rumination (Psychology),” rumination means to compulsively think and focus on “the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions.” This is the form of rumination that I am unfortunately all too familiar with.

As I have said before, I have OCD and so sometimes I will get intrusive thoughts which refuse to go away and almost force me to think about them. This was especially bad when I was a teenager; I would get some random bad thought in my head and I would just keep thinking about it over and over again and I would just end up feeling more stressed out and more depressed. Not a good time, trust me. What type of thoughts would I get? Well you have to remember that OCD always makes you think irrationally so I would often obsess over something as simple as not being able to finish all of my homework. I know that sounds silly and it was, but OCD doesn’t cut you any slack ever so I would just keep thinking things like “oh crap if the teacher asks for the homework today, I won’t be able to hand it in and they’ll ridicule me in front of the whole class, I’m going to be teased and laughed at;” that never happened but I would still ruminate about it and be an absolute wreck for the entire day.

While I don’t think that a lot of people have had the same thought that I just mentioned, I am pretty sure that a lot of people who were really stressed out have faced the same situation in the sense that they keep thinking about what they could have done or what they shouldn’t have done so that things would have turned out differently than how they did.

This article from titled, “Why Ruminating is Unhealthy and How to Stop,” written by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., goes into more detail about what rumination is, how it affects us, why it’s no good, and thankfully, ways to stop ruminating (which is kind of obvious given the title of the article).  I’ll focus on the parts that talk about how to stop ruminating.

So according to the article, one way to stop ruminating is by doing activities that foster thoughts, which makes sense really. Since ruminating fills your mind with negative thoughts, it makes sense to distract yourself and do things that would bring about positive thoughts. This could be different for everyone, it could be something like cooking, watching a movie, playing games, spending some time with your loved ones, basically anything that makes you feel good and brings out positive thoughts to combat the negative ones.

The other thing they say you can do to stop ruminating is to problem solve. People who ruminate tend to focus more on the problem rather than on how to solve the problem; we get too entangled in it.  What we have to do is distance ourselves from it just enough to put things into a better perspective and then try to find a solution. It can be really hard sometimes, trust me I know; but it’s like exercise, you keep on at it and slowly you get stronger and better at it. If you are having a hard time distancing yourself then you can try two things, one is to try and not think about it at all and calm yourself down so that you can think of a solution, or you could try talking about it with someone else, perhaps they can tell you something you didn’t think of.

Well that’s about it for this post. Hopefully you found this post a little useful and learned more about rumination. If you still want to know more, then do check out the links I put in the post. They should tell you everything you need to know; otherwise you will just have to do your own bit of research. Anyway I hope you have a good day and if you can help it try not to ruminate on stuff, it won’t solve anything and it definitely won’t help you in any way.

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