We all go through periods of time in which we get ‘stuck in our heads’, worrying about something we feel little to no control over or fretting about something we did or didn’t say or do. This is completely normal and can even be helpful, but certain situations and events can lead to obsessive overthinking. If you’re looking for tips to help you stop ruminating thoughts from controlling your life, we have 9 ideas to help!
What Is Rumination?
Rumination occurs when someone fixates on negative ideas, experiences, events, situations, etc., and thinks about them repeatedly to the detriment of their mental health.
While we all have moments in our lives when we overthink things, ruminating thoughts can become excessive and problematic for some people. It’s completely normal to ruminate when we’re facing a difficult decision, thinking of ending a relationship, worried about a medical test or procedure, etc., but this type of obsessive thinking is typically short-lived and often helps us deal with whatever challenge we’re facing. Rumination becomes a problem when someone repetitively thinks about something to the point that it interferes with their day-to-day life. These thoughts become excessive, intrusive, and distressing, impacting their ability to focus and concentrate, and causing them to withdraw from others.
Rumination can have serious implications on one’s mental health, heightening feelings of depression and anxiety.
What Causes Ruminating Thoughts?
- History of physical and/or emotional abuse
- Mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and phobias
- Experiencing or witness a traumatic event
- Going through a difficult breakup
- Anticipating a stressful event
How to Stop Ruminating Thoughts
1. TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION
The longer you ruminate, the harder it is to stop, so once you recognize a cycle of ruminating thoughts taking hold, take action! The faster you act, the quicker you’ll break the cycle, allowing your mind and body to return to a place of peace.
2. FIND A WAY TO DISTRACT YOURSELF
An easy way to stop ruminating thoughts is to find a way to distract yourself. Go for a walk, call a friend, make yourself a cup of tea, draw, color, watch funny dog videos on YouTube, or do whatever else you can think of that will stop you from ruminating.
3. FIGURE OUT WHAT YOUR TRIGGERS ARE
Since ruminating thoughts are often triggered by an idea, event, situation, etc., identifying the things that cause you to ruminate can be extremely helpful. In order to fully assess what your specific triggers are, track your thoughts over the course of several days to a week. Write down the things that happen before and after you get stuck in a cycle of ruminating thoughts, and look for patterns. Once you know your specific triggers, you can put plans in place to help you avoid them and strategize ways to cope when avoidance isn’t possible.
4. SET A TIMER
If you want to know how to stop ruminating thoughts about something you have little to no control over, it can be really helpful to set time limits on your worries. Whether you’re anxious about something that is happening in the present, or stressing about something that may happen in the future, try setting some boundaries for yourself. Set a timer on your phone, and be deliberate with how you use that time. If you’re trying to make a decision about something, write a list of pros and cons. If you’re obsessing over something that’s making you anxious, use the time to challenge your negative thoughts. The point is to limit the time you spend ruminating about things outside of your control, and to use that time brainstorming solutions and/or putting your mind at rest so you can move forward instead of getting stuck.
5. CHALLENGE YOUR THOUGHTS
Another way to stop ruminating thoughts is to challenge them as soon as they occur. When you feel those familiar feelings of stress and anxiety creeping up, ask yourself:
- Are my worries based on fact or speculation?
- Are these thoughts and feelings helping or hurting me?
- Will this matter a week, month, or year from now?
- What is the worst that can happen?
- If the worst did happen, could I cope with it?
6. FIND SOLUTIONS
As you begin challenging your ruminating thoughts, uncertainties are bound to arise. You will be forced to consider worse-case scenarios, which can cause significant stress and anxiety. Instead of ruminating about these possibilities further, ask yourself what ONE thing you can do right now to feel more in control. In some instances, you may be able to come up with specific ideas, like spending time preparing for an upcoming interview, asking someone for forgiveness, or setting boundaries with a toxic family member. If you’re ruminating over something outside of your control, acknowledge that fact and find a way to distract yourself from your negative thought patterns.
Meditation is a great way to combat stress and anxiety. Taking time for yourself, combined with deep breathing and relaxation can help quiet ruminating thoughts before they become excessive and intrusive. It’s a technique you can use to get centred when you’re feeling overwhelmed and helps restore the body to a calmed state. CLICK HERE for tips to help you get started.
If deep breathing and meditation isn’t your thing, exercise is another fabulous tool you can use to help stop ruminating thoughts. Moving your body for 30+ minutes per day lowers your body’s stress hormones and releases feel-good endorphins, which boosts your mood and helps manage stress, anxiety, and depression.
9. TALK TO A PROFESSIONAL
As much as these ideas can help you stop ruminating thoughts, there may come a time when you’re so overwhelmed that you just cannot cope with your feelings on your own. And that’s okay! If you’re struggling, I urge you to get help. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and ask if he or she can recommend a therapist to help you find ways to cope with whatever is weighing you down. As scary as this may sound, it’s essential that you learn how to take care of yourself, and it can be extremely therapeutic to unload your worries onto a stranger.
If you’re trying to stop ruminating thoughts from controlling your life, I hope the tips and ideas in this post prove useful to you!