What is Rumination? Tips for Coping | The Village Family Service Center

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What is Rumination? Tips for Coping

Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Person overthinking

Have you ever replayed a train of thought in your head over and over again? No matter what you do, you can’t seem to think about anything else. Rumination is the act or habit of obsessing over negative events or interactions in the past, and it is a stress-magnifier that can have negative effects on a person's mind or body.

Rumination can prolong or intensify depression or anxiety, and it can impair your ability to think or process emotions. Ruminating thoughts can interfere with moving forward to more positive thoughts or attitudes. It’s a toxic mindset that encourages pessimism and negativity, while discouraging growth and problem solving. 

“Why was their tone different today? I wonder if they’re upset at me. Maybe I did something wrong, I thought everything was OK between us. I always ruin conversations. I don’t know why I even bother talking to people at all.” 

Why do people ruminate? 

Rumination is a natural response to a problematic event. As people, we want to solve our problems or gain resolution from a situation that’s sitting heavy with us. But ruminating doesn’t help us solve our problems, it makes us dwell on them and leaves us feeling “stuck.”

People ruminate for a variety of reasons, but a common reason is that we think that if we ruminate on a problem, we may gain insight or be able to control our stressors. In reality, it enhances stress and makes us feel even more out of control.  

Signs of rumination 

If you have a negative interaction with someone, at first you might try to think through what happened and find where things went wrong. Your attempt to emotionally process the situation has good intentions, but can quickly snowball into obsessive negative thoughts. Here are some indicators that you are ruminating: 

  • Excessive talking or thinking about a painful situation
  • Focusing on a problem for more than a few minutes
  • Feeling worse than you started out feeling
  • Not moving forward or accepting the situation

How to address ruminating thoughts

Rumination doesn’t offer solutions, new ways of thinking, or new possibilities. It traps us into a negative space that is hard to break free from. When you’re stuck in a rumination rut, just remember that there are steps you can take to stop obsessive thoughts from running around in your head and ruining your day. 

  1. Distract yourself. Find something to do that can break your thought cycle, like calling a friend, watching a movie, listening to music, or going for a walk. Pick an activity, and do it without a second thought. 

  2. Plan to take action. Instead of replaying the same negative thought over and over again, take your thoughts and make a plan to address them. Outline the steps you need to take in order to move forward and be at peace. 

  3. Improve your self-esteem. When you have increased self-esteem, you can feel more in control of your life and ability to handle problems. You can gain more self-esteem through therapy, increased positive relationships, or by taking on more challenges.  

  4. Lifestyle changes. There are steps you can take to help decrease ruminating thoughts. Try being more proactive in solving your own problems, set your own expectations, remember your self-worth, and create a strong support system that you can lean on. 

If you would like to connect with a trusted and judgment-free provider about your overwhelming thoughts or mental health concerns, contact us online or call today at 1-800-627-8220. You don’t have to go it alone.  

Information in this article provided by Healthline.