The Ruminating Dilemma | Understanding and Solutions (Yanking the Velcro)

by | Mar 23, 2015

Symptoms of depression? Ruminating. How to deal with anxiety? Ruminating. Crazy stress? Ruminating. Yikes, this is dilemma material. Ruminating and the mood and anxiety disorders – like Velcro. So what are we gonna’ do about that?

When we’re anxious, we lean toward having biased events recall. If we take that to the extreme, we may well be ruminating over something fictional – or highly magnified.

Well, this won’t be the first time we’ve chatted ruminating here on Chipur. Ran a piece several years ago discussing it within the context of depression. Be sure to tap that link – you’ll find some helpful info.

I’m bringing ruminating to the fore again for two reasons. First of all, I’m seeing a lot of it lately in my clients. And, secondly, I found an excellent article on the subject I’d like to share. I’ve always believed the more well-considered points of view floatin’ around here, the better.

“Struggling with a Ruminating Mind? 5 Strategies to Help”

Okay, so I found the article (title just above) on PsychCentral – written by associate editor Margarita Tartakovsky, MS.

Tartakovsky kicks things off by defining ruminating as a mistakes-replay dynamic. Maybe it’s about the times we might’ve failed. Could be constantly swirling-around why we aren’t good enough. Perhaps we continue to think about an all-wrong decision and its consequences.

Ruminating, all.

More from Tartakovsky on ruminating…

It’s thinking a litany of what-ifs: What if I screwed up the interview? What if I don’t get that job? What if I don’t get any job anytime soon? What if I won’t be able to pay my bills? What if I’ll lose my home?

It’s become all too automatic – a playlist of personal regrets, failures, inadequacies and anxieties.

Speaking of well-considered points of view, Tartakovsky references a new book by psychologist Alice Boyes, PhD, The Anxiety Toolkit: Strategies for Fine-Tuning Your Mind and Moving Past Your Stuck Points.

Now it’s Dr. Boyes’ turn on ruminating…

Ruminating can sometimes be a bit like daydreaming, in that people often get lost in rumination without realizing they’re doing it.

That being the case, Tartakovsky suggests the initial strategy in yanking the Velcro is recognizing we’re ruminating. First things first, right? So review what we’ve discussed thus far and determine if anything hits home. If you’ve connected some dots, take the time to jot-down your ruminating behaviors and statements and commit to effecting change.

Speaking of which, Tartakovsky shares several of Boyes’ key intervention points. I’ve listed four in headings…

Don’t Trust Your Memory

When we’re anxious, we lean toward having biased events recall. If we take that to the extreme, we may well be ruminating over something fictional – or highly magnified.

To get the true lay of the land, Boyes recommends we ask the following questions of ourselves…

  • What’s my ruminating mind communicating?
  • What are the objective data?
  • Am I recalling feedback as more critical than it actually was?
  • Am I remembering my performance as worse than it was?

So it’s about establishing truth (not that we indulge in distorted thinking, right?).

Shrink Self-Criticism

Self-criticism fuels ruminating. So that must mean reducing self-criticism will aid in yanking the Velcro. Boyes submits we assume if we engage in self-criticism we’ll more easily move forward – and do better. Now that’s some faulty thinking, because most of us know self-criticism is paralyzing and only serves to ramp-up our anxiety and bottom-out our mood.

The alternative?

We have to learn self-compassion, which only comes from practice. Boyes offers this exercise: Consider one of your (supposed) mistakes or weaknesses. For three minutes, write about it. But the catch is you have to imagine you’re talking with yourself in a compassionate and understanding manner.

Put the Kibosh on the “Shoulds”

News flash! When “should” or “shouldn’t” is included in our internal or external conversation, trouble is lurking about. And I’m not wondering why Boyes believes using either word/concept amplifies and perpetuates ruminating.

Have a challenge for you. Over several days time, make a written list of your “should”/”shouldn’t” internal or external statements. My money says you’ll be shocked at its length. But now that you know the depth of your indulgence, you can move-on to turning things around.

To get you going, start substituting “prefer” for the dreaded “S” words. Boyes believes this gentler angle will kink-up your ruminating loop.

Practice Mindfulness Meditation

Okay, no eye-rolling. As cliche as mindfulness has become, it produces positive turnabouts for so many ailments – including ruminating.

Boyes’ approach to mindfulness is simple. Just start with three minutes of daily practice and increase the time by 30 seconds per day. As we take care of biz, she encourages us to become aware of surrounding sounds and the silence between them, pay attention to what we see while walking, and pay attention to the sensations in any given moment.

Need some help getting started? Read my article, Our Stress and Relaxation Responses | How to Call Upon and Nurture Your Relaxation Response.

All Set

Symptoms of depression. How to deal with anxiety? Crazy stress. And there are so many more situations that breed and sustain ruminating.

Folks, it doesn’t just happen because – well – it does. Nope, there are causes and, more importantly, effective interventions. And it’s up to each of us to seek them out and claim relief and healing.

If you’re eyeball deep in ruminating – okay, that’s just the way you roll right now. No reason for panic or for beating yourself up. That is, as long as you’re doing all you can to yank the Velcro.

Thanks to Ms. Kartakovsky and Dr. Boyes for sharing their insight.

Sooo many Chipur titles waiting to help. Check ’em out, k?

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