Ruminating is repetitive thinking about the same thing, like trying to solve a nagging problem. We can get caught thinking, thinking, thinking… and not being able to get our mind off the problem or issue that we’re concerned about.
We often think, or use our heads, when there’s pain or distress in our bodies that we don’t know how to resolve. “Going to our head” is often an unconscious process and we can find ourselves just stuck there on a thought train that goes round and round.
So, in order to stop the rumination there are two angles we need to work from: first, what to do when we’re caught ruminating and, second, working to prevent it from it happening over and over.
Step 1 – When you’re ruminating
When you find yourself ruminating here’s some things to do, first write down what the core of your concern is (not all the negative thoughts and fears that go along side it, just the core fear) then:
Turn your mind toward your body (out of your head). This is a shift of focus. The shift won’t happen immediately. As you turn your mind to your body it will have a tendency to go back to the thoughts you were ruminating about, that’s fine. Just notice this and turn your thoughts back to your body.
One of the most effective ways to turn your mind to your body is to focus on your breath; consciously breathing slowly, deeply and calmly. After 10 – 15 breaths begin to add calming thoughts such as, “it’s fine for me to relax right now and just focus on my breathing.”
Another way to turn your mind to your body is to engage in an activity: a walk, stretching, or even a chore or task that uses your large muscles. The trick here is to direct your attention to the activity, reminding yourself that’s all you have to do right now is focus or attend to the task at hand.
Step 2: When you are not ruminating
It is important to actually attend to what you ruminate about so you can solve the issue instead of carrying it around with you and trying to continually keep your mind off it. Set aside time every day or several times a week to purposely (not just when it comes up) attend to the core concern in a new and special way.
- Allow yourself to attend to one rumination per daily 10 – 30 minute session.During these minutes, what you will attend to is the feelings that reside under the worry or concern. What are your core feelings related to this concern (hint: it’s probably has something to do with a relationship or missing a relationship). Perhaps you hurt someone, or you’re hurt – you may not feel accepted by someone important to you.
- Identify the core feeling(s) – sad, hurt, afraid – then let yourself feel the feeling. Provide yourself with the opportunity to let the feeling emerge. Often this suppressed feeling is what turns to worry.Acknowledge and accept your feelings. “It’s true. I just feel very rejected by this situation.” Allowing the expression of your feelings will provide relief and can solve the nagging concern. Often, as you let the feelings surface, a need or solution will come along with them.
- When your time to attend to the core concern is up, if you still feel unresolved that’s fine, simply make a commitment to come back to work on it more the next. Then, turn your mind toward your body (Step 1 above).
Try this dual approach method for a week and let me know how it works for you.