Not too long ago, I found myself ruminating about all the ways I was behind in my business in the midst of general life craziness. I won’t bore you with the details since rumination is contagious. We all have certain “ruminating hot buttons” that can trigger those feelings of fear, helplessness, and basic unfairness when evaluating life.
Rumination involves going over a problem again and again. We are searching desperately for a solution and think going over and over the circumstances will produce a solution. Maybe we are rehearsing our version of the event in order to eventually tell someone else of pain we have gone through. The bottom line is that we want to solve the problem or have it go away. It may feel good initially, however, it soon begins to feel draining and awful!
I wanted to stop feeling awful! By now, I already knew that I was encouraging my hypothalamus to send signals to pump out adrenaline, putting myself in a fight-or-flight state. This was both irrational and absolutely unproductive! Wake up, Shelley!
As psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky explains in her great book The How of Happiness:
“Overthinking ushers in a host of adverse consequences: It sustains or worsens sadness, fosters negatively biased thinking, impairs a person’s ability to solve problems, saps motivation, and interferes with concentration and initiative. Moreover, although people have a strong sense that they are gaining insight into themselves and their problems during their ruminations, this is rarely the case. What they do gain is a distorted, pessimistic perspective on their lives.”
So, more importantly, what can you and I do to STOP ruminating?
As Bob Newhart advised a client in the famous therapist sketch,
“Just stop it.” I posted this YouTube sketch on social media during my last ruminating session and no one watched it. Then I ruminated that I was the only ruminator! Gee whiz Shelley!! Some of us are wired to worry, but that’s no excuse at all! We can retrain our brains through many techniques to:
“JUST STOP IT!”
I know it’s not that easy, so here are a few tips taken from years of perfecting worry, studying a variety of theories and, more or less, overcoming the urge to ruminate.
Recommendation 1: Examine your breathing! Concentrate on slow, deep breathing; observe your breath and thoughts. Let your thoughts go, be compassionate and forgiving; they are just thoughts! Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly. I also find that distracting myself with a workout, walk, or any other enjoyable activity is helpful as well. Any techniques that help you replace ruminations with more productive thoughts, feelings and emotions are worth considering. Some of my favorites are repetitive prayer, visualizing a more positive image, yoga, meditation, and guided tapes from lectures on mindfulness.
Recommendation 2: Practice Optimism and the ABCDE method by Martin Seligman Ph.D. The main tool for changing your interpretations of adversity/ rumination is disputation. Practice disputing your automatic interpretations of events. When you find yourself down, anxious or angry, ask what you are saying to yourself. Sometimes the beliefs will turn out to be accurate. When this is so, concentrate on the ways you can alter the situation and prevent your ruminations from continuing. But usually, your negative beliefs are distortions. Challenge them. Don’t let them run your emotional life. Learned optimism is easy to maintain once you start. Once you get into the habit of disputing negative beliefs and ruminations, your daily life will run much smoother and you will feel much happier.
Recommendation 3: Create a relaxation routine. You may want to try several different relaxation techniques to see which one works best for you. And if your favorite approach fails to engage you, or you want some variety, you’ll have alternatives. You may also find the following tips helpful:
- Choose a special place where you can sit (or lie down) to calm the mind-chatter of rumination.
- Pick one of the recommendations above.
- Try to practice once or twice a day, always at the same time, in order to enhance the sense of ritual and establish a habit.
- Try to practice at least 10–20 minutes each day.
Now, you can download your FREE Competency Exercise on how to build realistic optimism and banish rumination using the ABCDE method. You will quickly learn to build this competency! Enjoy.
Learn more about me, Shelley Cox, at TheCoachingNest.ca. I’ll introduce you to Career and Leadership Mindset habits that will help you lead with CALM Power, to attract more money, visibility, and business growth.