Ruminations: Dealing with Unhelpful Thoughts

https://orwellness.ie/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/pexels-andrew-neel-3132388-scaled-e1707582384946.jpgRuminations: Dealing with Unhelpful Thoughts

The American Psychological Association defines ruminations as “obsessional thinking involving excessive, repetitive thoughts or themes that interfere with other forms of mental activity”.  It is most commonly associated with obsessive compulsive disorder or other forms of anxiety, with people dwelling on small or specific details in a negative light for extended periods of time.

People can ruminate about pretty much anything, from a minor social faux-pas, to a major missed opportunity. These ruminations can cause major disruptions to a person’s thought process, which can not only make it more difficult to perform everyday tasks, but also exacerbate other issues, such as depression, stress, or anxiety. If left unaddressed, ruminations can cause people to become depressed, isolated, and less capable of addressing an issue that is most likely not as big as they feel. So, what can you do to silence such unhelpful thoughts?

Separate

There are some things we can change, and some things we cannot. When dealing with ruminations, it is crucial to separate the issues we can address from those we can do nothing about. There is no utility in dwelling on things we cannot change, so if nothing can be done, it is best to accept that and remind ourselves of it whenever we begin to ruminate.

Take Action

However, there is a difference in being unable to change the past, and righting a wrong. For example, if you betray the trust of a friend by sharing a secret of theirs, there is no way to put the genie back in the bottle. But you can still take action to rebuild that trust and friendship by telling the truth, apologising, and promising to do better. It may not always work, but it is always better to take action where possible rather than having everything you could do or have done bouncing around your head incessantly. Even if you cannot fix the issue, you will have tried, learned, and grown from the experience.

Distract Yourself

A lot of the time, we tend to ruminate when there is nothing else to occupy our attention. Therefore, to push the ruminations aside, we need to give our minds something else to focus on. A film could distract us for a few hours, getting out and doing an activity or hobby with others will likely take up even more of our attention, and something like a novel or true-life unsolved mystery could easily sweep up all your attention for quite a long time.

Talk to Someone

Whether it’s a friend or a therapist, talking to someone will always be one of the best ways to put your problems in perspective. If you attended a debate only to discover it was one side versus nobody, repeating the same arguments over and over, you wouldn’t find them very convincing. So why treat yourself any differently? By explaining your thoughts to someone else, they can help you discern when you are being reasonable, and when the standards you have set for yourself may be too high.

If you are interested in talking to someone about mental health, please contact us today.