What is the meaning of ruminating or rumination? Rumination refers to the excessive and repetitive thinking of the same event. When someone can’t stop ruminating, it means they can’t stop thinking about one particular thing. Their thoughts are running in a loop. As you can imagine, this can be highly stressful to anyone, but it tends to be a particularly common issue among people diagnosed with mental health disorders. If this is something you struggle with, below are some tips on how to stop ruminating that can help.
The process of continuously thinking about the same thing over and over again can be distressing, especially because ruminating thoughts tend to be dark or sad. A habit of rumination can be dangerous to your mental health, as it can prolong and worsen symptoms of disorders like depression and anxiety. Eventually, those who can’t stop ruminating begin to isolate themselves from others, pushing their loved ones further and further away.
People ruminate for various reasons, including:
Ruminating is also a common trait among people with certain characteristics, such as perfectionism, neuroticism, and overthinkers or people who excessively focus on their relationships with others. If you ruminate frequently, you might overvalue your relationships with others to the point where you’ll make large, personal sacrifices to keep them, even if the relationship isn’t healthy or working for you.
Once you get stuck in a ruminating thought cycle, it can be difficult to stop. If you do enter this cycle, it’s important to nip this in the bud as quickly as possible. So, what can you do to stop these obsessive thoughts from taking over your day?
Below are some tips on how to stop ruminations and break out of the cycle.
It’s kind of like those moments when you seem to “zone out,” and you just need a little shake or a “hello there” from someone to jar you awake. When you realize you’re ruminating, find a distraction that can break the cycle. Look around you and choose something else to do and just go for it.
Some things you can do to break the rumination cycle include:
Instead of repeating the same negative thoughts over and over again, take your thoughts and develop a plan for taking action to address them. For instance, maybe you’re ruminating on whether you offended a friend when you made a joke about their hair. The action can be something as simple as calling them or texting them to hash it out. Ask them how they felt and if you offended them.
If you didn’t, then your mind can rest easy. If you did, now you have the opportunity to apologize. Regardless, the point is to proactively address the thought cycle you’re struggling to stop.
Many times, ruminating thoughts tend to be exaggerated versions of the truth or completely false ideas that stem from insecurity, distress, or other factors. Stopping ruminating thoughts is often about challenging them. We tend to ruminate when we think we’ve made a major mistake or when something traumatic happens that we feel responsible for.
If you begin ruminating on a troubling thought, put it into perspective. Ask yourself if your thoughts reflect the reality of the situation. Point out things that aren’t accurate about your thoughts.
Perfectionism and unrealistic expectations are often at the root of ruminating thoughts. If you set goals that are simply unrealistic, you’ll end up stressing yourself out and thinking about how you haven’t been able to reach them or what more you could do to reach them. At the end of the day, this cycle fosters unhealthy thinking, which can lead to unhealthy behavioral patterns.
A great way to prevent this is to set realistic goals that you’re capable of achieving to reduce the risk of resorting to unhealthy behaviors to meet unrealistic goals. For example, if your ultimate goal is to lose 30 pounds by the end of the year, set smaller goals for yourself broken up by individual weeks or months.
Many people who ruminate are simply overthinkers who struggle with their self-esteem. A lack of self-esteem contributes to rumination, as the individual is more likely to think of all the ways they messed up or weren’t enough in a situation. Low self-esteem can also increase your risk of developing depression.
A great way to enhance your self-esteem is to build on your existing strengths, which encourages a sense of mastery. Some people may choose to engage in psychotherapy to boost their self-esteem, as well. As you continue to work on this, you may find yourself analyzing tough situations more clearly and controlling rumination better.
Meditation is also a great way to reduce rumination because its purpose is to clear your mind and calm your emotions. When you find yourself in repetitive loops of negative thinking, seek out a quiet space where you can meditate and relax.
As we mentioned earlier, rumination is often caused by specific things or situations. From now on, make a note of the kinds of situations that cause you to ruminate. You can either write these down as a note on your phone or journal them or simply make a mental note of these moments.
Write down the situation, time of day, and who was involved. Eventually, you’ll begin to notice patterns of particular situations and your behaviors to determine what the source of rumination was.
Ruminating thoughts can often isolate you from others. You might even feel too embarrassed or ashamed to speak to someone about them, but you have to fight this urge. If you struggle to break out of these negative thought cycles on your own, speak to a loved one you’re close to and can trust.
Tell them what you’re thinking about and where the thought started. They can offer you an outsider’s unbiased perspective and can catch the root of the problem. We also tend to seek the reassurance of people we’re closest to make ourselves feel better, and in this case, that could be a good thing.
If you still don’t know how to stop ruminating on your own, then it’s time to reach out to an expert. Remember that ruminating thoughts are usually negative and aimed at ourselves. Over time, these can lead to depressive moods and anxiety, which can take a toll on your mental health.
Don’t wait until you hit this point to reach out to a therapist. Our Banyan behavioral health specialists can work with you in tackling rumination and its causes. We work with people who’ve been diagnosed with all kinds of mental health disorders, and we can help you, too.
Several of our Banyan Treatment Center locations offer behavioral health treatment modalities to help people recover from all types of mental illnesses. From disorder-specific treatments to psychotherapy programs, we help both clients and their loved ones recover from mental illness and find healthy ways to cope with it on their own.