11 Tips to Help You Stop Ruminating

rumination. abstract, illustrated shapes in pink and green.

Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed with a circus of thoughts you can’t control? Does your mind make you recall a repressed emotion you thought you moved on from? Have you heard of rumination?

Picture this scene: You finally decide to read the book you bought months ago. You feel calm, sit on your sofa and start reading. The book is amazing and you find yourself immersed in the story.

Abruptly, your brain begins to dwell on bad memories you experienced in the past, words you said 10 years ago, and decisions you didn’t take.

While you are trying hard to focus on reading, you find yourself repeating, “If I hadn’t said or done that, I wouldn’t have these feelings now“. Your mind is determined to distract you and soon enough you find yourself thinking, “What might happen to me in the future?”

No surprise, you put down your book and stop reading.

What you have just experienced is called “Rumination“. It’s so common in recovery and beyond. It increases stress and many people will ruminate over something at some point in their life.

Rumination is the habit of obsessing over (negative) events that happened in the past. The paradox is that we take events that already caused stress and magnify the importance in our minds causing even more stress.

While it might be a beneficial mechanism as it could prompt us to improve our life or learn from our mistakes, rumination could negatively affect our mental health.

Rumination prevents us from focusing on our present moment and throws us into the dilemma of “What if”, “I am a failure”, “I am not worthy“, and “There is nothing I can do“. But, there is a lot we can do. We can experience rumination without giving it the chance to control us. Here is what I have learned:

  1. Your past is out of your control; you can’t change or amend it. So, dwelling on it will bring you nothing except worries and sadness.
  2. Focus on the present moment. We can not know what could happen the next minute.
  3. Your mind can’t cope with unresolved emotions and always searches for answers in order to be stable. This is a normal process but you don’t have to act on it. You can gratefully thank your mind for its care and focus on your daily life.
  4. Slow down, embrace stillness, and prioritize your body’s needs.
  5. Stop resisting your emotions. They are here for a reason. Respect them, listen to them, but try NOT to turn them into behaviors.
  6. Your thoughts don’t define you.
  7. Remember that you are not alone. We all experience uncomfortable thoughts.
  8. Treat yourself the same way you would treat your best friend.
  9. Self-blame is not always a helpful strategy. We all make mistakes. You have to learn from them and be kind to yourself.
  10. Get rid of the “I-don’t-have” mentality. Instead, list what you HAVE and be grateful for it.
  11. Stop gaslighting yourself. Your emotions are real and you are loveable, worthy, and enough.

Rumination and regret can ruin our life and leave us with obsessive thoughts and worry. Once you tell your mind that you are okay now, that your past is gone and that your future is still ahead, you will be able to feel more present in the here and now.

So, enjoy your book. This beautiful moment deserves your whole attention.

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