We need worry in our lives, it helps us to foresee potential problems and overcome them. We worry about people and we show our concerns with love and care. Our worry time is productive, problem solving time that helps us grow.
Unfortunately we know that this is not always the case, sometimes our worrying thoughts whirl round and round in our heads and no matter what we try, they keeping coming back. We brood, fret and agonise over things.
So what can we do to stop rumination? Telling yourself to stop doesn’t work, If you are told, “Don’t think about a panda, don’t think about a panda,” you are going to think about a panda.
Firstly we need to figure out what the real problem is. Often we ruminate about something that is a few steps away from the root problem. For example Fred may spend many hours worrying about his partner leaving him, catastrophizing and planning for every eventuality. Not because Fred’s partner has ever displayed any evidence to suggest this, but because Fred is insecure. The cause of his insecurity maybe a past event which he then reaffirms with negative bias over the years. Often explaining your worrying thoughts to friends can help you get to the bottom of the problem by re-examining what you are telling yourself.
Which leads us nicely on to logic. Are your ruminating thoughts logical? How likely is the “worry” to happen? Could you have misunderstood something? We are sometimes inclined to think the worst or grasp the negative when actually if you look at the facts or the statistics it’s quite likely that what you are worrying about is so unlikely to come to pass or perhaps it may not even be true. Question the logic and ask yourself if you have a negative bias.
Distraction is a great way to get out of your head, seeing friends, going for a walk, doing a crossword, but make sure it’s a healthy distraction, if you are really worrying about something it might not be the right time to have a drink.
The opposite to this is to truly embracing the emotion, welcome the in the pain, open the door to your feelings, put on a sad song, curl up and let the feelings wash over you. Like the tides emotions will go down but they also come up. Remember, all emotions are temporary, maybe you really need to feel like this now before you are ready to let it go.
Rumination is often linked to depression and it can often be an early warning sign. People who are depressed find it harder to reason and think logically. When in that depressive state we find it particularly difficult to remember that feelings aren’t permanent. Depression stops our brains from problem solving, from being flexible which, in turn, reinforces the depression. Rumination is a symptom and therefore the depression needs to be treated first.
Our imagination is a wonderful thing. Albert Einstein once said, "imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution." Spending too much time imagining the worst is a negative way to use this powerful tool, we have to remember what is, and what isn’t, worthy of our time to worry about.
If you are having problems with recurring negative thoughts and would like help to eliminate them from your life please get in touch via my contact page.