Rumination

This post contains information relating mental health issues associated with bullying, isolation and circular thought issues.

 

I am currently trying to support a number of  my team remotely that are experiencing mental health issues. I have no medical experience in these matters, however, I understand we are all different and I do know my team. By attempting to help one individual I started reading some background material and realised it also related to something much closer to home and my on-line friends.

My research covered the continual mental replaying of situations in which you wish something had gone differently.  I think we have all been there at some point. You wish you had not said that stupid thing, you wish you had spoken up, or another person’s actions have triggered something in you that you wanted safely boxed away.

This overthinking is called Rumination. It is quite common to have concerns about the future, however, rumination is that loop that keeps playing in your head.  A ruminative reaction provides you with an unproductive state of limbo between the here and now, and what previously occurred.  You beat yourself up over the event, and it is not just a horrible feeling, it is dangerous too for some people. It can be associated with depression and really break your concentration levels and trigger other unwanted deep emotions.

In some circumstances an external source is the cause, the single event is not just smouldering away, it can be continually stoked by those who chose to throw more fuel on the fire.  Their attempts to drive home a point only compounds the issue and can have serious long-term mental health problems. Having said that, there are some things you can do about it.

One way to help is to look at what it is that is causing the trigger. It could be,

  • A social group
  • A poor business decision
  • Something taken out of context to your true beliefs
  • Maybe just a poor judgement at the time

You may also want to have a good think about who you are blaming for these feelings, you or someone else? Ownership allows you to either accept it or discard it. If the origin of the emotions sits with you, then there is an opportunity to learn from that; break it down and identify which bit you can avoid again in the future. One theory is detach yourself from the event and view it as an exercise to give some clarity.  If on the other hand the event is caused by someone externally, then their motives and actions are outwith of your control. You cannot influence the motives of a zealot or a bully, so stop trying. Focus on yourself, those important to you and not let their actions define who you are.  I have been there, in that place where the conversation plays over and over again, and each time you adjust the dialogue to give you a stronger position.  It is a pointless exercise, please believe me, it is absolutely futile to rewrite history, and it can become obsessive.  As I was told at the time by someone very close,

Those people are not the ones who need you; we need you here, now and always.”

Having some distance between you and the ruminating thoughts is hard, I get that.  Some way to give you clarity is rather than saying, ‘I’m stupid’ or ‘I am really angry,’ try,  ‘I feel stupid’ or ‘I feel angry.’  Feelings can be addressed because they are yours, labels are those given by other people often outside of your sphere of influence.

I read in a couple of documents that said recognising how absurd your actions might be goes a long way in managing ruminating thoughts.  How are you acting now, is it rational or out of character?  What type of behaviours would you like to display? Be the person you would like to be.

Other ways of tricking the brain in giving you short respite is something that will tax your brain for a short period of time, like sudoku or a crossword.  Physical activity has the benefit of focusing the mind whilst improving your general health, even just gardening or walking breaks the pattern. 

If you are dealing with a challenging social group, then removing yourself from it is the best thing to do, and let the vultures find an other target to circle over with threatening menace.  Your mental health is far more important than that of an overly vocal individual or group.  If you are seeking the support of others, do not allow them to feed you with updates of the thing you are trying hard to block.

As I said, my main reason for looking into this was for business purposes. However, many of us, especially during this time COVID-19 isolation will find that our brains will be hyper focused on things that are negative and not good for us. Now more than ever, creating distance between you and the cause of the ruminating is vitally important.  View the source as you would any other sinking disease; social distance, protect yourself and surround yourself by people who really care about the real you, and not the person they want you to be.

Posted in Dominant Reflections and tagged , .

20 Comments

    • I think it’s just another example of the damage you can do when when kicking people already on floor. As my dad once said, “If you have managed to knock an aggressor to the floor, walk away, your job is done.” Old fashioned maybe, but I see his point beyond bare knuckles!

  1. Brilliant post HL – TY for taking the time to put into words something I knew existed but did not really know the name – the whys or the where fors 😉

  2. This is a very insightful and helpful post and you explained it very well. I think what you’re talking about is relatable to many people, which is I guess why you looked into it for business purposes also.

    • This is why I stepped away from social media and have let my blog lie dormant for a few weeks now. Stopping certain patterns of behavior requires a shift in habits. And for me, stepping away from negativity is not the same as avoiding confrontation. It is a matter of priorities and boundaries. Protecting my mental health is more important than showing up for others.

      Interesting and timely post, HL.

  3. This is very useful, a great tool for helping to find a balance in your MH. I’ve had cognitive behaviour therapy and this aligns well with it – but is rather better explained! I may need to re-read to remind myself what I SHOULD be doing!

  4. Rumination is indeed a common pattern, and a dangerous pitfall. One thing I have noticed that ruminating on what should have been done differently in the past is tempting for many people because it sort of absolves them of the responsibility to act in the present: “it’s no use now,” “It’s too late!” And so people lay blame and responsibility on someone else, be that someone else or their past selves, without having to make an effort to deal with the situation the way it is now, the only time it can be changed.

  5. Thank you for writing this, HL. I am guilty of rumination, even letting it invade my dreams, steal my sleep and causing too many panic attacks. Unknowingly, I have followed some of the advice you give at the end of your post, but even so I will be back to read this post again (and again), especially when those thoughts start going round and round in my head again.

    Rebel xox

  6. That circular thinking is indeed destructive. My therapist said when I found myself doing this I had to tell myself firmly and out loud to stop. Ideally looking in a mirror. Naturally the best I could do was to say it in my head because I didnt like looking in the mirror and didnt want to draw attention to myself by talking out loud LOL

    Take care of yourself,

    Sweetgirl x

  7. Very well written post. There is a great deal of useful information. I know lately I have been very guilty of ruminating and it has stolen my ability to sleep

  8. Some excellent advice and information here. I ruminate constantly, and it definitely a downward spiral into depression. I’m gradually learning how to challenge the negative impact of rumination (it’s taken years of therapy), and I’m getting better at recognising it, but there are still times when I really struggle with it.

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