Here's how to rein in your ruminations.
How will I pay my bills at the end of the month? What factors might I be overlooking regarding this upcoming decision? Why didn’t my boss answer when I said, ‘Good morning’?
If we’re not careful, thoughts such as these that we keep turning over in our mind end up monopolizing our attention, causing us to get lost in our thoughts. This tends to get much worse with the problems brought on by the pandemic, and it can reach serious extremes.
“There are people who have levels of overthinking that are just pathological,” says American psychologist Catherine Pittman, author of Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry.
Chronic ruminators spend most of their time thinking, which puts enormous pressure on them and can lead to anxiety and depression disorders.
Overthinking, which may seem unimportant and even helpful, can be a real problem when uncontrolled. It causes our brain to enter a continuous loop that repeats itself even against our will.
Everyone has that inner voice that gives its opinion about everything and a judgment about everyone (especially ourselves). In the case of pathological ruminators, this voice doesn’t cease for an instant, and it makes it hard to take action.
Yet, that action is precisely one of the solutions. For example, if you realize that you’ve become lost in your own thoughts, start an activity, whether it be watching a series, doing the dishes, or reading a book—anything that will take your mind off your ruminations.
Another tip that experts give is to return to the present and turn your attention to the world around you. This means doing things such as feeling the sensation of your feet on the ground, observing your surroundings, paying attention to your sense of smell and hearing. The principle is simple: by reconnecting with the environment, you disconnect from paralyzing thoughts.
Focus on the solution
Another recommendation is to focus on the solution, not the problem.
When our brain gets into a vicious circle of seeing a problem in everything, it has a hard time processing any other kind of information. By focusing on the solution, we break this pattern and are able to approach the problem in a more constructive way.
For example, instead of worrying about the absence of friends during the pandemic, the challenge is, “How can I build stronger relationships now so that I feel more welcome in the future?”
Of course, pathological cases of excessive rumination may need to be treated with therapy and even medication. If this is your case, don’t hesitate to seek help.