Managing Worry & Rumination
Worry and rumination are both thinking habits and they can be quite common with people who experience anxiety and depressive symptoms.
- Worry is future focused – here we are worrying about some kind of impending danger/threat. Additionally, many people believe that they won’t be able to cope should it happen. These worrying thoughts then lead to more anxiety, fear and distress. People tend to engage in a lot of ‘what ifs’ and imagining the worst case scenario.
- Rumination is past focused – and involves thinking about loss and personal failures. It can often leads to feelings of sadness, guilt, shame and depression. People engage in a lot of ‘If only’ and regret-like statements (I should or I shouldn’t have done it).
Managing Worry & Rumination Continued
When we engage in worry or rumination we constantly mull over things, repeatedly thinking over the same thing in a circular fashion. Thoughts keep coming back and it becomes a very strong thinking habit or neural pathway. At the heart of it, worry or rumination are about trying to reduce the distress we feel but unfortunately all we do is increase and prolong our distress – making the problem even bigger.
Rumination and worry also make it much harder for us to think clearly, and interfere with our daily lives and our ability to cope and can lead to unhelpful behaviours (e.g., drinking, drugs, eating) to try and escape from our thoughts. The more we worry or ruminate, the stronger the neural pathway becomes and the less we ruminate or worry, the weaker the neural pathway becomes. In the expandable boxes below, we provide you with some techniques around how you can reduce worry and rumination.
Reducing Worry & Rumination Techniques
How we communicate during a conflict is an important factor in whether the conflict will resolve. Please work through the four expandable boxes below (click on each title to open the expandable box).
1. Notice the worry or rumination
Try to pay more attention and notice when you are starting to ruminate or worry.
2. Tell yourself you can worry or ruminate later
Tell yourself that you don’t need to think about this right now – ‘I can do it later’ or ‘that there is nothing that you can do about these thoughts right now’ – so although you might not be able to stop them, you can chose not to focus on them.
3. Do something else
Do something that will engage your attention and help you feel better – so ask yourself what can I do right now that will help me feel better. Such as…
- Engage in physical exercise. This may be your favourite exercise such as dancing or it may just involve completing household tasks. Being active can help to shift the thoughts in your head. As you walk pay attention to what you can see, hear and smell.
- Talk to someone about your worries.
- Use positive affirmations such as “let it go”, or “these are just thoughts”
- Shift from a mode of “doing” or “thinking” to “being”. Engage with the your tasks, being fully aware of sensations such as the taste of your food as you eat, the feeling of water washing over your body as you shower. Try your best to connect yourself with the present moment.
- Start a worry journal. Set aside some time each day (perhaps 10-30 minutes) to give some attention to your worries. Write down what is bothering you and if there are any solutions. Ask yourself whether your worries are in your control? Be sure to time your worry session and remember that you can always revisit the journal at another time.
- Complete a meditation practice or do some yoga stretches. This may be helpful to quiet your mind.
4. Planning ahead
Ensure you are planning ahead instead of worrying or ruminating. Sometimes we think worrying or ruminating about something will help to ensure we are better prepared. However, with the right plan and preparation you will begin to notice that worry or rumination is not useful.
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