You’re lying in bed about to fall asleep when you suddenly remember you forgot to make your car payment. Your body tenses as you worry where you will get the money for your mortgage next week. Maybe if you take a cash advance on your credit card, but then the interest will be outrageous. How will you ever send your kids to college? Or retire? Now you’re awake with little hope of getting back to sleep.
Ruminating thoughts plague many people with a nonstop string of worries about past mistakes, current fears, future concerns and even fantasies about retribution. They feel like an engine that keeps revving higher and higher and you can’t seem to take your foot off the gas pedal.
These thoughts infiltrate your mind and deceive you into believing that you are working toward a solution to your problems. They make you think you’re doing something to fix the situation, but really you are not solving anything. You are just falling down the rabbit hole of worry and suffering.
The following steps can help you end the painful habit of ruminating by getting out of your head and refocusing on what matters. The steps are adapted from the DBT Stop Skill for impulsive behavior.
When you become aware of ruminating/worry thoughts follow the steps below to change what’s happening in your mind. You will likely have to repeat these steps again and again, and over time the thoughts will become less and less uncomfortable and intrusive. Be patient. Remember change is hard so do your best with judging yourself.
STOP WORRY THOUGHTS
- STOP When you become aware of the ruminating/worry thoughts stop! Don’t react. Don’t judge.
- TAKE A STEP BACK Take a step back. Take a deep breath. Remember that worry thoughts don’t help they only create more suffering. If there is a problem to solve you must wait to address it when you are back in wise mind. When you are stuck in a ruminating/worry cycle you are in emotion mind. Nothing gets resolved or figured out in emotion mind.
- OBSERVE Notice what is going on. Are you in a stressful situation? What is going on around you. Are you tired? Hungry? Anxious? Do a body scan. Are you holding tension in your body? Or is ruminating just your minds fallback position?
- PROCEED MINDFULLY Remind yourself that WORRYING DOES NOT HELP and PROBLEMS WON’T BE SOLVED BY RUMINATING no matter what your mind and body tell you. Make a note to revisit the problem you’re worried about when you’re in a calm relaxed state. If ruminating thoughts keep you up at night put a pad and pen by your bed to write down problems to address the following day. Think about what needs to be done right now, in this moment, and move forward with that in mind.
NOTE: You may have to repeat this cycle again and again as ruminating is likely a long-term habit. Don’t judge yourself for ruminating. It’s a default setting for your mind right now and you are working to change it. Remember change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit not creatures of change. If you need further guidance call me. I’d be happy to help, 917-721-2257.