Ahh, I can’t stop ruminating (worrying)! The thoughts just keep coming no matter what I do! Ever find yourself here? Yeah, you’re not alone! I used to ruminate every day, and oftentimes I didn’t even realize that I was doing it until I was in full blown panic mode. But with lots of practice, I stopped going down the rabbit hole of worries and what-ifs. And even though you might not believe it right now, it’s possible for you, too!
So for this episode, I wanted to chat with someone who also has personal experience with rumination. And cue my amazing friend and therapist, Jenna Overbaugh! Jenna not only has personal experience with rumination, but she also teaches people on a daily basis how not to ruminate.
In this episode, Jenna and I chat about:
What rumination is & what it can look like
Why people ruminate
Things people often ruminate about
How to resist ruminating
How to gain freedom from rumination (yes, it is possible!)
What Is Rumination?
Jenna says, “Rumination is what I define as a cyclical thinking process, where you continually go over or review or analyze the same content or same concept over and over and over and over again. It can sometimes feel for people like it's a mental rabbit hole that they've kind of jumped down or that they're getting pulled into. But I actually don't think that rumination is functionally all that different from worry. So a worry is rumination. Rumination is worry. It's this cyclical thinking of the same thing over and over and over again. And it can feel really difficult to control because it can feel automatic. Like it's arguably a little bit trickier and more subtle and it feels more “automatic” then other rituals or other safety behaviors like avoidance.”
What Rumination Can Look Like
Worrying and obsessing about events before they happen. Meaning how they might go, what might/could happen, and doing some problem solving and preparing.
Worrying about what is happening while you’re doing something, which usually also involves doing some problem solving and preparing.
Reviewing events after they happen and obsessing over how you could have done things differently, or what actually happened, and what it all might mean.
Ruminating Over The What-Ifs & Resisting Rumination
Jenna says, “But what if… And that's where the rumination really takes hold, is trying to figure out the answer to that. What if?
So I think of the intrusive thought or the worry as the first obsessional thought that comes up with the what if question, the rumination is an actual volitional choice behavior, right? We do have a choice over whether we actually try to answer that question.
So it's always really a key for me to have people try to get on board with the fact that worry is different from worrying. You can have this intrusive thought come up or this worry, this uncertainty, this doubt, whatever. But whatever you try to do about that, that could be compulsive, right? Like that could be the rumination.
Mike Heady, he's also an OCD professional based out of, I believe, in Maryland. And he said to me once about rumination. You can't help the thoughts that pop up, but you can help the thoughts that you conjure up. And I think that is the best way to describe it. Right. Like, you can't help these. What if what does that heartbeat mean? What does my headache mean? I was attracted to that female in the grocery store. Does that mean that I'm actually attracted to women? You can't help those thoughts that pop up, but you can 100% with practice, with the right guidance, with the right support, witness and recognize having those thoughts and making the deliberate choice to not answer them. Like, I recognize that I just had that thought about that woman in the gym or, you know, that I had that intrusive thought about my relationship. There I go again. There is my obsession. I'm not answering that question. And that's how you resist rumination.”
Gaining Freedom From Rumination
Jenna shares something incredibly insightful. She says, “As long as you continue to act as though something is threatening, your brain is going to try to protect you from it. So as long as you continue to act as though stomachaches are threatening your brain, try to protect you from stomachaches.
So I always ask myself and I ask my members like, how are you acting as though this thing is threatening? How are you interpreting it as a threat in your mind? Are you ruminating about it or are you trying to prepare for it? Are you telling yourself that everything is fine? You know, how are you acting as though this thing is threatening? We have to hammer all those out, whether it's one by one or gradually reducing or postponing or whatever. We have to act as though this thing is not threatening.
For example, if I have a stomach ache… Let's see what happens. You have to give your brain, like I said, that new message that this, in fact, is not threatening. This, in fact, does not warrant any type of special response. I'm going to notice it and go back exactly to what it was that I was doing, because that is so unthreatening that I'm not going to change my response to it at all. And of course, it's not going to feel authentic. It’s going to feel like complete B.S. right now. That's what you have to do. And eventually it gets easier.”
MAKE SURE TO TUNE IN & LISTEN TO THE FULL EPISODE TO CAPTURE ALL OF THE GOODNESS!
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On Instagram: @jenna.overbaugh