Get more advice about coping with rumination in The Anxiety Toolkit.

Rumination = the tendency to respond to distress by repetitively (and passively) focusing on the causes and consequences of your problems, without moving to active problem solving.

Here’s two questions I find help me:

When I notice myself ruminating, in a very gentle & kind tone, I ask myself

“Is it time to move to active problem solving?”

I then ask myself

“What’s a skillful action here?” also in a very gentle and kind tone.

If it’s something I’m feeling very scared about taking action on, I ask myself these questions in almost a whisper. (Try it and see if it works for you too!)

Here’s how I used this today (non-scary example).

I had ordered some sneakers over the weekend. They haven’t shipped yet and I was concerned they wouldn’t arrive before I leave the States and head back to NZ next week, and I would have no way of getting them. I was having visual images of my shoes sitting, undeliverable at my local NYC post office and having no way of getting the shoes or my money back, since once I leave, there will be no one at my current apartment address until the end of the month. This was the rumination part – the image was swirling around in my mind and I felt a sick feeling in my stomach when I thought it. I was also criticizing myself for not ordering them earlier, also rumination. Can you see how I was doing both the focusing on the “causes” and the “consequences” parts of rumination – ordering later than I should’ve (cause) and being upset if I didn’t get the shoes and blew the money (consequence)?

Its a company I’ve never ordered from before, and I tried phoning and emailing yesterday to see if I needed to upgrade to a faster shipping option, and didn’t get a response after 24 hours.

This morning when I woke up to no email reply, after asking myself the above questions, I went online and found the number of their retail store and talked to the brother of the guy who handles the shipping of internet orders. Apparently he’s been off work the last couple of days due to “some problems” and his brother is going to ask him to call me back this afternoon. So, we’ll see how it goes.

Why did I give this example?

I gave the above example to show how an overcoming rumination strategy works for everyday rumination, not just the big stuff. Its often easier to get started with overcoming rumination strategies by using them for small examples of rumination like this.

I included rumination as one of the “use only sparingly” strategies on the Healthy Emotion Regulation Strategies Pyramid