How-To Stop Ruminating - Skills for Relief
Do you ever feel like your mind is taking you down a slippery path of old, upsetting memories ? Tough stuff you just can't seem to "get over" and keep ruminating?
Your brain does this because of how the memory of the experience was stored. Some memories, feelings, thought patterns and sensations are arranged in a specific way in your brain, making it so incredibly challenging to end the ruminating.
In brain science there's a term that says "what fires together, gets wired together" which means that you have "pathways" in your neural network of your brain that keeps getting dug deeper and deeper. Those well worn paths are easy for your mind to go to because of how your brain has become accustomed to thinking and feeling.
There are many ways to reprogram your brain and teach your brain to "fire together" better memories and feelings. First, when you notice you are spacing out into old thoughts, feelings and emotions, take a moment to ground yourself, to bring yourself into the here and now and out of the hazy spinning.
Here are 6 simple ways to ground yourself:
- SENSES: Make your favor flavor coffee, sniff your favorite tea, rub an essential oil into your palms, snuggle into your cozy sweatshirt, feel the warmth of a fluffy blanket.
- BODY: Squeeze your toes, press your heels into the floor, lay on the ground and feel gravity holding you, hold a sensory squish toy and squeeze it.
- OBSERVE: describe an object in detail, color, texture, shape, shadow and light.
- SELF SOOTHE: take a warm shower or bath, light a scented candle, find a grounding object to help settle you.
- BREATHING: practice 4-7-8 breathing, inhale to 4, hold for 7 and exhale to 8 slow, paced breaths.
- DISTRACT: Find all the red (or any color) objects in the room, identify all the boxy things, say the date and year out loud, count by 5 as far as you can.
Now that you've gotten yourself back to the room and the here and now, Here are some techniques to work with the ruminating.
When you begin the slippery slope. When you begin obsessing and over-thinking, first just notice, "wow, I'm back there in the past". We want to increase your awareness of when this is happening, are there specific triggers or are you needing something else to think about? Gently remind yourself "I'm working on letting this stuff go and want to focus on something that energizes me instead".
To create a more balanced view from the past, find a way to re-script the story. Re-framing an experience often helps that you're re-writing the narrative in a more helpful, less critical way, making it easier to put down and settle in your mind. So, maybe you did something embarrassing, and you're upset about it, yet you learned a new way of interacting with a specific situation and that knowledge will stay with you forever.
- INTERRUPTION TECHNIQUE:
There's something called the "Interruption Technique". It may sound funny, but it means that you shock your mind out of the obsessive thinking pattern by making some movement. Get up and dance to a favorite song, dive deep into a complicated mathematical question, or grab a pen or colored pencil and draw something, anything. This stops the neural pathway from getting deeper and offers a new way of dealing when intense feelings hit.
The more you practice ways to take care of yourself in emotionally intense moments, the better you will get at pulling yourself out of that spiral and strengthening your core.
You brain, mind and body are all working together. It's your job to re-teach them how to care for you in the best way possible.
Try these suggestions. Blessings to feeling calm, and settled.
May you strengthen your ability to focus on what's important and let go of the rest, with ease.