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    How To Break Free From Rumination

    Have you ever been caught in a repetitive thought loop? You keep replaying a conversation or situation in your mind, hoping for a different outcome to manifest, an answer, or clarity to arise. It’s more than overthinking. This intrusive dwelling on past events or perceived failures characterized by worry and self-criticism is called rumination.

    Ugh, I know. It keeps you up at night. It’s hard to focus during the day. You’re not present. It brings you down, and it’s hard to shake.

    Rumination is a symptom of anxiety and stress, among other states. It kicks up when we’re faced with uncertainty, shame, guilt, sadness, fear, or confusion. The mind is trying to help by getting us to problem solve, avoid unpleasant emotions, gain insight, and regulate. It’s attempting to create a sense of control over a feeling or situation. 

    Our conditioning has us believe we can think our way through feelings. That it’s safer up in our heads than in our bodies where we feel. It means well, but in reality, it’s unproductive and draining.

    But, like anxiety and other emotional challenges – it’s not all bad. Try not to demonize the mechanisms of your mind by judging yourself. Instead, consider that underneath every emotional challenge is something that feels vulnerable. And within every vulnerability is a nugget of strength, wisdom, and beauty. There’s a pathway here that is guiding you to a part of your being that needs tending to. Rumination is the trailhead.

    This week, I invite you to consider one way you can disrupt ruminating thoughts by becoming curious about what’s underneath them. Be gentle and go slow through the process below to see what arises from within rather than thinking of answers.

    1. Recognize it, and give it a label without judgment. “This is rumination.”
    2. Take a full body breath. Allow the breath to bring you into your body.
    3. With openness and curiosity, try on a few questions and see what arises:
      • What am I feeling right now? What am I feeling underneath my thoughts?
      • My mind is trying to help me…
      • What am I afraid of?
      • What feels vulnerable?
      • What part of me might be seeking protection?
      • What does this part of me actually need?
    4. Allow yourself to feel the feeling underneath. Or, sit with not knowing. Feel, without question. Even if for a few seconds.
    5. Whether you have helpful information from this inquiry or not, practice self-compassion for the part of you that felt the need to ruminate.

    This is less about finding answers/solutions, and more about freeing yourself from the grip of rumination by dropping below the thoughts. You’ll likely find that when you see rumination for what it is – a thought form with no actual ending – something shifts. Maybe that’s enough to disrupt. Maybe something else is uncovered. Meet it with compassion. When you tend to the feeling underneath the thoughts, they quiet down because you’re attending to the deeper layer, to what actually needs your attention. 

    What I find is though I may not have found an answer, I feel a sense of stillness, presence, and wholeness as I honor the underlying feeling or need.If you need support with rumination or any emotional health challenge, my team of lovely therapists and I are here for you. Reach out.