Coping techniques: Rumination

Please note that you should always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, your level of exercise and activity, medication or behaviors related to substance use.

The best way to make use of these techniques is to read through them, select three that stand out to you and practice them. I would be glad to hear from you on your responses.

  1. Notice when you begin to ruminate.
  2. Interrupt the rumination. This can be done as simply as saying “Stop” to yourself. This technique is most effective when practiced consistently, similar to the way you would train a dog to be a good pet—each and every time your dog jumps up on the couch you say, “No.”
  3. Select a scenario that’s more to your liking, such as reviewing an accomplishment that makes you feel proud, or a dialogue with someone you find supportive and appreciative.
  4. Refocus on an activity that’s productive (work, school, chores) or enjoyable (singing, calling a friend, exercise).
  5. Use prayer or meditation to occupy your thoughts.
  6. Consider practicing mindfulness meditation, where your focus is redirected again and again from distracting thoughts to being attentive to the breath. One benefit of this “notice, let go and refocus” practice is that it can increase psychological flexibility—the ability to deliberately turn your mind from one object of focus to another.
  7. Consider whether the rumination is pointing to a real-world problem. If this is the case identify something concrete that you can do something about. You can’t do anything about earthquakes but you can put together an earthquake readiness kit. Set aside time to strategize. Notice the difference between problem-solving and the circular thinking associated with rumination.
  8. If you’re ruminating over some action you feel was wrong forgive yourself. Consider whether there is some appropriate way to make amends. If you’re ruminating over a wrong someone has done you try forgiving them.
  9. Schedule time for rumination. This can be especially useful if rumination interferes with sleep—schedule half an hour tomorrow to sit with the topic of the rumination.
  10. Make use of guided imagery. For instance: Picture a large jar with a screw-on lid. One by one, taking time to do this thoroughly,  remove each topic that you’re ruminating about and put it into the jar. When the last one is removed, screw the lid onto the jar and put it away in a cabinet.