By Nadine Araksi, Toronto-based Story Coach
We meet many clients stuck on what the author of Breakup Bootcamp, Amy Chan, calls “The Rumination Roller Coaster.” Unlike the audience for Chan’s book, our rumination ride may or may not be related to an ex-lover. Let’s use the common example of overthinking centred on a workplace relationship with a perceived “bully.”
Your 3 a.m. thoughts might go something like:
- “He thinks I’m an idiot, and that I’m terrible at my job!”
- “Am I garbage at my job, and I just don’t know it?”
- “I clearly suck, and I don’t deserve to have this job.”
- “I’m going to get fired, and my family will have no future!”
And repeat. Sound familiar?
The more you double down on the story of “Me vs. Bully,” the more your brain and your day-to-day experience begin to validate that belief. You might even start to suck at your job due to how much energy you choose to give to this person—someone who will eventually be a footnote in your life story, at best.
Rumination can wreak havoc on our mental well-being, trapping us in a cycle of negative thoughts and self-doubt. Recognizing and understanding your rumination habit is the first step to breaking free.
What Exactly IS Rumination?
Rumination is characterized by repetitive, intrusive thoughts that focus on negative experiences or emotions. It keeps us stuck in a loop, replaying past events and dwelling on worst-case scenarios.
The origins of the word rumination really illustrate the process of that repetitive thinking. “When you ruminate, you chew something over, either literally or figuratively,” says the Merriam-Webster dictionary website. “Literal rumination may seem a little gross to humans, but to cows, chewing your cud (that’s partially digested food brought up from the stomach for another chew) is just a natural part of life.” When we do this with our thoughts, we are trying to process something we haven’t mentally digested yet.
Why do we ruminate?
Rumination often starts as an attempt to problem-solve or process emotions but can also stem from a need for control, self-focused attention, perceived importance, and cognitive biases. However, rumination rarely leads to productive outcomes and can perpetuate distress. It impairs cognitive functioning and contributes to mental health issues.
Ruminating is often rooted in a desire to escape/refusal to accept what is. Be it what was said, how a meeting or event went, or a result that was not what you wanted, we subconsciously believe that if we just mentally repeat what went down, we may find a path to a different outcome. But that belief is so often rooted in self-judgment that nothing fruitful can come of it.
Understanding the reasons behind rumination is crucial for breaking free from its cycle and adopting healthier thought patterns. By recognizing its unhelpful nature, we can work towards reducing rumination and promoting emotional well-being.
The path out of rumination
So what can you do when stuck in rumination to get out of spinning thoughts and feel more peace of mind?
- Seek support. Having a supportive group of friends or community can help to ease the burden, and maybe help you find what might be funny about the situation. But breaking down your stuck thinking with a trusted coach or therapist can take it further by helping you reprogram any thought-loop habits.
- Calm your nervous system. Consistent daily practices like meditation and self-reflection can be game-changing when it comes to overcoming rumination. Choose activities that help quiet the mind, reduce stress, and connect with your vision for a more fulfilling life.
- Neutralize the circumstance. Kickstartology’s Alignment Framework enables you to challenge the stories you’ve created about past events or people, which exacerbate rumination. By reframing your perspectives and recognizing the self-created narratives, you can shift your focus towards more constructive thinking.
- Get real honest—and fast. It’s time to face the truth. Acknowledge any painful situations or relationships that are holding you back. By taking honest and decisive action, you’ll break free from the rumination roller coaster and open doors to new possibilities.
The Kickstartology tools and community help you focus on what you want long-term and why. What results do you want in your life? What career path, habits, or relationships would align more with who you want to be and how you want to live?
How the Alignment Framework helps you stop ruminating
Kickstartology’s Alignment Framework is designed to teach you how to manage your mind and find clarity amidst rumination. Through our approach, you’ll identify limiting beliefs, and gain self-awareness and confidence in your decision-making. You’ll learn to seek new paths that move you towards a life you love, and not one that has you overthinking in the middle of the night.
Ready to get off the Rumination Roller Coaster?
If you’re ready to stop thinking about that person, that place, or that event that keeps you up at night or prevents you from feeling joy, we’ve got you!
Book a conversation with Stephanie today to get a sense of what could be different for you and how you feel in the day-to-day as we approach a new season. You’ll come away with skills that will serve you for a lifetime, guaranteed.
Just ask Kickstartology alum, Jodie, who says, “My ‘a-ha moment’ was when I realized that my vision for my life and goals can be a guideline and adjusted as I go, allowing me to set goals without feeling overwhelmed by choosing the ‘right’ ones the first time.”
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