When Anxious Thoughts Take Over: How to Rein in Rumination

There are good reasons why “runaway train” is a popular metaphor for anything that can’t be reined in. A runaway train has no conductor, it’s gaining momentum, and it gets more dangerous with each passing moment. That said, while your anxiety may feel like this at times, it is not really beyond your control.

You are not powerless. There are proven steps you can take to rein in the rumination. This doesn’t mean it will be easy. However, an essential part of challenging your anxious thoughts is awareness and a lack of avoidance. Anxiety can be a formidable foe. But…with knowledge and support, you have what it takes to face it and manage it.

The Cycle of Anxious Thoughts and Rumination

Rumination is a frustrating cycle. Even the root of the word is, well, hard to swallow. it is derived from the description of how a ruminant animal (like a cow) chews and eats. They chew and re-chew over and over. In a figurative sense, this is much like the cyclical way anxious humans go over events and conversations.

Anxiety sufferers tend to be wary of what they say and do. Perhaps you second-guessing everything, certain that you’ve committed some unforgivable gaffe. Like a chewing cow, you may grind on unhelpful thoughts, perceptions, and events (real or imagined). You may hope you can find something — anything — to help you feel better.

According to research, that is highly unlikely.

Why? Rumination tends to increase your chances of becoming anxious and/or depressed. It can drive other people away. It also has the power to decrease skills like reasoning and problem-solving.

The next time anxiety pushes you into a bout of rumination, you can fight back. Consider the following basic skills and tools for managing your anxiety:

3 Ways to Rein in Rumination When Anxiety Strikes

Practice Mindfulness

Mindful meditation is a practice that can help you catch yourself early before the rumination begins to spiral. “See” or notice the thought and acknowledge it without judging it or yourself. As you pay attention to your response, you may find thoughts have less power when you simply seem them for what they are and let them pass.

Set a Time Limit, Then Distract Yourself

It’s okay to devote some time to health introspection. But why not make it designated time? You may already allocate “x” amount of minutes to exercise each day. You can do the same thing with self-reflection. Keep it short, though, and consider keeping a journal to keep track of the time allocated and the result.

After that, move quickly into another activity — preferably something that involves movement and/or creativity. This can help prevent you from sliding right back into the intrusive thoughts.

Find a “Sponsor”

Perhaps there’s someone in your life who is willing to be available when anxiety strikes. Being able to reach out to this “sponsor” can help slam the door on the rumination cycle. Of course, some basic ground rules for such a relationship will be needed to maintain healthy boundaries.

Therapy: A Powerful Tool in Your Toolbox

Anxiety is a challenging disorder but it can be addressed. What’s important to remember and accept is that no one ever said you have to attempt recovery alone. Humans work extremely well in teams and your counselor can become your most valuable teammate.

Working with a therapist puts you in the position to recognize the role you play in your thoughts and behaviors. Once you can examine and explore self-sabotaging habits, triggers, and their root causes, you can progress helpfully.

If you feel yourself sliding into bouts of anxiety-driven rumination, let us help you develop new approaches and ideas for claiming more calm and confidence. Please read more about anxiety and reach out today to set up a free consultation. It just may be the most powerful tool in your anti-anxiety toolbox.

Getting Started With Anxiety Counseling in Lakewood & Longmont Colorado

We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation. You can schedule your appointment via phone, email, or the contact page on our website. We offer both in-person and online counseling. We’re open to whichever option you feel more comfortable with.  We look forward to hearing from you!