Ah, overthinking, ruminating, and obsessing –
the unholy trinity of repetitive thinking.
As an emotional coach, I’ve seen plenty of clients who struggle with these three beasts, and let me tell you, they can wreak havoc on a person’s life.
So, what exactly are the differences between these three types of repetitive thinking?
Let’s start with overthinking. Overthinking is when you can’t stop thinking about a particular event or situation, and you analyze it to death. You go over every detail in your mind, trying to find hidden meanings or clues that might help you understand what happened. It’s like you’re stuck in a hamster wheel of thoughts, unable to get off.
Now, ruminating takes overthinking to the next level. When you’re ruminating, you’re not just thinking about a particular event or situation, you’re obsessively analyzing it, trying to figure out what you could have done differently. You’re filled with regret and self-blame, and you can’t seem to let go of the past. It’s like you’re stuck in a time loop, reliving the same experience over and over again.
And finally, we come to obsessing. Obsessing is when you’re fixated on a particular worry or fear, and you can’t seem to shake it. You’re constantly thinking about the worst-case scenario, and your thoughts and feelings become more intense over time. It’s like you’re stuck in a dark room, with no way out.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Thanks for the definitions, Jay, but how do these three things actually affect my life?”
Well, my dear reader, the negative effects of overthinking, ruminating, and obsessing can be significant. Let’s break it down:
First, let’s talk about relationships. When you’re constantly overthinking, ruminating, or obsessing, it’s hard to be present in the moment. You might be physically there, but your mind is elsewhere, stuck in a never-ending cycle of thoughts. This can lead to feelings of disconnection and frustration in your relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners.
Second, let’s talk about work or school performance. When you’re consumed by thoughts and feelings, it’s hard to focus on the task at hand. You might find yourself making careless mistakes or struggling to complete assignments on time. This can lead to poor performance evaluations, missed opportunities, and added stress.
And finally, let’s talk about mental and physical health. When you’re stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts and emotions, it can take a toll on your well-being. You might experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, such as fatigue, loss of interest in activities, and difficulty sleeping. You might also experience physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle tension, and stomach problems.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Thanks for the doom and gloom, Jay, but how do I stop overthinking, ruminating, or obsessing?”
Well, my dear reader, I’m glad you asked. Here are a few tips for managing these three beasts:
Practice mindfulness: Okay, I know I said I wouldn’t talk about mindfulness, but hear me out. Mindfulness is simply the practice of being present in the moment, without judgment. When you’re overthinking, ruminating, or obsessing, your mind is anything but present. Practicing mindfulness can help you bring your attention back to the present moment, and reduce the intensity of your thoughts and feelings.
A simple way to do this is to focus on something near you. Focus on the colours, the pattern, or details so you are in the present moment. This can sometimes help.
Challenge your thoughts: When you’re stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts, it can be helpful to challenge them. Ask yourself if they’re really true, or if there’s another way to interpret the situation. For example, if you’re ruminating about a conversation you had with a friend, you might be telling yourself that you said something stupid and that your friend now hates you. But is that really true? Maybe your friend didn’t even notice what you said, or maybe they appreciated your honesty. Challenging your thoughts can help you gain perspective and break out of negative thinking patterns. Sometimes we need to remove the unconscious baggage before we can manually talk ourselves around.
Practice self-care: When you’re struggling with overthinking, ruminating, or obsessing, it’s important to take care of yourself. This might mean getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, and engaging in activities that bring you joy. When you prioritize self-care, you’re giving yourself the tools you need to manage stress and cope with difficult emotions.
Seek support: Sometimes, managing repetitive thinking on your own can feel overwhelming. That’s okay – seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health coach can be incredibly helpful. A trusted friend or family member can provide a listening ear and offer perspective, while a mental health coach can help you release the emotions that are connected to these traits and that will naturally lead to developing coping strategies and working through underlying issues that may be contributing to your overthinking, ruminating, or obsessing.