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Need some tips on how to avoid rumination

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Ollin, Nov 6, 2013.

  1. Ollin

    Ollin Peer Supporter

    I always get pain when driving home from work. One part of it is that afternoons were always making me feel low, if not depressed. At work I can usually keep myself busy and distracted, or if needed (triggered by some thoughts or events) I can usually find a quiet spot to process my emotions (even if it has to be in the bathroom). But when I drive home for ~ 40 min, no amount of distraction works, whether its listening to radio or music or recorded programs that interest me. My mind invariably wonders off to some troubling thoughts. I also get this anxious feeling of being trapped, nothing severe knowing I can always stop the car and get out, but because I must endure the journey to get home. And when I arrive I'm totally miserable and need long time to calm myself and manage the pain the best I can. And its a regular daily problem for me that doesn't shift.
    I practice meditation and it helps me but driving is not a time when one can relax and focus all attention on ones feelings in a safe setting.

    I wonder if anyone ever had similar problem and how they dealt with it? Thanks
    Forest likes this.
  2. nancy

    nancy Well known member

    Hi there Ollin, I also have a problem with rumination, only mine is when I awaken
    in the am, ruines my whole day with pain in my back and legs. Eric (Herbie), made
    some suggestions to me, wake up and visualize a good memory, keep your mind
    focused on this. It is working for me pretty well, not always, I do see improvement
    tho. I do know that thinking about the past is a waste of time but it's just a hard thing
    to stop. You can with total concentration and then it becomes a new habit, and the old
    is gone. I thank Eric for that!!!!! Nancy
    Forest likes this.
  3. Solange

    Solange Well known member

    Do you know what, I have been having exactly this rumination problem and I have realised that the distractions you mention above are all passive. In other words, you are just there receiving input a bit like a sponge soaking up water. They're all good distractions at times but I've recently discovered two others which are more active and really help,one of which at least you might try in the car while driving - I appreciate that you need to be aware of what you are doing while you are behind the wheel.
    The first thing I see, I think of the word and try to spell it backwards. Try ten of those to break the unhelpful thought pattern.
    Also, may sound daft, I take each colour of the rainbow in turn and have to spot a set number of things(usually three in my case)for that colour before I move onto the next until I've completed all the colours in order. I class indigo and violet as purple or I'd be there all day! I find both of these quick and helpful. I hope they help you.
    Forest likes this.
  4. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Ollin, what sort of mixture is it between rumination about the physical pain itself and rumination about other things?

    You are very wise to think about avoiding rumination. I think we should all be mindful of whether and how we ruminate. I don't know if this will be so helpful for you, Ollin, because I suspect that your answer to my first question is that you tend to ruminate on the physical pain itself, but the following are some notes from Wikipedia about rumination. I've put them here because I want to draw attention to this thread and this important concept. While this may get us off topic initially, hopefully it could get more people involved in the discussion and helping.

    Rumination is defined as the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one's distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions.[1] Rumination is similar to worry except rumination focuses on bad feelings and experiences from the past, whereas worry is concerned with potential bad events in the future.[1] Both rumination and worry are associated with anxiety and other negative emotional states.[1]​

    The tendency to negatively ruminate is a stable constant over time and serves as a significant risk factor for clinical depression. Not only are habitual ruminators more likely to become depressed, but experimental studies have demonstrated that people who are induced to ruminate experience greater depressed mood.[3] There is also evidence that rumination is linked to general anxiety, post traumatic stress, binge drinking, eating disorders, and self-injurious behavior.[6] ​

    [Forest: I would add that I believe that rumination will lead to greater TMS symptoms in general. Of course, there are also positive aspects of reviewing things in your mind, so we all must find our personal balance between destructive rumination and the positive work that can lead to personal growth. The latter is clearly vital and healing, whereas the latter can prolong suffering. The following paragraph discusses some of the research related to healthy self-disclosure. Incidentally, James Pennebaker, Ph.D, who is cited in the following paragraph, wrote a book called "Writing to Heal," which was one of the main sources used in constructing the Structured Educational Program.]​

    Although rumination is generally unhealthy and associated with depression, thinking and talking about one's feelings can be beneficial under the right conditions. According to Pennebaker, healthy self-disclosure can reduce distress and rumination when it leads to greater insight and understanding about the source of one's problems.[20] Thus, when people share their feelings with others in the context of supportive relationships, they are likely to experience growth. In contrast, when people repetitively ruminate and dwell on the same problem without making progress, they are likely to experience depression. ​

    When I reflect back on how Dr. Sarno treated patients, I think that much of his famous bedside manner was about helping people to not ruminate through the shear force of his presence. I have heard of him saying things like, "You're fine! Just have a nice glass of wine and go to bed. You'll feel better in the morning." While this might not work for a repeated situation like yours (obviously the wine would be a bad choice when driving and probably shouldn't regularly be used), for the right person in an acute flareup, I can imagine it doing a great deal to shut down the incessant chatter.

    When I catch myself ruminating, my first line of defense is to distract myself. I do this mindfully, though only in the sense that I am consciously aware of my rumination and that there is no point to it. It sounds like you are already doing that with music and recorded programs. If that doesn't work, it usually means that there is something deeper that is really bugging me and that keeps grabbing my attention, so I try to explore that.

    Driving can be tough. Thanks for the question. I'd be interested to know if Solange's idea works.
    Solange likes this.
  5. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I used to be a big ruminator and have mostly broken myself of the habit--and I think it is a habit. The first step you have already accomplished, which is the awareness that you are ruminating and that it is useless at best, and most likely harmful. I, like Solange, found that passive activities didn't stop the ruminating. My worst time for engaging in the behavior is when I lie down to sleep. So I have to use my mind in an active way. What I do is shift my attention to a neutral project that requires some imagination and creativity. For example, I imagine redecorating my house room by room and step by step. This exercise broke the habit and I seldom ruminate anymore.
    Ollin, quert and Pandagirl like this.
  6. Pandagirl

    Pandagirl Peer Supporter

    I'm definitely a ruminator! And I agree it is a habit, a very bad habit! Passive activities don't help me either because I'm a great multi-tasker! I can ruminate while doing most anything, except when I am being mindful, which takes a lot of practice! It's probably the hardest thing to do especially when you are in pain!

    Driving is a difficult situation, but I would suggest setting aside other times of your day to mindfully meditate. During your workday, maybe you could spend 20 minutes at lunch and perhaps 20 minutes before you drive home. Breaking the habit at other times when you can focus better might help you do better on your drive. I wouldn't expect immediate results, but after some practice I bet you'll see some progress!
    quert likes this.
  7. quert

    quert Guest

    Me, too, I ruminate a lot. My place for rumination is in the shower. I tend to start thinking about various challenges I am facing or things that I am worried about or frustrated about. It sucks me in because it feels productive at first, but I know that the repetition is no good.
    Ollin likes this.
  8. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Rumination is, I think, only natural. If we're in pain our minds want to go there and figure out why.
    Driving home can be very boring... the same route, the same expressway or city streets.
    It isn't enough to watch out for the other motorists who may be on their cell phones or text-messaging.
    Maye they do those things to try forget their pain or why they're having it.

    I used to hate my job at a big insurance company that was a half-hour drive farther into the suburbs.
    Some mornings while I drove there, I ruminated on how much I hated the company and the bosses
    that I turned around and drove home and called in sick. Sometimes I drove almost to the entrance of
    the company grounds and turned around and drove back home. I knew I should quit but job security kept me
    there until after three years I finally quit. I didn't find another job right away so I began freelance writing.
    That was 40 year ago and I'm still at it and love it.

    But driving home from work was never a problem for me. Driving to work was.
    Home was a place I was in control. Work wasn't.

    But also, driving used to be kind of fun. It isn't anymore. Too much traffic, too many crazies on the roads.

    While driving, to take my mind off of work and pain stressors, I suggest deep breathing and repeating a
    mantra. My favorite it "Every day in every way I'm getting better and better." It's an old one but works for me.
    nancy likes this.
  9. Ollin

    Ollin Peer Supporter

    Hi Nancy

    I can also relate to ruminations in the morning. I'm going through a stressful time with a personal relationship issue and regularly wake up at 5am, which echoes with my past similar experiences and various thoughts and sad feelings come to me. Although one morning after I woke up a useful though came to me, which directly pointed to an early childhood experience that caused my lifelong relationship struggles, and probably my TMS symptoms. I believe that our first thoughts upon awakening are well tuned into what emotionally goes on in our lives that needs our attention, so the trick is to use this information to our advantage (healing), rather than useless ruminations, which isn't easy to do when I'm trying to catch more sleep, but the thoughts don't really let me, and laying half-asleep, getting angry at myself for being bothered by my thoughts, getting tense physically...
    Fortunately once I'm up and moving the pain subsides (being physical always helps with my symptoms), then focusing on work helps me avoid painful thoughts for a while too.
    Yes, thinking about the past seems natural, as we instinctly try to predict our future based on our histories. What helps me keep positive is recognizing that I'm making some progress with self-development, and learning from my past mistakes.
    nancy likes this.
  10. Ollin

    Ollin Peer Supporter

    Solange, you're absolutely right, passive distractions are less successful because they let "stuff" to leak in. Your suggestions sound great, because they're neutral, i.e. unlikely to trigger any negative thoughts about my life events.
    Thank you
  11. Ollin

    Ollin Peer Supporter

    Hi Forest. That's a good question. The way I see it in this case is that as my mood drops in the afternoon (not sure why, but it's been a long-term pattern for me, I tried to identify a triggering past event without success) I tend to get more pain. So when I first become aware of it I turn my attention to my thoughts hoping to identify which could have caused emotional reaction and the pain. Usually I catch myself having thought about something unpleasant, if not, I ask myself how do I feel about the pain. And the answer is "self-pity and self-directed disappointment". Then I ask "what else in my life makes me feel this way?" And it's never difficult to answer that. So I start thinking about the issue on and off, while distracting myself with work or other stuff going on. But the pain always lingers there. Until I get in the car and no longer can avoid the thoughts unless I keep actively thinking about work, which usually I'm too tired of at that stage. And then I notice more pain, try to reposition my body somehow to get more comfortable, but I can't really when sitting in the car, so I get cranky at the situation I'm in (unable to move freely), and it goes on and on. An insight from this: anger related to feeling trapped. I often wonder: did the pain start my negative thoughts or the other way round? Or was it my afternoon slump (feeling) that started both? Probably most in-line with Sarno's teachings. Or is it possible that I'm repressing my feelings by distracting myself and that makes the pain worse?

    Yes, anxiety definitely. The reason for my rumination is probably trying to find solution to a problem. As unproductive as it often is, sometimes thinking about a troubling issue helps us sort it out. I guess I need to identify when the unproductive phase begins and let it go. Just as you say, recognize and stop it if it's pointless. That's why I need to think/do something positive or otherwise fun to occupy my mind when driving.​

    Thanks for the quotes, analysis and suggestions. I noticed many times that alcohol in the evening helps my mind-body to relax. Currently I'm going through a stressful time so I gave up drinking as it makes me more depressed. I think after years of searching I finally connected the dots and have an idea about what is at the root of my troubles, so I'm planning to explore it, but it's a complex problem. Though if it was simple I would have sorted it long ago before getting TMS symptoms...​

  12. Ollin

    Ollin Peer Supporter

    Thanks everyone for your replies and sharing. I'll try to implement some active distractions. Deep breathing with a mantra sounds also like a great idea, it can focus the driver on present moment and ease anxiety. I tried driving mindfulness meditation, but I'm not too good at that, probably because the drive is boring... Actually the route is extremely spectacular, so I can't believe I said that :). Even having done it hundreds of times I still notice the unique beauty of the landscape. Anyway, I think it's the mindfulness part that I find challenging.

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