Life is full of choices, and making the wrong choice or regretting the choice we made is something every one of us has done at some time. For the most part we vent about it, feel bad about it, maybe try to get revenge and then move on. But what happens when you don’t move on? When every outing becomes a chance to talk about it more and when your friends are saying, “enough already…can’t you just move on?” You ruminate about it over and over in your mind, but the thoughts and obsession don’t go away.
When an issue is not resolved or doesn’t end in a way that feels right to you, you may find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle. These can be long standing- many adults still suffer from things that happened in childhood. They never moved on or completely resolved the issue. The reason you obsess or ruminate over thoughts is due to your investment in what you want as the final outcome. No matter what happens, the situation becomes part of your identity or who you are. Whether you’re a girl who obsesses over her first boyfriend or a seasoned athlete, you build your life around a person, goal or career and it defines you. When you lose that you lose a part of yourself and that’s why you can’t let it go. The problem becomes bigger and bigger as you ruminate because your thoughts can’t distract themselves, and unless you intervene with new thoughts or distractions, it will be like watching instant replay 24/7.
What to do when obsessive thoughts are messing up your life:
- Meditation. This helps because it moves you from the past to the present. Whenever the thoughts begin focusing on your breathing and what’s happening in your body right now makes the past obsolete.
- Confront the obsessive thoughts. Ask yourself what the worst thing is that will happen as well as can I handle that? Most likely you’ll say yes to both and these questions empower you to make a plan. They give back a sense of control.
- Schedule worry breaks. When you’re ruminating over an issue you tell everyone and talk about it non-stop. The thoughts run your life. Setting a time for worry (about 10 min.) once or twice a day can help you minimize the thoughts.
- Grieve the loss with activity. Walking, yoga, dance and any exercise helps you grieve the loss and move forward. When your body is moving it helps you think clearer and lifts depression as well as anxiety. This provides clarity of what happened and encourages moving forward.
- Talk therapy. When obsessive thinking continues and interferes with your life on a day-to-day basis therapy helps you learn to let go of the judgment you’ve put on the thoughts and teaches you how to re-direct your negative thoughts to more positive ones.
Beating yourself up for situations or choices in the past is a no win situation. Everyone makes choices they regret. Having a plan for how to deal with negative thoughts after a loss helps you resolve the unresolved issues and to get on with living your life. If you’re a ruminator, the one thing you can count on is this won’t be the first or last unresolved issue you’ll have to learn to manage. Life repeats itself, so the sooner you learn to let go the better.