General Question

janbb's avatar

What do you do when you are obsessively ruminating about an issue?

Asked by janbb (58589points) June 17th, 2013

Could be any issue you are stuck on but more of a deep issue or emotional problem than a decision you have to make. Any tips and tricks?

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35 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

I explain myself over and over to different people. From mom to the doctor.

Pachy's avatar

I walk away from it for a day, do something else, clear my brain. Works wonders.

picante's avatar

Been there, done that. As lame as it sounds, I just engage in activities that require my entire mental focus—difficult puzzles, a challenging work project, the details of planning a trip or a remodeling project. An idle mind is a soft landing spot for rumination.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I think about it on and off for a week or so, then make some kind of decision.

bookish1's avatar

Good ideas here. If I am obsessing over something and spinning my wheels won’t get anything done, I try to shift my attention elsewhere. Physical activities really help.

For instance, this weekend I almost had a breakdown over an infuriating situation. I was super stressed and too preoccupied to try to do other mental work, but worrying about it wasn’t going to get anything done either. So I distracted myself with the physical task of cleaning up my apartment and beginning to pack.

marinelife's avatar

I put my mind to learning something new, which doesn’t leave room for brooding.

JLeslie's avatar

I allow myself to ruminate for a a few weeks, often that includes telling my friends my worries. After a few weeks I either decide I can’t do anything about it and push it to the recesses of my mind, or I decide to act on what ever issue it is if there is something I can act on, or if none of those things are happening I see a shrink. Very traumatic events, major losses I give myself more time than a few weeks.

Eggie's avatar

Sit, cross my legs and meditate in a quiet outdoor place. While I do this I imagine a series of possibilities of solutions to the problem.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Go for a drive in the country, where you aren’t distracted by buildings and cross streets. It lets your mind wander, and that is helpful.

Pachy's avatar

I’ve actually come up with some of my best creative solutions and made some of my toughest decisions when I was doing something other than thinking about them, like showering, shaving, driving, watching a movie, or even sleeping. The brain is always working, and programming a computer: if youi feed it enough data and just leave it alone to do its thing, it usually does.

Plucky's avatar

I will do some type of activity. Whether it’s drawing, cleaning, yard work, walking the dog, etc…. it helps quite a bit. Sometimes, I’ll even sit/lay in a dark room and do nothing (I will usually have something like a t-shirt wrapped over my head and eyes, with a firm pressure around my skull) ... or sit in a dark room listening to music in my headphones. The latter two are more for when I just need to be away from outside stimuli though.

flutherother's avatar

I head off on my bicycle for the day and let the obsessive ruminations run in the background of my mind where they don’t bother me so much. They are impossible to stop entirely.

jordym84's avatar

If it’s something I can fix myself, I act upon it (almost) immediately. If it’s nothing I can change, I allow myself to ruminate until I decide that I’ve had enough and need to let it go, at which point I resort to “baking therapy” and/or exercise and/or anything else that will boost my mood so that I can get over it more quickly.

Judi's avatar

Distract myself by coming to fluther and ruminating about other people’s issues.

Rarebear's avatar

I take an Ambien.

hearkat's avatar

I try to spend some time dedicated to addressing the concern – usually in writing. I might just write a journal entry, but if there’s a decision that needs to be made, I might make a list if pros/cons, or try to create a flow chart between where I am and what my goal is in order to better visualize and plan the steps involved.

I will also dedicate time away from the problem and engage in activities that are immersive so the issue gets pushed to the back of my mind.

I find that focusing on it and then not focusing on it helps keep it from nagging me every minute, and helps me process it faster than if I just let it stew.

glacial's avatar

If I notice myself ruminating on something that I can’t change, then I consciously break that by changing what I am doing. Most likely, I’ll go do the dishes, or clean something, or go for a walk, or a bike ride. First, though, I make a poing of really noticing that I’m obsessing over the thing. I consider that behaviour to be slightly dangerous (mainly because several of my relatives have what I would consider to be non-trivial issues with OCD), so I feel it’s important for me to recognize it and actively fight it.

If I’m dithering over a decision to be made, I remember learning to play cribbage with my mother when I was a child. Whenever I moaned over deciding which cards to throw away, she would say briskly, “Quick decisions!” and I would have to simply choose and move on. Really, the point was that taking so much time over deciding was far more painful than the consequences of the choice. I’m sure she never thought I would apply that phrase so widely in my life’s endeavours, but it generally turns out to be true. When I hear it in my head, usually I feel an instant sense of relief, and just let go of the worry attached to deciding.

flo's avatar

I put the dilemma up on a Q&A site and see if the less biased people there could help me make up my mind.

serenade's avatar

I try to remind myself, “That’s just what the mind says. What does the heart say?”

jca's avatar

I usually don’t talk to people about issues that upset me, for at least a few days. I may talk myself out of not letting it bother me, by asking myself what it is that’s upsetting and why it should not be so upsetting. I might go step by step in my mind, going through what’s upsetting and how it should work out opposite of the way I think it might, or how it should not have a bad turnout.

augustlan's avatar

Once I’ve thought (and sometimes, talked) about the situation constantly and have realized there is no end in sight, I know I’ve got to get it off my mind for a while. I read an engrossing book (if I can concentrate) or watch something on TV, or get busy on some project or another. Sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and take a nap.

Jeruba's avatar

This is a tough one, and I have tried all sorts of things. To me the key question is whether there’s something I can do, so the issue is about a decision or action of some kind, or there isn’t anything to be done and I’m just stewing.

If I’m stewing, I don’t find that there’s any rational response that actually helps. With emotional matters, intellectual tools usually don’t accomplish much. You can’t paint with a screwdriver.

If all I’m after is just some relief from the obsessing, I force myself to run a little tape every time the troublesome thought comes to mind. It could be on the order of a mantra (such as a slogan or verse or affirming phrase), or it could even be nonsensical. The point is that I practice switching to that every single time my head goes where I don’t want it to.

The Serenity Prayer can be great for this if you have it at the tip of your tongue. (And it’s worth acquiring.)

If you’re into meditating, a little mind-clearing zazen can have the same effect.

Getting away from thrashing the subject, even for just a little bit, can do wonders for my sanity and my ability to march back in and deal with the things that can be dealt with—and let go of the things that can’t.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I write obsessively.

answerjill's avatar

Do you have a history of obsessions and compulsions? If so, you may want to look into getting treatment for OCD. (I am not saying that you have this disorder and I certainly wouldn’t want to try to “diagnose” you. I just want to put it in your radar, just in case.)

janbb's avatar

@answerjill No, not really. This is more like an issues I can’t put to bed.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I come here. I know that answer sounds silly but it’s true.
I am responsible fora large project. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about an impending train wreck – and I am the engineer. My body gets hot an sweaty like I’m having a menopausal hot flash.
I come here for a while and read a few questions, see how others are doing, answer a few emails, and it takes my mind off things for a while.
Even this Q from you helps. It’s like being fanned by a set of cool tail feathers.

Jeruba's avatar

Very nice, @LuckyGuy. Especially that last image.

answerjill's avatar

@janbb – Oh, good. I wouldn’t wish OCD on anybody.

janbb's avatar

@answerjill Yes, I have a friend with it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

And sometimes it’s like getting sprayed by something from under the tail feathers!

janbb's avatar

Oh – those talented tailfeathers!

Anyway, things seem much better today. Thanks for the advice.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Helps to just talk sometimes, doesn’t it.

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mattbrowne's avatar

Exercise for at least 45 minutes.

dabbler's avatar

Replace the problem in your mind with something.
Trying to not think about it just creates a void, into which the same thoughts can slide back perfectly.

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