It’s normal to worry sometimes because life gets stressful. The problem though is when you hang on to those stressful thoughts until they become an obsession.
When you can’t get those worries out of your mind, you tend to just go over and over them again in your head—even when you can’t do anything about it. Often times you can’t let go of things that already happened or that you can’t control.
You just keep replaying what someone said or something that happened, thinking about what you could have done to change it, but you can’t.
Trying to work things out in your mind is common and getting stuck on these negative thoughts is called rumination and it is defined as “a deep or considered thought about something.”
When you ruminate, your mind is simply trying to make sense of a frustrating situation, and really it’s just your brain’s way of problem-solving. When you can’t let go of these thoughts, before you know it, you’ve spent all day obsessing over an outcome you can’t change.
Obsessing over something big or small isn’t healthy, so how do you stop those annoying irritating voices inside your head?
Sometimes it’s not as easy as telling yourself to just stop thinking about it. Before you know it, those destructive views sneak back in and you’ve started the phase all over again.
Here are a few ways to break the cycle, and stop obsessing.
When you meditate, it’s an opportunity to clear your mind and according to research, regular meditation can help ease psychological stress like anxiety and depression. Meditation permits you to destress and shove those damaging thoughts out of your mind that you’ve been possessing over.
To practice meditating sit in a comfortable position and focus on breathing deeply—inhaling for five seconds, and exhaling for five seconds. As you inhale, let your muscles relax and carry your mind to the present—washing away any damaging thinking.
Some people also like to play calming music while they meditate, and if you find it hard to focus you can also listen to a guide. Try meditating after a long day at work to help calm your mind when you get home so you don’t spend the afternoon obsessing over something that may have happened.
2. Give Yourself a Time Limit
Sometimes you might just be really upset or frustrated by a situation and you need to let it out. At times like this, when you just can’t seem to let go and get it out of your mind, give yourself time to ruminate—but put a time limit on it.
Set a timer for five minutes and for those five minutes, allow yourself to feel whatever you want to feel. Whether it’s anger, frustration, or sadness—let it out in those five minutes because those are the only minutes you have. Give yourself those moments to think it over, and accept whatever the situation is or come to some resolution.
Once that timer goes off, and those five minutes are up, it’s time to move on. Now that you’ve thought about it, there’s nothing more you can do and it’s time to go forward with your day.
After those five minutes are over, make sure you have something else to occupy your mind so you don’t slip back into your negative thoughts. Try thinking about what you want to do this weekend or plan out what you’re having for dinner.
3. Start Moving
Meditation and breathing techniques aren’t always for everyone, and sometimes the thought of sitting still and trying to clear your mind can be daunting and nearly impossible. In these situations, sometimes the best way to clear your mind is to start moving.
Sometimes just physically removing yourself from the space where you’ve been obsessing can help you switch gears. When you feel yourself obsessing over a situation, start moving around and try a change in scenery. Whether you’re at home or at work, take a moment to get up and take a walk down the hall or try taking a stroll down the block.
Once you get out of your environment of rumination it can be easier to take your mind off things—sometimes when you’re stuck in the same room, it’s also easy to get stuck inside your own head. As you’re walking around, take the time to notice the things around you—the scenery, the smells in the air, and the objects around you.
An easy way to shift your thoughts is by just distracting yourself as you walk around. Take time to really analyze your surroundings and notice the small details and soon enough your mind will be cleared.
4. Recognize the Pattern
Often times rumination becomes a pattern of behavior and it can start happening more frequently. As time goes on it can get worse and you might start obsessing over things that aren’t important and these thoughts can become irrational. When something becomes a habit you go on autopilot and you may not even notice you’re obsessing until you’re all worked up about a situation.
To stop the cycle you need to break it by recognizing the pattern in your own actions. Next time you start ruminating, take time to analyze the situation and your reaction to it. Work to understand why you react the way you do and analyze past situations that were maybe out of control that you wish you could have changed.
Past actions or situations may be causing this pattern of behavior and it’s important to be aware of them in order to break it. Actively working to stop this pattern of behavior will alter your reaction so in the future you’ll be able to move on quickly from situations that you would normally obsess over.
Changing the way you think, and how you react to situations is very challenging because often times you’ve been doing it for so long without even noticing it eventually becomes a habit. Just like altering any habit, it will take time and patience.
If one technique doesn’t work for you, try another one until it does. Even then some days you might have to switch it up depending on how you’re feeling. If you’re consistent and diligent you’ll be able to train your brain not to obsess over these situations.