My thoughts seem to be on a treadmill, and I can’t get off. Especially at night. What can I do?

Mental Health

A: No matter how safe you make yourself against the virus, you may still have deep concerns that keep you awake at night.

Cyclical thinking like this is called rumination. To fight it, try keeping a “done” list, meditation, writing, or movement.

Chronic illness, a bill, or a family situation that needs your full attention do not take a back seat to the pandemic. Some problems are made worse by the world’s response to this crisis. The thought of how to navigate shortages of supplies, cash, and lack of contact with friends and family can be troubling. We all remember the shortage of toilet paper! Over-thinking these issues may lead to a common response called rumination.

Rumination is the practice of turning thoughts over and over in your mind without making clear progress to address the concerns. An observer might see rumination as a lack of focus or even daydreaming. Thoughts churn in your mind as you try to do things unrelated to those thoughts–like sleep, eat, or work.

Rumination is often a component of psychological illnesses like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, its presence does not mean that you have one of these disorders. If you believe the rumination you experience might be a signal of a deeper issue, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

If you find that rumination is a subtle concern, try one of these practices to help you step off the thought treadmill:

✅ Keep a done list. Rather than make a list of the things you need to do at the beginning of the day and chase time to complete it, make a list of what you accomplished at the end of the day. This is a refreshing way to see that you are actually taking care of things!

🧘🏾‍♀️ Meditate. Meditation and mindfulness are ways to clear your mind of unwanted ruminations. Guided meditation is a good way to start. Attention to your breath is calming and releases neurotransmitters that make us feel good.

✒️ Write a stream of consciousness. Take a piece of paper. Write as fast as you can every thought that comes to your mind. It doesn’t matter if your writing is legible, grammatically correct or even makes sense. Fill the page or write until you’ve poured it all out. Then ball up the paper and throw it away. Don’t re-read what you’ve written or save it in a special blank book. Throw the paper and the thoughts on it as far away as possible.

🎵💃🏽 Dance. Music and movement are essential to good emotional and physical health. Walking the dog and exercise are good. But those movements have a purpose. Dancing is just for the sake of expression. So dance as if no one is watching. Pay attention to the expressions your body makes as you move in a new way.

If you want to learn more, this article is a clear, concise summary of rumination.

Stay Safe. Stay Sane.

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