Rumination...is an Addiction
Last updated: July 2017
One of the things I struggle with most in life is WORRY. It is part of my mental illness and I have spent many painstaking years in therapy and recovery groups to try to tame my NEED to WORRY. Once it seemed like I had it under control, enough even to work with people who struggle with the same kind of thing, I was diagnosed with IBS. Well, wasn’t that a b**ch? IBS causes me to worry something fierce. I worry about my diet, my exercise, how I’m going to pay for the doctor, the therapist, the medications. OMG...I’m going to miss work again. The thing that I started to realize is that this type of obsessive thought process (rumination) is basically an addiction. Some of us NEED to WORRY. If we can’t find something new to worry about, we will go back to worrying about something we already worried about. This is akin to addiction. Well, how do we beat addiction of any kind? We begin by trying to understand the need to do something and then take steps to change that behavior. It’s a mountain to climb to be sure, but it certainly can be done.
Removing ourselves from the cycle
I am a recovering alcoholic. I have been sober for the better part of thirteen years. I realized I had a problem about two years before I quit. I thought about why I felt as though I needed to drink. I was in pain, I was confused and I wanted to feel ok for just a little while. I think with worrying and rumination it is not dissimilar. Our brains feel a need to address the problems that we perceive within our lives. This is a good thing. When we start going through the cycle of problems like hamsters on a wheel, the good thing becomes counterproductive at least and extremely damaging to your overall wellness at the extreme. Once you have realized that you have this issue, it is time to take personal inventory. Make a list of the things that you are ruminating about. Which things can be fixed, corrected or improved? Which things cannot be helped at all? I believe the Dalai Lama said it best, “If there is no solution to the problem then don't waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem then don't waste time worrying about it.” Now that we’ve determined what can be fixed and what can’t, we can take steps to remove ourselves from the cycle of rumination.
Set aside worry time
There are several tactics that are suggested by mental health professionals and spiritualists. We can set aside a time each day for worry. Not too long, just 10 or 15 minutes. If you want to do it in a calming way, try breathing exercises or meditation for this session. Once you have done the worrying, later in the day when you feel these thoughts arise, you can say to yourself, ‘I’ve already worried about this today, no need to do it again.’ You may need to do this several times. What we are talking about is training the mind to behave in a different way and to look at problems differently. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, meditation and developing your relationship with God are also good suggestions. However you decide to break the cycle is up to you, but realize that it always best to reach out for support when you feel as though things have gotten out of control. Good luck.
Do you suffer from IBS-C, IBS-D, or IBS-Mixed/Alternating?