The art of ruminating – Do you find yourself fixating or going over worst-case scenarios? There are ways to quell all the noise.
The art of ruminating. If you’ve experienced long bouts of anxiety, you know what I mean. It’s as though some worker in your head spilled their morning coffee on the “anxious switch” – frying the circuits to the button and leaving you in a state of over-thinking overdrive.
“Oops!” Of course, an anxiety disorder is no joke. Quite the contrary, they are downright miserable. And in my view, even those with functional anxiety suffer greatly. Yes, no matter the severity, it’s worth your time and effort to work on managing it.
Over the years I have watched worry dominate people. Lower-key types tend to worry about their performance at work, let’s say.
Living in constant fear that you are “going to get into trouble” for anything and everything you do? Well, that’s hell. This despite you’re able to work; it’s nothing short of constant. And pushing through despite it? Well, that always earns my respect.
On the other hand, if you’ve been stricken by social anxiety disorder – a disorder mainly concerned with a fear of being around others – it can be a hellish experience. Personally, I know all too well what social anxiety feels like. Lucky for me, it comes standard with PTSD.
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So, in short, we get really good at the art of ruminating. Worry from the time we get up to the time we go to bed. A pretty raw deal if you ask me.
Thankfully, there are ways to minimize the worry and rumination. Firstly, we must catch ourselves ruminating. We can best achieve this with therapy. Or to be more specific, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Therapy helps challenge the anxious narratives firmly implanted. So, for example, if you have a fear surrounding being hit by a vehicle while driving, therapy can help you challenge this fear by the following:
“How often do I see actual car accidents?”
“Have I been in a car accident? if so, how many since my life is a driver started?”
In reality, we are not subjected to many vehicle crashes in our lifetime. Cognitive behavioral therapy gives you a way to fight back.
My biggest fear.
Spending many years in the fire service, I’ve seen many automobile wrecks – some mere fender-benders, others with the most tragic of outcomes.
For me, I have level-ten anxiety whenever someone drives aggressively on the highway. Extra angst if they are passing me, speeding like they are saving time. News flash: you’re not!
Despite this reality, I often find myself saying, “There’s absolutely no need to speed by me buddy! Don’t you know that you could kill someone?”
Yet another example is, “Man, the amount that people don’t know about cars and they’re throwing them down the highway, breaking the speed limit, terrifies me.”
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So, luckily, I have uncovered the source of this issue that often keeps me off the highways. It’s the fire-service PTSD. While serving, I have seen the consequences of speeding. Therefore, I didn’t want to end up one of those “tragic events.”
In this case, the challenge for me is to separate the firefighter-self from the civilian self. In other words, one-self has exposed me to the worst, whilst the other has rarely seen any tragedy on the highway. This is why CBT is effective. It allows me to parse apart the two by challenging this anxious-driven scenario.
Since I spend a lot of time ruminating on this and it’s impacting my life to this very day, I need to understand a few things:
1. “I’m not a firefighter anymore and therefore, the odds are drastically decreased.” It is reality that I have statistically much lower chances of seeing what I saw while in service.
2 “Vehicles are built tremendously safe today and therefore, save lives.”
Based on these realities, I’m learning to quell my anxiety and therefore be more at ease when on the highway.
By using these questions to challenge my ingrained narrative, my anxiety has decreased, thereby allowing me to use the highway more often. Mind you, I avoid the highway when I’m triggered, exhausted, or my anxiety is really high. Overall, I am doing better and that’s what matters.
Why is anxiety so hard to shake?
Mental disorders like PTSD and anxiety are really tough to shake because our ability to think clearly is hampered by the parts of the brain that control our fears. Essentially, it impacts normal thinking and reasoning.
The thing is, whether you’re thinking something like “People don’t know enough about cars to be running them down the highway speeding” or “How often are you personally witness to a fender-bender, never mind a serious crash?” They both make sense. And that’s where the problem lies.
They are in fact, fundamentally different. The latter, for example, is a mentally healthier way to see the world. The former Is code written to ramp up your angst. We are primed to survive, after all, and that’s the problem in modern times.
So, when your feeling anxious, you could ask yourself this:
“Based on the hundreds of times I’ve done (insert it here), has it ever put me in any real danger?” Most of our everyday tasks would be mundane, and therefore the answer is likely “No.”
Again, therapy is the best place to build a foundation for a healthier mindset. So, if you feel a heavy sense of fear, dread, and brain fog, it could be because you’re ruminating in fear that doesn’t really exist.
See our mental health resources centre for help.