Spinning your head: the damage of ruminant thoughts during the pandemic


Every time anguish or worry invades us, it is common for the mind to become cluttered with ruminant thoughts or obsessive thoughts. These are harmful thoughts, usually of high intensity, that are maintained for long periods of time

Maria Pilar Berzosa Grande

MARIA PILAR BERZOSA BIG Clinical and Health Psychologist. Family-couple psychotherapist. PDI of the Faculty of Health Sciences, UNIR - International University of La Rioja

"Surely when I go to work they will tell me that everything is wrong."

"My partner is going to leave me."

"No one loves me, I'm going to be alone."

"I'm going to have covid-19."

"Everything is terrible, there is no hope."

Every time anguish or worry invades us, it is common for the mind to become cluttered with ruminant thoughts or obsessive thoughts. These are harmful thoughts, usually of high intensity, that are maintained for long periods of time.

Some people are more prone to this type of thinking than others. Those who tend to give a negative orientation to problems and worry excessively are more likely to suffer from agoraphobia and panic, anxiety, depression and disorders related to eating control.

The problem is not only the content of thoughts. Rumination is related to that process of persistently thinking about feelings and problems, whatever they may be. In fact, sometimes they don't even adjust to what is happening in the present moment, but are instead triggered by the fear of it happening (anticipatory thoughts). We can even be haunted by thoughts influenced by past experiences.

What is happening since the covid-19 pandemic?

If the whole society lives a high uncertainty, like the one we have been suffering for two years, the logical thing is that the individual becomes infected with it. And of course, in the sum of so many individuals, the global instability of mental health ends up being produced, fostered by the catastrophes and vital tragedies that accompany the pandemic.

In this context, people who are more prone to rumination –because they are more internalizing, have a more rigid style of thinking, feel insecure or anxious, for example– are much more overwhelmed. As a consequence, their anxiety increases, they are more vulnerable to depression and end up in a vicious circle.

In this context, we must not ignore the effect that the massive use of technology is having. The process has been so fast that it has caused a paradigm shift in many work areas and, in turn, an excess of consumption in a part of a very vulnerable population: children and adolescents.

Parents are so overwhelmed that, in many cases, they have not been able to manage healthy limits for their children. And these, deprived of a "natural" social coexistence, have not discriminated what benefited them most.

Adolescents, especially, have increased acts that carry a risk to their mental health, such as suicidal behavior. Recent data from the risk observatories of this population confirm this trend. Worries, anguish and the risk of obsessive thoughts, anxiety and depression could be the origin of this tragic situation.

Strategies to not give so many “head spins”

The good news is that reducing the incidence of ruminant thoughts is possible. As general ideas for the prevention and intervention in ruminant thoughts, anxiety and anguish, the following must be taken into account:

1. Knowing how to use breathing appropriately to reduce anxiety and limit rumination, achieving deep relaxation.

2. Practice active physical exercise – just walk briskly – constantly.

3. Perform meditation exercises, which help focus attention on "the here and now." This helps focus on the positive, which, in turn, will increase the likelihood of engaging in stimulating activities, including those connected with nature.

4. Get thoughts out from different perspectives. Both narrative techniques and audio recording are effective.

5. Do not result in information that feeds ruminant thinking, something that has been insisted on since the beginning of the pandemic.

Instead of fighting ruminant thoughts, admit that they are there, calmly curb them, override other pleasant thoughts, and keep busy. If in a few weeks the person is not able to handle this situation healthily on their own, they should go to a specialist in clinical psychology.

This article has been published in The Conversation



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