Rumination: A Cycle of Negative Thinking

Cogito, ergo sum.  “I think, therefore I am” (Descartes, 1637). 

Is it possible to think and think until I feel almost like I’m not? The act of ruminating can be described as getting stuck in an endless cycle of worry or problems.  

As a repetitive thought pattern, ruminating involves dwelling on negative emotions, experiences, or problems without finding a solution to them. Overthinking can cause anxiety, depression, and a decreased sense of wellbeing as a result of a constant cycle of overthinking. For mental health to be maintained and rumination to be broken free from its harmful effects, it is essential to distinguish between productive problem-solving and rumination.

The rising prevalence of rumination can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, the fast-paced and demanding nature of modern life often leaves individuals with little time to relax and reflect, leading to an accumulation of unresolved thoughts and worries. Additionally, the constant exposure to social media and technology can perpetuate a cycle of comparison and self-doubt, fuelling rumination tendencies. Lastly, the increasing societal pressure to constantly achieve and succeed can create a sense of perfectionism, causing individuals to excessively ruminate over their perceived failures.

Firstly, it is important to recognize the signs of rumination, such as feeling overwhelmed, feeling stuck, and feeling as if your mind is spinning in circles. Secondly, it is important to identify the source of your worry and develop strategies to deal with it. Lastly, it is important to practice self-care techniques, such as relaxation, mindfulness, and journaling.

Rumination can have detrimental effects on mental health. Depression, anxiety, and stress can all result from these factors. Constantly replaying negative thoughts and obsessing over problems can disrupt sleep patterns, impair concentration, and leave individuals feeling emotionally drained and overwhelmed. It is important to recognize the negative consequences of rumination and take steps to break free from this cycle for the sake of one’s mental well- being.

It is important to note that rumination is not itself a mental health disorder, but it is a symptom that is often associated with anxiety and/or depression.  Rumination is the act of replaying an unpleasant conversation in your mind over and over again.  If you are unable to stop thinking about what went wrong during a presentation at work.  The act of rumination may be viewed as an obsessive thought pattern focused on a negative idea or experience that lacks flexibility or perspective.  The act of worrying and overanalysing is a natural human behaviour, but it becomes rumination when the process is frequent, ongoing, and interferes with the ability to concentrate and engage in other thoughts or feelings.  It is similar to a car without brakes, which continues to go forward without the capability of stopping.  As well, it is often characterized by repetitive thoughts about things that you are unable to change.  Essentially, rumination involves continually exposing oneself to negative experiences and reinforcing them.

Rumination and anxiety have a complex relationship. On one hand, rumination can be a result of anxiety, as constant overthinking and replaying negative thoughts can exacerbate feelings of worry and fear. On the other hand, rumination can also fuel anxiety, as the repetitive and obsessive nature of rumination keeps the mind stuck in a loop of negative thoughts, making it difficult to find relief or gain a new perspective. It’s important to address both rumination and anxiety in order to break free from this cycle and promote mental well-being.

Both rumination and productive thinking involve a deep focus on a particular problem or issue. However, while productive thinking leads to problem-solving and finding solutions, rumination tends to be repetitive and unproductive, leading to increased stress and anxiety. It is important to learn how to differentiate between the two and develop strategies to break free from the cycle of rumination.

One strategy to break free from the cycle of rumination is to practice mindfulness. By focusing on the present moment and observing your thoughts without judgment, you can create distance from the negative thought loop. Another helpful strategy is to engage in activities that bring you joy and distract your mind from rumination, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones. Lastly, seeking support from a therapist or counsellor can provide guidance and techniques to help you challenge and reframe negative thoughts.

Connecting your thoughts to your values is one of the recommended practices. Write down your thoughts and consider how they relate to other aspects of your life and what is important to you. 

What is the relationship between these thoughts and your core beliefs? How do these thoughts make you feel?

After writing down your thoughts, asking yourself how they have affected your behaviour. Can you recall any instances in which they have prevented you from being honest, making a choice, or asserting your demands?

References

  1. Tartakovsky, M. Why Ruminating is Unhealthy and How to Stop. July 2018,
    PsychCentral
  2. Wehrenberg, M. Rumination: A Problem in Anxiety and Depression Psychology
    Today. 2016.
  3. Sun H, Tan Q, Fan G, Tsui Q. Different effects of rumination on depression: Key role of hope. Int J
    Ment Health Syst. 2014;8(1):53. doi:10.1186/1752-4458-8-53
  4. Dar KA, Iqbal N. Worry and rumination in generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive
    disorder. J Psychol. 2015;149(8):866-80. doi:10.1080/00223980.2014.986430
  5. Alderman BL, Olson RL, Bates ME, et al. Rumination in major depressive disorder is associated
    with impaired neural activation during conflict monitoring. Front Hum Neurosci. 2015;9:269.
    doi:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00269
  6. American Psychological Association. Probing the depression-rumination cycle.
  7. Watkins, E. (2023). Rumination. In D. J. A. Dozois & K. S. Dobson (Eds.), Treatment of
    psychosocial risk factors in depression(pp. 305–331).

    Written By:
    Leah Selakovic
    B.A, MA.MSC Psychologist
    A member of the American Psychological Association (APA)
    A member of the Singapore Psychological Society (SPS)

Navigating Work Stress: How Occupational Therapists can Support Adults

Work stress is a pervasive issue in today’s society, impacting the mental health of countless adults. A Cigna Wellbeing study conducted in 2023 found that 92% of working Singaporeans are stressed, this was 8% higher than the global average. The workplace was frequently identified as a source of this stress. Amidst the challenges, Occupational Therapists (OTs) specializing in adult mental health offer invaluable support in addressing the complexities of stress in the workplace.

At the core of an OT’s role is assessment. They explore the intricacies of the individual’s work environment, identifying stressors and underlying factors contributing to their distress. This holistic approach allows OTs to tailor interventions that address the root causes of work-related stress.

Empowerment is a central theme in OT interventions. Through skill-building practical strategies and coping mechanisms, OTs equip individuals with the tools they need to manage stress effectively. From relaxation techniques to time management skills, these interventions foster resilience and self-advocacy, empowering individuals to navigate workplace challenges with confidence.

Moreover, OTs recognize the importance of work-life balance in maintaining mental well-being.  Assisting with restructuring work tasks and schedules to promote better work-life balance. Collaborating with individuals to identify meaningful activities outside of work that promote relaxation and promote healthy coping strategies. With support to identify realistic ways to incorporate these activities into daily life, individuals can create a buffer against the negative effects of work stress.

In conclusion, OT can offer vital support to individuals grappling with work stress. Through assessment, empowerment, and advocacy, we can help individuals reclaim their mental health and find balance in both their professional and personal lives.

References
Cigna Global Wellbeing Survey, Stressed In Singapore- Employer Opportunity, 2023

Written by:
Jennie Bhangu
Occupational Therapist
SACAC Counselling

Small Habits that Build Marriages

Frances Hodgson Burnett said, “If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” What a person focuses on (i.e., their attitude, habits, and actions) determines the outcome and the quality of their relationship.

Marriage is a significant relationship for the building of a society. I believe married couples can have a thriving relationship after years of being married. Many marriages drift apart and experience a fallout because couples do not prioritize the importance of their marriage. They quickly take each other for granted after marriage. As the saying goes, “We reap what we sow.” Thus, a thriving relationship between a married couple can continue to bloom and flourish if they reprioritize and cultivate the following few habits:

1. Treat Your Partner Like a Good Friend

Do not take your spouse’s love and friendship for granted. It is important to carve out time to create a relaxing atmosphere to interact, reconnect, and have fun together regularly. There is a saying, “Happy people stay together.” Married couples should continue to develop trust and intimacy through time together in sharing their vulnerabilities, needs, desires, and dreams they have. It will also give them the opportunities to discuss their expectations and avoid any misunderstanding, disappointment, or frustration they might have with one another. Treating your partner like a good friend means maintaining the essence of friendship in your marriage. It means spending quality time together, communicating openly, and being there for each other emotionally are all essential aspects of this habit.

2. Build A Culture of Appreciation and Respect

We live in a fast-paced world. The busyness and demands of our daily lives can cause us to feel exhausted. We might be operating in survival mode. Marriages will not grow, last, or thrive if we do not give appropriate attention to nurture and develop it. Hence, it is important to create rituals for connection, to establish regular stress-reducing connection, and to attune ourselves to our partners. We can build a culture of appreciation by trying the following activity: Three to four times a week, we can set aside ten to fifteen minutes to take turns telling each other one thing we appreciate or are thankful for. Be specific and sincere in the compliments and listen attentively without interruption. At the end of the conversation, we can hug and give kisses as affirmation and appreciation for our partner. Expressing gratitude and showing respect are vital for fostering a positive atmosphere in a marriage. Taking time to appreciate each other regularly can help reinforce feelings of love and connection.

3. Handle Conflicts Kindly and Positively

John Gottman said, “Conflict is an opportunity to learn how to love each other better over time.” If a couple hopes to maintain an intimate and lasting relationship, they need to learn to communicate and handle conflicts in a kind and positive way. One golden rule to remember is when there is a disagreement, try not to engage negatively. Positive conflict resolution requires individuals to maintain a positive attitude, listening without criticizing, blaming, or becoming defensive, shutting down, or acting superiorly over others. Try to understand the problem from your partner’s perspective. Take turns to speak without raising your voice, listen with empathy, do not give unsolicited advice, and show genuine interest in one another. Take a break or time off when emotions are escalating or overcharged. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, but how it is handled makes all the difference. Approaching conflicts with empathy, patience, and a willingness to understand each other’s perspectives can lead to resolution and growth rather than resentment.

In conclusion, when I was young because I loved reading fairy tales because I loved seeing couples live happily ever after. Now as I grow older, I still love seeing couples get along and live happily in their relationships as married couples. The world that we live in is a chaotic one, there are people hurting around us. When marriages break down, not only are the couple hurting, but so is everyone else all around them. By consistently practicing these three habits, couples can create a strong foundation for their marriage and navigate challenges together effectively. Healthy relationships will contribute to the well-being of society through the strengthening of families.

If you need any support in your marriage, please do not hesitate to call SACAC as we have a group of professional therapists and psychologists who can help you.

Written by:
Joyce Ng
Clinical Psychologist MSPS
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
SACAC Counseling Pte Ltd