Do you constantly think about the what if’s? What could have happened if you had done or said something different?
Often setting very high self-expectations and misinterpreting others’ perceptions of you? Or maybe you find it hard to stop worrying about something you did or said?
Rumination, as it is fondly called, is an obsessive habit associated with anxiety, depression, and poor problem-solving skills.
This habit creates a cycle of patterns that focus on the gap between the real and ideal you.
Why Do I Keep Worrying About What I Did Or Said?
Every individual worries about something or someone to a certain degree. People worry about that job, interview, event, finance, party, or even getting together with friends.
However, this phase of anxiousness and thinking can sometimes become too much and obsessive sometimes.
Worrying or thinking is not an issue.
The problem is when it gets too much and debilitating that it affects every conversation, interaction, and attitude to yourself and others around you.
Do you often catch yourself overthinking and replaying every conversation, event, or action previously done and said?
Do you wish you had done or said something differently? Thinking that perhaps the results would be better? This is a form of overthinking known as rumination.
Rumination differs from anxiety or worry.
Worrying is mostly limited to what might occur in the future such as when you worry about that job interview, future expenses, or results from that diagnosis and doctor appointment.
However, when you ruminate, you think and ponder the past events that have already happened.
For instance, going over the weekend meeting you just had with a friend, colleague, or partner and wishing you had done one or two things differently.
Just as every action requires a reaction, a ruminative reaction affects you in such a way that it triggers memories of similar past situations and focuses on the gap between the real and ideal you.
Propelled by this trigger, you beat yourself up for not being more of the ideal or perfect you.
This condition is often linked to anxiety, depression, and poor problem-solving skills.
It can easily escalate and become debilitating if it is not quickly identified and resolved.
When Does Worrying Become Too Much?
Worrying is having strong concerns about someone, something, or an issue.
It is a feeling of being overly concerned, usually associated with mental agitation and distress.
While worrying itself may be a natural human process, excessive worrying can affect you in more ways than you think.
It puts your body and mind into overdrive as you constantly or solely focus on “what might happen” or “what could have been” in every scenario.
When you worry too much, it leads to high anxiety, sensitivity, and panic.
Excess worrying often causes acute anxiety, sensitivity, and panic attacks.
There is always a feeling of impending danger and doom even when it is safe, anyone and anything as a potential threat.
Chronic worrying can affect you so much that it interferes with your appetite, daily routine, lifestyle, habits, sleep, relationships, job, and academic performance.
When you worry excessively and irrationally, it can trigger a state of distress, disability, and emotional stress along with some debilitating physical attributes such as;
- Fast heartbeat and heart palpitations
- Constant headaches
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle, ache and tension
- Shortness of breath
- Twitching or trembling
- Rapid breathing
Not only does worrying have physical and emotional effects, but it can also affect you and become so irrational that you can’t seem to focus on reality.
It may debilitate to where you find it difficult to think clearly with sudden withdrawal and drop in performance levels.
How To Let Go Of Past Mistakes
Mistakes are sometimes inevitable but overthinking and worrying about them is where the problem arises.
Most times, the best thing you can do for yourself and your mental health is to let go.
Although it’s completely normal to feel bad about what could have been, holding on to pain and anger will only worsen the situation.
The past can either be a propelling force or a stepping stone to learning from. It is best not to get so attached to the negative what-ifs.
Here are some simple tips to help you break out of rumination.
Identify Your Triggers
Overthinking often occurs in a pattern, it does not just arise on its own.
There is usually something that triggers it. Examples of scenarios that may trigger your rumination include;
Meeting with people you do not yet trust
Making life-changing decisions
Taking a major step
Being amid people who are smarter and more ambitious or seem so?
Identify your triggers and narrow down the dominant pattern. Does it include you blaming yourself? Or others for the mishaps?
Adopt The Rule Of Psychological Distance
Enforce some distance between you and what your worry and thoughts revolve around.
For instance, it might involve your or other people’s perception of you. Do you see yourself as an underachiever?
Regardless of how well you’re doing? Even the little steps?
One way to get psychological distance is to first recognize the effects and absurdity of your reactions.
Do you engage in feelings of self-entitlement and self-absorption? Automatically expect things to go your way?
Do you think and believe people are actively examining you? When, in reality, they are actually bothered about other issues or probably thinking about themselves.
Are you stuck in a comparison competition between you and every individual you meet?
Or perhaps you sometimes think the world revolves around you and everything should go your way?
Entitlement and personalization cut deep into you and keep on doing so if you let it.
Eventually leading to insecurity and low self-esteem when things don’t go your way. Separate your thoughts from who you truly are.
Label these feelings as what they are; “thoughts and feelings”.
Counteract them with positivity, rather than saying I’m not good enough, say I’m feeling like I’m not good enough.
Affirm yourself against the negative thoughts and beliefs, take a break and relax when it gets too much.
Differentiate Between Ruminating And Improvement
Occasionally, you may experience what is called avoidance coping.
This is when you have a useful insight while ruminating, you suddenly realize a loophole that may be of help.
This actually makes you become less effective at problem-solving because the more you ruminate, the less likely you are to think of solutions and pursue them effectively.
To seek improvement, first ask yourself “what the best choice and solution is, given the reality of your situation”
Take one step at a time, regardless of how imperfect or incomprehensible it seems.
If you’re constantly worrying about a mistake or something you said or did, adopt and inculcate a strategy that reduces the likelihood of a repeated occurrence.
As soon as you catch yourself or not, I’ve ruminated, try to distract yourself, and engage in activities that are short and mentally absorbing.
This includes activities that require you to concentrate without being extraordinarily difficult or exhausting.
You can also decide to try physical activities like jogging, walking, mediation or yoga since they help calm the mind and protect it from obsessive thoughts.
These practices help you notice when your mind has wandered off, miles away to the past or future, and bring it back to the present.
What To Do When I Can’t Stop Worrying
Letting go of your past errors and worrying is usually not an easy feat. It requires a tremendous amount of mental strength, determination, and perseverance.
Some days, it feels like the world is at your fingertips.
you experience such graceful progress and other days, you just want to crawl back into bed, angry and hurt that you can’t let go or stop worrying.
There are days when you may feel blank and some when the thoughts are harder to control.
So, what do you do when you just can’t seem to stop worrying? No matter how hard you try;
You are most likely experiencing this phase because you still blame yourself for the mistakes.
Forgive yourself, let go, and don’t take mistakes personally. Remember, there is always room for improvement.
Accept Mistakes As A Part Of Life
Life is a necessary pain of trial and error. Everyone makes mistakes every once in a while.
Learn to embrace your mistakes and accept them as a part of life. There’s power in that.
Be Honest With Your Feelings
Do you feel Sad? Emotional? Frustrated? Guilty? Or angry when things don’t turn out as you would have preferred?
Regardless of how you feel, don’t see it as the end of the road. Let the emotions out, but don’t stay down for too long.
Rumination is a habit that should best be avoided or resolved as soon as you notice it.
You need to have an awareness of the occurrences and develop resistance strategies or coping skills to help deal with them.
Although it’s not a simple process and will most likely take time and effort, remember it is essential to your mental health and well-being.
Hbr: How to stop obsessing over your mistakes
Theemotionmachine: Stop beating yourself up over past mistakes
Google: What you can do when you can’t stop thinking about something
WebMD: How worrying affects your body