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How to Separate Pressure from Stress Part 2: What is Rumination?

We know that rumination is thinking over and over about events from the past, or future and attaching negative emotion to them. But, why does it matter?

Why Does Rumination Matter?

You might recognize that you ruminate, but why does it matter? It matters for three main reasons. 

The first one is your health. When we anxiously ruminate about imagined future events our body responds as if it is physically threatened and puts us into a state of fight or flight. We produce Adrenaline which speeds up our heart rate. In small doses this is fine but when we keep on ruminating it puts a strain on our heart which leads to the buildup of plaque and increased risk of heart disease. Chronic ruminators have increased incidence of heart attacks.

The second hormone produced is Cortisol, also fine in small doses. But to produce it we put white blood cell production on hold. As a result, chronic ruminators have suppressed immune function. The more we ruminate the more at risk we become of getting sick.

In addition to the negative health effects, ruminators tend to be less productive because they are not mentally present enough to get anything done. They spend much of their time trapped in endless rumination loops inside their head, and while they are busy replaying these stories, what are they not doing? Work!

Finally, how do you feel when you are ruminating on an on. Most people tell me they feel exhausted and miserable. Put all of the above together and we would say there is nothing useful about stress, all it gives you is a shorter, miserable, unproductive life. Other than that, there is nothing wrong with it!

What about ‘good stress’ some people ask?

My uncle who is a successful entrepreneur, said to me, ‘Nick I love stress’.

I explained to him about rumination and asked, ‘Do you love to ruminate?’

‘No, never’ he replied, ‘That is a waste of time.’

What does my uncle love? He loves pressure. He enjoys challenges, goals, deadlines and progress. Many of the leaders I work with are A-type personalities who love pressure. Pressure can he healthy. Rumination just leads to a short, miserable life.

In the next blog, I'll share the first of 4 steps you can take to reduce your rumination even when the pressure is high.

Reflection question – What is the area of your life that you are most likely to ruminate about? How helpful is it?

These ideas are based on the research of Dr. Derek Roger and his Challenge of Change program. The above is an excerpt from my new whitepaper: Pressure is not Stress: 4 steps to be resilient in disruptive times. Click here to read the whitepaper.

If you'd like to learn more about Nick's resilience workshops, learn more here.


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