Sometimes, the best thing you can do is let things go. But for veterans dealing with rumination, they find themselves stuck in patterns of repeating the same thoughts. And most of the time, these thoughts contain harmful memories or beliefs that can disrupt their mental health, weaken their relationships, and even lead to substance abuse.
Today, we’ll discuss these recurring negative thoughts and the damage they can do to military personnel. More importantly, we’ll cover what people who ruminate can do to move on and stop ruminating.
What Is Ruminating?
When veterans ruminate, they get stuck in cycles of repeating the same negative thoughts over and over. In many cases, these ruminative thoughts accompany signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is because military-related trauma can cause psychological damage, especially for combat veterans. In cases like this, veterans often re-live their trauma, sometimes with visual or auditory flashbacks, and sometimes by ruminating on it.
Not only is this experience unpleasant, but it can have disastrous effects on mental health. Being unable to move on from traumatic experiences can worsen veterans’ relationships and exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety. In some cases, ruminative thoughts may even lead to eating disorders. For all of these reasons, it’s imperative that ruminating veterans get help immediately.
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Why Do Veterans Ruminate?
The exact reasons that people ruminate vary from person to person. In clinical psychology, mental health professionals attribute rumination to a variety of causes, such as:
- A misconception that obsessively thinking about past trauma will give the individual new perspective on these events
- Continued stressors that remind the individual of previous trauma
- A predisposition toward negative thoughts and negative self-image
For many veterans, it can be hard to accept that they cannot fix or undo their traumatic experiences. Ruminating is often an attempt to exert control on the situation by finding new insight into what happened, but this rarely happens. More often, veterans with PTSD ruminate without any new realizations and find themselves trapped by their past experiences.
Because rumination often leaves veterans feeling miserable or anxious, many turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. This in turn leads to new problems related to their addictions, creating a vicious cycle that can be difficult to escape. Thankfully, however, there are proven ways to escape rumination and the problems that it creates.
How to Stop Ruminating
Because ruminating keeps you in the same thought and behavioral patterns, the best thing that you can do is make a distinct change. There are a few different ways that you may want to do that, including:
- Taking Action: Instead of repeating the same thought indefinitely, try making a plan to address the issue. Think of steps you can take to address what’s bothering you, and if possible, write it out to make sure you have a clear plan of action. Be specific and stick to realistic expectations. For example, if your recurring thought is “Nothing I do is any good,” plan actions you can do that will improve your sense of self-esteem.
- Question Your Ruminative Thoughts: Oftentimes, veterans who ruminate allow their thoughts to go unquestioned. But maybe you’re not remembering your traumatic event very clearly. For example, after experiencing trauma during your military service, you may ruminate on it and decide that it was all your fault. But is that true? Try stepping away from how you feel about the situation and looking at it from an objective viewpoint. While this method can help, be careful to limit how long you try it, that way this doesn’t become an excuse to ruminate further.
- Try Meditation: Sometimes, clearing your head can put a stop to your ruminating. When you find yourself repeating negative thoughts, try to find a quiet spot to focus on something else. A great meditative technique for beginners is to sit down and focus entirely on your breathing until it’s all that you can think about. This can give you a reprieve from unwanted thoughts and help calm you.
All of these are proven, evidence-based ways to stop ruminating. But sometimes, negative thoughts are just too strong and veterans need additional help. This is especially common if ruminating and post-traumatic stress have led to other problems, such as alcohol or drug abuse. In cases like this, you will need intensive treatment for veterans.
By coming together with other veterans who can understand your situation, you can get help in defeating your ruminative thoughts and any other issues that they’ve created. Do you have questions about how to get help? Reach out to our admissions specialists at 1-888-838-6692 or fill out our confidential contact form. If you’re a veteran in Florida who needs help, we’ve got your six.