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Thought Loops, Rumination & Worry- How to use them as a tool for Autistics with 4 tips on how to stop the thought loop


 Thought Loops, Rumination & Worry 

How to use them as a tool for Autistics


What is it?

Mandall et al defines rumination as the "tendency to engage in sustained, repetitive thinking about negative topics."(Mandell et al., 2014, p. 35).

Overall, with variations in definition in psychology research, rumination is a pattern of thinking which is most often, but not always, linked to a negative feeling, experience from the past or future feelings that are anticipated.

Example:
* Replaying a conversation that has happened
* Scripting every scenario for a future conversation

Rumination refers to thinking about events in the past.
Worry refers to thinking about events in the future.

Beneficial Tool vs. Harmful Behavior

The harmful affects of rumination and worry can be:
*Loss of sleep
* Easily agitated
* Increase in anxiety & depression
* Impact your emotions and can change your world view along with your sense of safety.

INSIGHT

The brain cannot distinguish easily between what is actually happening and what you are telling it is happening.


Turning Rumination and Worry into reflective tools can:
*Help process and better understand past events
*Help plan and gain insight for future events.

4 Tips to help stop the harmful thought loops:


1. Write it down- writing engages the logical, cognitive side of the brain and gets you out of the imaginative side.

2. Set aside time each day to "feel your feelings"- setting time aside where you know you have time to reflect, observe and identify your feelings allows you the control for the rest of the day to engage a STOP tool visual or phrase to stop the harmful thought loops that do not serve you as a beneficial tool.  Imagine a stop sign in your head, engage a physical reinforcement to shift your brain into awareness by tapping your toe as if you are applying the brake on the car.  You can also add an auditory or thought phrase on its own or in combination with the imagery and action.  I say, "I don't go down thought rabbit holes that do not serve me. Move on."  You choose what works for you.

3. Reframe- This simply means you restate the negative thought in a way that is beneficial.  For example, "I made a mistake because I am stupid." Reframe this: "I made a mistake because I overlooked something, so next time I will look more closely in the future."

4. Gratitude-Choosing to focus on what went well and acknowledging it.  The more you practice seeing the good the more your brain begins to find and see the good automatically.

Taking back control of your thoughts and how they serve you is a gift you can give yourself each day.  It takes awareness and practice, but with continued exercise it becomes an automated behavior just like the automation of brushing your teeth.  The brain seeks first to protect and second to conserve energy. 

Our brain conserves energy by automating our behaviors and actions.  You no longer think through each step of brushing your teeth from picking up the brush to how you apply the bristles to your teeth, you just do it on autopilot.  Our thoughts, good or harmful, become automated in the same way.  

Try brushing your teeth with the opposite hand for a week and see what happens.  If you do this opposite action for long enough it becomes an automated habit to brush with the opposite hand.  But remember the longer you have done something on autopilot the more time and continued practice it takes to change the action or behavior.  Time is your friend and repetition is the way to change.




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