man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair
anxiety, LIFE

Anxiety feels awful. Right?

The agony of anxiety

If you’ve never dealt with anxiety then you have no idea the agony that anxiety causes. Most often it results in rumination, the constant mulling over the same fear or negative thinking over and over again. It steals one’s happiness and disrupts their life significantly. Someone very close to me struggles too much with this. My heart aches for anyone for whom anxiety has stolen their happiness.

Anxiety and depression usually co-exist. Manage one and you’ll be managing the other. So, let’s discuss rumination which only makes anxiety feel even more awful.

First of all, rumination means you just can’t control your thoughts, and secondly, it chips away at your happiness. You keep cycling the anxiety-ridden thoughts over and over and the more you do, the worse you feel. This is not reflection. I wholeheartedly encourage reflection. It’s the way we get to know ourselves and it’s a channel for the Holy Spirit to communicate with us.

God encourages us to reflect but under the umbrella of God’s love for us. Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, oh God, and know my thoughts….” There are many such verses throughout Scripture.

Rumination is never helpful.

A symptom of anxiety

Rumination is a symptom of anxiety. We just can’t seem to let go of what is bothering us. There is also a link between rumination and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Rumination is not a solution-finding activity. It’s not a case of “thinking things through or brainstorming something. For example, my hubby and I are in the middle of a small remodeling job. We’ve had many discussions trying to figure out what to do with the ceiling. That’s brainstorming. That’s looking for an answer.

Rumination would be thinking such things as, “I don’t know what to do.” “I’ll always feel this way.” “I never make the right decision.” There is no natural progression to problem-solving.

What rumination feels like

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair/anxiety


  • Feels like you’re walking around with a hundred pound weight attached to your heart.
  • Never accomplishes anything
  • Takes the joy out of everyday life
  • Is unhealthy.
  • Keeps rehashing with no solution in sight.
  • It projects into the future, like you have a crystal ball
  • It’s black and white thinking.
  • It’s totally self-defeating.
  • Can cause hot flashes
  • Results in poor sleep
  • Impending sense of doom

Women are much more likely to engage in rumination because of the strong hormonal connection. Ask any woman, mid-menstrual cycle, if she’s more likely to be anxious during her menstrual cycle. Or ask a menopausal woman how she’s doing with all the hormonal changes her body is going through.  (This is NOT to diminish a woman’s capabilities to be successful in her career.)

Difficult to turn off

One would think that just knowing one is ruminating would be enough to stop it. But that’s the worst part. People who are anxious find it very difficult to turn off their minds. Think of the last time you kept yourself awake thinking over something. Well, imagine that same circuitous thinking on steroids. That’s the reality of someone who suffers anxiety. And generally, when it’s non-stop rumination, it is a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD.

There are many activities that can be used to distract someone from rumination, and the best one to use is one that is personal for you. For example, some good activities include reading a book, playing a game, exercising, talking to a friend (but not about the problem!), or watching a movie. Of course, you are only limited by your creativity and access to different activities. Importantly, you have to enjoy the behavior for it to work. If you hate reading, you will get bored and start thinking about the problem again—so reading may not be the best choice. Some of the activities that I often recommend are crossword and sudoku puzzles. These are good, because they require you to actively think about the puzzle and not the problem.

Psychology Today February 24, 2010

Easy to hide

The sad part is no one sees it because it’s easy to disguise because it’s such an “inner” demon. Victims don’t limp; they don’t wear a bandage. There are no braces. There are no scars. (on the outside, that is)  But the inner self is in agonizing turmoil. They’re working extra hard just to keep it all together. They don’t want anyone to see how they’re feeling because they fear the stigma of mental illness. I know. I’ve been there. I even have notes to prove it.

I have lots of blog posts about anxiety. They can be accessed through the search button.

God bless and have a great, anxious-free day.