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Stop Anxiously Ruminating and Rehashing: Finish Every Day

December 26, 2019 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Anxiety disorders cause us to ruminate and rehash, running past conversations, events, situations, actions, and emotions over and over in our heads. And doing so makes anxiety skyrocket.

Relentlessly ruminating and rehashing was something that kept me trapped in both social anxiety and perfectionism-based anxiety for far too long. Mindfulness and a new perspective inspired by a 19th-century philosopher and writer by the name of Ralph Waldo Emerson freed me (and continues to keep me free) from that trap. In a wise poem, he advises us to "finish every day." When we can truly finish every day, every moment, we can stop anxiously ruminating and rehashing and cultivate inner peace. 

Finish Your Day to Stop Anxiously Ruminating and Rehashing

Emerson's poem offers gems of wisdom to live by. To paraphrase some of my favorite anxiety-reducing thoughts:

  • "Blunders and absurdities" are pretty much guaranteed to be a part of our day (we make mistakes, say the wrong thing, react to situations in ways we wish we hadn't, and anything else that fills us with regret and worry).
  • Those moments, the ones that make us cringe and rehash in our imagination ad nauseam, are over, done, gone, and behind us.
  • Every day (every moment, actually) is a fresh start with new opportunities. What tethers us to the past and to anxiety about it are our continued thoughts about what is no longer happening.
  • You have the power to exist fully in each present day, and in doing so, you take back your thoughts, emotions, and actions from anxiety and live your life your way.

This perspective is key in reducing anxiety and reclaiming yourself and your life. Blunders are inevitable, anxiety is not. By accepting imperfections (your own and those of life) and moving past them rather than rehashing them in your mind, you free yourself to move forward. This idea is one of the keys of the research-based approach to mental health therapy known as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). The premise is that by accepting your "blunders and absurdities" and distancing yourself from them, you are able to take purposeful action toward the quality, anxiety-free life you value. Emerson gifted us this truth, too. 

The idea of finishing every day and starting the new one afresh makes a great deal of sense and offers tremendous promise for a calm mind. How, though, does one apply the advice? Emerson didn't use the word (ACT does, though), but he described it well: mindfulness.

Live Mindfully to Decrease Ruminating and Rehashing

When we ruminate and rehash our worries, fears, blunders, absurdities, mistakes, and regrets--in short, when we experience anxiety--we are living in times that are over. They feel very real and relevant because we're keeping them alive in our thoughts. When we're trapped in anxiety, we are missing the present. Mindfulness is the effective remedy for putting an end to anxiously ruminating and rehashing. When we're mindful, we're living in our present moment. We are paying attention to what is happening now, and when a moment is over, we leave it behind and live in the current present moment.

Mindfulness is a perspective, a choice, a habit, and an act.  As such, it's something that takes practice and patience. Forgive yourself when you catch yourself ruminating over days that are done. Gently remind yourself of Emerson's wisdom:

"This day is all that is

good and fair.

It is too dear, 

with its hopes and invitations,

to waste a moment on yesterdays."

I invite you to tune in to the video to hear the brief poem in its entirety.

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, December 26). Stop Anxiously Ruminating and Rehashing: Finish Every Day, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 30 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2019/12/stop-anxiously-ruminating-and-rehashing-finish-every-day



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson delivers online and in-person mental health education for students in elementary and middle school. She is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She also speaks nationally about mental health. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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