I’ve come up with a new medical term. Hell, I don’t even have a degree (although I do have a couple of useful diplomas, and some may say I have a degree in life), but this hasn’t stopped me coining a new affliction; a disease; a malady.

Don’t bother looking it up – it’s nowhere to be found in the textbooks or on Google.

It’s called Ruminoid Arthritis. 

It’s derived from two words.

Ruminoid – a term that I have made up, call it artistic license – from the word Ruminate. Originally to ruminate was the term used to describe how cows and bovines eat their food, but lately it has taken on an alternate description; the process of continually thinking about the same thoughts.

Arthritis – the term used to describe the swelling and tenderness of one or more of your joints. For the purposes of this blog piece, again using artistic license, the swelling and tenderness is likely to be in your head in the form of a headache, or your shoulders (in the form of tension) or in your other large muscle, the maximus gluteus, referred to affectionately as a pain in the ar**e.

So what are the symptoms of this new malady called Ruminoid Arthritis? 

You, yourself may already be afflicted by it.

Well, there are many including:

  • Aforementioned headaches and tense shoulders
  • Sleepless nights
  • Countless recounts and replays of professional situations
  • Continual attempts to predict outcomes without knowing the full circumstances
  • Catastrophizing
  • Overthinking
  • Ruination of family events because you’re not actually present – you’re away in your own world.

Of course it’s not new at all…. I’ve just given it a medical name to give it some sort of prestige. But it is very real.

Over the years I’ve been a big sufferer of this. It’s quite possible that I have the world record for the longest streak of rumination ever recorded. On a tramp in the mountains in 2011 I successfully (or should that read unsuccessfully) ruminated over an issue I’d been having at school for over 5 hours as I walked to the hut along a flat, boring river bed.

Around me the mountains shone like jewels in the winter sun, but I didn’t see any of it, I was too busy sorting out a professional issue in my head – over and over again; rehearsing strategy; catastrophizing what would happen if I didn’t get it right; totally missing the fact that I was on holiday and that I was in the most beautiful land in the world. By the time I got to the hut I was exhausted. And being mentally exhausted isn’t a good thing. Did I solve the professional issue – nope, and so the next day when we walked out to the car I spent another 5 hours going through it all over again.

Much of Ruminoid Arthritis is totally avoidable. The trick is to catch it before it takes off. You’ve got to recognise it when it starts and then act on it.

At the very essence of it all, ruminating is just a set of thoughts. The first important understanding to recognise is that you control your thoughts, it’s not your thoughts controlling you. If you’re a sufferer of Ruminoid Arthritis then you will habitually let your thoughts get away on you. When that happens, if you don’t act quickly and intentionally then it’s all a bit like herding cats.

The website Healthline has a list of ten tips for controlling your ruminations. Tip #1, Distract yourself, fits nicely in tandem with Tip #8 Understanding your triggers.

The site suggests that each time you find yourself ruminating, make a mental note of the situation you’re in. This includes where you are, what time of day it is, who’s around you (if anyone), and what you’ve been doing that day.

Developing ways to avoid or manage these triggers can reduce your rumination.

And then follow this with a big dollop of distraction. Look around you, choose something quickly, get up out of your seat and change your location. Go for a walk, ring a friend, anything that will take your mind away from that trigger.

Another good strategy is to inject a bit of positive stress into your life. The Mementia phone app has a great deal of useful, and free, wellbeing initiatives and strategies. Take time to read Invite more good stress into your life for ideas that will also alleviate your rumination habit.

The Mementia phone app is actually a treasure trove of goodness. You can download it from Google Play or the App store. It is New Zealand based.

One of the very best tools in the app is the “Worry Tool”. Worry is a huge trigger for Ruminoid Arthritis, and this little tool is a very quick and easy way of dealing with this trigger in an efficient manner. Use it!

I certainly haven’t cured myself of this malady, but I’m hopeful that soon it will be a thing of the past. I’m not going for world records anymore, I do have relapses, but on the whole I’m building a very useful kete of resources to keep me in the now. If you’re a Ruminoid Arthritis sufferer then you can too. 

Steve

 

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