By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
I recently had a conversation with a professional colleague who confessed that she could not stop ruminating about how unfairly she was treated by other members of the executive team. It was destroying her self-confidence and impeding her ability to be resilient in a very challenging situation.
When you have a distressful event in your life either at home or work, do churn the event over and over in your mind with the “what-ifs” or “if only”. If you the answer is yes – you have been doing what psychologists call ruminating.
Authors Derek Roger and Nick Petrie from the Center for Creative Leadership have found in their research that rumination leads to greater stress and is a major blockade to resiliency. To achieve resiliency in a situation, you have to stop the rumination. They recommend four steps to stop the rumination:
- Wake up and live in the present moment – quiet your mind by concentrating what is immediately in front of you. Forget about the past and don’t worry about the future. Focus on the things that you have immediate control over. Ask yourself the question – “what is the opportunity in front of me right now?”
- Control your attention – become acutely aware of the difference between pressure (external demands being placed on you) and stress (ruminating about the demands). Accept the reality that pressure is part of life but stress does not need to be. Focus only on what you can control in the situation. Become more reflective about your work and acknowledge that your recall of events may not be accurate. Remain flexible.
- Detach yourself – detachment will allow you to gain perspective and focus on what you value most. Catastrophizing situations rarely lead to solutions. Rumination does not lead to learning. Three good questions to ask are 1. What is funny in this situation; 2. What is great about this; 3. What is the opportunity here?
- Let go – believe that change is continuous and that a difficult situation can lead to greater growth. Let go of your grudges and forgive quickly.
We need to see rumination as a toxic behavior that will lead to a high degree of personal stress. It can also easily become a habit in how we react to situations. To stop ruminating takes intentionality but it is necessary for leadership growth and resiliency.
Rose Sherman’s First Book, The Nurse Leader Coach: Become the Boss No One Wants to Leave, will be available on Amazon in a just a few weeks.
Read to Lead
Roger, D. & Petrie, N. (2017). Work with stress: Building a resilient mindset for lasting success. New York: McGraw Hill.
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