Ruminating. Stewing. Brooding. No matter what you call it, it's usually wasted time that keeps you from doing the things you should be doing to grow your business.
You can end up with a weaker immune system, a bigger risk for osteoporosis and an impaired ability to learn
Worse, ruminating can actually threaten your health, as can another aliment common among some merchants: loneliness. Both mental challenges can affect your business' bottom line, too, keeping you from doing your job at the level you know you can, the level you need to succeed.
That's why we decided to write a series about common psychological issues that may plague everyone, but perhaps especially e-merchants. In our last article, we talked about negative self-talk. Here, we discuss rumination and how it can affect you.
The rumination trap
Rumination can start in a flash: A manufacturer doesn't return an important call, a customer says something you find offensive and you begin dwelling on it. You just can't shake it.
We can all fall into the rumination trap. The problem occurs when it becomes habit.
When you replay distressing events, such a boss berating you, a bad breakup or an altercation with a buyer, you can develop the habit of ruminating, says Guy Winch, Ph.D., the author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts.
It becomes your go-to reaction in such situations and that's bad for your health. When reliving stressful events you produce more of the stress hormone cortisol. If this occurs regularly, you can end up with a weaker immune system, a bigger risk for osteoporosis and an impaired ability to learn.
Little things can trigger rumination, like annoyances, aggravations, and embarrassing or humiliating moments. Hey, we all have them. The trigger doesn't have to be something big like a PTSD-type event, and it's because rumination can come so easily that we can then easily fall into the rumination habit.
A bad experience with a shopper, for instance negative feedback or a bad review, can definitely cause it. The event might bug you so much that you can't move on.
One study found that women who ruminated over a lump in their breasts were actually less likely to go to the doctor in a timely manner
Rumination can be good
Now, let's take a minute to acknowledge that not all rumination is bad. The problem is not when you are really analyzing traumatic events to see what you could have done to avoid or improve things. It's when you replay the events over and over, and relive the distress, Winch says.
There's a difference between rumination and healthy self reflection.
Too much of it makes you passive
Besides all the nasty effects of too much cortisol, habitual ruminators are at a greater risk for alcohol abuse, depression, eating disorders, even cardiovascular problems, Winch notes.
Here's the problem: If you habitually ruminate, you train yourself to be passive, instead of actively dealing with issues. You learn to deal with upsetting events with inaction.
Winch says one study found that women who ruminated over a lump in their breasts were actually less likely to go to the doctor in a timely manner. On average, they waited two months longer to see a doctor than non-ruminators. It turns out that by ruminating, they felt they were dealing with the issue.
Are you lonesome?
Loneliness can also affect your well-being. It makes you hesitant to connect with others and it can have a devastating effect on your health (equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day), Winch says. Like ruminating, loneliness suppresses the functioning of your immune system.
If a friend doesn't call you for a couple of months, you may convince yourself you did something wrong. You've offended that person. But have you called them?
Like a computer, your brain has just a certain amount of processing power. If you devote some of that processing power to ruminating, that's power you're not using for more productive things
If you find yourself feeling lonely, you need to help yourself—just like you'd help a friend who smokes two packs of cigarettes a day.
When you're lonely, you don't see all the options you have for connection, Winch says. So enrich your social life and the bonds you have with the people around you.
Ruminating kills your IQ
In every possible way, rumination—and loneliness to an extent—diminishes your intellectual capabilities. Winch adds that we have a finite amount of emotional and intellectual resources.
In other words, like a computer, your brain has just a certain amount of processing power. If you devote some of that processing power to ruminating, that's power you're not using for more productive things, like problem solving. Creativity, especially, requires a lot of computing power.
By ruminating you can reduce your ability to problem solve or think creatively. Winch says it's like lopping off 10 points from your IQ.
Luckily, Winch has some concrete steps you can take to stop ruminating and even deal with loneliness if that plagues you. We'll discuss those in our next article.