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Before you're able to do anything about repetitive thoughts, you have to notice when they're happening. "Awareness is key," Dr. Aragam says.
Examine whether the thought is moving you forward to leaving you stuck. Dr. Aragam suggests a few questions: "Is this serving me? Am I going to have an answer to this right now? What else can I do?"
If you can't solve whatever you're thinking about right now, it's time to try a different tactic.
Taking your mind off of the thought your brain is chewing on can bring a lot of relief. Dr. Magavi is a fan of puzzles in particular. "Puzzles can improve mindfulness and overall mood states," she says. "They can divert attention from painful rumination. Some studies indicate that puzzles can minimize brain cell damage and facilitate the growth of new neurons."
Other activities might be checking in with friends and family, playing a sport, or exercising. Re-engaging in hobbies and interests that bring you joy can be effective, too.
On TikTok, one psychiatrist has been posting "why you feel like shit in a pandemic " videos and touched on the topic of repetitive thoughts. She suggested that a lack of novel stimuli—aka, seeing the same four walls, the same people, the same news stories again and again—can often be a ripe environment for repetitive thoughts, particularly if you're already prone to them.
That's partly because we have so many fewer natural cues to change our patterns of thinking, Dr. Aragam says. Imagine a day pre-pandemic, where you maybe would have run into a neighbor or colleague in the middle of the day.
You've heard them before—and they apply here, too. When in doubt, get your sleep in order, eat well, and stay in touch with friends and family. Sleep is especially important. "When you're more rested, you have more control over your brain, and it's less likely to fall into the traps of overthinking, rumination, and worry.
What helped was trying to put the argument in my brain aside and focusing on something else. Start doing a creativity workbook, taking day trips to nearby towns. Having something fresh to explore.
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