5 ways to help your people 'stop brooding' with each other during organisational change?



We have all had the experience of how a restructure, new management or a resignation can trigger an emotion. Suddenly we find ourselves caught up in our own story, thinking about all the different ways this is going to impact our life and how life can seem unfair. 

We then share this news with a work colleague, a friend or a lover and discuss the disappointment with them. Not only is this news impacting us, it’s also impacting those around us.

What is rumination? According to Dr Susan Nolen –Hoeksema, ‘Rumination is like a record that is stuck and keeps playing the same song. When people ruminate, they over-think or obsess about situations.’

Research shows that rumination is associated with negative consequences, like depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, binge-eating and binge-drinking.

When does rumination strike? In the shower, driving the car, when we are in a meeting.

How long do emotions last for? Did you know this has been measured by science? Sometimes an emotion feels like it can last for days, if we are made redundant, a relationship breaks down or we have a fight with our children.

The research shows it takes 90 seconds for an emotion to leave the central nervous system.[i] However, if we think or talk about the situation again, then we hit the negative feedback loop for another 90 seconds. Our poor brains can’t work out if the situation is real or a story we are telling ourselves, so our brains start feeling it all over again. Usually releasing cortisol (your stress hormone) and adrenalin to accompany the story.

So how do we break the cycle? We don’t want to stay in this state, as it causes us distress, un-productivity and we become caught up in reactivity where we aren’t living in the moment.

Here are 5 things to consider that will help you stay on course:

1.   Label your response.

 Recent studies have shown that when we label our emotions, it makes us learn to be emotionally responsible. So regulate your immediate response – accept it, know it, and allow it to be digested. If you are angry, try saying ‘I feel angry right now after you told me that.’

2.   Deep breathing.

By deep breathing for as little as one minute it decreases your stress hormone and calms down your emotional brain. It connects you to your body and gets you out of your head. It enables you to break the cycle, rather than getting caught up in the story.

3.   Journaling.

Journaling brings perspective and peace. When you are stuck in a story inside your head, actively think about the situation from: ‘Your eyes’ from ‘Their eyes’ and from ‘A fly on the walls’ perspective. No one needs to read it. It will better equip you with perspective on the situation.

 4.   Practice gratitude.

 Recent studies have shown that those who practice gratitude on a regular basis are more likely to curb rumination as they are living in the moment and appreciate the good they have in their lives. It is impossible to be grateful and worried at the same time. It is impossible to be grateful and angry at the same time. Try it.

5. Mindfulness + Meditation

Mindfulness + meditation brings awareness that we tend to make our worries worse than they need to be. With mindfulness you learn how to draw the line of what is constructive worry and what is useless obsessive thinking.

In fact, after practicing mindfulness regularly for eight weeks, the brain’s “fight or flight” centre, the amygdala, begins to shrink. This primal region of the brain, associated with fear and emotion, is involved in the initiation of the body’s response to stress.

As this area gets smaller with continued practice, your professionals start becoming less reactive to stress, which has a positive impact on clients, work colleagues and their partners.

Not sure where to begin?

EQ Consulting co works with organisations to help mitigate rumination and drive productivity.

'My company challenges the status quo by thinking differently, offering relevant and practical tools to assist professionals to move forward and this is delivered in a 1 hour high impact masterclass.


Email: chelsea@eqconsultingco.com

[i] Taylor, J. (2009) My Stroke on Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, Penguin Group, USA.