What is post-event rumination?

This post is about a topic that we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives but maybe didn’t know there was a term for it.

What is post-event rumination and how does it occur?

Post-event rumination is when a person critiques their social performance following a social event. It involves focusing on what went wrong. Though all humans have engaged in post-event rumination at some point, those with mental health disorders tend to be more impacted in the long-term.
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This is how the post-event rumination cycle tends to go:

1) You engage in some sort of social encounter such as a meeting, work event, party, go to a grocery store, etc and you interact or fail to interact with others.
2) Following the event, you start to think about how you should have behaved, acted, or communicated in comparison to what you actually did. This usually involves social expectations that you or others have placed on you.
3) You start brooding (ruminating) about the ways in which you failed to meet the aforementioned social expectations. Brooding usually involves negative self-talk and statements like, “I’m so awkward” or “I always mess things up by saying something stupid.”
4) You feel like crap because you’re basically verbally abusing yourself.
5) Your anxiety increases regarding future social situations because you’ve spent so much time brooding about what happened.
6) You bring that anxiety into the next social situation. You remember how you failed to meet your social expectations the last time, which makes it more likely for you to repeat the cycle.

As both an introvert and someone who suffers from generalized anxiety, I have been through this cycle a lot. It’s no fun. So what can we do about it?

Ways to overcome post-event rumination

***DISCLAIMER: This is a process. Cognitive restructuring (changing our thought patterns) takes time, discipline, and practice. I’m still working on the following steps myself.

1) Know what you’re insecure or fearful about when it comes to social situations. Awareness is key.
2) Ask yourself, “Is there real evidence to support my fears?” It is likely that people don’t pay as much attention to your social skills as you do.
3) Consider the expectations that you place on yourself or expectations peers have placed on you. Are they realistic? Do they allow room for error?
4) BE NICE TO YOURSELF! Research supports that having low self-compassion (not being nice to yourself) is correlated with higher post-event rumination whereas increased self-compassion seems to make a person more resilient to the trap of post-event rumination.

The following are some suggestions of how you can distract yourself from ruminating:
Meditation, journaling, list out your strengths, blogging, doing something creative, exercising, watching your favorite TV show, listening to music, or cooking a new dish. You have value. Refuse to let that setback or mistake dictate how you’ll engage with the world.

***The photo is my dog, Zyon, doing his “Post-event rumination” pose 😀

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