Chewing the cud

The origins of a word isn't something I often think about, reflect on, or even remember. This week though, the word rumination had me captive. The act of chewing the cud. Who knew that 'cud' was actually the term for the partially digested food that cows regurgitate and then chew again. So to chew something over and over is to ruminate.

Now you are a little wiser and potentially a little grossed out at the image I've just created for you, I'll explain why on earth I was looking at the meaning of rumination.

Would you say you have a stressful job? Are your days stress free or stressful? Healthcare is often described as a high stress industry.  We hold peoples lives in our hands - of course that must be stressful!

Nicholas Petrie is a researcher and writer who specialises in leadership development and who I came across this week when I was given a link to his work on the subject of resilience.

He explains that stress and pressure are two different things.  Building on the work of Derek Roger he goes on to describes that he would find two people same jobs, same pressure, same demands being made on them and yet one would be managing the workload, the other tearing their hair out and 'stressed out'. Stress is our response to the pressure we are under and the difference between the person who is stressed and the one that isn't - you got it - rumination.

From Nicholas Petrie's whitepaper:

Rumination is the mental process of thinking over and over about something, which happened either in the past or could happen in the future, and attaching negative emotions to it. Ruminations about the future are associated with “what if this happens’”or “what if that happens”. Ruminations about the past replay, over and over, some awful experience you had and usually end with, “if only I had ...” or “I should have done ...”.

It is the negative association that is the key to this.  It's not that you shouldn't reflect and learn about what has happened, nor is it suggesting that you don't need to plan - consciously planning means we achieve what we need to achieve. Rather, it is the constant hounding in our minds - that of dread, fear or anxiety about situations past or those in the future.

Ruminating makes you less productive - all that chewing the cud will not help you achieve any more in your day - rather, you'll achieve less. It also isn't good for your health. The release of adrenaline and cortisol associated with the fight or flight response has you living and functioning on the edge - not the place for problem solving, collaborative working or big picture thinking. It also weakens your immune system.

Thankfully, now that you know about the downside of ruminating you'll be able to tap into some ideas that will increase your productivity, help you manage the pressure and share this knowledge with your teams and those you work with.

In this video Nicholas explains the difference between pressure and stress and how exhaustion factors into the puzzle.

Then take a look for these four steps for leadership resilience.

My weekly emails are pieces of the puzzle that we are all making. My website contains adapted versions of these emails (you get the really good stuff when you subscribe). Back in December I wrote about how I felt my mind was saved and a valuable resilience tool was added to my kit.