According to Derek Roger and Nick Petrie in Work Without Stress, “Thinking over a problem to arrive at a solution we’ll call reflection, but to be able to reflect requires taking a detached perspective. This is not to suggest adopting a superficial or unengaged way of problem solving – the thinking about it might be pretty intense, but what it doesn’t include is negative emotion.
“With reflection, what-if becomes ‘What if we tried this approach. Hmmm, maybe not. What else could we try?’ When negative emotion is added, what-if becomes, ‘What if we fail? What if I lose my job? What if my family ends up on the street?’ What is missing from reflection is catastrophizing.”
Rumination is the troublemaker. In essence it is a process of “churning over the negative feelings that arise before or after an event occurs.”
So, when struggling with an especially difficult question to answer or problem to solve, focus on reflection and avoid rumination.