How to Stop Ruminating

Authored by Helen Parson

Edited by Alexander Bentley

Reviewed by Michael Por

How to Stop Ruminating


Modern life moves at a break-neck speed, sometimes throwing so many tasks at us that it can be difficult to keep up, especially as technology means that everyone has constant access to each other 24 hours a day. The constant barrage of information and tasks constantly being thrown at us means that it’s too easy to make a mistake or misstep, while the continual pressure to run our lives through a screen, rather than in person can make us lonely, disconnected and burn out.


It is often much easier to make mistakes, while separation means we can often turn these mistakes over and over in our minds, and thoughts can even intrude on daily life.  This is called rumination and can often lead us into a downward spiral of overthinking and depression. But how to stop ruminating? What are we to do when we can’t get away from our own thoughts?

What is Rumination?


Firstly, it is important to understand what rumination is, and how it affects us physically and mentally before we can learn how to stop it from happening. We have discussed that rumination is the overthinking of mistakes or negative experiences, which can both cause and be a symptom of depression or anxiety and can be experienced by those who have gone through trauma.


Rumination most obviously presents as thoughts but can cause physical reactions in the body simultaneously, which can suggest it might be over-excessive, and therefore a problem. Physical signs of anxiety, and therefore rumination include feeling constantly tired and overwhelmed, muscle pain, muscle tension, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, hyperventilation, digestive issues, trembling, and sweating.


All these symptoms can take a toll on our bodies, especially over a long time, not to mention the sustained amount of damage done to our mental heal and self-perception in the process. If overwhelming and intrusive enough, rumination can also invade our daily lives, interrupting tasks, preventing us from doing things, and even mentally paralyzing us from starting at its most extreme, as we fear that there is no point in trying to begin with.

Practical Ways to Stop Ruminating


So, how do we stop falling into these dangerous patterns? Several ways are recommended to help you stop when you feel like you are starting to ruminate, both practically and mentally. The practical solutions are perhaps the easiest to discuss, as these are the ones that require you to take some sort of physical activity.


For example, journaling, physically writing down the thoughts that you keep ruminating on, allows you to separate yourself from them, and see them in front of you physically written down, which then allows you to create distance from those thoughts and let them go. Similarly, talking to a friend or loved one allows you to share the burden of these thoughts, and separate yourself from them, freeing your brain up to focus on other, better things.


Talking to someone also brings you back into contact with the world beyond yourself and your thoughts and can remind you of issues going on with other people and the wider world, getting you out of your own head. Exercise can also be a useful way of getting out of your head, particularly if you choose an activity that makes you go outside, to connect or at least see the world beyond your home11.L. M. Hilt and S. D. Pollak, Getting Out of Rumination: Comparison of Three Brief Interventions in a Sample of Youth – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved October 8, 2022, from


Exercise is a proven mood booster, and the endorphins released combined with the focus your mind needs to make your body do the activity pull you away from your thoughts while allowing you to improve your mind and body at the same time.


The final practical solution to rumination is if you really can’t escape your thoughts, to set yourself a timer, allocating yourself ‘worry time’. You can ruminate on the thoughts plaguing you only for as long as the timer is running – once it goes off, you must think about, or do something unconnected, distracting your brain by finding something you enjoy focusing on

How to Stop Ruminating; Mental Solutions


The mental solutions to rumination all require inner work to help you change your mindset and break the thought patterns that lead to rumination. These take more time and effort than the practical solutions, as they involve the breaking of habits and reforming new ones.


The first thing you need to do is recognize when you’re ruminating, if possible. Acknowledge your thoughts if you can, and think about what these thoughts are making you feel, which can help you break out of the thought cycle. Remind yourself that some of the things you are worrying about are beyond your control, and try to let them go. This can be easier said than done, but it is important to at least remember that most expectations placed on us are unrealistic.


Techniques such as meditation can be useful if you find any of this self-reflection and thought-separation  difficult. See if there are any actionable steps you can take to solve any of your worries and consider what your triggers for falling into a cycle of rumination might be, and the habits or behaviors that indicate an especially bad period of worry.


Finally, another mental solution to rumination that is useful is practicing acceptance – when worries come up or begin cycling, accept that some of them you cannot change and that it is okay, things will work out as they should. Ultimately though, all these mental solutions and more are even more useful when you can get guidance and therapy from a trained counselor, who can also help you with the root cause of your rumination issues.


Break the Pattern of Rumination


While ruminating thought spirals, depression, and anxiety can feel overwhelming or hopeless at times, it is important to remember that there are many practical and mental ways that you can break yourself out of these patterns that don’t require much or any energy or money to do. Some of these techniques can also help you build better habits and thought patterns in the future, and some can be maximized through the guidance of a therapist. Rumination, while consuming, is not unstoppable, and you are more than your thoughts can make you believe.


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    1.L. M. Hilt and S. D. Pollak, Getting Out of Rumination: Comparison of Three Brief Interventions in a Sample of Youth – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved October 8, 2022, from
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