Abuse Effects Healing

How To Stop Rumination & More

How to Stop Rumination | Hopeful Panda

If you’ve experienced childhood abuse or trauma, ruminating is probably something you’re familiar with. And learning how to stop rumination can benefit you and help you begin healing.

Rumination is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I remember. A recent unpleasant experience with a doctor triggered my ruminating mind. I keep replaying the scenario over and over, feeling all this anxiety, anger, hate, and self-loathe. It caused me to slip into a brief depression and panic. It’s like I was traumatized all over again.

My lack of control over my brain and my trauma response to something that shouldn’t be traumatic pushed me to try to find effective solutions to stop this painful thought process.


When ruminating, it feels like your mind is out of your control and it just wants to dwell on things to make you feel bad.

Many times, either laying in my bed or zoning out, thoughts and images of my past trauma, mistakes, and everyone that has ever “wronged” me just vividly runs through my mind. It feels like it consumes me and I have no control over it. It’s like my brain just needs to obsess over it to make myself feel awful.

If you’re like me – often replaying past negative scenarios, unable to stop no matter what – you probably want to learn how to stop that rumination to finally give yourself some peace (at least for a little while).

Although I still struggle with ruminating from time to time, there are various tips and tricks I’ve tried to stop my rumination that seem effective (for the most part). However, it does take a lot of determination and effort. Some days are easier than others. But nonetheless, it’s worth a shot for some “quiet” time in your head.

This post will cover what rumination is, why we do it, why we should stop, how to stop, and how to prevent it from happening.

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What is Rumination?

Simply put, rumination is obsessive thinking. It’s the tendency to fixate or dwell on a particular past negative thought or memory without taking action to solve or relieve them.

Ruminating thoughts can take on various forms. The two most common ruminating thoughts are repeatedly revisiting details of a past failure and revisiting bad things that happened to you that were out of your control.

The process of rumination often involves elements of negative focus on the self and self-blame. It is also often linked to higher levels of anxiety and depression.

And based on research, a ruminative response style can also predict the development of PTSD and higher severity of symptoms.

It’s like your mind takes one bad thing that happened and replays it over and over in your head until it becomes something traumatic.

Why Do We Ruminate?

Although rumination happens more often to people with depression, anxiety, social anxiety, OCD, and PTSD, it happens to everyone to some degree.

Our brains are wired to focus on the negative. Negative thoughts and experiences are processed more quickly than positive ones. They’re also retained for a longer period of time, making them easier to revisit.

So to remember bad things over good things is pretty normal. It actually takes conscious effort to try to keep ourselves from dwelling on the negatives, though it’s easier for some people than others.

Some people ruminate as a way to punish themselves. They think they deserve to relive the negative events of their past over and over again. It’s almost like they’re addicted.

Some people ruminate to feel in control when they’re feeling helpless or victimized. Obsessing over every detail is what they feel they need to do to gain some sense of autonomy.

And some people believe that dwelling on the past in detail is actually helpful. They think it will teach them something or prevent future mistakes.

Well, if you think ruminating is helpful, here’s the ugly truth – it is not.

While ruminating at times is normal and pondering over issues to potentially solve is beneficial, repeatedly obsessing over something with no action or intention to change it is completely unproductive and unhealthy.

Why Should We Stop Rumination?

Rumination itself is an unhealthy habit. And it is something that can get worse over time if the person lets it continue repeatedly or doesn’t stop it. You get stuck in this endless looping of repeating to yourself how much either you or your life suck.

Frequent rumination can break down your ability to solve problems. It can get you stuck in a place of learned helplessness. It may also have an impact on your relationships and negatively affect your quality of life.

There have been quite some times when I’ve been so busy ruminating that I’ve missed out on some truly important moments in my life. And that’s something I continue to regret (and ironically, ruminate over).

Additionally, a survey found that self-reported ruminators were over 4 times more likely to develop depression than those who didn’t engage in rumination. So it can be argued that rumination may lead to depression rather than the other way around.

Also, rumination creates these false beliefs and internal narratives that might not necessarily reflect reality. Psychology experts claim that rumination is often loaded with cognitive distortions. People who tend to ruminate often revisit past events from a black-and-white point of view.

In other words, when we replay a past mistake in our head over and over, we are neglecting all of our non-mistakes, even in the same scenario. When we focus on our negatives, we forget all the good things about ourselves that deserve recognition. This deadly cycle, thus, continues to perpetuate and reinforce our feelings of self-hate, shame, and guilt.

How To Stop Rumination

How to Stop Rumination | Hopeful Panda

1. Determine whether you’re ruminating

First and foremost, to be able to stop rumination is to figure out whether you’re ruminating.

Oftentimes, you are because it’s what a lot of child abuse victims tend to do. However, even catching yourself ruminating takes conscious effort.

A lot of the time, we’re so consumed by our negative thoughts that we don’t even realize where our mind is at. It’s easy to slip into that place and difficult to catch when we’re there.

If you find yourself constantly and repetitively thinking about something over and over, ask yourself why you’re doing that.

Are you trying to find a solution or are you just beating yourself up?

Finding a solution to a problem that’s bothering you is active problem-solving. Beating yourself up over something you have no control over or don’t intend on changing is just unhealthy and self-destructive.

Once you notice you’re ruminating, try to stop it.

2. Distract yourself

Once you’ve identified that you are indeed ruminating, the best (and possibly only) way to stop is to shift your attention to something unrelated. This is also known as distraction.

It’s best to try to engage in activities that require brainwork. When you’re busy using your brain for something else, you will have more difficulty using it to ruminate.

Ideally, these distracting activities should be something you don’t usually do. When you’re doing something new, it requires more brainpower. But when you’re doing something you’re an expert on, then you can really just do it on autopilot which only leaves room in your brain for rumination.

Try out one of these activities without giving it too much thought. Try not to overthink it. Do it even if you’re not feeling up to it. This is necessary to shift where your mind is at. Who knows, you might be surprised.

  • Hold a yoga post
  • Work on a puzzle
  • Follow an origami or another kind of art tutorial
  • Pick an object you see and draw it as best as you can
  • Cook a new recipe
  • Make something out of clay (or whatever else you have lying around)
  • Go repair something broken
  • Take a walk in nature and mindfully observe your environment

Get more ideas – 200+ Ways to Distract Yourself: The Ultimate List

Distraction may feel like you’re avoiding your issues. But really, it deters you from your obsessive thoughts that may be doing more harm than good.

Realize that you don’t necessarily have to have fun or enjoy these activities. The purpose is to get your mind away from what’s bothering you. Besides, it’s difficult to go from ruminating to feeling great. So it’s totally okay if you’re not in a good mood while doing any of these.

3. Engage in self-care

Rumination is oftentimes the opposite of self-care. It’s usually self-loathing, self-destructive, and self-blaming.

So once you’ve successfully distracted yourself from ruminating, try to engage in some self-care activities.

  • Take a warm bath to soothe you
  • Follow a guided meditation for some relaxation
  • Do something you personally enjoy
  • Treat yourself to something nice
  • Watch a comedy

Engaging in some self-care can hopefully relax you and help lift your mood, at least a little.

4. If possible, move forward or solve the problem

Once you’re in a better place, if possible, try to either solve the problem and/or move on.

Things that happened in the past give you an opportunity to learn and grow. Try to think about what you’ve learned from what you’ve been ruminating about so much.

Write all of this down to better process it. Was it a mistake you made? Or perhaps something embarrassing happened? Or maybe something bad happened to you that was out of your control?

If it’s something that you did, write down what happened, how it made you feel, and what you learned from it. Then, remind yourself that that’s in the past. There’s nothing you can do about it now. But you can move forward and be different in the future. Then, if you’d like, write about what you can do about it now so you can move forward.

If it’s something that happened to you that was out of your control, remind yourself that there’s nothing you could’ve done differently then and there’s nothing you can do differently now. Write down how it made you feel, why, and what you can do to feel better. Think of various ways you can take care of yourself to help you heal and overcome what happened. Remind yourself that dwelling on it gives power to whatever or whoever wronged you.

5. It’s okay to reach out for help

You can confide in someone you trust to get some things off your chest. They can validate your experiences and reassure you that you’re not as bad as you think you are. They can also remind you that it’s not your fault and that your feelings are valid.

Sometimes, all we need is to get things off our chests to be able to move forward. Having someone provide validation, reassurance, and support can perhaps give you some sort of closure to what’s been bothering you.

Speaking to a professional can also help you achieve this. They can also give you the advice you need to healthily cope with issues in your life and learn how to deal with and stop rumination.

But most importantly, you need to eventually be able to move forward and live your life. Try not to let the past hold you back and keep you from being happy. I know it’s easier said than done, so here are some tips that can hopefully help.

How to Stop Rumination from Happening Again

As mentioned before, ruminating is pretty normal. And with your background, it’s no surprise if you often engage in it. However, it is important to recognize it as an unhealthy habit and try your best to stop it.

To best prevent rumination from happening altogether, try to set an amount of time each day to worry about a particular problem.

Keeping a journal to write down what’s bothering can be really beneficial as well to get all your thoughts in order so it’s not just a constant stream of rumination.

By doing this, you limit the amount of time you allow yourself to ruminate or think about negative things. And when ruminating pops up (because it will), it also reminds you that there is an allocated time for this so you can put it off until it’s time to worry about it.

And when it is time to start worrying, take this time to actively solve the problem instead of simply just ruminating on it.

Write down the problems and possible solutions. Try to make concrete plans to resolve whatever’s bothering you. And as you do this, try to be honest and realistic with yourself.

As a bonus, I highly recommend checking out the book Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why it Matters, and How to Harness It. In the book, psychologist Ethan Kross discusses how we can combat negative self-talk, negative thoughts, and anxiety as well as improve our health and relationships.


Rumination isn’t something you should feel ashamed of. It’s human nature to some extent.

However, time spent ruminating prevents you from moving forward. Although we should learn from the past, we shouldn’t have to suffer for it.

While it may be difficult to fully prevent and stop rumination, it is possible to limit how much you engage in it. It’s possible to shift your attention to the more positive parts of your life.

Again, it isn’t easy. But with conscious effort, adjustments in your life, and support from others, it is possible. And if rumination seems impossible to stop or deal with on your own, remember, it’s totally okay to reach out for help.

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Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with an abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.

I am always trying to better understand and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda. Learn more here.

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