How to Break Out of the Thought Rumination Cycle

Today we have a post from Hannah Wise on how to break out of the thought rumination cycle. Hannah is a compassionate therapist at Anchored Counseling Co., dedicated to helping individuals reconnect with themselves and their bodies. She values empathy, authenticity, and vulnerability in her therapeutic relationships, aiming to create a safe and collaborative space for healing and recovery. Hannah believes in the inherent beauty and worth of all bodies, emphasizing their empowerment in overcoming daily challenges.

Specializing in eating disorders, body image concerns, women’s issues, trauma, self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and OCD, Hannah employs a variety of therapeutic approaches. She is proficient in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Somatic Experiencing, mindfulness, and family therapy, tailoring her methods to meet the unique needs of her clients.

Hannah is deeply committed to walking alongside her clients on their journey of reconnection and self-discovery, offering her expertise and support every step of the way. We hope you enjoy today’s post from Hannah on how to break out of the thought rumination cycle!

We’ve all had that really uncomfortable encounter where we put our foot in our mouth at a social event and spend the whole car ride home replaying the terrible moment over and over. We’re only human after all. This constant replaying in our head or spending endless amounts of time thinking about past or future situations and fears is called thought rumination. Most people have at least experienced thought rumination, but it can quickly become overwhelming and constant if we don’t have the tools to notice and make peace with the thoughts. I want to emphasize that thought rumination is different from having an obsessive-compulsive or related diagnosis, which may require more serious and prolonged treatment. However, if you find yourself often getting trapped in thought rumination, here are three steps you can take to release yourself from the endless cycle that it can be:

Step 1: Bring awareness to the thoughts

We can’t quell the thoughts if we don’t recognize that they are dominating our consciousness. This may be difficult to recognize at first, especially if you have never tried to catch yourself in thought rumination before. Some things to look out for in catching yourself in thought rumination are looking out for physical symptoms in your body and noticing whether you are present in the current moment. Are you tensing your muscles? Do you feel like you are mentally somewhere else? Are you thinking about moments in the past or anticipating the future? These are all signs that you may be trapped in thought rumination. Just practicing this skill alone is a great first step and is meant to be celebrated! In many cases, just bringing awareness to the thoughts is the hardest part. 

Step 2: Analyze what may have triggered the thought or where they’re coming from 

Did you wish you said something differently during that hard conversation with your partner? Are you worried about your next career move? These examples along with other stressful moments or fears can trigger thought rumination. Notice how both examples are past and future based. Thought rumination pulls us out of the present moment, which takes us out of connection with ourselves and others. Once you pass step 1 by noticing your thoughts, step 2 allows you to analyze where your thoughts are coming from or what might have triggered them because you are brought back to the present moment. This knowledge is power! Knowing what activates thought rumination helps us avoid falling into it next time we are posed with those same triggers. 

Step 3: Break out 

I’ve emphasized how thought rumination brings us out of the present moment by pulling our attention to past situations or anticipated future events. Therefore, the best way to break out of thought rumination is to get grounded in the present. One hack for this is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 rule. Using this grounding technique, you will identify five things you can see, four objects you can touch, three sounds you can hear, two scents you can smell, and one thing you can taste. It essentially anchors you to the here and now by utilizing all five senses. It takes us out of our heads and into our bodies. This allows us to approach whatever we were ruminating over from a calm, balanced place rather than a place of anxiety and fear. 

Thought rumination is a common behavior, but we do have the power to break out of it. Side stepping thought rumination in favor of living in the present moment makes us better problem solvers, more engaged friends and partners, and less anxious. For more tips on managing thought rumination, @fightthroughmentalhealth on Instagram has some great posts on breaking out of thought rumination and other mental health resources as well. 

AFFIRMATION OF THE DAY: “This moment is exactly as it’s meant to be”

You got this!


We hope you found Hannah’s insights on how to break out of the thought rumination cycle helpful. If her message resonated with you, this could be the perfect time to take meaningful steps toward your healing and peace. To initiate your work with Hannah, please feel free to call our office at 615.510.3797 or click here to learn more.

Anchored Counseling Company is a a group practice specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, body image concerns, eating disorders & disordered eating, substance use, trauma and PTSD, and spirituality in Brentwood, Tennessee and serving the greater Nashville, Tennessee area. We are easily accessible for clients living in Franklin, Tennessee and Spring Hill, Tennessee. 

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