Stop the cycle of over­think­ing: tips to prevent per­sis­tent ruminating


We all know the feeling of thoughts spinning round and round in our head. It drags us down into a never-ending spiral. However, there are ways to put an end to this cycle of overthinking. How to calm your mind and take things easy again? We have the tips.

The tireless voice in our head

Is this familiar? As soon as you wake up, your head starts racing as you list the challenges you face that day. How exactly should I write that email? What can I say to my difficult colleague? What did my boss actually mean with that comment yesterday? And as soon as you get home in the evening and want to rest, the pest in your mind sets the whole thing off again. Round and round. But you hardly ever find a solution – it's like an engine running at full speed, but without the clutch engaged. A lot of noise, but no progress.

Ruminating is well-intentioned

Constant brooding and ruminating is common practice. And actually it comes from a voice in our mind that only wants the best for us, a voice that wants to protect us and keep us safe. It acts along the lines of: «If only I think and plan enough, if only I go through enough scenarios, then I'll be prepared for anything, then nothing can happen to me.»

Less ruminating – more health

We could actually be fully relaxed. Unfortunately, however, the engine that generates warnings and worries keeps on spinning – and not only spoils the moment, but also puts us under constant stress. And constant stress can make us ill. Or, from another perspective: wouldn't life be easier and more enjoyable without this ruminating?

Our tips to prevent per­sis­tent ruminating

Every person is different and responds to a different method of how to curb overthinking. Try the ideas out and see what works for you. The point is not to stop thinking or planning altogether, but to cut the excess: the bit that doesn't achieve anything but only costs you energy.

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Be consciously aware

Become aware that your mind really only has one goal: your safety.

The right attitude

It wants to prepare you for everything by planning and thinking things through, it wants to protect you. This attitude will help you deal with ruminating in a more understanding and compassionate way.en.

Notice what’s happening

Only those who realise that they’re ruminating can do something about it. This requires a certain degree of mindfulness, i.e. the ability to observe yourself. This mindfulness can be learned and trained. There are many books, YouTube videos and podcasts on the subject. If you want to go a little deeper, try meditation or book an eight-week MBSR course (mindfulness-based stress reduction).

Thanks, but not now!

Once you've noticed that your head has started spinning again, send your mind a firm «stop» signal. For example, you could say: «Dear mind, it’s time to stop. Thank you for protecting me, but that’s enough now!» Now comes the crucial point. You need to find a new focus for your mind, and there are many ways to do this.

Back to your breath

An excellent focus that you can always come back to is your breath. Observe how you inhale and exhale. The flow of air in and out of the nose, or the undulating movements of the stomach. If you lose this focus – which is normal – just return to your breath. Try various breathing exercises – they’re easy to integrate into your everyday life.

Get active

Are you the type who starts overthinking in bed early in the morning? Then give yourself a push and get up.Preparing breakfast, watering the plants, taking care of the laundry – or how about a spot of forest bathing? These are all simple activities to help stop your thoughts spinning. Or do you find yourself ruminating when you have time, for example in the train or bus? Occupy yourself with something pleasant – read a book, enjoy relaxing music or listen to a helpful podcast.

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Write it down

Simply write down what issues your restless mind is currently dealing with. Make a list and ask yourself about the entries:

  1. Is that really a problem?
  2. Don’t I already have the solution?
  3. Is it really so important to think about it so much?
  4. Or: if it were very simple, what would the solution be?

The point here is not to return to another round of endless thoughts, but to sift through the issues and see if they really need your focus here and now.

Get creative

An effective way to gently move your mind on to something new is to be creative. Do you have a hobby that you love? Great, then get stuck in! Find your drawing pencils, dig out the knitting needles, read an exciting book, or experiment with your camera.

Tap the ruminations away

Many people have made good progress with the «tapping technique», also called EFT (emotional freedom technique) tapping. This involves tapping your fingers on a certain acupuncture point and reciting affirmations at the same time. This allows the body to relax despite the head continuing to ruminate and, conversely, the relaxed body eases the ruminating. There are many books and online material on this method.

Tip from the coach: I learned the tapping technique from a doctor friend of mine several years ago – and have had very good experiences with it. In an audio, I explain to people how they can stop overthinking.

Be grateful

If you’re in a good mood, you can’t ruminate at the same time.

Boost your good mood

Ask yourself or write it down: What am I grateful for at the moment? What makes me happy today? What am I proud of? What good times have I had with friends recently? Which was my best experience in recent weeks?

This is one of my favourite anti-ruminating methods: first I put a real smile on my face, and then I think about a beautiful hike in the mountains. Ruminating? Almost impossible now.
Dr. Heinz Staffelbach

Self-care: give yourself love

Constant ruminating can naturally increase after painful experiences such as the loss of a loved one. Then it’s time to be especially compassionate towards yourself, acknowledge that this is a difficult time and accept that you have uncomfortable feelings now. And ask yourself what your inner self – your soul – needs now, what would do it good.


It may sound banal, but is all the more important: make sure you build time for relaxation into your life. People who are relaxed are less likely to ruminate. Do what helps you, be it sports and working out, meeting friends, yoga or other relaxation exercises, cooking something delicious or dancing.

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