How to Manage Stress under Pressure: Stop Ruminating

Want to reduce your stress? Stop ruminating.

Stress and burnout are among the top challenges leaders face, according to recent research by the Center of Creative Leadership. And stress isn’t reserved for leaders. It’s well-known that ongoing excessive stress can lead not only to emotional illness but also physical illness and disease – not to mention the obvious negative impact on performance.

We cannot avoid the inevitable pressures in life and work. But by managing our response to pressure, we can reduce the stress we experience.

For most of us, the biggest thing we can do is to stop ruminating.

Here are five tips to stop ruminating:

  1. Control your attention. Instead of rehashing over and over that past mistake or regret, reflect on what you can learn. Instead of obsessing about what may go wrong in the future and catastrophizing, spend the time you need to plan productive and healthy actions. Then shift your focus to the present.
  2. Be honest about your emotions. Are you feeling anxious, afraid, sad, ashamed, guilty, annoyed or angry? Admit it. Awareness leads to choice. Ironically, the sooner you acknowledge unpleasant feelings, the more able you are to manage and move through them versus letting those feelings manage you.
  3. Be thankful. Nothing shifts perspective in a positive direction more effectively than cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Try this experiment: identify each day ten things for which you are thankful. This will not only help reduce stress; it will also help you enjoy the journey, even when it’s bumpy.
  4. Ask for help. From friends and family. From advisors and mentors. From God. And instead of asking for circumstances to change, ask for help dealing with the challenging circumstances you face.
  5. Let it go. Ruminate comes from the word that describes a cow chewing and digesting their food over and over. Cows need to ruminate. We don’t. Process what you need to process – emotionally and mentally – then do what you need to do. And let it go.

For further reading on how to handle pressure, minimize stress and stop ruminating, see:


Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. As a leadership consultant and executive coach, he helps executives and their teams improve engagement, effectiveness and impact. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.