How To Get Out Of A Regret Spiral That's Eating Away At You

Life is often unpredictable and can throw you into situations you haven't anticipated or maybe have no control over. When that happens, people tend to grasp for control in any shape or form, even when it's bad. The illusion of control over a situation can provide peace of mind even for a little while for a troubled soul.


Sometimes, that human need for control manifests itself as regret. Maybe you didn't react the way you wanted to in a certain situation or didn't take a chance doing something you love. It's perfectly normal to think about how something should or could have been different, but when you desperately try to grab hold of it to the point of your own despair, a mental health check might be just what you need.

If something has already hurt you, by trying to change the past, which is obviously impossible, you're further hurting yourself in the present. Constantly overthinking and not being able to shift your train of thought is a sign you might have gone down a regret spiral, and it's time to get out.

Identifying a regret spiral

The American Psychological Association defines regret as a response to wishing something in the past to have gone differently. Having some second thoughts after something has happened or you've done something is completely normal. It simply shows you're an emotionally functioning human being, and that's okay. But if your life is starting to get disrupted by your own remorse-fueled thoughts and you can't seem to move on from whatever's causing you immense regret, you're spiraling.


Clinical psychologist Ali Mattu, Ph.D., explained to Oprah Daily, "Regret is about disappointment. We want to make a different choice than we did, but we can't time travel." Mattu added, "It's the mind's way of instilling self-punishment."

Results of a recent psychological study showed that most of its participants highly overestimated the path not taken, in turn causing feelings of remorse. It can be hard to cope with the fact that the alternative ending didn't happen and never will. In order to seemingly gain control over the situation, the mind might make you the culprit. But it's not always that simple or true.

Healing the regret

Sometimes things just happen. If they're more trivial, like saying something you shouldn't have, the damage can be remedied. Acknowledge your mistakes and own up to them. Apologizing might not make things exactly how they used to be, but it's necessary for healing to take place.


More serious situations will most likely require more patience and work. Take your time to be mindful towards yourself. Psychotherapist and counselor Lucas Teague explained to Happiful, "This means taking an interest in what we are thinking and feeling just as it is, without identifying it as something which has to be a reflection of who you are, or how you see yourself." Ask for help if you need it. Talking to a friend or a professional will likely help you gain some perspective. There are many tools to help with your mental health. Don't allow remorse to rule your life — incorporate more of what you love into your everyday life because you deserve to feel happy.

In the end, life happens, and it's not always pretty, whether we're ready or not. Forgive yourself. Treat yourself like you would a friend. Social worker and anxiety expert Aisha Shabazz explained to Oprah Daily, "If we can forgive ourselves for harm we did (or presume we did), we can start to deal with it." Don't make a cult of suffering.