- in Self-Care
There are numerous reasons why we start feeling emotionally overwhelmed, so I will focus on just one potential cause.
We change too many tires.
Everyone gets flat tires as they go through life. If the road we’re traveling on in this life is particularly rough and full of nails and potholes, we’ll likely have abundant flat tires. And they’re our own responsibility to take care of, no one else’s.
Flat tires are simply our opportunity to pull over and stop, to practice good problem-solving skills, to remain humble, even to reevaluate the road we’re on.
Sometimes our driving gets careless and we cause our own flat tires. Sometimes they just happen during the normal course of life. But no one is accountable for fixing our flat tires except us.
Let’s say that I’m the one with the flat tire, stopped on the side of the road, unable to move forward with my life. Out of the goodness of your heart, you stop to help me. That’s wonderful and I appreciate it (at least the first time or two.) But the truth is, you’re doing me a disservice.
First, you’re denying me the opportunity to learn how to change my own tires, which means I’ll completely be stranded if it happens again and there’s no one around to do it for me.
Second, if I don’t know how to change a tire, I’ll never be able to stop and give someone else a hand with theirs. Third, I won’t need to trouble myself to think about how my driving, or the road I’ve chosen, is causing me problems. Fourth, instead of maturing, I’ll likely remain in a helpless, innocent-victim mode that erodes my self-confidence and self-esteem. And it may turn me into a whiner.
Instead of changing my tire for me, I’ll benefit so much more if you allow me to witness your own process.
Let me see that you have a flat tire. Let me come and watch while you pull over and change it. Let me help tighten the lug nuts so I can see for myself how it’s done. Coach me as I change my own tire.
In short, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stop and ask yourself, are your own tires going flat while you change everyone else’s?
Dr. Loral Lee Portenier – www.sacreddreamscoaching.com
Feelings are natural. Feelings are normal.
Some are easier to recognize, regulate, and tolerate than others.
Most of us can easily list the feelings we like, and the feelings we would rather avoid. Who wouldn’t choose joy over anxiety? The perennial pursuit of enjoyable feelings and avoidance of unpleasant feelings are what fuel addictions, overeating, and mindless screen time viewing.
Feelings, though, are just feelings. They are biochemical events that ebb and flow. Feelings do not last indefinitely. In the moment, though, it feels like they will last forever.
Emotional overwhelm may manifest as anxiety, anger, irritability, crying, or depression.
It can appear in physical form, like a fast heart beat, tension, or sweaty palms.
Here are three ideas for managing overwhelming feelings. These techniques will also quell the physical symptoms that accompany feeling overwhelmed.
1. Breathe. There are lots of wonderful breathing practices to help elicit the Relaxation Response. Conscious breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, whose job is to help us feel calm. Try taking 10 slow inhalations and exhalations. Make your exhalations longer than your inhalations. Perhaps inhale to a count of 4 and exhale to a count of 6. Inhale through your nose and exhale either through your nose or your mouth. Keep it simple.
2. Presence. Another benefit to BREATHING consciously is that it brings us back to the moment. Overwhelm is associated with feeling pressured about something in the future. Slow down your breathing to slow down your mind. Bring yourself back to the NOW.
3. Reframe your thoughts. Feeling emotionally overwhelmed is a result of unhelpful self-talk. If you think that you will never be in a healthy relationship, for example, you may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of dating. Reframe your thinking so that it is more accurate and neutral.
Examples: “Just because I have not been in a long term relationship, doesn’t mean I will never be”; “In order to be in a healthy relationship, I have to start dating. I WANT to start dating”; “My fear is not a fact; being afraid of never being in a healthy relationship doesn’t mean I will never be in a healthy relationship”.
Learning how to ride the waves of emotion is like a surfer learning how to surf ocean waves.
Riding the waves with acceptance and presence WILL help you manage your feelings.
Practice makes progress.
Breathing more consciously, bringing mindful awareness to the present, and ensuring that your thoughts are adaptive and accurate will help you be an expert at managing overwhelming emotion. I can’t guarantee it will make you a better surfer in the actual ocean, though.
Dr. Elayne Daniels – www.drelaynedaniels.com
Emotions are an intriguing, wonderful, beguiling thing that makes up a third of the body, mind, spirit, triangle.
Honestly, we really were not given them as a perverse method of torture. They serve a very real purpose yet we are not taught how to deal with them. Since we do not understand our emotions purpose, we are ill equipped to handle
Emotions are a road map to areas in our being that need healing.
That is it! They are not meant to put us on an emotional roller coaster, for us to use them to control others, to make decisions based on emotions, or to react based on how we feel, emotions are meant for information and cleansing. That is their job. So they key to handling our emotions is to understand what we are feeling, why we are feeling it and then find safe, therapeutic, ways to release it.
When we have an emotional response to anything (aka a button) it is our body’s way of saying “over here, we have some cleansing and growing to do”.
All of our buttons are signs of unhealed baggage, and conversely, contrary to popular belief when we feel really good because of something it is also a sign of a wound. For example, if we go into work and our boss calls us in to his office and says our work is not up to par, we get our feelings hurt.
The reason we have hurt feelings is based on baggage, maybe a belief that we are not good enough. If we felt really good about our work and ourselves it wouldn’t bother us, we would take it in as information, constructive criticism, but it would not ruin our day or keep us awake at night. It would roll off our back.
Conversely, if someone gives you a nice compliment and you notice it makes your day. That also is a sign of healing that needs to be done. While it is honoring someone thinks nice of us, why should his or her opinion make our day? Do you see how the emotional roller coaster gets started? Up and down and then overwhelm.
In my life and in my practice, we work on acknowledging the buttons, understanding the wound, and releasing the emotion behind it. This is how people find true peace. Stuffing and compartmentalizing ultimately leads to misery and illness, because they will ultimately show themselves again through buttons.
Some ways to manage emotions are to, write about them, talk with safe people, exercise through them, scream, yell, cry them out when alone, etc…
The important part is to get them out in a controlled way. By doing so, within a day or two you will feel much better than before. It is the universal reward program. By doing the work, peace is the reward. I have healed in myself, and observed other people heal many physical issues that doctors say can’t be healed by using this method of release. Think of it like this. We are releasing toxins attached to emotions, which creates the space for the body to heal itself. We call it emotional throw ups.
One last thing, as a society we have to stop using language like “break down” when people show appropriate emotion.
We need to stop calling someone “strong” for being able to compartmentalize or stuff feelings away. It takes a lot of courage to take responsibility for our feelings, to process them, to feel them and to heal from them. Those are the people that are really strong.
Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC – www.cynthiapickett.com
Emotional overwhelm is just another term for having too much to handle at any one time.
That can come from taking on more commitments than you have time for, not being able to predict your own emotional state, or facing a situation you really can’t deal with effectively.
In intimate relationships, it is only likely you’ll be overwhelmed when you are at the other end of a partner who wants too much from you, too much of the time, or when your own emotions escape the practicality of any one moment and leave you unable to act in accordance with your own dignity.
Emotional overwhelm is like an emotional epileptic seizure.
Once it starts to cascade, it is difficult to stop until it runs its course. If you have been embarrassed when your vulnerability exceeds the kind of response you need from your partner and especially if that has happened repeatedly, you need to be able to predict overwhelm before it overtakes you. Being closely in touch with how you are feelings, physically, mentally, and emotionally, you are more likely to see your emotions building before they erupt and allow more of you to come out than you wished.
Emotional cascades, whether they are crying, anger, attacks, or expressions of love, can affect your partner deeply. The drama and passion that ordinarily accompany them sets them apart from normal interactions and cries out to be urgently responded to.
If they come out of nowhere, your partner is not likely to be ready and may respond in ways he or she could have changed had they been able to see them coming or know what you need at the time. He or she may feel overwhelmed by your overwhelm and either throw that intensity back at you or retreat. If they happen too often, and your partner is unable to handle them, you may find yourself dealing with them alone.
The best way to handle emotional overwhelm is not to get there in the first place.
Everyone has triggers that are more likely to set it off, and states of mind or body that make them more vulnerable to react to them. Those triggers can come from earlier trauma, from life overload in other areas, from unexpressed and building hurt/anger, or from the inability to manage emotional states at all.
If you know your triggers, and do not judge them negatively, you can recognize them when you are still able to self-soothe and have better options than to be that vulnerable without making sure the partner on the other end of you is ready and able to respond in the way you need.
Dr. Randi Gunther, www.randigunther.com
Have you ever tried to let go of unwanted feelings, but were unable to?
Have you ever felt so overwhelmed with emotion that it’s hard to get past it? What happens is that your emotions get stuck at a certain point and it becomes hard to transition yourself past the hurt and pain you are feeling. Ultimately, you hold on to these feelings without even realizing it and think that you have no choice or control over how you feel. The reality is that you do have control.
Ask yourself this question. “Can I let go of these feelings?”
If the answer is yes, then ask yourself, “When?”If you can say, “Now” then you are on the way to controlling your feelings.
The feelings you have are always based on the choices you make. Nobody can make you feel angry, hurt, or sad. “You make me so angry,” is an expression we all use.
However, it’s really a decision you make, based on your past experiences and belief system.
Quite simply, your feelings become habits and your responses to what happens to you are driven by blind reason and habitual behavior.
The goal is to control how you feel so that you keep yourself inspired, joyful and content, especially in your intimate relationships, where you may experience many unexpected challenges. The bottom line is that it feels good to feel good and you must do everything in your power to maintain that condition.
Here are some things to do to help you control your overwhelm:
1. Distract yourself.
The more you dwell on negative feelings, the more they will grow in your mind, causing you to act and react a certain way. Instead, give yourself a new thought to think about that is more pleasant and calming. Stay with that thought for a minute and your mood and state of mind will change.
2. Consider how long you are “willing” to stay in your negative headspace.
Is it an hour, a day or even longer? If you can put a time frame around it, when the time is over, you can move on.
3. Tap into how your emotions are affecting you physically.
If you have too many strong negative thoughts, they will work like a disease to weaken your resistance and cause you unwelcomed illnesses. Are you experiencing unusual headaches, digestive problems, skin rashes? If so, your body may be reacting to your resisting mind.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
When you describe yourself as being overwhelmed, what do you mean?
Like “love,” we tend to overuse this term, but true overwhelm can impact not only our emotional but physical well-being. If your answer goes beyond having a rough day, and moves into feeling like you’re never on solid ground and can never catch a breath, you are indeed overwhelmed.
Given that our nervous systems are tasked with the job of managing stress, you can imagine what can happen to that system when it’s on constant overload.
Most of my clients, when they get to this place, show the reactive thinking that is a symptom of an impaired nervous system; they can “never” get time for themselves, they’re “always” at someone else’s beck and call.
Even if it’s your children, you do not serve them by not caring for yourself. Children learn by example, and are capable of learning at an early age some of the many soothing exercises that my colleagues are sharing with you.
Here’s another one that I frequently recommend.
First, collect some things around the house that smell pleasant – an orange, scented candle, even the lemon dish soap (be adventurous!) – and sit in a comfortable place.
Get as grounded as you can under the circumstances, and then bring your attention to one of the scents. Take a deep breath, and then notice what, in your body, tells you you like this aroma. Does your belly soften? Your chest lighten? Your jaw relax? Good! Certain scents are particularly effective for soothing and grounding, including lavender, wood extracts like cedar, and evergreens.
If your favorite grandmother loved to bake apple pies, inhaling a fresh slice of Macintosh will probably work wonders. With this, you’re bringing yourself into the present, free for the moment from your to-do list. And by the way, a smidge of essential oil surreptitiously sniffed during a difficult meeting, or placed on your children’s collars before school works wonders for breaking the escalating stress cycle. Breath!
It is good to know that your capacity for stress can be strengthened, even increased, simply by giving yourself the opportunity to recover regularly.
Just as physical exercise depends on resting between reps to build strength, so too does your nervous system strengthen every time you give it a break.
Inga Larson, LCSW – www.ingalarson.com
It’s a skill, and like any other skill it takes practice to pull it out on demand.
You wouldn’t work on your running skills during a cross country marathon, would you?
So make it a regular practice to get present and grounded in your body.
Meditation is one method that will increase the ability to tolerate strong emotions without feeling overwhelmed, but it can be challenging to incorporate meditation into a busy daily routine.
Fortunately, other mindfulness practices are also helpful and can easily be squeezed into your day. Your breath is always there in the present, providing an opportunity to notice it at any time. Just taking as little as 3 conscious breaths, noticing how the breath feels in your body, bringing your attention to your feet as they connect to the earth, takes very little time but can profoundly enhance the ability to stay present. Any time in the day when you have to wait, whether in line at the bank, at a red light, waiting for a slow internet connection, all are opportunities to practice.
Adding visualization is helpful too.
One great technique taught by the great Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh is to use this image: “Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain; breathing out, I feel solid.” Experiment with any images that enhance your experience of feeling solid and grounded.
When those powerful, scary emotions come up, it can be difficult to remember the skills that keep us grounded, even when we have practiced. At those times, remember that emotions are like the weather, passing and temporary, while you are the sky, enduring and eternal. When the storm is raging, the sky remains constant!
Wendy Dingee, MS, LCPC, LCADC, BCC – www.livewellnevada.com
Sometimes our everyday lives cause us an emotional tailspin.
And you find yourself wearing your heart on your sleeve. You cry in a business meeting. You yell at your kids for something trivial. Or you snap at your partner for no reason.
When emotions are in the driver’s seat, it is almost impossible to be rational.
You need to take stock of what is most important, but you are not able to do that unless you take a breather. I don’t care how busy your life is, this is when you need to take a time out. What’s needed here is a bubble bath, a park bench, a walk in the woods or any place where you can spend some time alone and meditate. Breathe and relax. Have a good cry. Yell at the trees. Get it all out.
Once you’ve done that, get out a sheet of paper and make a list of all the pressing things you have going on.
Put a big circle around the ones that are causing you the most distress. Figure out why. Too much too soon? Can’t do it all alone? Out of your comfort zone? Then decide what you are going to do to relieve some of your stress. Extend the deadline? Get help? Admit that this is not within your ability to complete?
We all have those days. I had one myself today. I ranted to my husband about all the stuff I had pending and when I was finished, I went downstairs and did some yoga and then meditated. Then I started doing what I needed to do to clear out my to-do-list.
Article done. Check!
Linda McKenney, Personal Life Coach and Motivational Speaker – www.majokpersonalcoach.com
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