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At some point in life, you are probably going to deal with overwhelming, intense emotions. In fact, most people do. In a recent survey conducted in 2021, 84% of American adults report having feelings associated with prolonged stress. Among those feelings were anger, sadness, and anxiety. There’s a huge amount of things we can do to handle these overwhelming emotions well, but it is hard to find a good starting point. In this article, I’ll give you 5 tips on how to overcome overwhelming emotions. But before we tackle that bear, we need to first figure out why this is happening in the first place.
Why Are These Overwhelming Emotions Happening In The First Place?
To put it simply, we are emotional beings, and sometimes those emotions feel like literal explosions in our head. When those moments happen, feeling the ability to function normally feels impossible. Perhaps people in our past may have convinced us that we only need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get over it, or that we only need “positive vibes.” Though in theory those things may sound like they’d work, but in reality holding it all back will only result in an emotional explosion at another time, and usually that explosion happens at inconvenient times.
So why are we seemingly suddenly overcome with negative emotions? Consider whether you’ve been falling victim to these things:
- Have you been feeling overworked or overly strained?
- Have you been keeping an overly filled schedule, with little to no time for yourself?
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Have you been making a habit of using substances to cope?
- How have your relationships with family, friends, and loved ones been?
- Have you been feeling dismissed, misunderstood, or gaslit?
Even though your emotions feel as if they’re coming out of nowhere, emotions always have a root. Getting to that root cause and treating it can help you get to a more content state of mind. Overwhelming emotions and negative feelings are a part of life we all have to deal with, but we all deserve the tools to not deal with them forever though.
Validate and Accept Your Overwhelming Emotions
One of the first key steps in overcoming your overwhelming emotions is to practice self validation. Validating your overwhelming thoughts is truly like a healing balm to your soul. What you’re experiencing doesn’t deserve to be dismissed or insulted, because life itself is overwhelming. When it comes to dealing with our big feelings, start with giving yourself grace and acceptance.
For a lot of us, self validation can feel like a foreign concept to us. For me, being compassionate to myself felt kind of fake for a long time. The key to authentic self compassion is to not make it overblown and polyanna, but true and accepting to who you are. Here’s some ways to speak more validating to yourself the next time your emotions become intense:
- “These feelings are tough. It’s ok to feel this way. I’m allowed to feel this way.”
- “Being overwhelmed isn’t wrong, it is simply human.”
- “I’m not less than for being stressed out right now.”
- “Overwhelm is temporary, and I truly believe it will get better.”
Addressing your emotional responses with compassion and love is a great way to start. Emotionally validating yourself doesn’t solve all your problems, but it gives you a good place to start.
Assess The Root Cause
Though it can take some time and introspection to figure out the root cause of your overwhelming emotions, it is always worth the investigation. Contrary to popular belief, people don’t simply “wake up on the wrong side of the bed,” theres always something bigger behind the veil causing your distress.
When attempting to identify the root cause of your emotions, ask yourself these questions:
- Have I been overwhelmed, overworked, or overlooked recently?
- Have I been taking care of my basic needs? Such as eating regularly, taking time for myself, getting adequate sleep, exercising, or having meaningful relationships with loved ones?
- Do my overwhelming emotions seem to happen at the same time, under the same circumstances?
- Do I have any triggers I’m aware of?
Working with a therapist can also be a wonderful tool in finding the root cause to your difficult emotions. At the end of this article I’ll have some resources on finding professional mental health services.
Write Down Your Worries And Rank Their Significance
When we’re overwhelmed, we need to get all of the raging thoughts out of our head and into something we can actually see and control. Writing down your worries is a valuable tool in getting those raging thoughts in the open.
Do a brain dump of everything that stresses you out. Even if it seems little and unimportant, write it down. Once you’re finished, rank what you’ve written down from most stressful to least stressful. When you’re able to actually see what it is that’s stressing you out, it makes it more organized and manageable. Even if not all of it is manageable or even possible to fix, you may be able to find something you can control in the midst of the chaos.
Prioritize And Deprioritize
Sometimes our overwhelming emotions are coming from things that aren’t as important as other things, or vice versa. Taking the time to straighten out those priorities can be very helpful in managing your overwhelm.
Are there things you’re prioritizing that aren’t really as big as they feel? Are there things you’ve been forced to reprioritize that you wish you could put back in the forefront again? Sometimes even if something feels very important, it doesn’t always make it important.
Leave Regular Pockets Of Emptiness In Your Day
One of the biggest contributors to overwhelm is simply being overworked. Our culture has made it a point to pride ourselves on accomplishing as much as we humanly possibly can that we forget we’re human. We need rest.
Yes, even a busy mom, you need moments of rest in your day. Self care isn’t simply something you get on Mother’s Day, or something you have to beg for in order to get. It is a basic human necessity. When you make regular time for yourself and regular pockets of freedom in your day, you get to do what makes you happy. Yes, your needs matter.
When making regular time for yourself, make sure that time is spent restfully. Though hours of screen time, social media, and drowning in substances like alcohol feel like a great break, it may not be the best form of emotional regulation. Consider some activities that are actually meeting your emotional needs, like reading a book, going on a walk, or talking to a friend.
Consider Getting Professional Help
Talking to a therapist about your emotions is one of the best things you can do in managing overwhelming feelings. A therapist can help you get to the root cause of your overwhelm, and can also help you create healthy coping mechanisms for your daily life. Regardless of whether you have any diagnosable mental health conditions or not, a lot of people can benefit from professional help. At the end of this article I will leave some resources in finding professional help in accessible ways.
- Betterhelp – Is an online therapy service that makes therapy accessible and affordable for all people. They have a huge database of therapist with many specialties, and offer many ways to participate in therapy.
- Faithful Counseling – Is very similar to Betterhelp, but is a database of online Christian therapists. If you would prefer to receive therapy from a faith-based perspective, then this could be just for you.
- Brightside – offers online medication and therapy treatments for depression and anxiety. You can get an appointment with an online provider in as little as 48 hours, and each treatment plan is catered to your personal needs.