What Can You Do When Your Feelings Get Overwhelmed?

What can you do when your feelings get overwhelmed?

When your emotions overwhelm you, stop and take a deep breath. We have all had this feeling at some point in the middle of a discussion or when fear, which is always vigilant and lurks over us, takes control in a situation and paralyzes us. These “emotional attacks” are devastating. Nevertheless, we can always fall back on tools so as not to lose control. We just need to know how to use them.

Perhaps these realities sound familiar to us. Some people are overwhelmed by their emotions more quickly than others, who can better control themselves, because they swallow these “emotional threats” time after time. Like someone who swallows something without chewing it. But neither of the two strategies achieves optimal results.

“The emotional brain reacts faster to an event than the thinking brain.”

Daniel Goleman

These complex emotional universes leave superficial traces that rob us of our calm and our equilibrium. In clinical practice we often see patients who are aware of their symptoms: “The problem with my fear is terrible”, “I don’t know what to do with my anger, it overwhelms me”, “I have problems with mine Feelings and don’t know how to deal with them so that I can lead a comfortable life ”  etc.

Such statements clearly show us the problems the general population has in this regard. We still think that feelings are bad, that a feeling of fear might have no meaning, and that even without the shadow of fear, life would be a more meaningful life. We forget that these dimensions have a very clear meaning for our existence and adaptation to the environment.

Once we can better identify, accept, and control our emotions without fleeing or rejecting them, we are no longer overwhelmed by these recurring feelings.

Woman with blue umbrella and blue smoke

When your feelings overwhelm you, look to the horizon

When your feelings overwhelm you, look for the horizon and hold your gaze precisely on that line for a moment. Let the world flow with its sounds, let the arguments in the workplace take their course. Let this frightening stimulus freeze for a moment, trapped in a harmless dimension. Direct your gaze to this imaginary line of peace and give your organism a few seconds to regulate breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure, etc.

As the saying goes, it is best to keep calm when there is chaos. We say this for a reason: when a person is overwhelmed by his feelings, the instinctive part of his brain regulates his reactions, and in those moments everything seems chaotic, disordered and intense to him. So much so that the prefrontal cortex, which is where its analysis, decision-making, and reasoning ability resides, makes mistakes.

Let’s take a look at what this complex process looks like.

The amygdala and the direct route to fear or anger

When our emotions overwhelm us, we can panic, fearful, or angry in seconds. How can that be? Which mechanism in us is able to take control of us in this way? We have all asked ourselves this question before, and the answer to it could not be more fascinating and disturbing at the same time: The amygdala of our brain is responsible for this.

As a study by Emory University in Atlanta (Georgia, USA) found, which was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry   , the amygdala determines all of our behavior related to fear, stress or aggressiveness. For example, this small structure has been shown to collect information from our environment regarding threats around us (be they real or not). Thanks to her, we react in the way that we can best ensure survival.

Man is overwhelmed with his feelings

Unregulated emotions are uncontrollable feelings

Basically, people who develop emotional disorders are characterized by being unable to regulate their emotions. This condition creates even more fear over time, until it becomes defenseless, which leads to the fact that you lose control completely. We should therefore be clear about one thing: emotions that we do not regulate today will overwhelm us tomorrow. And when this situation becomes chronic, pathological conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder or depression can emerge.

Another aspect that we must not forget is that there is no point in suppressing feelings or blocking thoughts in these situations. The classic thought “I will not think about it and suppress this anger better”   does not help us at all, but can trigger even more blockages and problems in the medium term.

What should you do when your feelings get overwhelmed?

What strategy is appropriate when our emotions overwhelm us? We often use the term “emotional control” in psychological contexts. Instead of “control”, however, it would be better to use this term because of the flexibility and dynamism conveyed by the word “regulation”.

When your emotions overwhelm you, take several deep breaths. Just relax. Little by little you will regain control of your body and ultimately your mind.

In the emotional area it is generally advisable not to exert any resistance and to opt for acceptance, regulation, flexibility, transformation and movement.

So let’s take a look at what strategies we could use in these cases:

  • A   study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology suggests that emotional regulation is not “one size fits all.” In other words, there is no single strategy that suits every situation and every circumstance. The fear of having to undergo an investigation, a discussion, a separation or even a loss means that we have to use coping strategies.
  • Furthermore, feelings are always there for a purpose and we need to ask ourselves what they expect or want from us. Therefore, in the face of an alarming state, looking to the horizon is a very sensible strategy to enter our mental lock and find ourselves. Once there, we can see what and why something is happening to us.
  • The amygdala is a guardian that often chooses to generate fear or anger before we allow these feelings to occur. She acts on instinct, not logic. As soon as it does, it takes control of our body and triggers all the symptoms that we know from situations in which our emotions overwhelm us: dizziness, racing heart, sweating etc.
Man breathes in and out deeply

When our emotions overwhelm us, there is little point in telling ourselves to calm down and nothing will happen. Because something definitely happens for our organism and for our brain. Therefore, in these situations, it is best to calm our bodies with deep breathing. Inhaling and exhaling deeply helps us regulate our heartbeat and muscle tension. And once our body is back in balance, we can knock on the door of our mind and ask for a chat.

We should just try it out.

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