Do you ever feel like your emotions are so built up that you’re going to explode? Do your emotions negatively impact your ability to function? Do your overloaded emotions make you feel like you want to run away and hide on a tropical beach or lie for hours on a massage bed with the stress being kneaded away?
If so, you could be experiencing emotional overwhelm. This intense onset of emotions, the feeling of internal pressure is often derived from being under a great deal of stress, going through challenging experiences, or even toxic relationships.
In the last few weeks I have seen so many people trying to manage emotional overwhelm – and for most there were no immediate helpful ways of dealing with it. But what I have learnt and seen, is that there are definitely right and wrong ways to manage emotional overwhelm.
Everyone goes through difficult times that cause them to feel emotionally overwhelmed. Often with time, the overwhelmed feeling subsides and we get on with our day as usual. However, in today’s world with the many pressures around work, CoVid-19, finances, relationships etc these emotions fester and build up inside and start to cause physical and emotional problems. And the biggest danger is that we keep stuffing the emotions down inside us, hiding ourselves from the world, trying to be super strong, pretending all is well in our world when really we are crumbling, feeling overwhelmed and that feeling of something will explode – and often that happens in the most inappropriate times either physically in terms of a health issue or we take it out verbally on some unsuspecting person!
What we really need to learn is how to manage our emotions through these challenging times in our life.
Negative ways of coping
We are probably all very aware of times when we just simply haven’t coped with the overwhelm. These coping mechanisms may seem to make us feel slightly better, soothe the pain, but in reality, are only temporary (and can also make matters worse).
Some of the most common unhelpful ways of coping are:
Denial – It’s not uncommon for people struggling with emotional overwhelm to deny or make excuses on what they’re experiencing, to themselves and other people. We believe that if we don’t think about it or speak about it, eventually it will go away and sort itself out. Unfortunately, denying these emotions causes you to bottle them up inside which can cause serious harm to your health and sometimes result in emotional outbursts – crying or anger the most common.
Isolation – When you’re in a negative head space it’s okay to want to spend some time to yourself to get your head together but not for long periods of time. If your emotions cause you to completely withdraw and isolate yourself from the things you know and love on a regular basis, this is a serious problem. Isolating yourself can actually lead to depression.
Self-Medicating – Many people try to numb their emotional pain with drugs, alcohol or sex hoping to feel better. The high creates a numbing experience for a while, but once it wears off, the emotions are still there and sometimes more intense than before.
Bullying – If you’ve ever heard the saying, hurt people hurt people then you know why this one is on the list. As mentioned before emotional build up can often result in a lashing out at others. By picking on others it feels as if you’re taking the spotlight off yourself, however you’re ruining relationships.
So now let’s look at the RIGHT WAYS TO COPE
Acknowledge what you’re going through – There’s nothing wrong with feeling emotionally overwhelmed, but hiding it or pretending it’s not happening does nothing to help. The first step to making a plan to manage the overwhelm is to look at all the factors creating the overwhelm – open your eyes and look at your life with a view to making it less overwhelming. What can you change?
Connect – get support from friends, family, colleagues or a professional – Remember, being alone for long periods of time is not good for anyone! Humans are meant to connect and engage with other people – it’s part of our core existence, connection. So reach out to the people you know and ask for their support. They can be a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on, which can help you in getting through this difficult time.
Get Professional Help – If you’re struggling to manage your overwhelm and you’ve started a habit of self-medicating, then it’s probably time to seek treatment. There are so many helpful websites, EAP’s, free services, helplines etc to start you on your path. We all need extra help and support to sometimes make the big change we need.
Take a Break – Holidays, mini breaks should be just that. We all need a top up of rest, extra sleep, long stretches of relaxation time to recharge our system. If we run our tank on empty then it becomes very difficult to recharge. Do things that relax you while also bringing a smile to your face – reconnect with what fills you up. When we feel more relaxed and recharge we have the ability to manage life’s ups and downs so much better. We have stronger resilience.
Simplify/Declutter Your Life – Often our emotional overwhelm is the direct result of being too stressed out, because we take too much on so simplifying your life could work wonders. Simplify processes at home and in the workplace, create routines, set goals, ask for help to lighten your load, manage your time more efficiently, and start doing more of what you love. And remember to look at the people around you – are there people you need to see less of because they demand too much or bring too much negative emotion into your life?
When life gets you down it is important to first allow yourself to feel then do the necessary work to cope. But the real key to this is to constantly personally develop for your good, learn the tools and strategies for mental fitness and build resilience. It will be the best investment you ever made!