How to Manage Overwhelming Feelings
How many times a day do you mutter the “F” word? During stressful situations, maybe during your commute, or following a heated argument with a loved one, the four-letter word slips out. It strikes an emotional nerve, paralyzing you and antagonizing family and friends.
Feel. What “F” word did you think I was referencing?
Are you a feeler? Do pangs of guilt and bursts of excitement define your day? I know your pain. As a self-admitted sensitive soul, my feelings rise and ebb like a cresting wave.
For those with powerful emotions, our feelings dictate our mood. When we feel great, we puff out our chest. Life sparkles with possibilities. Possessed with a natural charisma, we enliven rooms, offices, and family and friends. Our warmth and affection touches the most cynical Grinch.
When our feelings overwhelm us, our mood is sullen with a bitter shot of withdrawal. The weather forecast: Cleveland. In November. Besieged with trepidation, we postpone decisions, relying on others for guidance. Alarming loved ones with our unquenchable need for reassurance, we appear scattered and flustered.
In this either/or dichotomy, life is a summer jaunt or a treacherous winter drive. When we are in our wintry throes, our insight shrinks. “I am never going to get better” or “Life is always going to be painful.” Like anchors, words such as “always,” “never,” and “forever” sink us. Discounting our strengths — an effervescent personality, an encouraging disposition, and heightened self-awareness — our feelings bully us into prolonged self-doubt.
Don’t buy the stinkin’ thinkin.’ Fear, anger, envy, and disgust are are unpleasant feelings, sure, but reflective of our shared humanity. Each one of us has experienced these emotions. My concern: powerful feelings begetting counterproductive behavior. When emotions are strong, we act impulsively. In a pique of anger, how many of us have spewed vulgarities at loved ones? In retrospect, the perceived injustice is trivial, even laughable. When excitable, how many of us have purchased an outfit that, after a couple days of reflection, prompted a “What was I thinking?”
While I can’t advise budding fashionistas, I can provide techniques to manage overpowering feelings for those highly sensitive, emotional people among us. If you can predict your emotional peaks and valleys, you can develop a Response Action Plan (RAP).
When drained at work, your mood sinks. You begin to stew, ruminating on your boss’s chummy relationship with Bob in 4E. You, not Bob, deserve that coveted promotion. As anger and resentment brew into a toxic mix, you contemplate firing off an email to the boss. Before you do, refer to your RAP. In your RAP, you have effective strategies to manage your bubbling frustration. When the cognitive distortions peak at 2 p.m. every day, you have a toolbox to minimize their interference: calming music, protein snacks, or breathing exercises.
Emotional management, not suppression, has been an invaluable tool for me. When frustration threatens my executive decision-making, I acknowledge the familiar feelings. “Hey, long-lost friend, where have you been the past couple days?” I wait, accepting the intrusive feelings, before redirecting to my initial focus. The key: honoring the feelings. However uncomfortable, don’t try to push them away. With time and patience, the intensity will wane.
As a sensitive soul, your feelings may smother you or loved ones. With your feelings in perpetual conflict, it may seem like you are embroiled in your own civil war. Put the arms down. Your two warring factions — sense and sensitive — can reach an armistice. How so? By embracing the uncomfortable feelings, you can finally attain long-lasting peace (of mind). Feelings aren’t facts.
Loeb, M. (2018). How to Manage Overwhelming Feelings. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 5, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-manage-overwhelming-feelings/