What to Do When Your Emotions Overwhelm You

family therapist in Santa Monica Trying to control your emotions doesn’t work because it can’t work. When you go out in the world and interact with people, turn on the radio or scroll through your Facebook feed, you are going to be confronted with things that make you feel. You will have an emotional response because you’re human.

You can’t control how you feel; the only thing you can control is how you respond to your feelings.  

When you’re highly sensitive and someone says or does something hurtful, you feel a rush of emotions like a wave has cracked over your head. In the sea, fighting and thrashing against the water will exhaust you and you could drown. There’s a reason we have the phrase “go with the flow.” If you want to keep yourself from drowning in your emotions, you must learn to relax and stop fighting them.

If you want the freedom to choose your response, you must be present in the moment. To learn to be present, you must practice mindfulness.  Mindfulness is about waking up, being aware, and participating consciously in your experiences as they happen.

The next time you feel a wave of emotions coming, try to take slow, deep breaths in through your nose, out through your mouth. Grip the opposite forearm in each hand and knead your skin. The goal is to stay in your body so you won’t retreat into your head where you’ll ruminate.

Next, repeat to yourself something comforting to remind you that emotions don’t need to be feared. For instance, I’ve always loved this Rainer Maria Rilke quote from his Book of Hours:

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.

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2017-02-07T15:17:19+00:00