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I think we all know what it feels like when you’re drowning in your emotions.
It’s a frightening feeling that leaves you unsure how to feel better, what to do, and how to regain control over your running mind.
Whether you are drowning emotionally due to a mental illness or just life stresses, rest assured, there are things you can do to cope better.
And coping is what you need to aim for. You might not be able to turn off the emotions in an instant, nor should you try to suppress them. You just need to get through this time. You need to get through today, and tomorrow, and the day after, until you come out of the other side of this. (Note: you may need professional help to overcome the underlying causes for this feeling.)
What does emotional overwhelm feel like?
Of course, emotional overwhelm feels different for each person, but a few common themes are present.
A person drowning in their emotions might struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel and may have difficulty problem solving, making decisions, and controlling their ever-changing feelings. They simply feel stuck.
Emotions are complicated, and when we don’t deal with them properly, even the most positive of emotions can turn negative.
Everything is best in moderation, and that’s true for our emotions. Too much of any one thing isn’t good, and that’s this article will share 14 things you can do when you’re drowning emotionally.
What to do if you’re drowning emotionally:
1. Acknowledge your feelings.
When you feel an overload of emotions and your head begins to spin, the first thing to do is to acknowledge what is happening.
Even though most people don’t want to accept they’re feeling crumby, suppressing your emotions can actually lead them to become far more intense and overwhelming.
Emotions serve a valuable purpose in life. They give you information about yourself, the world, and your interpretation of it. An essential factor of emotional intelligence is to name, acknowledge, and understand feelings, and that’s what we’re referring to here.
Accepting your feelings shouldn’t be confused with accepting defeat. You’re not allowing your emotions to overcome you but rather accepting them, allowing them to exist, and sitting with whatever that feels like.
When a negative emotion arises, we often try to get rid of it. We work hard to suppress it and minimize its effects. Accepting emotions comes with an understanding and belief that what you’re feeling in this moment won’t be what you’re always feeling. That’s the case whether the emotions are positive or negative.
Bringing an acceptance or awareness to the fact that emotions aren’t permanent but rather ebb and flow can significantly reduce stress, emotional overwhelm, and even burnout. Feelings change frequently.
Tips to acknowledge your feelings:
- Practice mindfulness.
- Meditation—specifically mindfulness meditation.
- Seek professional help.
- Label emotions.
- Remember that emotions ebb and flow.
- Remember that all emotions will pass, and new ones will arrive.
- Investigate emotions—where did this feeling come from? What triggered the emotion? What environment are you in when this emotion arises?
- Remember that emotions are valuable pieces of information that help you understand the world and your place in it.
Acknowledging your feelings gives you the power and allows emotions to exist without explanation. So, rather than fighting negative feelings, sit with them, understand and ponder why you’re feeling them, and then wait for the next feeling.
Even the most negative of feelings do pass, so no matter how thick the fog feels, remember that it will lift.
2. Decide which emotions are helpful.
All emotions are helpful in the sense of providing insight and valuable information about the environment and how you feel. However, some emotions are more constructive than others.
The important factor is identifying the emotion and why it’s being presented to you. Emotions can linger for a long period or come in intense and short bursts. Anything goes when it comes to emotions.
When you’re drowning emotionally, and you’ve identified what you’re feeling, the next step is deciding if that emotion is helpful.
How can an emotion be helpful?
Picture an emotion to be like a map. It tells you where you’ve been and potentially where you’re headed. Certain emotions can increase a person’s likelihood of avoiding danger, staying safe, being understood, and understanding others.
In addition, having high emotional intelligence helps to build more meaningful connections, understand other people’s emotional outbursts, and be a better support person for loved ones,.
Emotions such as fear can help you avoid dangerous scenarios; anxiety might help you to avoid potential red flags, and worrying about being late might help you to arrive on time. So, it’s easy to see how emotions serve a purpose, and acknowledging why they’re present is a way of trusting yourself, which is crucial.
When you’re drowning in your feelings, it’s critical to acknowledge the emotions, name them, and decide if they’re present to help you. Avoid skipping over negative emotions because that can create a boomerang-type effect that can knock you off your feet with even more intense emotions.
3. Create a support system.
Life can be very challenging, even more so if you feel emotionally overwhelmed. Once you’ve acknowledge your feelings, it’s still important to process them, which is where a strong support system can be beneficial.
A support system looks different for everyone, but try to create one where you can fully express yourself without judgment. A good support person should make you feel safe, secure, and welcome. A support system can help you in the moment of emotional overwhelm and help you plan out how to cope in the future.
Something as simple as being able to call a friend when you’re feeling stressed or stepping out for coffee with a loved one to talk about what’s going on can have a massive positive impact on your mental health.
4. Lean into healthy habits.
Building healthy habits is something that takes effort, patience, and work. However, the positive effects of healthy habits make all the effort worthwhile.
Healthy habits can help to protect a person from many health issues and improve their mental state substantially.
Keep in mind that building healthy habits takes time and isn’t something that just naturally happens. However, with consistency and repetition, your new healthy habits will easily integrate into your life, and you’ll notice a big difference, especially when it comes to emotional overwhelm.
What healthy habits should you build?
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Incorporate gentle movement in your day.
- Start a journaling practice.
- Get outside every day.
- Build good, healthy relationships.
- Listen to music.
Healthy habits are ideal for your health and well-being, but they’ll also assist you with maintaining positive mental health and avoiding emotional overwhelm.
So, when you feel like you’re drowning emotionally, take one of these healthy habits you’ve developed and lean into it hard. Remember that this presents differently for everyone, but here are a few examples for more “in the moment” ideas.
What healthy habits look like during emotional overwhelm:
Remember that everyone is different. Therefore, what works for one person might need to be altered to work well for another.
For example, if you feel like you’re deep in your feelings, you might try to prepare a delicious healthy meal. This gets your mind focusing on something entirely different and nourishes your body in a wholesome way. Not to mention the sensory experience can be very relaxing and the pride you feel when you see your beautiful meal on a plate.
Another example is to throw your runners on and hit the pavement. Then, take to nature when the feelings get too entangled and you can’t sort them out. Nature has an amazing impact on mental health; even if you’re just sitting outside, it can be incredibly impactful.
Finally, create a playlist of “feel-good” songs to turn to in troubling moments, make gratitude lists, call a loved one, and focus on yourself.
5. Sit with your feelings.
Your head is spinning, you feel entirely overstimulated, and tears fill your eyes. The natural response here is to avoid. Avoid negative feelings and try to mask them with something else.
We often try to change our negative feelings into positive ones rather than acknowledging that they’re there for a reason. Emotions serve a purpose. They teach us plenty about ourselves and others and help us to become better communicators and listeners.
When you feel like you’re drowning emotionally, take a moment to be mindful, present, and aware of what it is you’re actually feeling. Sit with your feelings. Even the ones that frighten you a bit.
The more you do this, the more you’ll realize that you are able to safely feel those feelings and not have anything bad happen. It can assist you in building your own relationship with yourself and solidify in your mind that emotions are helpful and purposeful and that you’re safe.
6. Avoid making commitments on the spot.
Get into the habit of thinking about commitments, checking your calendar, and asking yourself if you want to be a part of that commitment or if you’re nervous about declining.
Humans are so busy and always available that we often feel neglectful if we avoid commitments or decline invitations. It’s not selfish to take a moment and think about whether or not that particular commitment fits into your day. In fact, it’s necessary.
Don’t get caught in the moment and agree to things you don’t want to do. Take the time to think, ponder, and ensure that you have the calendar space and the mental capacity.
And, again, it’s okay to decline events. It’s okay to avoid making commitments; the first and most important thing is to ensure you’re okay and healthy.
Don’t overcommit yourself to many events and throw a lot more stress your way. Simply say thank you for the invitation and let them know you’ll be in touch regarding a response.
7. Reduce emotional overwhelm.
Are there things, events, or relationships that you find particularly stressful in your life? Maybe a certain environment, person, or thing?
Emotional overwhelm can be triggered by anything. This is why understanding and acknowledging your feelings is so critical. Doing so can take back the power of what we allow into our personal bubbles and prevent things from taking over our mental space.
Say, perhaps, whenever you go to the grocery store, you feel very overwhelmed and stressed out. Maybe the aisles are frequently empty, and it isn’t easy to bag the groceries while parenting and supervising. This stress is real, and you can change it.
By acknowledging the problem and how you’re feeling, and finding another grocery store that doesn’t give you these issues, you can reduce your emotional overwhelm and increase your self-confidence so you can handle it yourself.
Do somewhat of an emotional inventory of your life. Are there specific scenarios that cause you plenty of stress? Are there things you can do to change those scenarios, or are you able to avoid them altogether? Maybe asking for support with it is an option if avoiding isn’t possible.
Not all stressful situations can be avoided, of course, but even in the most stressful events, there are still many things right in our control. Take note of the things that trigger you to these emotionally drowning feelings, and then cultivate a plan to change—either avoid that event or learn how to cope with it more healthily.
8. Turn to your journal.
Journaling is a terrific way to release emotions from your head and give them a place to exist in a judgment-free zone. Journaling can be done at any time, any place, and in any way. There isn’t really a rhyme or reason. Just be honest with your feelings and allow them to exist in a safe space.
Journaling can help you get a better perspective on various issues you’re facing, improve your listening skills, boost your mood, and much more. In fact, the benefits of journaling are massive.
When you’re feeling like you’re drowning emotionally, simply grab your journal and write it down. Get it out of your head and put it on paper, and you’ll be surprised at the major difference this one habit can make in your life.
9. Change up the scenery.
Feeling overwhelmed is hard, and if the above things aren’t helping, this one tip will make a huge difference, don’t worry. Change up the scenery. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, grab your car keys and hit the road. Take a drive, go someplace, walk around outside, anything.
Or step into nature. There is something so magical and calming about being in nature. Close your eyes, breathe in the air, open your eyes and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings right at that moment. Exhale deeply and allow all your stress to leave your body.
Do something to take your body from the scene it’s in now and change it. Your brain can only focus on a limited number of things at a time, so you might find that you don’t even remember what you were so concerned about!
10. Check in with yourself.
You should always check in with yourself. Checking in with yourself ensures you’re being honest and authentic in how you care for yourself.
Check-in with yourself often. Ask yourself meaningful questions like, “How am I really feeling? How do I feel in this environment, with these people? Do I feel supported and loved?”
Connect with yourself.
11. Get creative.
When you feel like you’re drowning emotionally, that might be the best time to get creative and explore the feelings. Whether that’s with writing it out, coloring, painting, creating, and so on, just get your hands and your brain focused on the same thing.
12. Embrace the cold.
I hate the cold, so don’t just read the headline and skip the rest because you simply can’t do cold. Cold is hard. It can make you tense up and increase aches and pain. But, if you do it quickly and efficiently, it can also snap you out of whatever thought you were sitting in.
You can try to embrace the cold by sticking your head in the freezer for 15 seconds during those more challenging moments, holding onto an ice cube, or using an ice roller across your cheeks. Notice the feeling, the sensation, and allow your mind to shift from the overwhelmed to the cold.
13. Get physical.
Once you label the feelings, it’s time to work them out, and one excellent way is to get physical. Find something physical that you enjoy so that it brings you movement and happiness.
When your feelings are overwhelming, you can do ten pushups, go for a 5-minute jog, complete a yoga series, use resistance bands, stretch, or do something else active that you enjoy.
The movement you choose isn’t critical, but rather just doing it, working through the feelings, and returning to a centered, more grounded state of being.
14. Talk it out.
When you feel the feelings, it can often be isolating and lonely. So grab your phone and call a loved one right at that moment.
Talking about what you’re feeling can be so massively impactful. First, it shows you that you are not alone, and it gives you another perspective on whatever challenge you’re facing.
Final thoughts on drowning in emotions.
We’ve unwrapped a large box with this article, so let’s retouch a few ideas.
First, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in whatever obstacle you face. If you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed or as if you’re essentially drowning emotionally, here are a few things to try:
- Build healthy, positive habits.
- Acknowledge and name your emotions.
- Talk it out.
- Reduce the number of things in your life bringing you emotional stress.
- Get outside.
Remember that, much the same as all personal development, learning how to handle times when your emotions overwhelm you takes effort, work, and consistency. But, the positive is that you’ll be in charge of your mind, the master of your feelings, and the driver of where they take you.
You don’t need to let your emotions run rampant anymore. Though they are telling you something, these tips can help uncover what they’re saying while still caring for the more raw parts that hurt.
Drowning in your emotions is hard. You feel alone, hopeless, and unsure if you can do it anymore. As someone who has personally felt this, I mean it when I say I understand. But by developing these healthy habits, you’re essentially putting the power back in your hands.
Emotions are normal and totally okay. They’re telling you something. They’re sharing important information with you. They’re really, quite remarkable.
The key lies in managing them and what you do about them. These 14 tips will certainly help you deal with emotional overwhelm and assist you in setting up a solid foundation to cope better in the future.
Still not sure what to do when you are drowning emotionally? Talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
We really recommend you speak to a therapist rather than a friend or family member. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can help you to calm your thoughts, face and process your emotions, and regain your sense of grounding.
A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
You may also like:
- 21 Things To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed
- 8 Emotional Self-Care Strategies: Take Care Of Yourself Emotionally
- 5 Things To Do When Your Life Is Spiraling Out Of Control
- “I Feel Like I’m Losing My Mind” (5 Things You Can Do)
- 10 Effective Self-Soothing Techniques For Adults