Managing Intense Emotions


Here’s a tool for when you have really intense emotions (and I know that’s probably not too far from your reality at times these days). Let me walk you through how I help myself through an intense time.

There was an afternoon where I had two colliding intensities come together. When this happens, I get these cues about why and how I know I am in an intense time. Usually, it’s because I get incredibly overwhelmed and there may be other emotions going on at the time as well -- but what I do before I allow myself to move any further in the direction of fixing, mending, going faster, racing brain, or whatever comes after the overwhelming feeling, is to just stop -- and when I just stop, I sit down and breathe through those feelings and try to understand what is going on that’s making me so upset.

There are usually a few things that come up when I get bombarded by a whole bunch of feelings altogether -- I try to separate them out to determine what I am actually feeling (and why). I’ll look at the origin of the feeling. It could just be an argument or a misunderstanding that’s making me feel overwhelmed or disappointed, but the reason why the intensity happened is usually because it’s hitting on something else -- something familiar, and some kind of pattern inside my mind that I get stuck in.

Often times, when I’m having an intense explosion of two feelings and I’m going into overwhelm, it takes me a while to get out of them, but I promise myself that as soon as I can stop, settle down my mind, take a few deep breaths, and think back about what actually happened, I am able to identify the superficial things that triggered me -- and ask myself, what’s the deeper thing that it’s touching on? Just recognizing the deeper wound that’s being provoked and making the connection between what just happened and the deeper wound is powerful. Then I think about the ways I can work on the deeper wound.

There’s this really interesting reframing of self-care that I practice. You know how some of the self-care is actually pretty easy to do (e.g., eating well and exercising)? The things you may struggle with doing (like keeping your home organized, cleaning the dishes, or not going on your phone so much, but doing something more productive instead of just losing yourself in unproductive things) are usually attached to deeper wounds -- it’s pretty common to find that the ways we have a hard time taking care of ourselves are attached to the deeper wounds.

Self-care (the main part of self-care) requires us to keep our commitments to ourselves, develop a sense of trust by actually doing the things that make us feel better, and know that we can count on ourselves to do that.

There are a few concepts here that I’d like you to remember:

The first thing is if you get really triggered, stop and breathe; settle your mind down; and check-in on your nervous system. See if you can calm yourself down. Then, connect to the deeper wound -- the deeper trigger, the deeper misunderstanding, or childhood trauma. Try to help yourself with that. Sometimes it requires surrender, letting go, forgiving yourself, or giving yourself the thing that you didn’t get.

The other thing is to think about self-care as a reframe. The hardest self-care to do is the ones attached to our wounds. Be patient with yourself and have a strategy that you can count on and practice that.

The last thing is to remember it is the commitment to ourselves that leads us to trust ourselves more -- and if we trust ourselves more, we can learn how to trust other people.

The relationship we have with ourselves is so key in all of the things that I’ve touched on -- doing more specific self-care, being able to handle slowing down and examining our feelings, being kind to ourselves.

One of the take-away themes I have for this newsletter is you, you, you. I really want you to focus on you this month, because I know there’s a lot going on in the outside world. When the outside world is intense, it’s easy to make the inside world just as intense -- but let’s try to focus on counterbalancing that this month and really taking extra, extra care of you.


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