It’s just another normal day. Nothing seems particularly out of the ordinary. Things are going pretty much as they should. It’s one of those days that you might call ‘okay.’ Not stellar, not horrid, but you’re making it through.
And then it happens…
Some invisible internal button gets pushed…
Something that someone does or says triggers something in you that you just can’t seem to control…
Emotions begin to get stirred up in you and you just don’t know what to do and before you even realize it, you’ve lost it.
You find that, almost without knowing it, you’ve become the worst version of yourself. You’re screaming or crying or both. Your hiding out or lashing out at the people you love the most. You’re avoiding someone or attacking something. And somehow in the midst of all the tears and noise you’re wondering ‘How did it come to this? What am I doing? How did I get here? This isn’t me!’
Do you ever feel like the worst version of yourself?
Things pile up whether it be actual, physical clutter, things on your to-do list, noises, annoyances, bad attitudes, the list goes on.
Suddenly, you have no patience left. There is nothing more to give. Your graciousness has run dry. You feel like joy left hours ago. The world feels like its spinning in circles around you and you’re left standing in the midst of it all screaming at the top of your lungs. Yet you’re screaming into a void where no one hears or pays any attention to you.
How do you come out of the void?
How do you start to breathe again?
How do you pull yourself back from the edge?
How do you overcome your emotions when it feels like your emotions want to completely overwhelm you?
You Are Not Alone!
First of all, you need to know this: You are not alone! Did you hear that? You are not alone! You are not the only one who struggles with this! In fact, everyone struggles with this to some degree over the course of their life.
While struggling with your emotions and fighting so that your emotions do not overcome you and control you is not unique to you, how this plays out in your life may look very different from how it looks in someone else’s life.
You may be more prone to blow up and yell at those around you or you may be more prone to implode and turn all that anger on themself. You may be more prone to openly acknowledge your feelings or you may be more prone to withdraw into silence. You may be more prone to snippy, passive aggressive comments to release your emotions or you may be more prone to go into a full-on tirade. You may be more prone to stay around people and shut down into sulking silence or you may be more prone to escape completely and crawl into bed or hide in a room by yourself until the height of the emotions has passed.
No matter how this shows up and plays out in your life, I want you to know that you are not alone. Each and every one of us has been overtaken by that feeling of being overwhelmed. By the stress and pressure of things piling up. By the slow, methodical build up of tiny annoyances until it feels like far too much to handle. All these things begin to effect you. To some degree or another, we all feel it! You are not alone, my Friend!
Does that make it Right?
But here’s the thing, the main key, the big idea behind it all: Just because we all feel these emotions doesn’t mean that the emotions are right. Just because you are not alone in getting overwhelmed by fear or anger or annoyances or whatever it might be does not mean that reacting and giving in to your emotions is the correct thing to do.
You see, emotions are powerful tools. They give you clues as to what is going on in your heart and in your mind that you are struggling to put words to. An emotion in and of itself is not right or wrong, It’s not wrong to feel scared. It’s not wrong to feel anger. It’s not wrong to feel sad.
The right or wrong piece comes into play when you decide what to do with your emotions. So often, we allow our emotions to have free reign over our actions without pausing to examine them. Without leaning into those emotions and trying to understand the deeper thing that they are trying to tell us.
Because here’s the thing, my Friend, just because something feels right in the moment doesn’t always make it right. Just because you feel an emotion and want to act on it does not justify or make right the action that you choose to do. You see, you have a choice: You can choose to allow your emotions to control you and react to every external pressure and feeling. Or you can choose to act, feeling your emotions, but knowing that you are in control of the actions you choose to do.
Overcoming Your Emotions
So if emotions are so fickle that they just keep changing and so unpredictable that they pop up unexpectedly and so powerful that they make you want to act without thinking, what on earth can you do to even think about overcoming them?
Is there any hope?
Yes! Yes, my Friend, there is hope! You do not have to be constantly ruled by your emotions, but you can choose to overcome them.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard bits of advice that essentially tell people that they have to deny their emotions in order to control them. That is just impossible! You can no more deny your emotions or stop feeling your emotions than you can stop breathing! They are a part of you and need to be acknowledged. They key lies in learning to acknowledge your emotions, to learn about yourself through the emotions, and to make a choice about your actions.
Here are 4 steps that you can take to begin to overcome your emotions: To lean into them, Learn from them, acknowledge them, but not being ruled by them:
#1 :: Find some space to breathe
So many times, emotions seem to gain the upper hand when you feel backed into a corner, don’t they? It’s when you feel like you are out of options, when you have nowhere to go, nowhere to turn that everything just falls apart. You fly off the handle and start yelling at everything in sight or dissolve into a heap and start sobbing. Or maybe your reaction is somewhere in between.
But what if you could pause for a second? Ot even a whole minute?
What if you could literally, consciously make the decision to pause and breathe before doing or saying anything?
This could be as simple as closing your eyes, counting to 10 and taking long, slow, deep breaths to calm yourself and give yourself some space to think clearly.
This could be saying out loud, “I need 10 minutes to calm down before I can respond to that.”
This could be doing something simple, calming, and grounding like petting your dog or cat, getting a drink of water, taking a slow sip of your coffee, or looking out the window for something cheerful to focus on for a moment.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment, in the heightened emotions of the experience and before you know it, you are being carried along by this tidal wave of emotion. Making the choice to break the flow of the emotions by focusing on something else – even for a few seconds – can bring you back to reality and break the intensity of the sheer emotions.
#2 :: Find Out Why
Your emotions are clues as to what is going on at a deeper level in your heart and in your mind. If you truly want to learn how to overcome your emotions and not allow them to rule over you, you need to lean in to why they are showing up in the first place.
Now, this step is probably not one to do in the moment of heightened emotion, particularly if you are in a conversation with other people. However, don’t wait too long to begin pushing into this.
One of the greatest tools that I have found when I start to lean into the why behind my emotions is a journal. It sounds so incredible simple and trivial, but there is something incredibly powerful in taking a pen and a notebook and starting to write things down.
So where do you start? How do you being to untangle this twisted, knotted ball of emotions that seems like a complete mystery? Well, you start with the obvious: What happened? What emotion did you feel? When you were in that moment and you felt like that tidal wave was about to knock you over and carry you wherever it wanted to go, what were you feeling? Don’t worry about whether it was right or wrong at this point. Start by identifying the feeling.
Once you identify the feeling, become a detective. Ask yourself ‘why?’ Why did this situation trigger this emotion in me? Why did I want to react this way? Why is this such a big deal? And here’s the big thing: Don’t just ask this question once! Keep asking ‘Why?’ There is always a trigger, a reason for why that emotion came up and wanted to take over, but many times it can be buried under a few layers. It’s your job to turn into a detective and peel back those layers one by one to find out the real root reason for the emotion.
Now, do be cautious here: For some people, a journal and a pen are the only weapons that you need to get to the bottom of your emotions. For others, you might need to talk to a trusted friend who will walk with you as you work to figure out this tangled web – and make no mistake, my Friend, this will take some work! It is worth it, but just like most things in life, if something is worth doing, typically there is some work involved! For others, you might need to talk to a counselor, someone who is trained in helping others figure out their emotions but who is not directly involved in your situation which gives them the wonderful clarity of perspective. And before you start tuning me out, hear this: There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting the help that you need! If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t limp around on it in pain denying the fact that your leg was broken and making excuses as to why you refuse to seek help, right? You would go see a doctor so that they could set your bones correctly and help make sure that your body heals properly. In the same way, if your emotions are so strong that they are crippling you in life, please, seek out good, wise counsel so that you can begin to work through these things and heal emotionally.
#3 :: Recognize Your Triggers
Your emotions do not happen in a vacuum. Typically there is something that triggers a heightened emotional response to come out. This could be a slow build up of things over time until finally there is a volcanic eruption of emotions that spews out all over anyone who happens to be near. It could be one thing that presses a trigger and your emotions rise up and take over. It could be any number of things.
Here’s the key: When you start looking, you can usually begin to see some triggers that clue you in to the fact that a tidal wave of emotions is coming and coming quick. That trigger might be a sound cue or it might be a certain phrase that someone says without knowing it. It might be an action or it could even be that initial feeling of emotions bubbling up in you.
Learning to identify and then recognize your triggers is a huge part of overcoming your emotions. When you know what your triggers are, you can feel or see when one of your triggers is being hit. When you can learn to say to yourself – in that moment! – “Watch out! Be careful! That’s a trigger for me!” It takes you from a position of reactively responding to the overwhelming emotions to being able to make a conscious choice what to do before the tidal wave of emotions overcomes you.
It could be as simple as calmly acknowledging the feeling out loud. Saying, “This is really bugging me, but I’m choosing to not give into my emotions. Instead, I’m going to…”
It could be acknowledging your trigger and then immediately doing something that gives you space to breathe or an action that grounds your a bit before the emotions take over.
No matter what form it takes, learning to recognize the things that trigger your tidal wave of emotions will allow you to get in front of that tidal wave, and perhaps even stop it before it starts. Again, it’s not about denying your emotions or even stopping feeling them all together. They are very useful tools! However, it is all about not allowing your emotions to control you.
#4 :: Make Your Decision
This leads us right to the last point: You have the power to make your own decisions. You feel your emotions – as you should! – but you have the power to choose your actions.
But here’s the thing: You have to decide! You have to decide that you are going to allow yourself to feel the emotion, to push into it and find out why, to learn from what your emotions are telling you, to push in and recognize your triggers. And then, you have to decide what to do about it all. You have to decide whether you are going to give in to the overwhelming emotions or if you are going to choose to make a change. To choose your actions in the midst of the emotions.
Make no mistake, my Friend, there is a choice! Your emotions cannot make you do anything. They are simply there to give you clues into what’s going on at a deeper level. You make the choice to give in and act according to what your emotions are telling your to do.
Or, you can make the choice to feel the emotions, but not act purely out of emotion. Choosing your actions based on wisdom, not on fleeting feelings. Don’t get me wrong, choosing to not give in to your emotions is the harder way to go! But it is also the way of fewer regrets, the way of greater wisdom.
Let’s Be Completely Real
Emotions are real. Emotions are sometimes very difficult to work through. Emotions can overwhelm and knock you over sometimes. I’m just being real with you here, my Friend!
And here’s the crazy thing: When you deny your emotions, you give them a greater power.
But here’s what I know about you: You don’t want to be ruled by your emotions. You want to break the power hold that your emotions have over your actions. Do you want to know why I know that? Because you stuck with me all the way to the end! That shows a great desire to learn and grow, a great tenacity to figure out all those crazy emotions that threaten to rise up and overwhelm you from time to time.
Make no mistake, you can do this! It will take work. It will be easy at times and incredibly hard at other times. But, oh, the freedom and the relief when you begin to walk not in overwhelming emotions, but in understanding your emotions while choosing your actions.
You can do this, my Friend
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Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.