Each day we are faced with many situations that bring out emotions, both good and bad. But sometimes in life we encounter a time when our emotional health is threatened because of what is going on around us. Recently, I dealt with one of these times. My life was turned upside down. Everything I believed in and have worked toward for years felt like it was crumbling around me. My emotions were so jumbled there were times I felt I was going crazy. I couldn't think, I couldn't focus. There was nowhere to escape because the emotional turmoil was inside and therefore it came with me everywhere I went. Some of what I felt:
- Totally overwhelmed by even day-to-day tasks.
- An inability to make decisions about my life.
- Feeling nauseous and physically sick.
- Not sleeping, having a hard time falling asleep and when finally able to sleep waking up a few hours later.
- An overwhelming desire to run away and escape.
But more than any of these was the overwhelming feeling of being bombarded with emotions, some that I did not remember ever feeling before. It was as if I bounced from emotion to emotion, some positive, some negative. As much as I tried not to dwell too long in the negative emotions, I always seemed to come back there. But the part that made me feel completely out of control was as I bounced I never knew where I was going to land. I didn't know if in five minutes I was going to feel angry, sad, or hopeful. It was this feeling of not being able to get control of my emotions that made me feel as if I was losing my mind.
Although we may not always face this level of emotional turmoil, we all have times when we must gather our inner resources and find a way to harness our emotions and find a positive and productive way forward. The following are some of the ways I coped:
Find someone to talk to. This can be a therapist, a family member or a friend. You should look for someone who isn't going to judge you and, if your situation involves another person, isn't going to judge that person. You just need someone to listen, to let you know your point of view matters. Someone who will let you vent, yell, scream, or just talk it out.
Remind yourself to breathe. Okay, as ridiculous as this sounds because how could you possibly forget to breathe, it is important. Remind yourself to take calm, deep breaths. While at times the emotions were so overwhelming I felt I couldn't breathe, other times I would need to remind myself to simply breathe.
Find a way to sort through the emotions. My method was to envision a number of circles in front of me. Each circle represented a different emotion. When feeling overwhelmed I took a few minutes to decide which emotion I was feeling, which circle I was in. Although it seems as if it would be easy to know what you are feeling, at times of high stress and emotion, it isn't always that easy. Once you know what you are feeling, you can take steps to manage that single emotion.
Break the problem down into small steps. Trying to solve a huge problem is impossible. Taking one step at a time toward a solution is much easier. Most problems can be broken down into smaller chunks and as you manage and work on one small part, you feel a sense of accomplishment and may motivate yourself to continue working through the situation.