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This post talks about overwhelming emotions and may be triggering for some readers.
Hi there, I hope you are safe and well. Have you been taking care of yourself? It’s important to prioritize your mind & body. Self care isn’t selfish ❤
I’ve been doing a lot of work on feeling my emotions instead of just brushing them aside.
Not going to lie, I’m pretty bad at it.
I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to “be strong”.
Tough it out.
Don’t let them get to you.
Don’t let them see you cry.
It’s taken a lot for me to realize that reaching out is a form of strength, not weakness.
Making connections, talking to people about my neurodivergence, opening up about my experiences… These are all scary things.
But they’re so good.
In the past, opening up hasn’t worked out so well for me.
I was shut down, disregarded. My feelings didn’t matter. Children should be seen and not heard. Friends didn’t really want to hear the ugly stuff I was sifting through.
The message I took away from these interactions was other people don’t care, so my feelings must not matter.
That’s the thing about having overwhelming emotions. Other people… just don’t get it.
They don’t get excited and feel like their body is exploding.
They don’t get scared and feel like they’re going to die.
They don’t get sad and feel like the entire world is crashing down around them.
They feel their feelings on a neurotypical level, instead of this gut-wrenching, heart pounding, world-ending level.
Being a highly sensitive person (HSP) isn’t all bad. There are some cool perks that come along with it.
But the bad parts can be pretty challenging.
For a long time, I just tried to deal with everything on my own, because no one really cared enough to try to understand.
Usually, that looked like shoving my feelings into a box in the back of my mind and trying to move forward.
This isn’t a very effective way to deal with your feelings.
Those feelings will start spilling out of your box because there isn’t enough room for all of them. They will creep out and latch onto your mind at super inconvenient times.
Like when you’re talking to your boss.
Why? Because you never dealt with them. So instead they lingered.
If you leave a half-eaten sandwich in your bedroom, it will start to smell. And that smell will linger, cropping up at odd/inappropriate times, until you clean it up.
But how to you deal with your emotions?
This can be such a challenge for people like me who grew up being told to just suck it up. Smile through the pain. Big girls work around the pain.
But that’s not how healthy adults cope with emotions.
Shoving them into a box and hoping they’ll fade away is not effective, as you may have discovered.
The first step to coping with your emotions is giving yourself permission to feel them.
Maybe something bad happened at work. A disagreement with a coworker. A demotion. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe there was a rude client. Maybe working for a living just sucks…
So feel sad.
Have a good cry.
Give yourself a hug.
Ask a friend or family member if they have some time to chat.
Talk soothingly to yourself like you’re a child.
“You’re sad. That’s ok. Everyone gets sad sometimes. We can be sad for a little while until you’re ready to feel better.”
Especially if you didn’t get this as a child.
It’s time to raise the child living inside your head, so you can cope with adult life.
For an HSP, the scary part about feeling your emotions is that they can overwhelm you.
This can present a problem, and if you are getting overwhelmed and you feel like the healthy thing is to distract yourself for now and come back later, read this post.
But usually, even though your feelings seem scary, they will not overwhelm you.
And if they do, use the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills workbook to develop some coping skills to deal with those moments.
So how to you let yourself feel your emotions?
Take a deep breath, and ask yourself “What am I feeling right now?”
Get to the root of your emotion.
I’m going to use a specific example for the sake of your ease of reading. But you can apply this to whatever you’re going through.
A coworker said something negative about your recent performance.
You feel angry.
When you look inward (later, when you have the time and privacy to dig into your emotions) you realize your anger was actually stemming from hurt and disappointment with yourself.
You accept that, yes, you are hurt. Yes, you are disappointed in your recent performance, as well.
Maybe you feel embarrassed they called you out.
You give yourself space to feel those feelings.
Then you develop a game plan for how you will deal with work tomorrow.
That anger you felt may have been overwhelming.
You may have been seething all day.
But by looking inward, you found that your anger was actually some other, more vulnerable, emotions putting on a brave face.
You used Radical Acceptance to accept what you cannot change.
And you developed a game plan to change what you can.
That’s some pro-level adulting, right there.
The thing about emotions is that, inevitably, they do pass.
Emotions are like a wave.
If you give yourself permission to feel them, they will become bigger and bigger, they will crest, then they will fall-become small and more manageable once again.
If you struggle with the emotion, and feel as if it is beginning to overwhelm you, it’s ok to take a step back and come to it when you’re ready.
As a neurodivergent individual, it’s important to find the balance between allowing yourself to feel your emotions, and going down a negative spiral.
So how can you tell the difference?
Usually, allowing yourself to feel the emotion looks like comforting yourself. Building yourself up. Accepting what is.
Spiraling looks self-depreciating. Focusing on all the negative things and jumping from one ugly thought to the next.
Feeling and coping with your emotions in a healthy way will not involve shaming yourself for the way you feel.
If you do it in a healthy way, it should feel very healing.
You should feel refreshed afterwards.
That doesn’t mean the crappy situation is magically solved, it just means you gave yourself permission to feel the emotions it brought up.
To heal from trauma, in whatever form it was presented.
And to move forward in a healthy way, without lugging your emotional baggage with you.
I hope this post helps someone out there deal with their overwhelming emotions, and maybe even get in touch with themselves a little more.