Emotional Flooding: How to Handle Overwhelming Emotions

We've all been in a position where our emotions take over and we feel out of control and unable to step back from those sentiments. There is a difference between getting a little irritated and annoyed over who did the dishes last and feeling so overcome by our emotions that we immediately go into flight or fight mode and can't even think let alone communicate clearly. While we can all attest to having emotional reactions when we are dealing with our loved ones.

If the latter sounds familiar, chances are you’ve experienced emotional flooding.

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What does it look like?

Flooding symptoms may include:

1. As your mind becomes overburdened attempting to comprehend a lot of information at once, you could find it difficult to focus.

2. Your brain may abruptly "overheat" and begin to shut down as a coping mechanism, causing you to feel uncomfortable or retreat mentally.

3. Your fight-or-flight reaction starts to work. You might question whether you should remain in the circumstance or run away to "safety."

4. Your feelings can be all over the place. You might not be able to name or describe the specific emotions you're experiencing.

5. Physical signs like clammy hands, blurry vision, or dizziness could be present.

6. Flooding may appear to others as a state of fright, panic, or total shutdown.

Flooding, in whatever form it occurs, is a very unpleasant feeling that can take a very long time to subside.


What triggers it?

What causes one individual to feel emotional flooding may be quite different for another. At the most basic level, we feel emotionally inundated when we perceive a threat. Our bodies and brains can detect danger from something in the environment, contact with someone we care about, or even an internal sense. What we see as frightening is frequently intertwined with our past experiences and is more than a direct threat of bodily harm.

Rejection can be terrifying to us. We can perceive our partner's turn away as a threat. Even 'positive' feelings like joy can be frightening to some people.

The same physiological response as a genuine threat can be brought on by a direct thought, an assumption, a recollection, a passionate argument, or emotional sensitivity. Consequently, when you experience flooding, it may be because there was an actual trigger that brought back a threat from the past or an intense feeling that is difficult to handle, causing your brain to switch into protection mode.


Ways to calm down

Even while it may be distressing at the time, know that the flooding is only a transitory reaction and will pass. Here are seven strategies to reduce flooding and unwind afterward:

1. If necessary, leave the scene or situation

Decide for yourself whether you need to leave the situation. You have the right to gently excuse yourself for a minute if you're experiencing anxiety or unsettling thoughts so that you can take the necessary steps to regain control of your emotions. That might entail taking a few breaths in the restroom, the break room, or your car, making a friend call, or playing your favorite song.

2. Count

It may sound strange, yet this is effective. You can count to 100 or identify as many as five objects you can see, four you can hear, three you can touch, etc. Because counting backward activates the brain more than counting up does, it helps your brain switch out of worry mode. Counting backward in increments of three is particularly beneficial.

3. Try tapping

Likewise, a method known as "tapping" is helpful for many highly sensitive people. Tapping entails lightly tapping specific areas of your body to divert the anxious part of your brain and re-engage your logic centers.

4. Breathe

This is likely the most popular and used anxiety-reduction method ever recommended. however, there's a valid explanation for that! Because it takes some time for your body and mind to adjust to your activities, deep breathing might not have a calming impact immediately away but persevere because it will ultimately help.

Breathe in deeply and exhale slowly. Alternately, inhale while counting to five, then exhale while doing the same. When you move more slowly than you feel comfortable, your pulse rate will start to drop and the oxygen will benefit your brain. Try it even though your worry will tell you that you can't afford to slow down your breathing.

5. Give yourself a break

Let's face it, these times are terrible. Be as sympathetic to yourself in the present as you would be to your best friend if they were flooding. Speak kind, compassionate words to yourself. Also, take care of yourself. Although the flooding may have frustrated you, don't blame yourself for getting flooded. Consider the fact that you survived as a success and treat yourself to something relaxing, like a coffee, your favorite meal, or a long walk.

6. Talk to someone

Feeling like you're the only one experiencing these situations is what makes them scary. Find a reliable person and explain your approach to a situation. They may very well understand your feelings about the letter.

In either case, talking about flooding is beneficial because it normalizes your experience and leaves you with an ally who can support you if it happens again as you take the necessary steps to take care of yourself. If you're really sensitive, flooding might happen frequently in your life. However, please know that you're not alone and that there are many ways to cope with those situations.