Overwhelmed With Emotions? You May Be Experiencing ‘Emotional Flooding’
In the middle of an argument with your partner, you suddenly experience an overwhelming surge of different emotions like rage, hurt, and panic. Does this sound familiar to you? If yes, then you may be experiencing a phenomenon called ‘emotional flooding’.
Let’s be honest, here. We’ve all been there before when our emotions more or less ‘hijack’ our minds. When this happens, we feel out of control and the feeling is scary, isn’t it?
I guess you’re aware of the difference between getting upset with our loved one over a minor inconvenience versus lashing out at them and feeling overwhelmed with emotions that our mind instantly chooses the flight-or-fight mode.
What Is Emotional Flooding?
When you’re caught in emotional flooding, you may experience physical symptoms like muscle clenching, your heartbeat increases, or you feel nauseous. When your mind is overflowing with emotions, you may get all caught up in them causing your thoughts to become jumbled.
When your emotions are overwhelming, it can send your nervous system into overdrive, causing what psychologist Dr. John Gottman calls ‘emotional hijacking’.
It’s important to understand how to spot signs of emotional flooding, its potential triggers, and how to stop emotional flooding.
What Can Trigger Emotional Flooding?
What my triggers are can be different from what triggers you. However, it can be said that high stress and feeling strong emotions can trigger emotional flooding. When you experience an overload of emotions, then you go through a psychological response that can differ from individual to individual.
Some examples of triggers can be; when you experience rejection, it can cause you to feel strong emotions or when your partner walks away from you in anger, it can be perceived as threatening, causing your emotions to go into overdrive.
A thought, a belief, a memory, or an angry conversation can cause a physiological response. So when you experience emotional flooding, it could be because of an actual trigger or an overwhelming emotion that causes your brain to go into flight-or-fight mode.
Signs Of Emotional Flooding
As I’ve said, everyone’s reaction to overwhelming emotions is different and similarly, the signs of emotional flooding can vary from person to person. However, there are some of the common signs that can help you spot emotional flooding:
- Trouble concentrating due to overwhelming emotions
- Experiencing mental withdrawal
- Experiencing a change in emotions
- Going into the fight-or-flight mode
- Having sweaty palms
- Having difficulty breathing
- Having an increased pulse rate
- Experiencing a tightening in the stomach
- Having a tunnel vision
When you experience emotional flooding, your body responds with the fear response. An overload of emotions, in the middle of a disagreement with your partner, can lead you to blame, yell, or shut down.
If you experience high levels of stress then you’re more likely to go through emotional flooding. Other people at risk of emotional flooding can be:
- Highly sensitive people
- Men who are taught to suppress emotions
- People in turbulent relationships
How To Stop Emotional Flooding?
Being aware of your signs can help you to prevent emotional flooding in the future. While it’s impossible to predict an overload of emotions, having a plan beforehand can help you navigate the overwhelming emotions when and if they occur.
You can prevent emotional flooding by:
- Practicing Breathing Exercises: When your emotions are in overdrive, you can try to control them by practicing breathing exercises such as belly breathing, 4-7-8 breathing exercise, and roll breathing. You can also experiment with breathing exercises to find the one that helps you best.
- Practicing Guided Meditation: Another way to control overwhelming emotions is to practice meditation. There are many meditation techniques and apps from which you can practice.
- Talk To A Loved One: If you’re overwhelmed with emotions, you can try to confide in a loved one. Emotional flooding takes control of your thought process and makes it harder for you to make a smart decision. Talking to a non-judgmental and rational person can help in such a case.
- Take A Break: We all can agree that when we are experiencing an overload of emotions, it can make us feel highly irrational. It is also impossible to think about positive solutions to problems when we experience emotional flooding. So take a break, go for a walk, drink some water, and come back to assess the situation.
- Challenge Your Thoughts: It’s time to ask yourself if the racing thoughts you’re thinking about are true or just fiction. You need to remember that thoughts are not always facts and when you experience irrational thoughts, you need to focus on the truth rather than the fiction.
- Focus On Self-Care: Self-soothing and self-care practices are going to help you control your racing emotions. Once you begin to self-soothe, you’ll feel better about yourself and be able to control your emotions as well.
During Emotional Flooding, Avoid
When you’re experiencing an emotional overload, it’s best to avoid:
- Drinking alcohol or taking other substances to cope
- Ruminating on your thoughts as they can worsen your stress
- Numbing your emotions with binge eating, binge-watching, or scrolling through social media
- Jumping to conclusions and reacting without thinking through
When you’re in the middle of a stressful situation and experience an overload of various emotions, then it can be described as emotional flooding. You can control being overwhelmed with emotions by using the above-mentioned coping techniques.
However, if these don’t work, you can try to reach out to a professional therapist or counselor. With a therapist’s help, you can learn to identify your patterns, your triggers, and how to control your symptoms. They can also help create new habits and patterns to feel more compassionate about difficult emotions.
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