Hi, my friends. Just a caveat--I’ve had an especially busy 2019 so far and needed a break from writing a new article this month. So, I brought out one of my favorites with a few updates. Hope you find it helpful for the first time or as a re-visit! I’ll be back with some new info for ya next month.
Do you have those moments where it feels like your entire body has been taken over by a feeling? Almost as if you’ve been consumed by a strange creature, and you’re not sure if there’s going to be a “you” when it’s all said and done?? I imagine most of us highly sensitive people (HSPs) have had and will continue to have these moments—much to our chagrin. We hate them, right? I have that sense of ‘Wait, seriously, seriously?’ when it starts to happen. Like, are you kidding me—I’m here—AGAIN?!
Probably just like the rest of you, I wish I could stop these times. I wish I could just slam on the brakes and go instantly back to being my regular ol’ self. It can feel terrible to be so hijacked by emotion. And yet, much as I hate to admit it, I know this is that other side of the HSP coin. We get to feel the beauty and the joy and the exhilaration so deeply . . . which also means we feel the shitty stuff just as much. Wah wah wah.
Then, my next question is: but what can we do about it? If I can’t stop it, how do I survive and not let the emo monster wreak havoc in the meantime?
My top 4 tips:
Accept that this is happening and find or make space to let the emotion out. For me, this may involve crying (probably in a heaving-sobbing-red-faced-snot-dripping kind of way) or cleaning. It can be really cathartic to get to scrubbing while I think about what is pissing me off! It can even feel like I’m scrubbing the problem away. Alternately, I like going for a walk or a jog. Sometimes I find it helpful to imagine the situation or person upsetting me, and visualize that I’m stomping on the problem with each step or that I’m letting the concerns evaporate off my body and into the air because I don’t need to keep holding them but the world has space to contain them. I don’t think it really matters what you do (of course, as long as it doesn’t involve hurting anyone, yourself included), but the key is to find what helps you release that beast, even if only temporarily.
I do NOT find it helpful to try to reason my way out of emotions this big. Using logic tends to just upset me more because I KNOW the feeling is out of proportion. I KNOW it’s too much, but it’s there anyway. If I try to convince myself to stop feeling it, I just get angry at myself for not being able to stop it.
Instead, try to hold on to the knowledge from all your past experience that the emotion will pass. You just have to wait it out. So, focus on momentary tools:
Say “Stop!” out loud if you’re alone or in your head if others are around. Or, imagine a big red stop sign in your mind. Bring this stop sign up every time the emotions feel like they’re completely taking over.
Focus on your breathing counting to 10. Breathe in and count 1, exhale and count 2. Inhale 3, exhale 4, inhale 5, exhale 6 and so on until 10. Repeat as needed.
Distract with a book, movie, Youtube video—anything strong enough to pull your attention away. Someone once recommend to me to watch a movie with the subtitles on because it takes more effort to focus on reading the words, and there’s not much mental energy left over for your mind to wander. I also like to watch something that I find really engrossing--a heavy drama or something suspenseful--or to go out to a movie--a big, dark theatre helps get me into distraction mode. For me, this is enough to take over my thinking and feeling, so I don’t have to be caught up in myself for a while. Consider what your go-to distraction tools might be.
Know that you’ll probably have to bounce back and forth between different strategies until the feeling passes.
I know, this is not a list of how to make the emotion takeover stop forever. I wish it was; I do. But, I want to be real with you, and I just don’t think that’s realistic. I do, however, know that you are smart and strong and determined and that you can take care of yourself and get through these challenges. You got this!
As always, if you want some extra help getting through, I’m here for you.
Take good care,
Ivy Griffin, LMFT # 51714, Director
Thrive Therapy & Counseling
1614 X St., Suite A
Sacramento, CA 95818
PS--Later this month, I've got an online support group that's open to any HSP in California starting up. You can find the details here: http://thrivetherapyandcounseling.com/hsp-monthly-support-group/. We’d love for you to join us!