Emotional flooding can happen in any situation, especially when a “little” thing becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Emotional flooding is never fun. When I experience emotional flooding, it can feel as though my emotions are taking over, leaving me feeling powerless and unable to cope — or even panicky. This can happen to anyone, but it may be more common among introverts and sensitive people, who process the world deeply.
For me, some of my biggest emotional flooding experiences revolve around confrontation and conflict, especially when someone yells at me — talk about overwhelm! But flooding can happen in more run-of-the-mill situations, too, especially when a seemingly “little” thing becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back. In general, the more stress and stimulation you have going on, the more likely you are to get flooded — even if none of the individual stimuli are that bad on their own.
Here’s why it happens and what you can do to cope when you feel emotionally flooded.
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What Is Emotional Flooding — And What Causes It?
“Emotional flooding” is a term used to describe the feeling of being overwhelmed by intense emotions.This can happen in a variety of situations, such as receiving bad news, having an argument with someone we care about, or even just feeling overwhelmed by our day-to-day responsibilities. When we are emotionally flooded, it can be difficult to think clearly, make decisions, or take action. We may feel stuck in our emotions, unable to move past them or find relief.
There are many factors that can contribute to emotional flooding, and a lot of it has to do with the amount of stress you have on your plate. However, other factors can make you more vulnerable to emotional flooding, such as past or ongoing trauma, burnout or chronic stress, major life changes (like a divorce or job change), and/or finding yourself in an overstimulating situation — which, for introverts, includes high-stakes social situations and intimidating large groups of people. Additionally, some people are simply more sensitive to their surroundings and the emotions of others, which can make it easier for them to become emotionally flooded.
5 Things You Can Do When You Feel Emotionally Flooded
1. Practice self-care, doing an activity that feels nourishing and rejuvenating.
Self-care is not a luxury; it’s a necessity for maintaining your emotional and mental well-being. And it’s essential for introverts and sensitive people who are prone to emotional flooding. This means taking time each day to do things that help you feel calm, centered, and grounded. This might include practicing yoga or meditation, taking a walk in nature, or enjoying a cup of tea while reading a good book. It’s important to prioritize self-care as a regular part of your routine, rather than just as a reaction to feeling overwhelmed.
And keep this in mind: It’s important to choose activities that feel nourishing and restorative to you personally, rather than trying to force yourself into activities that others may find helpful, but don’t resonate with you. Practice does make perfect, so see what helps you out the most — and then repeat it.
2. Find a safe space to retreat to when the going gets tough.
When you’re feeling emotionally flooded, it can be helpful to have a safe space where you can retreat to calm down and collect your thoughts. This might be a quiet corner of your home, a nearby park or nature reserve, or even just a cozy coffee shop where you can relax and unwind. Having a safe space can help you feel more grounded and less overwhelmed by your emotions. Hint: It’s important to have a few safe spaces in mind in case one is not available in the moment.
You might also consider creating a physical space in your home that feels especially calming and restorative to you, such as a meditation corner, cozy reading nook, or “introvert zen zone.” Having this designated safe space can also make it easier to communicate your needs to others when you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some alone time to recharge.
According to psychologist Elizabeth Scott, it’s also possible to create a safe space outside of your home, either by creating or joining an online group of people dealing with similar issues, or by organizing a regular meet-up in the physical world. These types of safe spaces have the advantage of creating a support network, which Scott says can be especially valuable for dealing with trauma, getting emotional support, or building the motivation to achieve goals.
3. Use mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, to help you focus on the present moment.
Mindfulness techniques can be a powerful tool for managing emotional flooding. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment, without judgment or distraction. This can help you become more aware of your emotions as they arise, making it easier to manage them. For example, you can try deep breathing exercises, doing a body scan, or focusing on your senses.
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4. Set boundaries by saying no more often to energy-zapping events.
As an introvert or a sensitive person, it’s important to protect your energy and avoid overcommitting yourself, especially when you’re already feeling emotionally flooded. You can do this by setting clear boundaries with others and saying no when you need to. This might mean taking a break from social events or limiting the amount of time you spend with certain people. It’s 100 percent okay to prioritize your own needs and well-being — if you’re tired, don’t feel forced to go out with your friends — and setting boundaries can help you do that.
Setting boundaries can also help prevent feelings of guilt or resentment that can arise when you overextend yourself. Remember, it’s not selfish to take care of yourself first. In fact, it’s essential so that you can show up as your best self in your relationships and other areas of your life.
5. Use visualization — literally picture a calmer setting.
Visualization is a powerful tool for calming the mind and managing overwhelming emotions. When you’re feeling emotionally flooded, try picturing a calm and peaceful scene in your mind. This might be a favorite vacation spot, peaceful beach, or serene forest. Close your eyes and focus on the details of the scene, imagining the sights, sounds, and sensations around you. For instance, really hear the waves or see the leaves blowing in the wind.
You can also use more targeted visualizations, depending on what you’re dealing with. For example, according to psychologist Timothy J. Legg, if you’re dealing with a lot of stress, you likely have tight or stiff muscles to go with it — and relaxing those muscles can ease the mental and emotional stress, as well. Legg recommends lying flat on the ground and mentally working your way through your whole body, tightening and releasing each group of muscles.
When You’re Emotionally Flooded, Find What Works Best for You
Emotions can be challenging to navigate, and everyone’s experience with emotional flooding is unique to them. With practice and patience, you can develop a personalized toolbox of strategies so you can be more calm and less overwhelmed. So experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you and your well-being.
You might like:
- How to Set Better Boundaries When You’re a Peace-Loving Introvert
- How to Manage Overwhelming Emotions as an Introvert
- What Introverts Can Do When They Feel Overwhelmed by Life
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