5 Quick Ways to Manage Big Emotions


5 Quick Ways to Manage Big Emotions


Overwhelming emotions are common but often feel insurmountable. Try these five techniques to ground yourself and unwind.

Big feelings are a part of life—and not just for toddlers, either. It’s normal and natural as a human being to have big reactions to the inevitable difficulties of life.

Unfortunately, our culture is not so good at handling our big emotions, and many of us have gotten the message that we should suppress and repress those feelings so we can continue to function. This is a bad idea, partly because those stuck emotions end up coming out in other ways, often as physical symptoms. When we’re constantly trying not to feel what we feel, we create a consistent stress response in our bodies, and that can make us really sick.

Here are some better ideas for managing those big emotions so that they can actually help you feel physically and emotionally well.

Go With the Flow

The number one best way to deal with a big feeling is to feel it. Allow it to flow through your body; relax and breathe into it. Allow crying, shaking, sobbing, yelling, and however else the emotion needs to be expressed and communicated. This can be done alone or with a safe person. (Try this meditation!)

Obviously, we’re not always in an appropriate space to fully express our emotions, so we may need to hold them back until we have a chance to be present with them. (See below for more ideas on that.)

Come Back to the Present

There are countless simple ways to ground yourself into the present moment in order to calm down. Here are some examples:

  • Cross your arms over your chest and alternate tapping on your shoulders. This can help bring the brain back into the present and calm the nervous system.

  • EFT tapping is a similar concept, but it has a specific sequence and is often done while repeating an affirmation, such as “That was then and this is now.”

  • Try a breathing technique like the Square Breath: Count four beats for an inhale, four beats to pause, four beats to exhale, and four beats to pause. Repeat this until you feel better.

  • Another simple breath practice is to focus on breathing all the way in and then breathing all the way out. Repeat until you feel calmer.

  • Rub your hands together and stamp your feet on the ground.

  • Look around the room, including above and behind you. Really notice your physical environment.

  • Count five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

  • Find all the blue things in the room. Then all the red things. Go through the colors until you feel calmer.

  • Shake, jump, walk, or dance around—movement is a powerful way to come back to the body and step out of the stress response.

  • Breath deeply as you sniff a comforting smell like lavender or a favorite perfume.

Envision a Container

When you feel calm enough and have a few minutes to yourself, imagine a container to store anything that you feel you can’t handle right now. Imagine it in great detail: the color, shape, size, texture, and the type of lid or lock.

Imagine placing within it anything you don’t have the resources to deal with right now, clarifying that you are holding those things safe and sacred until you do feel capable of handling them.

Listen to the Wisdom of Your Emotions

All our emotions have a purpose, a function, and a meaning. In general:

  • Anger identifies a need that’s not being met or a boundary that’s being crossed. It wants change.

  • Sadness is processing a loss. It needs time, tenderness, gentleness, and safe people.

  • Fear identifies a threat and wants us to retreat to safety.

  • Joy wants to be shared and expressed.

  • Disgust identifies something physically or emotionally toxic and wants to get it out/away.

  • Sexual desire wants us to get closer to someone or something.

Try and identify the emotion. Where do you feel it in your body? What do you notice about the sensation and energy of the emotion? If it could speak, what would it say? Journal from the emotion’s perspective. If anger could speak for itself without any filters, what would it actually be saying?

Practice Calm

The more calming practices you have in your life and routine, the easier it is for your nervous system to slip into a state of calm. Calm is a habit like anything else and needs practice. Here are some ideas:

  • Soothing movement practices like yoga, qigong, dance, and some martial arts are wonderful for regulating the breath and the nervous system. Find one you like and go to class at least once a week. There is also a huge benefit in doing this with others who are also calm.

  • Include meditation and breathing practices into your daily routine, even if it’s while you’re falling asleep at night. Guided meditations are excellent, especially if you are new to meditation and/or feeling stressed.

  • Make time daily to relax in stillness. This could be resting in a comfortable position (Savasana or Legs Up The Wall are great yoga poses for this) or taking a nap for 10-15 minutes a day.

  • Notice the calming practices you already have in your day to day life, such as cooking, doing a crossword puzzle, or walking in nature, and make those activities a priority in your routine.

  • Notice which friends or family members you feel safe and calm with, and make a point to spend more time with them. Notice which ones stress you out, and do your best to reduce time with them.


Yoga and mindfulness can be tools to living a richer, more meaningful life. Explore with Julie...
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5 Quick Ways to Manage Big Emotions

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