17 Easy Tips For Managing Intense Emotions

17 Easy Tips For Managing Intense Emotions

Anger, sadness, overwhelming anxiety – we all experience intense emotions that can hijack our best intentions, but you’re not at their mercy. Learning to manage those emotional surges is a life-changing skill. It strengthens relationships, improves decision-making, and helps you feel more in control of your own mind. Here’s how to make it happen.

1. Name your emotion to tame it.

This sounds simple, but it’s incredibly powerful. When a wave of intense emotion hits, our first instinct is to react or shut down. Instead, pause, The New York Times advises. Get specific about what you’re feeling – anger, fear, deep sadness, a jumbled mix. Simply putting a name to the emotion lessens its grip on you, shifting your brain from reactivity to a more observational mode.

2. Breathe on purpose.

When emotions run high, our breathing becomes quick and shallow, fueling the intensity. Focus on a few slow, deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose, hold for a count, then exhale slowly through your mouth. This simple practice signals your nervous system to calm down, interrupting the escalating cycle of distress.

3. Take a sensory break.

Intense emotions overload our minds. Shifting your focus to your physical senses can provide an immediate reset. Run cool water over your hands, notice the sights and sounds around you, or focus on the feeling of your feet firmly on the ground. This brings you back to the present moment and out of that swirling emotional storm.

4. Change your environment.

If possible, physically remove yourself from a triggering situation. Step outside for fresh air, go to a quiet room, or even just turn away from an argument. Changing your surroundings disrupts the emotional build-up and gives you space to regain composure. You can always return to the issue later when you’re feeling calmer.

5. Move your body.

redhead woman out running looking determined

Physical activity is a fantastic outlet for pent-up emotion. A brisk walk, some jumping jacks, even just stretching can help release the tension your body holds when emotions are high. Exercise signals the release of feel-good endorphins, naturally shifting your mood and giving you mental as well as physical relief.

6. Know your triggers.

Start paying attention to the situations, people, or even specific thoughts that tend to set off your intense emotions. This kind of self-awareness is key! When you can anticipate a trigger, you can either prepare coping strategies in advance or, if possible, avoid the trigger altogether until you feel better equipped to handle it.

7. Distract yourself (productively).

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Sometimes, you just need to buy yourself some time until the emotional intensity lessens. Find healthy distractions that work for you. This could be engaging in an absorbing hobby, watching a funny video, listening to upbeat music — anything that shifts your focus away from the distressing emotion. Just avoid unhealthy distractions like binge-eating or self-medicating.

8. Give yourself a pep talk.

Young caucasian man standing in front mirror touching face and looking on himself.

Your inner voice matters! When emotions are raging, that voice can become harsh and critical. Combat this with some compassionate self-talk. Remind yourself “This feeling is temporary,” “I’m strong enough to handle this,” or any other phrases that feel grounding and supportive.

9. Seek support from a trusted person.

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There’s no shame in needing a listening ear. Reach out to a friend, family member, or therapist when emotions feel overwhelming. Just the act of venting can be incredibly cathartic, and they may even offer insights or coping techniques you hadn’t considered.

10. Treat yourself with kindness.

Intense emotions are draining. Be patient with yourself during and after an emotional episode. Allow for rest if needed, prioritize activities that bring you joy, and be as gentle with yourself as you would be with a loved one going through a rough time.

11. Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Take a few minutes to focus on your breath, the sensations in your body, or simply observe your thoughts and feelings without getting swept away by them. This creates space between you and your emotions, making them less overwhelming.

12. Challenge negative thoughts.

Our thoughts significantly fuel our emotions. When negativity strikes, ask yourself: Is this thought really true? What’s the evidence? Can I reframe this in a more balanced way? Challenging those ingrained negativity loops lessens their emotional impact.

13. Use visualization techniques.

Your mind is powerful! When feeling overwhelmed, visualize a peaceful scene or recall a happy memory in detail. This can help shift your body’s stress response and induce a sense of calm. You can even create a go-to “happy place” image to utilize in especially difficult moments.

14. Establish healthy routines.

Taking care of your physical well-being profoundly impacts your emotional state. Prioritize regular sleep, nutritious food, and exercise. When your body feels healthy, it’s far better equipped to manage emotional ups and downs.

15. Limit news and social media doomscrolling.

The constant barrage of negativity and comparison on social media can be emotionally destabilizing, especially if you’re already feeling vulnerable. Consider mindful media consumption – set time limits, unfollow triggering accounts, and remind yourself that social media is often a highlight reel, not real life.

16. Find creative outlets.

Art, music, writing – any form of creative expression can be an amazing way to process and release emotions in a healthy way. The act of creation is focusing and therapeutic, and you don’t have to be “good” at it to reap the benefits.

17. Don’t be afraid to get professional help if you need it.

If intense emotions consistently interfere with your daily life, relationships, or overall well-being, a therapist is an incredible resource. They can teach you even more powerful coping mechanisms, help uncover the root causes of your struggles, and support you on your journey towards emotional mastery.

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Brad grew up in St. Louis and moved to California to attend Berkeley College of Music, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in Music Production and Engineering. He still plays in a band on the weekend and during the week does a lot of writing and coffee-making to pay the bills. He's also been married for 7 years now, so he figures he must be doing something right.