Emotional Wellbeing

Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

Tips to manage emotional overload

Times of emotional overload aren’t pleasant. We can feel completely out of control and find it difficult not to act without thinking. When we are highly emotional, we aren’t using our rational minds. Here are tips to help you when you experience emotional overload.

Opposite Action

The first skill is Opposite Action, which can help you stop an intense or highly charged emotion in its tracks.

Emotions often come with a specific behavior, like arguments following anger, or withdrawal resulting from sadness. However, we often assume the relationship is from the emotion to behavior, rather than the other way around.

Actually, it is possible to invoke an emotion by engaging in a behavior that is associated with that particular emotion.

Instead of doing what you would usually do when you are feeling a certain way, try doing the opposite action. If you’re angry, try talking quietly instead of yelling. If you are sad, try chatting with friends instead of withdrawing from them.

Check the Facts – where’s the evidence?

It can be easy to blow things out of proportion or place too much importance on your emotions.

This skill will help you to identify this scenario right when it’s happening, and then help you reduce the intensity of the emotions.

Ask yourself the following questions to “check the facts”:

  1. What event triggered my emotion?
  2. What interpretations or assumptions am I making about the event?
  3. Does my emotion and its intensity match the facts of the situation? Or does it just match my assumptions of the situation?

Pay Attention to Positive Events

Humans are surprisingly good at filtering out the positive and focusing on the negative. It’s natural, but it’s not helpful!

If you notice you are paying too much attention to the negative, pause and refocus onto the positive. You can practice by doing one small, positive activity every day, focusing on the good parts of the activity as you do it. Ignore minor issues and notice the enjoyment, pleasure, and fun!

● Use clear and concrete terms to describe what you want;
● Don’t say: “Could you please clean?”
● Do say: “Could you do the dishes before going to bed?”
● Let others know how a situation makes you feel by clearly expressing your feelings;
● Don’t expect others to read your mind;
● Try using this line: “I feel ___ because ___.”
● Don’t beat around the bush—say what you need to say;
● Don’t say: “Oh, well, I don’t know if I can cook tonight or not;”
● Do say: “I won’t be able to cook because I’m working late.”
● Reward people who respond well, and reinforce why your desired outcome is positive;
● This can be as simple as a smile and a “thank you.”
● Don’t forget the objective of the interaction;
● It can be easy to get sidetracked into harmful arguments and lose focus.
● Appear confident;
● Consider your posture, tone, eye contact, and body language.
● No one can have everything they want out of their interactions all the time;
● Be open to negotiation;
● Do say: “If you wash the dishes, I’ll put them away.”

Identify your colour

What Zone am I in?

This image uses familiar and easy to understand traffic signs to help the reader easily recognize his or her emotion, identify the “zone” they are in, and think about how to move to the green zone from any of the other zones. The easy-to-identify symbols make understanding the zones simple for children, and intuitive for anyone who has paid attention to the world outside of their car!

The Rest Area/Blue Zone is where the individual is least energetic or purposeful and includes these emotions:

  • Sad;
  • Tired;
  • Sick;
  • Bored.


The Go/Green Zone (the place you want to be!) is the happy medium and represents positive emotions and a balance between extremes. These emotions fall into the Go/Green Zone:

  • Calm;
  • Ready to learn;
  • Happy;
  • Okay.


In the Slow/Yellow Zone, things are getting a bit troubling. Emotions include:

  • Silly or wiggly;
  • Frustrated;
  • Hyper;
  • Upset.


Finally, the Stop/Red Zone is the most problematic, with emotions and behaviors like:

  • Mad;
  • Angry;
  • Yelling;
  • Hitting.


Relationship Effectiveness can enhance your wellbeing and reduce anxiety and strong emotions:

Take a look at these tips (DEAR MAN):

● Don’t attack, threaten, or express judgment during your interactions;
● Accept the occasional “no” for your requests.
● Show interest by listening to the other person without interrupting.
● Be outwardly validating to the other person’s thoughts and feelings;
● Acknowledge their feelings, recognize when your requests are demanding, and respect their opinions.
● Have an easy attitude;
● Try to smile and act lighthearted.


Finally, these skills are listed under the Self-Respect Effectiveness (FAST) section:

● Be fair; not only to others but also to yourself.
● Don’t apologize unless it’s warranted;
● Don’t apologize for making a request, having an opinion, or disagreeing.
Stick to Values
● Don’t compromise your values just to be liked or to get what you want;
● Stand up for what you believe in.
● Avoid dishonesty such as exaggeration, acting helpless (as a form of manipulation), or outright lying.

It may be helpful to refer to this handout when you are faced with a situation in which you struggle to stick to your standards. The quick reminder and helpful suggestions can make sure you get back on the right track.

Mandy X

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

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