Emotional Meltdowns: How to Avoid Them and What to Do When They Happen Anyway

Stopping an emotional meltdown before it happens requires an initial recognition of feelings of being overwhelmed.

In our overstimulated and stressful world, it is possible to become so overwhelmed by your stress that your behavior is severely affected – an emotional breakdown. A meltdown may look like uncontrollable crying for some people. The behavior may be interpreted by others as lashing out in anger or snapping at someone. Others may panic or flee from a stressful situation.

Meltdowns are completely normal. You may suddenly burst into tears or lose your temper because you feel out of control, under pressure, or facing uncontrollable circumstances in your life. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It may be an indication, however, that you’re going through a challenging time and are not being met in some of your personal and emotional needs.

You can recover from a meltdown. You can also learn to manage the stressors in your life that threaten to push you over the edge for fewer future meltdowns.

An emotional breakdown can feel like the end of the world for the person involved. It’s a painful experience that everyone dreads undergoing and has to deal with at least once in their lifetimes. Read on to learn about some effective methods to prevent emotional meltdowns and what to do when one occurs. Following this article, you’ll be more prepared and better equipped to deal with your emotions!

Common Triggers of Emotional Meltdowns
Every person’s circumstances are different and will impact whether an emotional meltdown is a likely result, but some factors raise the chances of a meltdown for most people.

  • Overtiredness – Not getting enough sleep, especially when it’s night after night, can cause you to be irksome, short-tempered, and prone to stress.
  • Lacking food – Even if you consume enough calories on a given day, going too long without eating may result in a blood sugar level that’s low enough to cause problems like low energy, shakiness, headaches, and trouble focusing.
  • Being overwhelmed or overextended – taking on too many tasks at once or accepting too many social invitations – will inevitably result in feeling like you can’t do anything.
  • Major Life Transitions – Getting and losing a job, starting or ending a relationship, moving to a new home, getting married, having a child, and graduating college all make you more vulnerable emotionally.
  • Problematic Relationships – The closer the relationship, the more important it is to handle differences as they arise. Arizona State University notes that allowing conflicts to fester often results in more minor disagreements that are not in themselves problematic (such as disagreeing about what to watch), but rather represent a larger problem. There is no correlation between less stress and more disagreements.

If you are someone who often has emotional breakdowns, take note of what tends to lead up to them or sets them off. For example, try being sure to eat more often. While some adjustments may require more effort, such as taking steps to learn better communication skills.

How to Stop an Emotional Meltdown if You Feel One Coming On
Difficult situations will keep on happening but the way you respond to them will depend on you. You can sense the signs of acute stress. They may cause your face to feel hot, your hands to feel cold, your breathing to get shallow. You can pay attention to these signs, but before you answer the demand to help someone out of the danger, it’s better to first make an effort to calm yourself.

we need to take pause if we are experiencing a tumultuous time emotionally because the brain is different during these times and it is unable to make logical decisions.

It can be helpful to calm yourself with grounding techniques, such as focusing your attention on your feet, touching your fingertips together, and breathing exercises.

An easy five-step breathing routine:

  • For four seconds, take a deep breath.
  • Close your mouth and nose and hold your breath for four seconds.
  • Exhale for four seconds.
  • Hold your breath for four seconds before taking your next breath.
  • Keep doing this until you feel calmer.

Just keep in mind that these steps won’t erase a bad situation or undo the problem that prompted your emotional response. However, getting calm before you respond can help you cope better with the situation from a more measured and less emotional position.

How to Recover if You’ve Had an Emotional Meltdown
What’s it like after you’ve had a meltdown? Are you embarrassed or ashamed of what you’ve done? Were you relieved that you’ve expressed your feelings or feel just about justified for your behavior? Have you experienced fear or anxiety about possible reactions from those who you shared your feelings with?

It could be worth asking yourself why you are embarrassed about revealing your emotions in public, because there may be reasons why it isn’t OK for you to be feeling angry, or to be feeling sad, or to need something from someone else. If you feel shame about your emotions, it won’t help you to feel better in the future. You deserve some self-compassion.

And what if you feel better after a meltdown? In some cases, screaming your worries away or purging your negative emotions can bring you peace, because you have been forcing yourself to ignore them. Isn’t it better to learn to express your feelings before you start dissolving in tears or snapping at others? It’s not easy, but it is possible to express your emotions in a healthy way so that you’re not burying them deep inside.

Also, keep in mind that while you will never have to apologize for your feelings, you may have to apologize for your behavior or for your way of expressing them.

In case your meltdown involved aggressive behavior towards others, or behaviors such as throwing objects or slamming doors, apologize and make a plan to cope differently the next time you’re upset or stressed. If you find yourself often showing a disproportionate emotional response or seem to lose control easily, you might consider seeing a therapist for guidance on ways to avoid these outbursts. Neither having an emotional meltdown nor exhibiting physical or verbal aggression in response to this meltdown is an excuse for such abuse.

Do not shame yourself for feeling overwhelmed; we all experience this from time to time.”

How to Prevent Emotional Meltdowns From Happening
You are much less likely to have another meltdown if you learn how to minimize negative stress in your life. Why not take steps to eliminate it altogether so you never have to deal with it again? Here are a few things you can do to get you started:

Implement healthy routines to relieve stress. A stress-reduction plan consists of healthy behaviors such as exercising, journaling, laughing, and meditation. Attempting to deal with day-to-day stressors in their earliest stages, rather than putting them off and allowing them to pile up, diminishes the chance that you’ll ever get to the point of feeling overwhelmed by stress.

As you undergo stress, pay attention to your body. According to research, tight muscles, headaches, exhaustion, and other types of discomfort and pain are common symptoms. Take note of any of these red flags that your body is more stressed than usual, and take steps to cope with that stress in healthy ways instead of letting it boil over.

You must face your negative feelings head on and tackle the toughest parts. Sweep your problems under the rug and they’ll never be resolved. Once you can ‘describe’ a feeling, you can ‘tame’ a feeling. Speaking out your feelings helps you understand why they are there and how to better deal with them when they are unavoidable.

Seek support from family and friends. Enlisting family and friends for support can significantly reduce stress. If your loved ones can, ask them to take a few things off your already-full plate. Or, try talking with someone who is willing to listen to you without judging you.

You can reduce stress by spending more time in nature. Being in a natural environment has calming effects. Being in contact with nature’s sounds and sights, such as wind blowing, water running, and birds and insects making their natural sounds, can decrease pulse rate and cortisol (stress hormone) levels, according to research (PDF).

Sometimes it’s just necessary to take a break to spend time with oneself, doing something they enjoy and as we all know, laughter is the best medicine. A good laugh helps your circulatory system and muscles to relax, releases feel-good endorphins, and has been found to ease symptoms of stress.

Seek professional help if you need it. If you’re feeling overloaded, see a therapist or mental health provider for their opinion on how to reduce your feelings of being overwhelmed or come up with an alternative method for dealing with what’s going on. A therapist may use many different methods in order to help patients cope with stress, anxiety, and other difficult emotions.

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