Being on an emotional rollercoaster is never a fun place to be and it can take its toll on you in devastating ways: from fatigue and resentment to complacency and depression. Life can be difficult to maneuver at times with its ups and downs, twists and turns. Learning how to be the calm in the center of the storm will help you to navigate these turbulent periods.
You may find yourself swept away by your emotions when there is an accumulation of stress. The late Dr. David Simon taught that stress can be defined as how we respond when our needs are not being met. Hovering just beneath the surface of your stressors is where you will find your unmet needs—the place from which emotional distress arises. It’s these unfulfilled fundamental needs that creates discomfort and allows emotional turbulence to take over.
Staying Mindful During Emotional Turmoil
When you find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster, you may find that you don’t know which way is up and which way is down. Things are moving fast, your vision is blurred, and your depth-perception is incomprehensible. You aren’t in control and you’re along for the ride until you run out of fuel. It’s scary, confusing, frustrating, and, in some cases, infuriating.
If this is something that happens regularly, you find yourself wondering how you keep ending up here. You are caught up in an emotional tug-of-war where you are being slammed back and forth from one end of the spectrum to the other.
For example, is there someone in your life who you have to walk on eggshells around? Their volatile temperament causes you to feel uncertain as to which version of them you will encounter in a given moment, so you’re always on edge when in their presence. One day they are in a fantastic mood and you have a great time with them. The next day, or in the next moment, they’ve gone cold and non-responsive—or worse, they become aggressive. Or, how about when your boss is singing your praises one day and the next day he or she is criticizing your flaws. A toxic workplace is a breeding ground for emotionally distraught people.
Another example: have you ever been in a relationship with someone who tells you how much they love you one week and the next week they are not sure if they want to be in the relationship, and then they revert back to telling you how much they love you again? Or, maybe you’re the one who is indecisive and this is creating emotional upset for you and your partner.
We all get on the emotional rollercoaster from time to time—that’s part of being human. Big picture, this is the contrast of life. Nature is always seeking balance. There are peaks and valleys, ebbs and flows, and everything in between. Having emotions is part of our human experience. There’s nothing wrong with having negative emotions, other than they don’t feel good. We are emotional creatures and we were given the gift of feeling. The problem arises when we allow ourselves to be pushed and pulled back and forth. This yo-yo effect takes a detrimental toll on both our physiology and our psychology.
You get off track when you identify with your emotions instead of labeling them as something you are experiencing in the moment. The goal is to recognize when you have lost control and take back the reigns. By recognizing and identifying emotions as they arise, you are able to see how your thoughts can spiral you into agitated emotional states. This helps keep your emotions from erupting and taking over. Being mindful of your emotions will help you accept them and also stay in control of them. It’s from that place you will be able to refocus, rebalance, and recalibrate.
7 Steps to Creating Some Space and Calming Your Emotions
If you are feeling emotional distress, here are seven steps to help you calm down.
- First, create a buffer between yourself and whatever is occurring.
- Slow down and take some deep breaths. This will help you find solid ground again.
- Become present to what is happening and how you are feeling in the present moment. Take responsibility for your emotions and do your best to avoid projecting them onto others.
- Ask yourself what it is that you need in this moment and if there is anything you can do to improve the situation right now. Get clear on the need you had that went unfulfilled and whether or not you can identify a solution in this moment.
- If creative solutions arise, make a note of them and come back to explore how you might implement them when the time is right.
- Determine how you can mitigate the emotional charge by accepting people and situations as they are. Remember that everyone is doing their best from their level of awareness at the time.
- If you cannot change how things are, practice acceptance and surrender, and notice how you begin to settle into the emotions rather than being taken for a wild ride.
A Meditation for Calming Your Emotions
Try this guided meditation to help you settle into your emotions and find a calm, centered place in your mind. You can use this technique whenever you feel emotionally overwhelmed or out-of-control. This meditation will help you:
- Reveal which emotions dominate your mind
- Help you extract yourself from negative emotions
- Promote the ability to focus and concentrate in moments of emotional stress
- Promote physical and mental grounding
- Improve mindfulness
- Develop patience and tolerance
Before you begin, take extra care to make sure that your meditation space is silent and comfortable. Notice any potential distractions and eliminate them before you settle in. You may want to have a journal and a pen handy so that you can jot down the feelings you notice during your practice.
- Sit comfortably in an upright position with your feet firmly on the floor. You may want to place a cushion behind your lower back for support and cover yourself with a light blanket for comfort.
- Close your eyes and begin to take slow deep breaths in and out of your nose. Feel yourself softening and settling into the place where you are sitting.
- Next, bring your awareness to whatever emotions you are feeling in this moment. Are you angry, sad, fearful, hurt, confused, or ashamed? Become aware of what comes up.
- See if you can watch your primary emotional state as if you are an observer, doing your best to not identify with the emotion. Stay right there with it even if it is unpleasant. Don’t repress it or try to move away from it. Allow yourself to accept this aspect of yourself without any judgment as you simply observe the emotion.
- Now, notice where in your body you are feeling your anger or sadness, or whatever emotion you’re experiencing. Are there any images? Dig into your emotions and really see how it is that they affect you.
- Remind yourself that you are not your emotions; that they are simply energy in motion. They are transitory.
- When you feel some calming as you settle into your emotions, shift your awareness back to your breathing.
- Breathe normally in and out through your nose and use your breath to relax any part of your body that feels tension.
- As you inhale, silently say “just.” As you exhale, silently say “one.” Again, inhale and silently say “just,” then exhale and silently say “two.” Do this until you’ve completed 10 breaths.
- Do another round, this time as you inhale, silently say “this.” As you exhale, silently say “one.” Again, inhale and silently say “this,” then exhale and silently say “two.” Do this until you’ve completed 10 breaths.
- Next, do another round. On the inhale, silently say “just.” On the exhale, silently say “this.” Do this until you’ve completed 10 breaths, or for as long as you like.
- Notice if you find yourself being distracted by any thoughts, sensations, or emotions in your meditation. Label the thought or the emotion and then simply return to focusing on your breath.
Notice how using the mantra “Just This” to anchor you back in the present moment enables you to return to a calm, centered place in your mind where you can once again ground yourself in the here and now. With practice, you learn to calm your emotions and focus your mind regardless of what is going on around you.
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