7 Things to Do if You Feel Emotional

Things to do If you feel emotional

Verywell / Jiaqi Zhou

Intense emotions can be tough to deal with. Whether you’re feeling a lot of anger or you’re really sad, emotion regulation skills can help reduce the intensity and the duration of those uncomfortable feelings.

The next time you’re feeling really emotional, these seven strategies can help.

Identify How You’re Feeling

Putting a name to what you’re feeling can help you make sense of your emotions. Thinking something like, “I’m anxious right now,” or “I’m really disappointed,” can help you clarify what’s going on for you.

Studies show that labeling an emotion takes some of the sting out of it. So simply identifying your emotion might help you feel a little better right away.

You might simply think about what you’re feeling and try to name it. Or, you might write in a journal to help you make sense of things. You also might find that talking to someone and labeling your emotions aloud helps you feel better.

Determine if Your Emotions Are Helpful or Unhelpful

Sometimes people talk about feelings like they’re either good or bad. But emotions aren’t either positive or negative. All emotions can be helpful or unhelpful.

Consider how anxiety can be either helpful or harmful:

  • Anxiety is helpful when it alerts you to danger. If your anxiety alarm bells go off when you’re in an unsafe situation (like standing too close to the edge of a cliff), you’re likely to respond in a way that keeps you safer. In that case, your anxiety is helpful.
  • Anxiety is harmful, however, if you avoid giving a speech that could advance your career because public speaking is too anxiety-provoking, then your anxiety is not helpful.

Similarly, anger can be helpful if it gives you the courage to create positive change. It’s unhelpful if it causes you to say or do things you later regret.

If your emotions are helpful, you might want to embrace them. If your emotions are unhelpful, you can take steps to manage them.

Experiment With Healthy Coping Skills

Healthy coping skills help you get through tough emotions without numbing them, suppressing them, or ignoring them. They may temporarily distract you a bit so you can feel better or they might help calm your body or boost your mood.

The coping strategies that work for one person might not work for another so it’s important to find the coping skills that work best for you. Examples of healthy coping skills might include:

  • Calling a friend
  • Listening to music
  • Reading a book
  • Spending time in nature
  • Taking a bath
  • Working out

Be on the lookout for unhealthy coping skills that may introduce new problems into your life or make you feel worse over time. Drinking alcohol, using drugs, or overeating are just a few examples of coping skills that might help you feel better temporarily but will create bigger problems for your life in the long term.

Get Advice From the The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how you can learn to tolerate uncomfortable emotions.

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Embrace How You’re Feeling

Sometimes, sitting with an uncomfortable emotion is the best thing you can do. That may mean acknowledging and accepting what you’re experiencing and then going through your daily routine anyway.

You might notice that you’re sad or anxious and decide to continue working on a project, or you might even take a break just to pay attention to what you’re experiencing.

  • How are your emotions affecting your thoughts?
  • How are they affecting you physically?

When you feel angry, for example, your thoughts might stay focused on the negative. And you might experience physiological reactions, like an increase in heart rate.

Simply noticing those things, without judging yourself can be helpful. If you start thinking, “I shouldn’t feel this way,” remind yourself that it’s OK to feel whatever you’re feeling and that the feeling is only temporary. Eventually, it will pass.

Reframe Unhelpful Thoughts

Be on the lookout for unhelpful thoughts that fuel your uncomfortable emotions. Thinking things like, “I can’t stand this!” or “I know something bad is going to happen,” will only make you feel worse.

When you catch yourself thinking unhelpful thoughts, take a minute to reframe them. You might develop a simple phrase to repeat to yourself like, “This is uncomfortable but I’m OK.”

You also might ask, “What would I say to a friend who had this problem?” You might find you’d offer them kind, compassionate words of encouragement. Try offering yourself those same kind words.

Act As If You Felt Happy

While it’s helpful to embrace uncomfortable emotions for a little while sometimes, you also don’t want to stay stuck in them. Feeling really sad for too long or feeling really angry might keep you stuck in a dark place.

Sometimes, it’s helpful to proactively shift your emotional state. One of the best ways to do that is by changing the way you behave.

Rather than sitting on the couch doing nothing when you feel sad, you might ask yourself, “What would I be doing right now if I felt happy?” Maybe you’d go for a walk or call a friend. Do those things now, even though you don’t feel like it.

Researchers have also found that smiling—even when it is forced or fake—can help induce a more positive mood.

You might find that changing your behavior changes how you feel. Acting as if you felt better might help you start feeling better.

Get Professional Help

If you’re struggling to manage your emotions, talk to a professional. You might start by talking to your physician. Explain how you’ve been feeling and your doctor may want to reassure you that there are no known medical causes behind your change in well-being.

You can also reach out to a licensed mental health professional. Difficulty managing your emotions may be a sign of an underlying mental health issue, like anxiety or depression. Talk therapy, medication, or a combination of the two can help.

A Word From Verywell

It’s OK to be an emotional person. Crying when you watch movies (or even commercials), feeling passionate about things you love, and getting angry over social injustice are all signs that you’re human—not red flags that you need help.

Being emotional only becomes a problem when it creates problems in your life. If your emotions make it difficult to have healthy relationships, stay productive at work, or succeed in school, you may benefit from professional help.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.