12 Tools for Regulating Your Emotions

How to Calm Yourself When Overwhelmed

July 16, 2023 |


Recently I found out my daughter had not been wearing her retainer for multiple days. I found this out right before bed. I addressed my concern, but not in the healthiest way.

How often do you have situations when suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, you become overwhelmed? Maybe this has happened with a boss, co-worker, or someone in your family. Maybe you totaled your car like I did once. Do you know what triggered you?

In emotionally flooding situations, your brain’s emotional center, called the amygdala, overrides your pre-frontal cortex, the rational part of your brain. I call this “brain lock”, where my brain becomes useless, except for fleeing the situation, fighting whatever seems threatening, or freezing up.

When Under “Brain Lock”

  • My heart pounds and my breathing gets faster
  • I lose my sense of humor
  • My problem-solving abilities stink
  • I take almost everything personally
  • Social skills dwindle
  • I’m much less creative
  • I see everything as negative
  • I pretty much suck to be around

Hopefully, you have an idea of the people and situations that trigger you emotionally. Be prepared to handle these situations differently, and positively. Here are 12 ways to regulate your emotions when triggered. Each activity can be engaging in just 2 to 10 minutes. 

11 Ways to Calm Yourself When Overwhelmed

1. Expand Your Time Horizon

Focus less on today and more on your future. Think about your future vision and your goals. Write your top 3 goals for the next 12 months on an index card. Pull it out whenever you’re flooded.

2. Organize

Take 10 minutes to organize your pictures on your computer, your files in DropBox, your iPhone, your desk, a room, or a bookshelf.

3. Read

Escape for a few minutes in an interesting book. Flip through a magazine on a favorite hobby.

4. Think About a Hobby

Focus for a few minutes on something you enjoy. Go fishing, play golf, look at the mountains, play games, or dream about eating a great meal. Do this all in your mind. Looking at pictures can help.

If you found this information helpful, SUBSCRIBE TODAY to access my Free video & worksheet, Shatterproof Yourself: 7 Small Steps to a Giant Leap in Your Mental Health.

5. Stop Avoiding

Often we are overwhelmed because we are avoiding facing a core issue. Being overwhelmed is “safer” than facing our fears. What might you be avoiding? Face whatever it is you know needs to be addressed because it’s the next right thing to do. Be assertive, vulnerable, and let go of the outcome.

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” Viktor Frankl (author of Man’s Search for Meaning)

6. Get Physically Active

Exercise helps prevent “brain lock” and engages your pre-frontal cortex once “brain lock” has set in. A walk for 10 minutes, might be all you need.

7. Listen

Listening to an audiobook, podcast, or music can do the trick. Be careful to choose uplifting content, not content that fuels negative emotions.

8. How To Videos

YouTube can do wonders. Watch positive and uplifting content. Funny content can be inspiring as well. I’m a big fan of Ted Talks for this purpose.

9. Journal

Journaling your thoughts, ideas, emotions, and more is nearly always great for calming down a flooded mind. Our thoughts are much clearer on paper. Journaling helps move brain activity away from the emotional center of our brains (the amygdala) and activates our rationality (our pre-frontal cortex). Here are 100 of my favorite journaling prompts.

10. Gratitude

Thinking about and writing down what you’re grateful for can do wonders. 

11. Breath

Take 2 minutes to focus on your breathing. Breathe for 4 seconds in, stop at the top of the breath for 1 second, and breathe out for 4 seconds. When you blow the breath out, act as if you are blowing it out through a straw. This will calm down your nervous system.

12. Call a Friend

This is often the first thing I do when I’m stressed out, and often the best action I can take. I used to not be that way, but I realized that “going it alone” is NEVER usually not the path out of my overwhelm. Who can you call?

Try a few of these and see which ones help the most. A time-out for just a few minutes can give you the confidence to stay engaged in tough situations. Avoidance only makes anxiety & overwhelm linger. Keep practicing and find out what calms your mind the most.

If you found this information helpful, SUBSCRIBE TODAY to access my Free video & worksheet, Shatterproof Yourself: 7 Small Steps to a Giant Leap in Your Mental Health. 

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