How to deal with someone overwhelmed with emotions
We can’t ignore that emotions are processes.
It is easy to ignore or discount emotions completely in ourselves or others. Why ignoring them? Emotions are real and part of our lives. We experience them as processes that impact our bodies’ physiology and our brain chemistry:
- Creates a hormonal release into our blood stream.
- Impact our breathing and our heart rate.
- Impact our blood circulation. (Pulse speeds up.)
- Impact our muscular system. (Different muscles tense up or relax.)
- Impact in organs’ function
- Impact our nervous system. (Fight and flight responses)
A state of emotional overwhelm may be caused by traumatic life experiences, relationship issues, stress at home, school, or work, and much more. A Youth from Y.O.T.O may have experienced all of the above or may be experiencing some aspects and finds himself or herself in crisis.
What could we be facing when dealing with youth in crisis?
A youth in crisis may be experiencing grief, anger, anxiety, insomnia and be on the edge of falling apart. He/she may have experienced some traumas and keeps them secret.
How to relate to a teenager overwhelmed with emotions?
Grief: Broadly speaking, the feelings and symptoms of grief may include: shock, denial, anger, guilt, anxiety, sleep disorders, exhaustion, overwhelming sadness, and concentration difficulties. Most of the time a person feels several of these emotions at the same time, perhaps to differing degrees. Youth at Y.O.T.O are always in a continuous crisis. Grief is part of their everyday life. Abandonment, rejection and betrayal are difficult to handle. To learn to recognize, observe, accept and release is a first step toward their wellness.
Overwhelmed: A youth who feels overwhelmed may become emotional. Give her/him some space but be present, as support. Bring some water, some Kleenex. Then when the youth feels more settled, offer tea/coffee for grounding. Ask if she/he would like to talk with you. Recognize and acknowledge her/his state .Ask if she/he overwhelmed due to feelings or due to too many demands? Then ask if she/he willing to do an exercise with you
Exercise: On top of a page, write: ”I am overwhelmed” Then divide the page in 2 columns.
At the top of the left column, write: “Because:” then list the reasons why you feel overwhelmed. Leave some space between each reason.
At the top of the right column, write My best solutions: Then try to find a solution to each one of your reasons to feel overwhelmed.
Example: “I am overwhelmed because I can’t catch up with school work.” Solution: I will see if I can change my work schedule or look for some tutoring from a friend or at school or, here at Y.O.T.O.
Example: “I feel overwhelmed because I am late for everything! Solution: “I will ask if I can get a bike at Y.O.T.O. “Support will trigger surges of energy, creativity and hope.
“This particular exercise empowers the youth or the adult and at the same time, deflates their unwanted emotion, may it be being overwhelmed or angry,” says Dr. Francine, counselor, “I use this frequently in my practice when my clients share with me how they have been feeling powerless when dealing with their emotions. We go through part of the exercise together and their emotional state changes.” A powerful tool for people in crisis.
Overwhelmed from tasks:
Make a list of the reasons for being overwhelmed by demanded tasks and see if you can help her/him to prioritize them. Some may actually be postponed or even deleted during this process.”
By Fredric Provenzano, PhD, NCSP
There’s no denying it. Everyone is likely to experience anger. A recent study found that adults feel anger, from moderate annoyance to rage, on the average of six times a day. Although the rate for children and adolescents has not been reported, we can assume that they are also likely to experience anger frequently.
Anger also has a positive side. We feel angry when we feel threatened or wronged, and it gives us extra energy to deal with the problem. In that respect, we’re not unlike humans from eons ago, or even different from most other animals. Anger is part of what is known as the generalized alarm response, preparing us to threaten, fight, or run away (the three primitive and basic ways to solve a problem).While these three options may be very useful if we’re revved up because a bear is threatening our child or friend, it doesn’t work in most of the social situations that we encounter today. Still, when our anger is moderate to intense, we experience that primitive and basic reaction. As our anger grows toward a rage, we lose our ability to reason logically. Instead, we make reactive, instinctual decisions, just like little kids.
Anger versus Angry Response
It is important to see the difference between anger, which is a valid emotional reaction to perceived threat, and how we behave when we’re angry. Anger is a common, natural response that can have value, even survival value. There is nothing wrong or unusual about feeling angry. Still, it can be a very discomforting feeling. The problem with anger usually begins when this rapid anger reaction reduces our ability to reason. Then, what we do when we are angry may be impulsive, dangerous to ourselves or others, damaging, or even disruptive. There is potential for danger in both reacting aggressively and in trying to deny our feelings, which can contribute to depression or physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or ulcers.
Steps to Manage Anger
Steps in managing anger fall into two main stages. The first stage, tension management, involves assessing the anger or tension level and then taking steps to reduce it if we’re even approaching a danger level. The second stage, problem solving, involves using the remaining energy to fuel the action to solve the problem. However, it is extremely important to go through the first stage before trying to solve the problem.
Tension Monitoring and Reduction
Here are the steps to use in checking and reducing physical tension and anger:
- Step 1. Recognize your anger. Check your body signs. When you’re tense, your body shows it in more than 600 different ways that prepare you to fight, threaten, or run away. Some of the more familiar and easier to recognize signs include increased heart rate/heart pounding; rapid, shallow breathing; face feeling hot; jaw tensing; fists clenching; feeling energy through the body; upset stomach; shoulders hunched.
- Step 2. Break from the action. If you’re feeling even mild to moderate body tension, give yourself a stop command (“Stop! Cool it! Chill!”).
- Step 3. Relax/de-escalate. There are several ways you can do this. The easiest is relaxation breathing.Breathe slowly in through your nose and exhale very slowly through your mouth. Other methods include soothing self-talk (“I’m the boss of my body. I can manage myself.”) or tensing and then relaxing various muscle groups.
- Step 4. Check your level of self-control. Ask yourself, “Am I the boss of my body?” Check your body signs for reduced tension. If you aren’t regaining self-control, continue with step 3 or get away from the stressful situation.
Once your tension is reduced so that you can reason more clearly, proceed to the following steps:
- Step 1. Define the problem.
- “My problem is ______.”
- “I want ______ (to be left alone, to leave, an apology).”
- “I don’t want ______ (to fight, get in trouble, hurt or other’s feelings).”
- Step 2. Make a plan. The plan should address both what you want to accomplish and what you want to avoid. Include a back-up plan, so that if your first plan doesn’t work, you’ll feel confident and less likely to feel angered again and won’t have to repeat all these steps.
- Step 3. Implement your plan. Ask yourself, “Am I following my plan? Is it working?” If it’s not working, have you given it enough time to work, or is it time to switch to the back-up plan?
- Step 4. Evaluate your efforts. Be sure to give yourself credit for following your plan and managing your anger, even if it didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped.
This is the most useful and readily available technique for reducing tension. It not only works in anger management, but also at other times when you’re feeling tense or anxious. Actors, singers, athletes, and public speakers use it all the time. It’s also helpful to use during tests if you’re feeling worried. This technique may not make you feel totally relaxed in a tense situation, but can take the edge off your tension so that you can function more effectively. Here’s the technique:
- Square your body, so that you are not twisted one way or the other. Rest your hands in your lap or on the arms of the chair if you’re sitting. Position your arms by your sides if you’re standing or lying down.
- Breathe in deeply and slowly through your nose. Fill your lungs. You’ll know you’re doing this when your lungs are so full that your stomach sticks out.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth. Don’t push the air out, just open your mouth and let the air flow out gently by itself. Our body relaxes as we exhale, so the longer you can prolong this breathing out the more relaxed you’ll feel. (Don’t hold your breath before starting to exhale. Holding your breath increases your tension instead of decreasing it.)
- Repeat this at least four times, but as often as you need to take the edge off your tension. Repeat whenever you start to feel the tension build again. .)
Anger is a natural and functional response to perceived threats. When we learn to effectively manage our anger, we can direct that energy into positive solutions to our problems that respect others and ourselves.
Dr. Sylvaine Francine suggests the same exercise which was mentioned above to deflate anger very quickly.
But first, make yourself available and validate his/her feelings by saying: “You have all reasons to be angry yet, this is hard on you. What would help you? Do you want some water? Some tea or coffee? You want to talk? Do you know how to un-stress?
Once the communication has been established, then proceed on doing the exercise with him/her.
On top of a page, write: ”I am angry.” Then divide the page in 2 columns.
At the top of the left column, write: “Because:” then list the reasons why you are angry. Leave some space between each reason.
At the top of the right column, write: My best solutions: Then try to find a solution to each one of your reasons to be angry.
Example: ” I am angry because I arrived late and missed my final.” Solution: I make sure, I set my clock far away from my bed so I actually get up to turn it off.
Example: “I am angry because my mother forgot my birthday yesterday.” Solution: After I cool off, I will contact her and tell her that …… and then when she acts like that…………, I feel ………… I will tell her that this is what I want: ….. (Minimum of respect, minimum recognition and acknowledgment of my birthday.) or…. Whatever is appropriate.)
Anxiety: Talking and supporting the youth who has anxiety helps. Talk him/her out of her fears and anxiety. Show the brighter side. Constant or, frequent anxiety, requires some homeopathy remedies or medications. Encourage quiet time, meditation, slow breathing. Let the youth know that distracting himself or herself from anxiety helps. Connecting with friends helps by talking on the phone, watching a movie, exercising, walking etc.
Exhaustion: Allow the youth to lay down and sleep for ½ hour. Ask if she/he working or studying too late at night.
Sadness: Validate the emotion. An on-going feeling of sadness may be the beginning of a depression. Counseling, homeopathic remedies or medications may be the next step.
Falling apart: When falling apart, usually people feel self-conscious. A youth is no different. Leave some space but stay present for support. Offer water, Kleenex, place your hand on his/her arm and wait. When communication opens up, then ask how you can help.
How to relate to an adult overwhelmed with emotions?
“Rather than “forced empathy,” Anne Kreamer, author of the book “It’s always personal”, encourages supervisors to go deeper and look for what is triggering an employee’s emotional behavior in the first place. This positions you to deal with issues at their root level and provides insight into the “danger zones” to avoid as well.
If you understand what is causing employees to react to situations emotionally, you’re in a much better position to prevent an outburst by not letting things get to that point.”
How to manage your own emotions at work and link between gender and crying.
In researching her book on emotions in the workplace, Dr. Kreamer discovered that women cry nearly four times as often as men. Why? The truth is that women are simply hardwired differently.
“Women have six times the amount of prolactin (the hormone that controls tears) than men do and our tear ducts are significantly larger,” she says. Additionally, women’s tear ducts are anatomically different from men’s which explain why women — for example — tend to gush tears while men often barely elicit a trickle.
Kreamer notes that the presence of tears should not be ignored; they are the workplace equivalent of a “check engine” sign. “Tears communicate that something in our lives is out of kilter right now. We are overworked, we are sick, we feel angry, or we are frustrated.” Rather than seeing tears as a sign of weakness, adds Kreamer, they signify that “there is an underlying need that should be addressed.”
While understanding the science behind crying can be helpful for managers, Glickman says if you feel yourself about to get overly emotional, it’s still best to head for the door.
“It is terribly awkward and painful for both men and women to deal with colleagues crying over work matters,” she says. If you’ve had it, says Glickman, “it’s always better to tell people, ‘you know what, I need a break, I’ll be back in 30 minutes.'” You can always say you need to burn off steam or vent, adds Glickman, “but I don’t see the benefit in actually having that breakdown in front of others.”
Kreamer notes that managers should look for the same emotional triggers in themselves that they do in employees. “Again, if you get into a position of feeling overwhelmed, if you can be self-aware enough to know the things that put you in that vulnerable state, you can be in a better place to manage it.”
Indeed, when it comes to emotion in the workplace, small business managers have a complex challenge where the ripple effect of any emotional situation can run deep.
Both Kreamer and Glickman see this as an area where great managers can really set themselves apart by approaching emotions as something healthy for business. Says Kreamer, “I believe these profound social changes, in tandem with the new scientific insights into the ways each gender operates, will transform the future of interpersonal dynamics on the job.”
An exercise to help de-stress
An exercise to help de-stress:
1. Make a list of everything currently on your plate.
Many people who claim they are overwhelmed have difficulty coming up with more than 15-20 items on their “to do” list. The very act of writing down the things you need to do (or are overwhelmed about) helps you de-clutter your mind.
2. Review and prioritize the list.
How many of the items on the list are truly “must do” items? Review the list carefully and determine if anything can be delegated to others. Consider those items that are “nice to do” and remove them from the list. Prioritize the remaining list. Looking at the list objectively helps to minimize the feeling of being overwhelmed.
3. Control what you can, and let go of what you can’t.
Many people put a lot of attention on things they have no control over. Ask yourself if this thing you feel overwhelmed about is something you have control over or not. Focus your energy and attention on what you can control.
4. Be okay with an 80% solution.
How much is your time and energy worth to you? Perfection is rarely expected nor appreciated and yet so many of us spend countless hours trying to get things perfect.
5. Release stress.
According to Statistics Canada, “People who are physically active report lower levels of stress.” Regular exercise can help lower stress and build resilience. Other ways to release stress include: deep breathing exercises, meditation, getting sufficient sleep and laughter.
6. Turn negative thinking into positive thoughts and actions.
Are you focusing on “how bad things are” or “how much work you have to do?” Learn to change your thinking to more positive thoughts. Focus instead on all the good things that are happening to you or around you, or focus on how much you have accomplished today. Maintaining your focus on your progress rather than on how much there is left to do will help you maintain a sense of balance and optimism.
7. Change your perspective.
Sometimes we are so immersed in the details of things that we lose sight of the big picture. There is usually much less emotion and much greater objectivity from a bigger broader picture view of the situation. When you find yourself too close to an emotionally charged situation, ask yourself how the situation would look from the “10,000 foot above” perspective?
While regaining focus and control may feel like an uphill battle, overcoming overwhelm is possible when you put yourself first, step back and truly consider your options and possible actions.
When professional help is needed:
An out of control situation between colleagues which repeats itself may require mediation.
An out of control emotional state which repeats itself requires some professional help such as counseling, psychiatry etc.
How to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation? (Therapeutic physical interventions)
Right Response company offers trainings. Physical intervention is used as a part of the de-escalation process — not a substitute for it. Physical restraint, after all, will not de-escalate a person. The RIGHT RESPONSE Crisis Cycle visually demonstrates the process of proactive crisis management, putting the role of physical intervention into perspective. From this concrete representation, almost no staff leaves the training believing that restraint is the first response to their crisis needs.
Learn how your Paralanguage can undermine your de-escalation attempts. Paralanguage is the parts of your communication that is not words. This includes your speed, volume and intonation as well as your facial expression and body language. You say far more with paralanguage than you do with the actual words. Harness the power of paralanguage and voice control to make every intervention a successful one.
You will also learn the importance of Active Listening, Empathizing, Validating, Proximity, Cognitive Restructuring and Cultural Considerations needed for successful de-escalation.
In order to de-escalate someone, you need to assess their level of escalation. Do they have self-control or have they lost self-control and need help regaining self-control? Are they just upset or are they potentially dangerous? Follow the De-escalation Process of Assess, Adapt and Attend in every situation.
Someone is not likely to de-escalate until their particular needs are met. You will learn how to assess a person’s needs and level of escalation. During an incident you may not always know exactly what to do, but 3 Guiding Principles will always guide your actions in any situation.
- Meet the needs of the person that you’re dealing with. Meet their individual needs, their needs inthat moment as well as their long-term needs.
- Reflect respect and dignity toward the people you’re dealing with. No matter what this person iscalling you or how they are inconveniencing you, the lack of dignity or respect will not help you productively resolve the situation.
- It is always the right response to maintain the safety of everyone involved. This company alsooffers trainings.
Click Here to find out more about RIGHT RESPONSE De-Escalation and Crisis Intervention Workshop.
Dr. Sylvaine Francine encourages us to recognize our emotional needs and the needs of others. Prevention is the key to maintain balance, wellness and a healthy work environment.
At Y.O.T.O, the Youths are supported and know that we care about them. In their young lives, stress is always present and their emotions cannot be ignored. The practices we learn while role playing, prepares one for any crisis.
Training purposes: Role play.
One person acts out one of the following emotions as the others assess the situation and provide a solution that provide respect, comfort and safety.
- Emotionally Losing It
Dr. Sylvaine Francine has been in private practice in U.S.A. for thirty years where she facilitates healing and promotes wellness in adults and youth alike. She facilitates stressful transitions and empowers her clients. She also offers Mastermind Classes, Meditation and Seminars.