5 Ways to Calm Anxiety or Emotional Overwhelm

Anxiety and emotional overwhelm (commonly known as “flooding”) are common experiences that can significantly impact our overall well-being. During such moments, it is crucial to have effective strategies in place to self-soothe and regain emotional balance. Let’s explore five proven techniques that individuals can utilize to manage anxiety and flooding.

1. Deep Breathing and Mindfulness
One of the simplest yet powerful techniques for self-soothing is deep breathing combined with mindfulness. By focusing on our breath and bringing awareness to the present moment, we can interrupt the cycle of anxiety or emotional flooding. 

Deep breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing, help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, eliciting a relaxation response and reducing stress levels. Mindfulness, on the other hand, allows us to observe our thoughts and emotions without judgment, enabling us to let go of distressing thoughts and regain a sense of calm.

Rhythmic breathing exercises (such as 5 counts in and 5 counts out) helps to regulate and soothe the nervous system. This practice has been shown to lower cortisol levels, reduce stress levels and boost mood as well as cognitive functioning. If you are highly aroused, using a longer exhale technique (4 counts in and 6 counts out as an example) will boost the parasympathetic nervous system and lower your heart rate. An integrative therapist can help work on these techniques with you, and there are many great instructional resources available on YouTube.

2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique that involves systematically tensing and then releasing different muscle groups in the body. 

We can release tension and promote physical and mental relaxation by consciously focusing on each muscle group. PMR helps divert attention from anxious or overwhelming thoughts, allowing individuals to experience deep relaxation and relief. 

Regular practice of PMR can also improve overall body awareness and promote better stress management.

3. Engaging in Physical Activity
Engaging in physical activity is an effective way to self-soothe during times of anxiety or emotional flooding. 

Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers, reducing stress and anxiety levels. In fact, studies have shown that the practice of just 30 minutes of daily exercise in some cases can be as effective as anti-depressants.

Whether it is going for a walk, jogging, dancing, or engaging in any form of physical activity that brings pleasure, the act of moving our bodies helps alleviate tension and promotes a sense of well-being. Moreover, physical activity can serve as a distraction from distressing thoughts, allowing individuals to shift their focus and regain control over their emotions.

4. Utilizing Cognitive Restructuring Techniques
Cognitive restructuring techniques involve challenging and replacing negative or distorted thoughts with more rational and positive ones. 

When anxious or emotionally overwhelmed, our thoughts tend to become irrational and catastrophic, further fuelling our distress. By identifying and questioning these negative thoughts, we can reframe them into more realistic and constructive perspectives. This process helps individuals gain a more balanced outlook, reducing anxiety and emotional flooding. 

Cognitive restructuring techniques, such as reframing, thought-stopping, and thought diffusion, can be learned through therapy or self-help resources.

5. Practicing Self-Care and Seeking Support
Taking care of oneself is crucial when experiencing anxiety or emotional overwhelm. 

Engaging in self-care activities, such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, practicing hobbies, or spending time in nature, can provide a much-needed break from emotions distressing. 

Additionally, seeking support from trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals can provide a sense of validation and comfort during difficult times. Sharing one’s emotions and seeking guidance from others can help alleviate anxiety and provide a fresh perspective on the situation.

At Momentum Counselling, we integrate all the above techniques along with talk therapy and tools from therapeutic treatment modalities such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. As every person is different, each therapeutic engagement is structured to the individual client’s needs. If you’d like to address anxiety and emotional flooding, please do get in touch. We’re here to help.