Getting better

Learn how to manage your emotions in a crisis situation

Getting better

Learn how to manage your emotions in a crisis situation

Authors: AMÉLIE SEIDAH, PH. D. and ISABELLE GENINET, PH. D, PSYCHOLOGISTS

September 2020

We all have to deal with unpleasant emotions in our day-to-day. But have you ever felt that managing your anger was just too hard, and you were having a full-on anxiety or panic attack? Strong feelings of sadness and hurt can be overwhelming, making you feel like there’s a veritable tsunami of emotions coming on. But if that’s the case, don’t worry; you’re not alone.

Why do we get overwhelmed by our feelings?

Certain events can bring on some pretty intense sadness and emotions, whether you’re a teenager or not:

  • The death of a loved one
  • A divorce
  • A break-up
  • Rejection from someone we hold dear
  • The death of an animal
  • Any other event that causes a sudden change or loss in our lives

When these kinds of situations occur, we go through a kind of mourning, and this can bring on a tide of emotions that are often hard to control. You may feel distraught, powerless, fragile and alone in such times. But such reactions are normal, healthy and entirely necessary—you need to feel these emotions so that you can adapt to the situation you’re going through. But on the spot, they’re intense. And they’re painful.

What can we do in such moments of distress?

What can we do in such moments of distress?

Imagine that you’re outside when a storm hits, and after a few moments, you’re completely drenched. Your first instinct would surely be to find shelter and wait out the storm. Getting mad at yourself for having gone outside without an umbrella, or without having checked the weather, would definitely not do you any good. Dumping on yourself—on top of being dumped on by the rain—would only serve to make a bad situation even worse, right?

Sometimes, when your emotions get the best of you, the best thing to do is indeed to wait out the storm. Try to avoid doing the following:

  • Focusing right away on finding the answer
  • Judging yourself for your own vulnerability
  • Falling prey to destructive thoughts such as “I’ll never get out of this”

Remember that such intense emotions never last, so allow yourself to feel them and accept them. In difficult times, your goal is first and foremost to ease your own pain by calming down, finding comfort and getting grounded.

To help weather the next storm, take a look at this short memo. And keep it on hand.

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Learn what to do when a crisis comes on

To help you through a time of crisis, you can adopt a few simple strategies to calm down and collect your thoughts.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and some approaches may be better for some than for others. And if you’ve noticed that certain actions, mindsets or gestures have helped you in the past, then by all means, don’t hesitate to add them to the mix.

Know that these approaches can be a doorway to other effective strategies for managing your emotions. And remember: self-soothing will not stop whatever it is that’s causing you distress, nor will it help you find solutions to your problems. It will simply give you a moment of respite.

View strategies

REMEMBER

Once things have calmed down and you’ve alleviated your emotional distress, you might be tempted to try to find an answer to your problems. This is a good reflex to adopt—in good time. Just remember to take things one step at a time, and make sure the storm has passed.

Article Resources

Overcoming crisis

Umbrella Strategies
Umbrella Strategies

Learn more Download
Strategies for weathering the storm
Strategies for weathering the storm

Learn more Download

Learn about the contributor’s book

Tout savoir pour composer avec les turbulences à l’adolescence – Psychologists
Isabelle Geninet & Amélie Seidah, PH.D.

This practical guide aims to help teens get to know themselves better, develop better critical thinking and improve their self-observation skills. Using concrete strategies and helpful advice, teens will learn how to cultivate a positive attitude (e.g. openness, curiosity, flexibility) and, above all, understand the importance of taking action. And this, in turn, will help them feel better equipped to deal with life’s ups and downs… and cope with the emotional turbulence of adolescence!

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