Learning how to manage intense emotions is a learned skill. Even the most positive person has to rely on skills that have learned to overcome them.
“I was so angry I ate an entire bag of Doritos.”
Someone said this to me this week in a session. Can you relate? I bet many of you can. What does it look like when you are angry? I mean, REALLY angry. Is it such an uncomfortable or scary feeling you run from it? Deny it? Numb it out?
5 Steps to Manage Intense Emotions
Eating when you experience an uncomfortable or scary feeling such as intense anger serves a purpose. Eating can distract your thoughts thereby calming you down. It can be an alternative to punching a wall, cursing someone out, or saying something you may regret later. If your anger scares you, eating will help.
Here’s the problem…it only helps in the moment. It’s not a solution, it’s a band-aid. Next time you feel intense emotion and you want to run for the refrigerator, try these steps instead.
Step 1: Go somewhere that you can be alone and not distracted for a while.
Pay attention to where you feel the emotion in your body.
- Is your heart racing?
- Your face red?
- Your hands trembling?
- Tears flowing?
Remind yourself that feelings ALWAYS pass. They don’t last forever. You just have to survive until this particular feeling passes. You can do this.
Step 2: Pay attention to your breathing.
Can you take a few deep breaths and exhale slowly? This will immediately calm you. Remind yourself that what you are feeling is not right or wrong, it just is.
Step 3: Name your feelings.
Say them out loud. Know that your feelings ALL have a purpose. Ask yourself what the purpose of this feeling could be. Could your anger be:
- Providing you with the motivation to address a particular issue or situation?
- Reminding you that you need to work on setting boundries?
- Signaling that you need to evaluation this relationship and see if it still serves you?
Step 4: Tell yourself that nothing bad will happen.
You can endure this feeling, no matter how intense.
Step 5: Sit still with your feelings.
If you feel like journaling, do that. Talk out loud to yourself if you like. Eventually, the feeling will de-escalate and you will be able to think about your next steps.
Practice the steps to manage intense emotions.
This is how you experience an intense emotion. Notice that food has no place or role in this process.
Print this out and practice, practice, practice. You will still be tempted to turn to food but the more you react without giving in, the easier it will be.
Want to learn more about how you can help manage intense emotions, learn some of the “why” behind our relationships with food, and other things related to emotional eating? Subscribe to my YouTube channel today!