What does it mean to be “too emotional?” Do you feel emotionally out of control? Can you identify the cause of your emotions? Learn how to love and be grateful for your emotions and to use them to help you experience greater joy and a happier, healthier, life.
What Are Healthy Emotions?
Healthy emotions are temporary, normal human reactions to stressful or upsetting life changes. Would life be better without our emotions? No. People who have no ability to express emotions may have serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, Alexithymia or emotional detachment disorder. Emotions are a necessary part of our lives. Millions of living beings are experiencing emotions right now. We each experience emotions at different times throughout the day, whether it is feeling bored, jubilant, anxious, peaceful or frightened.
Healthy emotions are temporary, normal human reactions to stressful or upsetting life changes.
Emotional pain is just as helpful to living beings as physical or mental pain, in protecting us from harm and prompting us to take necessary steps to change our lives. Healthy emotions can help us make decisions to keep us safe, warn us of potentially difficult situations, alert us to dangerous surroundings, and make us aware of our preferences (what triggers pain or pleasure) so we can choose wisely. These healthy, helpful emotions include:
Emotions are important for our self-care, survival, and success. So what happens when we feel “too emotional” and have lost control of our emotions? How do we know when our emotions are not helping us and are preventing us from living a happy, healthy life?
Causes of Being “Too Emotional”
What causes us to feel “too emotional?” We all strive to be emotionally balanced and in control of our feelings. The causes of emotional overload can be due to lifestyle triggers resulting in normal emotional reactions or it might be more severe, such as:
- Pre-existing medical condition
- Pharmaceutical side effect
- Genetic predisposition
Trauma – Depression is common in those who have suffered a trauma such as witnessing a robbery, serving on the front lines in military combat, being in a car accident, experiencing the devastating effects of fire, tornado or flood and losing one’s home, or being emotionally or physically abused.
Being told that one is “too emotional” can be a manipulative technique used to control and prevent others from reporting bullying or abuse.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can sometimes be undetected or untreated for many years if the person has been “groomed” to deny the abuse or prevented from reporting it.
Feeling overly emotional can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
Medical Condition – Certain medical conditions such as pregnancy, menopause, sleeping disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Asperger Syndrome, hypothyroidism, cancer, epilepsy, and high blood pressure, can affect emotions. It’s important to check with your trusted physician or health care provider to determine if there are any underlying medical issues.
Drug Side Effects – Symptoms of depression can be a side effect of certain prescription drugs, such as steroids, isotretinoin, oral contraceptives, high blood pressure drugs, biologics, and statins.
Genetic Predisposition – If someone in your family has been diagnosed with a mental illness, you are at higher risk to experience depression or a mood disorder. Emotional outbursts lasting for more than two weeks and occurring for no apparent reason warrant immediate attention. If this is the case, one should seriously consider consulting with a trusted medical professional to receive medical diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.
Healthy Emotion Triggers
There can be many reasons for a change in our emotions. If you are experiencing unexpected, uncontrollable, or unpredictable emotional reactions, there can be serious causes. However, regardless of the cause of our emotions, it is most likely time to make a change or take decisive action.
Any emotional reaction can be an indication that it is time to make a change or take decisive action.
When others are emotional, they might feel alone. Compassionate friends, health professionals, or family members can offer support, understanding, and comfort. They should be reassured that healthy emotions are messages that we care deeply about someone or something, and we might need to take action.
Recognizing, accepting, and forgiving healthy, normal emotions of others can help us accept our own. We might experience emotional reactions each day from co-workers, parents, siblings, spouses, mentors and even pets. Most of us are familiar with heartache experienced by a dog when his master leaves him home alone, a pet bird who cheeps frantically when the cat is near, or a boss who is stressed about an upcoming deadline. Each living soul has unique emotional triggers. Here are some typical causes of healthy changes in emotions:
What are your emotional triggers?
- When something (or someone) you care deeply about is hurt, broken, or destroyed
- When you are unable to continue a relationship with someone you care deeply about, because they have moved away, or left you for an extended or unpredictable period of time
- When someone says something mean, humiliating, critical, hurtful, condescending, reprimanding, or patronizing
- When a person you care about or a group or organization you admire, is unresponsive — not acknowledging you, breaking promises, ignoring you, or forgetting about you
- When you have not gotten enough sleep, food, or are physically ill
- When a loved one is approaching death and/or passes away
- When you see suffering (real or on television or cyberspace) and you experience compassion, sympathy or empathy
- When you are overwhelmed with multiple deadlines or an increase in your daily workload
- When you are uncertain of how you can meet your financial responsibilities
- When you are fired from a job and do not know where or when you will next be gainfully employed
- When things don’t go as planned or something unexpected occurs which directly changes your life
- When you are going through a divorce, separation or breaking up a serious relationship
- When you or a loved one is experiencing a change or decline in health which will have a serious outcome
- When your life is in a state of unpredictability and you do not know who, what, when or where something will be happening
Sad or Depressed?
What is the difference between being sad and being depressed? Sadness is a normal, healthy emotion.
Sadness and depression share similar symptoms but are radically different.
People who are depressed:
- Experience sadness or other emotions that are more severe and longer-lasting
- Have trouble concentrating or completing tasks
- Stop engaging in activities that previously were enjoyable
- Experience physical symptoms such as nausea, body aches, and fatigue
- Have poor or low self-esteem, self-worth, and body image
- Avoid socialization
- Feel unmotivated and avoid responsibilities
- Blame themselves and feel excessively or continuously guilty
- Have trouble sleeping or sleep too much
- Do not know why they feel sad (cannot pinpoint a triggered event such as loss of a job, death in the family, etc.)
- Have suicidal thoughts
- Have made a change in diet, resulting in weight loss, weight gain, or eating at irregular times
- Rarely if ever, experience joy or happiness, even during happy times
- Feel inappropriately suspicious or paranoid
- Feel hopeless
- Hear voices or have uncontrollable negative thoughts
What’s Next? Caring for Emotional Health
What if you don’t know why you, a friend, or a loved one is emotional? Not knowing why one is emotional may be a sign of a serious medical condition. What can one do? First, it’s important to remind ourselves that emotions can be helpful. This means that it’s not recommended to try to blame, stuff or ignore our own emotional reactions or the reactions of those we love.
It’s important to assess the situation. Are things in order? Are you (or the person in question) safe and comfortable, financially secure, physically healthy, and emotionally supported by friends and family? Has the person been abused physically, mentally or emotionally? Are there other underlying symptoms or medical conditions? Has there been a change in lifestyle?
Start in a safe, supportive, loving, environment. Then listen, assess, discuss or plan.
It’s also important to know the basic red flag indicators between healthy emotions, unsafe emotions, or serious chronic mental health conditions. We have listed many of these above.
If you or someone you love is in an abusive or unsafe situation, it is critical to contact a trusted police officer, counselor, social worker, or medical professional and seek immediate help.
Seek immediate help if you are in an abusive or unsafe situation. Call the National Help Line at 1-800-662-HELP, or text HOME to 741741.
The bottom line is: Consider seeing a trusted health care professional (family doctor, social worker, psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, therapist) if your emotions or the emotions of those you love are:
- significantly affecting your life
- lingering more than two weeks
- have become unmanageable and unsafe
For less serious emotional issues and daily maintenance, check out the effective tips below.
20 Tips for Loving Your Emotions and Living a Happier Healthier Life
1. Listen – Listen to yourself. Find a quiet place and close your eyes. Open yourself o feeling your emotions. Take note of anything you feel or any wisdom you glean.
2. Discuss – Take time to discuss the emotions you are feeling with a trusted individual who you are confident will not speak openly about your feelings with others. This might be:
- A trusted friend or family member
- A trained mental health professional
- A professional group counseling or group therapy session
- An online chat group with anonymous friends
Studies show that daily spiritual disciplines, such as prayer or meditation, are beneficial to mental health.
3. Spiritual practice – If you are faith-driven, research studies show that a daily spiritual practice (such as meditation or prayer) is beneficial to emotional and mental health. Surrender the situation to your higher power or the highest state of consciousness and consciously fill yourself with loving energy. Imagine the highest and best for yourself.
4. Gratitude – The daily practice of conscious gratitude can be life-changing. Keep a gratitude journal and write down things that you are grateful for each day. Look for the blessings however small they may be and take time to receive from your life experiences. For example, “I’m grateful for the homemade pea soup my neighbor gave me today,” or I’m grateful for my soft pillow on my bed.” Despite troubling times, most of us can find something to be grateful for –the air we breathe, the sun in the sky, or the clothes on our backs.
5. Affirmations – Writing or speaking life-changing affirmations is a classic behavioral modification technique that has proven successful in numerous research studies for many years. Choose affirmations that help you take the next step toward emotional health. Affirmations are only effective if we begin where we are. For example, stating, “I am happy.” will not be as effective as, “Today I love and accept myself when I am stressed or worried.”
Choose affirmations that start right where you are and allow you to take that next small step.
6. Education – Educate yourself about mental and emotional health issues, options and treatments. Trust those professionals who are credentialed, experienced and knowledgeable. Read articles online or passages from inspirational books before sleeping and when starting your day.
7. Massage – Massage can be an effective relaxation technique and help with releasing tension, breaking through emotional blocks, and removing stress.
8. Visualization – The daily discipline of visualization techniques has been shown to be effective in shifting from negative thinking to positive imaging and aiding in manifesting a successful outcome. It is possible to train the mind to shift to healing thoughts that support a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
9. Experience nature – Getting outside away from the home in natural surroundings can be very therapeutic. Breathe the fresh air, listen to the birds, get some sun, smell the flowers, go to the beach, pick apples, watch the sunset.
10. Eat healthy foods – Consult with a dietician or nutritionist to plan a healthy diet that gives you the boost you need for your immune system., and supports a healthy, body, mind and spirit. Consider raw or living foods, rich with vitamins and minerals. Studies show that a healthy diet can lower the risk of dementia and improve brain health.
Eating a diet of healthy, living foods lessens the risk of dementia and boosts brain health
11. Exercise – Research shows that exercise improves mental health. Yoga, Tai Chi, swimming, walking or daily stretching can be beneficial. Work with a coach or physical therapist to design an exercise or physical therapy program that supports your unique needs.
12. Listen to uplifting music – Music or music therapy is proven effective in reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety and altering the mood. Choose to listen to music that lifts the spirit or is associated with a happy memory.
13. Choose positive input – Watch inspiring movies, listen to motivational speakers, avoid friends who endlessly share their problems, stay away from depressing social media. Begin to take note of the feelings you are experiencing around these stimuli. Practice discrimination. Reduce or eliminate future involvement with anything that triggers negative emotions.
14. Set goals – Make a list of what you plan to do each day. Set small achievable goals. Adjust goals when you need to make a change. Reward yourself for your achievements. Take time to celebrate and pamper yourself when you have accomplished goals. You might take a bubble bath, go out to the movies, buy something new
15. Take time to be sad or mad – Allow yourself a special time each week to be alone with your feelings and express them. It’s alright to cry or yell. If you aren’t comfortable with this, try writing about your feelings or drawing a picture.
It’s alright to arrange a time to privately release our emotions — cry, punch a pillow, scream, or write. Do what works for you to let it go.
16. Determine your triggers – Everyone has emotional triggers. It might be hearing children playing outside, feeling a night breeze, giving a speech, taking a test, standing in an elevator, seeing a barking dog, or hearing a sad melody. Keep a journal of your unique triggers and the emotions you are feeling. Is it fear, melancholy, anger, etc.? What can you do to create a supportive and loving environment for yourself?
17. Love and Care For Yourself – Bathe, vacuum your carpet, wash the dishes, walk the dog, pay the bills, answer emails, take a nap, call someone to help. When we take care of ourselves and our responsibilities we remove stress from our lives. If you are too emotional to take care of your responsibilities, and they are weighing heavily upon you, then arrange for someone to help you get these things done.
Volunteering can have physical and psychological benefits to our mental and emotional health.
18. Help others – Volunteering for charitable causes can help to lift the mood, relieve stress, and bring joy. Do something nice for a friend or loved one. Contact your favorite charity and donate money or time. Help out at your church with setting up or cleaning up before or after an event. Listen when someone is feeling low, and ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?” When we lovingly listen and give time to others, it helps us learn how to give and receive love ourselves.
19. Receive Compliments – No matter how challenging one’s life is at the moment or how low one is feeling, everyone has positive, attributes, talents, and gifts. Make a list of your positive qualities. If it is difficult for you, ask a friend or family member to tell you what they like best about you. Then wholeheartedly receive the compliment with gratitude and love. You can do this quietly and privately. Ask them to text or email you a list. Take your time to receive it.
20. Make a list of abandoned dreams – A common cause of emotions is living a life that is not in alignment with our life purpose or mission. Close your eyes and imagine you have limitless abilities, freedom, and resources to achieve your dreams. Write down every dream and hope you had for your life when you were younger. Imagine that the dream is fulfilled. What do you see? Where are you? How does it feel? Sit with it and enjoy it.
Summary and Conclusions
The purpose of all of these steps is to take the time to be mindful of one’s feelings. When we do this, we discover and implement necessary self-care actions. We benefit from working with trusted healthcare professionals to determine the difference between chronic or unhealthy mental health conditions and normal, healthy emotional reactions. Knowing this, we can implement proven strategies for fostering emotional health.
Jean Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University, is a published author, speaker, and life coach, and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist (RMT), Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder, and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, a 501(c)3 health education nonprofit organization. To find out more about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance visit www.montereybayholistic.com
Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products, and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.
Crisis Help Lines
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