How often do you say or do things without much thought and regret them later? Do you frequently feel confused about what you feel? Have you been snapping at people lately? How would you say you have been managing your emotions this last month?

Dealing with emotions is not so simple and most of the times we run away, push down, suppress or try to get rid of the annoying ones. I personally don’t like to experience emotional discomfort; who does? But when we consciously resist negative emotions, we simply make them worse. For the sensitive ones amongst us - those who I call; “super-feelers” - this is especially hard because these emotions are so intense they can completely overwhelm you in the moment.

Super-feelers are not broken, they’re just wired to feel a lot. They may struggle with daily tasks because their emotions get activated so quickly,  their natural strengths, talents, and abilities to manage conflicts and challenges get hindered by the emotional roller coasters they go through day by day.

For instance, Natasha, a super-feeler, got invited to a party. As the date of the party got closer, Natasha started worrying. Natasha recalled memories of a party long ago where things hadn't gone to plan. She felt embarrassed, sad, and concerned about the upcoming party. To manage her anxiety, Natasha, told herself “I’ll make sure I carry my phone with me, so I look busy if it gets bad, and I may even have a shot of alcohol before going to ease myself into it.”

Natasha was doing her best to manage her intense feelings but what's the reality? Imagine, what would happen if every time she feels something intensely she drinks or act as if she’s on the phone? Those responses may work in the short-term, but what happens in the long-term? Is Natasha really learning to deal with those emotions? Quite likely not.

What is acceptance and commitment therapy?

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), teaches super-feelers better skills to tame their emotion machinery and learn to manage all situations that come along with high stress and high emotional arousal.

ACT asks super-feelers to identify their personal values and use them as guides for each step they take. Within ACT, values are not goals, feelings, wants, or needs, but rather life principles that a super-feeler wants to stand for.

Five ways to manage overwhelming emotions:

  1. Consciously notice and give names to the negative thoughts and emotions you may experience daily
  2. Check your go-to actions; what is your emotional machinery pushing you to do?
  3. Check the workability of those go-to actions: Do they take you closer or further away from your values?
  4. Check what’s truly important for you each particular situation. Step back and ask: Who do you want to be in these moments?
  5. Choose a values-based behaviour. Take a step towards what actually matters.

Life is for living. No matter how strong your emotions, you can live your life by making the best use of the limited amount of time you have by doing what really matters to you. No one can make that choice for you: it’s really up to you.

Further reading

How emotions set high performers apart

The neuroscience of emotions

How can I learn to self-regulate my emotions?

How green spaces reduce stress

How our relationships protect us against stress