How Can I Get Off This Emotional Rollercoaster?
Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers
Elated one minute, sad the next: it’s called the emotional rollercoaster. It’s a whirlwind of feelings that can leave you feeling confused and emotionally exhausted. If you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster of emotions, getting off it can seem like an impossible task. And that’s understandable because it’s hard to think logically or take well-reasoned actions when your feelings seem so out of control. Here are some things you can do to find more balance, stability, and serenity in your life.
What’s Causing Your Rollercoaster Ride?
Start by recognizing the source of your tumultuous feelings. Your emotions might be intense and quickly changing because you’re in a situation that causes you emotional pain. Or, the rollercoaster might come if you’re emotionally confused because you don’t know what to will happen next. Sometimes, it’s not so much what happens as it is what you pay attention to. And, what you tell yourself about your situation may intensify your emotions, too.
Dealing with the Feelings
When you’re on an emotional roller coaster, one of the first things you might need to do is learn to deal with those emotions. Remember that having emotions is a part of good mental health. But if your feelings seem overwhelming, you can come to terms with them better in the following ways.
Experience, Recognize and Accept Your Feelings
One thing you can do to deal with your emotions is to allow yourself to experience them. Hiding from or denying your feelings may not be very beneficial in the long run. Give yourself a few moments to sit with your current emotion and allow yourself to feel those feelings before you try to do anything about them.
Recognizing that you have intense and changing emotions might be very easy. But it isn’t always as simple to identify precisely what emotion you’re having. For instance, you might think you’re experiencing anxiety that your spouse is so long coming home but later realize that it’s actually anger you’re feeling. You can sometimes discover more about your feelings by journaling and then considering whether the words you’ve written indicate the emotion you first thought they did. A therapist can also help you think about what your emotions are.
It’s also important to accept your emotions. You don’t have to let them take over your life. You don’t even have to like your feelings. All you need to do is accept that, right now, this is the way you feel. Then, you can decide what to do next.
Express Your Feelings Appropriately
Expressing your feelings can help you come to terms with them. Yet, expressing them in inappropriate ways can cause you practical and relationship problems. It can also keep the rollercoaster going because you might create situations that are more distressing than before.
Appropriate ways to express emotions include showing them through:
- Writing and journaling
- Talking about it with someone you trust
Focus on Positive Emotions
Sometimes, it’s easy to obsess over negative emotions. They’re the most painful, after all. And, they can cause you to believe there’s something seriously wrong even when you know everything is fine. You do need to address those negative feelings. But after that, it’s usually beneficial to focus on the positive emotions and keep your mind on more uplifting thoughts.
Work on Your Feelings Through Your Thoughts
While you can’t change your emotions directly, the way you think does have an impact on how you’re feeling. Here are some ways of thinking that can help you feel steadier and more stable.
Look at the Bigger Picture
The bigger picture gives you more perspective on your problems and successes. When you can see it, you might be more likely to recognize that what is happening for you is neither the best nor the worst possible outcome. As you take a look at where your situation fits in the grand scheme of things, your emotions might not be so intense and exaggerated.
Engage in Positive Self-Talk
What you say to and about yourself can have a strong bearing on how you feel. For example, suppose you failed a test. If you tell yourself that it was because you’re stupid, you’re probably going to feel sad or hopeless about it. But if you say to yourself that it was because you didn’t prepare for the test, rather than feeling sad, you might be motivated to try harder next time. By the same token, if you tell yourself that acing a test means you’re a genius, you might feel overly confident the next time and not prepare. In either case, telling yourself you’re the best or the worst can speed up the rollercoaster and make your feelings more overwhelming.
Forgiving someone else can make you feel calmer and more in control. Many people nurture their angry feelings, letting them grow until they’re overwhelming. If you find yourself ruminating about how someone has hurt you, you’re not alone. Many people do that at some time in their lives. But if you can learn to forgive, you can stop focusing on the pain and get back to a more stable emotional state.
Practicing mindfulness means being fully aware of your surroundings and the sensations you’re feeling at this moment. Being mindful helps you avoid dwelling on past hurts or obsessing about fears of the future. By keeping your thoughts focused on the present moment, you can become calmer and more emotionally centered.
Choose Behaviors That Increase Emotional Stability
Your feelings might be out of control, but your behaviors don’t have to be the same way. One key to successfully getting off the emotional rollercoaster is to do the things that help you achieve your long-term goals rather than the things your emotions make you want to do immediately. Even if you’re being spontaneous, you can take a brief moment to consider whether what you’re about to do will keep you from achieving those goals.
Avoid Acting on Rapidly Changing Emotions
When you know you’re on an emotional rollercoaster, it can the worst time to choose behaviors based on how you’re feeling. Imagine if you felt extremely excited and decided it would be a great idea to buy a new car. Then, a few minutes after you made the purchase, your feelings might become negative, prompting you to go back to the dealer and try to get your money back. Instead of rushing to act on feelings that are changing so rapidly, take more time to think before you make a major decision.
Pursue the Goals That Matter to You
Often, when people try to do things because they think they’re “supposed to,” they bring up intense feelings that can range from sadness to disappointment in themselves to fear of the future. By pursuing the goals that matter to you, you might avoid the unnecessary emotional upheaval that often comes with doing things you don’t think are right for you.
Build Healthy Relationships
Being involved in a healthy relationship can help you avoid the emotional rollercoaster in many ways. First, you aren’t constantly dealing with someone who tries to hurt you or shows no compassion for you. Second, you have emotional support within the relationship. Finally, if you need help from a therapist, your loved one might recognize your distress and encourage you to talk to a counselor.
Take Care of Your Physical Wellbeing
Taking care of your body helps you have a more peaceful mind. Getting enough rest, healthy food, and adequate exercise can make you feel physically better, which enhances your emotional wellbeing. Using harmful drugs or even consuming things like caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine can also impact your emotions profoundly.
Recognize Signs of These Mental Disorders
The emotional rollercoaster is often associated with mental disorders. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by intense and changing emotions, it might be a good time to consider talking to a therapist to find out if you have any disorders that are behind the way you feel. Here are some of the disorders that include this feature and some of the symptoms that go with them.
Mood swings are the most apparent feature of bipolar disorder. A mood is like an emotion, but it’s longer-lasting and may not have a clear situational cause. People with bipolar disorder often experience quickly changing and intense emotions. The National Institute of Mental Health explains the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Some of the symptoms of the manic side of bipolar depression in addition to feeling up and elated are:
- Feeling jumpy or wired
- Needing little sleep
- Having little or no appetite
- Talking rapidly about many different things
- Racing thoughts
- Thinking you can do many things at once
- Using poor judgment and doing risky things
- Delusions of grandeur
Some of the symptoms of the depressive side of bipolar disorder besides the emotional sadness include:
- Feeling slowed down
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Talking slowly and being forgetful
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling unable to do simple tasks
- Little interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling hopeless and worthless
It might seem counterintuitive that people with depression can have changing emotions. Yet, someone with depression isn’t always sad. Sometimes, they can quickly become extremely restless, hopeless, or even suicidal, while at other times, they might feel fine. If you have depression, you might have any or all of the same symptoms as those with bipolar disorder experience during the depressive phase of their mental illness.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Emotional dysregulation is a feature of borderline personality disorder. As noted in the American Psychological Association Dictionary, this term refers to “an extreme or inappropriate emotional response to a situation.” Emotional dysregulation brings up intense emotions, and it sets the rollercoaster in motion.
According to a recent scientific journal article, some of the signs of borderline personality disorder include instability in regulating emotions, controlling impulses, interpersonal relationships, and self-image.
Are you on an emotional rollercoaster and can’t seem to get off it on your own? If so, your next logical step might be to talk to a counselor about it. Whether you have a mental disorder or simply need to talk things out and learn some coping skills, a therapist can help you in many ways. Your counselor can use many different psychological techniques to help you experience, identify, and express your emotions. They can offer their support as you struggle to deal with your feelings. And, if you do have a mental disorder, they can help you learn to handle its symptoms.
Counseling might be available in your local community, and many people like to see a therapist where they live. Another possibility is to speak with a licensed counselor at BetterHelp. Online counseling is private, convenient, and allows you to connect with help from wherever you choose. Getting help from a counselor may be the beginning of a calmer, steadier life for you. Then, you can relax and enjoy the ride.