Does Life Feel Like An Emotional Roller Coaster?

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated May 1, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Elated one minute, sad the next: sometimes, life can feel like an emotional roller coaster. This whirlwind of feelings can leave you feeling confused and emotionally exhausted and getting off may seem like an impossible task. 

When your feelings seem out of control, it can be challenging to determine how to cope. If you find yourself experiencing constant ups and downs in your mood, it may be helpful to consider a few of the ideas below to try to identify why you might be feeling this way, and how you might find more balance, stability, and serenity in your life.

What might be causing your emotional roller coaster?

Ilona Titova/EyeEm
Being on an emotional roller coaster can be exhausting

It may be helpful to first try to identify the source of your tumultuous feelings - although this task can sometimes be easier said than done. Perhaps you are in a volatile situation that causes you emotional pain, so your emotions might be intense and quickly change. Or, perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed or emotionally confused because you don’t know what will happen next. 

If you can pinpoint a source for your emotional ups and downs, you might find that it becomes clearer how you might tackle them and find some peace.

Managing tumultuous emotions

When you’re on an emotional roller coaster, learning to manage and deal with those emotions can be a useful but challenging step. Regardless of the possible reason for your roller coaster, you might try some of the following tips to manage some of these tumultuous emotions and calm your mind. 

Experience, recognize, and accept your emotions

One of the ways to cope with your emotional roller coaster is to allow yourself to experience your emotions. Hiding from or denying your feelings may not be very beneficial in the long run. Instead, try to give yourself a few moments to sit with your current emotion and allow yourself to feel it before you try to do anything about it.

Noticing that you have intense and changing emotions might be clear, but it isn’t always as simple to recognize precisely what emotion you’re having. For instance, you might think you’re experiencing frustration that your partner is coming home late, but later realize that it was worry you were 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 you had.

Finally, it can also be important to accept your emotions. You don’t have to let them take over your life, and you don’t even have to like your feelings—but you might try accepting that, right now, this is the way you feel. Then, you can decide what to do next. This process might help the emotional roller coaster seem less overwhelming and deter some of the negative thoughts that accompany overwhelming emotions.

Express your emotions appropriately

Expressing your feelings appropriately may also help you come to terms with them. Appropriate ways to express emotions might include:

  • Creating art
  • Playing music
  • Dancing
  • Writing and journaling
  • Exercising
  • Cooking
  • Talking about them with someone you trust

While using these or similar appropriate approaches may be beneficial, expressing emotions in inappropriate ways may cause practical and relationship problems, or may keep the roller coaster going by creating situations that are more distressing. Try to determine appropriate forms of expression that work best for you in order to get off an unwelcome coaster ride. 

Work on your emotions through thoughts and actions

While emotions may be hard to shift or control, our thoughts and actions can also affect how we feel. Below are a few approaches to try to find more stability through thoughts and actions: 

Look at the bigger picture

The bigger picture may give you more perspective on your problems and successes. When you can see it, you might be more able to recognize that what is happening for you is neither the best nor the worst possible outcome, allowing you to step off the emotional roller coaster. Most challenges happen for a short amount of time, so keeping that in mind can help put things in perspective.

Engage in positive self-talk

Our opinions of ourselves can have a strong effect on how we feel. For example, suppose you failed a test. Telling yourself that it was because you’re not smart could lead to feeling sad or hopeless about the situation, as well as down on yourself. However, if you say to yourself that it was because you didn’t prepare for the test as much as you could have, rather than feeling sad, you might be motivated to try harder next time.

Practice forgiveness

Forgiving ourselves and others may allow us to feel calmer and more in control. If you find yourself ruminating about how someone has hurt you or blaming yourself for a mistake you might have made, you’re not alone. Many people engage in this kind of behavior. If you can learn to forgive, though, you may be able to release some of the pain and return to a more stable emotional state.

Practice mindfulness

You may experience a lot of emotions and sensations on a day-to-day basis and possibly get caught up in what’s happened in the past or worries that may never come true. Practicing mindfulness can mean bringing full awareness to the sensations you’re feeling in the present moment. By keeping your thoughts focused on the present moment, you may find that you are less likely to dwell on past hurts or obsess over future fears. This practice can be a helpful way to become calmer and more emotionally centered.

iStock/monkeybusinessimages

Build healthy relationships

Cultivating healthy relationships may help you cope with the emotional roller coaster, or even avoid emotional spikes if you find that unhealthy relationships have been a source of tumult in your life. When you have healthy relationships, you can receive love, care, and emotional support from those around you, which may help you find some stability throughout the ups and downs. A healthy relationship often has a way of making you feel more calm and at peace and may provide a safe place to discuss your difficulties.

Take care of your physical well-being

Taking care of your body may help you have a more peaceful mind. If you are on an emotional roller coaster, you might try ensuring that you are sleeping enough, eating nutritious food, and exercising regularly. These actions may make you feel better physically, while also enhancing your emotional well-being.

The emotional roller coaster and mental illness

Experiencing extreme emotional highs and lows can be associated with certain types of mental illness. If you are concerned that your emotional ups and downs may be associated with a mental health condition, you might consider seeking help from a qualified therapist.

Bipolar disorder

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines bipolar disorder as “a serious mental illness in which common emotions become intensely and often unpredictably magnified.” People with bipolar disorder can experience a lot of quickly changing and intense emotions, swinging from extreme happiness and high energy to extreme sadness and fatigue.

The National Institute of Mental Health details some symptoms of manic and depressive episodes experienced in bipolar disorder. Some symptoms of a manic episode can include:

  • Feeling jumpy or wired
  • Needing little sleep
  • Having little or no appetite
  • Talking rapidly about many different things
  • Having racing thoughts
  • Thinking you can do many things at once

Some of the symptoms of a depressive episode can include:

  • Feeling slowed down
  • Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Experiencing increased appetite and weight gain
  • Talking slowly and being forgetful
  • Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Feeling hopeless and worthless

Borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder is characterized by difficulties managing emotion and, as noted by the APA, a “long-standing pattern of instability in mood, interpersonal relationships, and self-image.”

Another characteristic of borderline personality disorder can include instability in impulse control. For individuals living with borderline personality disorder, it can be harder to return to a stable baseline after experiencing an emotional stressor.

Finding relief through therapy

If you are feeling like you’re on an emotional roller coaster, know that there is help available. Depending on your situation, needs, and preferences, you might consider therapy, either in-person or online. 

Being on an emotional roller coaster can be exhausting, so for some individuals, online therapy might feel a little more convenient. With online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp, you can speak with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your own home, without having to deal with transportation. A counselor may use different techniques to help you experience, identify, and express your emotions, and they can offer support as you learn to manage your feelings. Thousands of providers are available on the platform, so you can find a therapist whom you feel comfortable opening up to and who can help you finally get off your emotional roller coaster ride.

There may be many different reasons for feeling like you are on an emotional roller coaster, whether it is connected to a recent event in your life, an unhealthy relationship, a mental illness, or something else entirely. For a variety of concerns, research has shown online therapy to be just as effective as in-person sessions.

Getty/PeopleImages
Being on an emotional roller coaster can be exhausting

Takeaway

When you feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster, it can be difficult to figure out how to cope and find more stability. You might consider trying some of the strategies above for managing emotions, and if you would like further support from a professional, online therapy may be able to help.
Seeking to improve your mental health?
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started