Are you about to freak out? 8 steps to deal with strong emotions

I am a very sensitive person. Sometimes I feel so emotional about things it is difficult for me to function properly. Last year I went through a very bad breakup. I felt so awful about it that I wrote a blog post thinking that I was actually about to have a heart attack. For days I had barely eaten, barely slept and there was this persistent thump, thump, thump in my chest that made me feel constantly sick, constantly on-edge and very unwell.

I have felt strong emotions like this before. If you have ever nearly fallen (from a height) and righted yourself, you may have noticed that your body reacted. You may have felt a strong surge of energy flood your nervous system, heightening your senses. Some things our bodies do are instinctual and we have no cognitive control over them. Don’t believe me? Well, consider the knee-jerk reaction.

Could I control my body’s reflexes, if I tried really hard? 

This is properly known as the Patellar reflex. Basically (as we all know) if you bang your knee, it jerks up. It doesn’t matter how much you try to control this instinctive reflex, it just happens independently of your conscious intentions.

From Wikipedia: “Striking the patellar ligament with a reflex hammer just below the patella stretches the muscle spindle in the quadriceps muscle. This produces a signal which travels back to the spinal cord and synapses (without interneurons) at the level of L4 in the spinal cord, completely independent of higher centres. From there, an alpha-motor neuron conducts an efferent impulse back to the quadriceps femoris muscle, triggering contraction.”

Yup, so when I whack my knee, my body simply reacts, totally independent of my personal intentions.

My body is flooded with emotion when something goes wrong 

Likewise, when I nearly fall and I right myself. The ‘feelings’ that flood my body feel so real. Even when I know I am in no danger of falling anymore, the feelings persist for a few seconds, after the danger has passed. My body reacts to the world around it, and to the world within it.

When I get very upset, I get feelings of strong emotions. Sometimes I find these very hard to cope with. Over the years I have learnt many techniques to help me deal with strong emotions, but it is not always easy. Sometimes it feels as if my body has a mind of its own. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the strong emotions I feel.

I also find that when I let my emotions get the better of me, the can get worse and worse. If I let myself get too upset, I can stay upset for far longer than I should, and this adds to my distress.

A personal problem is making me emotional

For the last few months, I have had a very annoying problem. It is fairly minor, and yet something that has been driving me crazy. Over the past few days I have become increasingly anxious about this problem, to the point where it is really beginning to affect my work, my happiness and even my relationship. I feel that I am at the point of emotional exhaustion now; every time this problem is even mentioned, I get very, very upset, irrational and emotional.

Just so you don’t think it’s anything too bad, I can reveal that it is over a sum of money I paid to a dodgy, cheap web design company to help with this very blog, and as you can understand, I am highly emotional about something that I spend so much time, love and energy on. I would rather deal with the devil himself that have to speak to anyone associated with this company anymore.

Small problem, yeah? But it doesn’t feel like that to me.

It doesn’t matter what your problem actually is, just how you react to it. Often, I am great in a big crisis, it’s the little things that get me down. After my long and overly personal rant here, I would like to give you some tips I have researched on how to deal with strong emotions.

1. Centre the self

Detach from the problem and see it as separate from yourself. Do not identify with the problem.

2. Deep breaths

If you are feeling anxious, take some deep breaths to calm down.

3. Return to the senses

What can you see, hear, smell, taste? Take you mind of the emotional trigger by focusing on what is really happening to your body.

4. Take time out

Find a quiet space where you can be on your own for a while.

5. Look in the mirror

Connect with your own eyes and remember that you are bigger than this problem.

6. Ask for help

Ask your guardians and guides (or your higher power or god) to assist you in remaining calm and dealing appropriately with your emotions.

7. Distract yourself

Take on a task that is all-consuming so that you have something else to focus on for a little while.

8. Talk it out

Find someone you trust and talk to them. Ask them not to give you advice if you don’t want it. Often we just need a listening ear.


Have a problem? Check your backyard for the solution

Imagine if you didn’t have to learn things to know things? Imagine if all the information of this planet was stored within the very atoms and energy we see and feel around us. Allow your mind to believe (just for a moment) that if you needed to know something, often that very piece of information could be accessed by you, if only you were more aware?

Yah. I know. As if, right?

When a man falls sick, the plant that is his cure is always close by

Often I read things and forget where I have read them and therefore the source is missing. In ancient Greece, there was a theory that if a man fell ill, the plant that would contain the cure to his disease was often right near where he fell sick. I cannot find the source now, but I hope this principle still holds fast. So…When things are wrong – can it be said that the solution is always at hand, close by?

Learning a new trick by tuning in

I have a Hungarian friend who reads this blog who told me a story of when he was a little boy in Hungary. I forget the details, but it involved an aunty, his mother or some other collection of adult relatives and a runaway chicken. My friend was only a boy of seven and had never had to deal with chickens before. No one knew how to catch the chicken, he told me, but he had an idea.

Somehow, he knew that he could control the chicken by drawing a line on the ground and holding the chicken’s head to the line. The chicken became immobile. (Ok this is really true; everyone from Nietzsche to Al Gore has discussed chicken hypnotism.) He claims that no one ever told him how to do this trick, that the information was just ‘out there’ in the ether, waiting for someone who needed it.

He picks up the chicken, draws the line, the chicken becomes hypnotised and could be killed for dinner. Do you believe this story? I do. But when I first heard it, I did not. I thought, ‘What rubbish.” But throughout the course of my life, I have come to realise that often, things like this seem to happen to me, maybe they happen to you too.

Words pulled from the ether

Have you watched American author Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk? It’s quite famous and in it, she talks about a poetess who would “feel” a poem rolling through the hills, hurdling towards her. She said, as a poet, it was up to her to grab her pen and “catch” the poem, before it found another poet.

Does genius come from heaven?

Gilbert goes on to tell the story, saying, that this poetess would sometimes only catch the tail of the poem, and would reel it back in, and the poem would come out backwards, inside-out. It’s a marvellous concept and one that I can relate to. The talk Gilbert gives relates to the notion of “genius” which she says the ancient Greeks believed was like a genie, who bestowed his gifts upon humans. “Genius”, they said, was not the product of man at all, but a gift bestowed by the Gods.

Connect with your Genius Genie

The good news for all us mere mortals is that (if the ancient Greeks are to be believed) genius could be accessible to us all, we just have to be ready and willing to receive it. It may never come. Gilbert says that with her second book (which wasn’t a flop but certainly failed to capture the world’s attention like Eat, Pray, Love) she committed to sitting down at a certain time each day, waiting for the genius genie. She says she sais to the universe:

“If this book is not successful – I want the records to reflect that ‘I Showed Up For My Part’!”

  1. If you have a problem, check your backyard for a solution.
  2. If you need help, the best person for the job might be right behind you.
  3. If you are searching for a word, it may be written on this very page (or somewhere else close by)
  4. If you are looking to connect with your spirit, don’t feel it is far away. 

Signs it’s time to change your life: NOW

Life: it changes every day but frustratingly, often we feel as though we are doing the same things day in, day out, and getting nowhere. Do you have big dreams and goals? The New Year is a great time to change a few things in your life around and set some great plans in motion for the year.

Here are 5 signs that you are ready to change your life. If you have seen two or more of these signs, that’s a good indication that it’s time to start making some alterations to your life, your career, your goals and your future.

1. Idea

It all starts with a great idea! Have you come up with a concept for a small business? Have you been secretly wanting to advance up the chain of command at work, but can’t find the right course that might get you there? Can you potentially see a better way of doing things in your everyday life?

One of the biggest signs that you are ready to change your life is that you feel inspired by a persistent idea. According to a celebrated Indian philosopher, Vivekananda, you should “take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”

Your idea does not have to be groundbreaking, it could even be something quite simple, such as finding a few extra hours a week to devote to your passion.

2. Identify your goals

Another sign that it’s time to stop thinking and start doing is that you have clearly identified your goals. We all have different goals and our goals shift and change throughout our lives as our priorities move.

What are your goals? Do you have a personal interest you’d like to pursue? Are you looking to start a new career? Are you hoping to gain more skills? Are you wanting to start a small business? If you actually know what you want to achieve, no matter what it is, then half the battle is already won.

Get some advice, research on line, choose a short course to get yourself into a network of people who might be able to inspire you and help you. If you have already identified your goals, then this is a sure sign that you are ready to change your life.

3. You have some time

Just about every adult claims to be “time poor”. There are even studies that show children are overscheduled and feeling stressed and overwhelmed. The truth is, we all have some free time available to us, we just need to make our goals a priority.

Fitness guru and self-proclaimed nerd, Steve Kamb has said, “Your priorities, whether you say so or not, are where you choose to spend those hours.  Make the most of them!  It’s amazing how much time you can find when you minimize the things that aren’t important to make room for the things that are.”

If you have found that you have some extra time in your schedule for whatever reason, then this could be another great indication that it’s time to make some changes in your life.

4. You feel bored with what you are currently doing

Lynn A Robinson, M.Ed., is one of America’s leading experts on the topic of intuition. She has said “Boredom is one of those messages from your intuition that change is needed. It’s a signal that your energy is being drained and that something new needs to happen.”

Are you bored with your current situation? Lynn suggests that you should, “bear in mind that the change that’s required may simply be a shift in attitude or a new way of approaching something. It could also mean it’s time to take action and make an outer, tangible change in your life.”

We all get bored from time to time with our day to day activities and tasks, it’s when this shifts from being a slight annoyance to a persistent feeling of boredom that we should take heed and start to change some things in our lives around.

5. A plan

It doesn’t need to be perfect or set in stone. All you need is the very next step! Not all of us are great planners. In fact, some people are so lousy at planning that they drift through life and never achieve any of the goals that they hope for.

Usually these people lack focus and a plan. They are ‘dreamers’ who fail to see the next step on their journey. Any goal looks huge when viewed from the end point. It’s only when we break up a goal into smaller chunks that we get somewhere.

If you have a plan, even a vague plan, that could be a good indication that it’s time to change your life. Remember, you need to have a clear end goal, but the next step is always the most important one on your life’s journey.

Is our consciousness passive? Are you staring blankly at the world?

Discussions on: Urpflanze (what the hell is that?)

“The problem is that we are unaware of ourselves as free, spiritual beings. We are also unaware of the immense creative power of our own consciousness…Most of the time, we stare blankly at the world, accepting the poker face it returns, unconsciously confirming the misconception that our consciousness is passive and undermining any possibility of motivating ourselves into pouring more energy into our awareness.”

Time to go camping!

I spent a lot of time thinking about my position on this planet over my holiday. Sorry for not keeping in contact – I had to shut down and reconnect with myself. So I went camping with The Boyf.

Oh and wasn’t it lovely! The best part is really being closer to nature and getting in touch with the ‘real me’. The physical part of me that has the most basic human needs: must eat, must drink, must sleep, must have shelter…always wanting kisses. We could collect our water from the river and when something needed to be built, we could try to create it from the things that we brought with us.

Who was Goethe? 

Goethe was a German writer, scientist and politician who had some very progressive thoughts. One of his works, The Metamorphosis of Plants, was published in 1790, a time of great interest and discovery, especially for the natural world. Only 2 years earlier, my beautiful country of Australia was colonised by the Brits. People were discovering new lands and were cataloguing the various flora and fauna that they discovered. A few explorers were eaten by cannibals. Times were fun. Science and discovery abounded and flourished.

Goethe’s studies on The Metamorphosis of Plants

From Wikipedia: In The Metamorphosis of Plants, ‘Goethe essentially discovered the (serially) homologous nature of leaf organs in plants, from cotyledons, to photosynthetic leaves, to the petals of a flower.’

Here are Goethe’s own beautiful words:

‘The ever-changing display of plant forms, which I have followed for so many years, awakens increasingly within me the notion: The plant forms which surround us were not all created at some given point in time and then locked into the given form, they have been given… a felicitous mobility and plasticity that allows them to grow and adapt themselves to many different conditions in many different places.’ (source, Wikipedia article “Goethean Science”)

You, me, the plants, the planet

While camping, I spent a lot of time thinking about plants. What is their place on this planet? What sort of life do they have? We know that plants are living, growing things…but what, if any, level of consciousness do they have? What point do they really serve? Are they happy? Do they have any connection with God or with a Higher Power of any kind? Can they pray?

Poor little things, I think, so small and not as clever as me and my fellow humans. What a terrible thing to think, I think, but perhaps all humans have a sort of superiority complex. We certainly act like it.

Imaginative Observation 

“Goethe explained that through a long process of disciplined “imaginative observation,” he had brought himself to the point where he could perceive – that is, actually see – the archetype of all plants, the original plant from which all others developed, what he called the Urpflanze.”

I can’t remember where I read it, but Goethe, I think, believed that we could learn about our own position on the planet, and indeed, the universe, by meditating on this observation. As one plant originates from another, so too did this body of mine originate from my ancestors.

Sometimes I feel so new, so naïve, so small.

And yet

When I walk alongside these plants, trees, flowers… I think, “Just as your new body has sprung up and soon shall die, so has this body of mine.”

But my Urpflanze will carry on.

This body of mine is finite, as is everything on this Earth, I guess.

I am, and so are you, as ancient as the trees, the rock, the Earth.

As I walked through the trees, I thought to myself, “In the past, my ancestors walked alongside yours.” I have just as much age and right to be here, even though I feel so small and insignificant, my life so pointless and tiny.

Why you feel stressed at Christmas time

Stress. I have it in droves at the moment. Far from being the most wonderful time of the year – often I find myself so stressed out I cannot think clearly or function well. Even though I am technically going on a break from work, I will continue with some freelancing and I have to keep in contact with a few people and colleagues for various reasons – there is simply no “checking out” these days anymore. I already have a short appointment booked for Monday. I am tired just thinking about it!

Time is running out to Christmas!

And of course there are the million other things I have to do! I have to renew my driver’s license (it’s expired!) and finish some Christmas craft projects (oh hot glue gun – you are the bane of my life!) and stupidly, I have decided to pay an enormously hefty tax bill which I was given this week which runs into the thousands of dollars.

Yuh. Uh huh. I am STRESSED out of my skull.

Everywhere I turn in my life there is a massive project that needs to be done. From the 200 page document I have agreed to edit for a freelancing client to the mountains of socks without pairs that are cluttering up my drawers to the manuscript that needs work and is gathering dust and resentment. HELP! What can I do?

Stress in my dreams at night

Last night I had a dream that I was on my hands and knees in the middle of a room, screaming my heart out! It wasn’t even a human scream, more like a high-pitched dog whistle. I just kept screaming, “I am so stressed, I am so stressed!” to a room full of people while The Boyf patted my head (like a puppy!) and told me to calm down. This was a dream, but were it real life, he would hopefully have done the same.

Stress can cause me to have a meltdown

The dreams shocked me a little, because really I am quite happy at the moment, just over tired, I think. I am a stress head by nature, in fact, I could say that I come from a family of stress heads. Stress can be a positive thing, it can drive us to achieve great outcomes and give us energy and chutzpah. It can also be a negative thing which can cripple us and place our closest relationships in jeopardy. If I am spinning too many plates, when one little thing goes wrong I can ‘snap’ and have a meltdown. What happens to me when I have a meltdown? I have written a post on my meltdowns here. See for yourself.

What is stress?

According to  ‘Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body’s defences kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight-or-freeze” reaction, or the stress response.’

The ways we display stress

Psychologist Connie Lillas has developed a theory (source) about how people display stress.

  1. Foot on the gas: An angry, agitated, or “fight” stress response. You’re heated, keyed up, overly emotional, and unable to sit still.
  2. Foot on the brake: A withdrawn, depressed, or “flight” stress response. You shut down, pull away, space out, and show very little energy or emotion.
  3. Foot on both: A tense or “freeze” stress response. You become frozen under pressure and can’t do anything. You look paralysed, but under the surface you’re extremely agitated.

I can say that at times I display all three, but by far and away the type of stress I usually show is the first kind.

Stressful jobs

There are lots of job roles where people report higher levels of stress during this period. For example, nurses and doctors. According to “The festive season often brings many detrimental health effects, which nurses may encounter when coming into contact with patients over the coming weeks.”

About 5 years ago, a Medical News Today article warned that Christmas pressures could lead to anxiety, sleep disturbances, headaches, loss of appetite and poor concentration. It went on to mention that these are all identifiers of stress.  It also said that over time, stress can contribute to heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Stress: it’s a serious thing, apparently and it really could kill you. If you are a stress bunny like me – take a deep breath with me now. It will be OK!

“Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.” Marilu Henner

Spiritual messages are all around you, bozo!

Every now and then – something makes me stop in my tracks. In fact, what just happened to me on my lunch break made me stop in my tracks and then cross the road. Every day we get messages and spiritual help. I am sure this is true, but I cannot say for certain what your experience is.

I downloaded this useless mindfulness app. It reminds me to “become aware of my surroundings” at several points during the day. At one stage yesterday, it beeped and sent off a message, telling me, “Become aware of how you relate to those around you”. Uh, OK app. Thanks for the advice. It’s a useless piece of garbage, made with (mostly) good intentions.

It is important to anchor yourself in awareness every day. By doing this, we raise our consciousness so that we become more aware of what really is. Often we get so immersed in the buzz of information and emotions around us. There is as much going on internally as externally at any moment in time. If I stop and pause for a second I am overwhelmed by senses, feelings, emotions, memories, stimuli and general STUFF.

It’s exhausting…don’t you think?

Every day as my train is coming to the underground railways station I patiently wait at every morning, I tune into my awareness. I return myself to the five senses. What can I see, smell, feel, taste and hear? I try to imagine that I am an alien who has just newly arrived on this planet – what would it look like to me if this was my first experience of this world?

The train thunders along – filled with hundreds of people. They sit there like lemmings, like eggs in an egg carton. Patiently waiting for their stop. When I clear my mind and really LOOK, look at what I am seeing it almost shocks me. “Look at all those lemmings stuck in that big, steel beast!” (I think), “And now I am about to join them on their journey to nowhere!”

I sip my coffee with its plastic lid and barge my way past the thronging crowds onto the train and think nothing more of what I have seen. It’s just a freakin train, goddarn it. Just get on the thing and don’t think too much. This is what I do every day. This is my life – it’s probably your too – but for how long? And for how long have we done this? Does anybody even remember?


The thing that made me stop in my tracks today was The Book of Malachi.

Yuh – I know – weird, right?

There is this funny Chinese guy who stands on stilts in China Town in Sydney and he twirls a hula hoop and begs for money. He’s there every day and I don’t often pause to stop and watch him, because quite frankly, he looks like a nutcase.  Today at his feet was a book flapping in the breeze. I am not sure if it was a Torah or a Bible or what – but it has flapped open to The Book of Malachi.


Some cool points about this Book:

  • It’s the last book of The Old Testament
  • It’s in The Torah and The Bible (of course!)
  • Dudes were trying to give lame, blind and sick animals for sacrifice ‘cos they thought no one would notice
  • This is one of the Books that deals with divorce – men are being urged to stick with the “wife of his youth”
  • People in this Book were becoming quite disillusioned with religion

Sew – really that doesn’t mean a lot to me today. But at least I took the time to investigate – it may mean something to me tomorrow. I have quite a thing for religious texts and I am not shy about quoting various sources in this blog – yesterday it was the Bhagavad Gita. Spiritual messages are all around us and more often than not – they come from other people – from men, women and children.

I have found that the people around me are teaching me things about myself. Even the weird hula-hooping man with the strange Book that I’ve never thought to check out before.

From studying this Book for the briefest of moments today – I was able to reconnect with a different time and place – and it reminded me of how small and insignificant my life is, right now.

this is a flower in a jar

How to be authentic

Authenticity. Last week my awesome job gave me and my awesome workmates a chance to work with an awesome media company for training and development – creative-like. The “office” was an old 1880s terrace house that had been converted into an achingly groovy open plan workspace. It was so groovy, my eyeballs hurt. Or that could just be the harsh shade of Hogsbristle that was painted on everything in the boardroom from the chairs to the plastic chandelier to the giant, ethically-sourced plywood table.

Apparently they haven’t always been at that location. They recently took over the location from the last funky, groovy media or graphics company that went bust. Meh. It happens. Media is a funny game. One minute you are shite-hot, the next minute… sorry, was this your desk?

Luckily, the clever people at this agency were nice enough to share some of their stories with us. “Authenticity” was a word that came up a lot. These days, as we all discussed, people are on the lookout for something that seems ‘inauthentic’. We can tell (as consumers) when something is not quite right – when it has been falsified, photoshopped, set up or faked. At least, I think we are getting better at this.

What is authenticity?

authentic  — adj (source:

1.                 of undisputed origin or authorship; genuine: an authentic signature

2.                 accurate in representation of the facts; trustworthy; reliable: an authentic account

To be genuine. To be the real deal.

I guess it’s a little ironic to be discussing concepts like this is a marketing meeting. Marketing is really about putting a ‘spin’ on something, not necessarily in a deceptive way but in a way that is perhaps not entirely genuine. What would the genuine marketing messages of a bottle of Coke be?

“You will drink this because you feel like a cheap, sweet buzz!”

I was bemused to find that all the vases of flowers in the funkygroovy media office were plastic. Even weirder was the fact that the vases they were in were filled with water. Why do plastic flowers need to sit in real water? I pondered this thought as we discussed authenticity.

Authenticity and Existentialism

Yep, more philosophy from me. One thing we find when we look at this concept is that authenticity is most often discussed in relation to something being labelled as ‘inauthentic’ – (to quote) authenticity is often “at the limits” of language; it is described as the negative space around inauthenticity, with reference to examples of inauthentic living.

When we refer to something as authentic, it’s normally in reference to art, or jewellery, or antiques…something with provenance.

Is authenticity just a buzz word?

I love this blog post discussing whether authenticity is just a buzz word. When Dr. Phil asks, “Are you living your authentic life?” all I can really reply is – well, yeh. I guess. Feels real to me!

Minette Riordan Ph.D writes: “To me, an important part of authenticity is acceptance of our self in all our beautiful imperfection.”

I like this idea. However, I am not sure that anyone would even notice the difference.

Going with your gut

For me, I think the real danger is that people today have very much stopped thinking for themselves. Because I work in marketing and media, I have become quite tuned to subversive messages (I think). I feel that I am good at picking things up and checking my sources. Often, people get swept up in something. When I first read about the Thanksgiving twitter war, I genuinely thought, “That guy is a total creep and I don’t get why people are congratulating him for being so rude”

He was being authentic. An authentic asshole.

How I check for authenticity

  1. If something doesn’t seem right – something is probably wrong.
  2. If something doesn’t make sense, some information is missing, or the information is a lie, or inaccurate.
  3. If you get a gut feeling about something – listen to it.

As for being “your authentic self” – I’m not sure there are really any other options!