10 Effective Coping Mechanisms for Overwhelming Emotions

Life is filled with a spectrum of emotions, ranging from joy and excitement to sorrow and anxiety. While positive emotions are a natural part of being human, we must also acknowledge the presence of overwhelming emotions that can leave us feeling vulnerable and struggling to cope. In times of distress, it is essential to have a toolkit of effective coping mechanisms to navigate these turbulent emotional waters.

1. Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation practices are powerful tools for grounding ourselves during moments of emotional overwhelm. By focusing on the present moment and observing our thoughts and feelings without judgment, we can gain clarity and reduce anxiety. Regular meditation cultivates a sense of inner peace, allowing us to respond to emotions with a more centered and composed outlook.

2. Deep Breathing Techniques

Simple yet highly effective, deep breathing exercises can work wonders in calming an anxious mind. By taking slow, deep breaths, we activate the body’s relaxation response, which counteracts the physical manifestations of stress and anxiety. Incorporating deep breathing into your daily routine can help you manage overwhelming emotions with greater ease.

3. Emotional Expression Through Journaling

Writing down our emotions in a journal can be a cathartic experience. Journaling provides a safe space to express pent-up feelings and explore the root causes of our emotional turmoil. By identifying triggers and patterns, we gain a better understanding of ourselves, leading to personal growth and improved emotional resilience.

4. Seek Support from Friends and Family

Never underestimate the power of a support system. Reach out to trusted friends or family members when emotions become too overwhelming to handle alone. Talking openly about your feelings can be a therapeutic experience and often leads to valuable insights and advice from those who care about you.


5. Engage in Physical Activity

Physical activity has a profound impact on our emotional well-being. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood enhancers, reducing stress and promoting a sense of well-being. Whether it’s a brisk walk in nature, yoga, or a heart-pumping workout, regular physical activity can be a fantastic outlet for overwhelming emotions.

6. Creative Expression

Engaging in creative activities, such as painting, writing, dancing, or playing music, can be a therapeutic way to process and release intense emotions. Creative expression allows us to channel our feelings into something tangible, promoting healing and personal growth.

7. Establish Healthy Boundaries

Setting clear and healthy boundaries is essential in managing overwhelming emotions. Learning to say “no” when necessary and avoiding unnecessary stressors can prevent emotional overload and protect your mental well-being.

8. Practice Self-Compassion

Be gentle with yourself during challenging times. Practicing self-compassion means acknowledging that it is okay to experience overwhelming emotions and that everyone faces difficulties at some point. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend in need.

9. Mindful Distractions

While it is essential to address overwhelming emotions, sometimes a temporary distraction can provide relief. Engage in activities that capture your attention and provide a sense of enjoyment, like reading a book, watching a movie, or spending time with a beloved pet.

10. Professional Therapy and Counseling

For some, seeking professional help through therapy or counseling is a crucial step in dealing with overwhelming emotions. Trained therapists at San Francisco Stress and Anxiety Center can provide guidance, tools, and techniques to address deep-rooted emotional issues and help you develop healthy coping strategies for the long term. 

To Sum It Up

Navigating overwhelming emotions is an integral part of the human experience. By embracing these coping mechanisms and incorporating them into your daily life, you can effectively manage your emotional landscape and find balance even in the most challenging times. Remember, seeking support and employing these strategies is a sign of strength, not weakness. Embrace your emotions, lean on your coping mechanisms, and embark on a journey of personal growth and resilience.

Need help managing some overwhelming emotions? Get started by contacting our Care-Coordinator here.

Get To Know Dr. Nicole Coffelt

SF Stress therapist Doug Newton, LMFT, sat down with Dr. Nicole (Nikki) Coffelt to chat about how she got started working as a psychologist, how she works with her clients, and more.

How did you become interested in psychology in the first place?

From a young age, I’ve been fascinated by human behavior.  I used to read author biographies before diving into fiction and nonfiction alike – as I felt their stories contextualized and enriched the stories they had written!

You seem to understand a lot about shame.  How do you support your clients to help them deal with shame?

I have extensive training in somatic experiencing, which deals with shame (especially developmental shame) on a deep, cellular level. We view this as an embodied experience – and one that is generally resistant to mere cognitive “reprogramming” or “restructuring”  Although the latter certainly does initially help to counter and challenge the shame-based conditioning we are all immersed in here in America, day in and day out .  I also like to focus on solutions with my clients, such as developing a nurturing and generative inner voice that will eventually become “louder” than the introjects that get in the way of a person stepping into their fullest potential.

How does a focus on the body help people work through difficult experiences and come into a more accepting sense of self? 

As Babette Rothschild once said, “The body remembers.”    We all store accumulated, pleasant and traumatic memories that can keep people stuck in overwhelming experiences from the past that will guide our present-day journey .  Incorporating the body in a safe, therapeutic container assists people in metabolizing past experiences so they can finally move forward with their lives .  Greater congruence between the mind and body, tapping more of their potential and encouraging overall nervous system health are just a few potential outcomes.

How do you think your personal experiences translate into helping your clients?  

I truly walk my talk .  I have been on a personal journey of recovery and healing for nearly two decades .  I understand intimately what it feels like to be broken, in total despair and also to reclaim the most essential parts of oneself in order to truly self actualize.  It is possible.  And so very rewarding .

Tell me about how you support the LGBTQ population?   

As a member of the LGBTQ community myself – these clients feel like home to me.  Marginalized populations often have unique experiences that people from more privileged, mainstream backgrounds simply don’t understand.  I work skillfully with those looking for a refuge in which to claim their brilliance, beauty and sovereignty – in a world continuously trying to erode and erase these aspects of the queer community .  

What have you found useful around building trust with clients who experience shame, self-blame and trouble with self-judgment?  

I have a warm and empathic style, and remain pretty neutral when working with clients’ self criticism . I bring in and teach the Jungian concept of shadow work and assist the client in transforming the deeper layers of their shame.

How do you weave the arts into your work with clients?  

I don’t directly do “art therapy” with people but my relational style is very curious, spontaneous and organic/spacious.  This comes directly from many years of the inner / outer work required of professional artists.

Interested in working with Nicole? Schedule your appointment here.