Taking Care of Intense Emotions

As humans, we all experience difficult emotions. Emotions, even difficult ones, are important for many reasons.  They let us know more about our needs and how we are experiencing the world.

However, sometimes emotions can feel overwhelming.  In these moments, our minds and bodies can become activated as if they are responding to a threat.  We may get stuck in racing thoughts, notice our heart beating fast or that we’re breathing quickly.  We may feel agitated and have difficulty focusing.  Activating calming processes that let our mind and body know that you’re safe and cared for work as effective coping strategies. 

We’ve found a few short YouTube videos highlighting skills that can help you calm and soothe the body and mind.  They are all evidence-based practices and backed by research.  In the videos, you will even see some of those researchers speaking.  Dr. Marsha Linehan (paced breathing) and Dr. Kristin Neff (self-compassion) have both completed years of research on helpful coping skills and ways to be kind to ourselves. Dr. Linehan has developed a type of therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy and many of the skills discussed in the videos.  Although these skills are in the moment strategies to help calm or soothe your strong emotions, they can have long-term impacts. 

The TIPP Skill: Calming yourself through Temperature, Intense Exercise, Paced Breathing and Progressive Muscle Relaxation.  (2.5 minutes)         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nVady7A3Qo

Additional Information on Temperature: You can also feel calmer by cooling yourself down by drinking cold water, applying ice to your face or hands, taking a cool shower, or even opening a window or going outside on a cool day.  Warm temperatures are more comforting.  Try drinking a warm drink, wrapping yourself in a blanket or taking a warm bath or shower. 

Additional Information on Intense Exercise:  Although 20 minutes of exercise is ideal, even a couple minutes can help.  Try running in place, turning on music and dancing around, or even just shaking your arms and legs.  A brisk walk is also helpful. 

Additional info on Paced Breathing (2.5 minutes) (Features Dr. Marsha Linehan)


A breathing timer that helps you practice paced breathing:


A Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise (6.5 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nZEdqcGVzo

Grounding Using the Five Senses: Grounding helps you get out of your head by focusing on something external (2 minutes)


Self-Soothe: Usually we find things that appeal to our senses to be relaxing or soothing (3 minutes)


Self-Compassion:  Being kind to yourself in moments of stress is essential (2-3 minutes each) (Features Dr. Kristin Neff)



Being Mindful of your Emotions: You can also learn to be with your emotions in a new way – letting them come and go without struggle (4 minutes)


Other Ideas and Resources:

Remember to check on sleep and eating: Not getting enough sleep or nutritious food makes us more vulnerable to difficult emotions. If you haven’t slept well or eaten lately, you may want to make time to do so. 

Naming:  Simply labeling or naming what we are experiencing or feeling can also help.  Once the mind knows what is happening, it becomes quieter.  Noticing and naming emotions without judging them also helps us take a step back and gain some distance.  So, try saying things like “this is anxiety” or “I’m noticing sadness” or even “this is a difficult moment.”

Connecting with others: Connection is an energy giving, calming process.  Getting a hug or hearing kind words from someone we care about can help us manage strong emotional responses.

Distraction: Sometimes we just need to get our minds off a difficult situation and give our emotions time to settle.  Using distracting activities can be useful in those moments.  However, distractions should be used in moderation and as short-term solutions.  Distracting ourselves too much can lead to avoiding important things in our lives and putting off needed tasks. 

The website Now Matters Now has lots of additional ideas, videos, and support for managing strong emotions: https://nowmattersnow.org/  

NOTE: If your strong emotions include thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide, please connect with a mental health professional. The Counseling and Testing Center (330) 972-7082 is open weekdays from 8-5 and you can contact an after-hours counselor by calling and then choosing 2.  The following is a list of crisis resources that are available 24/7. 

  • Summit County 24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 1-330-434-9144
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 988
  • Text Crisis Line: text 4hope to 741-741
  • For Students of Color
  • Crisis intervention and suicide prevention for the LGBTQ community:
  • Portage Path Emergency Services: 1-330-762-6110
  • Go to Hospital Emergency Rooms: Akron City or Akron General
  • University of Akron Police: 1-330-972-2911 or 911