Breaking Free from Emotional Whirlwinds

confident woman standing on mountainOur emotions may get the best of us. When we get carried away by every little emotion tugging on our sleeve and the storylines associated with them, we lose sight of the intentions that allow us to respond calmly and confidently to situations, and to maintain our center. We may lash out at others, overindulge in food and drink, or attempt to control our surroundings. Behaving this way lets our frustrations or insecurities dictate how we show up in life. We operate from a reactive mind, controlled by our environment, rather than a responsive one, where we are in charge.

The good news is we can break this cycle by responding to life’s ups and downs with “a calm mind and a loving heart.” Phillip Moffitt describes a powerful practice, called “starting over,” in his book, Emotional Chaos to Clarity. Essentially, Moffitt says that as soon as we realize we are caught in an emotional whirlwind, we can learn a starting-over practice that helps us reconnect to ourselves and become more grounded. Learning to start over helps build the infrastructure for less emotional vulnerability. I like this approach because it is empowering, non-blaming, and reminds us that we can choose how we want to live in each moment.

Next time you find yourself caught in an emotional whirlwind, try these six steps to respond with clarity and compassion:

  1. Don’t judge yourself or be mad at yourself for having these emotions – it only makes it worse and furthers your downhill spiral.
  2. Emotions are a natural response; your involvement with them is voluntary. Remember just because you feel lonely, for instance, does not mean you are a lonely person.
  3. Refrain from asking why. You don’t want to get pulled into another story about why you are off track. The mind can behave like a monkey mind where it jumps from thoughts and emotions and gets stuck on ones with deep rooted seeds. For example, if one of your go-to negative thought patterns is “I’m not good enough,” then your mind will seek out stories and examples to build a strong case for these feelings. If looking at the underlying reasons is important to you, then you might want to consider seeing a therapist to go deeper into the meaning.
  4. Start over in this moment by using your strengths to pull you out. Perhaps you spend a few minutes by yourself and take some deep breaths to become more grounded. Phillip Moffitt recommends when you notice something has gone wrong and you are off balance, say to yourself, “Yes, I just got lost and now I’ll just start over.”
  5. Repeat this practice over and over again. You may have to repeat these steps several times within the same situation to help bring you back to the present and your true intention of how you want to show up. That’s okay! Know that retraining the mind to be less involved in these stories may take some time.
  6. Remember your motivation to change. Think about all the emotional energy and time you waste, and how you treat others and more importantly yourself during these emotional whirlwinds. Your persistence will pay off!

I’ll leave you with a quote from my yoga teacher: “The sun will always rise again.” I love this saying because it’s a reminder that no matter how bad it is, we are always given the gift of a new day, and we get to decide how we want that day to go. Sometimes a good night’s rest is all you need to jumpstart your motivation and propel you in the right direction!


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