person upset with hands over face

Emotional Much? How to Analyze and Express Your Needs During Stressful Moments

When you’re highly sensitive, it can be hard enough to deal with difficult feelings and sensations when they arise, let alone express your needs clearly to another human being who doesn’t quite “get” it. I spent a lot of my life feeling like the people around me didn’t understand why I felt or acted the way I did, and it wasn’t until I was in college that I really started to get good at expressing my needs to others. That’s not to say I don’t still struggle, but there are a few things I realized as I’ve brushed up on my emotional awareness.

In this post, I’ll discuss some of the ways I’ve learned to identify and address tough emotional moments, as well as share some techniques for working through them with the help of friends and loved ones.

how to analyze and express your needs to others

Start on the Inside

First, you’ve absolutely got to understand your feelings and determine your needs before you’re ever going to successfully communicate them to someone else.

Get into the habit of noticing the emotions and sensations in your body during times of stress or conflict.

What do you feel? It could be tightness in your chest or stomach, the urge to cry, or even anger. What do you think spurred this feeling? It’s OK if it seems silly (I once had a total breakdown because I put too much salt in the guacamole). 

It can help to get some distance from the situation, but there is also merit to acknowledging your feelings in the moment.

For instance, I tend to forget how upset I actually was if I take too much time between the conflict and analysis—and I mistakenly assume it wasn’t a big enough deal to, well, deal with. Only you can decide what works best for you. It takes practice to sit with uncomfortable feelings. Again, this is still something I’m working on (and you can safely assume this is the case with any tactic I write about on this blog).

What are you REALLY reacting to?

Once you’ve identified the trigger for your emotions, take it one step further. Try to figure out WHY exactly that trigger has the effect that it does.

Many times we add an additional layer of guilt and anguish by telling ourselves that we don’t have the right to be upset, or that we’re overreacting to something silly. In my case, I was actually embarrassed and frustrated with myself for ruining the guacamole because I hold the (impossible) notion that I should never make mistakes. And I projected my expectations of myself onto my husband and assumed he must also be frustrated with me. 

If this step is stumping you, it might be a good idea to dive into it with the help of a counselor. Although I’ve gotten really good at nailing down my feelings, speaking with a therapist was a very valuable experience for me. Having someone objective to bounce ideas off of (or even just saying the thoughts aloud that are swirling around in your skull) can help you get a clearer picture of what’s really going on. My therapist also was able to help brainstorm practical steps to pull myself out of emotional spirals.

make a list

When you understand why these emotions are bubbling up, you can better decide what you need to get past them. Consider making a list of steps to take and things the other person can do to help you when you’re in an upsetting situation. Have a conversation about how you want the other person to help in future situations so they can be prepared.

For example, I realized I needed verbal reassurance from my husband that it’s OK to make mistakes sometimes and that he doesn’t think I’m stupid or incapable. We also agreed that in the moment I almost never remember any previous instances of him reassuring me, and that every incident should be treated as unique.

Again, it may seem silly when your rational mind can probably clearly articulate all the times someone has reassured you. But I believe no technique is too silly when it comes to overcoming difficult emotions. Also, a hug usually helps. 😉 

To avoid future problems, look for patterns

If you find yourself frequently having meltdowns during a certain activity—say, cooking dinner—it might be worthwhile to take a closer look. Are there other factors compounding the stress of the situation? Do you find yourself constantly pressed for time while you’re cooking? Are you having trouble planning meals and don’t have what you need to get the job done? Are you trying to accomplish too much?

Try making a plan to reduce or eliminate any additional stressors wherever possible. Can you prep part of your meals for the week on Sunday so you have more time on weeknights? Research a meal-planning app or subscribe to a meal delivery service to take the stress out of planning and shopping? Delegate mealtime responsibilities to your spouse, kids, or roommates? 

bottom line

It’s extremely tough to take a step back and look objectively at difficult feelings. But if you’re reading this, you’ve already taken an important step in the process. None of us will ever be perfect at controlling our emotions, but understanding them and enlisting a loved one to help you is the next best thing. 

What are some situations that send you off the rails? Has anyone ever made you feel guilty for being upset about something “simple?” Do you have agreed-upon steps with a partner or friend for helping you get through emotional outbursts? Let me know in the comments!

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