Highly Sensitive People – 4 Ways To Stop Emotional Snowballing

Highly Sensitive People   4 Ways To Stop Emotional Snowballing

Your heart pounds, you begin to tremble, your chest constricts, pain shoots through your core, your mind blurs …  and all this, simply as a response to a threat, insult or even a simple tone of voice.  Highly sensitive people frequently live life on the brink of emotional snowballing, a term I use to describe a situation where emotions get out of control, and quickly become out of proportion to the situation at hand.

Just think of a small snowball rolling down a very steep hill – it becomes larger and larger and rolls faster and faster very quickly.  Form many highly sensitive people, this emotional turbulence is a fact of life.  But why?  As Elaine Aron pointed out in her book The Highly Sensitive Person, “most of us are deeply affected by other people’s moods and emotions”. In fact, you could say that most highly sensitive people are simply excellent chameleons to the emotional landscapes around them.

This can be good news if everything is peachy bliss, but many times, highly sensitive people find themselves absorbing the poisonous negativity around them.  You could say that the highly sensitive person’s problem is taking things too personally.  But it’s much more than that.  The highly sensitive person is deeply affected by any highly stimulating situation, whether physical, mental and emotional.

In a sense, you could say they feel everything at a more extreme level than the non-HSP person.  While this can make life a lot more profound for highly sensitive people, it can also make interpersonal relations very bitter indeed.

Below you will find 4 techniques I have found useful in preventing emotional snowballing.  I’m a highly sensitive person myself and hope these will help quell the tidal waves of emotion when they roll your way.

Highly Sensitive People – 4 Techniques To Stop Emotional Snowballing

Although these techniques appear to be very common-sense and obvious, remembering them and putting them into practice is easier said than done.  My hope is that they will implant a seed in your mind that you can carry away with you and remember, when the time comes to deal with any emotional strife that comes your way.

Highly Sensitive People   4 Ways To Stop Emotional Snowballing

1.  Seek out a quiet, empty spot to cool down.

As I mentioned before, highly sensitive people suffer a lot at the hands of hyper-arousing and stimulating situations.  The best thing to do when you become aware of the symptoms of emotional stress is to remove yourself from the situation.  Excuse yourself, or simply walk away from the person or people that are causing you harm and find a deserted, empty place.

I say deserted and empty because the least stimulating, the better.  You need to make time to re-cooperate and soften the violent sensations inside of you.  I find that the bathroom is usually the best place to go, especially when the lights are out and everything is muted and dim.

2.  Focus on something that made you happy today.

If nothing made you happy today, try the past week, or you could think about the best thing that ever happened to you.  I find that focusing on something positive helps break the cycle of negative emotions that begin to quickly increase inside.  It also helps remind you that life wasn’t always as painful as it seems in the present moment, and helps give you perspective.

If you have had a bad run in with a specific person in particular, you can also try thinking of the last time you enjoyed being in their company.  Did they make you laugh, did you share something nice together, were you excited to talk to them?  This works especially well with family members and close friends who have upset you.

It’s good to remember that everyone has bad days once in a while, and they aren’t necessarily angry at you – in fact, usually they aren’t.  They are simply reacting to their own bad feelings and taking it out on you.  Once again, this technique of focusing on a past positive experience works well after you’ve sought out a quiet and empty spot to re-cooperate.

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3.  Listen to, or watch something upbeat. 

The biggest mistake that I made as a highly sensitive person was to listen to melancholic, dark music when I felt emotionally strained.  Although it’s nice to feel as though others can relate to the way you feel through their music, this is not a healthy way to deal with emotional turmoil.

If you’re primarily an auditory learner like me, listening to happy music is one of the best ways to stop emotional snowballing.  Try listening to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bob McFerrin for starters!  If you’re primarily a visual learner however, the next best alternative is to watch a comedic movie that will allow you to relax and break out of the negative cycles of emotion.  Have a list of comedy movies at hands, just so you don’t loose time frantically scavenging for one.

4.  Remember that this too will pass. 

This philosophic approach to preventing emotional snowballing for the highly sensitive person, is a powerful way to transcend your emotional strife and look at life with a birds eye perspective.  Think of everything good and bad that has ever happened to you.  All of it has passed by and has been replaced with something different: the good with the bad, and the bad with the good.

Life is a constant flux, and a wax and wane of good and bad.  If everything was always good, we would find life boring and we’d take it for granted.  In this way, the bad moments in our lives can even be seen as necessary and beneficial – they provide a contrast for the good so we can appreciate it even more fully.

So just remember: when you are close to an emotional snowball, remember that this too will pass.  Like everything in your past, it will perish and be replaced with something else.

 If you have any suggestions for fellow highly sensitive people, please share them below.  As they say, sharing is caring :)

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  1. Lori says

    My whole life I have been sensitive. It was really bad when I was young but I didn’t figure it out until a couple years ago when I bought the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron PHD. I have still not read the book through because it makes me so emotional I can’t stop crying. It is too real.
    I worked in a health dept. special health care services and as a section 8 housing specialist. I was so drained by negativity that last year I ended up losing my job of 22 years. I don’t think I will ever be able to hold down a job again.

    • says

      Hey Lori.

      Thank you for sharing here. I’m sorry to hear that you lost your job of 22 years, wow. For a HSP that must have been shattering. However, there is hope. Many HSPs have discovered that working in simpler, more autonomous jobs (sometimes night shifts, to avoid the daily drain), have significantly impacted on their energy and happiness levels. You may find this list helpful: http://lonerwolf.com/jobs-for-introverts/
      I wish you all the best Lori. Remember that by changing your thoughts and perspectives, you change your world.
      -L

  2. Bea says

    Sometimes I hate being a HSP. I think I inherited it from my mother, who is in every other aspect very different from me. I don’t know how she deals with it, but for me is exhausting. Sometimes it makes me appreciate art and nature more, but in my everyday life it’s just overwhelming. I actually am a calm quiet person who likes tranquility, but everyday is an emotional rollercoaster. And for ridiculosly little things, like a smile or the lack of one. Of course is nice to get dramatically happy with a random smile, but it’s awful when you get all depressed and worried and anxious when somebody doesn’t ask how your day was, when they usually do. Minor things in the day that drag me up and down emotionally. I don’t think it shows at all, because I’m very careful to hide this emotions, but sometimes I think it’s too much. At least once a week I cry, either from joy, or sadness, but I get really emotional. I’m still wondering if it’s normal. I don’t get depressed or anything, just what this article explains, I feel every emotion like a hunderd times stronger. I have managed to appear always calm and tranquil (wich is why some people in my family have a hard time believing I am that sensitive) but I can’t seem to control them inernaly. I guess I just wanted to let this out here…

    • says

      Hi Bea!

      It is beautiful to know there is people who are willing to open themselves because it really helps others in the same situation.

      From my experience and observation with HSP, it is often very difficult to get others to understand the over emotional reactions or sensitive to things that moment people don’t react to.

      To some extent, HSP is somewhat controllable in the sense that you feel the intense emotions, but they don’t grab such a strong hold over you. With Luna for example, when I notice her higher emotional center kicking in and manifesting itself, I make her aware of it. I ask her to sit down and observe these emotions rise within her, but not let herself be dragged by them. Another thing that helps is labeling them, creating a mental box where you label the boxes as “Thoughts” or “Emotions” and visualizing that feeling within you, imagining yourself placing that feeling within one of these boxes.

      This disassociation or lack of identifying yourself with them proves very helpful when you feel overwhelmed and flooded with such sensations and feelings.

      Give it a try, and let me know how this works for you :)

  3. says

    I never knew this existed. As with all new psychological theories, I expect a lot of people will scoff at the idea of this mental characteristic, but those of us who identify with it will be glad someone is finally figuring it out! I’ve always been told I’m overly sensitive and take things too personally all the time. There are times I am left in tears at the sight of a dead animal on the side of the road. A couple of weeks ago I hit a deer. Everyone was asking if my vehicle sustained a lot of damage. This time (second time I’ve hit a deer) no damage was done, but I beat myself up for at least two days for killing an innocent animal even though there is nothing I could have done to avoid it. Emotions getting out of control, and quickly becoming out of proportion to the situation at hand? Almost every time my computer at my job freezes while it’s figuring out what it wants to do, my heart begins to pound, I begin to tremble, my chest constricts, and I just feel this pressure building inside me which sometimes results in an outburst of anger heard by several co-workers down the hall. I’m lucky enough to work at a place where people are understanding, but I’ve often feared these types of reactions were going to really hurt me in some way at some point. Either way, thank you for the article.

    • says

      Russell, I can really empathize with these emotions. Snowballing is especially hard when you live with many other people. On one hand, you don’t want to hurt them, and greatly desire to be a source of harmony, on the other, it’s hard to repress the feelings that build up inside of us. This is why I also like to exercise daily at all costs; not only does it tire me out, but it makes the lives of the people around me more serene! I hope the other suggestions above make some kind of difference in your life. Warm wishes, Luna

    • Lori says

      Oh my god! I was the same way! Every time I would see a dead animal on the road I would be devastated! Especially if it was a domestic. I kept thinking this is so ridiculous.
      One day, out of the blue, I decided to say a prayer for the spirit of the animal. Now whenever I see an animal on the side of the road, I say the mantra “May you spirit find peace on the other side”. Then I imagine their spirit happily soaring away.

  4. Valentina says

    Nice article. I am a highly sensitive person as well. One thing I cannot control is that when my superior tells me I’ve done something wrong or that something is wrong, even if it’s not my fault, I immediatly run away and burst into tears. It takes me some time to get over it. Even if is a small matter I have always this reaction and I can’t even answer to the matter. It makes me really angry at myself, because normally I am a very strong person, except when it comes to talking to superiors and other more important people.

    • says

      I really feel for you Valentina, and I hope that some of these suggestions help make a small difference in your life. I had an incident at work with an older woman months ago who for no reason at all, went absolutely agro at me for the tiniest mistake. I couldn’t bear being at work for the rest of the day, and was struggling so hard to hold back tears, and put on a “normal face”. It was just so painful. Since then I’ve managed to make a lot of progress with my emotions using some of the techniques I shared. They seem so obvious, but they took such a long time for me to figure out, and put into practice! In the end, I think admitting to yourself that you hurt deeply and easily (and embracing it!) is the truest sign of strength and courage. From there, you can relinquish all the unrealistic ideals and expectations you set for yourself and nurture your vulnerabilities in a more healthy way.
      Abrazos Valentina, and best wishes