The Best Coping Strategies To Restore Emotional Equanimity

Struggling to cope with your situation? Here are some effective techniques to restore equanimity

What do you do in those moments when you feel like your life is caving in? Your mind is on overdrive, you’re trapped in an unsustainable state of emotional turmoil.

When you’re in the midst of a distressing situation, simply stepping back and composing yourself is not an easy task. That’s why it’s important to learn some coping skills to help you restore equanimity when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Coping skills refers to your ability to manage and mitigate situations that cause you distress. People who are good at coping tend to keep a level head in difficult situations, while people who haven’t honed this skill tend to panic.

Whatever is happening in your life, you know what something needs to change. So let’s look at some things you can do to cope with your situation, regardless of what you’re going through.

Identifying coping strategies

Man in a panic as his trauma comes to awareness

Depending on what you’re going through, you might have a whole lot of pressure on you, and it’s also possible that you’re just not as skilled at handling the pressures that you do have.

If you’re going through something quite extreme in your life that has shaken everything up: Such as losing someone close to you or going through a divorce, feeling overwhelmed by it all is a pretty natural part of the adjustment period. By sitting with the pain and healing the wound that’s causing the distress, that’s when you’ll feel much better.

On the other hand, if you’re not necessarily presented with any outstanding circumstances, but you find that you’re not coping with daily life, then it comes down to how you manage your emotions, and the stressors of everyday life.

If it’s the latter, I find that the inability to cope usually comes down to two core ingredients.

  1. You are not adapting to new situations in your life
  2. You’re trying to control the situation

The inability to adapt can put a lot of pressure on you. You remain fixed on the past instead of being completely present with the situation at hand. If you find that you struggle to adapt to changes in your life, read the article below:

The need for control can also create a lot of pressure. When you’re trying to control a situation that is out of your control, needless to say, you’re setting yourself up for a bad time. So instead, let go of control. Learn how to do that below:

Signs that you're feeling overwhelmed

Overwhelm is really just stress levels getting out of control. It tends to happen when you have too much on your plate, and you can’t manage everything that’s happening in your life.

Depending on what you’re experiencing and what the source of distress is, it’s important to have some flexibility in your coping mechanisms, as every situation is unique. Different courses of action will be more effective for different issues that you’re facing.

Here are some common signs that you’re feeling overwhelmed:

  • You have difficulty managing your thoughts
  • You find it hard to concentrate
  • You feel flustered, or as if you aren’t functioning optimally
  • You feel irritable or on edge
  • You’re constantly on high alter
  • You may experience insomnia, or struggle to relax
  • There is a build-up of tension in your body
  • Your emotional state is unstable
  • You are having panic attacks or meltdowns
  • You’re overreactive or easily triggered

Identifying what you need to coping with

There are different ways to cope with different problems.

The cause of your distress is one of two options, which determines what coping skills you should employ. These are:

  1. Problem-based coping
  2. Emotion-based coping

Problem based coping

Problem-based coping is when there’s a clear cause of your distress, and there’s an outstanding issue that needs to be dealt with. This is an issue in your life such as going through a transition, losing a job, or experiencing conflict with family.

If your distress is problem-based, it will usually be fixed by solving the problem causing the stress. Therefore, you should take a proactive stance on the issue, and focus on problem-solving.

Emotion based coping

Emotion-based coping is when there is no clear cause to your distress, or there is no outstanding issue in your life. This is when you’re experiencing distress related to your past, and is usually the result of trauma or a wound that needs to be healed.

If your distress is emotion-based, you need to heal the root cause. Therefore, it’s important to do the inner work, sit with the feelings, and heal rather than try to fix the problem.

Ineffective coping mechanisms

Woman feeling overwhelmed and screaming

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, your first instinct might be to indulge.

After all, you want the relief, so you tend to engage in activities that give you a dopamine boost. Even though getting those dopamine boosts here and there is okay to get you through, you don’t want to become reliant on them.

The reason why you don’t want to become reliant on compulsive activities is because they’re an act of escapism.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, you need to engage in activities that help you regulate your emotional state and get to the roots of your emotional pain. Avoiding what you’re feeling is not resolving anything.

You should be using these painful feelings as a trampoline for personal growth, and personal growth should be your avenue to manage and heal the underlying reasons why you’re feeling this way.

If you’re simply escaping the feelings by distracting yourself, not only are you just covering up the pain, but you’re making the situation worse.

❌ Drown out your sorrows

The last thing you want to do is cope by using alcohol, marijuana, or drugs (including pharmaceuticals). Taking something to relieve you might seem like the easy option as it temporarily makes you feel like you’re winning, but it’s a slippery slope.

Taking something to deal with your problems obviously isn’t a good way to cope as they’re just a Band-Aid fix.

  • If your issue is problem-based, then taking something is just going to make you unproductive and avoid the issue.
  • If your issue is emotion-based, you’re just temporarily covering up the deeper wounds which won’t actually heal the root cause.

My rule of thumb: Only take alcohol or drugs to celebrate, never to cope. Psychedelics are a different story, but that’s a whole other discussion for another time.

❌ Binge TV and video games

Excessively watching movies or playing video games is just going to degrade your mental state. To cope with distressful situations, you need to be present with them. You need to feel the emotions and learn from them. If you’re distracting yourself by watching something, you’re just avoiding doing the inner work that is required.

Because you’re avoiding the inner work, you’re not actually healing the root cause or doing anything to solve the problem. Likewise, you’re not going to learn from it or grow as a person.

That’s why you should focus on being mindful during difficult times in your life, because not only will that lead to a resolution, but you’ll grow a lot through it.

❌ Fill your stomach

Food is often a go-to when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Even if you have no appetite, you may find yourself eating and consuming because it’s a way to occupy yourself from the issue.

Eating also gives you a dopamine boost which you might desperately want when you’re feeling distressed, but it’s just a cover. As soon as you finish eating, you’re going to want to consume something else, and it’s usually an unconscious process.

Therefore, refrain from excessive eating or consuming, and try to keep your diet healthy. The temporary relief of eating junk is not worth perpetuating the distress. You want to be present with your feelings, not eat them away.

❌ Ruminate

Avoid constantly playing it over in your head, or jumping to the worst-case scenario. It’s easy to get caught in needless loops when you’re drumming up the issue to be worse than it is, but not really feeling into it either or accepting the situation.

For example, repeatedly saying ‘I’m going to fail, I’m going to fail” isn’t going to help you regain emotional equanimity. You’re just going to exacerbate the issue and torment yourself. Because you’re so focused on failing, you’re going to make failure an increasingly viable option.

So get a grip and be productive. It’s not the time to beat yourself with a stick.

Practical ways of coping

Person meditating in nature

Learning how to cope with an overwhelming situation in a healthy way allows you to manage your emotions and restore emotional equanimity.

It’s always best to ground yourself and bring yourself back to reality, then deal with the situation at hand that is causing you distress. While you’re in a panicked, anxious state, it’s going to be counterproductive to get anywhere, and this can create a vicious cycle.

Here are some of my best practices to cope with difficult situations, and restore emotional equanimity.

✅ Find a flow with your breath

When you feel overwhelmed you go into overdrive. Your mind starts racing, which makes you feel like you need to do something. But doing something right here right now might not be a productive approach. You first need to regulate yourself, and your breath is the best avenue to do this.

Focus on your breathing and spend at least 5 minutes solely concentrating on your breath until you find a flow with it.

If your mind is racing, just keep bringing it back to your breathing until it starts to stabilize. Here’s what you should do:

  • Slow down your breathing
  • Take deep inhales, hold, and extended exhales
  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth
  • Visualize white energy coming in, and dark anxious energy leaving
  • Continue this process until you calm down and find a natural flow with your breathing

✅ Put your body in motion

Those feelings of being overwhelmed are very active energies that you want to release from your body. As tension starts to build up in your body, you need to let it go, otherwise, you’re going to become an unstable nuclear reactor.

Motion is the best way to do this. You can shake it out, stretch, and move around until you get most of the tension out of your body and feel calmer.

Here are some things you can do when you feel this angst and restlessness building up.

  • Shake out your arms and legs
  • Stretch your body
  • Shake your tongue, move your mouth and make sounds
  • Jump up and down
  • Breath heavily with long out exhales through the mouth
  • Do yoga or some sort of physical activity

✅ Resolve what's in your control

If you’ve done the above two exercises, you should be feeling a little calmer. Now you can start doing the productive stuff.

Start by putting what you can control regarding the situation and what you can’t control into different baskets. If it helps, draw a T and write them down. This is a necessary step to gain more clarity on what you can do, and what you need to accept.

Now that you’ve broken down what you have control over and what you don’t have control over, the aim is to accept what you can’t control, and act on what you can control.

✅ Accept the worst case scenario

A big part of the distress comes from trying to avoid an undesirable situation or consequence. So we put all of our energy into preventing ourselves from thinking about it, but this can cause more stress in itself.

A tactic to cope with stress that has served me well is to do the following:

  1. Think about the worst-case scenario, and allow your mind to wander
  2. Visualize the worst-case outcome as if it is inevitable
  3. Sit with the emotions and feelings that come up. Process them
  4. Once you really feel those emotions, they will start to fade as you reach a point of acceptance
  5. Put it into perspective and realize that your situation isn’t the end of the world

The worst-case scenario is probably not very likely to happen at all, but it could have some pretty big consequences in your life. Whether it’s losing someone close to you, ruining your career, or going to prison, if you actually feel into this mental scenario like it has happened, it’s going to really hurt.

But then as you start to feel acceptance, that sting will go away.

Afterwards, you might feel much better about the situation at hand, because in comparison, it really doesn’t seem that bad now.

By picturing things going wrong and where that potentially leads, you might realize that you’ll get through it. You take the pressure off yourself by coming to terms with what could (but probably won’t) happen.

✅ Follow it back

Follow the string of pain back to the root cause. If there’s something I’ve learned throughout my life, it’s that there is always another layer. Whatever you’re feeling is probably not the bottom of the pit.

When you think of a reason why you’re worried, ask yourself why that matters, and go deeper into it.

Let’s look at an example:

  • I feel extremely stressed because if feel so ill-prepared for this test I need to complete
  • If I fail the test I might lose my job
  • If I lose my job, I’m going to go through hardships and feel ashamed
  • I’ve always felt insufficient, and failing will bring up the image I have been trying to get away from

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t just aim to cope with the situation, dig into it to find out why you’re feeling this way, and how you can take steps to heal it. Usually, there’s a deeper reason why you feel so distressed, so try to find out what it is.

✅ Pray

You might not be religious, or have any spiritual beliefs at all. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Praying is actually such a powerful tool when you’re feeling overwhelmed or distressed, and you’re not sure what to do.

Maybe you won’t hear a voice talking back to you (actually, I’m almost certain you won’t), but the act of praying releases energy. In a way, you’re handing over your burden to a higher power, which allows you to release it, at least somewhat.

Prayer really takes the pressure off your shoulders, and you might get moments of clarity and insight while you’re doing it too. So if you’re ever in a tough position, pray to a higher power, and feel how freeing it really is.

✅ Have a conversation with yourself

When I’m in a difficult situation, I find that it really helps to have a conversation… with myself.

As if I was talking with a therapist or someone I trust, I open up to myself and rant. What’s more important is that I actually listen to myself, and respond… like verbally respond to myself.

So talking to myself starts to take a two-way conversation. One side is the afraid, overwhelmed child who doesn’t know what to do, and then I respond to that side from a more mature, authoritative position. A conversation with myself might go something like this:

  • I have no idea what to do! I feel abandoned, nobody understands, I feel alone. I just can’t believe this keeps happening, why does nobody help!?
  • It’s okay, it’s okay. You have been in this situation many times before, you know how it’s going to play out
  • No, I don’t! This time it’s different. I don’t know if I will get through this, why is it always me!?
  • It’s you because you can handle it. It’s happening for a reason, and you’re going to grow as a person through this, you just need to trust the process. You are cared for, you are guided. We’re going to get through this together, just take one step at a time, and let’s get the ball rolling. What can you do right now?
  • I guess I could stop pacing around for a moment and calm myself down. It’s not that urgent.

Naturally, one of the sides talking starts to reassure the other side. It comes out naturally in response to my rant and expressing myself. This is actually a really powerful coping mechanism, because as my higher self kicks into action, I feel very reassured, even though it’s from myself.

✅ Do the healing

Now that you’ve identified what’s really going on, you need to take steps to heal those wounds and actually resolve these underlying causes. Healing requires you to sit with your feelings and be completely present with them. This is why it’s so important to be mindful, and allow yourself to experience whatever you’re experiencing.

By doing this, you’re going to evolve as a person and be able to better handle these sorts of situations when they arise again. So if your situation is emotion based, do the work to heal the wound that is causing this pain.

✅ Take care of yourself

When stress levels rise and you’re struggling to cope, self-care really tends to go out the window. And because you’re not looking after yourself, you tend to feel worse.

Therefore, make sure you’re looking after your body and mind. Take some extra time to care for yourself, and see how this translates into your situation.

Here are some things you should look out for:

  • How is your diet? Are you eating well, or has it gone out the window?
  • Are you biting your nails, pulling your hair, or partaking in some sort of self-destructive behavior?
  • Are you exercising and getting enough sun?
  • How is your hygiene? Are you still doing regular hygiene practices such as showering and brushing your teeth?
  • Are you allowing yourself space to rest and recharge?

✅ Get out in nature, often

Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.