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Emotional Roller Coaster: Overview and Tips for Coping

Each day brings its own set of challenges and victories, activating positive and negative emotions alike. However you might be feeling on the inside, life keeps moving as you show up for work, family gatherings, social events, and other engagements. But what happens if your emotions get the better of you? What if they begin to take hold, forcing you to ride unexpected highs and lows? If you feel dysfunctional, drained, or act impulsively due to drastic emotional changes, you may be experiencing an emotional roller coaster.

When your thoughts alternate between excitement and exhilaration to disappointment and desperation, it’s known as an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes you think there’s no way to get off the roller coaster, and that you’ll never feel like yourself again.  

It can be incredibly frustrating to lose control in this way. Decision-making is either close to impossible, or leads to impulsive choices you later regret. 

An emotional roller coaster ride is driven by several things. The most common causes include: 

  • Hormonal changes 

Many women experience an emotional roller coaster at different points during the menstrual cycle

  • Illness or injury 

Chronic disease or acute injury can trigger extreme emotional turmoil for you and your loved ones.

  • Medication or substance use

Prescription and certain over-the-counter drugs could cause fluctuations in your mood, sometimes even causing depression. If you’re taking a new medication which comes with such side effects, talk to your doctor about switching or adjusting the dose. Do not make any changes without consulting them first. 

  • Sleep

Sheer physical exhaustion is also capable of making you feel down, and at times, producing intense mood swings. 

Everyone deals with different stressors in life: finances, social pressure, relationship or family problems, fertility issues, etc. They seem to take over and put you on a never-ending emotional roller coaster ride. 

  • Mental illness

Those who are struggling with mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, will undergo extreme shifts in mood. 

  • Depression

It’s a common culprit behind severe mood fluctuations and a roller coaster of emotions. Expect bouts of extreme sadness or angry outbursts. 

If you find yourself strapped in an emotional roller coaster, try to find healthy ways to control these feelings rather than letting them control you.

As impossible as it may seem, you can get through this roller coaster of emotions and come out even stronger on the other side. Here are a few strategies to put yourself back in the driver’s seat. 

The self-help skills outlined below allow you to lay down your weapons on the emotional battlefield and embrace every part of yourself, both good and bad. 

  • Remember it will pass

Feelings are only temporary, no matter how intense they are at the time. Think of moments in your past when you were really down, and convinced that it would last forever. Remember how things got better, and realize that they will again soon. 

  • Be mindful

Sometimes, you’ll step onto an emotional roller coaster without even knowing it. Perhaps you were swept up by undue worry, letting worst-case scenarios play out in your mind. When you practice mindfulness, you become focused on the present, releasing all your hangups, past regrets, and anxiety about the future. 

  • Start journaling

Emotional highs and lows create inner turmoil and an unsettling feeling. Journaling helps restore your inner peace as you get things off your chest and on to paper. You may even discover things about yourself you weren’t aware of, while giving yourself the power to organize chaotic emotions.

  • Talk about it

Rather than allowing your emotions to brew on the inside and bubble over, let off some steam by sharing what you’re going through. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, family and friends might offer to share your burden whenever possible. 

  • Change your circumstances

When a roller coaster of emotions is brought on by circumstance (e.g., relationship drama, job stress, etc.), sometimes the best fix is to take action. If relationship issues are rearing their ugly head, consider going to couples counseling. 

  • Don’t forget the simple things

Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, and remember to occasionally pamper yourself with some rest and relaxation.

There is no shame in seeking professional help when you need it. Therapists provide you with the right tools to work through your emotions, and to do so on your own. Those dealing with depression or anxiety might benefit from a visit to a psychiatrist. When you learn to identify thought and behavior patterns that lead you on a downward spiral, you’ll be able to catch yourself before it happens. 

In certain cases, medication is needed to treat depression or anxiety, and that’s okay, too. The most important thing is to learn how to deal with emotional roller coasters in a healthy, productive way, regardless of the method used. 

If you’re prone to getting on emotional roller coasters and you’re having a tough time restoring the balance, prevention is always the best treatment. The techniques above will keep you off the roller coaster of emotions in the first place, and allow you to find the inner peace you seek. 





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