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Why do I feel so emotional?

One of the most common reasons people come to counselling is to find an answer to the question: “Why do I feel so emotional?” They may look for help around a wide range of emotions – managing anger, controlling anxiety and panic, guilt and shame, loneliness or overwhelming sadness. So why DO we feel so emotional at times?

  • We are human!

The most obvious reason for why we feel intensely emotional at times is…because we are human. We are supposed to experience a whole spectrum of emotions. Emotions aren’t a sign of weakness. Some of us DO feel things more than others- there may be a genetic component here, some of us are born more emotionally sensitive than others, adolescents find it harder to navigate and regulate their emotions, some days we might feel more emotional than other days, and when we are experiencing difficult and stressful life events or conflict in our relationships, we all feel more emotional. 

  • Lack of sleep

Lack of sleep or disrupted sleep can really affect our emotional wellbeing. This may be due to shift work, having a baby or young child in the family, medical reasons or simply going through a period when our sleep gets “out of whack” for no obvious reason. 

Sleep deprivation has several effects on our body, including:

    • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
    • Being at higher risk for anxiety or depression
    • A weakened immune system
    • Poor balance and higher risk of accidents
    • More difficulty in regulating our emotions – perhaps feeling irritable
  • Lack of regular exercise

While exercise, in general, can promote emotional well-being, a lack of exercise can lower it, according to research. This really came to the fore during the recent lockdowns due to the Covid pandemic over the last couple of years. I have had many clients who were able to pinpoint a lowering of mood, or an increase in anxiety or anger, to the same time that they had to give up team sports, regular training or gym sessions or swimming. Once they were able to return to their previous exercise, very often, mood improved immediately. 

  • Diet / alcohol intake

Similarly, research has found that eating a healthy diet means better mental health, while an unhealthy diet increases levels of distress. Again during the pandemic, many of us turned to comfort foods (fast foods, chocolate etc) and higher alcohol consumption than our normal and again, felt a corresponding lowering of mood, or increase in anxiety. Regularly skipping meals, or simply feeling hungry, can make us feel more irritable or anxious. Alcohol can affect our sleep patterns and it’s depressive effect means that we can feel quite low or jittery ‘the morning after the night before’.

  • We have never learned how to manage emotions

We may lack certain skills to cope with difficult emotions (like anger, anxiety, and sadness) because no one ever taught us how to manage them. As with learning any other skill (like playing an instrument), for example), learning to manage your emotions takes time, practice, and a good teacher. For example, many of us grew up in families where we were discouraged from talking about or expressing emotions, or where we witnessed emotions being continually out of control – perhaps an angry parent or sibling. 

  • Emotional overload

Perhaps we have the skills to cope, but your emotions become so extreme at times that we have difficulty figuring out how to use our coping skills. Intensity of emotion makes it harder for us to manage our feelings and the situations that created them.


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Need some advice and support?

If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.


See also: Managing EmotionsManaging StressManaging Anxiety