Sonya Thomas lcsw

What do you do when flooded?

Flooded.  Hijacked.  Emotionally Dysregulated.  All of these words describe the same phenomenon.  Flooding happens when intense feelings, thoughts, or sensations overwhelm your ability to integrate them into the present moment.  While flooded, our rational mind is disconnected, our nervous system is saturated and our prefrontal cortex has ceded control to the more “primitives” who are running the show from the fight/flight system in our brains.  When in an emotionally dysregulated state, we are far more apt to lash out, we are far less able to take any perspective other than our own, the ability to empathize eludes us, and our relationship is at the mercy of our worst impulses.  In these moments, the best thing to do is to time ourselves out.  We can muster the ability to disengage, with the purpose of getting ourselves calm and re-grounded.

Research shows that it takes at least 20 minutes to calm down and be able to re-engage more rationally.  For some, it takes longer than that.  Calming down does not happen automatically.  In fact, if you take your time out and continue to stew in righteous anger, you are not doing yourself, or your relationship any favors.  If you continue to dwell on how you have been wronged and how you intend to nail your partner once you re-engage, you can bet that the damage done will only increase.  Instead, you need to use your time out to truly pursue a path back to the ability to re-connect as allies.  How do you do this?  Here are some ideas on ways to self-soothe:

  • Play a game on your phone
  • Go for a walk around the block
  • Journal
  • Focus on your intention to practice healthy dialogue techniques
  • Watch TV (probably nothing too heavy or intense)
  • Spend time with a pet
  • Do some yoga stretches
  • Listen to music
  • Read a book
  • Focus on your breathing with a visual breathing exercise
  • Take a warm bath
  • Color or draw
  • Connect with a time-out partner ~ someone who has agreed to help you to “back away from the ledge”, so to speak
  • Bake or food prep
  • Drink a cup of hot tea
  • Knock a chore off of your to-do list
  • Shoot hoops
  • Work in your garden
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Check out ASMR
  • Remind yourself that you and your partner are not enemies
 Until next time, peace.