Three Ways to Manage an Emotional Crisis

Has acting in anger ever created an emotional crisis for you? Have you felt so angry that you punched a wall, pushed things over, or screamed? After you did so, did you feel shame, guilt, regret, or other intensive feelings that can result in an emotional crisis?

Understanding “Emotional Crisis”

Not only does anger create a tense environment, but it also puts yourself and others in harm’s way. While punching the wall may be a quick release for anger, it actually creates long-term problems (crisis, relationship issues, ruining the wall, hurting your hand, etc.). Stopping our anger and emotions from taking control over our actions is important in preventing a resultant emotional crisis.

If you are experiencing anger, check out these 8 simple tools that you can use to take control of your anger right away. By utilizing these tools, you may be able to stop your anger before it turns into an action or crisis.

But what happens if you do lose control of your anger and you feel as though you are in a resultant emotional crisis? Whether it is you, a friend, or a family member, it is important to stay safe. During an emotional crisis, we may be triggered to make decisions that are harmful to ourselves or others. 

If you find yourself in the middle of an emotional crisis, family violence, disaster event, midlife crisis, a mental breakdown. What do you do? 

One option is to contact an emergency responder (911, local emergency line, crisis helpline) to support you in a time of emotional crisis. But what comes next? What can you also do?

An important aspect of learning how to keep yourself or others safe during an emotional crisis requires us to be aware of the warning signs that a crisis is about to occur, create a plan for safety, and be resourceful.

1. Know Your Warning Signs

Being aware of warning signs that a crisis might occur is an effective tool to help plan for safety and ask for help. Below are some common signs that you may be experiencing, or heading towards, an emotional crisis:

  • List provided by SAMHSA
    • Crying spells or bursts of anger
    • Difficulty eating
    • Losing interest in daily activities
    • Increasing physical distress symptoms such as headaches or stomach pains
    • Fatigue
    • Feeling guilty, helpless, or hopeless
    • Avoiding family and friends
  • List provided by Dignity Health:
    • speaking of self-harm or a wish to die
    • a recent traumatic experience
    • mood swings
    • a change in personality
    • withdrawing from life
    • expressing a feeling of hopelessness
    • sleeping too much or not enough
    • seeing things that are not there or hearing voices
    • reckless behavior
    • exhibiting extreme anxiety or paranoia

2. Create a Crisis Safety Plan

While it’s important that we let professionals do their job in assessing and intervening in crisis situations, we all need to be part of the working process. What we do during a crisis situation is as important as what emergency responders can do for us. Therefore, acting on a plan may keep you or your loved one safe during an emotional crisis.

Six Steps for Creating a Safety Plan

  1. Stabilization: Recognize the emotions that you are feeling. Identify the images, thoughts, mood, behavior, and situation that are telling you that a crisis is developing.
  2. Change Environment: Remove yourself from the current physical or social setting that may be agitating the situation. Examples: leave the location and go somewhere else to help you regain control of your emotions, or if you are on the phone, just say that you need a break call back when you feel ready. 
  3. Individual Coping Strategies: What are some activities that you can do to get yourself calm or take your mind out of the emotional crisis? Examples: count to 10, go for a short walk, exercise, do puzzles, dance, ride a bike, drawing, relaxation techniques: deep breathing, meditation, yoga, etc.
  4. Interpersonal Coping Strategies: People that you know can help you get distracted or social settings will take your mind off the situation. Examples: friends and family members that have humor, favorite coffee shop, social events, watching a game at the park. 
  5. Personal Support: Gather contact information of people that you know will be concerned for your wellbeing and that will provide you support during difficult times to help you re-establish your emotions.
  6. Professional Support: Gather contact information of agencies and professionals who are available to provide emotional support during a crisis and that can link you to other services. See below for a list of resources.

Here are samples of a safety plan from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the State of Maine Behavioral Health of the Department of Health Human Services.

3. Know Your Resources

Here is a list of resources that you can use to develop your own emotional crisis safety plan.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

  • A confidential crisis hotline that is available 24/7 and provides emotional support, crisis counseling and mental health referrals. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), en español 1-888-628-9454 or visit their website here.

Lifeline Chat is a service of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, via web chat available 24/7 across theUnited States. Access the chat here.  

Crisis Text Line
Text “HELLO” to 741741
A crisis hotline available 24/7 throughout the U.S. and helps anyone, in any type of crisis, connecting them with a crisis counselor who can provide support and information. You can visit their website here.



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