Faith Spilling Over… Into Everyday Life

How to Handle Haywire Emotions



My eyes brimmed with tears that threatened to overflow and spoil our family breakfast at a special waterfront restaurant. As ridiculous as it sounds, a family spat over what to order made me cry. Seated across from me, my husband and two kids looked worried.

As I took deep breaths and willed away the tears, I thought back over my week. Several conflicts had gone unresolved, and PMS had set me on a roller-coaster ride headed for disaster. Now my pent-up frustration spilled out as a flood of tears over a silly disagreement about whether to order an omelet or Turkish breakfast!

Negative emotions are a gift from God because they signal that something is wrong. Maybe you’re going through a difficult patch right now. Marital conflict, a child’s behavior, even a misunderstanding with a friend can leave you feeling sad, disappointed, hurt, or resentful. If you’re like me, fluctuating hormones can send you over the edge.

How can we effectively handle negative emotions?

Stop to identify how you feel:

Often we struggle under a vague sense of depression or sadness without pausing to taking stock of what we feel or what the cause is. Self-awareness is the first step towards dealing with negative emotions.

Give yourself the freedom to express yourself appropriately:

Have a good cry. Get alone with God and pour out your heart. Tell your husband or a trusted friend what you’re going through. Pent-up emotions will only boil over later. Let them out so you can move on past them!

Work things through:

Negative emotions are usually a sign that something needs to change. Do we need to work through conflict with someone? Maybe we need to change our approach to a situation?

Be proactive to care for yourself:

After my family breakfast fiasco, I realized that insufficient rest had left me ill-equipped to handle conflict and stress. Managing our schedules so that we take time for rest and renewal can help.

Cultivate a Renewed Mind:

Negative emotions usually flow from negative thought patterns, so we need to ask God to renew our minds by replacing negative thoughts with His truth. These different versions of Romans 12:2 are telling:

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (NIV)

“Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (NLT)

“Fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” (Message)


Asking God to transform our thoughts and feelings opens the door to His miraculous work. We can also create more space in our lives for His transforming power when we take practical steps towards a renewed mind:

  • Let go of hurt and choose forgiveness:

When someone hurts or offends us, we tend to rehearse it over and over in our minds. Instead, why not make a declaration of forgiveness each time the hurt thought crops up?

  • Worship:

Worship helps us to connect with God. Because it moves our focus away from ourselves and toward Him, it provides an antidote to our frustration or sadness.

  • Fill your mind with God’s word:

Ask God to give you a special scripture that speaks to your situation. Declare that word, memorize it, and pray it.

Normal feelings like anger, frustration, and sadness don’t have to defeat us. As we express them appropriately and seek to move past them, God is with us. His Holy Spirit empowers us to make progress towards renewed minds and hearts.

Now it’s your turn: What helps you handle haywire emotions?

(re-edited from my archives)

Linking up with Holly Barrett’s #Testimony Tuesday, Kelly Balarie’s #RaRaLinkup. Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory, Meredith Bernard’s #Woman2Woman, and Grace & Truth via Kaylene Yoder. Check out these communities for more encouragement.


Author: betsydecruz

I want to enjoy the everyday life God is giving me as best I can, even when the road gets bumpy. I love having fun with my teenagers, learning almost anything, and drinking dark roast coffee with my friends.

39 thoughts on “How to Handle Haywire Emotions

  1. See Betsy, here is my early morning laugh: “PMS had set me on a roller-coaster ride headed for disaster.” Yes, been there! I am trying, deeply trying, to apply your words (in my heart) to the moments when toddler tantrums make me fly into a tantrum. I need to renew my mind in the bathroom, I think. Love your words this early morning. Cheering you from the #RaRalinkup on Purposeful Faith. Love you!

    • Oh yes, Kelly. The kids can make us fly into a tantrum like nothing else! Next time I want to breathe deep and keep on keeping calm, fixing my mind on Jesus. SO hard to get a hold of ourselves when they push our buttons! (Like in the story you shared this morning!)

  2. What a comfort to know someone else has these meltdowns at random moments. I fell apart over dinner a couple weeks ago (thankfully we were at home). The silliest thing sparked a waterfall of tears, but it was the result of months of unresolved frustration that we hadn’t been open about until then. It’s been amazing, though, how that conversation has led to so much healing and deeper relationship with each other. Love you ideas here – much of what I agreed to do at that moment to have the conversations earlier and not let unresolved issues build up.

    • For sure you’re not the only one that has meltdowns, Kathryn. Glad I’m not the only one who falls apart over a meal. I’m also glad you’ve had the chance to work things through. That always helps me.

      • What is it about eating that sparks the truth?! My son was acting weird at supper the other day, and so I asked what was really wrong, and he broke down crying. Thanks for cheering us on to recognize this phenomenon in ourselves too, Betsy. It’s the first step in modeling healthier behavior for our kids. Always love your insight!

  3. Of course, this is not a problem for Vulcans.

    With severe PTSD, and the memories to serve it, I have to keep my emotions on a very short leash…and to some degree, I no longer understand some emotions.

    My writer friends, when they get a book contract, will do a Snoopy Dance…while I’ll probably nod, and move on to the next thing. (Actually, when I got a contract, that’s what I DID.)

    It’s a tradeoff. Much is lost, but I don’t think I could survive the nightmares I sometimes have, if the full range of emotions were in play, and I mean that quite literally.

  4. Bets, some day, we must talk in live time. Love you, love reading this…and I really want to know which bfast option you chose. Ok seriously, appreciate your transparency always. I really like the reminder to choose forgiveness. Release rather than rehearse. Not easy. But so freeing.

    • Will you be in the States anytime between August 2015 and May 2016, Julie? We’ll be in Dallas. The breakfast option I chose was what everyone else wanted: Turkish breakfast (bread, olives, cheese. Can’t remember the details now, but it messed up everyone else’s breakfast if I ordered the omelet I wanted??? All I remember is crying. And yes, release rather than rehearse!

  5. Oh how I can relate Betsy! I tell everyone I am not a “crier” and for some reason hormones have gotten the best of me in this season and it can be ugly!!! I love all your suggestions and have tried them all. One of my first “go tos” is to text a good friend or family member and ask them to pray for me. Details aren’t necessary, just the unspoken petition to God and every time it has helped. Of course the good cry is happening at the same time as the text is being sent! 🙂 Love this post! Blessed to see you at #RaRalinkup!

    • Texting someone with a prayer request is such a great idea, Mary. I know what you mean about those weepy seasons! I’m about your age, and I’ve experienced them too! God’s grace over us both!

  6. Been there this week as well…thankfully not in front of our visiting team but in private. Reading a book about burnout that terms it more in un-met expectations than being to busy, and being disappointed in God. Think the long wait on our adoption referral and now having tickets to move our son to the USA for university are getting to me. Need to continue to rest in the Lord, asking for more patience, more faith, more peace! Thanks for this.

  7. Betsy, I loved this post. It reminds me that I need to take action renewing my mind with the Word of God. And let the Holy Spirit work in me. Thanks for sharing and encourage me.

  8. Such practical advice here, Betsy. I love the way you break down big tasks into simple steps. It gives me hope that I can do it!

  9. Excellent post for me to read today. Yikes, I been an emotional mess. I do need to be more disciplined to do those things like you mentioned to help me stay a float. I like talking to friends or writing. I’m learning that I can just talk to God more like I do with some friends. Honest, raw, and not edited. Great insightful post filled with wisdom. I almost cried just reading about your episode.

    • Thanks Lisa. You have a lot to handle with those little ones. I know what you mean about talking to God like we talk to friends. I sometimes use Him as a “last resort” if no one else is around, but really He should be the first one I turn to!

  10. I think we can all identify with a day or two (for me, many more!) where we’ve allowed our emotions to get the best of us. I love how you use a moment like that to speak life and encourage us in the Faith, Betsy! You are so spot on with the point you made about our negative feelings being indicators that something is off. Thank you for the practical insight you give on how to address those feelings head on and in a way that will bring God glory. So blessed by your words today!

  11. Betsy,
    Being a middle-aged woman, I can so relate to haywire emotions. For me, reminding myself that God made me so He understands me (He is mindful of my frame). He created those emotions and so they are going to come out. How appropriately they come out often has to do with how much rest I’ve had so I guard my sleep carefully (for everyone’s sake lol). Renewing my mind by inserting His truth is also a biggie. Thanks for some great reminders!

    • Oh, I think I know JUST how you feel, Bev. 🙂 I know that for me too getting enough sleep has become more important to hold myself together. When I was young missed sleep didn’t bother me as much. Those days are gone!

  12. Betsy, love this post, I so agree with your quote, “Asking God to transform our thoughts and feelings opens the door to His miraculous work.” Love that imagery…many blessings to you!

  13. I remember years ago learning (in a support group) to ask myself these questions: Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? When I HALT and examine what’s going on in that moment, I often find that my emotions have gone haywire because of one of these four things. That really helps me to pinpoint the real reason I’m struggling in that moment, deal with that reason, and then move on to deal with whatever has triggered that emotion in me. I don’t always remember to do it, but when I do, the results are amazing!

    • Yes, Holly, those are GREAT questions. I know for me being tired is a big one. It wears me down more than anything. I’ve heard of HALT, but never really applied it. I’m going to give it a try!

  14. My favorite part of the post is, “Often we struggle under a vague sense of depression or sadness without pausing to taking stock of what we feel or what the cause is. ”
    Whenever I feel like that, I stop and really think about what specifically happened that day to cause it. I’m often surprised by the situation I can trace those feelings back to. Saying a prayer to ask God to take those negative feelings away from me and replace them with His peace and joy, always works for me and makes me feel better.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more, Deborah. I find it really helps me move past sadness or depression if I stop to identify what happened to cause it. It’s a lot easier to deal with something specific. Sometimes even if I don’t FEEL better, it at least helps a bit to realize WHAT I’m feeling! 🙂

  15. Oh, Betsy – when I saw the title of this blog I just knew it was going to meet me. PMS and lack of rest, moving faster than I’m intended too, they take me down every. single. time. I’ve been known to just break into tears over washing dishes. Reminds me of Elijah melting down before the Lord and God telling him he needed to go have a snack and take a nap. 🙂 Your wise council and clear advice are so great – taking time to take stock and focus on the truth just makes all the difference in the world. Thank you, Betsy!

    • Ditto for me on PMS and lack of rest, Tiffany. Sometimes just practical steps we take can have big spiritual ramifications. Let’s grow together in maturity towards the fullness of Christ!

  16. Oh my Betsy – how I can relate to this post. lol You nailed how those negative emotions are always an indicator to something else being off. I also have that restlessness too you know? Great post my friend – you have a wonderful graceful flow of writing – it’s like I can hear you talking! Beautiful!

    • Thanks for being here today, Melanie. I wrote this post to myself, believe me! (I can walk around for days down in the dumps without stopping to identify what is wrong!)

  17. Loved this! Emotions truly are God’s signals that something deeper is going on. Sometimes I forget to dig deeper, to understand my emotions and experience the healing God has for me in my emotions! #RaRaLinkup
    Lisa Murray

  18. Betsy, I love the perspective of seeing negative emotions as a gift. My natural tendency is to want to wallow in them for a bit. But in reading your post, I can see better how to allow them to point me to God! Thank you for both encouraging and providing such practical wisdom. I appreciate you so much!

  19. Oh my goodness Betsy, did you have a camera on me the other night? LOL! I needed this after the week I’ve had. I especially hate it when you’re in that moment and you get frustrated at yourself because you know you’re probably being overemotional. 🙂 Thanks so much! Great post!

  20. Something you mentioned here really jumps out at me about the ‘haywire’ moments in my memory… most of them were a result of my inability to perceive the situation as it ought to be. Many of them were on the helm of a sleepless night or a too-busy schedule, normal ebb and flow of hormones and living with people…. ( need I say more), all seem to contribute to the balance we all try to create when we do it on our own. And in our sufficiency it is never good enough, is it?

    Great scripture suggestions to meditate on, as well as a very practical list of how to help us achieve and maintain that balance we all want to have.
    Thanks Betsy!

  21. Pingback: “Posts That Encourage” Saturday / Words of Comfort Link-Up # 1 | TGA Writes

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