Emotions are the most pivotal part of the human experience. They make us who we are. Every day, we are confronted with numerous situations that elicit emotional responses from us – whether it’s a fight with a friend, getting surprised with your favorite food, finding out you have an upcoming holiday, or even going out to get some fresh air. With every new stimulus in our environment, we respond differently.
Some of us feel emotions more strongly than others, and while that may not always be a bad thing, having the ability to regulate our emotions is an essential skill. Too much of anything can be unhealthy, including positive emotions, which can become overwhelming if they are not regulated or controlled.
What is emotional regulation?
Emotional regulation is essentially the way in which we exert control over our emotions. It includes a range of strategies and techniques that are necessary to monitor, evaluate, and modify the emotional reactions that we express. This can take place at different points in time, both before you feel an emotion as well as after you react.
Is regulating emotions easy?
Like any other skill, emotional regulation can be practiced and improved upon. While we believe we are largely not in control of our emotions, with mindful observation we can actually improve or reduce them as per the requirements of the situation for our well- being. However, it can be difficult for individuals with certain disorders or if they have suffered from traumatic experiences in the past. Abuse and trauma predispose people to emotional sensitivity and vulnerability and they may have a harder time controlling difficult emotions.
Tips to work on your emotional regulation skills
- Start with identifying your feelings. Research suggests that the moment we label an emotion, we are automatically able to release it. Ask yourself where in your body can you feel this emotion. Is it making you dizzy? Is it making your chest feel heavy? Is it making your throat tight?
- Discover ways to express your emotions mindfully. Find out ways that work for you, whether it’s a good cry, journaling, or dancing to your favorite songs, choose to safely express how you feel rather than falling back on destructive patterns.
- Try not to evaluate and judge your feelings. Observe them for what they are and ask yourself what they are trying to tell you. Sit with yourself and consciously extend compassion towards yourself while working through overwhelming emotional responses.
A little bit of mindfulness and work in regulating your emotions can go a long way, eventually showing up not only in your physical and mental health but also in your family, social and professional life as well. Facing and confronting emotions instead of running away from them or letting them overpower you can be a great place to start.