Emotional Regulation | How Can I Control My Emotions?

emotional regulation

Emotions can get in the way or get you on the way. -Mavis Mazhura

Our Emotions are diverse and basically motors us through life. Most individuals, act, react and behave as per the emotions they experience. We remember moments when we felt joy, gratitude, anger, sadness and fear, not that time when we felt oh-so-neutral. However, there are times when we try to hold back our emotions so that they don’t get the best of us, like when we face an angry boss, an upset friend, an important doctor’s appointment, or a big exam.

Due to the level of intensity  we experience along the rainbow spectrum of emotions, so here one question arises.

How do we NOT let emotions get the best of us?

This is where Emotional Regulation comes into play.

What is Emotional Regulation?

To put it very simply, emotional regulation implies better regulation of one’s emotion so that no situation is ever aggravated that causes us to feel discomfort. There are two aspects of Emotional Regulation that needs to be kept in mind:

  • Up-Regulate
  • Down-Regulate

So what do these two terms mean?

It would be better explained with examples.

Other times, we might not feel enough excitement about doing certain things. For example, we might not be particularly thrilled about running errands. When our excitement is low, we might find ourselves not having enough motivation to carry out certain actions. This is when we are more vulnerable to procrastination. In these cases, it can be useful to up-regulate our excitement. For example, we could remind ourselves of the sense of accomplishment we feel whenever we complete a task.

Let’s imagine that we go to a bar and see our crush. We get so excited about the possibility of talking to him/her that we end up consuming many more drinks than we had initially wanted. As a result, we might end up with a hangover the following morning. We might skip work and get in trouble for missing out on an important meeting. Thus, in this case, our unchecked excitement led to negative consequences. It would have been more adaptive for us to down-regulate it. For example, we could have reminded ourselves of the potentially negative consequences of drinking too much alcohol on work nights.

Yes, so emotional regulation happens in our lives naturally at times but sometimes it is important to develop this skill so that we are in better control and protected from “mess” we do not want in our lives.

How does it help?

Research says Healthy Emotional regulation prevents unhealthy coping mechanisms from taking place like rumination (negative thinking), substance abuse/addiction, and procrastination and even binge eating. It also includes the following:

  • It helps you to cope in a healthy manner with your intense emotions like anger, hurt, betrayal, disappointment, excitement, sadness and more.
  • Allows you to gain back balance in your life.
  • Your emotions are in YOUR control, and not vice versa
  • Gives you a heightened sense of clarity and insight
  • Emotional maturity improves to handle complex social situations with ease

So ask yourself, and remind yourself “Which situation has been the most Difficult for you?”

Was it because you shouted on your colleague or a close friend, or got excessively nervous, or was it in your excitement you shared a part of yourself that now you regret?

If you look closely, most situations that get complex are due to our emotional reactions to it. So why Not Check it if we can?

Strategies to Develop Emotional Regulation

Research on emotion regulation suggests that people engage in different regulation strategies when they try to deal with their emotions, and these different strategies impact their feelings, well-being and even their close relationships.

How do we regulate our emotions?

Below are some definite strategies have been mentioned to get one started on emotional regulation.

1. Identifying which specific emotions you’re feeling.

For example, do you know the difference between feeling jealous and feeling envious? How about the difference between shame and embarrassment?
It is very important to identify what exactly you are feeling so that there is no confusion.

How to do that?

Focus on what you are feeling at this moment, close your eyes and say as many adjectives as you can to describe your emotions best. There will be a general feeling, focus on that, and you will know which Emotion it is.

2. Identifying which specific emotions someone else is feeling.

For example, do you notice when your partner is reacting angrily because they are feeling anger + embarrassment, instead of just recognizing the anger element.
Try to label others’ emotions correctly rather than just labelling others as “in a bad mood.”

How to do that?

You’ll be able to provide more effective reactions if you can correctly identify which specific emotions other people are having. If you realize you’re unsure, you can ask the person to help you understand.

3. Can you wait?

For example, are you able to wait until tomorrow to eat the rest of the dessert you made when you’ve already had one portion?

The Truth of Delayed Gratification: Instead of consuming something by giving into your craving, it is important to save and control ones craving for later. Once you do that, the later experience will be sweeter.

How to do that?

Train yourself to say “STOP” aloud whenever you’re about to do something impulsively. It won’t be easy at first but gradual practice, enhances Self Control!

4. Building Mastery on oneself

It is essential to have positive anchors of competence in one’s life. Less positive feelings or competence we have on ourselves, more vulnerable we are to react and lose control over one’s emotions.

How to do that?

Try to do one thing a day to make yourself feel competent and in control. It may be something you are good at it may be an area you are building skills.
Like: Drawing/ colouring; Going for a walk; writing in a journal; mentally creating a focus for the day (“I am going to practice listening today”)

5. Opposite Action 

It is probably the most effective and simple strategy to regulate one’s emotions.

When you experience an emotion, behaviour usually comes with it. If you are angry, you might fight or argue. If you are sad, you might withdraw from your friends. Your body causes you to react to emotions in a specific way.

Emotion Action Opposite Action
Angry Fight, yells, and argues. Talk quietly and behave politely
Sad Withdraw from friends. Visit and communicate with friends.

How to do that?

Doing the opposite action will help you change your emotion. If you typically start to yell when you are angry, try talking quietly and politely. If you withdraw when you are sad, make a point to visit a friend next time you feel this way.

6. Self Soothe

When we are emotionally overwhelmed or emotions are all haywire and feeling like “I am in a big mess”, that is the time to clean up yourself. Self-soothing techniques lets you do just that.

How to do that?

  • Get yourself some hot cocoa, coffee, soda, juice or water. Drink your beverage slowly focusing on the sensations of taste, smell and temperature.
  • Wrap in a blanket and rock in a rocking chair.

Sight

  • Seeing a funny movie or watching a funny television show
  • Reading a good book
  • Looking at pictures of loved ones

Sound

  • Listening to relaxing music
  • Singing to yourself
  • Saying positive statements to yourself or self-encouragement

Touch

  • Soaking in a warm bath
  • Getting a massage
  • Relaxing in the warmth of the sun
  • Changing into comfortable clothes
  • Stretching

Riya Shares 

Riya aged 24 after trying these techniques to help herself get better control over emotions shares her experience with us.

She say’s “When my Counsellor suggested, I did not believe it can work, and I can gain control over my emotion. I am impulsive and mostly do things and react which causes more damage. But after incorporating these, I stay calmer and less impulsive. My mood is better and I deal with situations with more clarity rather than reacting without thinking. Now when my mom shouts on me, instead of shouting back, I can ask her what I can do to fix it. It gets easy, and communication has improved.”

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion. -Dale Carnegie

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