What is emotion regulation?
Emotion regulation is the ability to deal with emotions in a socially acceptable manner. Learning to regulate emotions can help you deal with stress and anxiety. But it will also help in social situations. First, you need to understand what emotions are.
What are emotions?
Emotions are strong feelings. They can arise from outside stimuli or by our thoughts. First, we encounter a subjective experience, this triggers a psychological response, and our experience decides how we react to it. The way we feel emotions can differ from person to person. If you have a bad experience with clowns, you might respond scared or mad when you see one, while another person who has a good experience with clowns will be happy or satisfied.
There is a whole list of emotions. You can feel happiness, but you can also feel euphoria or joy. There is nothing wrong with emotions, we all have them. But being able to regulate emotions can help you change unwanted behavior.
How to regulate emotions?
First, you need to know that you don’t have to ‘control’ the emotion. If you try to control something, it often works against you. For example, you feel anxiety, and you tell yourself ‘I need to act normal, so nobody will notice that I’m scared.’ You end up feeling more anxious. It’s better to let the emotion be. ‘ok, I feel anxiety, but it’s fine. It’s just an emotion. It can’t hurt me; it will pass’. If you tell yourself this, you’re letting your brain know that there is nothing to worry about. You will still feel anxiety, but it won’t be as bad. This will take lots of practice. You can’t change behavior you’ve built up for years in minutes or days. So don’t let this discourage you. The more you practice, the better you get.
It’s also helpful to put your feelings into perspective. You just got home and your thinking about that chocolate bar you bought last weekend, but your boyfriend already ate it. You might feel disappointed and sad and throw a tantrum. But is it worth feeling like that over a chocolate bar? If you put it into perspective, your initial reaction might be disappointment. But when you think about all the other things in life, Then it’s really not that bad. Instead of feeling sad and moody for the rest of the night, you rather feel happy your home with your boyfriend right?
If you feel unwanted emotions, it can be helpful to distract yourself. Don’t push the feeling away but let it be there, on the sideline. Do something you like, that makes you happy or relieves stress. Take a bath with lavender oil and put some relaxing music on or write in your journal. A self-care list is an excellent tool if you want to find something to relax.
Exercise can also help regulate emotions. It clears your mind, and it helps release lots of necessary hormones. You don’t have to run to the gym if that’s not your thing. Yoga or walking also works like a charm. It’s important to find an exercising method that works for you. Set clear goals and stick to them, and reward yourself after. What works for me is walking 3 x 35 minutes on a treadmill every week. If I stick to that goal, I reward myself by making my favorite sandwich on Sunday.
Try my 28-day meditation challenge and find out what meditation style helps you deal with emotions.
Emotion regulation in social situations
In social situations, it’s preferable not to show strong emotions. If your being criticized by your boss, you might feel anger or sadness, but it won’t be good if you start yelling at your boss. Instead, counting to 10 might be better. If you are confronted with strong emotions in social situations, try to excuse yourself from the situation. Curse at your boss in private or cry for a good 5 minutes, but after you need to remember that you are not your emotion. You are in control, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Getting a mantra or affirmation can help you deal with emotions. Pick something that works for you. If I get confronted with strong emotions, I tell myself ” this is how I feel right now, but it will pass.” It helps me remember that no feeling is permanent. Not the good ones or the bad.
What if I can’t regulate my emotions?
Of course, you can! But it might feel like everything is getting too much. Don’t worry; there are lots of therapies that can help you with that. First, it’s important to talk about it with someone you trust. It helps to unburden yourself a little by sharing your worries. Then you can look for a therapist nearby and ask about the possible therapies. If you start treatment, you need to realize that the bigger part of the responsibility is on you. Nobody can do it for you. Regulating emotions and behavioral change is hard work, but it can be done if you really want it. It might take months or even years, But it’s worth it if it changes your life for the better.