Understanding Emotional Regulation

Understanding Emotional Regulation

Emotions are a natural and important part of our lives. They help us express ourselves and connect with others. However, sometimes our emotions can feel overwhelming, and that’s where emotional regulation comes in. It is a way of understanding & managing your emotions. Effective emotion regulation has been associated with various positive outcomes, including improved well-being, better relationships, and greater resilience in the face of stress and difficult times.


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Here are some simple tips to help you with emotional regulation.

  1. Recognise Your Emotions: The first step in emotional regulation is to recognise what you’re feeling. Sometimes, we might feel a mix of emotions, and that’s okay. Take a moment to pause and identify what you are experiencing. Are you feeling angry, sad, anxious, or happy?
  2. Understand Your Triggers: Certain situations, people, or thoughts can trigger strong emotions. Try to identify these triggers. Once you understand what sets off your emotions, you can start to prepare for them by learning ways to address them.
  3. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is about being present in the moment without judgment. It can help you observe your emotions without getting overwhelmed by them. Simple mindfulness exercises such as deep breathing or body scans can be very helpful.
  4. Develop Coping Strategies: Find healthy ways to cope with intense emotions. This could be talking to a friend, going for a walk, journaling, or engaging in a hobby you enjoy. Having a few coping strategies can make a big difference when facing difficult emotions.
  5. Seek Support: It’s okay to ask for help. Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional can provide a different perspective and support you in managing your emotions.
  6. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. It’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions, and it’s important to treat yourself with understanding and compassion, just as you would a friend.
  7. Set Realistic Expectations: Understand that emotional regulation is a skill that takes time to develop. It’s okay to have setbacks, and it’s important to be patient with yourself as you work on managing your emotions.

Here’s an example. Imagine you’re at a busy airport, rushing to catch a flight. Suddenly, you realise that your flight has been delayed, and you feel frustration and impatience bubbling up inside you. Instead of letting these emotions take over, you take a moment to recognise what you’re feeling. You understand that waiting and unexpected changes trigger these emotions in you.

Applying the above tips, you decide to practice mindfulness. You take a few deep breaths, reminding yourself that delays are out of your control. You also reach out to a friend, sharing your feelings and seeking support. By doing this, you’re using coping strategies and seeking support, which are recommended ways to manage intense emotions.

In this example, you’ve applied emotional regulation techniques by recognising your emotions, understanding your triggers, practicing mindfulness, and seeking support. By doing so, you’ve effectively managed your emotions in a challenging situation.

Now, I invite you to identify a situation, person or place where you feel overwhelmed by emotion & implement the above strategies to regulate your emotions.

Take away message: Understanding and regulating our emotions is an ongoing process, and with practice, it can lead to greater emotional well-being and improved overall mental health. Remember, emotional regulation is a skill that can be learned and improved over time. By practicing these tips, you can take positive steps towards understanding and managing your emotions more effectively, helping improve your overall well-being, relationships, and resilience.

Stay tuned for our next article where we will explore decision-making.

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Important: If you find yourself struggling to navigate your emotions or are experiencing significant distress, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. They can provide guidance and help you develop personalised strategies to manage your emotions effectively.

Dr Rosanna Francis is a clinical psychologist who believes in the inner strength of the individual, and the value of tapping into these strengths and learning new skills to help one live a more comfortable, fulfilling life. She has over 20 years’ experience working across a diverse range of psychological issues, including anxiety, depression, complex trauma, relationships, stress, self-confidence, and emotion regulation; and a special interest (research & clinical) in working with people with high intellectual ability who struggle with anxiety.