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  • Alainnah Knight

What Is Emotional Regulation? And Five Ways to Practice Regulating Your Emotions!

Emotional regulation is the ability to consciously monitor and manage our emotions. This involves being aware of our emotions, understanding or exploring them, and finding healthy ways to cope and express them. The ability to regulate our emotions is so important for our mental well-being, our relationships, our place in society, and so much more. Let's talk about what emotional regulation is, why it is important, and a few ways to practice regulating your emotions!

A wood path showing the journey to a destina

What Is Emotional Regulation?

Let's take for example that five-year-old who is upset about their granola bar not looking the way it is supposed to. They throw the granola bar, they start screaming, they are crying, they think the world is ending.


Their emotions have become dysregulated!


Now let's take for example the adult whose leftovers got eaten and they start slamming cabinets, cooking food aggressively, and calling everyone not-so-great names.


Their emotions have become dysregulated!


You can read more about what it may feel like to be dysregulated in our blog post on the Window of Tolerance.


The opportunity to learn how to regulate our emotions begins as children. We learn how to regulate our emotions through co-regulation with our parents, which then helps us learn how to be aware and manage our emotions through healthy expression and coping mechanisms. Those who grew up with caretakers who weren't quite sure how to regulate their own emotions, or grew up in a chaotic or unsteady environment, may have not gained the proper emotional regulation skills for adulthood. But it is never too late to learn! Emotional regulation is SO important.


Why Is Emotional Regulation Important?


People who practice regulating their emotions can navigate through challenging situations without being overwhelmed and overtaken by their emotions. This includes regulating both positive and negative emotions, such as anger, sadness, joy, and excitement. Cultivating emotional regulation skills is important for maintaining healthy relationships, making good decisions, and coping with stress and anxiety in healthy ways. It contributes to overall emotional well-being and is an essential aspect of personal growth and resilience.


Five Ways To Practice Regulating Your Emotions


Self-Awareness

Beginning to be aware of how you respond to certain things, how you feel about certain things, and what sensations arise in your body are all important steps in learning how to regulate your emotions. Self-awareness can help us notice when we are feeling a bit too angry and need to take a step back to take a deep breath. Self-awareness can help us realize that we probably just need a snack and that we are hangry. Self-awareness can do wonders.


Meet Your Basic Needs

Regulating our emotions is nearly impossible if our basic needs are not being met. Have you eaten? Have you had some water? How much sleep have you gotten? Have you taken some time to decompress lately? Check-in with yourself and if any basic needs have not been met. Being hungry, thirsty, or tired is a fast pass to being dysregulated!


Move Your Body

When we move our bodies we are releasing energy from those different emotions that we are holding. Whether that is stretching, going on a walk, having a dance party in your living room, or going to the gym, moving your body is amazing for emotional regulation.

Label Emotions and Sensations

Name it! Start naming what you are feeling. Name both emotions and sensations in the body. By bringing awareness to the emotions and physical sensations of the emotions that are present in your body, we are allowing them space to express themselves without overtaking us. Next time you experience an emotion, ask yourself where you feel it in your body. Ask yourself about the texture of the sensation. Is there a temperature? Find out as much about it as you can.


BREATHE

The breath is INCREDIBLY powerful. When we take an intentional deep breath, we are giving our nervous system the ability to reset or "regulate" itself. Taking multiple deep breaths, or practicing a breathing exercise is an amazing way to regulate our emotions.


Lastly,

Emotional regulation is a practice, it is something that we must do every day. We must practice it even when we are not dysregulated. Finding what helps you regulate your emotions is most important on this journey. Explore and be curious about what works for you, and challenge yourself to try something new.


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