Do you find yourself on edge more often than not?
Are you having frequent angry outbursts?
Are your negative emotions affecting other aspects of your life?
If so, you likely need to learn a few methods of emotional regulation.
Joy, excitement, happiness, pride, awe
Anger, fear, hurt, disgust, sadness
You may have noticed that the emotions you experience vary from time to time. Some make you feel good, others you wish you could avoid.
Some emotions fill you with energy, excitement, and enthusiasm. In contrast, others leave you feeling depleted, exhausted and low. However, they are here to help you grow and build better relationships.
River of emotions
Metaphorically speaking, emotions are like a river; they run through you, sometimes gentle, other times powerful, intense, deep in some places, and shallow in others. This river runs day and night, carrying everything in its path.
Emotions matter because they impact your thinking, choices and decisions; they influence your attitude, presence and well-being or lack thereof.
How To Become Aware Of The Emotions Within:
Emotions are rarely black or white; sometimes, they may seem out of place given a current circumstance. However, many emotions arise from years and years of being ignored.
As adult responsibilities and stress build-up, these negative emotions may look like frustration, anger, overwhelm, shame, guilt, or irritability.
What Do These Emotions Mean?
Despite how it may feel at times, emotions are our friends. They help us understand what we want or don’t want – and help us build better relationships by empowering us to communicate what’s going on inside.
Emotional regulation matters
Unregulated negative emotions can lead to dysfunctional behaviours like avoidance, addictions, impulsive spending, aggression, lashing out, isolating, or being reckless—all behaviours with negative consequences for the individual and the collective.
These emotions, in reality, are insightful messages about your unmet needs waiting to be honoured. Signs that you need to cope better, work to heal past wounds, or maybe acknowledge the feeling of being overstretched or exhausted.
Unpleasant emotions need to be understood, expressed and managed; when ignored or repressed, they will surface again, impacting you and those around you in a disempowering manner.
The good news is that emotional regulation is a skill you can learn quickly,
You may be shaky at first, like while painting, playing a musical instrument, or playing a new sport, but it gets better with practice.
Here are seven actions you can explore to regulate heavy emotions :
1.Practice a mindful pause
Trying to be logical and rational when your emotions run high is akin to getting off a moving car. It’s confusing, scary and a part of you freezes out of fear.
The best thing you can do is first to calm yourself down (i.e. bring the car to a halt ). From this calm place, it’s easier to move towards the direction that matters, be it a logical reply, choice or decision.
Taking deep breaths, sipping on water, stretching, and moving around are some simple ways to bring about that much-needed mindful pause.
2.Pay attention to your physiology.
Your body gives you feedback 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Like a refined tuning fork, your body resonates and responds to every thought, feeling, action or lack thereof. Learning to tune into your body makes it easier to recognize and regulate difficult emotions.
Sometimes we use our mind to manage our body, and other times we can use our bodies to alter our state of mind.
Somatic practices are extremely subtle yet powerful approaches to building awareness and managing your physiology and thereby your emotions.
3. Name, acknowledge the emotion.
People usually club emotions into three buckets, happy, sad and angry. However, science in this field indicates there can be around 87 emotions that we experience.
Learning to name the emotion for what you feel brings greater clarity, making it easier to manage that specific emotion.
4. Be compassionate to yourself.
Self-criticism in a reasonable measure is healthy to keep yourself accountable;
However, when it’s unnecessarily harsh, it can bring on unwanted feelings of shame and guilt; neither is helpful nor fair.
Practice being compassionate, accepting and acknowledging your feelings, and permitting yourself to feel this way.
From that place of compassion, make your next choice, decision and action that takes you to a calmer state.
5. Take ownership of your emotion.
You may have heard people state that someone else always triggers them, makes them angry, or hurts them.
The reality, however harsh, is that you are responsible for what you choose to feel. By taking ownership of your emotion, you stop blaming and accusing.
You also open the doors to possibilities, focusing on what you want to do with whatever you feel, which is one step closer to resolving the heavy emotion.
6. Understand the unmet need
Anger, resentment, bitterness, and annoyance are signals of unmet needs. You need to reflect, understand and identify what’s missing for that particular emotion to show up.
Use the complex emotions as a guide to get to know yourself better and work with whatever comes up. Self-awareness is the first step to insight.
7. Identify and reduce the stimulus or triggers.
Knowing is not enough; you must act on the knowledge gained to alleviate and reduce the agitation. This may mean changing your environment, routines, habits or behaviours.
By working to reduce the triggers, you are making it easier to stay calm more often.
Becoming aware and learning to regulate your emotions can help you express yourself easily, make you feel lighter, and reduce your stress.
Increased self-awareness can also enhance the quality of your interactions and relationships.
Here is an exercise you can try on your own
- Create an emotions journal
- Spend five minutes each evening reflecting on your day
- List down the emotions you experienced that day
- Understand what these emotions were trying to tell you
- Note down one action you can take tomorrow to manage that emotion better
Points to ponder
- When do I experience difficult emotions?
- How am I currently coping?
- What can I learn to do instead?
- Who or what can help me?