Emotional Regulation, What is it & 5 Tips to Help You Do It

When I was young, I was a wild thing. My emotions would yoyo all over the place. Everything often felt heavy and hard and I had no clue why I was feeling this way. I was a sensitive kid, quiet, and honest but had no real clue how to express what I was feeling because my body did all kinds of crazy things. Like crying when I was mad and angry, like crying when I was happy and proud, like crying when i felt pain, I would indulge my depths by sleeping and pretending that I was uncomfortable, I would bounce off the walls when I was in the company of a friend who bought me joy. There was never a middle ground.

There was this one time I was sitting at my best friend's dinner table, her dad was making us all pancakes. FYI still the best pancakes of my life. They were made with so much love, attentiveness and care. They were not rushed, burnt or weird mangled shapes. But perfect round circles, light and fluffy were delivered carefully on the spatula right from the pan. As I sat there, I would smile, laugh and giggle with my best friend by my side, but not too silly. We didn't want to get into trouble. Before long the whole family was talking and within an instant, I relaxed while listening to the conversation. My best-friends brother Ben points out "why do you always look so sad when you're not smiling". 


Its like I could only be two things. Sad or happy. There was no middle. My resting face looked as if my whole family had been taken away from me and I could cry at any moment. 

In our house, we had to pick ourselves up if we got hurt - You'll be alright, we had to cheer up if we were sad, we had to smile when we say hello, we weren't allowed to complain or speak out of turn. All very common things but for me, I was constantly battling big freaking emotions that would rise within me. I just didn't have the tools to deal with them nor did my parents. 

Thank goodness times are changing, as more people become aware of mental and emotional well-being there is a shift in the way we address big emotions. 

Let me introduce you to Emotional Regulation.

Something that I am now very glad to have stumbled upon. But first some context.

As children, we learn certain ways of doing things, and they become our normal. So if we are taught to push big feelings to the side, we take that into adulthood. Big feelings are dismissed by others, we stop sharing. The list really does go on but the key problem is that we have become disconnected from our emotions that we don't know how to deal with them. 


What is Emotional Regulation

Having the ability to create a conscious response to support and effectively manage our emotional well-being in real-time while experiencing big emotions.

Big emotions can seem overwhelming, like constant waves of discomfort for some of us.  Feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, frustration, anger, self-blame and low self-worth cause distress because we don't know how to deal with these emotions. We tend to say things like - we are highly sensitive, cry at the drop of a hat, feel things more deeply, and apologise for our emotional outbursts. 

Emotional Regulation is where we are able to calm our nervous system after a rise of emotions back to a centred place. For example, when we dip into the deep throws of dark emotion it's how soon we can catch ourselves falling towards that place and bringing ourselves back to that middle - the place that is safe and comfortable. We can also experience this on the opposite side of the spectrum where we have a moment of sheer joy then start plummeting back down usually because we feel it's too good to be true we then bypass the middle headed straight for doom. 

When we have a healthy emotional well-being we are aware of these emotions, we can sense them and with practice, we understand how to move through them instead of letting them consume us.

At the end of the day, it's important to remember that we are in control of our emotional reactions to events and situations and it's up to us to manage the feelings that come in a positive way. 


5 Tips to Help You Regulate Your Emotions

  • Identify your triggers: What are the things that tend to set off your emotions? Once you know what these are, you can try to avoid them or be prepared for them. 
  • Stay in the present: Don’t dwell on past events or worry about future ones. Focus on the here and now and what you can do in this moment. Drop the emotional baggage.
  • Be mindful of your thoughts: What you think can influence how you feel. If you’re thinking negative thoughts, it can make you feel negative emotions. Try to focus on positive thoughts instead.
  • Move through your emotion: when you have a rise of emotions do something to burn off that feeling - physical movement is key here - like going for a run, jumping up and down, shaking, screaming (do this into a pillow or find a secluded spot), allow the feelings to find an expression through you. 
  • Practice self-care: Taking care of yourself is important for managing your emotions. This includes things like getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising. Nurturing your soul is paramount to showing yourself that you matter. You deserve to be loved. 



  • Talking with friends

  • Exercising

  • Writing in a journal

  • Meditation

  • Therapy

  • Taking care of yourself

  • Getting adequate sleep

  • Paying attention to negative thoughts that occur before or after strong emotions

  • Noticing when you need a break – and taking it!

If you can learn to regulate your emotions, it will lead to a more positive and fulfilling life. This is the stuff that strengthens relationships. Don't fight off feelings but allow them to move through you and find a way to communicate them. This is a super skill one that I think we all need a little encouragement to do more of. Emotional regulation allows us to be more present, vulnerable and eventually more comfortable within ourselves. 


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