What is emotional regulation?
“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It can not be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” — Buddha
This quote encapsulates the essence of what “emotion regulation” is all about.
In its purest form, emotional regulation is about you having the skills to control your behavior, emotions and thoughts in the pursuit of long-term goals – for example living a resilient and flourishing life as opposed to living a life where you are languishing in discontent and frustration.
In this article, you will learn what emotional regulation is, and the skills you need to be mentally strong and healthy.
What Are Emotional Regulation Skills?
Emotional regulation skills help us to effectively manage and change the way we feel and cope with situations. Emotions, thoughts and what we do or feel the urge to do (behaviors) are all linked; and if not managed well can lead us down a path of self-sabotage and self destruction.
When we apply emotional regulation skills into our life then, there will be a definite improvement with our thoughts, attitude and mood. Living life in a more positive way brings major benefits for us – such as increasing our compassion, empathy and relationships with others.
Emotional Regulation Skills are the key to us living a healthy and well balanced life – physically, mentally and spiritually. When we strive to live a balanced life, we build our resilience and our coping strategies to effectively deal with the adversity and the challenges in life.
Why are Emotional Regulation Skills Important?
Self-regulation is one of the key emotional regulation skills. Historically, we have been taught to believe that the strategies around managing our responses and behaviors are self-taught.
For example, when toddlers have tantrums, parents just put that behavior down to a “phase” that they will grow out of. Some of us do and some of us, depending on what negative experiences we have in our lives, lose our ability to self regulate. Outbursts, yelling, displays of anger, aggressive behavior and extreme violent acts demonstrate the inability of a person to self regulate their responses to situations where they feel they have no control. A lack of self-regulation will only cause problems in one’s life.
Self-regulation in its most basic form allows us to bounce forward from failure and stay calm under pressure. It is these two abilities that will essentially carry you through life – more than any other skills.
10 Important Emotional Regulation Skills
1. Applying Your Power Of Choice
The first step in the practice of self-regulation is for you to recognize that you have the choice in how you react to situations.
Using your power of choice is a self regulation skill that empowers you to work with the disruptions and challenges that you face in your life. Your power of choice is your gift. The sign that you are using your power of choice wisely is when you can honestly say out loud to others — ” By using my power of choice, I am able to live my life to my fullest potential and I am flourishing”
When you use your power of choice wisely, there is no compromises about how you live your life. You have clarity, focus and a purpose; and these elements all come together to build your resilience to deal with adversity and the tough times in life.
The other side to using your power of choice is accepting that you never have complete control over how you feel. The power of choice enables you to greatly influence how you choose to feel and thus, respond.
2. STOPP – A Technique Designed by Carol Vivyan to Manage Your Emotions
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”. — Viktor Frankl.
If you are struggling to get your emotions under control, this technique is a great process to follow to manage your emotions more effectively:
- S – Stop
- T – Take A Breath
- O – Observe – your thoughts and feelings
- P- Pull Back – put in some perspective – what is the bigger picture?
- P – Practice What Works – Proceed – what is the best thing to do right now?
3. Take Care Of Your Body
“Caring for your body, mind, and spirit is your greatest and grandest responsibility. It’s about listening to the needs of your soul and then honoring them.” – Kristi Ling
Consistent physical activity, eating well and getting lots of sleep are critical to you having a resilient and well balanced life.
4. Work on Having Positive Relationships In Your Life
“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.” — Mark Twain
The relationships you have in your life have a significant influence on how you live your life. The more positive and healthier your relationships are, the more resilient and optimistic you will feel about your life.
Toxic relationships do not serve you well and you need to eliminate these relationships from your life. Your wellbeing, mentally, physically and spiritually is influenced by the type of relationships you have in your life.
5. Find Ways to Have Fun
Below are a few quotes that demonstrate why it is important for you to have fun in your life.
‘When fun gets deep enough, it can heal the world” – the Oaqui
“There’s no fear when you’re having fun” – Will Thomas
“I am going to keep having fun every day I have left, because there is no other way of life. You just have to decide whether you are a Tigger or an Eeyore”-Randy Pausch
“In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured” – Gordon B. Hinckley
6. Practice Mindfulness
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment” — Buddha
Mindfulness practices can help you to increase your ability to regulate emotions, decrease stress, anxiety and depression. It can also help you to focus our attention, as well as to observe our thoughts and feelings without judgment.
The practice of mindfulness can be different for everyone. However, the most common practise of mindfulness is mediation. The main benefits you get from practicing mediation is that you learn how to calm down your mind. You also learn how to practice the art of gratitude and appreciation. These are key skills that help you to be present in the moment and mindful of the positive things that are in your life.
Take a look at this beginner’s guide to meditation: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly
The more integrated the practice of mindfulness becomes in your life, the less you worry and stress about the past or the future. Mindfulness improves your mental health and your emotional wellbeing.
7. Find Ways for You to Let Go of Painful Emotions and Your Regrets
The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.” ― Steve Maraboli
Learning how to let go is probably one of the hardest emotional regulation skills to learn. When you do manage to release all these negative emotions, you will find that you resilience and ability to deal with the curveballs of life will soar.
When you accept that you are suffering, you stop running from the difficult emotions and turn to face them with strength and courage.
8. Learn How to Accept Your Vulnerability
“In our culture, we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.”– Dr. Brené Brown
Brené Brown’s mission in life has been to teach others about the power of vulnerability. It was her Ted Talk that set her on the journey of spreading the message about how to step in to your vulnerability and find your power:
She has written a book not only on vulnerability but also on how to forgive yourself and dealing with shame.
For me, when I read Brené’s book Daring Greatly, I learned many life changing lessons; however, there were two life lesson that really stood out for me:
- Vulnerability Takes Courage – Allowing yourself to be vulnerable takes strength and courage. When you do this, you are truly standing in your power and it is at this point that you know who you truly are and you are not afraid.
- Don’t Bottle Up Your Emotions – Become more self-aware. I was very good at hiding away how I was really feeling and overtime, these feelings of anxiety and sadness would overwhelm me. After I read Brené’s book, I realized that to become more emotionally resilient and self aware, you have to be able to explore your emotions, ask questions to get in touch with how you are feeling and thinking in a given moment.
9. Seek Excellence Not Perfection
This is another of Brené Brown’s life lessons, and this lesson so important when it comes to managing our emotions.
Brown says perfectionism is:
“the belief that if we live perfectly, look perfectly and act perfectly, we can avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame.”
Perfectionism isn’t about growth, improvement, or personal achievement, it’s about fear and avoidance. Therefore, what you should really be focused on is realizing excellence, the best version of yourself despite your flaws. This perspective is healthy and inclusive and leads to real personal growth as opposed to a flawed perfectionism.
10. Become Better at Managing Your Negative Feelings Because They Never Go Away
These negative feelings such as fear and criticism will always be a part of our life. The best course of action you can take is to face your fears and move forward. The more you stand up to these negative forces, the more you’ll flex your courage and resilience and come out stronger for it.
Dare to be yourself – your strengths, skills, and beauty as well as your flaws and insecurities. This is who you are and the more you stand in your personal power the more courageous and stronger you will be especially when facing those challenges, disruptions and painful moments in your life.
Our emotions are a powerful force in influencing how we live our life. Our emotions are here to stay and the good news is that we are not victims of the negative feelings that are influencing our life.
When you integrate these 10 emotional regulation skills into your life, your emotional agility and courage will enable you to live your life to the fullest – a life where you are thriving, resilient and courageous.
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Featured photo credit: Matthew T Rader via unsplash.com