While any of us can have times when our emotions spin out of control, for some people it happens regularly. Their rapidly changing emotions can cause them to do and say things they later regret. They may damage relationships or hurt their credibility with others.
There can be a number of reasons that someone loses control of their emotions. They may be genetically predisposed to these rapid changes. They may never have seen good emotional regulation modeled or learned the skills.
5 emotion regulation skills you should master
1. Create space
Emotions happen fast. We don’t think “now I will be angry” — we are just suddenly clench-jawed and furious. So the number one skill in regulating difficult emotions, the gift we can give ourselves, is to pause. Take a breath. Slow down the moment between trigger and response.
2. Noticing what you feel
An equally important skill involves the ability to become aware of what you’re feeling. Dr. Judson Brewer, MD Ph.D. recommends practices for becoming more curious about your own physical reactions. Tune in to yourself and consider: in what parts of your body are you noticing sensations? Is your stomach upset? Is your heart racing? Do you feel tension in your neck or head?
Your physical symptoms can be clues to what you are experiencing emotionally. Inquiring into what is happening to you physically can also distract your focus and allow some of the intensity of the emotion to go away.
3. Naming what you feel
After noticing what you feel, the ability to name it can help you get control of what is happening. Ask yourself: what would you call the emotions you’re feeling? Is it anger, sadness, disappointment, or resentment? What else is it? One strong emotion that often hides beneath others is fear.
Many of us feel more than one emotion at a time, so don’t hesitate to identify multiple emotions you might be feeling. Then dig a little deeper. If you feel fear, what are you afraid of? If you feel anger, what are you angry about or toward? Being able to name your emotions will help you get one step closer to sharing your emotions with others.
4. Accepting the emotion
Emotions are a normal and natural part of how we respond to situations. Rather than beating yourself up for feeling angry or scared, recognize that your emotional reactions are valid. Try to practice self-compassion and give yourself grace. Recognize that experiencing emotions is a normal human reaction.
5. Practicing mindfulness
Mindfulness helps us “live in the moment” by paying attention to what is inside us. Use your senses to notice what is happening around you in non-judgmental ways. These skills can help you stay calm and avoid engaging in negative thought patterns when you are in the midst of emotional pain.
By Bethany Klynn