Emotion Regulation – World Mental Health Day


So, as it is World Mental Health Day I have decided to write about something that I find very important to mental health and wellbeing; regulating your emotions.

Believe it or not, regulating our emotions is a huge part of every day life for all people, not just those with mental health issues. Emotion regulation is the ability to understand and accept emotional experiences. It also involves engaging in healthy strategies to manage any uncomfortable emotions we may feel on a day to day basis.

Emotion regulation is important for us all, but it does underlie many mental health issues. I’ve seen this a lot in children throughout the last few months – they are still learning about emotions and how to interpret and manage them. A lot of the time, a child will look towards a parent for their reaction, and model that. For example, when a child falls over and you make a fuss of them they are very likely to cry. However, if you simply say ‘uh oh’ in a positive tone, and pick them up without another word they will likely ignore it as well.

I don’t know about you, but as an adult I find this very hard to do.

In a previous article about Mindfulness I discussed the use of breathing as a way to manage difficult emotions. Whilst this was in the context of children, it is very important for adults too. Remember to count your breaths – three seconds in and three seconds out.

Reappraisal is another strategy suggested by researchers. This involves taking a more ‘glass is half full’ approach. When you feel a distressing emotion concerning an event/situation, try to look at the positive side. For example, there are many things in day to day life that make me uncomfortable – some days even leaving the house is daunting. When I feel like this I focus on something positive, such as “If I go to the gym today I will feel much better about myself tomorrow” or “If I go into work today I will get a lot done, and will feel very proud of myself for going in”.

Whilst it is not as simple as the breathing technique, reappraisal is very effective. But you have to put more effort in, and keep repeating your ‘positive thought’ until you believe it. This may even distract you from the event that is causing you distress.

Finally, if you are still struggling with regulating your emotions, you may have to go back to basics – analysis. When you feel yourself in a distressing situation, make a note of anything you can about your environment and emotions. For instance, where are you? What are you doing? Can you describe your current emotion? Can you name it? What thoughts are you having?

All of these questions can help you take a more objective view of your emotions. Then you can identify similar situations and prepare for them. This allows you to work on your strategies – even if it’s as simple as learning to tolerate awkwardness in a conversation. There’s nothing I hate more than awkward silences, but trying to fill them can make things much worse.

If you’re anything like me, regulating your emotions is an extremely important part of being able to function, and I hope this is helpful to you.

For more useful tips on emotion regulation you can visit psychologytoday.com


Written by: Philippa Berry

Photograph Source.