Managing life's ups and downs: Emotional regulation

Emotional regulation is not minimising emotion but more feeling the emotion without it having such a surge of intensity that it affects our attitude or behaviour. It is so vital for our well-being to process emotions and they are all valid.


Understanding emotional regulation

Society teaches us from an early age that there are good and bad emotions, but this is not the case. We often hear things like ‘Don’t cry’ or ‘You’re overreacting, it could be worse’. Encompassing the ability to recognise, understand and manage our emotions effectively can empower individuals to navigate life's challenges with resilience and grace, fostering healthier relationships and greater overall life satisfaction.

Normalising fluctuations

Emotional fluctuations are as natural as the changing seasons. Just as the weather can shift from sunny to stormy, so can our emotional landscapes. Normalising these fluctuations involves recognising that it is okay to feel a range of emotions – from joy and excitement to sadness and anger. Understanding that emotions are ever-changing and part of the human experience can alleviate the pressure to always feel happy or in control.

It is not realistic to expect a continuum of positive emotions nor is staying frozen in negative emotions. This encourages learned helplessness. Trying to squash everything down and then exploding can have such a negative impact too.

10 ways to enhance emotional regulation

1. Mindfulness meditation

Take a cue from mindfulness meditation, a practice that encourages observing thoughts and emotions without judgment. For example, imagine sitting in a peaceful garden and observing the flowers swaying in the breeze. Similarly, observe your thoughts and emotions as passing phenomena without getting swept away by them.

2. Deep breathing exercises

Picture yourself inflating and deflating a balloon slowly and steadily. Deep breathing exercises can be as simple as inhaling slowly through your nose for a count of four, holding for a count of four and exhaling through your mouth for a count of four. This technique calms the nervous system and promotes relaxation.

3. Silence

Often avoided by many but can be so beneficial to us. When we sit in silence we can hear our own inner voice more and invite in emotions that we can sit through. Learning and experiencing this takes off so much pressure. Put aside five minutes a day to intentionally sit in your emotions.  

4. Journaling

Think of journaling as having a conversation with yourself on paper. Set aside time each day to write about your thoughts, feelings and experiences. By externalising your emotions, you gain clarity and insight into your inner world. Have emotional check-ins and try not to live life on autopilot. 

5. Physical activity

Whether it is going for a walk, practising yoga or dancing in your living room. Physical activity is a significant outlet for stress. Engaging in regular exercise releases endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters, promoting a sense of well-being. If you have access to a sauna at your local health club also an effective way to regulate the body with a cold shower after. 

6. Healthy lifestyle habits

Consider your body as a temple and treat it accordingly. Ensure you are getting enough sleep, nourishing your body with wholesome foods and staying hydrated. Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, as they can exacerbate emotions.

7. Social support

Leaning on social support during challenging times can be such a relief. Reach out to friends, family or a therapist for guidance and encouragement. Sharing your emotions with people you trust provides connection and resilience. Peer support is extremely powerful and it is not always about fixing but listening and being alongside someone to feel.

8. Cognitive restructuring

Imagine viewing your thoughts through a different lens, like trying on a new pair of glasses. Cognitive restructuring involves challenging and reframing negative thought patterns. For instance, replace catastrophic thinking "I'll never get through this" with realistic and empowering statements "I've overcome challenges before, and I have the skills to handle this". Reframe the way you perceive a situation for example, instead of seeing criticism as a personal attack, view it as constructive feedback for growth.

9. Self-compassion

Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend in need. Practise self-compassion by acknowledging your struggles without self-judgment. Treat yourself to moments of self-care, whether it is taking a bubble bath, indulging in your favourite book or simply giving yourself permission to rest. It is so important to not shame yourself for feeling any emotion or for not performing because you feel a certain way. 

10. Mastering emotional regulation

Mastering the art of emotional regulation is such an empowering way to live life but it is also not linear. By normalising emotional fluctuations and embracing effective strategies for regulation, you can work through things for your well-being and fulfilment. Remember, it is not about avoiding the hard bits in life as they will happen, but rather learning to navigate them with courage and resilience. After all, life is not about waiting for the storms to pass... It is about learning how to dance in the rain.

Hopefully, this article has got you thinking and made you question things. If you feel you would like to explore in more depth, please visit my website for more information. We have just launched an affordable option through a collaboration project: £25 fixed rate. There are limited client spaces available so do get in touch now to get started.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS3 1HS
Written by Canse Karatas, (MBACP) - Silver Linings Counselling & Psychotherapy
Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS3 1HS

I have 12+ years of experience working for a range of services with a variety of issues like abuse, anxiety, depression, loneliness, low confidence, self-harm, suicide, trauma and much more. I am passionate about mental health awareness and actively seek ways to help people. My therapeutic influence is from an Integrative Approach.

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