It was a recent conversation with a friend that got me thinking about the importance of emotional regulation. The thing is, as close as we are, I feel sometimes, she finds it hard to manage her emotions. And if we know one thing about our feelings is that if we don’t manage them, they can go out of control. Whether it is dealing with pain or just more complicated emotions like jealousy or insecurity, we need to have control over these otherwise life will take a course we have no say in.
Feeling these emotions is natural and you must. Strength lies in vulnerability, in accepting how we feel and in facing reality. What does regulating our emotions even mean? It is our ability to recognise our feelings and being able to generate a reasonable response to them.
Sometimes, we all find it hard to deal with certain strong emotions and that’s okay. But when it starts affecting our daily life, it’s time to address our emotional dysregulation. Emotional regulation is important to be able to deal with our daily stressors and the lows of our lives. But it’s also important for our overall mental health and being able to maintain the relationships we have.
However, often, we are not even aware that we’ve not been managing our feelings appropriately. I didn’t know much about what it is and how it’s done. When I was younger, it was just through analysing my emotional responses that I realised that I need to process my feelings first and then give a reaction. Similarly, it was only after having a long healthy discussion with my friend did she realise she had not been mindfully emoting.
How do you know if you need to regulate your emotions? Here are the signs.
Your mood changes often
If you flip because your date was a few minutes late and then continue to be in that mood throughout, chances are you are not able to access the tools to deal with your frustrations. Yes, it’s annoying to wait for someone but you should be able to choose to not let these things spoil your own mood. If you are not able to make that choice and find triggers everywhere, it’s a sign you are not regulating your emotions.
You don’t understand your strong emotions
Jealousy, insecurity or anger are not easy feelings to process. However, often you feel these and act out, without knowing what you’re feeling and why. You may be able to think that something is possibly not that big a deal but it’s still making you feel a negative emotion strongly. This means you are not connected to your true feelings and need to start listening to your emotions more.
You have emotional outbursts
Katie Luman, a professional counsellor told Psychcentral that an emotional outburst occurs “when a need or expectation has gone unmet for too long.” During such a moment, you may go from being calm to extremely anxious. If you frequently have such responses to an emotion, it is important you start working on coping mechanisms that help you manage them better. You can also ensure you are not leaving several feelings unprocessed until they overflow!
You take a long time to heal
When you regulate your emotions, you are able to process things at a good pace. However, if you haven’t processed emotions and are feeling overwhelmed with your outbursts, you will have a hard time healing from them. You can’t heal without knowing what’s broken!
You feel constantly let down
The thing is, because you’re not able to regulate your emotions, you find it hard to deal with the natural disappointments you experience. For instance, if you wanted your friend to come over for a party at your house and they had to turn down the invite, you’ll feel extremely let down to the extent that you start doubting your friendship. You start feeling low and lonely. It becomes difficult for you to rationalise that they had their reasons to not make it and that’s okay. In different situations, when things don’t go as per your expectations you feel abandoned. This can cause personal conflicts as people may not be able to carry the burden of your perfectionist rules of conduct. It’s okay to feel sad about something but then you need to rationalise and move on from that feeling.
How to regulate your emotions
Here are a few ways you can manage your feelings:
- Try to calm your nervous system. Take deep breaths and involve yourself in activities you enjoy.
- According to Psychcentral, activities such as taking a cold shower, holding an ice cube in one hand, listening to music, and spending time with your pet help.
- Don’t ruminate on finding the reason behind your feelings and others’ actions. First, ask yourself what you feel and what will make you feel better.
- Manage your stress levels by being well-rested and indulging in calming techniques.
- Speak to a therapist.
- Delay your response to emotional triggers. Take a break to collect your feelings and then react to the situation at hand.