Do you sometimes feel your emotions, especially negative ones, soaring out of control so much that you think you’ll never be able to reign them in? We all experience intense emotions at some point in our lives. There are many ways to deal with these emotions, some more healthy than others. When we cope with and address our emotions in a healthy way, we are regulating them. There can be a variety of reasons why emotions escalate or become intense. The good news is that there are skills and strategies for controlling emotions without suppressing or denying them.
Emotions are here to stay. They are not good or bad; they just are. They can give us valuable information about what we’re experiencing. We do, however, need to learn how to judge when to trust emotional triggers, when to act on them, and when not to. Sometimes we need to turn down the “volume” or reset the “thermostat” of our negative emotions. When we regulate or control emotions, we can assess and use them effectively.
Here are some things you can do to regulate your emotions:
Feel your feelings
Start by letting yourself feel what is coming up for you in real time. Resist the urge to push away, suppress, or deny the feelings. In fact, do the opposite of this by facing the emotions head-on. Notice any difference when you do this.
Name your feelings
As best you can, see if you can name the feelings you are having. Often naming strong emotions makes them seem less overwhelming and might even take away some of their power over you. Feeling and naming your feelings gives you the self-awareness that helps put you back in the “driver’s seat.”
Put yourself on “pause”
When you are feeling a strong emotion, such as anger or frustration, it is easy to quickly lash out and say or do things that you may regret later. Once something has been said, it cannot be unsaid, so take a moment to pause before reacting. Maybe count to 10, take a few deep breaths, or go outdoors for a walk. This slows you down, so that you can objectively assess the situation and determine how to respond effectively. This technique also creates a little distance between you and the emotion. If you are ready to “explode” toward someone, tell the person you need a few moments and step away.
Use mindful awareness
Mindful awareness exercises, such as breath control and sensory relaxation, calm the nervous system and allow you to act from a more centered place in yourself. Research shows that mindful awareness practice helps with strong emotions like anxiety, anger, sadness, etc. It helps change your relationship with the emotions, allowing you to experience them differently and observe them more objectively.
When you are in the throes of intense negative emotions, try distracting yourself by focusing your mind on something else, doing a different activity, looking around, or changing your environment. Another way to distract yourself is to change your physiology by splashing cold water on your face or walking barefoot on the ground. Both techniques take down a notch the intensity of hyper focusing on the emotion you were feeling.
Manage your thinking
When negative emotions are strong, they tend to take over your mental energy, which often allows you to see only one way. This is also exhausting. At times like this, try changing your thought; maybe focus on a time when you felt happy and peaceful. People often give more emphasis on negative emotions than positive ones. Emotions like anger, jealousy, sadness seem to carry more weight than joy, contentment, and other positive emotions. Practice noticing the positive feelings more and note the situations in which you are feeling them. Have a reserve of such times to which you can refer when needed.
Negative emotions might also result when making assumptions about people or situations. Try challenging the thought(s) that accompanied your feeling. For example, ask yourself, “How true is it that my friend hates me because I couldn’t attend her party?”
Talk with friends
Talking with friends or other supportive people in your life lets you process your feelings, get them outside yourself, and see different perspectives. Verbalizing them also can reduce the intensity of feelings and gives clarity.
Act in an opposite way
When your emotions escalate, you might have the urge to act in ways that match that feeling. Acting the opposite way often shifts the feeling and opens you to other possibilities. It also expands your range of options beyond a more single-focused approach. An example is if you feel angry with someone, instead of blaming, as you might typically do, try stating what you need.
Being compassionate with yourself can change how you feel and react to your emotions. Some examples of self-compassion include positive affirmations, self-care, relaxation exercises, taking time for yourself to do something you enjoy, listening to music, and gratitude journaling.
We might find that while we can regulate our emotions at work or in other contexts, we have a harder time doing so at home with loved ones. Maintaining a balance in emotional reactions irrespective of the situation is a healthy goal. Managing and regulating strong emotions helps us act more in line with our values, which is our compass in life.
What to do TODAY?
Karen Natasha Coaching helps many people access awareness about themselves. We help people shift their energy, so that they can move forward with assurance, confidence, and renewed energy to achieve their goals and bring their best selves to any situation. We can help you develop skills and strategies to regulate emotions, giving you a sense of control in your life. Contact Karen Natasha Coaching for a consultation to experience how we can help.