Emotional regulation skills are the ability to process information, react emotionally in proportion to the event, and effectively communicate your needs to others. They help manage the way we cope with situations in life by allowing us to better recover from failures, deal with disappointments, and stay cool under pressure. These skills are essential in order to live a healthy and successful life.
Emotional regulation involves putting a delay between a feeling and acting — thinking things through, making a plan, or waiting patiently. To put it simply, emotional regulation skills help you to think before you act.
Emotions, thoughts, urges, and behaviors are all linked. People regulate their emotions in many ways, some healthy and some unhealthy. Healthy ways can involve taking breaks, having conversations with friends or family, diving into a hobby, hitting the gym or bicycle, or even listening to a favorite song. Unhealthy emotional regulation usually involves self-destructive behaviors — fighting, substance abuse, temper tantrums, or other unsavory actions.
Developing Emotional Regulation Skills
Once you have mastered emotional regulation, you’ll reap some of the following benefits: feeling in control and staying calm during stressful situations, managing stress better, protecting important personal relationships by actively listening while expressing your own needs in positive ways, and maintaining professionalism at work.
Here are 5 key emotional regulation skills that are arguably the most essential.
1. Choice is powerful, and always available
Recognizing that you can choose how to react to situations gives you control. Understanding the power of choice enables you to influence how you feel and respond. Take a breath and consider your options, then figure out how to best play the hand you have been dealt. If card playing isn’t your thing, remember that every situation presents you with a minimum of three choices—approach it openly, run away from it, or attack.
2. Take Care Of Your Body and Become More Emotionally Self-Aware
Keeping healthy and taking good care of yourself builds the inner physical and mental strength you need to deal with the stresses of day-to-day living and enables you to live a resilient and well-balanced life. Building in time for fun and relaxation is an important step to take to keep mentally healthy. Reappraising both the “context” and “content” of your emotional state and the situations that caused it is helpful, allowing you to change the interpretation of events and memories and focus on positive rather than destructive details. Being aware of the emotions you are feeling and trying to understand what others may be feeling will help keep you grounded and in control.
3. Work on Having Positive Relationships
Relationships have a major influence on how well you live your life. Positive and healthy relationships lead to a more optimistic outlook on life. Toxic relationships do just the opposite. Learning empathy and sympathy will help build strong relationships. Also, take some time to build a relationship with nature. Studies have shown that spending time outdoors or playing with pets or animals can have a calming and soothing influence.
4. Practice Mindfulness or Meditation
Focusing on present circumstances rather than dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about the future can help you to increase your ability to regulate emotions and decrease stress. Mindfulness practices and meditation help calm the mind and remind you of the positive things in life. Mindfulness activities that keep you in the present help you to choose a response to a situation rather than just automatically reacting to it. Meditation can also significantly help calm the body’s normal stress reactions.
5. Let Go of Painful Emotions and Regrets (a.k.a. Managing Negative Feelings)
This is probably the hardest skill to master. Negative feelings and emotions will always be a part of life. The most difficult course of action is to face your fears and emotions, master them, and then move on — and it is well worth the effort! When you manage to release these negative feelings, you will find that your resilience and ability to deal with life stresses will grow stronger.
People with good emotional regulation skills tend to be able to calm themselves when upset, cheer themselves up when feeling down, push through difficult times, stay flexible and adaptable, stay focused on their goals — taking control of situations when necessary — and they often view challenges as opportunities.
Once you can master your emotions and accept yourself as a complete package — the good as well as the bad — the more strength you will have to face the challenges of daily life. Emotions, both positive and negative, will always be a massive influence on how we choose to live our lives and respond to situations. The more control we have over them, the more control we will have over life.
Rising Phoenix Wellness Services is a licensed mental health and substance use disorder Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) in Scottsdale, Arizona. We created our addiction and mental health treatment program to offer a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment where clients are embraced, not judged, throughout their recovery process.
We offer programming that is based on Integrity, Innovation, Confident Humility, and Mindful Leadership. Our Mission is to help people recognize the unique value of their life and improve their overall health and wellness.