Emotional Regulation Skills to Help Manage Difficult Emotions

Isn’t it great when life’s highs can trigger a fantastic feeling of dancing hand-in-hand with euphoria?

But it’s not too brilliant when life’s lows cause a spiral into an emotional meltdown.

Getting to grips with our positive and negative emotions can help us to navigate all kinds of situations in a balanced way.

Understanding how our emotions impact us, those around us, and how we interact with our social world requires the skill of Emotional Regulation (ER).

The problem is, our emotional triggers are a complex web of feelings, perspective, contexts, past experiences, and physiological reactions. Managing reactions to situations that rock our emotional status quo is challenging.

For those who struggle to navigate their way around how they emotionally react to their own emotions and those of other people, it can be devastating.

This article discusses evidence-based theory to clarify definitions, suggest practical strategies, and provide links to useful worksheets and exercises to support the development of emotional regulation skills.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Emotional Intelligence Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will not only enhance your ability to understand and work with your emotions but will also give you the tools to foster the emotional intelligence of your clients, students, children, or employees.

You can download the free PDF here.

This article contains:

5 Ways to Express and Identify Emotions

In positive psychology, emotional health is seen as a ratio of positive and negative (Vacca, Bromley, Leyrer, Sprung & Homer, 2014). Emotional Regulation (ER) is the route to keeping closer to the positive side of emotional health where and when possible.

Let’s take a look at how emotions are expressed and identified, and some ideas to increase those skills and help our emotions to become more positive. Basically, that means taking control of the balance between positive and negative (Dvir, Ford, Hill, & Frazier, 2014).

Before we get started, you might want to try this exercise on Expressing emotions wisely.

Dvir et al. explain that ER is shaped within our cultures and anchored in our past experiences. So, what we see as positive emotions can vary within cultures. And, just to add to the complexities, emotional expression is mostly based on brain mapping, with junctures and signs that link to experiences or feelings, memories, other people’s reactions to us. (Immordino-Yang, Yang & Damasio, 2016)

In addition, we need to add gender to the mix. Girls externalized more positive emotions to others but internalized negative emotions such as sadness and anxiety. This research also found that boys showed more emotions to others until they reached adolescence (Chaplin & Aldao, 2013).

So, how we express our emotions isn’t just down to us. Let’s think about using situational, institutional, and dispositional factors to help figure out how to identify our role in how we express emotions, with these questions:

  • What is the situation we find ourselves in, and what is our previous emotional experience of that situation?
  • What role might work/school play in the emotional reaction?
  • And, is there anything within our temperament that influences our emotional reactions?

An excellent skill to develop is to look more closely at an incident, ask yourself these questions, and write down your responses in the second line:

What happened, where, and when?How did you physically feel during your anger and afterward?What did you do afterward? What could you have done to have a healthier outcome for everyone?

If writing your responses down isn’t too enticing, have a look at this idea of using coloring-in for gaining emotional recognition, definition, and clarity.

From support at http://www.bipolarsupportgroups.com

c u there

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