Overwhelming Feelings? Learning Emotional Regulation

Emotional Regulation. Female crying and overwhelmed

Are you overwhelmed by your emotions? Do you find yourself overreacting to situations on a regular basis? Do you feel like you are way more sensitive than the average person? If so, you might benefit from learning how to regulate your emotions. It’s important to note that there are no bad emotions, but we do need to learn emotional regulation.  This prevents anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, and other negative emotions from overwhelming us.

Recognizing and Naming Your Feelings

We experience a range of emotions from pleasant to unpleasant. Sometimes we are aware of these emotions and other times, we are not. Some people experience emotions with too much intensity and others numb out, so they don’t feel emotions at all. It’s important to find a balance. Being aware of our emotions can give us insight into negative beliefs that are triggering unhealthy behaviors.

You can learn to manage your emotions. We call this “emotion regulation.” Learning to regulate your emotions will help you to remain more balanced, experiencing fewer emotional extremes. To gain better emotional regulation, it is important to begin to identify and name the specific emotions you are experiencing. We tend to focus on a few main emotions like happy, angry, sad, scared, and disgusted, but if we look closer, there is usually a broader range of emotions we are experiencing. For example, you might feel angry, but underneath that anger might be feelings hurt, rejection, and frustration.

Look at the list of emotions in each of the following categories and try to think of an example when you have experienced each one.

Enjoyment

  • happiness
  • love
  • contentment
  • amusement
  • joy
  • pride
  • excitement
  • peace
  • satisfaction
  • compassion

Sadness

  • lonely
  • heartbroken
  • gloomy
  • disappointed
  • hopeless
  • grieved
  • unhappy
  • lost
  • troubled
  • miserable
  • depressed

Fear

  • worried
  • doubtful
  • nervous
  • anxious
  • terrified
  • panicked
  • horrified
  • desperate
  • confused
  • stressed

Anger

  • annoyed
  • frustrated
  • contrary
  • bitter
  • infuriated
  • irritated
  • mad
  • cheated
  • vengeful
  • insulted

Disgusted

  • dislike
  • revulsion
  • loathing
  • disapproving
  • offended
  • horrified
  • uncomfortable
  • nauseated
  • disturbed
  • withdrawal

Practice Identifying Your Emotions

Over the next week, pay attention to your emotions.

  1. Identify if the emotion is positive or negative.
  2. Identify the general emotion category (Happy, Sad, Scared, Angry, or Disgusted).
  3. Then try to narrow it down to more specific emotions within these categories. Note that you might be experiencing emotions from multiple categories.

Learning Emotional Regulation

Once you are better able to identify your feelings, it’s important to respond to them appropriately. You might need to offer yourself some compassion. For example, it’s OK to feel sad and heartbroken after a significant loss.

Take a break to collect yourself. Then find appropriate ways to express your emotions. It is better to face the emotion and address is, rather than ignore it or stuff it. Ignoring negative emotions generally makes them worse over time. Work on finding a solution, rather than focusing on the problem.

Identify the events that are triggering negative emotions. Do your emotions seem out of perspective to the event? Do others feel that you are overreacting or too sensitive? If so, what are you telling yourself? Our feelings are not the result of our experiences, but rather the result of what we tell ourselves about our experiences.

If you find yourself thinking a lot of negative thoughts about yourself and others, try changing those thoughts to be more neutral, or even positive. Try to find the good in situations. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Talk about how you are feeling in a non-judgmental way.

Think about the thought logically. What is the evidence for and against the thought? Ask yourself what a friend would say about the situation. Ask yourself if you will feel the same way a month from now, a year from now, or five years from now. These questions will help you get a broader view of your situation, which will help you regulate the emotions you are feeling.

Counseling Can Be Helpful in Learning to Regulate Your Emotions

If you are struggling with understanding or managing your emotions, you may want to consider talking to a therapist to help you process what you are experiencing. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you identify and change the beliefs that are triggering negative emotions.  Please contact me for a free phone consultation.

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