How to Regulate Your Emotions

How to Regulate Your Emotions

"Emotional regulation" is a fancy way of saying that someone wants to be able to control her feelings and the physical responses that go with them. The regulation of emotions can be accomplished in a number of different ways, all of which lead to less stress, improved relationships and better mental health.

Deep Breathing
Breathing patterns can show when a person is upset, usually through faster and more shallow breaths. But this same process can also help individuals to regulate their central nervous system, used in fight or flight responses, according to research by Dr. Martin P. Paulus, published in “Depression and Anxiety” in 2013. By taking deep breaths, you are better able to calm your central nervous system -- and thus calm difficult emotions including anxiety and depression. You can do this in any situation, either alone or when interacting with others.

Mindfulness training helps individuals reduce unwanted thoughts and regulate their emotions, suggests research published in the “Canadian Journal of Psychiatry” in 2012, in the study "The Mindful Brain and Emotion Regulation in Mood Disorders." Mindfulness involves looking at the situation and the emotions and accepting them without judgement. One example is taking a breath and visualizing the anger bubbling like a volcano and telling yourself that it is only a feeling, as opposed to throwing a frying pan at another person in response to the increased heart rate. Mindfulness, and the observation element that comes with it, allows you some space from your feelings and gives you time to learn how to regulate them more effectively.

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)
Learning to regulate emotions when faced with things that rev one up is a critical part of calming down. Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT, may help increase regulation and decrease fears, asserts a study led by M.M. Salas, published in 2011 in “Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing.” Emotional Freedom Techniques in this research exposed individuals to the things they were afraid of, followed by a period of guided calming. At the end of the study, participants had less fear, were more able to approach their feared objects and showed better emotional regulation. Find a therapist who practices EFT to learn to handle your emotions more effectively.

Yoga helps to regulate emotions by allowing individuals to integrate higher and lower level brain networks, according to research published in “Frontiers in Neuroscience” in 2014. Over time, and with practice, researchers note that the cooperation between these brain systems increases the ability to self regulate and allows individuals to get back into that calm state more easily in times of stress. While yoga may not be an option at a party or when talking to your boss, the ability of the brain to revert back to that state in any circumstance is a great reason to pull out the yoga mat.