top of page
  • Writer's pictureFiona Oppenheimer

Navigating the Waves: Mastering Emotional Regulation for a Balanced Life

Updated: Jan 25

Emotions are the vibrant hues that paint the canvas of our lives, they are a normal part of us all. We can feel sadness when we miss a loved one, fear at doing something outside our comfort zone and anger when things aren't going the way we wanted. While we expect to feel these emotions regularly, some people can start to feel more volatile emotions. Sometimes the colours can become overwhelming, threatening to drown us in a sea of turbulent feelings.

For most of us our emotions can sometimes spin out of control, this is normal, but for others they can lose control of their emotions regularly. Their rollercoaster emotions rapidly change and they end up saying and doing things they later regret. They may damage relationships, develop low self-esteem or low mood.

There are a number of reasons why some people may have a problem with their emotions, it may be a chemical imbalance, exhaustion or a drop in blood sugar levels or that they're genetically predisposed to these changes. They may have had no-one in their family to model good emotional regulation to them when they were growing up. They may suddenly loose control by being triggered from negative experiences in the past.

No matter where these emotionally volitile waves come from the good news is we can learn better self regulation. We can all benefit from learning strategies to control our emotions.

This is where the art of emotional regulation comes into play – a set of skills, practices, and strategies that empower us to navigate the waves of our emotions. In this blog post, we will explore the what, why, and how of emotional regulation, unveiling the skills and strategies that can lead to a more balanced and fulfilling life.

What is Emotional Regulation?

Emotional regulation is the process of managing and influencing our emotions in a way that allows us to respond to situations effectively. It involves recognizing, understanding, and altering the intensity of our emotional experiences to promote well-being and maintain healthy relationships. Think of it as the captain steering the ship through stormy seas, skillfully navigating the ups and downs. It doesn't mean surpressing, denying, deflecting or resisting emotions. Or in some way avoiding emotions.

With emotion regulation skills you can influence which emotions you have, by learning to tend to them, listen to them and learn how to express them positively.

Ultimately it's about having the ability to effectively exert control over our emotions through a wide range of approaches.

It may seem that some people are just 'naturally calm' but they feel negative emotions too, they are just good at reguating emotions better because they are high in emotional intelligence and are aware of both their own emotions and the feelings of others.

The best news is that emotional self-regulation isn't a born state, or only for the 'clever ones' emotional regulation can be learnt by anyone and improved over time.

Why is Emotional Regulation Important?

Effective emotional regulation is the cornerstone of mental health and interpersonal success. It allows us to cope with stress, navigate challenges, and build resilience. By mastering emotional regulation, we can enhance our decision-making, improve communication, and foster positive relationships. Ultimately, it empowers us to lead a more balanced and fulfilling life.

We can't carry on throwing a wobbly at every turn, society has a socially accepted expectation, and as adults this means being able to manage our emotions in ways that help us live our best life. When our emotions are controlling us they can cause problems. Many factors can impede emotional regulation. The negative view we have about emotions or a lack of skill when it comes to regulating emotions. Sometimes stressful situations can involve very powerful emotions.

Ok so now we are going to look at some of the skills and practices that you can learn in order to begin to regulate your emotions, here we go!

Skills to Master:

  1. Mindfulness of Breath: Ground yourself in the present moment by paying attention to your breath. It serves as an anchor, bringing you back to a state of calm and awareness. Mindfulness of Breath Practice: While sitting, standing, walking or lying down notice your in breath and your out breath, say to yourself, "I am aware of breathing in, I am aware of breathing out.... in and out." Now notice the whole circle of the in breath and the out breath even the gaps inbetween and think to yourself, "I am aware of the whole of the in breath and the whole of the out breath.... whole in and whole out." Practice like this for as many breaths as you like and notice at the end the quality of your mind.

  2. Noticing and Naming Emotions: Develop the ability to identify and label your emotions. This simple act brings clarity and helps you make sense of what you're experiencing. Noticing and Naming Emotions Practice: Start by noticing the sensations in the body, scan through your entire body from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes. Noticing where there are any strong sensations, like for example a tight ball of fire at the heart, or a wobbly, watery sensation in the stomach, or a sharp, tense pain across the forehead. Spend some time noticing these sensations. Now focusing on one area in particular where you are experiencing strong sensations, ask your self "What emotion might be tied to this sensation?" You may find there are a few different emotions that are appearing there. Here is a link to an emotion wheel chart if you are having trouble in naming your emotions.

  3. Acceptance of Emotions: Embrace your emotions without judgment. Acceptance does not necessarily mean approval, but acknowledging your feelings is the first step toward regulation. Acceptance of Emotions Practice: breath into the emotion, stay with the feelings, the sensations. Can you be curious about your emotion? Usually if we can this opens us to exploring our emotions and finding things about them that we previously didnt know. Perhaps they are changing from unpleasant to neutral to pleasant. When you focus on them they may vanish altogether. This is a sign that they aren't as solid or real as you first thought they were. Sensations and emotions are impermanent, meaning they are constantly changing, this understanding helps us to accept them and relax a little, they aren't permanent. Or negative from their own side, its usually the resistance to them that can cause most of the pain with our emotions, but if you are curious, can learn to accept and improve your wisdom about the nature of emotions they loose their power.

  4. Routine of Mindfulness Practice: Establish a consistent mindfulness practice. Whether through meditation, yoga, or other mindful activities, regular practice enhances your emotional self-awareness and regulation. There are many ways to begin a regular mindfulness practice, one way is to find a good app that you can turn to each day for guided mindfulness practices like the headspace app or the plum vilage app. The very best way to help you at first is to join a weekly online or local group in your area, there's nothing better than doing meditation with others to encourage and support you in your practice especially at the begining.

There are a number of emotion regulation starategies that people can master to build their coping skills. It is important to consider which ones are most effective and which ones to avoid.

We can get caught in strategies to try and regulate our emotions that actually trap us in a cycle that increases the problem rather than helps to regulate our emotions. This way is often termed as a strategy to suppress our emotions which is linked to negative outcomes. Research indicates that ignoring our emotions, distracting us from them, deflecting or avoiding them is associated with dissatisfaction and poor well-being. We are going to look at strategies that are termed reappraisal; they change the way we think about something in order for us to change our response.

Let's have a look at seven strategies that can help us to manage emotions in a healthy and helpful way.

Strategies to Master:

  1. Identifying Triggers: Recognize situations, people, or thoughts that trigger emotional responses. Understanding your triggers empowers you to prepare and respond more effectively. We needn't have to avoid 'negative' emotions - or be afraid of them. Viewing our emotions in a different light can really help with this, I think I'll write another blog on this whole subject next... in the meantime just try to think that perhaps they are just communicating in their own language, the language of sensations, to tell you something very useful. You also don't have to put yourself in a situatation that triggers you in an unpleasant way. Begin by looking for patterns or factors that are present when you start to feel strong emotions. This means you'll need to be curious and honest.

  1. Tuning into Physical Symptoms: Your body often signals emotional states through physical sensations. Pay attention to these cues – tightness in the chest, butterflies in the stomach – as they can provide insight into your emotional landscape. Notice in a particular situation or when you are with a particuar person what you are feeling, the sensations and emotions, there may be a pattern that you are discovering. Notice also how intense the feeling is and give it a 0-10, by noticing this number going down over time through good emotional regulation will encourage you.

  2. Considering the Story You Tell Yourself: Explore the narratives you create around your emotions. The stories we craft about ourselves often form the bedrock of our self-perception. These narratives can be influenced by past experiences, societal expectations, and personal insecurities, leading to an exaggerated or distorted self-image.

  3. Engaging in Positive Self-Talk: Develop a repertoire of positive affirmations and self-encouragement. Counteract negative self-talk with statements that promote self-compassion and resilience. Challenge negative or distorted thoughts, replacing them with more balanced and realistic perspectives. Notice what the actual thoughts are, even have a pad to write them down maybe. The more aware we are of our inner dialogue and the words used the better we can question their validity, asking, "Is this true? Is it really true?" Then replacing them with realistic reasoning or thoughts that leave you feeling more positive. For example: You may have the thought, "You idiot, you're always messing up, you are a fake ...." You fill in the dots. You could replace this thought with a more realistic response like, "I'm not an idiot, I may make a few mistakes, but on the whole each day I get my work done and I do it with good effort. I'm not fake I'm learning, life is all about making mistakes so we can learn from them and grow."

  4. Making a Choice about How to Respond: Recognize that you have a choice in how you respond to emotions. Choose responses that align with your values and contribute to your overall well-being.

  5. Looking for Positive Emotions and 'Glimmers': Even in challenging situations, seek out positive emotions or 'glimmers' of joy. Focusing on the positive aspects can provide a more balanced perspective.

  6. Seeking Support: Reach out to friends, family, or professionals for support. Sharing your emotions with others can provide validation and different perspectives.

Mastering emotional regulation is a transformative journey that enhances our ability to ride the waves of life with grace and resilience. By honing skills such as mindfulness, self-awareness, and acceptance, and incorporating strategies like positive self-talk and seeking support, we build a foundation for emotional well-being. As you embark on this journey, remember that it's not about suppressing emotions but rather understanding, accepting, and guiding them in a way that aligns with your authentic self. In the realm of emotional regulation, you become the skilled navigator of your own inner seas, fostering a sense of balance, tranquility, and empowerment.

Good luck!

Fiona Oppenheimer

12 views0 comments


bottom of page