Emotional self-regulation is important for healthy relationships. Know how to improve emotional self-regulation skills.

We all feel angry, sad and happy. At times, our emotions even spin out of control. While such moments may be relatively less for us, others may have them frequently. They may say or do things they later regret, and in turn damage their relationships. That is why emotional self-regulation is needed. We need to adapt to different situations and not get overwhelmed by strong emotions. We all learn to regulate our emotions during childhood. Even as adults, you can improve your emotional self-regulation skills.

What is emotional self-regulation?

Emotional self-regulation is the ability to manage and control your own emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in response to internal or external situations, explains mental health and behavioural science expert Dr Rahul Chandhok. It is all about modulating emotions effectively, maintaining emotional stability, and adapting to different situations without getting overwhelmed by strong emotions, including happiness as well as anger.

A woman having trouble in regulating emotion
Emotional self-regulation is associated with greater well-being. Image courtesy: Freepik

Why is emotional self-regulation important?

Emotional self-regulation is important for your well-being. According to a 2010 research published in the Emotion journal, the ability to regulate emotions is closely linked with greater well-being.

Emotional self-regulation also helps in better communication, conflict resolution, and empathy, fostering healthier relationships with others. It builds resilience, enhances the ability of better decision making and improves productivity, says the expert.

Emotional self-regulation and childhood

Emotional self-regulation develops through a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors, and it evolves over time through various stages.

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In early childhood, responsive caregiving, consistent routines, and supportive environments lay the foundation for emotional self-regulation. As children grow, interactions with their friends, teachers, and other adults help them in learning social norms, understand emotions, and develop coping strategies. Cognitive abilities like attention, memory, and problem-solving also influence emotional self-regulation, says Dr Chandhok. As children develop greater cognitive control, they are better able to regulate their emotions effectively.

Emotional coaching by acknowledging, validating, and helping children to understand their emotions, supports the development of emotional self-regulation.

How to improve emotional self-regulation skills

If you have difficulty in managing intense emotions like anger, sadness, or anxiety, you need to work on your emotional self-regulation skills. When these emotions are not managed, they can result in outbursts, mood swings, or emotional shutdown. You may have trouble in resisting immediate impulses or urges, which can lead to impulsive behaviours like overeating, substance abuse, or reckless decision-making. Emotional self-regulation problems can significantly impact various aspects of your life. So, follow these tips to regulate emotions –

1. Mindfulness practices

Meditation, deep breathing exercises, or body scans are helpful mindfulness techniques. They can increase self-awareness while promoting a sense of calmness. During these practices, you should also try to relax to reduce stress and tension, and make it easier to regulate emotions.

2. Identify triggers

Pay attention to the situations, people or the thoughts that trigger strong emotional reactions. By identifying the triggers, you can expect emotional responses and find ways to manage them more effectively.

3. Develop emotional awareness

Practice labelling and identifying your emotions (both positive and negative) accurately. These can help you in understanding the underlying reasons for your feelings and empower you to address them effectively, says the expert.

4. Cognitive restructuring

Challenge and reframe negative or distorted thoughts that contribute to emotional dysregulation, which means having difficulty in regulating emotions. Replace the unrealistic thoughts with realistic ones.

5. Build coping strategies

Develop some healthy coping strategies to manage stress and difficult emotions. This may include exercise, hobbies, spending quality time with loved ones, or engaging in activities that make you feel happy and relaxed.

6. Improve problem-solving skills

Break down overwhelming situations into manageable steps then think of potential solutions. Doing this can reduce feelings of helplessness and increase feelings of control, says the expert.

7. Set boundaries

Establish clear boundaries in your relationships and commitments in order to protect your emotional well-being. Learn to say no whenever it is necessary and focus on self-care.

A woman seeking support for emotional self-regulation
Talk to friends and family about emotional self-regulation. Image courtesy: Freepik

8. Seek support

Reach out to your family members, friends, or even mental health professionals when you feel the need. Taking support from others can help in managing your emotions.

9. Practice self-compassion

Treat yourself gently with kindness and understanding, especially when you are having a tough time. Self-compassion builds resilience and strengthens emotional regulation skills over time, says the expert.

These tips can enhance your emotional self-regulation skills and help you in facing life’s ups and downs with greater ease.

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