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Strengthen your Emotional Regulation Skills

Emotional regulation refers to the ability to effectively manage and control our emotions. It involves recognizing, understanding, and responding to emotions in a way that promotes well-being and productive behaviour. Emotional regulation relates to the understanding and management of emotions, not just in ourselves but also in others.

Developing skills to manage emotions is important and has a direct impact on our mental health, the relationships we have with others, our ability to cope with stress, make decisions, adapt to change, and manage conflict.

There are different strategies to develop (and practice!) that can help with strengthening emotional regulation skills. 

Here is a technique based on scientific evidence:

Label Your Emotions

'Name it to tame it'

‘Name it to Tame it’ – a technique theorized by Dr. Dan Siegel – is a way to identify and label our emotions. Why does this matter and how can it help with how we are feeling? When we take a moment to identify what we are feeling, we are engaging the pre-frontal cortex – a part of our brain that is responsible for higher level thinking. When we intentionally engage this part of the brain, calming messages are sent to our amygdala – the part of our brain that regulates emotions, allowing us to calm down and feel less anxious in our minds and bodies. 

You can use a feelings wheel to help you increase your awareness of the range of emotions that we can experience.

Take the following pattern:

  • Something happens that upset you
  • You feel stress in your body (ex. Your stomach has a pit in it, your breathing becomes shallow)
  • You experience negative thoughts (ex. This is terrible! I can’t believe this! Why is this happening?)
  • You experience intense emotions (ex. Frustration, anger, regret, helplessness)
  • You may start to criticize yourself for having those emotions or try to push them away (ex. I can’t express myself, What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just move forward and forget this?)
  • Your body reacts to the additional stress by releasing more stress hormones and the cycle heightens
  • You become even more angry and stressed out

STOPPING THE SPIRAL

Here is the same example using the ‘Name it to Tame it’ technique when we notice the physical sensations and emotions we are starting to experience:

  • Something happens that upset you
  • You start to notice physically feeling tightness in your chest, and emotionally feeling angry and frustrated
  • You pause here to just observe the physical sensations and name the emotions you can identify (ex. Anger and frustration)
  • Take a deep breath in and identify what you are feeling
  • Exhale slowly, continuing to identify what you are feeling

CREATE SPACE BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR EMOTIONS

Noticing and identifying our emotions is a way for us to gently detach and observe the emotions we experience. It allows us to make space and ride out the emotion without feeling like we are totally consumed by what we feel. 

This is one of the ways we can start to strengthen our emotional awareness and regulation skills. Other techniques include identifying our triggers and patterns, journaling to reflect on reactions and possible alternatives, practicing mindfulness to strengthen skills to observe and notice our experiences and not over-identify with them, breathing techniques and visualizations, and finding healthy outlets to express and release emotions such as art or writing.

Patience and practice go hand in hand when learning and developing any skill so be gentle with yourself and know that it takes time and effort to continuously improve. 

REACHING OUT FOR HELP

Emotional regulation is a fundamental aspect of our well-being. It influences how we interact with ourselves and others, manage stress, and make decisions. Developing and maintaining effective emotional regulation skills can lead to a more fulfilling and balanced life.

Our therapists are trained in evidence-based approaches such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and mindfulness-based approaches that can help you develop and strengthen emotional regulation skills.

Getting started is easy and our door is open when you are ready to take the first step.

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