The Ultimate Guide to Emotional Regulation

What is emotional regulation?

Everyone experiences different emotions daily, ranging from happiness to anger. However, balancing and controlling them is challenging.

Emotional regulation is the process of managing your feelings and their associated reactions. Practicing emotional regulation can enhance your well-being. 

In addition, it can protect you from the effects of emotional volatility. To know more about emotions and how to regulate them, continue reading. 

Understanding Emotions

Emotions are reactions in response to different situations. Our emotions are vital to survival as they help people identify their needs and communicate their thoughts.

But how do people process emotions

First, the brain appraises and assigns emotional value to information. Next, a standard reaction begins, in which the body recognizes and creates emotion. The amygdala signals the cortex to inform the person about the emotion. 

Although there’s a broad range of emotions, they all stem from the six basic types of emotions. 


Happiness is one of our most basic emotions. It’s a pleasant experience that can range from contentment to intense joy. It provides an individual with a sense of optimism, encouraging positive behavior. 


Unlike happiness, sadness describes pain often characterized by negative experiences. It includes feelings of disadvantage, helplessness, and sorrow. A persistent experience of this emotion can affect your thinking and life. 


Fear is an emotion arising from the threat of harm or danger. Fear triggers stress hormones, which cause your heart to beat faster and your mind to become hazy.


Experiencing anger stems from an event where you feel wronged. It’s an emotion that can range from irritation to rage. If you feel angered, your mind begins to focus, and your body prepares for physical exertion. 


Surprise is another common emotion for people. Sudden and unexpected events trigger this emotion. Depending on the situation, a surprise can make you feel good or bad. 


Disgust is an emotional state associated with avoidance. People experience this when they want to get away from an offensive situation or object. 

Why Emotional Regulation Matters

Although feeling emotions is normal, failing to regulate them has repercussions. Often, a person tries to do anything to hush the overwhelming emotions. This can sometimes lead to self-destructive behaviors. 

Your body suffers, your mental health declines or your relationship could take a downturn. The cycle can repeat unless you learn to regulate your emotions.

Emotional regulation is your ability to manage your emotions and respond with appropriateness. Practicing this can lead you to a better life because this benefits you in many ways. It allows you to make intentional decisions, communicate effectively, and make healthy choices. 

Strategies for Emotional Regulation

Managing emotions is never easy. It takes time, effort, and the right strategy to control your emotions. So, how do you regulate emotions?


Journaling is one way to express your uncontrollable emotions. Writing can improve your well-being by helping you focus and increase your emotional awareness. 

To start journaling, set aside time and find a quiet environment. You can finish a whole page or write a single sentence. What’s important is that you write.


Often, the human mind is full of thoughts focused on the past or the future. Regrets or uncertainty can cause people to overthink and drift away from the present.

Being mindful allows you to control your emotions by reducing emotional reactivity. Focus on what is in front of you, not what could’ve happened or what can happen. 

STOPP Technique

Another strategy you can use in regulating emotions is the STOPP technique. STOPP is an effective tool for times when you feel overwhelmed.

Stop and take a deep breath. Next, observe your reactions and pull back from unnecessary thoughts. Then, practice what works for you or the best thing to do. 

4. Managing Strong Emotions

Things can get out of hand if you allow your emotions to control you. People act without thinking, say things they don’t mean, and hurt others. To avoid regrettable decisions, learn to manage them. 


Anger is the most difficult emotion to control. It lowers your inhibitions and makes you submit to powerful emotions. Anger sometimes results in aggressive and destructive behavior. 

You can regulate this by creating a “calm down” kit. Your kit can be candy, a music playlist, or anything that can bring you back to your senses.


Fear is normal and necessary for your survival. However, letting it grow out of proportion can affect your life. To prevent yourself from succumbing to fear, encourage yourself to face them.

Facing your fears allows you to control your emotions and makes room for personal growth. Determine what triggers your fear and how you can counter it.


Sadness is one of the most dangerous emotions, as most people tend to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Persistent sadness can make you feel demotivated, lose interest, and neglect your well-being. 

People tend to distract themselves from sadness, but the best thing you can do is accept it. You can also seek professional help if it starts to affect your daily life.

Building Emotional Resilience

Emotional resilience is a person’s ability to adapt to a negative experience. Although it doesn’t erase your problems, it can help you overcome them and learn healthier coping mechanisms. Here are some tips for building emotional resilience:


Through self-awareness, you understand how your emotions influence your actions. It helps you be more capable of achieving goals. Determine your fears, passion, and motivations to realize what you can become. 

Positive Thinking

A sense of optimism allows you to look forward to the future. While optimism is associated with positive outlooks, it must also be realistic. You can incorporate positive thinking by believing that little progress is progress. 

Social Support

Even if you’re not part of a community, knowing your loved ones are beside you helps. Their support can motivate you to overcome challenges.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you start getting overwhelmed, it’s best to look for a professional. They can help you learn and develop better emotional regulation skills.


Counselors often serve in community settings and long-term care facilities or practice in private. When choosing your counselor, consider many factors. It includes knowing their educational background, experience, and recommendations. 


Unlike counselors, psychologists earned a doctoral degree in clinical psychology or another specialty. They assess their patient’s mental well-being by conducting clinical interviews, testing, and evaluations. They offer services in mental health clinics, private clinics, and hospitals. 


Psychiatrists are medical doctors with licenses and complete psychiatric training. Unlike counselors and psychologists, a psychiatrist can prescribe medication.

Everything to Know About Emotional Regulation

Going through different emotions is normal and healthy. However, it may be time to seek help if it starts affecting your work and social life. Practicing emotional regulation is the first step to a healthy relationship between you and your emotions.

Seeking professional help can increase your emotional awareness and improve your life. Contact us today to learn more.

About Michael Hilgers, M.MFT

I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor working remotely with clients around the world. I believe that everyone has the potential to change; to create new paths, to go in new directions. Life is hard. Counseling can help.

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