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Emotion regulation is the ability to enhance or decrease one’s emotions as needed.  The broad skill of emotion regulation consists of the ability to demonstrate more specific skills of identifying, expressing, and managing our positive and negative feelings.  Not being able to regulate one’s emotions can cause difficulty in interpersonal relationships, problems at school or at work, and the creation or exacerbation of mental health issues.  However, if you struggle with emotion regulation there are ways of strengthening this skill.

Many people first begin therapy because they struggle with emotion regulation. Therapists can help their clients identify and implement coping skills that strengthen each of the specific skills related to emotion regulation.  Therapists can provide their clients with a feelings wheel to help them identify the emotions they are experiencing.  They can also teach clients about the physical sensations that clue a person in to the emotional experience they are having.  Techniques like body scans can also help clients beginning to learn how to regulate their emotions get familiar with what exactly they are feeling.

Once an emotion is identified it can be expressed.  Sometimes it is not necessary to express how a person is feeling directly to another person. This is where journaling and creating art or music can be helpful tools for expressing emotions. In situations where it would be beneficial to express an emotion to another person, therapists can teach clients appropriate language for doing so using assertiveness and “I feel” statements.

There are a variety of healthy coping skills for effectively managing positive and negative feelings.  Therapists can help clients identify situations they can try to avoid in order to prevent negative emotions from being triggered.  They can also teach clients ways of changing their thinking patterns in order to change their emotional reactions to their thoughts. Another way of regulating emotions is through behavior change, like watching a funny YouTube video when you feel sad.

An inevitable part of being human is experiencing emotions, both good and bad.  Sometimes negative emotions can be overwhelming and difficult to manage. With the help of therapy, people can learn emotion regulation skills to help manage these negative emotions and make them more tolerable.  If you are struggling with managing negative emotions skills, consider working with a therapist to strengthen your emotion regulation skills.

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