Regulating Emotions for Elevating Your Mood
I hope everybody is doing their best to stay safe and working to manage self-care a little bit better during this very stressful time. Today I want to talk about the concept of emotional regulation. Before we begin, I want to stress that emotional regulation does not require ignoring your authentic feelings or suppressing them. In fact, it can help us get more in touch with them.
Oftentimes when we are overwhelmed, we can get stuck in various emotional states. We can get stuck in rumination and inaction. Or we might experience a negative emotional state, such as extreme depression or extreme anxiety.
Remaining in these states can pull us down into rabbit holes. If we ruminate about the negative, it can become very hard for us to pull ourselves out of it. My goal today is to help you understand the practice of regulating our emotions a little bit better, which can oftentimes improve our mood. When we do this, we tend to react in healthier ways, and with practice, it’s effective in managing our mental health more effectively.
Technique One: Opposite Action
This comes from dialectical behavior therapy, which initially was created to assist individuals who experienced emotions in very extreme ways. And the goal was to help them not avoid the emotion. And we don't want to suppress something that is natural, but we want to learn to regulate it in a healthy way. Rather than feel an emotion at intensity level 10, we want to teach ourselves to feel the same emotion at around a 5 or 6; low enough that we can still cognitively make decisions that are healthy for us.
When we are overwhelmed by emotion, we have urges that tend to lead to unhealthy behaviors. For example, some people might turn to drugs or alcohol in situations where they're feeling overwhelmed. To them, that unhealthy behavior is suppressing or masking the feeling that is uncomfortable to them.
Again, the goal with opposite action is not to suppress the feeling, but rather to help identify the feeling first.
For example, imagine I'm feeling overwhelmed and sad, but I also want to regulate it. I'm going to think opposite.
I’d ask myself what's the opposite of sad? It’s happy.
I’d also ask myself what’s the opposite action from sad. If I'm sad, I might turn to drugs or alcohol, but a healthy and opposite option is exercise, meditating, or journaling.
If we're able to work through a few steps, we can identify what we are feeling, and then we can visualize the opposite of that. From there, we can pick a healthy action to take that delivers us to a better place, opposite of where we might normally go in terms of unhealthy choices.
Technique Two: Visual Grounding
Grounding is very much tied to mindfulness and using visual description to ground is simple and accessible. We can use it anywhere, and it brings us to a place of peace. It brings that emotional regulation much lower so that we can think through things in a healthier way. Again, we don’t want to suppress the emotion. Rather, we want to manage it more effectively, so that our mood is actually improved in the long run. The technique begins by stopping wherever you are.
You can be in your office. You could be outdoors, or you can be in your bedroom.
Start by looking around. Then, start describing everything that you see. Your inner dialogue might sound like:
I have a computer in front of me; next to that is a frame that has a golden rim around it. And below that is my watch, which is black; next to that is a mouse that is white, and to the left of the computer is my desk lamp, which is black; next to that is a speaker; and so on and so on.
Do that for a couple of minutes. You will find that you focus so much on describing things that you've naturally lowered the overwhelming emotion that you were feeling. This will help you regulate enough to be much more present and in control.