There is a lot going on the world today and the volume has been turned way up on our internal experiences. Tensions are higher for many, however we can use this amplification to make actual change in our internal state and our neurological response to our environment and external stimuli.
Regulating your emotions means working with whatever emotions you might be feeling in order to get back into an unbothered state where you can do your best work. The more emotionally stable we are, the better equipped we are to remain cool, calm, and collected when challenges arise.
In practice, this usually means dialing back emotions like anger and fear and enhancing the experience of positive ones. But emotional regulation is not about putting on a fake happy face while you suppress any negative feelings. Instead, it’s about acknowledging what’s happening for you emotionally and working with those feelings, so that you are free to choose your response to a situation, without the emotions controlling you.
Here are a few signs that your nervous system may not be regulated:
*You wake up in the morning and your mind is running with thoughts. You feel overwhelmed by tasks that seem really simple.
*You experience panic attacks, anxiety, or depression.
*You feel defensive when people try to give you feedback.
*You struggle to fall asleep.
*You struggle to keep a consistent sleeping schedule.
*You are easily pulled into arguments on social media.
*You have a hard time remembering things.
*You struggle to follow through with what you say you want to do.
*You get righteous about things easily.
*You struggle with setting healthy boundaries.
*You are easily impacted by the way other people show up (both positively, and negatively).
The benefits of self-regulation are numerous. In general, people who are adept at self-regulating tend to possess the following abilities:
Here are a few things that you can do to regulate your nervous system:
1) Self-soothing, in any form, can reduce the toxic effects of anger, sadness, and agony that negative experiences bring and is supportive of managing thoughts and emotions.
We can practice several variations of self-soothing exercises, including:
2) Be aware of your triggers. We can’t run from everything that bothers us, but we can increase our awareness of situations that trigger unwanted emotions. Minimize exposure to things that bother you (although little discomfort is good for growth!).
3) Don’t suppress your emotions. Research shows that in the long run, suppressing negative emotions doesn’t work nearly as well as transforming them by acknowledging and expressing them.
4) Shift your focus. The little things we think about add up into our moods so be mindful of the little things that catch your attention. When you find yourself hung up small stuff that gets you down -shift your focus to a positive memory, or anything that gives you a more neutral or positive feeling.
5) Cognitive reframing. This strategy involves changing your thought patterns. Specifically, cognitive reappraisal involves reinterpreting a situation in order to change your emotional response to it. For example, imagine a friend did not return your calls or texts for several days. Rather than thinking that this reflected something about yourself, such as "my friend hates me," you might instead think, "my friend must be really busy." Research has shown that using cognitive reappraisal in everyday life is related to experiencing more positive emotions.
If you have any questions or if I can be of service, reach out!
Licensed counselor, outdoor enthusiast, yoga lover and passionate about wellness.