Every single one of us experiences and feel strong emotions, and we all use less-than-ideal ways of managing those emotions at one time or another. Being able to regulate your feelings and organize them in an appropriate and effective manner is called emotional regulation.
Emotional regulation can look like:
● Regular exercise
● Talking about your feelings with friends
● Meditation and mindfulness
Overall, listening to what your body and mind need and then doing it!
Emotional Dysregulation is just the opposite; it is “an inability to regularly use healthy strategies to diffuse or moderate negative emotions” (Rolston & LLoyd-Richardson, Cornell Research).
When we are unable to regulate our emotions and use healthy strategies, we turn to unhealthy strategies to help ease these emotions. Emotional dysregulation is what most often leads to self harm and suicidal ideation.
General signs of emotional dysregulation are:
● Abusing alchohol/other substances
● Avoiding or withdrawing from difficult situations
● Excessive social media use to the point of ignoring other responsibilities
● Aggression, verbally or physically
● Eating excessively
What can you do to practice emotional regulation rather than dysregulation?
It is vital that we pay attention to the thought-emotion-behavior patterns in ourselves to understand what triggers our strong emotions, as well as when it is more difficult for us to regulate the emotions. Certain scenarios can trigger a specific behavior such as eating junk food, scrolling social media, or drinking – but if we don’t connect the triggers to the thoughts, feelings, and then behaviors, we can’t effectively pinpoint the dysfunction. Taking the time to track our triggers (anytime a strong emotion is induced like anxiety, anger, sadness, etc), the emotions it evokes, and then finally the action we take because of it (or the action we want to take) can allow us to reroute the emotional dysregulation to a path that is healthier and more effective in coping.
Take the time today to start tracking your triggers, and you will find that changing the way you cope with difficult feelings can be done, and can be freeing.
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