Unlike small children, who must learn to regulate their emotions, we adults are expected to manage ours, especially our negative emotions like anxiety, anger, and frustration, and to prevent negative thoughts and feelings from driving our behavior. Still, all of us experience times when we feel emotionally overwhelmed and allow our feelings to control our actions. When this happens, we often regret the things we say or do and wish we had been able to keep those emotions in check. In addition to, or as part of, emotion regulation therapy and self-regulation therapy, there are techniques, such as meditation, mindfulness, and stress management, that can help us take charge of our negative emotions and ameliorate our response to emotional situations. These techniques can also provide other benefits, like improved mood, increased feelings of self-worth, and increased empathy.
What Is Emotion Regulation?
Controlling Emotional Reactions
While there are many ways to influence one’s emotional state for the better, emotion regulation often involves what experts call “down-regulation,” or willfully reducing the intensity of emotions. A grieving person might down-regulate his sadness by purposefully recalling something amusing about the person he misses, for example. An anxious person may cope by distracting herself from the thought or situation that is causing her anxiety. The flip side of this practice is “up-regulation,” or amping up one’s emotions, which can be useful when an imminent danger or upcoming challenge calls for a healthy dose of anxiety or excitement.