Emotion Regulation: What is It and How does it Affect Mental Health
People have the capacity to feel a variety of emotions throughout a day and these emotions are triggered and intensified by the individual’s environment/sensory experience, thoughts/perceptions, and vulnerability factors. Often when we are able to tolerate discomfort and remain in a stable emotional state during particularly stressful or challenging circumstances, we might acknowledge that we are able to effectively regulate our emotions.
So what does it mean to be emotionally dysregulated, then?
To be emotionally dysregulated might suggest that an individual is experiencing a difficult time in coping with and effectively managing negative automatic thoughts, problematic behaviors and urges and vulnerability factors to their emotions. Often we are able to look back at a recent experience and assess whether or not we believe we handled the situation effectively and in line with our own values and judgment.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Emotion Regulation skills outline important ways in which one can increase positive emotions in the short and long term while also enhancing resiliency and effective coping. One is encouraged to consider increasing pleasant activities in the short term and identifying personal values and goals for long term decision-making, building mastery in a skillset, and coping ahead for difficult situations.
Take Time to Notice
It may be helpful to begin paying attention to (or maybe you already have) moments throughout the day when you experience a surge of emotion or lack of emotion. Consider moments when you are easily triggered into a feeling of irritability, anger, sadness, hurt, shame, guilt, joy, pride, jealousy, etc.
Notice your thoughts during these moments. How are you interpreting the situation? What thoughts come automatically to your mind? What urges do you have? How do you want to react or respond in the moment to what you are feeling and how do you actually act? Do you experience the emotion, do you push it away, do you deny the feeling?
It is important to highlight here that the goal is not to rid ourselves of emotions completely or to suggest that any one emotion is right or wrong to feel as an appropriate response to a lived experience.
When we experience a high intensity of an emotion or even a very low intensity of an emotion or any emotions that seems disproportionate to the circumstances, then we may describe this as emotion dysregulation. When emotionally dysregulated, it is very difficult to problem-solve, to process our emotions, and to fully understand the situation we are in and therefore effectively respond to it.
One may experience increased behaviors, such as aggression, emotional denial, suppression of emotions , rumination and/or avoidance. Often these ways of dealing with our emotions can contribute to mental health-related challenges, including mood-related fluctuations and increased anxiety symptoms.
There are long-term and short-term strategies that one can engage in in order to promote healthier emotion regulation. In our next blog, we will explore the emotion regulation skills available to us and ways of utilizing these strategies effectively to create a life worth living.
If you would like to learn more about how we can help you improve your emotional regulation, send us a note or give us a call. firstname.lastname@example.org or 908-857-4422.
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