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How to Control Your Emotions

Emotional Awareness By: Katie Lister

January 19, 2024

Why can’t I handle my emotions? How do I stop emotional outbursts? What is wrong with me? If you are worried about controlling your emotions, there is a lot you can do.

Hi, I am Katie Lister, a practicing Registered Nurse and founder of Growth Gals. This is a supportive and interactive network for women by women. 

We all feel different emotions- joy, anger, or sadness. It would help if you learned how to embrace these feelings, not suppress them. It is possible to learn to listen to your feelings and respond rather than react. This article will tell you all you need to know about controlling your emotions.

Table of Contents

Katie Lister

Katie Lister

Written by Katie Lister, RN, BScN. An experienced Registered Nurse, Group Facilitator, Life Coach, and Community Leader. Read Katie's Full Author Bio

Emotions And Your Mental Health

Emotions are a critical part of your mental health, and although emotional and mental health are different, they are connected. An emotionally healthy person controls their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and can cope with life’s challenges. Without good mental health, you may not know how to regulate your feelings.

Being emotionally healthy does not mean you are always happy, but you are aware of your feelings and can deal with them. You will still feel angry, stressed, or sad, but you can choose how to react instead of emotional outbursts.

Mental health relies on underlying states like emotions, moods, stress responses, and impulses. These states influence our feelings, thinking, and actions. Emotional, healthy people are productive and can cope with daily life stresses.

Poor emotional health can affect your physical health, and research has shown there is a correlation between poor mental health and poor physical health. These include higher blood pressure, poor weight, and increased risk of heart disease. You can improve your emotional health by:

  • Being mindful of your emotions and your reactions. Be aware of what makes you angry, sad, or frustrated, and try to change or address these issues.
  • Expressing your emotions appropriately. Let your loved ones know when things bother you. Suppressing your strong feelings does not help, but increases your stress levels, causing you more social or work problems.
  • Thinking before acting. Take time to think and calm down before you say or do things you will later regret.
  • Managing stress by learning coping skills like meditation, deep breathing, and exercise.
  • Finding balance: Find a healthy work-life balance and get enough rest. Make time to do things you enjoy and focus more on being in the present moment and by more positive emotions.
  • Taking care of your health: Your emotional health affects your physical health. Eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep.
  • Connecting with people: Go on a date with a loved one, join a group for people with similar passions, make new friends, etc., for positive connections with others.
  • Finding your purpose by discovering what matters to you and spend time doing that.
Controlling Your Emotions

How To Control Your Emotions - Emotional Regulation Disorder

Emotional regulation disorder, or emotional dysregulation, describes poorly regulated emotional responses. It is also referred to as mood swings, marked mood fluctuation, or labile mood.

To people around you, it may feel like you are blowing your emotions and reactions to issues out of proportion compared to the issue you are reacting to. People may say you are overreacting or too ‘sensitive.’

When you experience emotional dysregulation, you may have depression, anxiety, angry outbursts, suicidal thoughts, and other behaviors. This condition may interfere with your relationships with loved ones, social interactions, and quality of life.

Signs that you have emotional dysregulation include:

  • Anxiety
  • Shame and anger
  • Severe depression
  • Self-harm
  • Substance abuse
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Perfectionism
  • Eating disorders
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts

Causes of emotional dysregulation

Causes of emotional dysregulation include:

  • Early childhood trauma: Includes trauma experienced in the early years of your life, which is the most crucial developmental stage in human life.
  • Child neglect: Abuse from a caregiver that results in a child lacking basic needs, including health care, clothing, shelter, adequate supervision, and other needs like emotional, physical, social, safety, and educational.
  • Traumatic brain injuries: This is a brain impairment caused by forces like violent blows.
  • Low invalidation levels occur when your feelings and thoughts are judged, rejected, or ignored.

Disorders Related to Emotional Dysregulation

Some of the disorders related to emotional dysregulation include:

  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a disorder caused when someone witnesses a life-threatening and traumatic incident. It’s a common disorder among soldiers who have been in combat situations and accident victims. Symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, dissociation, negative thoughts, emotional numbing, and anxiety.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder: A disorder that affects how one feels and thinks about oneself and others and interferes with everyday functioning. This disorder includes difficulties in emotional and behavioral management, self-image problems, and unstable relationships. People suffering from BPD experience more emotional dysregulation, greater emotional reactivity and sensitivity. They also have more difficulty getting their emotions back to normal.

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Why Is Learning How To Control Your Emotions Important?

As human beings, it’s perfectly normal to struggle with controlling our emotional reactions now and then. After all, we all experience these moments from time to time. Emotions play a critical role in your reactions.

When you cannot manage your emotions and those around you, you lack emotional intelligence (EQ). Emotional intelligence has five key elements:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Empathy
  • Motivation
  • Social skills

When you are in alignment with your emotions, you gain access to crucial knowledge that is invaluable in:

  • Decision-making
  • Relationships
  • Self-care
  • Daily interactions

Emotions may play an important role in your day-to-day life, but they can affect your emotional health and relationships if they get out of control. Any positive or negative emotion can become so intense that it becomes difficult to control.

With some practice, you can learn how to regulate, not get rid of them. Studies show that strong emotional regulation skills strongly correlate to your general well-being.

Learn more about examples of emotional intelligence here. 

Control Your Emotions

Signs You Are Not In Control Of Your Feelings

People may have difficulty controlling their emotions, resulting in inappropriate or disruptive responses. This may be a temporary or a chronic condition requiring professional help.

Some of the signs that you are not in control of your feelings include:

Intense Emotions

Anger, sadness, grief, stress, or fear that build up can become overwhelmingly intense. If you do not acknowledge and suppress these emotions for too long, they will eventually affect you and your behavior.

Frequent emotional outbursts

Self-regulation is one of the elements of emotional intelligence. You struggle with understanding and controlling your emotions if you have low EQ. It’s possible to lash out without understanding your feelings or why you feel upset.

You may have unexpected outbursts that seem excessive and uncontrollable. The smallest incidence can set you off into an outburst that may last a few minutes or hours, physical fights, breaking things, etc.

You always feel the need to be busy.

When you do not control your feelings, you always need to stay busy. You avoid having to examine your thoughts and emotions and have to stay on the move to distract yourself. It’s not easy acknowledging the emotions bubbling under the surface, and distracting yourself with social engagements or work allows you to avoid facing the emotional discomfort you feel.

Lack of energy

Lack of energy and burnout can affect your decision-making skills. When you feel drained, you might lose control over everything, including your emotions, making you do or say things you don’t mean. Such actions can put yourself and others in danger unless you learn healthy coping methods.

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Strategies Of How To Control Your Emotions

The following are some techniques you can use to have better control of your emotions in stressful situations:

Practicing Self-care

Stressful situations like loneliness or lack of sleep can impair your basic functions. For stable emotional health, you must keep your basic function system as healthy as possible, which is only possible with self-care.

Research has shown that lack of sleep can interfere with self-regulation, which makes you less capable of controlling your responses to your emotions. Negative feelings such as stress can keep you awake, which worsens the problem. You need to find activities you love and include them in your daily routine, like journaling or exercising.

Practicing deep breathing

When feeling overwhelmed with emotion, it’s impossible to think logically and feel emotions simultaneously due to the fight, flight or freeze response.

Your pulse rate increases, blood flow to your kidneys and gut slows, and your adrenaline surges. In this survival mode and emotional state, you cannot process anything, nor are you aware of your emotions and thoughts.

When people say take a deep breath and calm down, it works. Research has shown that deep breathing activates your rest-and-digest mode (parasympathetic nervous system). This mode allows your body to relax and restore its balance. When your emotions start to overwhelm you:

  • Breathe in slowly by taking deep breaths from your diaphragm
  • Hold your breath and count to three, then exhale slowly
  • Have a mantra you can repeat to yourself, such as “I am okay,” “I am calm,” etc.

Practicing Mindfulness

A report in a 2019 study showed that meditating daily for thirteen minutes for eight weeks is an ideal method of how to control your emotions, etc. Research also proves that mindfulness changes your brain matter.

Your brain has something called neuroplasticity, which can grow and adapt according to how you use it. If you don’t fancy meditation, you can try tai chi, yoga, or any mindful practice you choose.

emotional control

Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Healthy relationships can help you to regulate your emotions by having a trusted loved one or friend you can confide in. Socializing is good for calming your mind and can help regulate how your body responds to emotions. If you cannot physically see people, connect with them via phone or Zoom calls.

Cognitive Reframing

Some of the most researched emotional regulation techniques are suppression and cognitive reframing (reappraisal). Suppression is when one tries to stop from feeling emotions, but this only leads to even stronger emotions.

Experts recommend cognitive reframing, which means changing your thoughts about negative emotions before responding. For instance, if you make a mistake that disappoints you, take that as a learning curve, and you’ll find you have a positive response to it.

Sensory Grounding

When your emotions run high, it isn’t easy to be present in the moment, so you can use your five senses to ground you. The various grounding techniques include humming, singing, or progressive muscle relaxation. Another common technique is known as the 5-4-3-2-1. This method involves the five senses, and the idea is to name:

  • 5 things you see
  • 4 items you can touch
  • 3 things you hear
  • 2 things you smell
  • 1 thing you taste

By the time you finish the exercise, you have already distracted yourself and allowed your rest-and-digest mode to kick in.

Seek therapy

If controlling your emotions gets too difficult, you can seek therapy to secure your mental wellness. There are different therapy models used for people with emotional regulation issues, such as:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A therapy that uses the power of talking and aims to change how you think and behave by dealing with difficult emotions.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): DBT is an incredibly effective therapy that helps individuals balance change and acceptance. It’s particularly beneficial for those with borderline personality disorder or suicidal tendencies.
  • Emotional Regulation Therapy: A person-centered therapy that uses mindfulness, DBT, CBT, and other approaches to help you deal with emotional dysregulation.

Growth Gals Can Help You Learn How To Control Your Emotions!

Here is to all the women out there working towards emotional self-regulation! Are you looking for a way to explore and discover your true self and values and to become better at managing your emotions? Look no further than Growth Gals. We are a community of women who can help you become the best version of yourself!

Follow @growthgals_ on Instagram to stay updated on our coaching, journals, and support groups. Be sure to look out for our newsletter for the latest tips on personal development. Join us now and start your exciting journey towards self-improvement.

In Conclusion

Emotional intelligence involves knowing how to control your emotions. If you struggle to regulate your emotions, you are prone to emotional outbursts that seem over-the-top to others.

Living with others is hard when you can barely manage your emotions. Try several self-regulatory methods, including the 5-4-3-2-1 method, seek therapy when things get too difficult, or join a group like Growth Gals!

Controlling Emotions with Growth Gals
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