How to Regulate Emotions: a Comprehensive Guide

Emotions play an essential role in being human, but sometimes, they can be overpowering or hard to handle. Being able to manage your feelings is vital for your mental health and well-being—and it can make a big difference to the quality of your life overall.

If you struggle with difficult emotions like anxiety, anger, or frustration—or if you find it hard to bounce back after a setback—this guide is for you.

Developing the skill of emotional regulation can improve your relationships, increase your resilience in challenging times, and contribute to your overall satisfaction with life.

We'll explore several techniques that research has shown to be effective ways of regulating emotions, from mindfulness practices to cognitive reframing. Are you ready? Let's start exploring how you can develop greater emotional well-being and intelligence.

Short Summary

What Is Emotion Regulation?

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Emotion regulation helps people decide what emotions they want to feel, when they want to feel them, and how they want to experience and show those emotions. It is crucial in human psychology because it affects mental health and everyday life.

For example, imagine getting ready to do a big presentation and starting to feel nervous beforehand. Your heart beats fast, your palms get sweaty, and you feel butterflies in your stomach. In this situation, you can choose how to regulate these emotions.

Do you take deep breaths and picture yourself doing well – calming down the nerves? Or maybe instead, use that nervous energy, turning it into excitement about your topic? These are examples of emotion regulation strategies.

Successfully managing one's emotions can result in improved relationships, job performance, and general state of mind. On the other hand, a failure to regulate emotions can lead to emotional disorders and decreased satisfaction with life.

While it may seem simple on the surface, this is actually a multifaceted process that involves much more than just dealing with feelings as they arise.

Ultimately, emotion regulation enables us to make the most of our emotional experiences; it allows us to welocme them in a positive way if necessary.

Importance of Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation is like being the conductor of your own emotions. It means knowing when to turn up the volume on happiness and when to calm down frustration. It's important because it helps us handle whatever life throws at us with style.

For example, say you're stuck in traffic and already running late. If you regulate your emotions, instead of getting into a grump (and having an awful day as a result), you accept there's nothing you can do about it – maybe even put on your favorite tune and sing along!

Think of emotion regulation less as turning down negative feelings and more as turning up positive emotions so that we have more joy-filled or loving moments available to us.

Being able to control your emotions well has a positive impact on your relationships. This is because you can express yourself better, understand how others feel and stay calm even during arguments. At work, good emotional regulation can turn difficult times into chances for development.

In the end, learning this skill helps us become more robust and happier people – and allows us to enjoy life's ups and downs more! Plus, remember that you have the ability to change how you feel: no one else can do this for you.

Emotional Regulation Vs. Borderline Personality Disorder

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Emotion regulation is all about being able to handle your emotions in an adaptive, healthy manner – understanding what you're feeling, how to cope with it, and when and how to express it adequately.

Having this skill set means you have a more balanced emotional existence overall. It promotes things like good relationships, resilience in the face of difficulty, and personal satisfaction.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD), on the other hand, can cause constant emotional turmoil, impulsive actions, and rocky relationships. It's a mental health condition that affects how emotions are experienced and regulated.

People with emotional regulation disorder often have a tough time managing their emotions. They might feel really stressed out one day and totally fine the next—and then feel terrible again the day after that. This emotional volatility can make it hard to have stable relationships and can lead to problems with self-image as well.

At its core, BPD is primarily about difficulty regulating emotions. That's why many treatments for BPD focus on developing this skill set. Once people with BPD learn how to regulate their emotions better, they often find their emotional state becomes more stable overall.

Symptoms of Emotional Dysregulation

Emotional Dysregulation can feel like being on a roller coaster without brakes—exhilarating for some, overwhelming for others. Look out for these key signs:

Knowing these signs is an important first step in regaining control and finding stability on this emotional roller coaster!

3 Key Emotional Regulation Skills

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Being able to control and change your feelings is very important so that you can handle whatever comes your way. When you have these emotion regulation skills, not only will you be happier overall, but also you'll be better equipped to deal with challenging emotions when they do arise:


Being aware of your own emotions is important if you want to control them – this is known as self-awareness. The better you understand how you're feeling, the more chance you have of dealing with your emotional reactions when something happens.

For example, if you know that being hungry or tired tends to make you grumpy, you can try to avoid getting into situations where there's a bigger chance of this happening (by taking breaks and eating well). This is sometimes called "pre-emptive self-care".

Self-awareness also helps you spot trends in how certain things make you feel – and then choose how to deal with them.

You can develop self-awareness by checking in with yourself regularly (journaling might help with this), trying practices like meditation, or talking things through in therapy.


Self-management is essential for emotional control. It means being conscious of what you're feeling and how to respond. One way to do this is deep breathing: taking slow breaths to help relax when you're stressed.

Another example is called positive self-talk. It's when you stop negative thoughts and say something helpful and kind to yourself instead.

Taking good care of yourself (like making sure you get enough rest), having interests or hobbies that make you happy, as well as physical activities like dancing or playing soccer. All these things can help you become better at self-management, too.

When people have good self-management skills, they can handle difficult emotions calmly and think through them carefully before reacting.

Cognitive Reappraisal

Cognitive reappraisal is a useful technique for changing how we think about and react to things in order to feel less bad about them.

If you get told off at work, rather than seeing it as proof that you are useless (and feeling dreadful), you can try seeing it as helpful feedback that will enable you to do better next time.

This shift in perspective can move you from defensive or hurt into problem-solving mode – whereupon you're more likely to make whatever changes are necessary.

One example: If you're criticized at work and feel upset because of it, consider whether there might be another side to the story or if there's anything worthwhile to take from the feedback.

Looking at things this way helps reduce any anger or sadness you commonly experience - and makes your emotional response more positive overall.

Regularly practicing cognitive reappraisal may help increase your resilience and improve your overall mood by encouraging a more balanced and helpful perspective on difficult circumstances.

7 Common Emotion Regulation Strategies

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Now that you understand how important it is to regulate your emotions, we can look at seven ways people often do this well. These coping strategies are helpful methods for managing your feelings in a way that works for you—they'll help you feel better overall.


Compartmentalization is when you separate parts of your life or emotions so that you can deal with one thing at a time, without the others affecting you. This mental skill can help reduce stress and stop you from feeling overwhelmed.

For example, imagine you’ve had a disagreement with someone in your family right before starting work. Instead of thinking about it all day - which probably wouldn’t help anyone - you put those thoughts and feelings aside to focus on doing your job well.

Later on, when you’re home or in therapy, you can bring them out again and give them attention.

By separating different aspects of life or emotions, we gain better control over how we react emotionally – leading not only to better focus and productivity but overall wellness too!


Suppressing involves deliberately holding back or pushing down emotions. Even though it might provide instant relief, there can be drawbacks later on.

For instance, if you suppress anger when arguing with someone, you may leave the situation unresolved and breed bitterness over time. Instead, give credit to your feelings and discover healthy outlets for expressing them.

This could mean taking a pause to collect yourself and calmly speak your mind—or channeling energy into something productive like writing or art.

Addressing emotions (rather than suppressing them) like this can help foster proper emotional growth—and regulation.


Distraction is when you take your mind off something that's upsetting or distressing. If there's an activity you find interesting or enjoyable, doing it can help break the cycle of negative thoughts or emotions – at least for a while.

For example, you might lose yourself in a page-turner, go for a wander somewhere peaceful outside (even better if it's green), blast some tunes out loud, or get busy with paints or clay.

By focusing on more excellent or neutral things, distraction gives us a breather from feeling swamped by complex stuff – so when those calmer thoughts creep back in (and they nearly always do), we feel more in charge and balanced again.


Mindfulness is the act of focusing on the present moment in a non-judgmental way. When you're mindful, you can see your feelings as they happen and decide how to respond wisely.

If you're worried and want to be mindful, pay attention to the sensation of breathing to stay in the present moment and keep your mind from racing.

Techniques for developing mindfulness include mindfulness meditation, yoga, or simply making time each day to check in with yourself and notice what your senses are telling you.

By doing this regularly, some people find that they become better able to recognize an emotion like anger or sadness without being overwhelmed by it—a skill that can lead to greater calmness and emotional balance overall.


One strategy for managing emotions is problem-solving. This involves figuring out what's really behind your feelings and taking steps to fix the issue.

Breaking down a problem, coming up with possible solutions, and making a plan to tackle it can all help you feel like you're back in the driver's seat. That way, you may prevent further problems from cropping up in the future – which could mean less negativity overall.

For instance, if stress at work is making you feel overwhelmed, try listing what needs doing, thinking about which tasks are most important (and whether any can be passed on to someone else), and establishing boundaries so that you still have time for yourself outside of work.

With this proactive approach, things might get better – leaving room for more positivity than before!


Acceptance means recognizing and permitting your emotions to exist without judgment or pushback. Instead of trying not to think about or hide your feelings, practice accepting them as ordinary human experiences.

For instance, if you feel unhappy after ending a relationship, don't avoid those emotions—experience them head-on. Acknowledging your feelings in this way can create room for healing and lead to more emotional stability and happiness overall.

Acceptance doesn't imply that you enjoy having certain emotions or that they're warranted. It's just about letting them exist without struggling against them.

Seeking Social Support

Looking for social support means asking friends, family, or professionals for help when you're feeling overwhelmed. By talking about what's going on with people who care, you can get different viewpoints, advice, and comfort.

For example, if you tell a close friend that you're feeling anxious, just talking it out can make a big difference — you might even learn some new ways to cope. Support groups are suitable for this, too. They connect you with others who may be going through the same thing. Remember: when times are tough emotionally, speaking up is a strength!

What Is DBT, And How Does It Relate to Emotion Regulation?

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Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of therapy that combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness drawn from Buddhist meditation practices.

Psychologist Marsha M. Linehan developed DBT in the late 1980s specifically to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) who struggle with regulating their emotions.

DBT helps patients decrease self-destructive behaviors, improve relationships, and manage intense feelings by teaching them skills to bear distress, think before acting, and accept what they cannot change.

One way DBT helps people regulate their emotions is by teaching them to recognize how they feel and find words for those feelings. It also aims to make positive experiences more frequent while reducing how often someone winds up in a state where emotions take over.

Another part of DBT concentrates on mindfulness, or being able to inhabit the present moment fully. This can be very helpful for someone trying to deal with powerful emotions.

By encouraging acceptance of what's happening alongside efforts to alter harmful behaviors, DBT encourages individuals to embrace their current experience—an approach that some find helpful for fine-tuning emotions themselves.

Emotional Regulation Activities & Exercises

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Now that you understand how to regulate your emotions, we'll look at activities and exercises that can boost your emotional well-being. By putting these techniques into practice, you can increase mindfulness, handle stress better, and regulate your emotions when they arise.

Deep Breathing And Relaxation Techniques

Deep breathing and relaxation techniques consist of activities that quiet the mind and decrease physical tension in the body, which can help you handle feelings more effectively.

One example is the 4-7-8 technique. Inhale quietly through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for a count of 7, and exhale forcefully through your mouth for 8 seconds.

This has been shown to knock out anxiety – it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a state of calmness and making it easier to cope with stress or overwhelming emotions.

With regular practice, you will get better at regulating your emotions overall – meaning you can stay calm during challenging moments.

Journaling for Emotional Expression

Journaling for emotional expression provides a safe and private outlet for exploring and expressing emotions. By writing about day-to-day experiences and the feelings they provoke, it is possible to gain insights into personal emotional patterns or triggers.

For instance, someone who keeps a journal might come to realize that their ongoing frustration at work stems from feeling undervalued.

Such awareness may enable them to take proactive steps toward emotional regulation, such as asking for feedback or addressing any concerns about how their job functions.

Therapeutic journaling can also help people process their emotions in a constructive way – and develop a better understanding of their own emotional makeup overall.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation helps reduce stress by enabling individuals to manage their emotions better. This type of meditation encourages awareness of a person's present experience without judgment.

It can involve various techniques such as breathing exercises, guided imagery, and systematically relaxing the body.

Incorporating mindfulness into your day-to-day activities – even for just a few minutes – can have a profound effect on emotional well-being.

By helping people observe their thoughts and feelings without getting bogged down in them, this practice leads to more skillful emotional responses and less reactivity in times of tension.

Taking Care of Self

Self-care entails engaging in activities and behaviors that promote general well-being, including emotional welfare.

Examples include ensuring adequate sleep, consuming nutritious foods, regular physical exercise, and participating in enjoyable hobbies or pastimes.

For example, an individual might discover that a daily walk amid nature lowers stress levels, provides a sense of being rooted in the present moment, and lifts their spirits.

By attending to one's physical health requirements, they can directly influence emotional resilience and regulation – making it easier to manage stress as well as cope with emotional difficulties better.

Talking With Friends

Talking with friends offers a valuable outlet for expressing emotions and gaining perspective. Engaging in conversations where you can share your feelings, thoughts, and experiences can significantly lighten emotional burdens.

For example, discussing a stressful situation at work with a friend might provide new insights or ways to cope, making the issue feel more manageable.

This social support acts as a buffer against stress, enhancing emotional regulation by providing empathy, validation, and sometimes even solutions to our problems.

Getting Adequate Sleep

A critical factor in emotional regulation is getting enough sleep because it affects how we process and respond to emotions. When people don't get enough sleep, they tend to be more reactive to stressors and may struggle to stay balanced emotionally.

For example, after a poor night's sleep, someone might find themselves getting upset over things that usually wouldn't bother them.

Getting good-quality sleep can improve your ability to stabilize moods, think clearly, and cope well with difficult emotions – helping you stay more positive overall.


Regular exercise is an effective way of emotional self-regulation. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins.

These natural painkillers can also boost your mood – so any physical activity, from a brisk walk to a yoga session, can be helpful for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

For instance, if you begin each day with a half-hour jog, you might find it leaves you feeling more energetic overall – as well as sharper throughout the day's activities.

In addition to its other health benefits, exercise provides an outlet for negative emotions such as frustration, sadness, or irritability. Literally, "blowing off steam" can contribute to emotional well-being.


Learning how to manage your emotions is powerful. It can change you, making it possible to handle life's difficulties with elegance and bounce back from setbacks. Integrating these techniques into everyday life can boost emotional intelligence, improve relationships, and foster serenity.

Remember: Just because we're advocating for skillful emotion management doesn't mean we want you to stop feeling! Emotions are part of being human—welcome them, be curious about them, and use the suggestions here when they might get in the way or be overwhelming.

You'll be surprised by how much more self-awareness, overall well-being, and harmony among often-conflicting feelings you gain from practicing these tips regularly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Meaning of Emotion Regulation?

Emotion regulation is the ability of an individual to manage and control their emotions effectively in such a way that is conducive to mental well-being and smooth relations.

What Is Emotion Dysregulation?

Emotional dysregulation is the inability to control one's emotions, which are experienced as amplified and, at times, may intrude on daily activities and relations.

How Can Negative Emotions Impact Your Life?

Negative emotions dent the quality of your life by affecting or growing into your disposition, behavior, relationships, and your overall sense of well-being. Chronic stress because of negative emotions can also heighten the risk of several health problems.

What Causes Poor Emotional Regulation?

There might be numerous factors that precipitate poor emotional regulation, such as genetic predisposition, early childhood experiences, trauma, or underdeveloped coping skills. Other issues that contribute to poor emotional regulation are environmental stress and social problems.