How And Why To Rein In Your Emotions

Individual Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.

News flash: these are emotional times. From dealing with differing views on the pandemic to incompatible political views, a lot of people are finding it hard to have a civil conversation without letting their emotions get the best of them. Writing for, Crystal Raypole says, “While emotions can have a helpful role in your daily life, they can take a toll on your emotional health and interpersonal relationships when they start to feel out of control.”

A sign telling you to breathe

Take heart: there are proven ways to control your emotions and, in the process, lower the temperature when you’re talking with someone you don’t agree with. Moreover, the benefits go beyond peace of mind. Citing studies from the National Institutes of Health, Raypole says there’s also “a potential link between these skills and financial success, so putting in some work on that front may literally pay off.”

To pull in the reins on your emotions when necessary, try the following.

Regulate — don’t repress. There’s a crucial difference between controlling your emotions and consciously suppressing or unconsciously repressing them. Understand that the goal is to feel, but at the same time be able to regulate the intensity of the feeling.

Regulating begins with identifying. Often, strong emotions are triggered by someone’s words or actions. Your emotional response can be instantaneous, and sometimes negative. Try to make a practice of stopping and simply asking yourself what you’re feeling. It’s usually a perfectly reasonable response. But asking yourself what you’re feeling helps you identify the cause of the feeling. That can help you modify your response in a positive way.

Acceptance is crucial. “When you hyperventilate after receiving good news or collapse on the floor screaming and sobbing when you can’t find your keys,” writes Raypole, “it might seem helpful to tell yourself, ‘Just calm down,’ or ‘It’s not that big of a deal, so don’t freak out.’ But this invalidates your experience. It is a big deal to you.” So try acknowledging emotions without judging yourself. Don’t label the emotion as good or bad. The simple act of admitting you’re feeling a certain way and identifying the cause can help you calm down.

Breathe. Breathing deeply is easy and surprisingly beneficial. There is good reason why so many meditation techniques begin with a conscious focus on breathing. A side benefit of stopping to take a deep breath is that it does not make the emotion go away — which should not be your goal in the first place — but it does remove you for a moment. Raypole emphasizes that “Deep breathing exercises can help you ground yourself and take a step back from the first intense flash of emotion and any extreme reaction you want to avoid.”

Controlling your emotions while simultaneously recognizing and experiencing them takes a little work — especially if you’re prone to intense feelings. But it can be done. Read more tactics here.