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Last Updated on September 5, 2019

10 Emotional Regulation Skills for a Healthier Mind

10 Emotional Regulation Skills for a Healthier Mind

What is emotional regulation?

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It can not be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” — Buddha

This quote encapsulates the essence of what “emotion regulation” is all about.

In its purest form, emotional regulation is about you having the skills to control your behavior, emotions and thoughts in the pursuit of long-term goals – for example living a resilient and flourishing life as opposed to living a life where you are languishing in discontent and frustration.

In this article, you will learn what emotional regulation is, and the skills you need to be mentally strong and healthy.

What Are Emotional Regulation Skills?

Emotional regulation skills help us to effectively manage and change the way we feel and cope with situations. Emotions, thoughts and what we do or feel the urge to do (behaviors) are all linked; and if not managed well can lead us down a path of self-sabotage and self destruction.

When we apply emotional regulation skills into our life then, there will be a definite improvement with our thoughts, attitude and mood. Living life in a more positive way brings major benefits for us – such as increasing our compassion, empathy and relationships with others.

Emotional Regulation Skills are the key to us living a healthy and well balanced life – physically, mentally and spiritually. When we strive to live a balanced life, we build our resilience and our coping strategies to effectively deal with the adversity and the challenges in life.

Why are Emotional Regulation Skills Important?

Self-regulation is one of the key emotional regulation skills. Historically, we have been taught to believe that the strategies around managing our responses and behaviors are self-taught.

For example, when toddlers have tantrums, parents just put that behavior down to a “phase” that they will grow out of. Some of us do and some of us, depending on what negative experiences we have in our lives, lose our ability to self regulate. Outbursts, yelling, displays of anger, aggressive behavior and extreme violent acts demonstrate the inability of a person to self regulate their responses to situations where they feel they have no control. A lack of self-regulation will only cause problems in one’s life.

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Self-regulation in its most basic form allows us to bounce forward from failure and stay calm under pressure. It is these two abilities that will essentially carry you through life – more than any other skills.

10 Important Emotional Regulation Skills

1. Applying Your Power Of Choice

The first step in the practice of self-regulation is for you to recognize that you have the choice in how you react to situations.

Using your power of choice is a self regulation skill that empowers you to work with the disruptions and challenges that you face in your life. Your power of choice is your gift. The sign that you are using your power of choice wisely is when you can honestly say out loud to others — ” By using my power of choice, I am able to live my life to my fullest potential and I am flourishing”

When you use your power of choice wisely, there is no compromises about how you live your life. You have clarity, focus and a purpose; and these elements all come together to build your resilience to deal with adversity and the tough times in life.

The other side to using your power of choice is accepting that you never have complete control over how you feel. The power of choice enables you to greatly influence how you choose to feel and thus, respond.

2. STOPP – A Technique Designed by Carol Vivyan to Manage Your Emotions

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”. — Viktor Frankl.

If you are struggling to get your emotions under control, this technique is a great process to follow to manage your emotions more effectively:[1]

  • S – Stop
  • T – Take A Breath
  • O – Observe – your thoughts and feelings
  • P- Pull Back – put in some perspective – what is the bigger picture?
  • P – Practice What Works – Proceed – what is the best thing to do right now?

3. Take Care Of Your Body

“Caring for your body, mind, and spirit is your greatest and grandest responsibility. It’s about listening to the needs of your soul and then honoring them.” – Kristi Ling

Consistent physical activity, eating well and getting lots of sleep are critical to you having a resilient and well balanced life.

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4. Work on Having Positive Relationships In Your Life

“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.” — Mark Twain

The relationships you have in your life have a significant influence on how you live your life. The more positive and healthier your relationships are, the more resilient and optimistic you will feel about your life.

Toxic relationships do not serve you well and you need to eliminate these relationships from your life. Your wellbeing, mentally, physically and spiritually is influenced by the type of relationships you have in your life.

5. Find Ways to Have Fun

Below are a few quotes that demonstrate why it is important for you to have fun in your life.

‘When fun gets deep enough, it can heal the world” – the Oaqui

“There’s no fear when you’re having fun” – Will Thomas

“I am going to keep having fun every day I have left, because there is no other way of life. You just have to decide whether you are a Tigger or an Eeyore”-Randy Pausch

“In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured” – Gordon B. Hinckley

6. Practice Mindfulness

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment” — Buddha

Mindfulness practices can help you to increase your ability to regulate emotions, decrease stress, anxiety and depression. It can also help you to focus our attention, as well as to observe our thoughts and feelings without judgment.

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The practice of mindfulness can be different for everyone. However, the most common practise of mindfulness is mediation. The main benefits you get from practicing mediation is that you learn how to calm down your mind. You also learn how to practice the art of gratitude and appreciation. These are key skills that help you to be present in the moment and mindful of the positive things that are in your life.

Take a look at this beginner’s guide to meditation: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

The more integrated the practice of mindfulness becomes in your life, the less you worry and stress about the past or the future. Mindfulness improves your mental health and your emotional wellbeing.

7. Find Ways for You to Let Go of Painful Emotions and Your Regrets

The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.” ― Steve Maraboli

Learning how to let go is probably one of the hardest emotional regulation skills to learn. When you do manage to release all these negative emotions, you will find that you resilience and ability to deal with the curveballs of life will soar.

When you accept that you are suffering, you stop running from the difficult emotions and turn to face them with strength and courage.

8. Learn How to Accept Your Vulnerability

“In our culture, we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.”– Dr. Brené Brown

Brené Brown’s mission in life has been to teach others about the power of vulnerability. It was her Ted Talk that set her on the journey of spreading the message about how to step in to your vulnerability and find your power:

She has written a book not only on vulnerability but also on how to forgive yourself and dealing with shame.

For me, when I read Brené’s book Daring Greatly, I learned many life changing lessons; however, there were two life lesson that really stood out for me:

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  • Vulnerability Takes Courage – Allowing yourself to be vulnerable takes strength and courage. When you do this, you are truly standing in your power and it is at this point that you know who you truly are and you are not afraid.
  • Don’t Bottle Up Your Emotions – Become more self-aware. I was very good at hiding away how I was really feeling and overtime, these feelings of anxiety and sadness would overwhelm me. After I read Brené’s book, I realized that to become more emotionally resilient and self aware, you have to be able to explore your emotions, ask questions to get in touch with how you are feeling and thinking in a given moment.

9. Seek Excellence Not Perfection

This is another of Brené Brown’s life lessons, and this lesson so important when it comes to managing our emotions.

Brown says perfectionism is:

“the belief that if we live perfectly, look perfectly and act perfectly, we can avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame.”

Perfectionism isn’t about growth, improvement, or personal achievement, it’s about fear and avoidance. Therefore, what you should really be focused on is realizing excellence, the best version of yourself despite your flaws. This perspective is healthy and inclusive and leads to real personal growth as opposed to a flawed perfectionism.

10. Become Better at Managing Your Negative Feelings Because They Never Go Away

These negative feelings such as fear and criticism will always be a part of our life. The best course of action you can take is to face your fears and move forward. The more you stand up to these negative forces, the more you’ll flex your courage and resilience and come out stronger for it.

Final Thoughts

Dare to be yourself – your strengths, skills, and beauty as well as your flaws and insecurities. This is who you are and the more you stand in your personal power the more courageous and stronger you will be especially when facing those challenges, disruptions and painful moments in your life.

Our emotions are a powerful force in influencing how we live our life. Our emotions are here to stay and the good news is that we are not victims of the negative feelings that are influencing our life.

When you integrate these 10 emotional regulation skills into your life, your emotional agility and courage will enable you to live your life to the fullest – a life where you are thriving, resilient and courageous.

More About Mental Strength

Featured photo credit: Matthew T Rader via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Get Self Help: STOPP Skill

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

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Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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