Pretty Spiritual Podcast

Emotional Regulation

January 16, 2020

What Is Emotional Regulation?

This time on Pretty Spiritual Podcast we’re delving into the topic of emotional regulation. How do we make sense of and work with huge feelings without hurting ourselves? Can we start by dipping our toes into the unfelt feelings we think might destroy us? Rather than getting swept up helplessly by the big feelings, how can we learn to be active participants in our emotional lives? 

If you’ve had a confusing relationship with your feelings, this episode is for you. No, we don’t have any final answers, but we do have our own experience and a bunch of helpful tools. Join us in episode 41, as we talk about self regulation of feelings as an act of self love.

Maybe you’re wondering, what is emotional regulation? We’ll definitely get there. But first, let’s start with emotional dysregulation. What does that look like? Feelings come up, we push them away, try not to feel them by disassociating from our bodies, and then the feelings get lost somewhere in our bodies, only to come out sideways.

When emotions come out in big ways, we might take them out on the people around us. Other times, these feelings might collapse us inside ourselves and run our whole lives for hours or days.

So how do we Self Regulate?

When we try to keep ourselves from feeling our feelings, we are setting ourselves up for emotional dysregulation. When we push away or avoid feelings, we get more and more disconnected from ourselves and the reality around us. But the feelings still need to be felt. Eventually, the unfelt feelings flood us. 

Ugh, feelings. We all have them and yes, maybe we begrudgingly agree that it would be good to feel them (however people do that!). But what if we’re not sure where to start? How do we dip our toes into the big stuff without being overtaken by the feeling tsunami?

Okay, now we’re ready to answer the question, what is self regulation? It’s the “ability to respond to the ongoing demands of experience with the range of emotions in a manner that is socially tolerable and sufficiently flexible to permit spontaneous reactions as well as the ability to delay spontaneous reactions as needed.”

Now let’s look at some of the tools that can help us get there. Annie has some especially helpful tools for self regulation in situations that involve trauma feelings. We can learn to experience small doses of the emotional life that threaten to explode outward onto other people or collapse us into ourselves.

Get the Tools You Need 

We especially love this tool called emotional sequencing. It’s simple, just look at the things around you, name one object and its color. Do that three times. Then name these objects and their colors backward. Instead of getting lost in feelings, this tool brings our brains and bodies to the present moment and the more evolved part of our brains. Hooray for the prefrontal cortex! 

And here are some life tools you can try whenever. They are simple ways we can make friends with and take gentle care of the overwhelm. When we’re healing from the big stuff, we don’t have as many resources to cope. Okay, here’s a simple but mind-blowing tool: do less! Have one social engagement a day. Rest a lot. Plan self-care for emotional encounters with triggering people.

Prayer and meditation are also so helpful. We're learning to take care of our internal experience without closing down our hearts to others. It helps us to share with safe people what’s happening with our feelings. When we can say it out loud, we make more space for our experience.

Still want more? If you want to see all the Annie tools, send us a message on our contact page and we’ll forward them to your inbox.

Thank you to our sweet listeners for writing in with comments and suggestions and stories. We are so healed by the one-on-one connections that our shared vulnerability makes possible. Again, if you want even more self regulation skills, get in touch with us and we’ll share all the other great tools Annie has used in her PTSD journey.

Then get in touch and let us know what you about emotional regulation and what works for you. Please share your experiences and tools with us. Find us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Insight Timer, Google Play, Spotify, Soundcloud, Podbean, and Stitcher (or our Contact page) and share your feelings, thoughts, and anything else! Thanks for listening to our spiritual podcasts. We love ya.