How to Gain Control of Your Emotions

Five Methods:Controlling Your Emotions in the MomentIdentifying and Changing Unproductive Ways of Handling EmotionsResponding to Unpleasant EmotionsReflecting On Your FeelingsLearning Regulation Techniques

At times, emotions can be uncomfortable, even scary. However, you should know that there is nothing inherently “wrong” with any kind of emotion.[1] Controlling your emotions doesn't mean ignoring or repressing them. Controlling your emotions means learning to process them and respond to them in healthy, helpful ways. Think of this process as “regulating” your emotions, just as you would a thermostat.[2][3] In addition to helping you feel more stable, learning to control your emotions can even improve your physical health![4]

Method 1
Controlling Your Emotions in the Moment

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    Stop and re-focus. It can be easy to get swept up in an emotion and end up reacting in ways that don't benefit you. If you feel yourself start to spiral into an uncontrollable emotional reaction, take a conscious step back from what’s going on and focus on your physical senses. This can help divert your mind from feeling overwhelmed and keep you in the present moment.[5]
    • When you’re emotionally stimulated, you will probably experience a variety of physical effects, such as a faster heart rate, tightened or tense muscles, and rapid or shallow breathing.[6]
    • Most people have developed emotional responses that are called “automatic reactivity.” This reactivity is a type of “habit” your brain has formed of reacting automatically to stimuli, such as emotional experiences, in a certain way. It can leave you feeling like you aren’t in control of those reactions. Fortunately, you can re-train your brain by focusing on the present moment.[7]
    • Consciously examine your body’s reactions. Imagine you’re a doctor observing a patient. For example, if you’re suddenly feeling anxious, notice what that feels like in your body: “My heart is beating very fast. My palms feel sweaty. I feel nauseated.” Acknowledge and accept these feelings as they are, rather than judging them as "wrong" or trying to get rid of them.[8]
    • Consciousness actually consists of many information paths that all tell us something simultaneously. Feeling overwhelmed emotionally can be caused by experiencing our emotional reactions as a jumble of feelings and sensory experiences that feel all tangled up. Slow down and focus on one element at a time, such as what you smell, what you touch, and what you see. This will help your brain learn to process these information paths more effectively, leaving you feeling less swamped by your emotions.[9]
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    Take charge of your breathing. When your body experiences intense emotions, you may enter the body’s “fight or flight” mode. This response activates your sympathetic nervous system by sending adrenaline and other chemicals racing through your body, raising your heart rate, making your breathing shallower, and causing your muscles to feel tight and tense.[10] Breathing deeply and evenly will help you feel calmer and will provide much-needed oxygen to your body, helping you relax.[11][12]
    • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen below your rib cage. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for a count of 4. Feel your lungs and abdomen expand as you fill them with air.
    • Hold the breath for 1 or 2 seconds, then slowly release the breath through your mouth. Aim for 6-10 deep breaths per minute.[13]
    • If a full 4-count is difficult for you, you can start with a 2-count and work your way up with practice. Just try to make your breaths as deep and even as you can.
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    Try progressive muscle relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR, can help you calm down by systematically tensing and releasing your muscles in groups. It’s a good way to relieve stress and tension. PMR can also help you learn to recognize the signs of physical tension in your body.[14]
    • If you can, give yourself 15 minutes in a quiet, relaxing environment. If you can’t find this, though, you can do a few PMR techniques even while you sit at your desk.
    • Sit and make yourself comfortable. Loosen any tight clothing. Take deep, cleansing breaths.
    • You can start at your forehead and work your way down, or start at your toes and work your way up. In this example, we’ll start at the toes.
    • Begin by curling your toes as tightly as you can. Hold this tension for 5 seconds, then relax. Enjoy the relaxing sensations for 15 seconds, then move to the next group of muscles.
    • Tighten your calves by pulling your toes toward your face as hard as you can. Hold the tension for 5 seconds, then relax. Again, allow yourself to relax for 15 seconds, then move on.
    • Continue tensing each group of muscles for 5 seconds, then releasing them. Take a 15-second break in between each group, noticing what it feels like when that tension is released.
    • Progress through each of the following groups: toes, feet, thighs, hips and buttocks, stomach, back, shoulders, upper arms, forearms, hands, lips, eyes, forehead.
    • If you don’t have time to tense and relax all the groups, focus on the ones in your face. Relaxing your facial muscles can ease feelings of stress. Studies have even shown that relaxing your muscles and smiling can make you feel happier and calmer.[15]
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    Use visualization techniques. Some people may find that visualizing a relaxing experience can help them control immediate emotional responses.[16] It can take a little time and practice, but once you’ve got a handle on your preferred visualization, it can be very useful in transforming stressful moments into moments you feel confident to handle.[17]
    • Choose your “safe place.” This can be any place that you find tranquil and soothing. It could be a beach, a spa, a temple, or your bedroom. It just needs to be a place where you feel safe and relaxed.
    • Close your eyes and imagine your safe place. Try to create as many details as possible. What sounds do you hear? What do you see? What does it smell like? What textures do you touch?
    • Breathe slowly and evenly. If you feel tension in your body, use PMR techniques or shake your limbs out to relax them.
    • You may feel awkward or cheesy the first few times you practice visualizing your safe place. That’s completely okay! Trust yourself that this exercise will work.
    • If you’re experiencing the negative emotion while you visualize, you can imagine it as a physical object that you can remove from your safe place. For example, you might envision your stress as a pebble that you can throw far out to sea, away from your tranquil beach. Imagine that your stress is leaving your body as you fling the pebble away.

Method 2
Identifying and Changing Unproductive Ways of Handling Emotions

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    Consider how your family handles emotions. Psychologists suggest that children learn emotional regulation, or the ability to regulate and control their emotions, from observing and modeling how their parents and family members deal with emotions.[18] How you learn to bond with your parents as a child can also affect how you interact with others as an adult, in what’s known as varying “attachment styles.”[19] Understanding how your family handled emotions when you were a child can help you understand your current emotional habits. While it may be most helpful to explore your background with a mental health professional, there are some questions you can consider on your own:[20]
    • In your childhood, was conflict discussed openly, or was it an “unwritten rule” that you were supposed to avoid talking about unpleasant things?
    • How did your parents handle emotions? Did they show them or hide them? Did they explode or sulk?
    • Do you associate a particular emotion with a family member?
    • Which emotion is the most uncomfortable for you? How did/does your family handle that emotion?
    • Were there any emotions that were “off limits” in your family?
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    Consider what you can do to resolve the situation. Sometimes, you may feel out of control emotionally because you can’t see a way to resolve the situation that’s causing the feeling.[21] This can lead to “ruminating,” a “broken record” thought loop where you obsess about the negative thought or feeling in an unproductive, usually vague, way.[22] Instead, try to focus on any specifics of the situation that you can address.[23]
    • For example, a ruminating thought about trouble at work might look like: “What’s wrong with me? Why do things never seem to work out? Why do I suck at my job?” These vague, general thoughts are unproductive and unhelpful.
    • Instead, make a list of things that you can address. For example, you might talk with your boss about how to increase your productivity, ask someone more experienced for guidance or instruction, or focus on stress-management techniques that can help you feel more able to handle stress at work.
    • There will usually be things that your own efforts can’t address. It’s important to accept this. For example, if you have a coworker who is spiteful and nasty to everyone, you cannot change his behavior. You can speak with him about how his behavior affects you, but you have to accept that what he does with that information is up to him. Letting go of the idea that you need to “fix” or “control” every element of a situation can be very liberating.[24]
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    Learn to recognize and challenge cognitive distortions. Most of us have heard the expression, "looking at the world through rose-colored glasses." Cognitive distortions are unhelpful ways of thinking that encourage you to look at the world through mud-colored glasses.[25]
    • Cognitive distortions arise from allowing our emotions to convince us that something is true without examining it.[26] Fortunately, these are learned habits, and you can unlearn them with a little practice.
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    Recognize and challenge negative ideas that come from feeling inadequate. Inadequacy often comes from low self-esteem, the idea that you aren't good enough to do something or deserve someone. Recognizing these distortions and challenging them when they show up will help train your brain to reject the “automatic” assumption that you aren’t “good enough.”[27] Common distortions include:[28]
    • All-or-nothing thinking. Everything is good or bad, with nothing in between. If you aren't perfect, then you're a failure. You can challenge this thinking by showing yourself compassion and recognizing that everyone in the world faces challenges and makes mistakes at times. For example: “I ate that slice of cake at lunch even though I’m trying to eat healthier. I wish I hadn’t, but this isn’t the end of the world. I can make healthy eating choices for dinner.”
    • Disqualifying the positive. If somebody says something good about you, it doesn't count. But if somebody says something bad about you, you "knew it all along." Challenge this by looking for evidence of all the things you do right in your life. You will find it if you look.
    • Personalization. You believe that you were the cause of something bad that happened, when you really didn't have very much to do with it. You may make everything “about you”: for example, “My spouse seemed really irritated when we spoke on the phone earlier. She’s probably mad at me.” Challenge this by thinking about the many other possible causes for the event or experience that don’t revolve around you: “My spouse seemed really irritated. Maybe she’s having a hard day. Maybe she isn’t feeling well. I’ll ask her how she’s doing when we see each other later.”
    • Mind reading. You believe that you know what others are thinking or feeling (and it's usually negative) without asking them. In particular, you believe that you understand how people feel toward you and how it affects their actions.[29] For example: You think somebody is disrespecting you and don't bother to check it out. You just assume that they are. You do this because you feel like you don't deserve respect, and so are overly sensitive to people whom you think might not respect you. Challenge this by directly asking the person about what s/he’s thinking and feeling without pre-judging.
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    Recognize and challenge negative ideas that come from fear. Humans can be afraid of a lot of things; we let fear take over our rational brains because we're convinced something bad is going to happen, even when we don't have evidence that it will. Once you understand that fear is the basis of these distortions, you can tackle them by stopping the spiral in its tracks and looking for logical solutions.[30]
    • Over-generalization. A single negative event turns into a never-ending pattern of defeat. "I didn't get a phone call. I'll never hear from anybody again," or "She broke up with me; why would anyone want to date me?" You generalize not because of a pattern, but because you fear the pattern. Challenge this by reminding yourself that this is a single event. Examine the actual evidence for a pattern. Have you gone a couple of days without a phone call before? Did it mean that nobody wanted to talk to you again, or simply that people had a busy stretch?
    • Labeling and mislabeling. This is an extreme form of over-generalization. When you make a mistake, you give yourself a label, such as, "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, "He's a louse." Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded. This is a problem because it totalizes you. Challenge this by separating your action or feeling from your “core self”: “I’m feeling bad because I failed that test. This does not make me a ‘failure.’ I am good at many other things.”
    • Jumping to conclusions. You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion. You think that preparing for the worst is better than hoping for the best, because you're afraid, not hopeful. For example, you might assume that you shouldn't even bother bringing up an idea in a work meeting because "it will just get shot down." Challenge this way of thinking by stopping yourself at each step and examining the evidence for your conclusions.
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    Recognize and challenge negative ideas that come from other complex emotions. These types of distortions can cause you a lot of emotional pain and guilt. When you find yourself thinking in these ways, stop for a moment. Require yourself to provide logical evidence for each assumption.[31]
    • Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization. Imagine that you're looking at yourself or somebody else through a pair of binoculars. You might think that a mistake you made or somebody else's achievement are more important than they really are. Now imagine that you've turned the binoculars around and you're looking through them backwards. Something you've done might look less important than it really is, and somebody else's faults might look less important than they really are. This is how magnification and minimization work. Challenge this by speaking to yourself with compassion and examining the evidence for your assumption. For example, a grad student might feel like getting her paper published is “no big deal” because “everyone’s supposed to do it.” She could challenge this minimization by reminding herself that most people don’t publish papers at all, and that it’s something she can feel proud of herself for.
    • Emotional reasoning. You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true." You want the world to be the way it feels to you because it will help you feel less powerless. Challenge this by looking for the logic behind this assumption. You can also remind yourself that your emotions aren’t facts.
    • Should statements. You beat up on yourself as a way of getting motivated to do something. You "should" do this, you "must" do this, you "ought" to do this, and so on. This doesn't make you want to do it, it only makes you feel guilty. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment. Challenge these by replacing “should” with less loaded language: for example, “I should have gone running today” becomes “It would have been a healthy choice to go running today.”

Method 3
Responding to Unpleasant Emotions

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    Write down the evidence which supports or contradicts the thought that produced the emotion. Start connecting the dots about why you reacted the way you did.
    • When you begin to think about it, you might realize that since nobody gets along well with this particular boss, he can't afford to actually fire anyone, because the department is too short-staffed.
    • For example, you may have let slip something that you should not have said which angered him, but which it is too late to retract. His reaction at lunch may not be what you originally thought it was.
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    Ask yourself, "What is another way to look at the situation that is more rational and more balanced than the way I was looking at it before?" Explore all the different possibilities. If nothing else, thinking about other possible interpretations will alert you to many different scenarios, and the difficulty of jumping to conclusions.
    • Taking this new evidence into account, you may conclude that your job is safe, regardless of your boss's petty annoyances, and you're relieved of the emotion that was troubling you. If this doesn't work, however, continue to the next step.
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    Consider your options. Now that you know what emotion you're dealing with, think of at least two different ways you can respond. Your emotions control you when you assume there's only one way to react, but you always have a choice. For example, if someone insults you, and you experience anger, your immediate response might be to insult them back. But no matter what the emotion, there are always at least two alternatives, and you can probably think of more:
    • Do nothing. This approach is especially good when you know that someone is trying to egg you on or purposely frustrate you. When you maintain your cool, the person egging you on will become frustrated and eventually stop.
    • Relax. Easy to say, hard to do, but there are some ways to relax that do not require lots of training, experience or will power. When we are angry or upset we clench our jaws and tense up. Taking a deep breath is an easy and effective way to tamp down the emotional upset. It won’t dispel the anger but it can dial it down a notch or two, just enough to keep us from saying, or doing, something we’d regret later.
    • Do the opposite of what you would normally do. For example, you get bothered when your spouse regularly doesn't do the dishes. Instead of engaging them in an argument the second you notice the dirty dishes, calmly do the dishes yourself and tell your spouse — in a calm and collected way — that you'd appreciate help considering all you do in the household.
    • Remove yourself from the situation. Let’s say that you are on a committee at work that includes people who are unfocused, angry and unproductive. You invariably get upset when attending the meetings. One strategy for dealing with this upset, frustration and anger is to ask to be re-assigned to a different committee. Basically, you remove yourself from a situation that you know will generate these strong, negative and unnecessary feelings.
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    Make a choice. When deciding what to do, it's important to make sure it's a conscious choice, not a reaction to another, competing emotion. For example, if someone insults you and you do nothing, is it your decision, or is it a response to your fear of confrontation? Here are some good reasons to act upon:
    • Principles - Who do you want to be? What are your moral principles? What do you want the outcome of this situation to be? Ultimately, which is the decision you'd be most proud of?
    • Logic - Which course of action is the most likely to result in the outcome you desire?
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    Communicate assertively. Learning to communicate assertively can be very helpful in controlling your emotions because it can help you express them in a healthy, open way.[32] Being assertive does not mean that you express yourself in a way that hurts others, or that you communicate with arrogance. It means recognizing and honoring your own needs and feelings as well as those of others.[33] Some ways to communicate assertively include:
    • Using "I"-statements. This type of communication can help you express your emotions without making others feel as though they are being blamed or belittled. For example, instead of saying "You don't care about me" if someone has hurt your feelings, you could try: "I felt hurt when you didn't call me back when you said you would. What happened?"
    • Inviting others to share their experiences. No situation has only one side. Invite others to share their thoughts and experiences with you, just as you do with them. This can help you understand what's going on more clearly, and also helps people feel like you're engaging in a dialogue with them rather than going off on a monologue. For example, once you share your opinion, you can follow it up with something like: "What are your thoughts on this?"
    • Avoiding "shoulds" and "oughts." These statements, known as "categorical imperatives," can lead to feelings of frustration and anger. They often feel blaming or judgmental, whether you use them with others or with yourself. For example, instead of thinking "My partner should never hurt my feelings," you can try reminding yourself that we are all human and occasionally make mistakes. This will help you avoid feeling angry when your partner slips up because you will be less likely to take it personally.[34]
    • Expressing feelings clearly and directly. A big part of assertive communication is not "beating around the bush." It's okay to say no to things that make you uncomfortable or that you simply don't have time for. Just say what's on your mind tactfully, but clearly. For example, if a friend invites you to a huge BBQ that you don't want to attend, you could say: "Thank you for thinking of me! I really don't enjoy large crowds, though, so I would prefer to stay home. How about we meet up for coffee next week instead?"

Method 4
Reflecting On Your Feelings

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    Identify your feelings. Sometimes, it can feel like you don’t even know what you’re feeling. Taking the time to reflect on your feelings and identify them can give your emotions structure, which will help you feel more stable and able to handle them.[35][36] Regularly identifying your feelings increases your self-awareness, which is a key component of self-confidence.[37] You may find that having a list of names handy for possible emotions can help you identify what you’re feeling in the moment.[38]
    • Make sure that your list includes pleasant emotions, such as love, joy, enchantment, compassion, amusement, and hope.
    • Unpleasant emotions may include disgust, irritation, sadness, grief, anger, frustration, or gloom.
    • Remember that just because emotions are unpleasant doesn’t mean they’re negative. Fear and anger, for example, evolved to keep us safe from danger. They can alert us when there’s a threat. The trick is to recognize when these emotions aren’t helpful.
    • A list of “clues” can also help you identify your emotions. For example, a list of body and behavioral cues for love could include: feeling excited, warm, or trusting; having a rapid heartbeat; hugging or cuddling; saying or hearing “I love you.”
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    Learn to distinguish primary and secondary emotions. Once you’ve identified the general feeling you’re experiencing, it’s helpful to tease out the other emotions that may be involved in your overall emotional experience. When you feel overwhelmed by emotions, it’s often because you’re feeling many things at once (or in rapid succession). Take a moment to think about the different emotions you may be feeling.[39]
    • For example, if your romantic partner is chatting with another person at a party and you feel angry, that would be the primary emotion.
    • However, if you examine your thinking and feelings, you might also discover that you’re feeling jealous. Jealousy is actually a manifestation of fear: fear that you're not "as good" as something else, or fear of being abandoned because you can only perceive what you see as negative, not the things that make you lovely.[40]
    • You could discover that you’re actually feeling angry at yourself because your mean inner critic believes that you’re foolish for thinking that your partner could love you with all the things you dislike about yourself.
    • You might also feel embarrassed that your partner is showing someone else attention, instead of paying attention to you. You might believe that others are judging your relationship based on this incident.
    • Once you understand the other emotions at play in a situation, you can figure out why you’re feeling the way you do. You can also take actions to avoid letting those feelings overwhelm you.
    • For example, you can consider whether your reactions have a rational basis. If your partner has cheated on you before, for example, you may feel more justified in being suspicious of even innocent-seeming interactions. If your relationship is generally stable and happy, you may find it helpful to remind yourself that your partner has chosen to be with you, not anyone else.
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    Keep a journal. Journaling about your emotions can help you learn to identify your feelings. It will also help you learn to recognize what may trigger certain emotions and will help you recognize helpful and unhelpful ways of dealing with them.[41]
    • Journaling can also help you learn to recognize an emotion from the moment it materializes, as opposed to letting it build up and intensify. When you ignore or repress your feelings, they tend to get worse and erupt later.
    • One way to journal is to write down whatever mood or feeling you’re experiencing, and then think backwards from there to reflect on what may have brought it on.[42] For example, your boss may not have made eye contact with you at lunch. Without even being aware of it, the thought may have been in the back of your mind, "He's getting ready to fire me!" This may have made you anxious or irritable for the rest of the day.
    • Ask yourself questions in your journal entries. Good questions to ask include:
      • How am I feeling right now?
      • Do I think anything happened to provoke this response?
      • What do I need when I feel this way?
      • Have I felt this way before?
    • You should also practice self-acceptance in your journal. Try not to judge your emotions, even the ones you see as negative. Remember that feelings are not something you can control, but you can control how you interpret and respond to them.[43]
    • Write about any events or experiences that you feel bad about. For example, perhaps you yelled at a server who spilled your drink on you. Try to write what happened without being judgmental of yourself or others: “The server spilled my tea on me. I got angry and yelled at her. I was upset because it was a new shirt that I really liked.”
    • Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes. This isn’t a way of excusing bad behavior. It’s a way of reminding yourself that you are human, and like all humans, you do things you regret. Beating yourself up over something can leave you focused on the past, instead of the future.
    • Show yourself some kindness. Forgive yourself for your negative action. Think about ways that you can make the situation right. Consider how you want to react to similar situations in the future and make a plan. For example: “I yelled at that server, which I don’t like because I don’t want to be unkind to others. I let my anger get the better of me. The next time I eat there, I will apologize to the server for my previous behavior. If an accident happens again, I will remind myself that everyone, including me and the other person, makes mistakes. I will speak with kindness instead of anger.”
    • Take ownership of your emotions. Recognize when you try to blame other people for your emotions. Taking full responsibility for your emotions will help you better control them.
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    Consider your perspective. Studies have shown that people who are generally optimistic respond better to stress.[44] Learning to become more positive in your outlook takes time and practice, but it can also enhance your resilience to uncertain or disturbing emotions and experiences.[45]
    • Look for the positives. Humans have a bad tendency to focus mainly on the negative things in our experience and let the positives fly right by. Take time to list the small beautiful things about each day.[46][47]
    • Practice replacing global, permanent statements with limited, flexible ones. For example, someone might experience stress over a big exam and think, “It’s no use. I just suck at history. Why even bother studying when I’m going to fail?” This thinking assumes that history skills are permanent, rather than something to be attained with practice and work. It can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, where you fail because you don’t work (because you expect to fail).[48]
    • Instead, you might experience stress over a big exam and think, “I’m worried that I haven’t prepared enough. I’ll use my time to make extra flash cards and join a study group. I may not ace the test, but I’ll know I did my best.” By viewing the experience as flexible -- something to be changed with a little effort -- you are more likely to succeed.
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    Challenge irrational assumptions about yourself. There are many irrational ideas that repeatedly upset us.[49] They are all false, but many of us are inclined to believe at least some of them part of the time. Here are some preconceived notions about the self that can hold you back from feeling good about yourself and your life.[50]
    • "I must be perfect in all respects in order to be worthwhile." Nobody can be perfect in everything that we have to do in life. There is no one standard for perfection and holding yourself to an unattainable standard can cause you a lot of misery. Instead, shoot for an ideal that's meaningful to you, but remember there's a reason it's called an "ideal."[51]
    • "I must be loved and approved of by everyone who is important to me." Each person is unique, and some people simply don’t fit together well. Trying to control others’ responses to you is not only futile, it will leave you feeling unhappy and dissatisfied.
    • "When people treat me unfairly, it is because they are bad people." Everyone makes mistakes. Much of the time, people may not even know that they’re treating you badly. People are fallible, and nobody is “all good” or “all bad.”
    • "It is unbearable when I am seriously frustrated, treated badly, or rejected." Some people have such a short fuse that they are constantly losing jobs or endangering friendships because they are unable to endure the slightest frustration. Be considerate of other people.
    • "If something is dangerous or fearful, I have to worry about it." Many people believe that "the work of worrying" will help to make problems go away. They drive themselves crazy by making up things to worry about. "Okay, that's over. Now, what's the next thing on the list that I have to worry about?" Remember that you cannot control anything other than your own actions and responses.
    • "It is terrible when things do not work out exactly as I want them to." Could you have predicted the course of your own life? Probably not. By the same token, you can't predict that things are going to work out exactly as you want them to, even in the short term.
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    Challenge negative core beliefs about the self. Your habits of thinking may have developed some beliefs about yourself that are now deeply ingrained. Learning to see these as fallacies can help you work past them.[52]
    • "Misery comes from outside forces that I can’t do very much to change." Many prison inmates describe their life as if it were a cork, bobbing up and down on waves of circumstance. You can choose whether to see yourself as an effect of your circumstances, or a cause. Take responsibility for your actions.
    • "It is easier to avoid life’s difficulties and responsibilities than to face them." Even painful experiences, once we can get through them, can serve as a basis for learning and future growth.
    • "Because things in my past controlled my life, they have to keep doing so now and in the future." If this were really true, it would mean that we are prisoners of our past, and change is impossible. But people change all the time — and sometimes they change dramatically! You have the ability to be essentially who you want to be; you just have to believe in yourself.
    • "I can be as happy as possible by just doing nothing and enjoying myself, taking life as it comes." If this were true, almost every wealthy or comfortably retired person would do as little as possible. But instead, they seek new challenges as a pathway to further growth. You're tricking yourself into believing that you'd be really happy doing nothing. People need novelty to stay satisfied.

Method 5
Learning Regulation Techniques

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    Practice tolerating uncertainty. Uncertainty isn’t a pleasant emotion for most people. However, it’s important to learn to accept that uncertainty will occur at times in every person’s life. An inability to tolerate uncertainty can lead to constant fear or worry, or make you overly reliant on others. It can keep you from taking actions and doing things that you might find rewarding because you’re afraid of failure. Gradually practicing accepting uncertainty will help you build up a tolerance for it.
    • Keep a journal throughout the day. Write down whenever you feel anxious or uncertain. Note what was happening just before that feeling. How did you respond in the moment? What did it feel like?
    • Make a ranked list of your uncertainties. Most people have a list of things that worry them or make them uncomfortable. Try to rank these on a scale. For example, “going to a new restaurant” might be a 2, while “not making vacation plans in advance” might be a 9.
    • Start practicing in small, safe situations. Begin with baby steps by trying the lower-ranked items on your list. For example, you could go to your favorite restaurant but order something you’ve never tried before.
    • Write in your journal about these experiences. How did you feel? Did the situation turn out as you had hoped? If it didn’t -- and it won’t always work out, and that’s okay! -- how did you respond? Do you think you could respond differently in the future?
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    Try some self-soothing techniques. It’s important to have a variety of self-soothing techniques on hand for when you’re feeling distressed. These soothing techniques may be different for each person, but they usually calm your senses in some way. Experiment with a few to learn what works best for you.[53][54]
    • Try listening to soothing music. The British Academy of Sound Therapy has used science to put together a playlist of the world’s most relaxing music, including artists like Marconi Union and Enya.[55]
    • Do something calm and repetitive, like swimming, knitting, rocking in a chair or hammock, or even repeating a mantra.[56][57]
    • Engage your sense of touch by petting your dog or cat. In addition to giving you a way to focus your senses, studies have shown that regular interaction with a loved pet can reduce depression.[58]
    • Go for a quiet walk, focusing on the beauty of your surroundings.
    • Take a warm bath or hot shower. Physical warmth relaxes and soothes most people.[59]
    • Take yourself on a date. Go out for a nice dinner with tablecloths, candles, the works -- just for you. Order your favorite thing to eat and remind yourself that you’re worth pampering.[60]
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    Try soothing self-touch. Humans require affectionate touch to thrive.[61] Positive touch releases oxytocin, a powerful hormone that boosts your mood, relieves stress, and makes you feel bonded to others.[62] Here are a few techniques you can try to help you relax in an emotional moment.[63]
    • Place your hand over your heart. Feel the warmth of your skin beneath your hand. Feel your heart beating. Feel the rising and falling of your chest as you breathe. Repeat some positive words to yourself as you notice these feelings, such as “I am worthy of love” or “I am good.”
    • Give yourself a hug. Cross your arms over your chest and place your hands on your upper arms. Give yourself a little squeeze. Notice the sensations in your body. Notice the warmth of your hands and the pressure of your arms. Repeat a positive phrase, such as “I love myself.”
    • Cup your face with your hands, like you would for a child or a loved one. Stroke your face with your fingers. Feel the warmth of your hands on your face. Repeat a few words of kindness to yourself, such as “I am beautiful. I am kind.”
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    Learn to “improve the moment.” One way to avoid getting swept up in an emotional reaction is to challenge your immediate, habitual response to an event or experience. Look for ways to create a new meaning for your current experience.[64][65][66]
    • One way to create a new meaning is to reframe experiences.[67] For example, you might feel frustrated that you are not appreciated at work, and that your boss overlooks your efforts. Trying to “ignore” this frustration is unhelpful. Instead, try reframing this experience as a learning experience in how to deal with unpleasant people -- a valuable life skill.[68][69]
    • If you have spiritual or religious traditions, these can also be helpful in finding meaning in your situation, even if it currently seems unpleasant.
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    Practice meditation. Meditation, and in particular mindfulness meditation, has been shown by many studies to relieve anxiety and depression. It can even improve your ability to deal with stress.[70] Regular mindfulness meditation can also help you regulate your emotions.[71] You can take a class, use an online guided meditation, or learn to do mindfulness meditation on your own.[72]
    • Find a comfortable, quiet place that is free of distractions. Sit in a straight-backed chair or sit upright on the floor. Avoid slouching, as this makes breathing difficult.[73]
    • Focus on a single element of your breathing. This could be the sound of your breathing, the expansion of your lungs as you fill them with air, or how it feels to take deep, cleansing breaths. Focus on this element for a few minutes as you take deep breaths.
    • Expand your focus to include the rest of your body. Notice what your other senses are experiencing. Try not to judge or focus too much on any one sensation.
    • Accept each thought and sensation as it appears. It can help to acknowledge each one to help you experience it without judgement: “I am having the thought that my nose itches. This is a thought.”
    • If you find your concentration waning, refocus your attention on your breathing.
    • The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center has free downloadable MP3 meditations.[74] So does BuddhaNet.[75] There are also many apps available for your phone or tablet that offer guided mini-meditations.
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    Try other mindfulness techniques. The core principle of mindfulness is accepting the experience of the present moment without resistance or judgment.[76] Of course, that’s easier said than done, but you’ll find that as you practice mindfulness techniques, they will become new “habits” that your brain adopts.[77]
    • When you are experiencing an emotional experience, repeat some supportive phrases to yourself. You can do this out loud or in your head. Examples could include:
      • I will not always feel this way, and this feeling will pass
      • My thoughts and feelings are not facts
      • I do not have to act on my emotions
      • I am okay in this moment, even though this is uncomfortable
      • Emotions come and go, and I have been able to get through this in the past
    • Identify your emotion without labeling it as “good” or “bad.” For example, if you are feeling angry with yourself over something, take a moment to acknowledge this emotion to yourself: “I am having the thought that I’m angry with myself because I ate something unhealthy, even though I set a goal to eat more healthy foods. This is just one of the thoughts I will have today.”[78]
    • Voice acceptance of your emotion. Telling yourself that you accept whatever emotion you’re experiencing may help you believe it. Remind yourself that emotions are a natural part of human life. Accepting your emotions makes you more likely to be able to regulate them in the future.
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    Seek professional help. Sometimes, you can try your best to control your emotions and still feel overwhelmed by them. Difficulty regulating your emotions can sometimes be an indicator of a more serious problem, such as past abuse or trauma, or it can be the sign of a disorder such as depression. Working with a licensed mental health professional can help you discover unhelpful ways of thinking and responding to emotions, and learn new ways to process your feelings in a healthy, helpful way.
    • It’s a common myth that only “crazy” or “broken” people see therapists. These labels are damaging to people, and they also don’t represent the truth. Many people seek counseling, for a variety of reasons.[79]
    • Another myth is that you can get the help you need from talking to family or friends. While social support is incredibly important, sometimes, you may have issues that require a trained clinician. A trained counselor or therapist can give you advice based on scientific techniques and “outside” observations. S/he can also help you discover whether you may need treatment for disorders such as depression or anxiety.[80]
    • Some people believe the myth that you should just “suck it up” and deal with emotions on your own. This is a very damaging idea. Sometimes, disorders such as depression or panic attacks make it physically impossible for a person to deal with their emotions entirely on their own. Seeking counseling shows that you love and honor yourself enough to get the help that you need.[81]
    • There are usually multiple places to seek counseling in your community. You can talk to your doctor for a referral, contact a community mental health clinic, or even check with your local university to see if they run a low-cost public clinic.


  • Learn to recognize and anticipate "triggers" that set you off.
  • Think about how you will see your reaction in five years. Will you be proud of yourself for walking away with your dignity intact or will you look back and remember falling apart? Choose now.
  • When you see your mood changing, leave from whatever is causing it and take several deep breaths, pray, think about what was done or said to upset and figure out another way of dealing with it.
  • No matter what you choose to do, it's important to continue acknowledging the emotion. Just because you're not reacting to an emotion doesn't mean that emotion doesn't exist.
  • Show compassion to others when something goes wrong with someone else unexpectedly. Some people may just be having a bad day. Or you may have caught them at the wrong time.
  • If any fear or sadness gets a little more intense you can either try therapy or see a counsellor. But if fear or sadness has troubling results seek professional help.


  • It is important to control your emotions, but suppressing them or denying that they exist is entirely different. Suppressing your emotions can cause physical disorders and more emotional symptoms.
  • Many emotional problems are so complex that they require the additional professional assistance of a licensed psychologist, counselor, or social worker.

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Categories: Emotional Conditions