We all go through life’s ups and downs, and inevitably, these impact our mood and emotions. The various emotions we experience are a natural part of life and being human. Sometimes, these feelings can be so powerful that they cause us to say things we don't mean, act in ways we later regret and make it hard to take care of ourselves. But there are ways to acknowledge, process and understand our emotions, without allowing ourselves to be controlled by them.
Here are the top five tips that can help you regulate your mood:
1) Name it to tame it We tend to push away our emotions, especially the uncomfortable ones. But pushing away our feelings usually backfires and causes them to become even more distressing. It’s when we recognize, acknowledge and label our emotions, that they start to become easier to manage. In fact, brain scans have shown that the simple act of labeling our emotions (e.g., “I’m feeling low and disappointed”) significantly reduces their intensity.
2) ABC PLEASE This acronym is all about taking care of ourselves on a day-to-day basis, so that we’re prepared to cope with life’s changes and challenges as they arise. “ABC” involves regularly engaging in activities to improve our mood. “PLEASE” involves taking care of our bodies to help maintain our emotional well-being.
A – Accumulate positive emotions by engaging in pleasurable, enjoyable and valued activities
B – Build Mastery through tasks that give you a sense of achievement and accomplishment
C – Cope Ahead with a situation by rehearsing a plan in advance and reflecting on your coping skills
PL – Treat Physical iLlness and take medications as prescribed
E – Balance Eating and drink water
A – Avoid mood-altering substances
S – Prioritize Sleep
E – Exercise regularly
3) Opposite action Opposite action means choosing to do the opposite of what your emotions are telling you to do. We all have urges that accompany emotions (for example, when we’re angry we want to scream), but acting on these urges is sometimes more harmful than helpful. Opposite action isn’t about ignoring or pushing down how you’re feeling. It’s about identifying your emotions and creating some separation between your feelings and actions. This helps you consciously decide if it makes sense to act on what your emotions are telling you to do. For example, if you’re feeling sad, you’ll probably want to stay home and isolate yourself, so opposite action could look like going for a walk or calling a friend. That way, you’re still acknowledging your sadness without letting it completely run the show.
4) Mindfulness Mindfulness is all about intentionally bringing our focus back to the present moment. When we’re low, anxious or stressed, our mind tends to be pulled everywhere except for the here-and-now. Mindfulness can also help us acknowledge our experiences and be a non-judgmental observer of them. Through mindfulness, we can learn to notice our thoughts and feelings without judging or reacting to them.
Here are a few ways you can practice mindfulness:
Paying attention to your breathing and engaging in deep breathing
Scanning your body for tension and breathing deeply into areas where there’s discomfort
Visualizing your thoughts as clouds in the sky and observing them come and go
Paying attention to the texture, taste, and smell of your food while eating
Taking in the sights and sounds while walking (for example, the cars driving, your feet on the ground)
Picking an activity that’s part of your morning routine and focusing your attention on it
Listening wholeheartedly in your next conversation
5) Grounding and self-soothing Grounding involves techniques that temporarily refocus our attention to the present moment so that we can regulate intense emotions when feeling triggered, overwhelmed, or distressed.
You can practice grounding by:
Using your senses to list the things you notice around you. List five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste
Changing your temperature – dunk your face in a bowl of cold water, hold an ice cube, use a hot compress, take a warm bath
Playing mental games – list animals that start with the letter “a”, count backwards from 100 by increments of 7, recite all the ice cream flavors you can think of
Visualizing your favorite place or the face/voice of someone you love
Self-soothing involves activities that help calm and relax us when feeling overwhelmed and stressed. The quickest way to self-soothe is by using our 5 senses.
Here are some examples:
Touch: take a warm bath, get a massage, squeeze a stress ball, wrap yourself in a blanket
Sight: look at pictures of your favorite memories, watch TV or read a book, spend time outdoors and notice your surroundings
Sound: play music, hum or sing, say affirmations to yourself, listen to a podcast
Taste: eat a comforting meal, chew gum, sip tea or hot chocolate
Smell: light a candle, boil cinnamon or herbs, use your favorite smelling shampoo or soap
There are no 'good' or 'bad' emotions - all emotions are adaptive and provide us with signals and information. Sadness tells us there's been a loss. Anger tells us our boundaries have been crossed. Loneliness tells us we’re craving connection. The way we interpret and cope with our emotions determines the way we react to them. With these tools, you can move closer to a place of reacting in a way that's healthy, helpful and healing.
Need an extra hand with regulating your emotions? Connect with your EFAP for support. We're here to help.