How to Control Your Emotions so Your Emotions Don’t Control You
Sharpening your emotional regulation skills will make you mentally stronger.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Have you ever said something out of anger that you later regretted? Do you let fear talk you out of taking the risks that could really benefit you? If so, you're not alone.
Gaining control over your emotions will help you become mentally stronger. Fortunately, anyone can become better at regulating their emotions. Just like any other skill, managing your emotions requires practice and dedication.
Experience Uncomfortable Emotions But Don't Stay Stuck in Them
Managing your emotions isn't the same as suppressing them. Ignoring your sadness or pretending you don't feel pain won't make those emotions go away.
In fact, unaddressed emotional wounds are likely to get worse over time. And there's a good chance suppressing your feelings will cause you to turn to unhealthy coping skills--like food or alcohol.
It's important to acknowledge your feelings while also recognizing that your emotions don't have to control you. If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, you can take control of your mood and turn your day around. If you are angry, you can choose to calm yourself down.
Here are three ways to gain better control over your mood:
1. Label Your Emotions
Before you can change how you feel, you need to acknowledge what you're experiencing right now. Are you nervous? Do you feel disappointed? Are you sad?
Keep in mind that anger sometimes masks emotions that feel vulnerable--like shame or embarrassment. So pay close attention to what's really going on inside of you.
Put a name your emotions. Keep in mind you might feel a whole bunch of emotions at once--like anxious, frustrated, and impatient.
Labeling how you feel can take a lot of the sting out of the emotion. It can also help you take careful note of how those feelings are likely to affect your decisions.
2. Reframe Your Thoughts
Your emotions affect the way you perceive events. If you're feeling anxious and you get an email from the boss that says she wants to see you right away, you might assume you're going to get fired. If however, you're feeling happy when you get that same email, your first thought might be that you're going to be promoted or congratulated on a job well done.
Consider the emotional filter you're looking at the world through. Then, reframe your thoughts to develop a more realistic view.
If you catch yourself thinking, "This networking event is going to be a complete waste of time. No one is going to talk to me and I'm going to look like an idiot," remind yourself, "It's up to me to get something out of the event. I'll introduce myself to new people and show interest in learning about them."
Sometimes, the easiest way to gain a different perspective is to take a step back and ask yourself, "What would I say to a friend who had this problem?" Answering that question will take some of the emotion out of the equation so you can think more rationally.
If you find yourself dwelling on negative things, you may need to change the channel in your brain. A quick physical activity, like going for a walk or cleaning off your desk, can help you stop ruminating.
3. Engage in a Mood Booster
When you're in a bad mood, you're likely to engage in activities that keep you in that state of mind. Isolating yourself, mindlessly scrolling through your phone, or complaining to people around you are just a few of the typical "go-to bad mood behaviors" you might indulge in.
But, those things will keep you stuck. You have to take positive action if you want to feel better.
Think of the things you do when you feel happy. Do those things when you're in a bad mood and you'll start to feel better.
Here are a few examples of mood boosters:
- Call a friend to talk about something pleasant (not to continue complaining).
- Go for a walk.
- Meditate for a few minutes.
- Listen to uplifting music.
Keep Practicing Your Emotional Regulation Skills
Managing your emotions is tough at times. And there will likely be a specific emotion--like anger--that sometimes gets the best of you.
But the more time and attention you spend on regulating your emotions, the mentally stronger you'll become. You'll gain confidence in your ability to handle discomfort while also knowing that you can make healthy choices that shift your mood.