Guide to Emotional Regulation

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BetterUp Studios

10 min

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What it means

Regulating your emotions means working with whatever emotions you might be feeling in order to get back into an unbothered state where you can do your best work. The more emotionally stable we are, the better equipped we are to remain cool, calm, and collected when challenges arise.

In practice, this usually means dialing back negative emotions like anger and fear and enhancing the experience of positive ones. But emotional regulation is not about putting on a fake happy face while you suppress any negative feelings. Instead, it’s about acknowledging what’s happening for you emotionally and working with those feelings, so that you are free to choose your response to a situation, without the emotions controlling you.

Why it matters

Cuts down on workplace aggression. Stressed employees are significantly more likely to exhibit workplace aggression (Niven, et al., 2012).

Helps people get along better. Emotion regulation is associated with increased interpersonal sensitivity and helping behavior, fostering improved social relationships (Lopes et al., 2005).

Emotions can be opportunities. How you react to your environment can help you figure out your strongest approach to relating to that environment (Keltner and Gross, 1999).

Beliefs that show it’s a strength

  • It’s easy for me to regulate my emotions—there’s a time and place for everything.
  • I don’t let everything get to me. I pick and choose when I can sweat the small stuff; or when worrying might hinder my progress.
  • I am able to let things go and move forward from minor incidents.

Beliefs that show it’s a growth area

  • That guy just makes my blood boil.
  • I just can’t handle it—I don’t see straight when I’m overwhelmed.
  • I can’t rest until this project is completely finished.
  • Why me? Murphy’s law strikes again. I can’t do anything about my problems if they’re just going to keep happening to me.

Tips to maximize it

Be aware of your triggers.

We can’t run from everything that bothers us, but we can increase our awareness of situations that trigger unwanted emotions. Minimize exposure to things that bother you (but not so much that your world gets small and boring - a little discomfort is good for growth!).

Don’t suppress your emotions.

Research shows that in the long run, suppressing negative emotions doesn’t work nearly as well as transforming them by acknowledging and expressing them.

Stop thoughts.

Did you know that research says you can disrupt a negative train of thought by saying “Stop!”? Next time you notice your thoughts going down a bleak or aggressive path, try it!

Shift your focus.

The little things we think about add up into our moods so be mindful of the little things that catch your attention. When you find yourself hung up small stuff that gets you down - for example, the guy at the gym who lifts more than you, or that annoying song that seems to be everywhere - shift your focus to a positive memory, or anything that gives you a neutral or positive feeling.

Activities to try

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Emotions can get in the way or get you on the way.
- Mavis Mazhura
BetterUp Studios
BetterUp Studios creates and curates research-backed content, activities, and tools to help people everywhere pursue their lives with greater clarity, purpose, and passion.

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