By Jimmy Warden
Do you ever find your emotions are feeling irregular? To the point where things just feel “off” or maybe so much so that you feel extreme amounts of negative emotion? If so, you’re not the only one. Everyone feels that way at one point or another. Unfortunately, that’s just a part of life. The most important point is that you recognize it when it’s happening because when you recognize that, you can do something about it. You can feel regulated once again.
Recognizing your emotions is the first step in emotional regulation. Rather than acting from impulse, aka your reptilian brain, aka fight or flight, you can act from consciousness, aka your constant stream of thoughts throughout the day. Once you recognize you are emotionally dysregulated, you can take action in several different ways to return you back to your “normal” state of mind. Your action will be dependent on the severity of the dysregulation. For example, if you find yourself getting agitated at someone just said to you, then a few DEEP breaths or a long pause should suffice before you can respond with something rational versus barbaric. If this occurs during a conversation you can make the choice to “take a break” from the topic at hand in order to cool off, collect your thoughts, and come back open to listening versus allowing your ego to take control to just “win the argument”. If the anger is coming from a “deeper” place, meaning that it is something that is bothering you consistently or it’s bothering you for a reason that requires thought, then some other strategies can be put into place.
The first strategy that you could implement is simply taking a walk. Talk a walk, alone, with no devices. I say no devices so that you can focus your attention on the problem(s) at hand. It is going to require some deep thought, so it’s best to not have distractions. The main question to ask is “why?”. Why is it that (insert problem here) is bothering me? Am I really being bothered by something from my past? Is it bothering me because it worries me about the future? This type of thinking can be thought of as “meditating” on a question. It is important to meditate on things like that. I also think it is beneficial for people to just meditate in general.
Meditation sometimes get brushed off to the side because people imagine Buddhists in a monastery somewhere singing “ohhhhhm”. The real concept of meditation is the ability to be still. Be still with your body and mind. If that stillness breaks in the mind, and its recognized, and the mind is brought back to stillness, congratulations, you’re on your way to becoming a monk! Kidding.
In all seriousness, however, this takes a lot of practice. It’s helpful to sit in a quiet place. Take six to ten deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Slowly. When you feel your heart rate start to slow down, close your eyes. Let your breathing return back to normal. Let your mind focus its attention on one thing and one thing only. Try feeling the weight of your body sitting in your chair or on your floor. Once you feel centered, try to listen to the sounds around you. No need to figure out what they are, just listen and hear the sounds. Next, focus on your breath. Feel your stomach and chest expand as you breath in through your nose. Feel it drop as you exhale. For beginners, continue this for about 5 minutes and then bring yourself back into the space around you by visualizing it. For more advanced meditators, try for 10-20 minutes. If you’re looking for a great place to start guided meditations, check out the Headspace app for iPhones and androids. You can also check out the Calm app, but I personally prefer Headspace. Meditation has helped me a great deal with my emotional regulation and being able to recognize negative emotions.
Often times when we experience negative emotions, such as fear and anxiety, it is because we are either playing scenarios from the past or the future in our heads, and those scenarios we play out usually result in a negative outcome. A lot of it due to the fact that we think history will repeat itself. In the world around us, it does have that tendency, but the best thing about all of this is that we can change our own trajectory. So go for a walk, meditate on questions or concerns, meditate for peace of mind, and just remember, you’ll get through this because you’ve gotten through difficult things before. So go for a walk or find some time to meditate. Get back the state of mind you need to enjoy your life. Believe me, that 5-20 minutes, whatever it might be, will be worth your time, and more importantly, improve your well-being.