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It’s Important to Manage Emotions When Things Get Tough - Here’s How

Updated: May 25, 2022

A stressed woman sitting at her laptop needs to learn to manage emotions

Managing your emotions can be difficult. Avoiding or suppressing them may seem convenient, but it’s not helpful and can even lead to health problems. Here’s how to manage and regulate your emotions, even when things are hard.

Key takeaways:

  • Emotions are a normal part of life.

  • Learning how to manage emotions is a skill that has to be learned and practiced.

  • Not all intense emotions are harmful; rather, it’s how we cope with them.

  • Some people may develop maladaptive coping skills like addictive behaviors to avoid or numb their feelings.

  • Learning healthy coping skills can help you manage your emotions.

  • Therapy can be a huge help if you’re struggling to process and manage emotions.

Dealing with feelings aka emotions is a skill that we need throughout our lifespan. Learning how to effectively deal with our emotions can make the difference between developing healthy or harmful habits in our lives. Not all intense emotions are harmful, but certain uncontrolled or repressed emotions can lead to negative consequences, especially when people use maladaptive coping skills.

For example, some people might binge eat (“eat their feelings”) as a coping mechanism, which can lead to negative impacts like poor nutrition and weight gain. Others may indulge in other types of addictive behaviors such as drugs, alcohol, or sex – all of which have negative consequences.

Why is emotional regulation important?

Emotions are constant – we feel them as often as we’re awake. They can provide us with important feedback about the situations we are in, our wants, and our needs. When you tap into your emotions, you can get important information that can help you with:

  • Navigating relationships successfully

  • Managing your day to day interactions in the community, with friends, and at home

  • Making decisions

  • Self-care

Studies have shown that having a handle on emotional regulation is linked to better well-being and even financial success. Doing the inner work now can quite literally pay off for you in the future.

The impact of being emotionally out of control

We’ve all had our moments of being human; moments we let our emotions, such as anger, get the best of us, where we’ve said or done something regrettable that we didn’t really mean. But for some people who may have never learned how to regulate their emotions, intense and difficult-to-control emotions can be a normal occurrence. This can lead to:

  • Conflict in romantic relationships or friendships

  • Difficulty connecting with or relating to others

  • Problems at work, home, or school

  • Lashing out or other emotional outbursts

  • Urges to use substances or other addictions to cope with or avoid emotions

Taking an inventory of situations or times your emotions have gotten the better of you can help you know what areas you may need to focus on or recognize patterns where you’re being triggered.

Using the PATH Method

PATH is an easy-to-remember acronym. You can use this the next time you feel “stuck” emotionally or otherwise challenged by your emotions. PATH stands for:

  • Pause: Pausing is an important step. If you think back to times you engaged in regrettable behaviors because you were upset, you’ll recognize that taking a pause between the trigger and your reaction may have stopped you from acting out the way you did. So stop and pause before you respond. Take deep breaths or count to 100 if you need to.

  • Acknowledge the feeling: What are you currently feeling? Are you upset with someone? Are you feeling badly toward yourself? Observe the feeling you have right now without any judgment. It’s okay to feel this right now – it will pass.

  • Think: Now that you’ve identified the feeling you have, what are some ways you can counter it? If you feel overwhelmed, what can you do to relieve that and feel at peace? If you’re sad, what’s something you can do to boost your mood? Think of something.

  • Help: Here’s where you help yourself; in this last step, take the aligned action that you thought of during your “think” step.

If you can remember the PATH acronym and put these helpful tools into practice the next time you’re feeling intense emotions, you’ll be on the path (no pun intended) to healthier emotional regulation.

Other ways to manage emotions

There are lots of other ways to manage your emotions. Here’s a helpful list of things you can try:

  • Use a feelings chart to help you identify and name how you’re feeling.

  • Reframe your thoughts to more helpful thoughts that feel better for you.

  • Pick mood-boosting activities such as going for a walk, doing yoga, playing with a pet, meditating, reading, watching a favorite movie, or talking to a friend.

Regardless of how many coping skills you learn, some people still find that they need a little more help and that’s okay!

When should you get professional help?

It’s okay not to be okay. Sometimes our emotions can be big and difficult to understand, process, and work through, especially if there’s a history of trauma involved. Other times, we find ourselves making decisions that are harming us because we’re trying to numb, avoid, or get rid of our pain. Here are some signs that you should seek immediate professional help:

  • You frequently deny or avoid your emotions until you have explosive outbursts.

  • You find yourself withdrawing and isolating from social activities, friends, and family.

  • You take your frustration out on others and engage in bullying behaviors.

  • You’re engaging in self-harm, which may include cutting, burning, binging and purging, or engaging in other risky and dangerous behaviors, such as frequent unprotected sex.

  • You are experiencing any addictions, such as food, drugs, alcohol, or sex.

If you’re experiencing any of these behaviors, you should consider getting into therapy as soon as possible. Therapy can help you learn healthier ways of dealing with your emotions and assist you in developing helpful coping skills.

Get support from a qualified, caring therapist in the South Florida area

You don’t have to live with uncontrolled emotion as your normal state. Learning emotional regulation is a skill that will serve you well in all aspects of your life. It can be challenging at first, especially if it's something you’ve struggled with for a prolonged period.

Having support from the right professionals can create a huge shift. Individual therapy can help you learn how to identify, process, and manage your emotions.

The team at Love Discovery is ready to welcome you with open arms. If you’re ready to get started in therapy to help you process trauma, make an appointment with any of our therapists today. Feeling hesitant about how we can help? Call 786.571.4636 for a free 20-minute consultation.

We are here to help you improve your mental health and support you on your journey to self-control.

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