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Ultimate Guide to Understand And Improve Emotional Regulation

A lot of times in our lives, we get so busy in the hustle-bustle, that we forget that we need to manage a very important aspect of our lives – our emotions. What life hands to us is not in our control, but what we can do is try to manage our appraisal of the events and how we feel, as per the goal of a happy and holistic life. 

So first, let’s attempt to understand what ‘Emotional Regulation’ is. 

Emotional regulation is the ability to influence and manage our emotions in a way that we know, when to feel what, where we should feel it, and whether to express those emotions in spontaneity or delay it. It is very important to recognize our own emotions to be able to regulate them. 

We are all social beings, living in a man-made civilized society, where we have to take every step according to certain norms, to be considered “normal” and “part of the society”. As a working individual, it becomes even more important to know when to express your emotions and when to control them. 

A literature review by Itziar Urquijo in 2019, has documented that people with a high ability to recognise and understand their own and others’ emotions typically report higher positive attitudes and job performance in organisational settings. On the other hand, those employees with high levels of emotion regulation can cope more effectively with negative job stressors compared to their less emotionally skilful counterparts.

For example, if your boss scolds you about a mistake that you made in your presentation, your mind would immediately go to wanting to express your point of view and defend yourself. But at that moment, more than expressing your emotions, it is important to recognize how that expression will be taken. Let’s figure out the trail of events that may take place.

  1. Will it be well-received by a good listening ear, or will it be taken as disregard and disrespect towards the authority?
  2. Where to express these emotions and to whom?
  3. Is it easy for you to sort out your emotions on your own, or you need a helping hand?
  4. If you need a helping hand, then who is it going to be and what will you be expressing in front of that person?

Essentially, this is what emotional regulation is. We try to manage our emotions using various personalized ways. We may need a helping hand, or we may be able to easily understand them ourselves. It all depends on how much effort and mind you put towards understanding yourself, confronting yourself, and how much help you expect from others in this area of your life. 

There is no sure shot answer to how we can regulate our emotions. This is because we all feel a range of emotions, which are different, corresponding to each individual. There is no ‘right way' to do this. So, to understand your needs and emotions, it is crucial to take a psychological self-assessment or screening, which will help you better recognize and confront your emotions. 

It is of paramount importance to self-evaluate and understand your emotions, as well as, be able to understand others emotions. It is crucial to recognize your own emotions because there’s not much that you can do about what and how others are feeling. But in the process of understanding your own emotions, you also make an effort, to understand the reason behind others emotions or behaviour. This understanding of your own, and other’s emotions, and being able to manage them is termed as Emotional Intelligence measured in terms of Emotional Quotient. The point to be emphasized here is again, that every person’s Emotional Intelligence varies because every individual is different. 

According to a research study by Akerjordet and Severinsson, 2007, people scoring high on EI tests are assumed to regulate their emotions better than people scoring low on EI tests. 

The next step is to look for ways in which you can help yourself, manage your emotions. How to do that?

Here are some suggestions that may help in managing your emotions at the workplace:

  1. Be mindful of the triggers in the environment that you’re working in. Try and understand the cues that your mind and body pick up on, which trigger negative emotions in you.
  2. Make an effort to self-talk and think rationally, as to why you may be triggered by that situation/person.
  3. Try to look at the situation from the third person’s perspective, i.e., as a person who’s looking at the situation objectively, without any subjective bias.
  4. Try to breathe your way out of it. Many times, we get so flustered in the situation, that we are unable to think straight and our body’s adrenaline does not allow us to breathe, in these situations, it is very important to breathe and think with sound judgement.
  5. If you think the situation requires it, confront your trigger with rational and firm arguments.
  6. Prioritise what is more important in that situation.
  7. Take a helping hand. Talk to someone you trust and ask them if they are open to listening to you.

There are several other ways in which you can learn emotional regulation, through self-help. There are various apps, websites and books that you can refer to. Look out for the ones that will suit you best. Handling your emotions efficiently will not only improve your work life, but it will also increase your job satisfaction, work productivity, decrease absenteeism and manifest a more healthy, happy and well-rounded life.