Let’s face it, life can be chaotic and unpredictable in both the best of times and the worst of times. And while we can’t always control what life throws at us, we can control how we react.
It’s easy to let your emotions and behaviors run wild when things get overwhelming. But those are some of the few things in life that we can actually learn to control. Not only can we control ourselves, but it’s also an incredibly powerful ability that anyone can learn.
Here, I’m going to go over some practical and simple tips on controlling behaviors, emotions, and reactions to situations.
Pay Attention to Yourself
It’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s going on around us. But never forget to give yourself the attention you need and deserve. In order to learn how to control your emotions and behavior, you first need to learn how to recognize when you are starting to lose control. Constantly paying attention to yourself will help you flag any spiraling feelings. It will also help keep you grounded and in focus as to how you feel.
Figure Out What You Are Actually Feeling
Once we start listening to ourselves, the next challenge becomes figuring out how we actually feel, and why that is. We often know when we feel angry, sad, frustrated, etc., but it’s important to explore those feelings when you can.
If you feel a strong emotional reaction to something, try and pay attention to which specific emotions stand out. If you’re feeling angry, are you actually angry at yourself or another person? Are you even really angry at the situation, or are you angry because you feel embarrassed?
Taking a moment to dive deeper and take note of your reactions is a good way to better understand your feelings and potentially gain a new perspective on a situation.
Next time you have a strong emotional reaction, try doing these:
- Realize your emotions are intensifying.
- Take a deep breath and focus on what you’re actually feeling.
- Take notes on why you reacted the way you did. Being able to pause and do this in the moment can give you back control before you spiral.
- Focus on awareness rather than judgment. Aim to gain awareness as to why you reacted or behaved a certain way, rather than just feeling bad for how you handled the situation.
Reappraise Your Reactions
When you think of controlling your emotions, you’re really thinking about the concept known as emotion regulation. This term is “used to describe a person’s ability to effectively manage and respond to an emotional experience” (Rolston & Lloyd-Richardson, 2018).
Within the concept of emotion regulation are the techniques of reappraisal and suppression.
- Suppression. Simply put, suppression is the act of trying to manage emotional responses by ignoring how we feel. Many people do this as a way to control how they feel. But, research shows that people who suppress their emotions tend to “experience less positive emotions, worse relationships, and a reduced quality of life” (Kelley et al., 2019).
- Reappraisal. Reappraisal is the act of changing how you think about a situation so you can better control your emotional response. This is the recommended way of handling your emotions.
I can’t stress enough the importance of implementing reappraisal into your emotion regulation. For example, imagine that your friends are mad at you. Thinking “my friends hate me,” can cause you to feel sad and pull away from the situation. But, what if you reframed it as, “my friends are upset right now, let me give them some time or see if I can make amends.”
Doing this gives you a better outlook on your problems. It also implements a more positive growth mindset that helps you become a better version of yourself.
Sometimes thinking too much about an issue can actually become a bad thing. Meditation is a great way to clear your head and reset. Regularly practicing mindfulness is an age-old method of controlling your emotions, and is something anyone can work into their daily routine.
When you don’t take care of yourself, it becomes very hard to control how you feel and behave. It’s amazing how a healthy diet, a good night’s sleep, and some exercise can put you in a better space to handle your emotional responses.
It’s also important to find things that make you happy and add them to your daily routine as much as possible. Go to the gym, go on a walk, or read for 30 minutes a day — anything that makes you feel good is going to help you control your emotions.
Foster Healthy Relationships
Maintaining healthy relationships is one of the most important things you can do in life. Having someone to confide in or laugh with gives us a safety net that can help keep our emotions in check. Make sure that even when you aren’t in the best headspace, you keep up with the people in your life who help keep you grounded.
Common Emotion Regulation Strategies
Here’s a little cheat sheet on emotion regulation strategies so you don’t have to overwhelm yourself trying to memorize everything.
There’s no quick pill that can give you healthy and long-term self-control. But, there are little things you can begin implementing into your life that will build the habits and mindset needed to stay in control. Like most things, you might not master yourself overnight. If you take the time and make the right changes, controlling your emotions and behaviors is completely within your power.
If you liked this article, please consider giving it a clap and following @wellnessmadeeasy on Medium for more simple ways to improve your life. Learn more at wellnessmadeasy.com.