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Three Core Skills: Supporting & Strengthening Emotional Regulation

As adults, we have the opportunity to support and develop our capacity to self-regulate. Emotional difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, self-harm and other emotional problems can lead us on the path of self-development – exploring and learning about emotional regulation.

I can tell you from my own life experience, it is such a worthwhile endeavour. Developing and strenghtening our self-regulation capacity enables us to heal, deal with and bounce back from experiences of heartbreak, loss,  trauma and difficult experiences in our lives.

In this sense, emotional regulation is part of being resilient. If developed well, it supports and carries us through life more than any other skill set.

I would like to share three techniques and skills with you that you can practise in order to strengthen and develop your capacity to self-regulate.

1. Introspection & Self-Awareness: First, we need to develop a mindset, an inner attitude of becoming aware of and valuing our thoughts and feelings. Why? Without being aware of our thoughts and feelings, we cannot  learn to manage, process and direct them.

In order to practice the first skill, you can ask yourself – a few times throughout the day – ‘What am I feeling now?’, ‘What are my feelings being with this person?’, ‘How am I feeling writing this essay?’ or whatever you’re doing. The skill is to turn inwards asking yourself the question, what am I feeling?

This is a mindset of introspection, curiosity and inquisitiveness. It is a bit like becoming a good parent to yourself who is interested in your emotional experiences.

2. Rating your Feelings on a Scale from 1- 10:  When you are feeling sad, for example, you could ask yourself how strongly do I feel this feeling on a scale from 1 to 10? Is it mild, is it moderate? Is about 5? Or, is it very intense and do I feel sad in a very big way? Is it about 10?

This practice, is another way of learning about the intensity of your feelings and increasing self-awareness.

3. Self-soothing – a crucial part of our capacity to self-regulate: This is our ability to respond to our feelings skillfully and sensitively, once we have identified them.

For example, when you feel sad – you might ask: What can I do to manage the sadness? Or, when you  feel lonely: What could you do to ease this feeling? You might reach out to a friend. You might connect with a family member. It is about finding your very own way of soothing your painful feelings.

For example, when I went through a relationship breakup some years ago, I struggled with intense feelings of loneliness, and I developed an inner dialogue asking the lonely part of me: ‘What can I do to soothe and support you?’

I tried different things and some worked and some didn’t. What helped was cooking warming, soothing and delicious meals. The inner lonely me liked being fed nicely, and being looked after in a thoughtful and caring way.

So, at this point I developed cooking, as way of caring for myself. At a later stage, I invited friends to share the meals with me. All this gradually helped me to regulate and soothe my loneliness at the time.

Self-regulation is about learning to re-parent ourselves – this involves understanding our feelings, to think about our feelings, to feel them, to soothe them.

I hope that these ideas might be a starting point of developing your Emotional Regulation Capacity.

Kirsten Heynisch

If you are struggling with emotional regulation and are ready to work on strengthening your self-regulation capacity, please get in touch and book your FREE, 20-minute consultation. This will give us a chance to talk about your struggles, what you want to change and how we can best work together. I am looking forward to connecting with you.

I have trained and worked as a Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist for over 25 years, and specialise in Depression Therapy, PTSD counselling, Group Therapy, and BPD Therapy.

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