Emotion regulation refers to the things that are done to influence emotions, how intense these emotions are or become, how long they last, and how they are expressed (Gross, 2002). The core aspect of good emotion regulation is the ability to calm down while or after experiencing intense emotions. Various strategies and skills can be implemented and practiced to improve emotion regulation and target things such as a shifting attention away from the cause of acute distress, inhibiting reactive behaviors, and moderating or decreasing the intensity of emotions. These abilities are not innate, but learned and developed through supportive and accepting relationships with early caregivers as a child learns to internalize these skills and develop the ability to self-regulate. When this does not occur it can be very difficult to regulate emotions in a helpful or effective manner as a later adolescent or adult.
Difficulties with emotion regulation can lead to many concerns and commonly have a negative impact on relationships or when interacting with others in stressful social contexts. Anger is a common difficulty and individuals frequently seek therapy for anger management. Other common difficulties include intense sadness or anxiety, impulsive behaviors, and self-harm.
Therapy can help!
Emotion regulation can be learned and incorporated into daily life through the process of therapy. Treatment is most effective with an approach that integrates education, skills training, practice and feedback, as well as talk therapy aimed to processing underlying sources of distress, personal history, and related issues such as relationship problems or feelings of shame and self-blame. Mindfulness is often highly effective as an ongoing practice and skill as it promotes nonjudgmental awareness and will help you to develop emotional awareness and acceptance, both of which are key to improving emotion regulation. Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral therapy (DBT) techniques are also effective approaches and provide a foundation for changing inaccurate or irrational beliefs and practicing new skills to regulate emotions.