Emotional Regulation Skills, Techniques, Examples, Scale

emotional regulation skills

Why do we feel angry when stuck in traffic, disappointed when we fail a test, or irritated when we are hungry?

As humans, we will never have complete control over what we feel, but we have much more influence over how we feel than you might have heard. Our emotions are volatile and keep fluctuating throughout the day and sometimes feel overwhelming. Intense emotions like anxiety, anger and fear can steer us off course and cause us to overreact.

Emotional regulation is a skill. You can learn strategies to regulate emotions and live more emotionally balanced lives. This article outlines emotion regulation details to regain control in challenging situations. 

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What is Emotional Regulation?

Emotional regulation controls your emotions and directs them towards more acceptable and appropriate behavior. It is the process that contains sudden outbursts and rethinking them. It is the way to challenge your thoughts and shift your mindset. Various emotional regulation therapy techniques help you regulate your emotions. 

Importance of Emotional Regulation Skills

Emotional regulation is a learned skill. It is one of the pillars of emotional intelligence, with the ability to take in information, maintain composure in proportion to the experience, and communicate your needs to others effectively.

Regulation of emotions cultivates a sacred buffer between feeling the emotion and your reaction to that emotion, such as pausing to collect your thoughts before responding. Also, it means waiting until you are in a supportive setting to process challenging feelings. Emotional regulation is essential for mental well-being and protecting and establishing healthy relationships.

Once you hone this skill, it makes you:

  • Feel balanced and in control of your emotional reaction
  • Better manage stress
  • Stay calm during challenging situations
  • Actively listen to the needs of others
  • Protect important connections
  • Remain professional in work situations
  • Express your needs in constructive ways
  • Do not take things personally

Emotion Regulation Skills

Several skills can help us self-regulate our emotions. 

1. Create space

Emotions happen quickly. We do not think, “Now I will be angry”. We are suddenly clench-jawed and furious. So, the first skill to regulate complicated emotions is to pause and breathe. Later, slow down the moment between trigger and response.

2. Notice what you feel

An equally important skill involves becoming aware of what you are feeling. Tune in to yourself and consider: In which parts of your body do you notice sensations? Is your stomach upset or heart racing? Do you feel tension in your head or neck?

Your physical symptoms are clues to what you experience emotionally. Inquiring about what is happening to you physically distracts your focus, allowing some of the intensity of the emotion to go away.

3. Name what you feel

After noticing what you feel, the ability to name it gets control of what is happening. Ask yourself: What would you call the emotions you are feeling? Is it sadness, disappointment, anger, or resentment? What else is it? Fear is one strong emotion that often hides beneath others.

Most of us feel more than one emotion at a time. Feel free to identify multiple emotions that you feel. If you feel fear, what are you afraid of? Or if you feel anger, what are you angry about or toward? Naming your emotions helps you get closer to sharing your feelings with others.

4. Accept the emotion

Emotions are a natural and normal part of how we respond to situations. Recognize that your emotional reactions are valid rather than beating yourself up for feeling angry or scared. Practice self-compassion and give grace to yourself. Recognize that to experience emotions is a normal human reaction.

5. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness helps us to live in the moment by paying attention to what is inside us. Use your senses to notice what’s happening in your surroundings nonjudgmentally. With these skills, you stay calm and avoid engaging in negative thoughts when in emotional pain.

Read: What is Emotional Detox? (Emotional Cleansing) Meaning, Important, and How to Do

Emotional Regulation Techniques & Strategies

There are several emotion regulation strategies that people can master to build their coping skills. It is essential to consider which methods are most helpful and which to avoid. Let’s look at the strategies to manage emotions healthily and helpfully. 

1. Use The Power of Breath

When it comes to mastering emotional regulation, one of the most potent tools at your disposal is your own breath. The ancient wisdom of various cultures and modern scientific research converge on the idea that your breath is intimately connected to your emotions.

How Does Breath Influence Emotions?

Have you ever noticed how your breath changes when you’re upset, anxious, or angry? Typically, when emotions are running high, our breathing becomes rapid and shallow. Conversely, when we are relaxed and at ease, our breath tends to become deep and slow.

This phenomenon isn’t merely coincidental. It’s a direct result of the intricate connection between the autonomic nervous system and the breath. 

The autonomic nervous system consists of two branches:

  • The sympathetic nervous system (often referred to as the “fight or flight” response) 
  • The parasympathetic nervous system (often referred to as the “rest and digest” response).

So, breath is our constant companion, and by using its power, we can navigate the turbulent seas of our emotions with grace and resilience. 

To use breath for emotional regulation, start by developing a mindful awareness of your breath in everyday life. When faced with challenging emotions, take a pause and observe your breath – is it rapid and shallow, or slow and deep? 

Once you’ve tuned into your breath, consciously choose to alter its rhythm. Deep, deliberate breaths signal to your body that it’s time to relax, activating the calming parasympathetic nervous system and soothing your racing emotions. 

Through consistent practice of breath control techniques, such as deep belly breathing or the 4-7-8 method, you gain a powerful tool to ground yourself in the present moment, release tension, and regain emotional equilibrium. 

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2. Identify and Reduce Triggers 

Don’t avoid negative emotions or fear them. Also, you don’t have to keep putting yourself in a situation that brings unpleasant feelings. Notice the patterns or factors present when you start to feel strong emotions. This requires some curiosity and honesty. Did something make you feel small? 

Strong feelings often emerge from our deep-seated insecurities, particularly the ones we hide. What is happening around you, and what previous experiences does it bring up for you? When you identify these triggers, you can explore why they carry so much weight and if you can reduce their importance. 

3. Tune into Physical Symptoms

Pay attention to your feelings, including whether you are hungry or tired, as these factors exacerbate your emotions and interpret your feelings more intensely. You can change your emotional response if you can address the underlying issue.

4. Engage in Positive Self-talk

When our emotions feel overwhelming, our self-talk becomes negative. Treat yourself with empathy; replace some of this negative talk with positive comments. This shift helps mitigate the emotions we are feeling. Still, you can be frustrated with a situation that doesn’t work but no longer have to blame or generalize it beyond the situation.

5. Make a Choice about How to Respond

Sometimes, we have a choice about how to respond. For example, when you lash out at people angrily, you likely notice the negative impact on your relationships. Also, you might see that it doesn’t feel good or feels good at the moment, but the consequences are painful. 

So, next time you feel anger or fear, see that you can choose how to respond, and that recognition is robust. Instead of lashing out, can you try a different response? Can you tell someone that you are feeling angry instead of talking harshly to them? Get eager about what will happen if you switch up the answers. How did you feel? How did the other person respond?

6. Look for Positive Emotions

Human beings naturally attribute much weight to negative emotions than positive ones. This is known as negativity bias. Negative emotions, like disgust, anger, and sadness, carry more weight. Positive feelings, like interest, contentment, and gratitude, are quieter. A habit of noticing these positive experiences helps boost resilience and well-being.

7. Read Between The Lines

Sometimes, our emotions act like a message from our minds. Your mind tries to tell you something. In this emotional regulation technique, ask yourself, “What are my emotions trying to tell me?” 

You find answers in your behaviors and what you consider are your triggers. Your mind can tell you various things like maybe you need rest, perhaps there is unresolved trauma, possibly you haven’t processed your emotions properly, etc.

8. Take a Break

Humans cannot always be at war with the negative thoughts and emotions. Learning to take a break gives your mind and emotions a rest. If you are stuck in your feelings and have lost control, stop fighting and take a break. It’s okay to take some time off and switch your brain off. Don’t take too long a break; tiny gaps can work well. Once you feel rejuvenated, it’s time to return to the game.

9. Try P.L.E.A.S.E.

Another way to regulate emotions is to try the P.L.E.A.S.E. technique when acknowledging the connection between your body and mind. When you do this, you find balancing your feelings more manageable.

Let us look at what P.L.E.A.S.E. means:

  • P.L. – Treat physical health
  • E – Eat healthily
  • A – Avoid recreational drugs
  • S – Sleep well
  • E – Exercise

Take these as a guide to keep your mind and body healthy. Once you acknowledge that, you will see how well your emotions are balanced.

10. Practice ‘Just Like Me’ Technique

This is another emotional regulation technique called “Just Like Me”. This technique allows you to value yourself positively and connect with the person you are experiencing something negative towards. Follow a simple exercise. 

For example, if someone is doing better than you and you feel jealous, try to add “just like me” in the thought. Try saying, “The other person is doing well in the business, just like me.” This will lower the negative emotions and balance the rest of the feelings.

11. Try The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique

While it’s a grounding technique, it also works well in regulating your emotions. The 5-4-3-2-1 technique calms your mind and increases mindfulness, the art of staying in the present moment.

Do the following:

  • List 5 things you see: Take the details as much as possible. Colors, patterns, textures, etc., help you focus.
  • List 4 things you feel: Be careful with the details. Focus on the things that bring you comfort and help ground yourself. This makes you feel in touch with your emotions.
  • List 3 things you hear: Anything you hear, the clock ticking, footsteps, horns of vehicles, etc.
  • List 2 things you smell: This helps you focus, too. When looking for something soothing enough to regulate emotions, focus on what you can smell. The flowers’ scent, your favorite food, etc.
  • List 1 thing you taste: To control a rush of emotions, try eating something you like, one of the easiest ways to distract yourself from the negative feelings you are experiencing.

12. Pause and Allow Curiosity

Another emotion regulation technique to balance out your emotions is to pause and allow yourself to question either yourself or the other person. This gives you enough space to think about how to respond instead of reacting. Also, pause to feel your emotions and make better choices. Getting eager will avoid all emotions that appear negative to you. Once you do that, you will realize this emotion leads you to much more. 

13. Seek Out a Therapist

Managing our emotions is difficult and requires a high degree of self-awareness. When we have a hard time, our emotional self-regulation starts suffering. Sometimes, we need a partner like a therapist to help us learn better self-regulation skills. Fortunately, some therapeutic solutions can help us better regulate our emotions.

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Read: Importance of Mental Health in Today’s World (7 Reasons Why)

Emotional Regulation Scale

An emotional regulation scale, often referred to as an Emotional Regulation Questionnaire or ERQ, is a psychological assessment tool used to measure an individual’s ability to manage and regulate their emotions effectively. 

It generally consists of a series of statements or questions designed to evaluate how a person responds to various emotional situations. Participants are asked to rate their agreement or frequency of engaging in certain emotional regulation strategies or behaviors.

The emotional regulation scale typically assesses two main strategies for managing emotions:

1. Emotion Suppression: 

This strategy involves inhibiting or concealing one’s emotional expressions. People who frequently use this strategy tend to hide their emotions from others and may suppress their emotional experiences internally.

2. Emotion Reappraisal: 

This strategy involves reframing or reinterpreting the emotional significance of a situation to change one’s emotional response. Individuals who use this strategy are more likely to assess situations in a way that helps them maintain or regain emotional balance.

The scale assigns scores to each strategy to determine the individual’s predominant approach to emotional regulation. High scores on emotion reappraisal typically indicate better emotional regulation skills, while high scores on emotion suppression may suggest a tendency to suppress or avoid dealing with emotions.

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Regulation of emotion refers to a person’s ability to manage emotions and impulses. It is an integral part of overall mental and physical well-being. Emotional self-regulation is a skill people learn and develop throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Feeling strong emotions is healthy. Learning how to process emotions and respond appropriately is essential to a person’s well-being. Lacking emotional regulation can perpetuate negative emotions. It can also have social repercussions, such as damaging relationships with others.

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