“Keep it together, get ahold of yourself, suck it up, buttercup…”
Which of these responses did you get while on the verge of an emotional outburst? Perhaps you were frustrated at a family event or about to cry in a public setting. Maybe you were just a kid, and a parent, teacher, or peer scolded you for even thinking of showing such an erratic display.
It’s tough growing up. New experiences bring on new emotions, and sometimes you’re not sure how to handle it all. And even if the grownups in your life had good intentions, the fact is you may have been sternly instructed to suppress your emotions then and there.
So what happened? You did your best to contain your intense feelings. For some folks, these kinds of demands were occasional. But for others, expressing emotions was discouraged.
Emotions are important, and how you choose to express or suppress them can give clues on why certain relationships are the way they are, why your body hurts in certain areas, and why you seem to be stuck in life.
If you’ve been battling with tough emotions, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart with yourself. In this article we’re uncovering how emotions affect your health, the powerful benefits of emotional regulation, and tips to help you get started.
Understanding Your Emotions and How They Affect Your Health
Are emotions thoughts, feelings, both, or neither? It’s an interesting concept, but most experts agree that emotions are complex states of your conscious mind that come from neurophysiological changes (1). Some of these can be associated with the thoughts, feelings, and responses you get due to hunger, fatigue, or pain. Some also believe it’s not just the core feeling or thought, but the meaning we give to that feeling.
Emotions themselves aren’t bad. Feeling happy, sad, or mad is part of the human experience, and it’s a beautiful thing! But science is now revealing a fascinating link between how your emotions affect your physical well-being.
For example, one study observed how chronic emotional distress was associated with more intense shoulder pain before beginning physical therapy sessions (7).
To understand this on a biological level, let’s look at how pathways in your brain respond to emotions. Inside your brain is a small area called the amygdala. It’s responsible for emotional reception and interpretations. When the amygdala is hit with negative emotions, it sends an alert to another part of your brain called the hippocampus, which activates your sympathetic system and sends our stress hormones (2).
While it can be helpful in the short-term, chronic stress signals lowers your immune system, encouraging inflammation and increasing your risk for disease.
Benefits of Emotional Regulation
While emotions are important, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. And while there is certainly a negative way to manage them, choosing positive ways is crucial to enjoying life and making life enjoyable for others.
In fact, in 2010 two studies were done to see what kind of impact being emotionally stable had on a person’s life. The first study showed those who were better at suppressing them during provocative stimulation reported feeling happier overall. The second study showed that those who magnified their emotional response to a movie that disgusted them reported both higher income levels and a deeper sense of well-being (3).
Let’s take a deeper dive into what a person’s well-being looks like:
- More Satisfying Relationships: Whether it’s a friendship, work relationship, or romantic relationship, those who are able to effectively control their emotions had better memory and conflict outcomes than those who didn’t (4).
- Happier Mood: While highs and lows are part of life, research has found that those who struggle with depression often have a hard time managing their emotions (5).
- Better Decision-Making Skills: Hormones are in full swing during the teenage years. This often adds fuel to the fire when it comes to vibrant emotions. While our younger years are often famous for making bad decisions, those who work on maintaining a healthy response to their emotions are less likely to take unhealthy risks (6).
Note that emotional regulation doesn’t mean you never express your thoughts and feelings. On the contrary, it means that you can express your emotions in a healthy way that both alleviates inner tension and enables a constructive resolution to the outer circumstance.
Ways to Better Control Your Emotions
No matter where you go or what you do, you’re bound to run into circumstances that rile up emotions. It’s part of life.
But before you get tipped off, try these 12 tips to help you better regulate your emotions:
- Acknowledge Your Feelings
- Identify Triggers
- Keep a Journal
- Take a Deep Breathe
- Give Yourself Grace
- Practice Positive Self-Talk
- Step Away From the Scene
- Know When to Express Yourself
- Reframe the Story You’re Telling Yourself
- Make Your Goal Regulation, not Suppression
- Observe How Your Emotions Impact Your Current Relationships
- Consider Talking to a Pastor, Therapist, Mentor or Trusted Friend
Learning to manage your emotions doesn’t happen overnight — it takes time. Finding a good support system to help you in the process can make all the difference in the world.
Just like taking care of your body is important, so is taking care of your emotions. A holistic health approach acknowledges the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of wellness, and aims to bring balance to all.
Emotions can be complex, which is why managing emotions may look a little different for everyone. If you feel your emotions are out of control, there is hope.
Understanding triggers, acknowledging your emotions, and finding healthy ways to express these thoughts and feelings can improve your relationships, lighten your mood, and enhance your overall wellness.
If you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out! There are professionals who are more than willing to help, and your health is worth it.
Know someone who might benefit from this article? Share it with them today!
References & Disclaimers
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author