Emotional regulation….it’s hard. Somedays I know I feel like a blob of emotions–joyful, fearful, sad, angry. I can go through the whole spectrum just by reading my Facebook newsfeed. It can be hard to balance your emotions.
Emotions are a good thing, for the most part. Our emotions make us human. The ability to express them is at our very fabric. It’s how we connect with those around us. While I don’t believe humans are the only creatures who express emotions (you should see my pugs at dinner time), I believe we do have the widest range of emotions and can be more deeply affected by our feelings.
I was watching a video recently as part of a leadership class about social/emotional intelligence. The video showed a baby reacting to it’s mother, while she cooed and made different emotional faces at the baby. The baby mirrored her expressions and was clearly thrilled at each interaction. Then the mother was told to stare blankly at the baby. Quickly, the baby become sad, frustrated and even scared when her mother showed no response. The video was actually difficult to watch.
We rely on the emotions of others to clue us in on how they’re feeling and what’s going on. It’s a vital part of communication. Sometimes, though, it can be a challenge to stay even-tempered and calm. One thing can frustrate us and then it leads to the next thing and the next. Suddenly we’re snapping at the woman behind the counter at the grocery store, arguing with our spouse, or crying over an insurance commercial.
Now, sometimes life just happens. It’s perfectly okay to feel sad, or angry or hurt by something and to really FEEL it. It’s healthy in fact, but sometimes we let too many things build up and have a hard time getting back to “normal”. Here are some ways to balance your emotions.
The first way I’ve found to balance my emotions is with exercise. When people used to tell me that this would help my emotions, I used to roll my eyes, because it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I would love to believe that being a slug on the couch makes me feel great (and temporarily, sometimes it does), but I know that in the long run, when I’m having mild anxiety, worry, or depression, I need to get moving.
Exercise helps us expend energy. It can be a time when you reflect, listen to your body and really get to know yourself. It can also help us feel successful and accomplished. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to boost our mood either. Researchers have discovered that just a little movement each day can help with anxiety, depression, focus and serve to lift your overall well-being.
2. Get Some Fresh Air
Another way to boost your mood and balance your emotions is to get outdoors. Not only do we get vitamin D from the sunshine, but getting outside helps connect us with the world around us. It helps put things into perspective and often can help us feel calmer and more at peace.
We’ve all heard the advice to take a walk when we’re feeling angry or upset. Getting outdoors and going for a walk, or just sitting in nature can help us distance ourself from the upsetting situation. It gives us a wide open space to process our feelings and can help you feel happier.
3. Identify Your Emotions
Sometimes just naming your emotions helps them seem less confusing, or looming large. Saying simply, “I am feeling frustrated,” or “I am feeling worried” helps us realize that these feelings really are just that–”feelings” and not at the fabric of who we actually are. We aren’t our worry or our anger or our fear. We might feel these emotions but they don’t own us.
Also yourself to feel the full range of the emotion–delve into it and really play out the fear in your head, or go to your car and yell out the anger. Have the imaginary conversation, and say what you wanted to say. Cry. Vent it out, but give yourself a set amount of time to do that. After 10 minutes or an hour, realize it’s out, and you can move to the next emotion.
4. Practice Self-Care: Sleep, Eat, Drink
To keep ourselves operating at optimum levels we have to practice self-care. We need to get plenty of sleep, eat healthily and drink plenty of water. It sounds pretty obvious, but so often, we forget. We’re in a terrible mood, and realize we haven’t been sleeping properly for a few days, or we’re “hangry” or parched.
When we take care of our bodies by meeting our basic needs–sleep, food, hydration, we will just feel generally better. Our bodies are very tied to our moods and if you aren’t operating on full capacity, chances are, you’re not going to be feeling great either.
5. Cut Out Mood Altering Substances
As someone who’s been sober for three years, I can tell you that I have much more control over my moods when avoiding alcohol. For me, it was the best choice, because it was something I didn’t feel like I was regulating very well. Others might find that they can handle an occasional indulgence, and that’s great!
If you’re trying to keep your mood more even though, take a look at the substances you’re ingesting and if they might be having an effect on you. Too much caffeine might make you feel more energetic, but it might also be making you feel angry and irritable, or nervous. Taking melatonin to sleep or OTC and prescription aids can still stay in your system into the next day. Even sugar can have an effect on your mood. If you’re trying to balance, it might be time to pay close attention on what you’re taking in.
6. Learn To Say No
To really regulate your mood, learn how to set appropriate limits. This is something I definitely struggle with–there are so many things I want to do, and so many ways I want to help! Unfortunately, when I start to take on too much, I feel myself wearing thin. I start to become irritable and unfocused. Everything feels stressful and I can’t give my best to the things I really want to achieve.
If you feel like you’re “half-assing” things too much, try cutting out a few and just saying, “I can’t right now.” It doesn’t mean you’re saying no forever, or you’re slacking. Sometimes we can say yes so much that it doesn’t bring us joy and enthusiasm, and every task feels like a chore. If this sounds like you, start declining (and I will too)!
7. Meditate and Reflect
Meditation can have a powerful effect on our moods. There are tons of apps you can use to help guide you if you’re new to meditation. I personally like the Stop, Breathe & Think app that offers guided meditation.
Even if you aren’t into the whole “Om” thing, you can try journaling, jotting down your thoughts or even doodling and scribbling little notes and pictures. When you write thing out and reflect on them, you can start to look at things in a different light. You’ll start to be more aware of what you’re achieving and your head will feel clearer and more focused.
8. Have Fun
What’s the best way to balance your mood?! Have a little fun! If you’re feeling particularly crabby, try hanging out with a kid, running around with your dog, waving a feather or some string around with your cat. Play! Go in the bathroom, turn on music and have a mini dance party by yourself (seriously–you’ll feel dorky, but you will improve your mood).
Read funny things online. Look at cute baby animals. Play a board game with your spouse, or your kids. Play a sport, join a community fitness team. Go bowling. Go swimming. Build a snowman. Just try to think of something “fun” that you like to do and DO IT.
When we’re having fun we’re joyful, and sometimes we need to really let in the joy to even out our other moods. Keep the happiness in your life and you will find that your moods are more balanced and “zen” the rest of the time!