Why Emotional Self-Regulation Is Important and How to Do It

Emotional self-regulation refers to a person’s ability to manage their emotions and impulses. It is a skill that people learn and develop throughout childhood and adolescence and into adulthood, and it is an important part of overall mental and physical well-being.

When people engage in emotional self-regulation, they adapt their behavior in the following ways:

  • They notice the increase in emotional response.
  • They consider the consequences of any response.
  • They choose responses that move toward a positive outcome or goal, despite possibly feeling negative emotions.

If a person lacks emotional self-regulation skills, they may express this by:

  • overreacting to situations
  • having emotional outbursts and being quick to react
  • experiencing negative emotions that last a long time
  • having mood swings

How does it develop?

Children develop emotional self-regulation under the guidance of caregivers and peers.

Very young children find it difficult to deal with their emotions. For example, they may throw tantrums when things do not go their way. If adults help them name their feelings and rationalize with them, children gradually learn to appraise situations by themselves and make more reasonable behavior choices.

A person can learn self-regulation skills, but they must practice regularly for the skills to become second nature. For young people with developmental delays, intervention and coaching can help them develop self-regulation skills.

Some adults also have difficulties self-regulating their emotions. Therapy can be a valuable way to improve self-awareness, leading to better emotion regulation.

Certain daily practices can help a person stay in control of their emotions, including:

  • talking with friends
  • exercising
  • meditating
  • receiving therapy
  • journaling
  • getting enough sleep
  • addressing any personal illness
  • paying attention to negative thoughts that follow strong emotions
  • practicing mindfulness

Why is it important?

It is normal for people to find themselves unable to manage their emotions from time to time. However, for some people, emotions are continually draining and overpowering, leading to unhealthy coping strategies, such as substance misuse or self-injury.

Emotional dysregulation happens when a person interprets emotions or events in a way that makes them feel overwhelmed. They may perceive a situation in a way that does not reflect reality, which triggers a very real set of feelings.

Emotions begin to cascade, and the natural response is to do whatever it takes to calm the negative feelings. In many cases, that leads to negative or self-destructive behaviors.

Emotional self-regulation strategies

A 2016 study compared three emotional self-regulation strategies, which are detailed below.

Cognitive reappraisal

This happens when a person chooses to step back from an emotionally triggering situation and reframe it in a way that changes its emotional impact.

In the study, people who used this strategy experienced more positive emotions than those who did not.


Practicing mindfulness regularly can change how a person relates and responds to their feelings and emotions. In the study, people who practiced mindfulness showed fewer negative emotions than those who did not.

Emotion suppression

This strategy involves a person keeping their emotions to themselves and being careful not to express them. They may do this to avoid feeling judged or experiencing other social repercussions.

In the study, people who used emotion suppression experienced fewer positive and more negative emotions than those who did not, suggesting it is not a healthy emotional self-regulation strategy.

When to seek help

If a person feels they have an unhealthy response to their emotions or are engaging in self-destructive behavior, they can seek the help of a doctor in the first instance. A doctor can refer them to a therapist or other professional who is trained to help people develop self-awareness and emotion regulation.


Emotional self-regulation is a learned skill that requires time, practice, and effort. For young people with learning disabilities, it may require even more focus and attention.

Excerpted from “Why emotional self-regulation is important and how to do it” in Medical News Today. Read the full article online.

Source: Medical News Today | Why emotional self-regulation is important and how to do it, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/emotional-self-regulation | copyright 2022, Healthline Media
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