Emotional regulation can be defined as your ability to modulate or manage and direct your emotions. Balancing a range of emotions with equanimity and grace supports healthy interpersonal relationships and a positive relationship with ourselves. Three beginning steps towards Self-Regulation are:
1. Learn to identify your emotions – Know how to recognize and name emotions by developing emotional language and knowing the core emotions. These core or elementary emotions are: happy, powerful, mad, sad and afraid. Of course, many feeling or emotional words describe levels of intensity of each of these core emotions. If you were feeling trepidation it would be a level of being afraid or in fear. Emotions are E-Motions or energy in motion. Cultivating presence, mindfulness and developing self-observation skills can support your identification of your emotions.
2. Develop positive internal resource states – Positive internal resources support your ability to navigate life as you would a river, by meeting it on the river’s terms. It helps to have many resources to support you and keep you afloat and moving with the flow. The more internal resources you have, the more buoyant you are in relationship with self and others. Meditation, relaxation skills, mantra, concentration, breathwork, spending time in nature, and creative activities/hobbies are all potential internal resources you could develop or rely upon to help with emotional regulation.
3. Foster a relationship with self – This includes the little self as well as the larger self. Little self is defined as you or ego, and the larger self is defined as the collective highest self, Divine, Goddess, Spirit, God or any one of a number of names that refer to the wisdom consciousness. You need to know thy self in order to have a purposeful life. As you become more aware of your emotional reactivity, you uncover your conditioning, your values and your motivations. For example, if you value honesty, and then step out of integrity with that value, you are left with an emotional response such as guilt, anxiety, or fear. As you foster a relationship with yourself, you have an opportunity to release old emotional energy that has been held in your body and mind, allowing less emotional reactivity. Cultivating concentration, practicing presence, mindfully moving your body, using imagery and allowing releases in your body/mind/spirit supports an increased relationship with self.
The ability to regulate your emotions opens up far more choices for you. By learning to consciously respond rather than react to an event or situation, by identifying and naming the energy in motion within us, we can be purposeful, and we can be present. We can step into our higher selves and a more purposeful existence.
Note that at times when you are engaged in yoga practices, instead of increased calm and clarity, uncomfortable emotions or body sensations or disturbing images or past negative experiences may arise instead. If this occurs, this is not a failure of your ability to be mindful or present. It is an uncovering which is dysregulating to your nervous system. A trauma sensitive or trauma informed meditation or yoga teacher can assist in the navigation of your yoga practices and may refer you to a professional who can assist you with your emotional regulation.