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A Few Emotion Regulation Skills You Need If You Have Anxiety


Anxiety can make emotions feel out of control. Sometimes, this happens far too often for our liking.

If you’re struggling with anxiety and are finding it difficult to regulate your emotions, read on. This blog post explores what emotion regulation is, and a few practical skills you can start using today.

What is emotion regulation?

The definition of emotional regulation encompasses both positive and negative feelings, along with how we can strengthen them, use them, and control them.


3 components of emotion regulation

  • Initiating actions triggered by emotions.
  • Inhibiting actions triggered by emotions.
  • Modulating responses triggered by emotions.

They send a message about what is going on with you and your environment, which helps you understand what you need to do ( get your needs met, decide, etc.). This is why it’s so crucial to pay attention to our emotions vs. shut them out.


Examples of responding to an emotion:

Anger: This emotion is triggered when we feel vulnerable, powerless, or when a boundary has been violated.

Your Need: deal with the threat, set a boundary, feel empowered.

Avoiding or shutting it out: If you avoid anger instead, you may struggle with powerlessness, negative thinking, resentment, and increased frustration. 

There are times, though, when our emotions feel so intense, and we feel overwhelmed. We don’t feel like we have a choice in our response; we just react with what feels right at the moment. This is where emotion regulation can be helpful.


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How to regulate  emotions with anxiety

Name it to tame it. It makes sense to avoid a bothersome emotion because It makes you feel better in the moment (like avoiding going to a party and feeling a sense of relief). The problem, however, is that the emotion doesn’t go away. It comes back even stronger, and with it, you feel you Need more avoidance strategies (like shopping, distracting, eating, drinking, etc.).

Over time, avoidance can lead to hyper-vigilance, which means that you’re now anxious about the potential of the same feeling coming back in the future.

Research has shown that avoiding unwanted thoughts or feelings can lead to more unwanted thoughts and feelings. Avoidance leads to long-term pain. So rather than trying to avoid them entirely, acknowledge and observe their presence. Name them for what they are, for example, ‘I’m feeling hurt’.

Turn to someone you trust and express what you’re feeling. Talking things out can help you expand awareness. Not sure what you’re feeling? Check out a general list of feelings here.

Remember, what we resist persists. Noticing and accepting emotions allows us to let go of pain and discomfort.

Recognize, understand, and validate. Understanding what you’re feeling at the moment can help you regulate. It’s hard to manage emotions you aren’t sure of or unclear about. The good news is, there are several ways to become more aware of what you are feeling:

Pay attention to what you’re experiencing physically in your body.  We each have sure physical signs that show up consistently when we are experiencing particular emotions. For example, when feeling anxious, you may feel like your heart’s racing or have butterflies in your stomach. Use these physical symptoms as clues as to what you’re experiencing emotionally.

Validate your emotions.

  1. Notice that your emotions are there for a reason. It’s understandable why you’re feeling the way you do, regardless if you’re not sure why.

2. Practice self-compassion and give yourself support for what you are going through.

Soothe any painful, intense emotions by placing a hand over your body where you feel the emotion. Take a few deep breathes into this area and envision the warm energy flowing into that area.  Allow yourself to receive and accept this nurturing energy.

Inquire as to whether or not there’s something you can do about this feeling. Be curious and recognize if any response arises to you. ‘What might be helpful at this moment? Ask yourself this question and check out this list of enjoyable, soothing activities to help you.

Identifying and addressing your needs can help you improve your emotion regulation skills.

Identify and resolve emotional triggers. The way we interpret situations, people, and things, can trigger an emotional reaction. We can also experience what’s known as ‘false emotions.’ Learning to notice and understand what your emotional triggers are can be immensely helpful with emotional regulation. Then, you’re able to address the underlying issue and change your emotional response.

Regardless of what anxiety is bringing up for you emotionally, you always choose how to respond and what to do with the information. Your emotions are one single piece of information, and it’s essential to acknowledge and filter it through other sources available to you.

  • Biological symptoms can trigger false emotions. Are you hungry? The word ‘hangry’ exists for a reason, and you may find yourself feeling more irritable than usual. Does that mean you are angry? 

Not necessarily; it’s simply a secondary response to your biological instinct of hunger.  Check-in with yourself so that you don’t find yourself starting an argument with your partner, and take a break to eat something instead.

  • People, places, and things can be emotional triggers. It can also be harmful. For example, having the Sunday scaries each week if you’re burned out from work and dreading your upcoming work week. If you’re feeling exhausted and can’t pinpoint what exactly you’re feeling, start to pay attention to any triggers that may have been present.

Triggers can be thoughts, feelings, or actions. Ask yourself, what happened just now? Pay attention to any thoughts, feelings that arise. Once you identify what your trigger is, you can use a coping strategy. 


  • Our interpretation of an event can be an emotional trigger. So, what we think, often leads to what we feel. Thoughts or judgments about ourselves can trigger emotional reactions. Generally, they tend to be negative. Notice your thoughts and judgments and try out alternative, neutral thoughts.

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