How to regulate negative emotions?

Emotions are a very normal part of everyone’s everyday life. We feel frustrated when we’re stuck in traffic, we feel sad when we have missed our loved ones. We can get angry when someone lets us down or does something to hurt us. And while we expect to feel these emotions regularly, some people might start experiencing more volatile emotions.

They feel highs and lows, and these peaks and valleys begin to impact their lives. If you experience intense emotions you may find yourself calm in one moment and then sad or angry the next. And just like a compass that guides us in the right direction, emotions can guide us to the right actions. 

It is, therefore, crucial to judge when to trust emotional triggers and act on them, and when not to. Read on in this article, It will help us understand how to regulate or control our emotions so we can use them optimally. Also, this article will discuss the psychology of emotional regulation – what it means, how we can cultivate it, and what methods you can choose to implement emotional management in real life. 

Understanding Negative Emotions

As adults, we are expected to manage our emotions in ways that are socially acceptable and help us navigate our lives. However, when our emotions get the better of us, they can cause problems. While many of us can have times when emotions can spin out of control, for some people, it happens regularly, and they relax because it is a normal experience. Their rapidly changing emotions can cause them to do and say things they later regret. They may damage relationships or hurt their credibility with others.

If you well fit the above description, worry less. You shouldn’t try to avoid negative emotions — or be afraid of them. But you also don’t have to keep putting yourself in a situation that brings on unpleasant emotions. Despite negative emotions being part of you, it is a normal thing that would need to be tracked down first. Folks, in case you fail to understand negative emotions and how to deal with them, the danger lies in falling victim to very painful experiences. 

One way that emotional volatility can hurt us is through its impact on our relationships with others. For example, when we cannot properly moderate our anger, we are likely to say things that hurt those around us and cause them to pull away. The aftermath effect may be regretting the things we’ve said while guilt eats us up or having to spend time repairing relationships. In addition to hurting our relationships, an inability to control our emotions can also hurt ourselves. 

Feeling overwhelming sadness can lower well-being and cause unnecessary suffering from within. Living with unmitigated fear can get in the way of our ability to take risks and have new life experiences; it lowers our self-esteem and confidence.

Identifying Triggers

Many factors can impede the emotional regulation of individuals. These include our beliefs about negative emotions or lack of methodology approach and emotional regulation skills. Sometimes, stressful situations can evoke very powerful emotions, and how to approach stress appropriately can at a glance regulate the emotions revealed later on.

There can be several reasons that someone loses control of their emotions; one may be genetically predisposed to these rapid changes, they may never have seen good emotional regulation modeled or learned the skills, or they may lose control when they experience trauma on triggers for negative situations that happened in the past. There can also be physical changes that cause a person to lose control of their emotions, such as exhaustion or a drop in blood sugar!

For example, when a child commits a mistake, they might get scared and lie to their parents about it, or avoid confronting them for fear of punishment. Their parents may eventually discover what they did and the child, in all probability, the child, eventually ends up facing the same consequences they were trying to avoid. In this instance, listening and responding to the ‘fear’ emotion proved futile to the child. However, the same emotion (fear) would have proven helpful for someone being chased by a wild animal in the forest. In that situation, running to avoid confronting the savage beast would have been the correct decision.

Strategies for Emotional Regulation

When it comes to regulating difficult emotions, there are two ways most people respond: they act out or they suppress. The ripple effects of acting out usually provoke more anger around you, which leads to more difficulty, and the consequences of suppressing those big emotions can be even more dangerous.

With a little practice, you can develop better emotion regulation skills. With techniques such as identifying, labeling, and self-distancing, you can handle your emotions so that you stay in the driver’s seat, rather than vice versa. These techniques will help improve your mental and physical health, as well as your relationships, work life, and overall quality of life.

Mindfulness and Acceptance

However, people do not know that there’s another way to regulate our emotions; feeling in real time through mindfulness. Mindfulness and acceptance as a method revolve around an individual deciding to acknowledge their emotions without judgment and the benefits of accepting feelings as they are​​. It helps us “live in the moment” by paying attention to what is inside us. Use your senses to notice what is happening around you in nonjudgmental ways. These skills can help you stay calm and avoid engaging in negative thought patterns when you are in deep emotional pain.

A great way to manage unhealthy emotions through self-awareness is the thought naming exercise, where we make a list of all the thoughts that are dominating our mind at this very moment, the people or circumstances that we think may be causing them, and name the emotions in one or two words.

Cognitive Reappraisal

In psychology, emotional reappraisal involves reframing the situation into something more positive — or at least less negative. This strategy can be used to either increase positive emotions or decrease negative emotions.

For instance, let’s say you weren’t invited to a party that many of your friends are attending. A reappraisal would be thinking that at least now you have the opportunity to save money on buying a new outfit — or that now you don’t have to worry about avoiding that one person who’s always rude to you.

Ultimate reframing negative thoughts and situations can alter emotional responses for a more positive outcome​​.  Cognitive reappraisal is changing how we think about something to change our response. Research indicates that ignoring our emotions is associated with dissatisfaction and poor well-being. 

Distancing Techniques

Cover methods like temporal distancing (viewing situations from a future perspective to lessen their emotional impact now) for instance, let’s say you loan your friend your favorite shirt and they accidentally stain it. Rather than reacting in anger, imagine the scenario as if you’re looking back 5 years from now. Perhaps you will even laugh about it by then.

Self-distancing (viewing one’s situation from an external perspective)​​. Emotions are a normal and natural part of how we respond to situations. Rather than beating yourself up for feeling angry or scared, recognize that your emotional reactions are valid. Try to practice self-compassion and give yourself grace. 

In the self-distancing strategy, you look at yourself as though you were watching your situation from another person’s point of view. So rather than being completely immersed in your emotions and situation, view it from an outsider’s perspective. The self-distancing technique helps you get some distance from your situation and helps you avoid getting overwhelmed by your negative emotions.

Emotions happen fast. We don’t think “now I will be angry” — we are just suddenly clench-jawed and furious. So the number one skill in regulating difficult emotions, the gift we can give ourselves, is acceptance. Take a breath. Slow down the moment between trigger and response.

Physical Health and Emotions: 

An equally important skill involves the ability to become aware of what you’re feeling.  Tune in to yourself and consider: in what parts of your body are you noticing sensations? Is your stomach upset? Is your heart racing? Do you feel tension in your neck or head?

Your physical symptoms can be clues to what you are experiencing emotionally. Inquiring about what is happening to you physically can also distract your focus and allow some of the intensity of the emotion to go away. Highlight the influence of physical factors like sleep and nutrition on emotional stability.

Building a Habit of Positive Self-Talk

People may engage in negative self-talk if they feel anxious or insecure or when they are in a situation where they lack confidence or self-belief. Negative self-talk can have a detrimental effect on a person’s self-esteem and belief in their self-worth and abilities. If a person tells themselves that they will not be able to do something, they may be less likely to put effort into doing it. Then when they fail, the person might think, “I knew I could not do it.” That is typical! Negative self-talk can lead to a vicious cycle and self-fulfilling prophecy. Regardless, this is the opposite of self-talk. Try it today!

After noticing what you feel, the ability to name it can help you get control of what is happening. Ask yourself: what would you call the emotions you’re feeling? Is it anger, sadness, disappointment, or resentment? What else is it? One strong emotion that often hides beneath others is fear. Many of us feel more than one emotion at a time, so don’t hesitate to identify multiple emotions you might be feeling. Then dig a little deeper. If you feel fear, what are you afraid of? If you feel anger, what are you angry about or toward? Being able to name your emotions will help you get one step closer to sharing your emotions with others. 

A person’s communication with themselves is called self-talk or internal dialogue. It is a natural cognitive process. People might engage in self-talk more when they face obstacles or challenges. People use self-talk either silently or speak to themselves out loud. Positive self-talk makes a person feel good about themselves. It can encourage and motivate a person to keep going, look on the “bright side,” and put things into perspective. Examples of positive self-talk are, “I am happy for myself,” “I am doing well,” or “That is not great, but it could be worse”.

How can I stop overreacting to small things?

Do you get mad over little things? Are you in tears over something another person could easily let go of? Overreacting can be external, like yelling or needlessly blasting the horn in traffic. Or it can look like worrying all night that you said something stupid or wondering why the store clerk was so unfriendly. Perhaps you recognize that you’re overreacting and want to find strategies for reacting more appropriately. Here are a few tips.

If someone close to you is overreacting, try to respond with empathy. Perhaps start with “I understand why you’re so upset/mad/afraid…” and go from there. This helps them feel heard and shows that you’re not being dismissive. Next, make sure you moderate your own emotional response. If you react with as much emotional intensity, it will likely escalate the situation. If things become too heated, it’s probably best to remove yourself until they calm down.

Identify your triggers

Do you find yourself overreacting to the same things again and again? Perhaps you have a strong reaction to feeling ignored. Maybe you never felt heard by a parent, and now when your partner doesn’t listen to you, you react in anger or extreme sadness. Think about what your triggers are and write them down. Identifying them is the first step so that your feelings are conscious and don’t sneak up on you.


Emotion labeling is the act of specifically naming your emotions. For example, instead of saying “I’m really upset,” you might say “I feel so embarrassed and disappointed in myself that I failed the test.” When we’re highly aware of how we feel and can communicate our feelings, our emotions feel less severe. Research shows that labeling decreases activity in the amygdala, the brain region involved in emotions and fear.

Why would labeling your negative emotions decrease their salience? There’s nothing quite so disempowering as knowing there’s an influence working on your thoughts and behaviors, but not being able to register, recognize, and name what it is. Labeling your emotions allows you to gain greater control over what often feels like an uncontrollable force. It puts you in proactivity mode.

Opposite action

Opposite action is an emotion regulation strategy often used in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a type of therapy that helps you manage difficult emotions. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of talk therapy for people who experience emotions very intensely. It’s a common therapy for people with borderline personality disorder, but therapists provide it for other mental health conditions as well.

In “opposite action,” you engage in behaviors that match the opposite emotion of what you’re feeling. For instance, if you’re extremely nervous on your way to take an exam, try to behave as if you’re feeling excited and confident. This isn’t another way of suppressing your feelings — you still need to label and release your fear. But acting confidently helps you remember that your reactions are changeable, and you have some control over them.

What if I can’t control my anger?

If your anger is resulting in negative consequences, anger management could be beneficial. Have you ever heard the expression, “Never go to bed angry?” The saying speaks volumes about anger’s effects on your mental and physical health. Everyone experiences challenging situations or faces frustrating conditions at times that spark anger. Although the emotion of anger is expected, and even healthy when expressed appropriately, some may experience unexpected consequences from anger if they’re unable to control it.

Anger management strategies can help people express their anger in healthier ways. The purpose of anger management isn’t to suppress anger but to channel it in nonviolent and unthreatening ways. Visiting a therapist who specializes in anger management can be effective. The American Psychological Association estimates that 75% of those who seek anger management therapy see an improvement in their symptoms. One way therapists help with anger issues is by exploring imaginary events with their clients that provoke anger. When given an opportunity to self-monitor their rage, the client next practices different coping methods.

It is advisory on seeking professional help if emotions feel unmanageable and the role of therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) work best. Most therapists prefer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a negative cycle. CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. You’re shown how to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel. Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis.

Is it okay to feel negative emotions?

Validate that feeling negative emotions is part of the human experience and provide strategies for managing rather than suppressing these emotions​​.

Anger, frustration, fear, and other “negative emotions” are all part of the human experience. They can all lead to stress and are often seen as emotions to be avoided, ignored, or otherwise disavowed, but they can actually be healthy to experience. A better approach is to manage them without denying them, and there are several reasons for this. they are just states and signals that allow us to pay more attention to the events that create them.

This can either motivate us to create more of a certain experience or less, for example. Unlike some emotions, negative emotions are not always pleasant to experience. But, like most emotions, they exist for a reason and can be quite useful to feel. More often, these feelings are beneficial because they can also send us messages. For example: Anger and anxiety show that something needs to change and that perhaps our well-being has been threatened. Fear is an appeal to increase your level of safety. Frustration or resentment motivates us to change something in a relationship.

Negative emotions are designed to alert us that something needs to change and motivate us to make that change. They are also designed to keep us safe and motivate us to improve our lives, just as positive emotions are. A better strategy is to accept and even embrace our negative states while also engaging in activities that can authentically counterbalance these uncomfortable emotions.


Your day-to-day ongoing practice and patience with self-regulation techniques are what will count as success in this journey. The way we interpret our emotions determines the way we react to it. Emotional regulation does not mean being happy all the time; neither does it guarantee to shield us from pain. With emotional management, we gain the ability to accept our feelings and overpower them.

Psychologists believe that we all have the innate capacity to build a robust emotional repertoire and save our mental energy from getting invested in negativity. We can seek emotional support within ourselves by practicing mindful self-awareness or can seek help outside by engaging in positive communication with others. It is okay to see a therapist or professional when our inner coping fails; the sole focus is to create a positive emotional shield that can channel our emotions to bring out the best in us.

Emotional regulation is all about moving on and not letting temporary setbacks stop us from reaching our goals. It is tied in with values, expressions, self-compassion, gratitude, and rational thinking, which accounts for the inner peace that emotion regulation brings with it. And as the saying goes, “Feelings are visitors, we should let them come and go.”

Vincent Otieno

Vincent Otieno is a passionate jewelry enthusiast and writer at Getnamenecklace, an e-commerce store dedicated to offering exquisite jewelry and thoughtful gifts for your loved ones. With a keen eye for detail and a deep appreciation for the art of gift-giving, Vincent curates a collection that celebrates the beauty of craftsmanship and the joy of making family moments unforgettable.

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