Home Mind & Brain Understanding Our Emotions and How to Deal with Them

Understanding Our Emotions and How to Deal with Them

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Imagine you’re on a rollercoaster, heart racing with excitement and fear – these emotions are your brain’s way of navigating life’s ups and downs. Emotions arise from various brain regions, with the limbic system playing a central role – particularly the amygdala, which processes emotional responses, and the prefrontal cortex, which helps regulate these emotions.

Throughout a day, you may experience different emotions that influence your decisions, behaviours, and relationships with others. It is essential to regulate emotions effectively to maintain your mental health, foster healthy relationships, and make rational decisions.

Two ways of emotion regulation

Let’s ask yourself a question now: On a scale of 0–10, how good are you at regulating your emotions? The answer may change from time to time depending on the situation you are facing at that moment. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand how you could manage your emotions strategically.

Emotion regulation can be approached through two techniques: reappraisal and suppression. Reappraisal involves changing the way we think about a situation to alter its emotional impact. For example, you could view a challenging work task as an opportunity for growth rather than a threat. This can reduce your anxiety and even increase your motivation. This method leverages your prefrontal cortex’s ability to reinterpret experiences, promoting more positive emotional responses.

On the other hand, suppression involves consciously inhibiting the outward expression of emotions, such as keeping a neutral face when angry with your colleague. While this might help avoid conflict in the short term, it increases the risk of internal stress and can negatively affect long-term mental health. In extreme cases, emotional suppression could lead to suicidal thoughts. For instance, a previous study showed that participants who experienced unfortunate life events were found to have suicidal thoughts when they managed their emotions via suppression.

Upon recognising these two ways of emotion regulation, you may have noticed their pros and cons. Balancing these strategies is key to successfully managing your emotions.

How to deal with emotional turmoil

We can’t guarantee that we will live our lives peacefully every single day without worries or struggles. Sometimes, things don’t go as we expect, and it is normal to experience uncomfortable feelings that might drive us into emotional turmoil. If you find yourself in such a category, here are five key strategies on how you could deal with it effectively:

  • Mindfulness and meditation. Practising mindfulness and meditation helps centre the mind, reducing the impact of distressing thoughts and promoting emotional clarity. These practices encourage a focus on the present moment, allowing individuals to observe their thoughts and feelings without judgment.
  • Healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through balanced nutrition, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep bolsters overall well-being, making it easier to manage stress. Physical health directly impacts mental health, and taking care of the body can lead to improved mood, increased energy levels, and a stronger ability to cope with emotional challenges.
  • Social support. Social support from friends, family, and community groups provides emotional comfort and practical advice, reminding individuals they are not alone. Engaging with a supportive network can offer different perspectives, emotional validation, and encouragement, which are crucial for overcoming emotional turmoil.
  • Journaling. Journaling offers a private outlet to express and process emotions, facilitating a deeper understanding of one’s feelings and patterns. Writing down thoughts and experiences can help clarify emotions, reduce stress, and provide insights into personal triggers and coping mechanisms.
  • Set realistic goals. Setting realistic goals helps break down overwhelming tasks into manageable steps, fostering a sense of accomplishment and control. Achieving small, attainable objectives can build confidence and motivation, making it easier to tackle larger challenges and reducing feelings of helplessness.

Takeaway

Understanding your emotions and knowing how to manage them effectively is crucial for navigating the complexities of life. Emotions are an integral part of our daily experiences, influencing your decisions, behaviours, and relationships. By employing techniques such as reappraisal and being mindful of the pitfalls of suppression, we can better regulate our emotional responses. Remember, emotions are a natural part of the human experience, and learning to manage them effectively is a vital skill for personal growth and happiness.




Crystal Khoo holds a degree in psychology from the University of Reading Malaysia. She has a keen interest in exploring the human mind and sharing her knowledge with a wider audience. 

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