Emotion Regulation refers to the process of effectively responding to emotional experiences in a given context. I note the importance of context because there may be times when expressing emotions at a Level 5 intensity is appropriate. The intention is not to remain at Level 1 constantly. Rather, consider a goal of developing a greater awareness of what you are experiencing, choosing how you respond to your emotional experience given the situation, and expanding your capacity to be with challenging emotional experiences without engaging in unhealthy behaviors. Examples of unhealthy behaviors include impulsively lashing out at others, which can damage relationships; overeating or binge eating; avoidance; procrastinating; isolating; toxic positivity.
To be able to regulate effectively, you first need to identify where you’re at in terms of your emotional reactivity. To do this, deconstruct your emotional experience for each of 5 levels. You can do this in advance so you’ll have a plan you can use next time you’re activated. “Emotions” are different from “feelings”. Emotions are an entire system. For the purposes of this activity, deconstruct your emotional experience into the components of which it is comprised: thoughts (or memories or mental images); feelings (like sad, angry, happy); physical sensations; and urges to do or not do something (avoidance is an urge to NOT DO).
Next, use the Whole Health Card Deck to identify a few practices you can engage in at each level. At a Level 1, which is when you are relatively chill and calm, you might be motivated to engage in practices from the deck that are more challenging for you but that can support emotion regulation in the longer term like the cards Reframing Obstacles, Spirituality, or Self Soothing Kit. For Levels 3 and 4, consider practices that can keep your emotions from escalating. For Level 5, identify practices that can work immediately like Stress Relief, using the Self Soothing Kit you previously created when you were less emotionally activated, or Dive Reflex. Keep a few cards with you so they are easily accessibly next time you are caught up in emotional overwhelm!