How to Regulate Intense Emotions

We've all had fits of rage or have burst into tears at inconvenient moments. Emotional management is key to regulating these types of emotions.
How to Regulate Intense Emotions

Last update: 11 September, 2022

At certain points in your life, you’ll find yourself having to regulate an intense emotion. It’s the kind of anger that made you feel like you wanted to destroy the world or the joy that made you want to burst.

In these kinds of cases, emotional regulation is difficult, especially if you have no tools or strategies to help. Having them helps you from getting stuck in extremely tense situations and prevents you from acting against your own interests in situations that make you angry.

How to regulate intense emotions

It’s indisputable that emotions have an adaptive value. For this reason, the strategy of trying to encapsulate them and send them to the back of your mind so that they do less damage doesn’t usually work. Firstly, because they’re unavoidable. Secondly, because they’re necessary.

However, it’s just as necessary to manage them properly. Doing so will not only allow you to better manage your conflicts but also your losses. It’ll even prolong your emotional states of positive valence.

Angry and screaming man
Emotions are inevitable, so it’s essential to learn to regulate them.

1. Understand your emotions

You often disconnect from your emotional world, partly because of its automatic nature and partly because of the hectic life you lead. You should pay attention to your emotions when they appear. Analyze when they arise, how intense they are, and what happens to make them disappear.

This introspection exercise is the best tool you can develop. There are many techniques for this, from practicing mindfulness to keeping an emotional diary. Choose the one that works best for you.

2. Remove yourself from situations that produce or feed an intense emotional state

Getting to know yourself is indirectly linked to issues of emotional management.

If you’ve just been given good news, it may not be the best time to expose yourself to the usual family get-together when you inevitably end up feeling bad. It’s probably also not a good time to start watching a documentary or reading a book whose objective is social criticism. On the other hand, it may be a suitable time to seek out those people who usually make you feel good or watch that funny movie you’ve been meaning to see for ages.

As a human, you’re a dynamic being. In order not to lose control, a good strategy is to engage in activities in which the intense emotional state you find yourself in can’t sustain itself. You can achieve this effect by protecting the control of your attentional system and actively directing your behavior. As great as the temptation may be, this isn’t the time to do what your body is asking you to do.

3. Listen to others

Spectators of your emotional behaviors will have an interesting perspective to add to your own understanding of your emotions. Ask them how you appear to them when you experience intense emotions, how it makes them feel, and what they’d change if they could.

If you want to learn to manage your emotions to improve your relationships, this exercise is essential.

4. Do physical exercise

On many occasions, your feelings are intensified due to stress. In addition to releasing tension, exercise is useful for regulating hormonal processes related to emotionality, such as serotonin levels.

Although at first, you won’t recognize the relationship between your emotions and exercise, over time, you’ll end up making the connection.

5. Train yourself in emotional management techniques

In addition to the personal measures you can take, there are techniques created especially to regulate intense emotions. For example, there’s the STOPP technique which follows the steps below:

  • Stop and step back. Stop dead and stop everything that you’re doing and saying.
  • Take a breath. Literally, take a breath. Breathe slowly, in and out, until you stop your emotions from escalating.
  • Observe. Make yourself aware of the situation and how it’s developing. Be aware of your own thoughts and recognize the fact that you might be acting impulsively.
  • Pull back. Put in some perspective. Look at the situation from another perspective. How would another person look at the situation and deal with it?
  • Practice what works- proceed.  Work out the best thing to do right now. You’ve already lowered your emotional tension. Now you can make decisions less influenced by the intensity of what you feel.

This technique will help you identify, accept, and manage your intense emotions in a short period of time. However, bear in mind that your emotions take time to master, so don’t despair if it doesn’t work at first.

6. Take care of your health

Like exercise, you may not think that eating a healthy diet and getting a good night’s sleep are related to your emotions. However, you surely know that nobody can be in a good mood if they haven’t slept well.

Also, believe it or not, the way you eat influences your emotions, so pay attention to the old adage of ‘a sound mind in a sound body’.

Woman asleep in bed
Good rest influences the state of mind.

7. Go to a psychologist

You can have help in facing the challenge of managing your emotions. In fact, we encourage you to do so. With therapy, you’ll be able to acquire resources and automatisms that you can use or initiate in situations when your emotions threaten to take control of your actions, both mental and non-mental.

Self-care, as well as emotional health, are infinite paths. You collect valuable rewards along the way. In fact, developing techniques for improving them will be a great investment in your happiness and well-being. Make a start today.

It might interest you...
How to Manage Your Emotions Well
Exploring your mind
Read it in Exploring your mind
How to Manage Your Emotions Well

Have you ever stopped to think how you tend to react when you feel bad? Or if your behavior really helps you to feel better?

 



  • Rodas, J. A., Jara‐Rizzo, M. F., Greene, C. M., Moreta‐Herrera, R., & Oleas, D. (2022). Cognitive emotion regulation strategies and psychological distress during lockdown due to COVID‐19. International Journal of Psychology57(3), 315-324.
  • Jiang, X., Moreno, J., & Ng, Z. (2022). Examining the interplay of emotion regulation strategies, social stress, and gender in predicting life satisfaction of emerging adults. Personality and Individual Differences185, 111255.
  • Dicker-Oren, SD, Gelkopf, M. y Greene, T. (2022). La red dinámica de asociaciones de antojo de alimentos, alimentación restringida, hambre y emociones negativas. Apetito , 106019.