It’s perfectly okay to lose control every now and then. Living with the nervous system of a Highly Sensitive Person (whether it be you or your loved one) can feel like riding a tidal wave at times. The goal isn’t to surf that leviathan with perfect control and grace. No, the goal is to intentionally look for the small victories and continually build on that awareness. The goal is emotional regulation.
Psychospiritual healing never means perfection.
We will still have our dips and challenges–we’re human after all–but progress means that when we enter a down cycle we don’t fall as far, or for as long a duration as the time before. Less intensity, shorter duration. That’s what emotional regulation looks like. And after committing to a consistent focus and practice, it won’t be long until our resilience becomes so reflexive we’re able to avoid the self-made abyss entirely.
Forgive yourself when your emotional state gets the better of you. It happens to all of us. It is not fair or humane to expect perfection of yourself. And it’s certainly not useful.
To move closer to emotional regulation, try focusing on these five truths:
1.) Deep breaths reset the nervous system. If you’re feeling like your emotions are spinning painfully out of control, stop what you’re doing and take three deep, slow breaths. Put your hand on your chest so you can feel your lungs expanding and contracting. This inhibits stress-producing hormones and triggers a relaxation response.
2.) Understand that whatever you are feeling is not meant to be “kept”. Let go of your desire to possess or control emotions. They are designed to be transitory, the pleasant and the painful. Emotions come and emotions go. Denying this fact can result in chronic stress.
3.) Pay attention to what you’re feeling throughout the day. Say it out loud when you can. “I’m feeling afraid.” “I feel peaceful.” This is a vagal toning exercise and it’s highly soothing to the nervous system. Appreciate the gift of feeling, no matter what you’re feeling throughout the day. Emotions make us human. Remember that our affect (the state of how we’re feeling for a snapshot in time) is comprised of a system of multiple emotions. We are rarely feeling one thing. Try to identify every emotion you’re feeling by utilizing an emotions words list. (You can Google that and chose any you like.)
4.) Try to refrain from building stories around your emotions. Emotions just are. They come and go, we all feel them. If you start to fortify your attachment to emotions through your self-told stories, something like, “I’m a depressed person and always will be” then you essentially adopt depression as a facet of your identity. You start to build a foundation made of depression. Nobody is “an angry person” or “a happy person” without ignoring a thousand other emotions they are also currently feeling. We can’t emoji-fy our life. We are much more complicated than a smily face.
5.) Accept that no emotion is good or bad. They all build on one another, they’re a team. There is nothing wrong with sadness and nobody needs to be in a state of elation every minute of the day. The ephemeral nature of emotion is its very power.
If you have any questions about any of these five points please leave a comment and I will do my best to answer them.
Your emotions are your superpower.
Repressing them, shutting down, or training yourself to go numb are like clipping your own wings. Emotional regulation means learning to fully feel, and to navigate life with authentic responsiveness, not reactivity.