We all experience emotions in our daily lives; some emotions feel positive and some feel negative. Different situations can be related to different types of feelings, like feeling happy when you get a good grade on your homework versus feeling nervous when you have a big test coming up. College students face a lot of different stressful situations – tests, homework, and balancing school and social life, to name a few. When we feel a lot of negative emotions and they become overwhelming, we have a tendency to want to change those emotions. Emotion regulation is a term that describes a person’s ability to manage and respond to emotional experiences. Emotion regulation skills are similar to what some people refer to as coping skills, or how you deal with negative emotions.
People regulate their emotions in many different ways, sometimes without even realizing it! Some people talk to or text a friend when they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, and then they feel better. When we do this type of thing, we may not even be aware that we were actually regulating negative emotions. There are many other ways that people adaptively regulation their emotions, like exercising, writing in a journal, meditating, taking a break when you need one, and getting adequate sleep. These types of strategies, or “coping skills” are considered healthy ways to regulate emotions.
There are also unhealthy coping strategies that people use. Examples of unhealthy strategies include self-injury, abusing alcohol or other substances, avoiding or withdrawing from difficult situations, binge eating and/or purging, and aggression. These are considered unhealthy because they may result in unanticipated damage and harm, or they may lead to avoiding dealing with situations that will eventually require a solution. This month the Wellness Blog will be focusing on these different types of emotion regulation strategies, and how regulate your emotions in adaptive ways.