Learning to Control Your Emotions

Some of us have superb control over our emotional responses, and some of us struggle. Doing or saying the wrong thing amid an emotional meltdown could have very negative effects. Say something your boss doesn’t like and you could be out of a job.  

Gain control of your emotions with these strategies:

  1. Realize that negative emotions don’t last. If you’re angry about something, you’ll probably be over it by next year, next week, or even by tomorrow. But emotions focus our attention right here and now. We don’t consider the potential long-term consequences that a temporary emotional state can create. 

  • Who hasn’t done or said something in the heat of the moment that’s caused great remorse? Your anger, fear, resentment, or other negative emotion will fade quickly enough. Your rash response may not. 

  1. Examine your emotions. Learn to notice when you’re getting emotional. When you notice yourself reacting strongly, ask yourself why. Try to label the emotion. 

  • Analyze why you’re feeling that emotion and then admit it to yourself. This way, you can avoid rationalizing your behavior, which is a friendly way of saying “lie to yourself.” If you know the real reason, you’re feeling the way you do, you’re more able to do something about it.

  1. Create space. We could eliminate many of the challenges created by our emotions if we could just take a moment before reacting. Getting upset isn’t something that happens to us. It’s something we do to ourselves, and some of us are very good at it.

  2. Find a role model. Would you take stock tips from a homeless man? Probably not! Learn emotional control from those that maintain their composure regardless of the circumstances. 

  • When you find such a person, ask them how they do it. The answers you receive could make all the difference. 

  1. Find a healthy way to release negative emotions. Our actions can influence our moods. If you’re feeling bored while watching TV, there’s no reason to continue watching TV. Immediately get up and go for a walk. Go to the library and find an interesting book. Call a friend. Exercise is a great way to release energy. 

  • You don’t have to passively accept your mood. Go do something else and change it! 

  1. Try altering your breathing. Many people assume that emotions are entirely psychological, but there is a physical component. Realize that all emotions are ultimately experienced as physical feelings in your body. You’ve just learned to label certain body feelings with names like “anger” and “fear.” 

  • The only part of your physiology that can be controlled is your breathing. Look at how you’re breathing during a strong emotional response and change it. 

  • A few ideas you can try are holding your breath for 5 seconds, breathing deeply and slowly for 30 seconds, breathe in slowly, and breathe out even more slowly. Think about your breathing and count your breaths. Focus on the physical feeling of the air moving in and out of your body. 

If you’re used to being controlled by your emotions, you know that it’s difficult to maintain your composure. But you can respond differently to your emotions and make wiser choices. Negative emotions exist to inform us that something might be amiss. They are not there to control us.


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