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What is Emotion Regulation

...and why do we need it?

Emotions are normal and everyone experiences them.  Sometimes, particularly when we have had persistent distressing experiences during our lives, we can emotionally react more often to situations (that others may not find distressing) where we feel threatened.  The distress can be very intense and it's difficult to manage situations and ourselves when things are feeling so overwhelming.

Learning Emotion Regulation skills will help us learn to effectively manage and change the way we feel and cope with situations.


Emotions, thoughts and what we do or feel an urge to do (behaviors) are all linked and become vicious cycles.  Changing one part of the cycle will help improve the situation and help you feel better.


When we experience really strong negative emotions, it’s easy to get caught up into the old pattern of using unhelpful and damaging coping strategies such as using substances, self-harming or unhealthy eating habits.


Emotions are closely linked to our bodies, and each emotion has a particular behavior linked to it.  The word "emotion" can be described as E - MOTION (Elicit Motion).  Emotion causes us to react and move in certain ways. Examples of emotions and their action urges:

EMOTION                                                               ACTION URGE                                                       OPPOSITE ACTION


FEAR                                                                 RUN AWAY, AVOID                                          APPROACH: GO ANYWAY AND

                                                                                                                                                     PARTICIPATE FULLY


ANGER                                                              ATTACK                                                            GENTLY AVOID, BE KIND, SEE

                                                                                                                                                     THEIR PERSPECTIVE


SADNESS                                                         WITHDRAW                                                       BE WITH OTHERS, INCREASE


If emotions cause our bodies to react in certain ways, then doing something different - doing the opposite ('Opposite Action') - can affect and help change our emotions.

 Opposite Emotion – do something that will help you to feel the opposite of what you feel now.  For example, if you feel depressed, watch a funny movie or TV program, or listen to some uplifting music. *


*Adapted from


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