Emotional Regulation Toolbox- Part 2 

Because our emotions are necessary and part of the human experience, it is possible to develop emotional regulation to learn how to better manage them. Below, you can find techniques and tools that you can use to develop and improve your emotional regulation and tolerance (Harris, 2019 et Van Dijk, 2012). You can also add them to your toolbox to feel more prepared when you need them (for example, during a time of heightened emotions).  

  1. Grounding exercise: 5-4-3-2-1  

When experiencing difficult or intense emotions, we can bring ourselves back to the present moment by doing a grounding exercise and using our 5 senses. This can also help us feel like we can better manage our emotions.  

Start by taking 3 deep breaths and then:  

  • Name 5 things you can see.  
  • Name 4 things you can hear.  
  • Name 3 things you can touch.  
  • Name 2 things you can smell.  
  • Name 1 thing you can taste.  
  1. Breathing exercise  

You can also try a breathing exercise to relax your body, slow down your sensations, emotions and thoughts and feel calmer. This can lead to a level of emotional stabilization.  

Start by putting your hand on your belly and then:  

  • Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.  
  • Breathe out through your mouth for 6 seconds.  
  • Continue for 1-2 minutes or until you feel calmer.  
  1. Self-soothing activities  

Once we have practiced a breathing or grounding exercise and our level of emotional activation is lower, we can move on to self-care practices. For example, it can be helpful to practice a soothing activity to relax and calm our physical and emotional experiences and sensations. It is important to take care of ourselves and find an activity that makes us feel good.  

For example:  

  • Grabbing a cup of tea or coffee  
  • Taking a hot bath or shower  
  • Going outside and getting fresh air 
  • Listening to music  
  • Dancing, moving, or doing exercise  
  • Your turn to explore and find an activity! 
  1. Self-awareness  

When you have regained a level of emotional stabilization or the emotion you are experiencing is tolerable, it is suggested to develop self-awareness by reflecting on your emotional experience. Try to observe how you feel and try naming your emotion. Explore the emotion without judgment. Does it bring any physical sensations? Does it lead to an action, behaviours, or thoughts? What led to the emotion? 

If you have difficulty regulating, identifying, and recognizing your emotions or you believe that your emotions can cause difficulties in your life, therapy can be a process that can help you develop emotional regulation skills. CFIR-CPRI therapists are available to support you in this process and can help you develop your understanding of the function of your emotions and how to manage them. You can contact us at admin@cfir.ca and a member of our team will be happy to help you.  

Alexie Carrière, M.Ed., R.P.(Qualifying) is a registered psychotherapist (qualifying) that offers therapy services in French and English to adults. She uses an integrative approach and has experience supporting individuals with different concerns, including emotion regulation, anxiety, sexual functioning, trauma, depression, self-esteem, and body image.