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Emotional Regulation for the holiday season


As the holidays approach us, I know that for me, I am beefing up my spiritual toolbox. This can be a challenging time of year for a lot of people. The weather is colder, the sky is darker for longer and there is this sense of urgency that settles in as a frantic fog for most people during this busy time of the year.


Mindfulness can provide a little reprieve in the middle of the storm. Being able to take refuge in myself is one of the most beautiful things I have been gifted from my mindfulness practice. It is not just the ability to remove my emotions from a situation, it is the ability to see things and people from a more compassionate standpoint and this is what helps me to not REACT in ways that can be harmful, to myself and to those around me.


Some simple tools for emotional regulation:


COLORS

I love this exercise. This is a great way to redirect your focus. The goal is to stop the cycled thinking and get your mind on track with the here and now, in the moment.

Pick a color. For this example, I will use the color yellow.

Look around you at all the objects that are yellow. Say them out loud, yellow shirt, yellow painting, yellow vase. When you are done locating and saying out loud all the things that are yellow, move on to a new color. Repeat this as many times as you need to with as many colors as needed. This is a simple way to get your mind off your thoughts and give it something else to do.



RESET

This one is a little more on the extreme side and I use this tool when I am just really anxious and not having a good time emotionally regulating. I use this when I am feeling a panic attack or if my anxiety is absolutely overwhelming.


Get a bowl of water (a big one) and add some ice. Hold your breath/plug your nose and dunk your head in for a few seconds.

Regular use of cold water immersion triggers the Vagus nerve, the largest component of the parasympathetic nervous system. This results in a relaxation response, resetting of the abdominal organs to a resting state, and feelings of well-being.

If dunking your head feels like it’s too much, start with dunking your hands in ice-cold water.

These are ways to help manage the intensity of some of those feelings.



BREATHE

Here are some breathing exercises that can be helpful to emotional regulation. Sometimes the simplest thing can be the most helpful, like breathing. Focusing your mind on something that you are already doing can be just the thing you need to snap you out of cycled thinking.



REACHING OUT

Ask for help, and tell the people you trust that you are struggling. One of the things that a lot of us get hung up on is not wanting to be a burden to another person or not wanting to be vulnerable. However, asking for help is one of the most basic ways we can connect with each other. Pain shared is pain lessoned.

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