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From Reactivity to Stability: Breaking the Cycle of Emotional Dysregulation



"Care for your psyche...know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves." 

Socrates 


Some of you know that I've been sober from alcohol for nearly 25 years.

 

I would drink to calm my anxiety and ease my feelings of depression. Alcohol helped me feel connected when I felt lonely. It made me feel part of and emboldened me when I felt afraid or struggled with self-doubt. Alcohol worked until it stopped working.

 

Drugs and alcohol, including tobacco, are amongst the most prolific ways people use to regulate their feelings. Over time though, we lose the calming effect, and our nervous system becomes reactive.

 

The above are maladaptive ways to regulate our emotions and in this issue, we will explore more healthy tools to move from a reactive nervous system to a stable one.

 

 

Emotional dysregulation is a common challenge that many people face, impacting their ability to manage and express their emotions effectively.

 

It can lead to a cycle of reactivity, where we struggle to regulate our emotions and respond impulsively to triggering situations.

 

However, if we understand the factors contributing to emotional dysregulation and learn strategies to break the cycle, we can move towards stability and emotional well-being.

 

Understanding Emotional Dysregulation

 

Emotional dysregulation refers to difficulties in controlling or regulating emotions, leading to intense and unpredictable emotional responses. This can manifest as heightened emotional reactions, impulsivity, mood swings, and difficulty calming down after being upset.

 

Emotional dysregulation can be a symptom of various mental health conditions, such as borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

The cycle of emotional dysregulation often begins with triggers – situations, thoughts, or memories that evoke intense emotional responses. These triggers can activate the body's stress response, leading to a flood of emotions that are difficult to manage. In response to these overwhelming emotions, we may react impulsively, engaging in behaviors that provide temporary relief but do not address the underlying issues.

 

Breaking the Cycle of Emotional Dysregulation

 

1. Self-Awareness:

Developing self-awareness is the first step in breaking the cycle of emotional dysregulation. By recognising triggers, identifying patterns of emotional reactivity, and understanding the impact of emotions on behaviour, we can gain insight into our emotional experiences.

 

2. Emotion Regulation Techniques:

Learning and practicing emotion regulation techniques can help us manage our emotions more effectively. Techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, and grounding exercises can help in calming the mind and body during times of emotional distress.

 

3. Cognitive Restructuring:

Cognitive restructuring involves challenging and changing negative thought patterns that contribute to emotional dysregulation. By examining and reframing irrational beliefs and cognitive distortions, we can shift our perspective and respond to situations in a more balanced and adaptive manner.

 

4. Healthy Coping Strategies:

Developing healthy coping strategies is essential in breaking the cycle of emotional dysregulation. Engaging in activities that promote relaxation, self-care, and emotional expressions, such as exercise, creative pursuits, and talking to a good friend or therapist, can help in managing emotions and reducing reactivity.

 

5. Seeking Support:

There is a wide range of mental health professionals who can support you with this, as they can provide you with the guidance and resources needed to address emotional dysregulation effectively. Therapy can help in exploring underlying issues, developing coping skills, and building emotional resilience.

 

 

Moving Towards Stability

 

By implementing the above strategies and approaches, we can move from reactivity to stability in managing our emotions and breaking the cycle of emotional dysregulation.

 

It is important to remember that emotional dysregulation is a common challenge that many of us face, and asking for help and support is a sign of strength and not a weakness.

 

With commitment, self-awareness, and effective coping mechanisms, we can navigate our emotions more skillfully and cultivate emotional stability and well-being.

 

Inner child work is a great place to start if you want to work with emotional regulation. Most of us grew up in toxic or unhealthy environments and may not have learned healthy ways of managing our emotions. Check out my self-paced course, Self-Care and the Inner Child  for more details.

 

 

Wishing you a stable and gentle month of March.

 

Faith xoxo

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