Emotional Health: Understanding Emotional Regulation for Improved Wellbeing.

Emotional regulation refers to how we may consciously and subconsciously control our emotional response to certain situations. For example, as a care worker, you will most likely find yourself in many emotionally charged situations, however, despite this you react in a way that does not inhibit you from carrying out your work and puts others at ease. It is a skill which comes with practice, and we often learn it naturally as we grow. Although there are healthy and unhealthy ways this can be achieved, if not done correctly, it can be damaging to your long-term mental health and well-being, in some cases leading to exhaustion and a feeling of disconnect.

Being able to regulate emotions in a healthy way can lead to overall positive well-being as it leads to a better understanding and acceptance of your emotions and more awareness of your responses, preventing unwanted behaviours.


One way this can be achieved is through emotional appraisal.


Emotional appraisal refers to our emotions in response to how we evaluate or assess an event, this generally reflects our personal values or goals, and our reactions will generally differ from others depending on how these goals and values align.

For example, in a traffic jam, a person who is more focused on getting to their destination may feel anger and frustration. Whereas another may see this as an opportunity to listen to music and unwind, and therefore feel more positive.

Being more aware of our personal evaluation of a situation and how this might be influencing how we are feeling, can lead to more open-mindedness and a more positive response to challenges.


One study looked at the power of appraisal through the emotions experienced by students taking their exams:


“Feelings of frustration/powerlessness seemed to arise when students evaluated the exam as important, their ability to cope with it as low, and the outcome as dependent on external, uncontrollable factors. Finally, positive emotion seemed to arise when students evaluated the exam as important, their ability to cope with it as high, and the outcome as not dependent on external, uncontrollable factors.”


They found that the more negative emotions the students felt, the more they turned to unhealthy coping strategies such as drugs and struggling to distance themselves from the exams. Whereas those with more positive emotions were able to focus better on problem-solving and could successfully distract themselves where needed.


How can we achieve healthy emotional regulation?


Seek social support – this has been proven to help regardless of the emotion you are feeling.


Create space to process the emotions you are feeling – avoiding an emotion is an unhealthy coping mechanism, take time for yourself to process what you are feeling and even question why you are feeling that way.


Get enough sleep – not only is this healthy in general, but it also ensures you have enough energy to function and fully process your surroundings.


Practice self-care– Being kind and taking time for yourself reduces negative thoughts and feelings, putting you in an overall better mindset.


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