Emotion Regulation | Why is it important?

Emotion regulation helps people prevent unnecessary emotional upset, and recover more quickly from emotional upset when it does occur.  When someone is emotionally dysregulated it is difficult for them to concentrate, think clearly and attend to things other than the source of their upset.  By helping people learn emotional regulation skills, we can assist them in reducing the energy expenditure when they are upset, and increase their productivity and sense of empowerment by enabling them to more quickly return to tasks which are important to them.

One of the most crucial parts of emotion regulation is vulnerability awareness and prevention.  That is, people need to be aware of what things make them more likely to be “vulnerable” or more reactive to unpleasant situations.  These vulnerabilities include:

  • Sleep.  At least 2 hours of deep sleep is needed by most people to feel their best and reduce vulnerabilities
  • Nutrition.  Good nutrition with enough calories, quality proteins and good sources of vitamins and minerals provides the body with the building blocks and fuel to make hormones and neurotransmitters to improve mood and stabilize blood sugar to prevent the “hangries.” (Hungry+Angry)
  • Time Management. Many people find it harder to regulate their emotions when they are already overwhelmed because that have too many things to do.  Good time management can help people not only regulate emotions but also get un-stuck and start knocking some of those tasks out.
  • Health/Hormones/Pain.  Neurotransmitter balance and mood are significantly impacted by sex and thyroid hormones and people's general health.  Additionally, chronic pain tends to contribute to irritability, poor sleep and emotional dysregulation.  Do, however, pay attention to medication side effects as these can be problematic too.
  • Attitude. Everyone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed some days.  When people are aware that they are feeling grumpy and/or negative, they can take steps to improve the next moment, but also adjust to accommodate their current status, accepting that it is what it is.
  • Social Support.  Relationships can be a blessing and a curse at times, but people with reliable social/emotional support tend to be buffered against stress and more able to regulate emotions.

Remember that nobody can prevent all vulnerabilities all the time.  The key is to try to prevent them, be aware of them when they do arise and take active steps to work with the hand you are dealt in that moment to help things go more smoothly in the next.

From a supervisors standpoint, encouraging work/life balance will produce a more focused, productive employee.  Additionally, by helping staff learn to be aware of vulnerabilities, you can improve morale and staff satisfaction.  If a staff member is sick and didn't sleep well, let them know it is okay that they aren't on their A game, and that you appreciate them being there.  If a staff member identifies that they are in an awful mood, talk with them about how they need to alter things so their mood doesn't infect the rest of the team of the clients. (i.e. Keep their door shut so they can work in peace when possible).  If you notice a staff member hasn't taken lunch, or has started frequently working through lunch, without eating,it may be helpful to talk about time management strategies and explore how you, the supervisor, can help so the person isn't missing precious break/recharge time.

Obviously adjustments such as this can be abused, but generally, I have found them to be quite helpful.