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Ways of Managing Your Emotions

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Updated December 10, 2008

If you have PTSD, you may find that you often experience very strong emotions, and as a result, managing your emotions may be hard to do. You are not alone. Many people with PTSD experience difficulties regulating their emotions. For example, it has been found that PTSD is linked with difficulties accepting emotions, low emotional awareness, and being unable to control impulsive behaviors when distressed. Fortunately, there are things you can do to better manage your emotions. Try out some of the coping strategies listed below.

Identifying Your Emotions

By not knowing what you are feeling, your emotions may feel very unpredictable and out-of-control. As a result, you might find it difficult to effectively manage your emotions. When this happens, people often tend to rely on more unhealthy ways of managing emotions, such as avoidance and self-medication through the use of drugs and alcohol. Knowing what you are feeling, on the other hand, helps you figure out how to make yourself feel better. Not every healthy coping strategy works the same for every emotional experience. So, how do you identify what you are feeling? Check out this article to learn more about what an emotion is and how to increase your emotional awareness.

Using Distraction to Cope with Strong Emotions

Strong emotions can be very difficult to manage in-the-moment. However, distraction is a coping strategy that can be used to help you get through these difficult times. What is distraction? Distraction is anything you do to temporarily take your attention off of a strong emotion. Sometimes, focusing on a strong emotion can make it feel even stronger and more out of control. Therefore, by temporarily distracting yourself, you may give the emotion some time to decrease in intensity, making it easier to manage. This article presents a number of easy-to-learn distraction techniques that can be used immediately.

Increasing Your Positive Emotions

Oftentimes, PTSD can people feel as though they are not living a meaningful life. It can interfere with doing the things that you want to do, making you feel down and depressed. However, one way to manage these uncomfortable and distressing emotional experiences is by increasing the extent with which you come in contact with positive and pleasurable experiences. There are a number of ways you can get more active in your life. One way is by scheduling positive activities into your day.

Self-Soothing Coping Strategies

Uncomfortable and stressful emotions can sometimes occur unexpectedly. Therefore, it is important to learn emotion regulation strategies that you can do on your own. Emotion regulation strategies that you can do on your own are sometimes described as self-soothing or self-care coping strategies. Effective self-soothing coping strategies may be those that involve one or more of the five senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound). Learn some examples of self-soothing strategies for each sense.

Managing Your Anger

People with PTSD can experience high levels of anger and irritability. In fact, irritability is even considered to be one of the symptoms of PTSD. Anger can be a very difficult emotion to cope with. Fortunately, there are some healthy ways of regulating anger when it occurs. This article describes one such strategy, taking a personal time out to give your anger some time to subside.

Using Writing to Express Your Emotions

Given that people with PTSD often experience strong, uncomfortable emotional experiences, it is not surprising that people with PTSD may want to try and suppress or "push down" their emotions. While emotional avoidance may be effective in the short-run and may provide you with some temporary relief, in the long run, the emotions you're trying to avoid may actually grow stronger and become more difficult to manage. Therefore, it is very important to learn healthy ways of expressing your emotions. One such way is through expressive writing. Writing about your feelings can also give you a safe and private way to release your deepest feelings.

Monitoring Your Emotions

A number of emotion regulation strategies may help you manage your emotions, but how do you know if those strategies are actually working? Not every strategy is going to be effective in every situation. One way to determine whether or not an emotion regulation strategy is working for you is to monitor your emotions. Follow the steps in this article to create your own emotion monitoring form.

Manage Anxiety Through Deep Breathing

Deep breathing can be an important emotion regulation strategy to learn. It may sound silly, but many people do not breathe properly. Natural breathing involves your diaphragm, a large muscle in your abdomen. When you breathe in, your belly should expand. When you breathe out, your belly should fall. Overtime, people forget how to breathe this way and instead use their chest and shoulders. This causes short and shallow breaths, which can increase stress and anxiety. Fortunately, it is not too late to "re-learn" how to breathe and help protect yourself from stress and anxiety. Practice this simple exercise to improve your breathing.

Reduce Stress and Anxiety with Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Using relaxation exercises can be a very effective way of reducing your stress and anxiety. One relaxation exercise called progressive muscle relaxation focuses on a person alternating between tensing and relaxing different muscle groups throughout the body. This article takes your through an easy progressive muscle relaxation exercise so you can start better managing your anxiety and stress right away.

Seeking Out Social Support

Over and over again, it has been found that finding support from others can be a major factor in helping people overcome the negative effects of a traumatic event and PTSD. Talking with others can be an incredibly beneficial emotion regulation strategy. It can provide you with the opportunity to express your emotions, as well as have your emotional experience validated. However, in finding and establishing good social support, it is important to remember that there are several central pieces to a strong supportive relationship.
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