Managing big feelings – It’s not a child’s play!

Tanya and Abhishek are exchanging memes on Instagram. Suddenly, Abhishek feels offended by one of the memes and says “ I hate you. I don’t want a friend like you.”

Boy with hands on his head, surrounded by different emotions

Tanya instantly feels her body heat up and she bursts into tears.

What is happening to Tanya?

Tanya is going through a lot of big feelings right now. She is unable to understand and manage them. She needs a way to self-regulate herself.

Fostering Your Child's Self-Regulation | Oklahoma State University

What does self-regulation mean?

Let’s understand the word regulation. Imagine a fan. It is able to adjust itself according to the room’s temperature. Just like that self regulation means to be able to adjust our actions according to our feelings and scenario.

How can we regulate and manage big feelings?

  1. Breathe- When any feeling is too big to handle, our brain goes into override and flips the lid. This makes it a little difficult for us to think and act rationally. The first step to reconnect is to close your eyes and take a deep breath. Keep breathing till you are able to take control. In case breathing feels overwhelming, shake your hands vigorously, almost as if you are shaking the feeling away.

    Self-Regulation — OT OuTside
  2. Self-soothing- Do activities that help you take care of yourself. It can be taking a warm bath, listening to music, or even hugging a toy. At this point, you need to comfort your brain and make it feel safe.

  3. Unpack the experience- Once you feel a little more control. Think about the experience that caused you to feel the way. Use the remote control and movie method. For example: If you are feeling angry all of a sudden, visualize the event which made you feel so. Pause, forward, and play the event in your mind as and when you want to. This will help you zoom in to the experience.

    Self Discipline Vector Art & Graphics |
  4. Flip the experience- Once you have zoomed into the experience, think. What part of this experience is true and untrue for me. For example, if someone said, “ No one deserves a friend like you.” Think:” What does a deserving friend mean. Are they kind, helpful, and honest? Do I possess those qualities? If yes, then I can acknowledge myself. If not, “How can I work towards this?” Flipping the experience helps us zoom out and manage our feelings better.

  5. Take control- Next, take the event and think about what parts of it were in your control. “If I am angry, what is something that I can work towards?” , “Can I tell the other person how they made me feel?” Yes. “Can I control what the other person says?” No. This helps us feel more in control thus helping us rationalize our feelings.

  6. De label- Finally, remove all labels associated with that event. For example instead of thinking, “ I am a horrible friend. I feel angry and upset.” Say, “The person thinks I am horrible, I can work towards….. / I think that is untrue because…”I can manage my feelings and work on myself,” “ I no longer feel upset.” This helps us distinguish between the event, thoughts, and feelings.

Remember, feelings are much more than recognizing, understand, and labeling. With consistent practice, self-regulation can help us build emotional resources for the future.

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Here is a quick refrigerator sheet for you:
1. Breathe and self-soothe yourself.
2. Visualize and understand what triggered you.
3. De-label and analyze what’s in your control and what’s not.

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