12 Ways To Regulate Your Feelings And Emotions When You're Going Through It

If you're a human who's been alive on this earth for any length of time, odds are you've experienced an occasional bout of overwhelming emotions. Sometimes your life suddenly seems to become a litany of bad events, one after another, and you don't see a way out. Maybe you've experienced a life-altering event, like the death of someone close to you, divorce, or job loss.

When big life things happen — and small ones pile up — so can your feelings. It's not long before you find yourself spiraling down an emotional rabbit hole. We all go through this once in a while, and it's a normal part of life — but you shouldn't have to stay there. While you probably won't be able to make all your bad feelings go away in one fell swoop, there are definitely practices you can employ to make it easier to deal with your emotions.

You may find that you already use some of these as healthy coping mechanisms. If most of them are new to you, don't be discouraged! That just means you have a lot of things to choose from to help you manage your feelings. If you already do a lot of them and aren't noticing a difference, though, it may be time to seek professional help. Here are 12 different ways to regulate your feelings and emotions when you're really going through it.


When we're dealing with heavy emotions, especially when we have more than one tough feeling at a time, it's easy to let our brains spiral. Negative thoughts, worries, fears, and anxieties take over and become an endless stream of noise inside your head, and they're hard to quiet down. When you notice your negative thoughts spiraling out of control, meditation can really come in handy. 

Meditation is typically done to help clear and settle the mind and achieve emotional stability. As such, it's a healthy way to regulate your emotions during a rough patch. If you've never meditated before, it might be a good idea to try an app for mindfulness and meditation. You can always do it on your own, too.

Start by getting into a comfortable seated position on the floor and closing your eyes. Bring your attention to different parts of your body, starting at your feet and moving all the way up to your head. As you focus on each part, let go of any tension you may be holding there, and as thoughts roll through your mind, let them enter and leave without judging them. Meditation is a practice of letting your body, mind, and feelings be at peace with yourself in the moment. Your practice may only be five minutes long when you start, but as you meditate more, you'll probably find yourself wanting to meditate longer. 

Practice gratitude

When was the last time you made a mental list of everything you're grateful for in your life? When we're dealing with lots of different feelings, it's easy to forget that we have anything good in our lives at all. That one bad review at work will cast a shadow over all your accomplishments, a fight with a friend can make you forget about all the good times you spent together, and a financial setback convinces you that you'll never be financially comfortable again. 

When we're going through a challenging life season, it can help to be intentionally mindful of everything in life you're grateful for. This doesn't mean you ignore your problems — they're probably still there and probably still distressing. But we're sure they aren't the only things in your life, even though it may seem like it right now. Practicing gratitude can help you remember that there are still plenty of good things in your life, along with all the bad.

Don't believe us? Start with the small things. When you make your morning cup of coffee (or get it from your local barista), take a moment to feel grateful for it. If you feel a cool breeze coming through a window, let yourself bask in it for a moment. Think of the people in your life whom you love and who love you, and reach out to tell them you're grateful for them. You might be surprised how much a little bit of gratitude can change your outlook on life.

Use self-care techniques

Sometimes, overwhelming emotions indicate that your mind and body need a good little self-care session. This might particularly apply to you if you're constantly on the go and leave little time for that much-needed rest and relaxation. If this sounds like you, it's time to take a break and take care of yourself. Practicing self-care is nothing to feel guilty about, and although it won't make your feelings go away, it can help release the tension and stress that your emotions are having on your body. 

First, ensure all your basic physical needs are met, like feeding yourself, drinking enough water, showering regularly, and getting a good night's sleep. If you've been experiencing a deficit in any of these areas, you might find that you feel a lot better once it's addressed. If you're good to go in the food, water, and hygiene departments, take your self-care the extra mile.

Yoga is a great practice to stretch your muscles and relieve your body of tension (yin yoga is an especially calming practice). Hot bubble baths are also great stress relievers, and you can add scented bath oils, bath bombs, bubbles, and candles for added relaxation. While engaging in your self-care practices, try not to let yourself think about everything going wrong — instead, practice gratitude or think of happy moments and safe people and spaces in your life.

Name and acknowledge your feelings

It might sound counterintuitive, but when you're dealing with many heavy emotions, the last thing you want to do is ignore them. When feelings are ignored, they tend to sit and fester, and pretty soon, what was a handful of negative emotions now feels like an avalanche. But if you don't want to ignore your feelings, and you don't want to dwell on them, where's the happy in-between?

Believe it or not, acknowledging your feelings by identifying and naming them can actually make you feel better. When you name your feelings (and even name some causes behind them), all those abstract thoughts swirling around in your head become something concrete, and it can help them seem a little more manageable. Pivotal Counseling Center recommends using a feelings wheel to help nail down your emotions. The seven "basic" emotions are: bad, fearful, angry, disgusted, sad, surprised, and happy.

Once you've identified one of these feelings, you can dig further into it. For example, the fear you're feeling might have more specific emotions behind it, like feelings of rejection or anxiety. A study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that putting your emotions into words actually does help heal your brain and make your emotions more manageable. So the next time you're feeling overwhelmed by feelings, try talking about it to a loved one or therapist or just naming your emotions to yourself — it could help a lot.


If you don't journal already, now's the time to start. The great thing about embarking on a journaling journey is that there are no hard-and-fast rules — all you need is a notebook, pen, and some thoughts (which we all have a lot of). Journaling is a great practice to help get your stream of consciousness down on paper, and, similar to the previous tip, identifying all the thoughts running around your head can make them seem way more manageable. 

You can write about anything you want when you journal, but when you're filled with a bunch of hard-to-handle feelings, it may be helpful to start by writing out whatever you're thinking about in the moment. Writing down your stream of consciousness will help slow your thoughts down. After all, you can only write so fast, and the simple act of slowing down the plethora of thoughts can help you get some perspective on your situation. If nothing else, journaling your feelings will give you something concrete to address with a therapist or friend, and addressing what you're feeling can help you feel less alone. 

Try grounding techniques

Sometimes all your negative thoughts and feelings pile up and culminate in bodily distress. This can look like a variety of things, like constantly clenching your jaw, experiencing back and shoulder pain from holding tension there, sped-up breathing patterns, and even panic attacks. When our feelings manifest in our bodies, it helps to manage the bodily symptoms first, especially when it comes to panic attacks or other anxiety-related symptoms.

A great method to manage severe anxiety and panic attacks is by using grounding techniques. Grounding techniques aim to center your awareness on your physical environment so it feels less like you're drowning in the melee of thoughts running through your head. Stimulating your senses is an excellent way of grounding yourself. You can do this by dunking your face in some cold water, petting your dog or cat, eating something juicy like fruit, or listening to soothing music.

You can also ground yourself by deepening your breaths. Try breathing in for a count of four, holding for a count of four, and breathing out for a count of eight. Combine some of these grounding techniques, and as your awareness returns to your physical environment and your body re-centers itself, you may find your thoughts calming down as well.

Know your negative coping mechanisms

Negative coping mechanisms — is there such a thing? Whatever gets you through the pit of feelings is worth it, right? Well, not necessarily. You may have some coping mechanisms that are doing you more harm than good and can leave you feeling even worse in the long run. For example, have you ever gone out on a night of binge drinking to help distract you from a breakup and then felt even worse the next day? Even though you felt better in the moment, the ramifications probably left you feeling worse for wear. 

So what are some examples of negative coping mechanisms, and how can we identify and combat them? The Meadowglade, a mental health rehabilitation center, identifies some examples of negative, or "maladaptive," coping mechanisms: excessively drinking or smoking, running from the problem, sleeping too much, going on spending sprees, and being riskily promiscuous, to name a few. When you notice a maladaptive coping mechanism become more of a habit, impacting your life, or even turning into an addiction, it's a good idea to seek professional help or at least confide in a close friend.

Identify some positive coping mechanisms

If negative coping mechanisms are your go-to, don't stress — we won't leave you high and dry. Maladaptive coping mechanisms can be replaced with positive or "adaptive" coping mechanisms, which aren't only healthier for you but will help you recover when practiced regularly. Engaging in a positive coping mechanism should leave you feeling a little less blue, slightly more hopeful, and may even put your problems into perspective a bit.

Good coping mechanisms may seem harder to engage in than bad ones and probably won't be as "fun," but trust us, it's worth it. Cleveland Clinic identifies some positive coping mechanisms, like spending time with loved ones, getting outside, practicing yoga, vacationing, getting quality rest, and eating healthy foods. Yes, these are all parts of a generally healthy life — and that's why they make such great coping mechanisms!

Remember that your healthy coping mechanisms will also look unique to you and may be different from those of your friend or spouse. What may be a stress-relieving run for some could be an anxiety-inducing race to yet another finish line for others. What's important is that your coping mechanism of choice is healthy and helps you find your way back to a more balanced lifestyle. Beyond that, go for whatever works for you, and don't be afraid to try new things along the way.


The mental health benefits of exercise honestly can't be overstated. We're not telling you to lace up your running shoes and head out for a 5K (unless that's your thing — if so, definitely go for it), but you should be getting at least a couple of hours of exercise per week, according to Mayo Clinic. Exercise will elevate your heart rate, get your blood pumping, and release endorphins in your brain that can have mood-boosting effects. 

Exercise can look like many different things. Sure, running is one, but if you're not a runner, even a fast power walk could get your heart rate elevated for a bit. You could also go on a hike (especially one with elevation changes) or do some power or hot yoga to get that blood pumping. If dancing is more your thing, dive into that! YouTube is rife with dance videos made to increase your heart rate.

Beyond that, you could try cycling, swimming, or see if there's a local league for your favorite childhood sport. If you want to branch out, look for a climbing gym near you or sign up for boxing classes. Your options are nearly endless, so the most important thing is to find an aerobic activity you enjoy and actually do it! Exercise won't make all your problems disappear, but it will probably make you feel better in the midst of them.

Get outside

Go outside, friend! If you consider yourself a chronic couch potato or you live someplace where extreme weather is the norm, this may sound like a serious chore to you. However, spending time outside has too many mental health benefits to miss out on. The American Psychological Association poetically calls time outside a "balm for our busy brains," and it couldn't be more correct. In fact, it reports on a study done in Denmark that found that children who grew up with more outdoor exposure were less likely to suffer psychological problems later in life, like anxiety and depression.

Any amount and type of outdoor time can help. Live in an urban apartment? You don't necessarily need to trek out of the city to find some trees, but if you have a balcony or porch, sit outside on it for a little bit each day. If your home has no designated outdoor spaces, take a quick walk around the neighborhood, or walk to get your groceries or do other simple errands. If you want to immerse yourself more in nature, talk a hike through a forest or even take a picnic at a local park. Your time outside doesn't necessarily have to be active time. Just the act of being outside, feeling a breeze, feeling the sun (or rain!), and watching the activity of people, animals, and trees can be immensely healing for your body, mind, and soul.

Try to get some perspective

When dealing with lots of heavy feelings, especially if you've been dealing with them for a while or multiple issues are tugging at your attention, it's easy for them to seem much bigger in scope than they really are. Don't get us wrong; we're not saying your problems are small, they can just get blown out of proportion pretty easily. If your problems feel more overwhelming than you think they should, it could be helpful to get some perspective.

Mount Vernon Family Therapy calls perspective-taking the act of "zooming out" on one's problems. It will let you take a wide-angle, all-encompassing look at the issue at hand and help you realize how big (or small) your problems are in the grand scheme of things. Getting perspective on whatever you're facing will involve challenging your own thoughts, beliefs, and conclusions on the specific problems you're facing.

For example, say a friend cancels plans on you last minute, and your mind jumps to the belief that they must not like you anymore. Taking perspective on this situation will challenge the belief that your friend doesn't like you. Asking yourself questions like, "Has this friend done anything else to make me think they don't like me?" or "What other possible reasons could have caused them to cancel?" can help you uncover valuable truths about your situation and keep it from becoming overwhelming.

Know when to see a professional

If you've tried the above tips and nothing seems to be working, that could be a sign to seek some type of professional help. There's no shame in seeing a therapist and getting on medication when needed. In fact, it could be just the boost you need to keep your head above water and let you effectively tackle your problems head-on. Luckily, nowadays, the options for therapy are numerous. You could see a local provider in person or try other mental health resources like Talkspace or BetterHelp to find a therapist you can meet with virtually.

Before meeting with a therapist for the first time, remember that your first find may not be the perfect fit. Shopping around for a therapist is perfectly normal and actually very necessary. After all, you don't want to spend money and time on someone who won't help in the long run. Look for a therapist who makes you feel comfortable, listens more than talks, and isn't judgmental. Therapy is a great tool to help you cope with long and short-term issues, so don't be scared to try it, especially if nothing else seems to be helping.