Emotion regulation is a newer concept in clinical social work. Although the work builds on years of theory borrowed from Psychology, Psychiatry, and Medicine, the idea fits well within a bio-psycho-social framework of practice. Emotion regulation refers to the processes that people use to cope, manage, express, or deal with personal feelings to situations, events, other people, ideas, thoughts, or experiences. In clinical social work, the tasks of the therapist is to collaborate with people on identifying those aspects in their lives that trigger overwhelming emotions. Everyone regulates their personal feelings throughout the day. Most people are able to cope with the feelings they experience throughout the day and adjust their behaviours accordingly. So, if I am finding a particular way of driving to work stressful, I may opt to take a new road, or leave at a different time of day. It is only when people are restricted to adjust, accommodate, modify, or change behaviour in response to particularly triggering events that people grow increasingly stressed. Most times, we are in control of the changes required to manage and cope with our personal levels of stress. Other times, we are not, which may be the case in work or employment related problems. Similar to the food choices we make each day, emotional balance is also key. The human body is a carbon system that is prone to break down without significant periods of rest, relaxation, healthy nutrition, fresh air, and physical exercise. Chronic stress activates cortisol and other harmful hormones in the body, which may become your habitual response pattern to all life events regardless of the event itself. Where you have neglected your emotional diet and have failed to balance stress with rest, your ability to emotionally regulate in a healthy fashion may also be off kilter. Signs that you are not managing your personal feelings in a healthy manner usually involves mounting physical cues from your body such as heart palpitations, breathlessness, shallow breathing, increase in blood pressure, headaches, body aches, uncontrollable crying, or aggression. The people closest to you and who love you most will communicate honestly with you about the impact your stress level is having on them as well. Negative emotions are contagious and are difficult to live with, work with, or be with on a regular basis. As adults, we are all responsible for our own feelings. As parents, we are also responsible to teach, co-regulate, and support our children as they grow and learn to manage and balance the stresses in their own lives. How is your emotional diet today? Do you feel balanced and well?
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