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Emotional Regulation

As you may already know, a symptom of ADHD is emotional dysregulation.

Emotional dysregulation is when our emotions are heightened to a point that makes it hard to function or is deemed as "inappropriate". This doesn't just come from anger. This comes from all of the emotions on the feeling wheel.

You can download the feeling wheel (and even print it for safe keeping) here!

Since emotional dysregulation is so incredibly debilitating for me, I wanted to learn how to work with and listen to my heightened feelings rather than shut them down and stuff them into a deep dark corner. Lucky for me, I have been working with a therapist to help learn all about these big emotions of mine!

Here are the steps I've been learning:

  1. Identify the emotion. Sometimes it can be near impossible to determine what the emotion is. In those moments, all I know is that the emotions are big, loud, uncomfortable and screaming at me to be dealt with! I have discovered a few questions to ask myself to help identify the emotion:

    1. Where is the emotion in my body? (my chest, my eyes, my jaw, etc.)

    2. What does the emotion feel like? (a knot, burning, tingling, etc.)

    3. What color is the emotion? (grey, black, red, etc.)

    4. Is this emotion mine? (This is such an important question for us empaths!)

    5. If you still can't figure it out, and I know that this is hard, you can try getting quiet and giving the emotions some space without trying to change them. Just let them be. A great book for this is the untethered soul.

  2. Acknowledge the emotion I often want to skip this step and jump right to the feeling better part. The kicker is: I've been learning that this is the most important step! If I don't acknowledge the emotion then I will continue to move on with my life as though the emotion wasn't even there to begin with. Even though the reality is that they stay inside me, building up like a pressure cooker. These emotions are telling me something and I do them a disservice when I ignore them. ~~> Here's an example of what acknowledging the emotion can look like: In November/December 2021 I had to stop working because I was completely burnt out. I had been burning the candle at both ends. I realized through doing this exercise that I am extremely angry about that. I worked so hard to get my business to a certain point and when I got there I was too busy to enjoy it. I am angry that I couldn't handle it. By acknowledging and sitting with this anger, I can then move on from it. If I didn't take the time to sit with the anger, I would have had the anger boiling inside me, dragging me down while I was trying to move forward. How frustrating that would have been!

  3. Brain dump your feelings onto paper (journal) If journaling isn't your thing, you can also use a dictation app so you can talk it out. This step can be really cathartic.

  4. Filter through what you wrote down (what are my emotions telling me?) Here is what I need to look out for:

    • Do I need to set a boundary? (I have a helpful list of my boundaries to look at)

    • Am I overwhelmed? (balance things out)

    • Should I be stating my needs?

    • Have I given myself enough time and space?

    • What can I learn from what the emotion is telling me?

What would be on your list of what to look out for?

I would love to know what you think of these steps and how they work for you! :)

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