Want to Not Explode When Your Kids Are Fighting Over the Remote And You've Had a Hard Day? Streamline.

Who wouldn't rather not explode when their spouse forgets their anniversary?  Or their kid leaves his dirty clothes on the floor one last time?  How about when your mother-in-law says, "That would look nice on you, if you could lose a few pounds"?

Believe me, I've been there.  But now a new study is saying that there's a way to control our emotions by streamlining them.

You heard me right.   Streamlining.

The many strategies people use to manage their emotions fall into three core groupings, according to newly published research from the University at Buffalo, as reported by newswise.com.

The idea is to help people manage, or more constructively deal with, their emotions, since a lot of psychopathology is related to difficulty in regulating emotions.

“The groupings can be useful for clinicians who are trying to better characterize the nature of the emotion regulation difficulties their clients are having,” says Kristin Naragon-Gainey, an assistant professor in UB’s Department of Psychology, and an expert on emotion and affect in mood and anxiety disorders.

But they can work for us, too.

Emotion regulation is a term that describes how people respond to and attempt to modify an emotional experience. Someone anxious about public speaking may use distraction to take their mind off a presentation in order to feel calmer.

“It’s about trying to change your emotions. What are you doing? Where are you? What is your goal?” adds Naragon-Gainey.

Emotion regulation becomes problematic when emotions can’t be downgraded, like a lingering sadness that can’t be managed, or if the strategy is unhealthy, such as substance abuse.

“There are different motivations for substance abuse, but one common motivation is that it’s a means of emotion regulation,” notes Naragon-Gainey. “If a therapist has a client who is using drugs or alcohol to change their emotions in some way this research may help identify if that client is lacking in other skills.”

Naragon-Gainey says people tend to use multiple strategies simultaneously. If one doesn’t work then they’ll move on to another. But it has been unclear to what extent these strategies are distinct.

There are core underlying reasons, and strategies, for why we have trouble regulating our emotions. The first group includes strategies related to attempts to evade emotions, including distraction and avoidance.

“It’s associated with low mindfulness so that you’re not aware of the present moment,” says Naragon-Gainey. “Your thoughts and attention are elsewhere and you’re trying to feel better through that.”

The second grouping involves a tendency to stay fixed on negative thoughts such as failure and self-blame. In this grouping, people try hard to put things out of their minds, but nevertheless, can’t stop thinking about the negative thoughts. (Hmm.  Are they talking about me?)

Although any strategy can be useful, acceptance and problem-solving are key to managing your emotions, researchers say.


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