Develop emotional regulation and discover what your emotions can do for you

Posted on by Nina Tạ. This entry was posted in Life Events and Changes, Staying Healthy. Bookmark the permalink.

It’s easy to forget that facial expressions and body language communicate emotions, whether intended or not. What if you could exert more control over how you process and express these emotions?

It’s possible through a process called emotional regulation. Emotional regulation is the ability to manage your emotional responses through various strategies that reframe challenging circumstances. Developing these strategies empowers you to navigate life with the adaptability to balance spontaneous reactions with deliberate responses—enhancing your well-being.

Understanding and regulating your emotions can foster resilience, lead to more harmonious interactions with yourself and produce relief and satisfaction in work and life, according to Marsha Linehan, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington.

Developing a skill set

In her work, Linehan breaks down many diverse emotions and ways of understanding why you feel what you are feeling. She poses a set of questions that are important to help process and regulate these common emotions — and start making them work for you rather than ruling you. These questions that you should be asking yourself include:

  • What happened to prompt this emotion?
  • What action was my emotion motivating and preparing me to do? (Was there a problem my emotion was getting me to solve, overcome or avoid?)
  • What function or goal did my emotion serve?
  • What was my facial expression? Posture? Gestures? Words? How was my communication to others?
  • What did my emotions say to me?

Our emotions

You can apply these questions to Linehan’s extensive guide to emotions, ranging from anger, envy, fear and shame to love and happiness. From the list, here is a subset of emotions we most frequently feel:


Happiness words: joy, enjoyment, relief, amusement, enthrallment, hope, satisfaction, bliss

Some prompting events for feeling happiness: 

  • Receiving a wonderful surprise
  • Reality exceeding your expectations
  • Receiving love, liking, or affection
  • Being accepted by others

Biological changes and experiences of happiness:

  • Feeling excited, physically energetic, and/or active
  • Feeling your face flush
  • Being bouncy or bubbly
  • Feeling at peace

After effects of happiness:

  • Being courteous or friendly to others
  • Doing nice things for other people
  • Remembering and imagining other times you have felt joyful


Fear words: anxiety, dread, horror, shock, tenseness, worry, uneasiness, overwhelmed

Some prompting events for feeling fear:

  • Having your life, your health, or your well-being threatened
  • Flashbacks
  • Having to perform in front of others
  • Pursuing your dreams

Biological changes and experiences of fear

  • Breathlessness
  • Fast Heartbeat
  • Wanting to run away or avoid things
  • A shaky or trembling voice

After effects of fear

  • Narrowing of attention
  • Losing your ability to focus or becoming disoriented or dazed
  • Imagining the possibility of more loss or failure
  • Isolating yourself


Envy words: bitterness, disgruntled, dissatisfied, greed, pettiness, resentment, downhearted

Some prompting events for feeling envy:

  • Thinking about how unfair it is that you have such a bad lot in life compared to others
  • Thinking you are inferior, a failure, or mediocre in comparison to others whom you want to be like
  • Comparing yourself to people who have characteristics that you wish you had
  • Thinking you are unappreciated

Biological changes and experiences of envy

  • Muscles tightening
  • Pain in the pit of the stomach
  • Hating the object of envy
  • Wanting the person or people you envy to lose what they have, to have bad luck, or to be hurt

After effects of envy

  • Narrowing of attention
  • Ruminating when others have had more than you
  • Discounting what you do have; not appreciating things you have, or things others do for you
  • Making resolutions to change


Guilt words: culpability, remorse, apologetic, regret, sorry

Some prompting events for feeling guilt:

  • Doing or thinking something you believe in is wrong
  • Doing or thinking something that violates your personal values
  • Causing harm/damage to yourself
  • Being reminded of something wrong you did in the past

Biological changes and experiences of guilt

  • Hot, red face
  • Jitteriness
  • Nervousness
  • Suffocating feeling within your body

After effects of guilt

  • Making resolutions to change
  • Making changes in behavior
  • Joining self-help programs


Love words:  adoration, attraction, compassion, liking, tenderness, warmth, kindness

Some prompting events for feeling love:

  • Being with someone you have fun with
  • Receiving something you want, need or desire
  • Sharing a special experience with a person
  • Feeling physically attracted

Biological changes and experiences of love

  • Feeling excited and full of energy
  • Feeling self-confident
  • Feeling invulnerable
  • Wanting to see and spend time with a person

After effects of love

  • Feeling forgetful or distracted; daydreaming
  • Feeling “alive” and capable
  • Feeling openness and trust
  • Believing in yourself; believing you are wonderful, capable and competent

Where to seek help when you’re feeling negative

Emotions are something we all can feel deeply. Learning more about the exact emotions can better target the main issue to resolve and improve quality of life.

When looking for help, a great place to start is the Washington State Employee Assistance Program. WA EAP supports PEBB-eligible UW employees and their house members to help identify and resolve personal concerns to promote personal workplace well-being. WA EAP provides short-term solutions-focused counseling services that are easy to access. Your benefit includes up to 3 sessions per concern and covers all your household members. It can be used multiple times each year if you have new concerns to address.

If you are having any issues related to caregiving for a loved one, looking for housing resources, or in need of support for personal or professional challenges, UW WorkLife is a great source of information to help aid you in your multifaceted life.

All these options are meant to provide you with the resources and information you need to thrive both at work and in your personal life.

How to build on positive feelings  

If you are already feeling positive, here are some resources to keep that streak going.

Consider your impact on the community and how your participation can have a positive influence on others and yourself. The UW Combined Fund Drive is a great way to make a positive impact. The UW’s workplace giving program for staff, faculty and retirees offers information on thousands of nonprofit organizations and information on various ways to support them through financial donations or volunteering.

You can better connect with your UW community—while taking care of your mind and body—through The Whole U. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, The Whole U was created for and by the UW to foster community engagement, promote holistic wellness and share the great perks and discounts available to UW faculty, staff and retirees. Check out the menu of events and free virtual fitness and mindfulness classes, plus the archive of hundreds of instructional and inspirational videos.

Information on Marsha Linehan’s work and emotional regulation provided by the UW Counseling Center.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>