What Big Feelings Are Telling You: A Tip To Regulate Them

Emotions and our physical body are intrinsically connected. Have you ever had something very positive, exciting, and exhilarating thing happen to you? You have those feelings for days, you feel light, weightless almost like you are floating, and everything is bright.

On the other hand, have you ever gotten bad news or gone through a bad experience? All sorts of negative emotions flood inside you. You feel heavy, your visions are dull and there is a tightness in your chest or gut that just won’t go away. Well, life is filled with ebbs and flows, the highs and lows.

Just like grown-ups, children experience a wide range of emotions – both positive and negative. Emotions are a normal and healthy part of life for people of all ages.

The positive emotions like joy, excitement, and happiness usually feel really good. When children are positively emotionally engaged, you’ll see their faces light up, their energy increase, and genuine smiles or laughter. These uplifting emotions help motivate them and make meaningful connections.

However, children also face negative emotions like sadness, anger, fear, and frustration at times, just as adults do. These harder feelings can manifest through crying, shouting, withdrawing, or acting out behaviors. The intensity of children’s negative emotions may seem bigger simply because their emotional regulation skills are still developing.

The degree to which a child experiences emotions can vary greatly depending on their age, temperament, and the situation itself.

Negative Emotions are Your Friends Too

Negative emotions like anger, sadness, frustration, or fear are often seen as something to be avoided or gotten rid of quickly. However, these emotions actually serve an important purpose – they are signals that something isn’t right or that a need is not being met.

Rather than shunning or suppressing negative emotions in children, we should validate them and use them as cues to explore what boundary may have been crossed or what underlying need requires addressing.

For Example – child is exhibiting anger , it may indicate a boundary around their personal space, possessions or choices has been violated in some way.

Sadness may signal a need for more nurturing, comfort or connection that isn’t being fulfilled. Frustration often means the child is struggling with a challenge that exceeds their current skills and capabilities.

Fear can be an indicator that the child feels overwhelmed, overstimulated or unsafe in their environment. Rather than minimizing it, we need to make them feel protected.

Instead of shutting negative emotions down, we should lean in with empathy and curiosity to understand the message behind the feeling. It’s providing valuable feedback about what that child requires to feel balanced and secure.

Some Facts About the Brain and Anxiety

We can not and I repeat we can not effectively deal with anxiety or any other negative emotion by shoving positivity down our throat, the key to dealing with those emotions is to PRESENT not POSITIVE. Positivity has its place and time. But when your brain is really, really anxious that means it’s at a heightened emotional state and in that moment your brain doesn’t care about positivity or postive affirmations it cares about keeping you alive.

Recognize – Notice and name the emotion you’re feeling without judgment. Become aware of how it’s affecting your thoughts, body sensations, and behaviors in that moment.

Regulate -Use coping strategies to consciously manage and soothe the intense emotional and physiological responses. This could include deep breathing, movement, mindfulness, or other self-soothing techniques.

Reframe– Once you’ve created some space from the intensity, reevaluate the situation through a more balanced lens. Reframe your perspective in a more constructive way that reduces emotional reactivity.

Recognize allows you to identify what you’re feeling.

Regulate helps you defuse the intensity and regain control.

Reframe enables you to look at the situation with a cooler mindset.

This 3 R’s process helps bring the rational brain back online when the survival brain has taken over due to distressing emotions.

Books to read for more insights into the 3 R's and emotional regulation

"The Whole-Brain Child" by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

The Whole Brain Child Book

This insightful book delves into 12 revolutionary strategies for nurturing your child’s developing mind, navigating everyday parenting challenges, and fostering a thriving family. Drawing on the latest neuroscience research, it provides practical advice to help you understand and support your child’s emotional and intellectual growth.

"Permission to Feel" by Marc Brackett

Permission To Feel

Focuses on the RULER technique (Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, Regulating emotions) which aligns with the 3 Rs framework. Marc Brackett, a professor at Yale University’s Child Study Center, shares a remarkably effective plan for improving the lives of children and adults.

"The Mind and Emotions" by Matt McKay, Patrick Fanning, and Carole Honeychurch

The Mind and Emotions

This book covers cognitive-behavioral strategies for recognizing thoughts/emotions, regulating, and reframing. Rather than addressing individual emotions like anxiety, anger, shame, or depression separately, it tackles the root of emotional suffering as a whole.

"The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook" by Matthew McKay, Jeffrey C. Wood, and Jeffrey Brantley

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook

DBT skills like mindfulness, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation map onto the 3 Rs process. Distress tolerance skills help you manage crises without exacerbating the situation. They allow you to maintain clarity even when faced with intense emotional distress.

Here is a little mindful body scanning activity you can do with your children

Click and watch the video

My Voice will guide you for the first session, you can help guide your children or discuss the processes so they can do it on their own depending on how old your child/children are.

Emotions are not good or bad they are signals

Overall, the key takeaway is learning to make room for and listen to our emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant, with curiosity rather than judgment. Our feelings contain valuable data about our internal experiences and needs.

With self-awareness and regulation skills, we can mindfully respond to emotions instead of unconsciously reacting. It’s an ongoing practice of mind-body connection.

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