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  • Writer's pictureNat Harrison

Tried and Tested tips for Emotional Regulation

Man with his hands on his head and slightly blurred to show the motion of frantic stress to symbolise emotional dysregulation

At the start of 2024, I decided to focus on my health and wellbeing - not just to help me through the dark and gloomy days but throughout the year, tools, techniques and things that make me feel good when maintaining focus feel like an uphill battle and everything feels too much, especially as someone with ADHD.

When we get to a point where our nervous system is out of whack, emotional regulation can become increasingly difficult. Tasks begin to feel like chores, especially as your to-do list continues to grow and the weather continues to disappoint.

You might find yourself going through the motions, doing so much, but it still never feels like enough. This often leads to feeling overwhelmed, stressed and emotionally dysregulated as your body tries to keep up. Not just for people with ADHD but those without too, so regardless of where you’re on the spectrum or not, this article will be useful for you.

So what is emotional dysregulation?

It typically involves difficulty managing and expressing emotions appropriately and it’s something that can affect both those with ADHD and without. It often presents as mood swings, impulsive behaviours agitation, anxiety and feeling on edge or feeling overwhelmed.

When in dysregulation, ADHD symptoms can worsen which heightens distractibility and impulsivity, while for those without, it can disrupt daily functioning, having a huge impact on your overall wellbeing and particularly productivity. Implementing effective strategies to manage yourself, being proactive and seeking support can help manage this.

I’ve pulled together a list of five tips you can use, tried and tested by myself, to help you with emotional regulation when things just get too much, keep reading for the bonus tip!

Why focusing on your Emotional Triggers is Important?

Identify your triggers: It’s really good to attention to what's happening around you that can trigger an emotional response so you can be better prepared and limit your distractedness when situations come up that leave you dysregulated.

If you’re an ADHDer who struggles with focus, attention and the ability to retain information, this can be a tricky area, which is why keeping a journal of your triggers you can regularly refer to is a great idea to help you.

It takes time to learn triggers and understand them and you may find that new ones pop up here and there so be sure to pay attention to how they make you feel and make a note of them, while paying attention to your reaction and what you can do differently when it comes up again.

Like any skill, learning to manage and regulate emotions takes consistent effort, and a huge part of it is being patient and compassionate with yourself so you can continue to develop strategies that will help you enormously over time.

What is a good Morning Routine?

Morning routine: Something that I have found to be a blessing and a great tool is having a morning routine. A book I’ve read recently “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod has some great ways to break up your routine and incorporate things that feel good into it. He talks about the struggles we can often face first thing, while providing tools to help tackle them. He talks about the S.A.V.E.R.S technique.

  • Silence - sit in silence to give yourself a moment of peace

  • Affirmation - affirm what you want from the day and yourself

  • Visualisation - visualising the day ahead exactly as you want it to be

  • Exercise - move your body to boost oxygen and circulation

  • Reading - to spark the mind and get the creative juices flowing

  • Scribing - journaling your thoughts and ideas or writing a gratitude list

I was pleased to find that I already incorporated a lot of this into mine, but it really is a great way to get you ready for the day ahead and keep you regulated throughout the day.

What part Exercise plays in Emotional Regulation?

Get your body moving: I often find, specifically this time of year, I tend to feel a bit more sluggish, which can leave me feeling both overwhelmed and underwhelmed, which is why I believe it isn’t a time to move full speed ahead, but focus on your wellbeing and moving your body is a great way to both keep you physically fit and clear the mind.

I took part in Red January this year which is a charity based event with the goal to get yourself moving every day. Whether it’s a game of football, taking a jog or hike, or dancing in your living room - whatever is easiest for you - get that body moving to release any pent up energy, both positive and negative.

It really is a great way to feed both your body and mind, taking you inward and away from the stresses of everyday life.

Head over to the Red January website to find out more about it and maybe you can add it to the list for next year - all proceeds go to local mental health charities, it’s a great cause to help yourself and those in need, but it’s also important to remember that moving your body is something you can do anytime you need an emotional release.

Why Hobbies Help to Reduce Stress and Relax You?

Make time for things that give you release while lighting you up: Something I’ve made sure to do recently is schedule in time for things that not only give me release, but things I love. I’ve made sure to carve out time for things like yoga, movement therapy, including flow dance meditation.

This doesn’t have to be something you do specifically, everyone is different so it’s all about finding something that gives you both - it could be anything from football, to simply going for a walk in nature. Whatever works for you - if this does interest you, head to my Instagram to check out some of the amazing practitioners I work with — click here.

Another great technique to make time for, especially before a big event or important meeting at work, is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It’s a fantastic tool to manage anxiety in the moment, regulate your nervous system and reduce stress. All you need to do it:

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, releasing any tension in your mind and body.

  • Inhale through your nose counting to 4, allowing the breath to fill your lungs.

  • Hold your breath and count to 7, giving you a moment of stillness

  • Exhale fully through your mouth and count to 8 as you feel your body soften and mind quiet

And repeat for two minutes or until you feel completely calm and ready to tackle whats ahead. The more you practice, the more natural it will become and the more impact it will have.

ADHD Coaches Focus on Emotional Regulation

Seek professional support: If you feel like it’s not possible to regulate using these tools and strategies, then this is your reminder that it’s ok to seek professional support, whether it’s working with a coach to help you manage your day-to-day (get in touch if this is something you feel you need - I’m happy to help) or support from a medical professional and therapy.

Whatever that support looks like for you, it is ok to ask for it and can have a tremendous impact on yourself and your life. Mind Charity has some great information on this so head to their website to find out more about how you can get help.

Hate Meditation? Here's a Meditation Hack

Bonus Tip: Alpha waves

And finally, a bonus tip which is severely underrated and something I’ve started to implement regularly is the use of Binaural Beats. If you haven’t heard of them, I encourage you to research and dive into how they work because it is truly fascinating.

I’ve started playing Alpha Waves binaural beats for my kids in the morning and I’ve noticed a huge shift. They are much calmer (most mornings at least) and are more likely to spend time doing something more mindful.

Alpha waves a designed to help you enter a flow state, which supports emotional regulation and keeping your nervous system in check allowing you to move and work from a place of alignment. Focus becomes more accessible and your reactions to situations feel more controlled. All it takes is 12 minutes a day with headphones - here’s a playlist to get you started!

To summarise it all

All in all, not all coping strategies need to be strict regimes that add to your list of things to do and feel like a chore, and that’s the beauty in being able to trial and find things that work for us as individuals, we get to use tools and techniques that feel good to us, that not only support our emotional regulation, but a well-being as a whole, both physical and mental.

Lady smiling holding a smiley face balloon to represent being in control of emotional regulation

If you struggle regulating yours, then give some of these tips a try and they can give you the transformation you need to feel good within yourself and take back control of your emotions, relationships and your life.

As mentioned above, if you would like support whether it’s for ADHD, managing your workload to limit overwhelm through career and business coaching or finding the mental clarity to move forward, then get in touch by booking your free consultation with me!


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