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  • Do you know someone who overreacts to situations? Or the opposite, shows little to no reaction at all? Situations affect people in different ways and paying attention to how you are affected can give you an advantage.

    What is Emotional Regulation?

    It’s the ability to feel what you’re feeling and respond in a way you can be heard without overreacting or stuffing your emotions and reactions.

    In reality, there’s a window we can shoot for that is an emotionally regulated response to the situation. This allows you to communicate openly and honestly with others. So, when I meet someone in my office at New Heights Counseling I encourage them to look at how they respond emotionally to different situations using a graduated scale of 1 through 10. [Where 1 is neutral and 10 is most disturbing.] Once we can explore what situations produce what responses we can rate them to see where we can improve.

    Example of Using Graduated Scale 1-10

    As I was driving in traffic this morning the person in front of me slammed their brakes. I was able to stop in time, however, it shocked me and I reacted. Let’s look at how I might have responded using a graduated scale method. A level 10 might have been jumping out of my car and storming the other person’s vehicle violently and beating the car window. A level 9 might look like me rolling down my window and yelling obscenities and flipping the driver off. A level 8 might look like tailgating. A level 6 might have been me sitting in the car cursing and swearing loudly in hopes the driver heard me. A level 3 reaction could be me thinking in my head this driver is crazy and irresponsible and needs to get off the road. A level 1 might look like acknowledging that it was a close call, but continuing on my way cautiously. The flip side of this response may have been to stuff the stress down and then explode on a coworker when I got to work.

    Every circumstance is an opportunity. We can reflect on past situations and begin to build awareness for how we’ve responded. And from these situations, if we learn to pause first, slowing the transaction down, we can process the ways we could react by using the graduated scale technique. We then have the ability to emotionally respond instead of overreacting.

    How Do I Regulate My Emotions?

    1. Record Your Reactions Write down each situation you find yourself in. Be sure to include incidents, levels, and reactions. Remember, Level 1 is neutral and Level 10 is the most disturbing.


    • Fought with brother – Level 8 – Write how you responded
    • A coworker made fun of me – Level 3 – Write how you responded
    • A best friend stole something – Level 9 – Write how you responded

    2. Recognize Patterns Look at your previous incidents and the levels you rated them and then begin to formulate a healthier response. Remember your emotions and voice matter and the way you communicate is important to give an appropriate response to a given situation.

     3. Pause Before Reacting The next time you find yourself in a situation, pause, take a breath, and give thought to how you want to respond, versus how you may have previously reacted. Choose then the most appropriate response.

    Where Can I Get Help?

    Would you like to speak to someone in person, call (850) 757-1552. Our team of professional therapists are dedicated to their clients’ care and services Fort Walton, Niceville, and surrounding communities. Schedule an appointment today at New Heights Counseling.