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Emotional Regulation

Written by: Niku Sedarat

With our fast-paced and often stressful lives, it is becoming more common for individuals to demonstrate this stress in a psychologically unhealthy way. As children, we continually demonstrate our abundance of stress, anxiety, or negative emotions through shutdowns or meltdowns, and if we do not learn to cope with these emotions, shutdowns and meltdowns can continue to be prevalent in our adult years. Additionally, an inability to manage these emotions can manifest into psychiatric mood disorders, such as depression. Regardless of how you present your emotions and stress, it is evident that suppression of your emotions is linked to poor social functioning which has immense consequences on social processes, self-processes, and interpersonal relationships. (English & John, 2012). With this guide, unité hopes to equip you with some information and tools that will allow you to manage and cope with the negative emotions you may feel throughout your life!

Children and adults with difficulty not getting their way, a low threshold for frustration, and tendencies towards negativity often present their abundance of anger, stress, or negative emotions in meltdowns or shutdowns. So, what’s the difference between a meltdown and a shutdown?



  • Extreme emotional reactions

  • Flight and fight responses

  • Characterized by screaming, crying, aggression, etc.

  • Closed emotional reactions

  • Similar to a “freeze” response

  • Characterized by going silent, withdrawing, staring off/zoning out, etc.

Learning to Cope

Step 1) Start by recognizing what it takes for you to reach the point of a meltdown or shutdown


Think about the last time you had a meltdown and shutdown.

Ask yourself-

What caused me to have a meltdown or shutdown?

What situation was I in and how did I feel?

What triggered my emotions to escalate?

Step 2) Now that you have a better understanding of what situations, triggers, and/or emotions cause you to get to the point of a meltdown or shutdown, ask yourself…

How can I prevent getting to the point where my emotions escalate to a shutdown or meltdown?


  • STEP AWAY) Recognize that you are being triggered, and step away from a situation

  • DISTRACTION & RELAXATION) Use distractions or do things that bring you joy to allow yourself to relax and de-escalate your emotions

    • PRO TIP) Think about a time when you were doing something so fun and engaging that you barely noticed time passing by. Recognize these things, and do them when you are feeling triggered.

  • OPPOSITE ACTION) Opposite action is when you are feeling the urge to do something detrimental when you're overwhelmed by your emotions, but instead, do the exact opposite.

For example) Laura is in a fight with her best friend and is extremely angry due to a text she just received from her. She is triggered by the text message, and she can feel her emotions escalating. She has a strong urge to throw her phone at the wall, but instead gently places her phone on her bed and takes a few deep breaths. Laura is practicing the opposite action technique.

  • EXERCISE) Exercise is proven to release endorphins which can not only help to de-stress and decrease anxiety levels in an overwhelming situation, but it can also improve mood. Exercise can also be used as a way to step away from a triggering or overwhelming situation.

unité's Guide to...
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