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Keeping your Emotions in Check: 3 Mindfulness Exercises for Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation is exactly as it sounds: the ability to regulate, or “deal with”, your emotions. Emotional regulation is also something that many individuals with ADHD struggle with (see one related study published by the American School of Psychiatry here). 

image Many individuals with ADHD report that they have difficulty managing anger, frustration, or even excitability in the moment. They often have trouble “letting go” when they’re upset about something. Or, they may find themselves getting completely overwhelmed and paralyzed with stress when their boss asks them to do “one more thing” for them.

Whatever it looks like for you, if you have trouble with emotional regulation, it might be interesting for you to know that building skills in mindfulness can be a huge asset in managing your reactions in the moment. 

Mindfulness is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days, but essentially it means becoming aware of your emotions in the moment, and learning how to manage them without pushing them away or getting too caught up in them. Practicing mindfulness is practicing non-judgmental, present moment-awareness.

Okay, great…so….what does that actually look like? The good news is, mindfulness exercises don’t have to be time-consuming or complex. To give you an idea, here are 3 simple mindfulness exercises designed to help you become more in-tune with the present moment (and thus build skills for better emotional regulation):

  1. The 1 minute slow breathing test. Time yourself to see the number of abdominal breaths you take in one minute. Several times a day, stop yourself and do the same number of slow breaths. Waiting in line or at a red light are the perfect occasions to try this technique out.

  2. Mindful walking. Take a 15-minute walk without your phone/iPod – notice all the sights, smells, and sounds around you. Similarly, try mindful eating (see here).

  3. The RAIN technique*If you start to feel a strong emotional response to a situation, take a few moments and go through these steps (put them on a sticky note so it’s easier to remember!):

Recognize what you’re feeling and name it (anger, fear, sadness, etc…)Allow the feelings to be present without pushing them awayInvestigate the feelings in your body and mind; explore the emotions with curiosity (ex. where in your body do you feel them?)Non-identification is the key to freeing yourself from the emotion’s grip. Don’t take it personally. Separate yourself from the emotion – it’s just an emotion, it does not define who you are.

*Taken from James Baraz, Shoshanna Alexander “Awakening Joy”

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