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  • Writer's pictureRyan Sheridan, NP

Emotional Regulation: How Integrative Psychiatry Can Help


Photograph of emotions

 

Key Takeaways

  1. Emotional regulation refers to our ability respond to emotions

  2. Integrative psychiatry can help facilitate meaningful improvement in how we respond to our emotions.

  3. Emotional regulation is not learning to control our emotions, rather emotional regulation is learning to manage our behavior after being faced with an emotion.

 

Emotions are fundamental to humans. Joy, love, fear, and sadness are unavoidable in life. But in the hustle and bustle of modern life, emotional upheavals have become commonplace. Many individuals struggle to find balance and emotional stability. While it's natural to experience emotions, sometimes they can become overwhelming and disruptive to our daily lives. Integrative psychiatry can help with emotional regulation by holistically addressing the sources of our dysregulation.


Understanding Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation refers to our ability respond to emotions in a healthy and balanced way. When we regulate our emotions, we can experience them without being overwhelmed or letting them control our actions. A well-regulated emotional state contributes to better decision-making, healthier relationships, and overall mental wellness.

Friend upset with another friend

Here's an example… let’s say you’re driving down the highway and someone cuts you off. A flash of anger overcomes you, and rightfully so! What would you do next? Flip them the bird? Speed up and cut them off? They deserve it, right?

Or, let’s say you’re chatting with a friend and out of the blue they say something you perceive as a slight or criticism and it hits you like a ton of bricks. Now the rest of your day – and ultimately weekend – is wrecked.

Sound familiar? Your emotional regulation skills might need a refresh.

Key distinction: emotional regulation does not seek to control our emotions. Instead we are working to manage our responses to our emotions, including our behavior.

Challenges in Emotional Regulation

An upset man

Life's challenges, traumas, and external stressors can significantly impact our emotional regulation abilities. For some, it may be an ongoing struggle from childhood, while others may face sudden emotional challenges triggered by specific life events. Everyone blows their top or feels down sometimes, we’re all humans! But for some, emotional regulation becomes difficult and burdensome.

If any of this resonates with you, let me stop you right here. Breathe. In through your nose and out through your mouth – one big inhale, one big exhale. The practice you just did demonstrates you have the capacity to respond in healthy ways to your emotions.

I, too, have challenges with emotional regulation. I’m not here to preach, speak for a pulpit, profess, or judge. I’m here to share with you what has worked for me – and many individuals with whom I have worked – in hopes that it may work for you, too.

Integrative Psychiatry for Emotional Regulation

Integrative psychiatry is a holistic and patient-centered approach that combines conventional psychiatric treatments with complementary and alternative therapies. This approach recognizes the interconnectedness of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of an individual, aiming to treat the person as a whole rather than focusing solely on symptoms.

Basically, integrative psychiatry says we can’t address our mental health in silos – we have to work on ourselves as entire person rather than a dabble of medication to fix this and some therapy to fix that.

How Integrative Psychiatry Facilitates Emotional Regulation


1. Proactive Therapy: I take the time to understand each individual's unique emotional struggles and experiences. Then, we will tailor our therapy plans to address specific emotional regulation challenges, considering past experiences, traumas, skills, and goals.

2. My Therapeutic Modalities: As part of my integrative plan, I incorporate various therapeutic modalities, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and mindfulness practices. These therapies can help individuals identify emotional triggers, cope with stress, and develop healthier responses to our emotions.

People practicing meditation

3. Nutrition and Lifestyle: Integrative psychiatry emphasize the significance of nutrition and lifestyle in emotional well-being – for real, your basic needs must be met. Things like sleep, nutrition, and physical activity play a huge role in our ability to effectively respond to our emotions. So, I will likely recommend changes, encourage exercise, and suggest sleep improvement strategies to support emotional balance.

In fact, we will start here. If you’re not practicing self-care with at least some consistency, making changes to our emotional skillset is difficult.

4. Mind-Body Connection: We must recognize the inseparable link between the mind and body, integrative psychiatry incorporates techniques that promote better emotional regulation. This sort of goes along with what I said in the last point, but goes a bit deeper. Sometimes there are underlying biological factors that need to be addressed – hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, and more. These factors can contribute to our ability to respond to our emotions in healthy way.

5. Medication When Necessary: While integrative psychiatry focuses on non-pharmacological interventions, medication may be prescribed in concert with our other therapies. Medication has a place here, but I gotta tell you, if you’re expecting medication alone to address or fix your emotional rollercoasters ride… well, you’re going to be disappointed.


Benefits of Learning Emotional Regulation with a Holistic Approach


1. Enhanced Emotional Self-Awareness: With integrative psychiatry I encourage individuals to explore their emotions and delve into the basis of their emotional struggles. With the help of therapy and other interventions, we can gain a deeper understanding of our emotional patterns, triggers, and responses. This heightened self-awareness enables us to recognize, understand, and respond to emotions as they arise, leading to more constructive and conscious choices in our emotional expression.

2. Improved Coping Mechanisms: One of my primary goals in practicing integrative psychiatry is to equip individuals with effective coping strategies. Instead of resorting to maladaptive behaviors or avoiding emotions altogether, patients learn healthier ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and other emotional challenges. This newfound emotional resilience empowers us to face life's difficulties with greater confidence and composure.

3. Strengthened Resilience to Emotional Challenges: It is no surprise, life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and emotional challenges are inevitable. Integrative psychiatry is a great platform to help individuals build emotional resilience, enabling them to bounce back from setbacks and difficult situations more efficiently. I hope to help patients develop the capacity to adapt to change, manage stress, and maintain emotional stability during trying times.

4. Reduced Symptoms of Anxiety, Depression, and ADHD: Anxiety, depression and ADHD are common mental health conditions that often disrupt emotional regulation. Integrative psychiatry, with its comprehensive approach, has shown promising results in reducing symptoms of these disorders. By addressing the underlying causes of emotional distress and employing evidence-based therapies, we can work to find relief from anxiety and depression symptoms, leading to a more balanced emotional state.

5. Greater Sense of Calm and Inner Peace: The integrative approach emphasizes practices that promote mindfulness. Through meditation, yoga, and other techniques, patients learn to view their minds, find inner stillness, and experience a greater sense of calm. This tranquility extends to daily life, fostering a deeper connection with oneself and others, and promoting emotional equilibrium.

A couple enjoying each other's company

6. Healthier Relationships with Self and Others: Sometimes unresolved emotional challenges can strain relationships and hinder personal growth. Integrative psychiatry helps individuals build healthier relationships with themselves, leading to increased self-compassion and acceptance. (Key here: acceptance!) This, in turn, facilitates more authentic and fulfilling connections with others. We will learn to communicate emotions effectively and understanding the emotional needs of ourselves. The goal is to nurture stronger and more meaningful relationships.

7. Empowerment and Self-Efficacy: Integrative psychiatry empowers individuals to take an active role in their emotional well-being. We learn valuable skills to respond to our emotions. Remember, it is important to note, we are not controlling our emotions. When our emotions don’t control our behavior, we gain a sense of control over our lives. This increased sense of self-efficacy boosts self-confidence and fosters a positive outlook on the future.

8. Holistic Approach to Long-Term Wellness: Integrative psychiatry views mental health as an integral part of overall well-being. We will address physical health, nutrition, lifestyle, and emotional factors together. The approach promotes a holistic path to long-term emotional wellness. Patients are encouraged to adopt sustainable lifestyle changes and engage in self-care practices, fostering a positive impact on their emotional regulation and overall quality of life.


Conclusion: Emotional Regulation and Integrative Psychiatry

Toy balls with smiling faces

Emotional regulation is a fundamental aspect of overall well-being, and when it becomes a struggle, there’s no shame in finding help. Integrative psychiatry offers a holistic and empowering approach to address emotional challenges, providing individuals with valuable tools to navigate life's ups and downs more effectively. If you or someone you know is facing emotional regulation difficulties, consider exploring the benefits of integrative psychiatry and take a step closer to a more balanced and fulfilling life.

Remember, emotional well-being is within reach, and with the right support, you can find your path to emotional regulation.


Ryan Sheridan, NP

I work with folks in the Washington DC area (and Colorado and Missouri) seeking a more balanced approach to their emotional regulation and those with depression, anxiety, ADHD, and burnout. Request an appointment here.

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