Techniques for Emotion Regulation

I started a new job as a mental health technician in a residential treatment center in May. One of the benefits of my job is that I get to sit in on group therapy sessions. I have learned so much from the therapists and my patients. Here are a couple of techniques for grounding and emotion regulation that I have observed so far.

Five Senses

  • What are: 5 things you see. 4 things you can touch. 3 things you can hear. 2 things you can smell. 1 thing you can taste, or alternatively, 1 thing you are grateful for. 
  • This helps bring me into the present moment, especially when I am worrying about the past or future. Sometimes I like to do this just to feel like I am embracing the current moment. For example, I am in a cafe doing work today. I can see my empty mug, my laptop in front of me, the swinging doors to the kitchen, my dress with flowers on it, and the coffee machine. I can touch my keyboard, the wooden table, my shoes on the chair rungs, and the ring on my finger. I can hear an employee scooping beans, customers chatting and laughing around me, and the music playing over the speakers. I can smell coffee and food. I am grateful to myself for getting out of the house today to treat myself on my first free day in a while.

Box Breathing

  • Imagine the four sides of a box. Each side counts for four seconds. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, hold for four seconds. Repeat. I like this one when I’m feeling anxious when I’m out and about. It cues me into bodily sensations such as tightness in my chest or throat, which I note along with the emotion I am feeling at the moment. This breathing technique helps me when I find myself breathing shallowly or when my mind is racing and I want to slow down. 


  • Splash your face or neck with cold water. This helps in the summer to cool off too. Dipping your face in cold water for 30 seconds to a minute is described as a dialectical behavioral technique, but I find that putting cold water on my face also works. Alternatively, I like showers with warm water to help wind myself down after a tough day before bed.

Intense exercise

  • Exercise has a multitude of physical and mental benefits. While it can be hard to want to get up to exercise, you might feel better after. I find that my legs and upper body have become very tight from all the sitting I do during school and all the running around I do at work. My current exercise of choice is Pilates, and I like putting on YouTube videos to follow along to in my room. Sometimes I find myself crying in the middle of a workout! For me it can help release my emotions, and I feel good about getting some movement in my day.


  • Journaling: writing a SOVA post is an example of how you can write about your thoughts and feelings and anything mental health related. It can also be a mini check in about how you are feeling at the current moment. If there are things that you are worried about or mental to-do lists that you are holding in your brain, it can be helpful to put it onto paper.

What are your favorite techniques that you have learned that help you manage your emotions and ground yourself? I would love to hear how these techniques might have helped you and learn new ones for myself!

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