Emotional regulation is the ability to control your emotional responses, and it is an executive functioning skill that all adults need to control their emotions. It is also something most adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, struggle with.
What makes things harder, it is a crossover symptom of many other comorbid diagnoses, including PTSD, depression, anxiety disorders, OCD, and other personality and neurodivergent disorders.
Luckily, the tools and techniques to thrive instead of just survive help with all of these, and I’m going to teach you some of these today.
As children, we begin to learn how to regulate and process our emotions, but for many of us, that process is interrupted, and we eventually become adults with demanding lives and adult responsibilities but without an adult’s emotional toolbox.
This can disrupt our lives making conversations with our boss, partner, or children difficult, and we can find ourselves feeling or reacting with the same emotional response as a six-year-old. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Emotional regulation can be taught, learned, and fine-tuned. You can teach yourself to process your emotions, change your responses, and regulate yourself.
For the ADHD adult who is suffering from emotional dysregulation, their inner world can feel like a shaken-up soda bottle, and even the normal life bumps and upsets can cause all of that pressure to build up, leading to inappropriate reactions and responses to the world around them.
This can hurt those around us and cause problems at work. It can also lead to isolation, depression, and substance abuse if left unchecked. Sufferers of emotional dysregulation often describe feeling like “a ticking time bomb,” “an emotional wreck,” or “overly dramatic”.
From the outside looking in, friends and family of adult ADHD sufferers can often feel like they are caught in a monsoon of someone else’s feelings. They might find themselves walking on eggshells, trying to avoid their loved ones' temper, tears, and intensity. This can lead to resentment and relationship ruptures over time.
As children, we likely learned to resist and brace against our emotions, to react outwardly to them, and/or to distract and numb ourselves to keep from feeling them too deeply.
These early learned behaviors can become habits, and they can show up in our adult lives as:
Ignoring our own needs
Angry or tearful outbursts
If you’ve ever experienced these, you are not alone, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Keep reading to build up your toolbox of executive functioning skills for emotional regulation!
**Please note, this is not medical advice. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
In the video, if you go to minute 06:37 it will take you directly to the exercise. If you would like to start from the beginning, I do give you some information you need to apply this properly.
This self-guided exercise is adapted from what I use with clients during their sessions, to teach them how to name and feel and ultimately process their feelings.
I created a worksheet for you to do this exercise on paper if that works better for you. Also, I created a free audio for you of just the questions you can download to guide you through this process. You can get both of those below on my free download page.
It can take some time to link the physical feeling with the emotion, and a lot of people feel silly in this process.
This process differs slightly with a coach, as I can validate your responses and ask additional, deeper questions, but even with this shorter version, it can be helpful to begin learning the process of emotional regulation.
It wasn't always the case, but these days people know about neuroplasticity. The fact that we CAN change our brains, we can develop the executive functioning skills that we are missing, and we can learn to manage our emotions. You truly can Learn to Thrive with ADHD and make your life easier.
Are you interested in ADHD Coaching? You can book a consultation call with me by clicking the button below.