Emotions can sometimes get the better of us.  

Our Registered Psychologist (Provisional) Lana McAleer tell us about some techniques to regulate our emotions that are very helpful.   

What Emotion Regulation Strategies Are Adaptive?


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In Part 1 of this two part article, I discussed emotion regulation strategies that are usually maladaptive. This time I am going to discuss emotion regulation strategies that are typically adaptive. 

As mentioned previously, whether or not a strategy is adaptive for you depends on the situation, and what your goals are. 

Acceptance, cognitive restructuring, reducing arousal, and problem solving are typically adaptive emotion regulation strategies, with distraction being adaptive in some situations. 


Cognitive restructuring –> Cognitive restructuring involves interpreting the emotional cues in your environment differently to change your emotional response. This may look like telling yourself that the situation is not a big deal and that you are overreacting, that that is just the wind and I don’t need to be scared, or I did remember to lock the door, so I don’t need to be worried, etc. This strategy has been found to reduce a body’s reaction to emotional cues, so it is often an adaptive strategy. However, there are situations where this strategy may not be helpful as some situations cannot be interpreted differently, such as being bullied or abused. 


Problem solving –> There are going to be times where you can change the situation that is causing your negative emotion. This may look like turning off a movie that is making you sad, walking away during an argument to reduce your anger, telling someone if you are being bullied, and more. It is important to remember that there are going to be some situations where you can remove or change the emotional cue in the situation. This is generally an adaptive strategy.


Reducing arousal –> Sometimes you aren’t able to think about the situation differently or change the situation, and you are going to experience an emotion that you would rather not. One way to make the emotion more manageable is to reduce its impact on your body and mind. I’ve actually already discussed one way you can do this, which is experiencing your emotion as a wave. Reducing emotional arousal is typically an adaptive response as you are still experiencing an emotion, not bottling it up inside, but you are reducing how overwhelming it is.


Acceptance –> Similar to the strategy above, there are going to be times where you are going to experience sadness, grief, anger, frustration, worry, etc. One strategy is to simply accept that you are experiencing that emotion, and recognize that experiencing these emotions is a part of life. Acceptance of an emotion can happen through the defusion technique, and mindfulness activities. This is often an adaptive experience, but not always. For example if you are experiencing an emotion due to a situation that is physically or mentally unsafe, accepting the emotion you are experiencing is not the best approach.


Distraction –> Lastly, sometimes distracting yourself from an emotion you are feeling can be helpful. This is often helpful in the short-term, when you do not feel that you have the mental resources or energy to deal with or process an emotion. However, it is important to remember that distraction may be maladaptive in the long-term, as it can become avoidance. 

– Lana McAleer, Registered Psychologist (Provisional)

Thanks, Lana. This is really helpful information.

Lana McAleer is a Registered Psychologist (Provisional). She works with Adults, Children and Youth and specializes in the following: 

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Depression
  • Mental Health Issues
  • ADHD
  • Self Esteem
  • Self Confidence
  • Self Compassion
  • Communication Issues
  • And many more areas

Book your appointment with LANA here.

Cheers to regulating our emotions in an effective way 


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