Learn why leading HR professionals trust ekincare! Explore Now

Emotional Regulation and better mental health at work: Need of the hour?

emotional wellness at workplace

Emotions in general can be understood as reactions to events both external and internal. It reflects the significance a person, event or thing holds based on the complex experience of consciousness, behaviour and bodily sensations. Feelings, thoughts, behavioural responses and a degree of pleasure or displeasure bring about neuro-physiological changes which are responsible for the mental states called "emotions".

Emotions help in facilitating adaptive responses to challenges and are different from feelings and mood and is a hard term to define. Subjective representations of emotions are "feelings", while "mood" is an affective state which lasts for more time. The different aspects of emotions which we look at while talking about emotions are:

  • Subjective feelings, the way we feel
  • Physiological bases of emotional feelings (the changes experienced in the body)
  • Cognitive bases - influence of emotions on thinking and perception
  • Motivational properties of  emotions
  • Expression aspect of emotions - language, facial expressions and gestures.

What is Emotional Regulation?

Emotional regulation and emotional intelligence are important for efficient functioning in personal as well as professional life. Having control over one's emotional state is known as emotional regulation.  Various mental health problems like anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance-related disorders, and eating disorders have their relevance to deficits in emotional regulation. At the workplace, stress, burnout, and disharmony pose challenges in managing emotional responses leading to inconsistent, impulsive and unreliable actions which not only affect the individuals' health but also impact the successful conduct of business.

Emotional regulation at the workplace

Many of us consciously or unconsciously practice regulating emotions. It is a skill with mental and behavioural processes. The acquisition and enhancement of this ability can be attained through repeated exercise, just as with any other skill. At the workplace, employees bring with them on a daily basis their emotions, attitudes related to work, perception of colleagues and employers. Efficiently managing emotions guarantees well-being, productivity and high-quality services in organizations.

Common negative emotions encountered at the workplace


Frustration or irritation is often most common negative emotions experienced at a productive work environment. The triggers can be anything like lost opportunity, limited promotional opportunities, and problems with manager or colleague. Irrespective of the reason if it is not addressed immediately it can escalate the situation and land one in regrettable situations.


Anger is a stronger emotion than frustration and is quick and explosive. At the workplace, one of the major contributor for anger is difference in opinions.  Several methods exist for expressing anger in a work setting, such as exhibiting criticism, breaking regulations, engaging in bullying behaviors, or using sarcasm. Workplace anger has an impact on the organization as well as the health of the individual leading to anxiety, depression, hypertension and cardio vascular diseases.


Feeling unhappy or disappointed at work affects the productivity.  The state of disappointment   can lead to low enthusiasm, indecisiveness and amotivation.  Relationships at work place, level of satisfaction in personal life, lack of positive reinforcement for the work performance may all contribute to being disappointed and unhappiness at workplace.


Fairness and equality at workplace is a motivating factor for employees to work hard.  When rewards in terms of promotions and hikes are distributes unfairly, it can trigger emotions like envy. This has an impact on creativity, cooperation and team work.

Emotional regulation skills to practise

Given the range of emotions one can experience, the interplay and interactions of emotions with thoughts and behaviours which affects mental and physical health signifies the importance of learning how to regulate emotions. There are various skills to help us regulate our emotions. Emotion-regulating skills are

1. Self-awareness

Only when one is aware of their emotions they can adapt skills to regulate them. Noticing what u feel and naming it facilitates in better awareness and understandings of one’s emotions. Noticing involves observing your emotions and the physical responses it creates in the body. Then naming what one feels gives a sense of control and insights about the reasons and patterns contributing to feeling those emotions. Being aware also gives the ability to stay calm, act rationally and efficiently respond to dynamic workplace responsibilities.

2. Acceptance

Experiencing emotion be it positive or negative is a normal process. When experiencing something negative one need not beat themselves up for having them. Resisting negative emotions comes with more distress and leads to more negative emotions. One needs to be self-compassionate and fully accept their feelings to be able to understand the underlying triggers and address them efficiently.

3. Persistence

Being persistent is a conscious choice one has to make to be able to regulate their emotions. It comes with practice and continuous efforts. With persistence one can train the mind for the positive responses to be automatic. Irrespective of the external and internal struggles persistence helps one to focus on the things in their control.

4. Creating space

Daily life circumstances, work pressure, and people we interact with - all trigger some emotions in us. Creating a space involves taking a moment or pause between the trigger and our reactions. It helps understand and process the emotions one is experiencing and gives a wider perspective and range of alternate options instead of reacting immediately.

5. Adaptability

Adaptability gives more flexibility towards differences in views and opinions. In order to cope, different situations demand different responses.  Some of the ways by which one can improve this skill include:

  • Recognizing and reducing the triggers
  • Consciously choosing the nature of response
  • Introspecting about the story one is telling to themselves
  • Re channelizing energy to identify positive emotions and practising positive self-talk.

6. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice to engage oneself in, what is within and around us in a non judgmental way. When emotionally charged, using senses to notice what is going around and within us by observing thoughts and feelings helps us to stay calm and composed. It is an effective practice to stay grounded and live in the present.

7. Seeking a Professional

When emotions become overwhelming and interfere with the daily functioning of an individual, it is time to seek professional help. Counsellors, Psychologists, and Psychiatrists are healthcare professionals associated with addressing issues related to emotional dysregulation.

In conclusion

Experiencing emotions both positive and negative is a natural process. Regulating how emotions are experienced, perceived and expressed has an impact on the overall quality of life. Emotional regulation at the workplace, in terms of modifying emotional behaviours and responses, promotes forming healthy relationships and healthy attitudes towards work. With effort and help one can learn to regulate emotions and have control over the responses without them overwhelming you. Job satisfaction is also related to the self-regulation of emotions.

About the author

Dr Raga Sandhya (MRCPsych) is a Specialist Psychiatrist with demonstrable experience in Palliative Care and Psycho-Oncology, Child Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Addiction and Consultant-Liaison Psychiatry.

Dr Raga Sandhya (MRCPsych) is a Specialist Psychiatrist with demonstrable experience in Palliative Care and Psycho Oncology, Child Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Addiction and Consultant-Liaison Psychiatry.