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Step By Step Help Controlling Your Emotions In Challenging Situations

Updated: Dec 28, 2021

We all experience intense times and can struggle with how to feel better without arguing with and alienating everyone in our lives. Below is a list of some tried and true strategies to handle in the moment stress and continue to grow.

1: Take 3-5 Deep Breaths.

Yes, I know people say deep breathing doesn’t always work for them. They often forget that it is a skill. Most people can’t go out and play a perfect basketball game without practicing. Deep breathing is the same. If you aren’t practicing when you are calm, or before sleep, you may not remember it in these moments. We can also work together to find deep breathing that works for you as there are several different types of breaths.

2: Check-In With Yourself.

Same as I tell parents to check in with their children if they are in intense emotions with HALTWB, I’m going to tell you to do the same. HALTWB stands for:







If you are any of these, take care of yourself before addressing the problem. Often when we take care of hunger, tiredness, water, or bathroom, loneliness, or feeling afraid-- we feel so much better.

3: Acknowledge The Feeling.

Yes, we start with labelling the feeling. What are you truly feeling? If it feels like anger, give yourself permission to look deeper. As cave people we turned towards anger first for survival. If someone stole food from you back then, it was easier to get retaliation. Anger is the tip of the iceberg on emotions. Now we can look beneath anger and get deeper. Is it a sense of hurt? Of disrespect? Feeling unheard? Labelling and noticing the feeling is the first step.

4: Decide If You Need A Coping Skill.

If you’ve checked in on your immediate needs of HALTWB and have acknowledged the feelings, do you need more like a break, journaling, etc.? If you do, take that break.

5: Make An Action Plan For How To Tackle The Problem.

It could be using “I feel, when you, can you” statements. It could be writing the problem down and mapping out ways to handle it. The action plan is unique to any situation.

6: Go Handle It.

You may have to repeat these steps, you may have to change your action plan or go back and do a coping skill or deep breaths, but you’ve got this.

For more of these tips, strategies, or just a safe place to talk about emotions, please make an appointment with us here at WTHC. Or check out our blog, specifically our mindfulness for adults blog post.

-Mary Willoughby Romm

-If you are looking for counseling to help you learn to control your emotions in challenging situations, Mary Willoughby Romm is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.

Please send an email to to explore working together.

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