The Importance of Emotional Regulation in PTSD Recovery

February 20, 2013 Michele Rosenthal

If you have PTSD then you know what it’s like to feel unable to control your emotions. You’re walking along having a fine day when all of a sudden you hear a siren or a car backfires and you hit the deck or hide in the bushes.

Or, you’re feeling completely at ease in a conversation with someone and then all of a sudden a huge wave of anger courses through you and you react with vicious words and vehement aggression.

What’s happening in these instances? Your brain is processing information that makes it feel in danger, which causes it to send messages to your body, which activates your sympathetic nervous system that leads you to respond in either fight, flight, or freeze.

Bottomline: Typical of anyone with PTSD you’re having trouble regulating your emotions. Not to worry, there are ways to counteract this.

How To Reclaim Control

The Impact of Heart Rate Variability

Increasing your heart rate variability (HRV) can play a key role in optimizing your emotional regulation processes. HRV refers to the beat-to-beat alterations in heart rate. The higher your HRV the more flexible and adaptable your system is. The lower your HRV the less adaptable and flexible it is. All of this impacts your vagus nerve function. The vagus nerve is a long cranial nerve that reaches all the way from the brain to the internal organs in your chest, abdomen and pelvis. The vagus nerve actually transports a variety of signals to and from the brain and accounts for your instinctive body responses. The more happy your vagus nerve is the more emotionally regulated you are.

So, how do you keep the vagus nerve satisfied and your HRV high? Options are simple, free and you can do them anywhere:

Meditation – 5 minutes of focusing on your breath

Breathwork – 2 minutes of inhaling through your nose and exhaling as if through a straw(the goal is to get down to 4 – 6 breaths per minute)

Cardio exercise – especially interval training

The most important thing for your nervous system is to feel a sense of safety. Implementing these practices can increase that feeling in many physiological ways that lead to better emotional regulation.

The Impact of Non-Judgment

When you are in a state of non-evaluation you enter a place where your nervous system does not fire up defense systems. Some ways to facilitate this state:

Self-compassion – evidence supports the fact that when you treat yourself with kindness in the face of your perceived failures and shortcomings you can actually put your brain more into a state of safety.

Releasing judgments – the more critical and negative you are – of yourself and others – the more you put your brain in defense mode. Becoming aware of your tendency to judge, and practicing letting that go, can help you feel more calm.

Interoception – this is the process of paying attention to what is happening in your body. Learning to be aware of the present moment and a sense of safety allows your brain to imprint and absorb it. Processes that increase interoception include mindfulness, yoga and focusing.

The most important concept to understand here is that 1) self-criticism recruits the body’s defenses, and 2) you have the ability to impact your physiological experience. You can help yourself heal by both being nice to yourself and developing your physiological flexibility. Both of these help your brain and body learn the message of safety, which will translate into your own increased ability to regulate your emotions.

APA Reference
Rosenthal, M. (2013, February 20). The Importance of Emotional Regulation in PTSD Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Michele Rosenthal

Dr Musli Ferati
June, 21 2016 at 1:12 am

Emotional corpus as predictor of global life functioning incites and determines all humane creative performances, everywhere and at any place, now and in the past. So they have got positive and negative impact of our daily activities and on our all-around bio-psycho-social statement. On the other hand they indicate direct and hidden answer to external stimuli, that may to put in danger our psycho-physique integrity. In a word, their role and place is crucial on our personal and social living. As for to PTSD, we may say that we live in continuous stress world, and your recommendation to soft the bad consequences of stressful events have got palliative and temporary effects, because PTSD is everyday and universal emotional experience. For me, the best way to healing the dangerous outcomes of stress is to ameliorate hostile and antisocial relationship, which ones manifested throughout daily manlike violent and aggressive acts. Indeed. the emotional nature of man is bad and risk ones, and systematic, substantial, and continuous process of psycho-education might to prevent epidemic daily violence, as serious and threatening risk of up to day humanity. Further more, when it is known that legal sanction against violence and criminal acts are of "post festum" character and function. It ought to take in action ante hoc propter measures to stop antisocial behave, that is spread all arround the world. In this direction, the contribution of functional mental health care system in community would be of great positive effect. If we continue to healing the consequences of stressful psycho-social events without improving our mind and emotions by long and permanent way, the we always would be improvised witness of tremendous violent braking of uneducated people on human psychology.

“The Importance of Emotional Regulation in PTSD Recovery” | Pennsylvania Mental Health Issues
February, 21 2013 at 9:49 am

[...] Article Link [...]

Leave a reply