Take Control of Your Emotions


By Kimberly Castelo, MS, LMFTA

Some people can regulate their emotions by meditating or doing yoga. Others still find their minds preoccupied by unhelpful thoughts while doing these same exercises. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), founded by Marsha Linehan, offers great ideas about finding ways to bring emotional regulation to each individual.  According to Linehan, if one technique doesn’t work for self-regulating, try another.


Developed by Linehan, the ACCEPTS model functions as an acronym for some different techniques to help us self-sooth.  Again, if one technique doesn’t work, try another one!  You are unique and what helps you should be, too!  Embrace that thought and be willing to try many things until you find what works for you. Here’s a brief overview of the ACCEPTS model to help you find techniques to self-sooth.

“A” Stands for Activities

Look for activities that help focus your mind off of your present situation. For example, if doing dishes helps get your mind off of your problem, then wash away!  But if, while you’re doing dishes, you’re still thinking about your problem, then this activity isn’t helpful for you. Find something else that does work.

“C” Stands for Contributions

Did you know doing something nice for someone else can help change your outlook? Something powerful happens when we start being kind to others without asking for anything in return.  This exercise does not have to include money. Giving someone a compliment might be just the ticket.

The Second “C” Stands for Comparisons

Remind yourself about all the things that are going well. Sometimes we focus too much on the negative.  Try to focus on what’s going right.  Look around. I bet there’s someone who is going through something worse than you. Such a process can simply give you perspective.

“E” Stands for Emotions

Do something opposite of your emotion.  After a long day at work when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I don’t go home and watch something sad.  Instead, I watch my favorite comedy show that makes me smile or listen to uplifting music.  Recognize the emotion you’re feeling and focus on the opposite emotion.

“P” Stands for Putting Away

Put the experience out of your mind into a box. For example, sometimes at night do you ever notice your mind wanders and races?  Well, at least mine does.  So how I use putting away is that I say to myself, “Ok, it’s midnight, the office is not going to be open to finish my paperwork, so I’ll write down what I need to do, put it in a box, and tomorrow I’ll do it when my office opens.” The point is that not everything needs to be solved right away, even though it feels like it does.  Being able to tell ourselves that we will tend to what worries us later can help lessen the anxiety we feel.

“T” Stands for Thoughts

Get active with healthy thoughts! If you notice that most of the time the chatter taking place in your head is negative, then begin focusing on positive thoughts.  What are you doing well?  What are you proud of yourself for doing? What do you appreciate about yourself and about others?

“S” Stands for Sensations

Excite your mind with intense, safe sensations. I love this one because different sensations help us feel different things.  For example, taking a cold shower or placing a piece of ice in your hand will help you change your mood. Find a sensation that takes your mind off of your problem and try doing it next time you feel overwhelmed.

Like I mention above, the ACCEPTS model is only one model to regulate emotions. It is a powerful one, however.  Try each of the letters and see what happens. Notice which ones work and which ones don’t, and stick to the ones that work.

About the Author


*Kimberly Castelo, MS, LMFTA is the founder of Healing Moments Counseling. She has a Master in Marriage and Family Therapy and a Master of Divinity. Kimberly belongs to both the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and the Washington Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. She is a member of the American Association of Sexuality, Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). She trained intensively in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).  Kimberly is certified in Prepare / Enrich and completed an Emotionally Focused Therapy Externship as well.

Reviewed by ADDR 5-24-2015 (mm)
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