A 2-Minute Strategy for Emotional Regulation

by | Mar 11, 2024 | Lifestyle

Work and family life can sometimes feel like a mythical hydra with heads that grow back every time you cut one off. For each task we complete or problem we solve, it’s as if two more appear. These multiplying problems can leave us feeling helpless, guilty, or plain frustrated.

Perhaps, after doing as much as you could during your workday, you still feel as if you’re not getting anywhere. After a while of feeling like this, you burn out, unable to reach your potential. And that may make you feel helpless because you know you need to rest, but there’s still so much to do. 

Alternatively, you might find yourself dwelling on a time you let someone down or fell out with a loved one, feeling guilty and annoyed at yourself for not having been able to repair the relationship.

The irony of such emotions is that we can feel another emotion about having them: frustration. And then we may feel frustrated about our frustration, and so on.

How can we deal with and move past these emotions?

One strategy that I’ve found effective is what clinical psychologist Dr. Becky Kennedy calls “AVP.”

AVP stands for “acknowledge, validate, and permit.” Each one of these steps, as Dr. Kennedy explains, comes with a fill-in-the-blank sentence that helps guide your thought process.

The first step is to acknowledge your emotions. This means becoming conscious of how you are feeling. Try saying “Hi [emotion]!” The whole point of this step is to focus your mind on your emotions so that you can begin to make sense of and deal with them.

Once you’ve acknowledged your emotion, the next step is to “validate” it. This means trying to identify the cause behind it. For example, say, “That [emotion] makes sense because [cause]” to locate the cause of your emotion.1 Here, the idea is to establish the source of your emotion so that you don’t fool yourself into thinking your emotion is coming from “nowhere.” 

Lastly, “permit” your emotions. This means accepting the fact that you do feel, for instance, annoyance about a new, time-consuming project at work. At this stage, Dr. Kennedy recommends saying, “It’s okay I feel this way… and I can cope with it.” This final sentence gives you permission to feel and live with your emotions.

I’ve tested AVP over the last few weeks and it’s made it easier to take control of my emotions in a healthier way. Doing it makes me more conscious of my emotions so that I can deal with them. And, upon completing the process, I actually feel a positive emotion, relief.

Overall, AVP is an excellent mental tool that simplifies the process of dealing with in-the-moment emotions. If you’ve struggled to cope with your emotions and want to put your mind back in the driver’s seat, this tool is something you should try to see if it works for you.

  1.   Dr. Kennedy doesn’t discuss evaluating whether the emotion is an appropriate response to the cause, which is also a useful introspective question. ↩︎

On Solid Ground is a community blog where we publish articles by guest contributors as well as by the staff and officers of OSI. The ideas offered by guest contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the ideas of the staff or officers of OSI. Likewise, the ideas offered by people employed by OSI are their own, and do not necessarily reflect those of others in the organization.

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