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How Can I Better Feel and Regulate My Emotions?

By: Danielle Bertini, LCPC Illinois

Many people struggle with emotions, especially when those emotions are uncomfortable, difficult, and painful. This can be things like anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, resentment, guilt, shame, and grief or loss.

As you could imagine, people (maybe even yourself included) deal with these complex emotions by two extremes: either avoiding them completely or by becoming overwhelmed by them. However, there is a middle ground to take that expands the capacity to tolerate distress, regulate emotions, and improve your overall mental-emotional health.

Dan Mager (2021) developed a mindfulness practice called N.O.A.H.S. to help handle uncomfortable and distressing emotions. This practice works through a process of consciously acknowledging our difficult feelings, being present with them, and then moving toward making peace with them (Mager, 2021). Mager (2021) outlines the five steps of N.O.A.H.S. and how to implement it:

1. Notice and Name 

The first thing is to notice, to become consciously aware that you are experiencing an uncomfortable emotion. Although you might not initially know what that emotion might be, it’s still important to notice and acknowledge that you are experiencing an emotion.

The next step, which is an extension of noticing the feeling, is to identify the particular emotion, to name it. A big part of discerning specific emotions from a mass of intense feelings is to put them into words and give them a name. This might look like, saying to yourself “I feel anxious,” “I feel angry,” or “I feel sad.” Sometimes we can even feel more than one emotion at a time, such as, “I feel frustration and disappointment.” 

If you find yourself struggling with being able to name your emotions, start by identifying where you feel the emotion in your body. Learning where different emotions register in your body and what the sensation is can help you to identify them more quickly and accurately. For example, maybe anger is felt as a tightness in your shoulders. Maybe sadness is an aching in your chest. Joy might be a warmth in your heart. 

2. Observe

Observe the emotion. This might look like greeting the emotion, such as, this is anxiety, fear, anger, and so forth. Work to view it with awareness and interest.

3. Allow

Allow the emotion to simply be. Let yourself feel the emotion without needing to run from it, fight against it, or cling to it. Open up space for it, which takes us out of reactivity and creates a more accepting and open state of mind.

4. Hold

Hold the emotion, breathe into it, be present and coexist with it. Begin to make peace with the emotion. 

5. Space

Release the emotion by putting space around it. Visualize it floating off or put some sort of border around it. 


The practice of N.O.A.H.S. helps to deactivate the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system and turns off the body’s stress response while also engaging the parasympathetic division and triggering the relaxation response (Mager, 2021). The parasympathetic division handles rest, relaxation, and conservation of energy. When it’s activated, breathing is slowed, muscles soften, pulse rate slows, and blood pressure decreases. 

The entire progression of this mindfulness practice can take as long or as little as you need, but usually it doesn’t need to be more than a minute or two. Whether happy or sad, painful or neutral, our emotions are an intrinsic part of who we are. If you find yourself struggling with regulating your emotions, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our therapists at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our licensed counselors. If you prefer to speak with a counselor from your own home, we also offer online counseling services to provide the assistance you need. However you choose to speak with a member of our team, we want you to know that we look forward to hearing from you.



Mager, D. (2021, June 24). This 5-Step Practice Will Improve Your Emotional Well-Being. Psychology Today. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from 

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