Emotional regulation in healthcare settings helps healthcare professionals recognize the usefulness and transient nature of emotions. Plus, it helps them manage their influence and not get tangled up emotionally.
Emotional regulation involves having the skills to recognize, manage and control our emotions. Psychology conceives of it as a basic process within emotional intelligence. This intelligence is decisive for the development of communication skills, so necessary for working with patients.
But in order to practice emotional regulation in the health care setting, one must first know what exactly this process is and what it consists of. Emotional regulation training is “ the ability to be open to both pleasant and less pleasant feelings ” (Fernandez, 2010).
The emotional regulation model based on the processing of emotions by Hervás (2011) divides this process into several tasks or phases that must be passed until this regulation is reached:
- Emotional openness : it allows us to identify, experience and express our own emotions
- Emotional attention : ability to recognize emotions, to be aware of them
- Labeling of emotions : the ability to identify emotions, i.e. to name them
- Emotional acceptance : involves not rejecting the emotions that are experienced
- Emotional analysis : reflecting on and understanding the meaning and implications of their emotions
- Emotional regulation
The relationship between thought and emotion
There is a two way relationship between emotions and thoughts. The two feed off of each other, and failure in one dimension puts the other at risk. Thus, constant negative thinking, which we cannot let go of, affects our feelings. Likewise, a negative emotion that does not conform to reality influences our thinking.
A very common example among healthcare workers is the idea that patients are not properly cared for due to lack of time. This dissatisfaction generates emotions of frustration, stress or helplessness. In turn, these emotions fuel that thought, causing the situation to gradually worsen.
In the face of these problems, one solution is to change the situation through action. But there are times when what is happening cannot be changed or the likelihood of changing it is very low. Especially in the health field, when working with symptoms that do not always heal, with diseases that do not improve, with limited time or resources, etc.
It is therefore necessary to have tools that are used to manage your emotions. In this way, it will be possible to continue to provide quality treatment by working for and with the improvement of the patient.
Emotional regulation: stress in health professionals
There are many studies that establish a negative relationship between emotional intelligence and work stress. These indicate that the more important the training in emotional intelligence, the lower the stress level and the greater the prevention of the phenomenon of burnout (Bajo Gallego and González Hervías, 2014).
The benefits of mindfulness in patients
Mindfulness translates into full attention, and involves focusing on the present, paying attention to the here and now, following the following guidelines:
- No judgment
- No expectations
- An openness to everything around you
- Curiosity or the state of mind of a beginner
- An attitude of self-compassion
Mindfulness practice has been shown to increase emotional regulation. In addition, in patients, regular practice can:
- Increase general well-being and reduce dysfunctional emotional states and physical symptoms of chronic diseases
- Act as a protective factor against deterioration of overall cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease
- Be beneficial for patients with symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression
- Counteract the negative effects of chronic stress in cancer patients
- Improve physical functioning, body pain, general health, social functioning and mental health of patients with fibromyalgia
The purpose of mindfulness is not to leave the mind blank, but to accept the thoughts and feelings we experience, disengaging from them. It is about understanding that both are transient phenomena and do not define who we are.
Therefore, the person who practices mindfulness regularly becomes an expert in the self-regulation of his emotions.