NHS Lothian

Ways to help manage your emotions

2 min read

There are lots of things you can do to help manage your emotions. Try these useful tips: 


  1. Commit to accepting the situation for what it is, rather than how you want it to be.
  2. Take care of yourself. Try to get enough sleep, eat well, take some exercise and take care of your personal hygiene. Avoid using alcohol or mind-altering substances.
  3. Distract yourself. Find something to do that will divert your attention away from the distressing thoughts or feelings for a little while. It works best if you choose something that will really grab your attention and keep you absorbed in that activity.
  4. Face the problem. Find the target problem, take action by deciding on the steps you need to take, work out some healthy coping strategies, and evaluate what worked well or what didn’t work.
  5. Be positive. Remind yourself of difficult times you have overcome in the past and how you can apply these skills in the here-and-now.
  6. Keep breathing! Slowing down your breathing will help you to stay calm and relaxed.
  7. Try to relax. Regularly practising muscle relaxation skills and controlled breathing exercises is a useful way of coping with the physical symptoms of panic. When you feel anxious, try breathing in through your nose and then breathe out through your mouth slowly, counting 1..2..3 each time.  Aim to do this for at least 5 minutes.
  8. Get help or advice from others. Talk to someone you trust and share your feelings with them. Ask them about how they cope with difficult emotions.


There are lots of other things that can help you manage distress. We recommend that you have a look at the following self-help tools:


Websites and online resources
  • NHS Inform provides a good source of evidence-based information about a range of mental health problems.
  • Mind provides advice and support for anyone experiencing a mental health problem. It has a range of reliable information on the help and support available. It has a specific section on managing angry emotions.
  • Wellbeing Glasgow offers a range of useful and informative resources available for anyone to download.


Podcasts & Blogs

For inspiring talks and podcasts on managing emotions, search:

  • Psychologists off the Clock – Use DBT skills to regulate emotions and be more effective in relationships by Dr. Matthew McKay
  • TED Talks – The gift and power of emotional courage by Susan David
  • TED Talks – The power of vulnerability by Brené Brown
  • Therapist Uncensored – Five strategies to manage intense emotions and why emotional regulation matters by Ann Kelley and Sue Marriott


Self -help guides
  • An NHS Fife self-help guide for managing emotions. Available here.
  • A self-help guide to help improve self-esteem issues from Wellbeing Glasgow. Available here
  • The Centre for Clinical Interventions is an Australian website which provides a series of self-help information and worksheets that you can work through. The booklets are organised into modules that you can work through one-by-one. The modules provide information and strategies to help you manage distress. Available here.
  • A helpful worksheet from Therapist Aid with practical strategies for coping with difficult emotions available here.
  • A guide to dealing with distress from Get Self Help. Available here.


  • The Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills workbook: Practical DBT exercises for learning mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation and distress tolerance by Matthew MacKay, Jeffrey C. Wood and Jeffrey Brantley
  • Manage your mind: the mental fitness guide by Gillian Butler and Tony Hope
Urgent Help


If you, or someone you know, is in crisis and in imminent danger of causing harm to themselves or others, call 999 immediately

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