How to recognise emotions

If we want to learn how to regulate our emotions, we first need to be aware of the emotion that has shown up.

Sometimes the first clue to the presence of an emotion might be physical feelings in our body, or body signals.
Emotion Body signals

Clenched fists

Heart thumping

Feeling hot in neck and face

Feel blood pressure going up

Throbbing temples

Tension in body

Clenched jaw

Shaking or trembling

Increased sweating



Heart beats faster, slower, louder, or skips

Tension in neck, shoulders, jaw

Sweaty palms

Urge to run away

Upset stomach

Hard to breathe


Feel lightheaded or dizzy

Heaviness in the chest


Butterflies in your stomach

Shortness of breath

Dry mouth

Shortness of breath

Tension around eyes and mouth

Sick in the stomach


Empty feeling in chest or stomach

Lump in your throat


Feel like crying

Tightness in your chest


Can’t look others in the eyes

Feel sick in the stomach

Heaviness in the chest

Shrink yourself and want to make yourself invisible

Body temperature goes up

Recognising early when you are experiencing an emotion, and identifying what it is, can help you figure out a helpful way to respond.

When we are not aware of how we are feeling, we are more likely to react without thinking about the consequences.

Each time we experience an emotion - thoughts, feelings, behaviours, body signals, and urges are present.

Be aware of primary and secondary emotions!

At times, in response to a situation or event, we can find ourselves experiencing one emotion, which can then be followed by a different emotion. For example, imagine if you have an argument with a friend and you become really angry, yelling and swearing at them. Afterwards, you might feel shame because you were so angry and acted aggressively towards your friend.

Being able to identify the primary emotion is really helpful.

It’s not about judging which emotion was better, more appropriate, or whatever. If you can figure out why you were experiencing the primary emotion in the first instance, it makes it possible for you to figure out the original problem and work on solving it.



Further Resources