Feeling Emotional Recently? Here Are Ways on How to Control Emotions

Feeling overwhelmed and emotional? Wondering how to control emotions? Discover how Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can aid you in taking charge of your feelings and attaining inner serenity once more

A woman feeling stressed and finding it hard to control her emotions

As humans, experiencing emotions is an inherent aspect of our being. Nevertheless, it is crucial to comprehend how to effectively manage emotions so that we don’t become unwell due to extreme feelings. Conversely, internal imbalances in our physical health can occasionally result in emotional turmoil. This is an essential component of the holistic approach taught in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Relationship between Emotions and Physical Health in TCM

According to TCM practitioner Lim Sock Ling, each of the five organ systems in TCM corresponds with a specific emotion. The Liver is associated with anger, the Kidneys with fear, the Heart with joy, the Lungs with sadness and grief, and the Spleen with worry.

Various cultures and languages incorporate organs into their figures of speech. In English, we have common expressions such as “heartbreak” or “heartache”. Similarly, in Malaysia, the Malay language has an expression for anger or resentment, which translates to “liver pain” (sakit hati), and in Chinese, the word for “heart” (心) is used to refer to the “mind”.

Physician Lim stated that in TCM, the connection between a physical ailment and emotional changes is two-fold. Emotional upheaval can lead to a physical ailment, and vice versa, an emotional disorder may signify an imbalance in the organ system. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy relationship between your physical health and emotional wellbeing.

Physician Lim explains that the Liver, for instance, is crucial in emotional regulation due to its role in circulating qi (life force). As a result, an imbalance in the Liver can impair qi regulation amongst other organs, leading to emotional instability such as depression. Conversely, depression itself can be a sign of or a contributing factor to Liver dysfunction. Individuals with this condition may struggle to experience joy, and often feel anxious and dispirited. The Heart is also essential in emotional regulation because it houses shen, or spirit. If this organ system is compromised, it can result in an unsteady and melancholic mood.

The correlation between emotional changes and organ system imbalances is particularly prominent in women’s reproductive development and aging. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common experience for many women, and irritability is a common symptom. This is unsurprising as the Liver, which regulates menstruation, is associated with anger. For women approaching menopause, at around 49 years of age, a reduction in Liver and Kidney essence may result in not only physical symptoms such as hot flushes, but also severe emotional mood swings that may seem difficult to manage.

Other Conditions Linked to Emotions

TCM also links emotional dysregulation to various other conditions, including:

  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Complex post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
  • Foetal alcohol syndrome

Meditation is an effective method to cope with daily stressors, if you’re looking on how to control emotions.

Self-Care Tips to Control Emotions

In today’s society, stress has become a common denominator among adults, and even children. So, how to control emotions?

To regulate emotions, optimal circulation of qi (vital life force) among the five viscera is necessary. According to physician Lim, stress is one of the factors that can cause qi stagnation, impeding the body’s ability to regulate emotions effectively.

Effective stress management is essential for controlling emotions. It’s important to be mindful of the amount of stress you take on in the first place. When stress starts to feel overwhelming, it’s essential to recognize the warning signs and learn how to manage it effectively. Here are some techniques that can help:

  • Stay physically active and engage in suitable activities like yoga and tai chi to ensure optimal circulation of qi.
  • Practise meditation and deep breathing to help you relax immediately when needed.
  • Maintain a healthy sleep schedule to allow your body time to rest and recharge.
  • Practice healthy eating habits and avoid binge-drinking to keep your body resilient and healthy.
  • Be patient and forgiving with yourself, as self-criticism can lead to increased stress and emotional turmoil.
  • Spend time with people who nourish your spirit and avoid those who drain you. This helps to reduce stress levels and promotes emotional well-being.
  • Consider working with a professional to diagnose and treat any underlying mental health conditions or other issues that may be contributing to emotional dysregulation.

These self-care tips can help you to achieve a healthy relationship between your physical health and emotional wellbeing!

Foot spa treatment

Perform a massage on Tai Chong acupoint to relieve symptoms of Liver Qi Stagnation like anger or irritability.

Consider Acupuncture or Acupressure

Physician Lim highlighted that acupuncture is frequently the primary mode of treatment recommended by TCM for a range of conditions, including emotional imbalances.

How to control emotions with acupuncture? Well, specific points on various meridians are targeted with needles. Acupuncture aids in the circulation of qi, which can enhance emotions associated with Qi Stagnation, such as depression.

According to a recent eight-week acupuncture study conducted by researchers in China, South Korea, and the United States, depression treated with both anti-depressants and acupuncture showed significantly better results than medication alone. In addition, a study by Harvard Medical School found that acupuncture is an effective treatment for depression and anxiety in pregnant women.

Acupressure is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves applying pressure to specific acupoints on the body to stimulate the flow of qi. Like acupuncture, it is believed to help regulate the body’s energy flow and restore balance to the organs and systems.

Physician Lim explains that for regulating Liver qi, the Tai Chong (LR3, 太沖) acupoint can be massaged. It is located at the depression distal to the junction of the first and second metatarsal bones, on the top of the foot. Gently massaging this point in a circular motion for a few minutes can help relieve symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation, such as anger and irritability. It is important to note that acupressure should only be done under the guidance of a qualified practitioner.

Regulating Emotions Using TCM

“TCM herbs can also help to regulate qi circulation, resolve stagnation, calm the mind and remove frustration,” reminds physician Lim. Classical herbal formula such as Xiao yao powder (逍遥散) and Chai hu shu gan powder (柴胡疏肝散) are useful. Recent scientific studies through animal models have shown efficacy of the latter.

According to Physician Lim, there are several other herbs that can be used in TCM to address emotional imbalances, including rose buds, finger citron, and wild American ginseng. Silktree bark is also a popular herb that works on the Heart and Liver meridians, and can help remove stagnation, harmonise blood, calm the Heart, and reduce swelling. It is commonly used by people experiencing insomnia or feeling under the weather. However, it’s important to note that certain herbs may have contraindications for pregnant women or individuals with specific medical conditions, so do consult with a qualified TCM practitioner before using any herbal remedies.

Learning to control our emotions can provide us with a sense of liberation instead of being controlled by them. It’s crucial to acknowledge that this is not a flaw or a sign of weakness but a disruption that can arise from our hectic lives. Fortunately, TCM provides a clear route to tranquility and well-being once again.


**The facts and views expressed are solely that of the author/authors and do not necessarily reflect that of the editorial board. Kindly seek medical advice before embarking on any type of treatments.



  1. Frontiers in Psychology. 2019. An East Meets West Approach to the Understanding of Emotion Dysregulation in Depression: From Perspective to Scientific Evidence.  [Accessed 17 April 2022]. 
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  4. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2014. Xiao Yao San Improves Depressive-Like Behaviors in Rats with Chronic Immobilization Stress through Modulation of Locus Coeruleus-Norepinephrine System. [Accessed 17 April 2022]. 
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