Emotional Regulation 4: Vulnerability Factors

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Regulating emotions with BPD is a bit like trying to drive a truck full of explosives through a hurricane, except the road is also on a fault line during an earthquake, the explosives are somehow being held by endangered creatures and it’s raining razor blades. Also everything is on fire.

There are many things that make emotional regulation difficult, we call these vulnerability factors. These are:

Hunger (too much or too little)

Sleep (too much or too little)

Accumulative stressors (all the little things piling up)

Medication side effects

Physical Illness


Past experiences/background history/trauma

Its useful to take a personal check-in to see if any of these things are causeing you particular difficulty, and then try to minimize its effects so you can be better equipped to deal with emotional disregulation.

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One factor that is common for almost everyone is sleep hygiene. Your habits in getting to bed may not be effective to getting a good night’s sleep. Here are some tips for getting in some good zzz’s.

Don’t take naps during the day

Only use your bed for two things *wink*

Maintain a healthy diet

Exercise regularily

Avoid caffiene and/or alcohol before bed

Take medications as prescribed

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Speaking of medication, I highly recommend you talk to your pharmacist about the medications you take. If, for example, a type of medication makes you drowsy, take it at night. If you have been prescribed medication as a sleep aid, pay attention to how long it takes to kick in. I was on one that took about 2 hours to take effect, so I would take it earlier in the evening and managed to fall asleep right on time.

If none of these things work, get up out of bed and do something monotonous like light household chores. Go back to bed when you start to feel sleepy and try again.

Reasons Why You Should Not Sleep With Your Cell Phone
Do not do this!

I am the worst for putting away my phone at night and it’s a pretty big no-no for a healthy sleep. Charge your phone in the other room, and try to resist the urge to stare at a screen when you should be sleeping. Sketch, read, stretch, brush you teeth, take up macrame, but leave you phone alone, it will still be there in the morning, I promise.

Even if you have worked on all your vulnerability factors and maintain a healthy lifestyle, we can’t always control our emotional disregulations, especially if there are triggers beyond your control.

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A good way of dealing with triggers is to first identify them with only the facts. What was the trigger? What happened in the moments just before the emotion fired?

What were the external stimuli? Address the situation, the circumstances and your environment.

What were the internal stimuli? What were your thoughts, behaviours, and/or physical reactions that prompted the event?

What is the trail of emotions that occurred following the trigger? Remember, one emotion prompts another, and there can be automatic reactions without consciousness or awareness of any thoughts.

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Speaking of thoughts, this may be a good time to check in with your beliefs and assumptions. Most events do not automatically prompt emotions, instead, the emotion is prompted by the interpretation of the event (based on assumptions, values, beliefs, and learned experience.

This is why I try to arm myself with knowledge and understanding to maintain a non-judgementa; mental state.

It can be very easy to pile judgement on yourself for feeling or thinking things that turn into triggers. And as we all know this only makes us feel worse. Practice being non-judgmental with yourself by forgiving yourself for thinking and feeling the way you do. Gather the facts only and check in with your vulnerability factors and then adjust accordingly.

Remember, its not your fault you feel this way, emotions are messy and complicated. You feel things because your body responds to external and external stimuli in order to help you understand your environment and protect yourself from danger. Do your best to get your vulnerabilities to a minimum, and practice self kindness. You’ll be alright.

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