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Self Regulation


Self regulation is an important life skill for all people. Self regulation allows people to persist when a task gets difficult, manage their emotional state, and keep an appropriate energy level based on their evironment. There are many coping techniques and skills to help people with self regulation.

Energy level:

For children and adults, there can be times when your body just doesn't seem to match up with what you need to do. For example, you may feel hyper and unable to get rid of excess energy while at work, or sluggish when you need to focus. Depending on where you are, there are ways to cope and fix your energy level. When you're feeling high energy while at work or school, do some type of small, manual activity to calm yourself. This could be something such as coloring, doodling, or playing with a stress ball. If it is allowed, you can even do simple stretches to try and relieve extra energy. At home, yoga, exercise, or cleaning can help get rid of extra energy and calm a person down. For children, simple yoga and excercises can also help. You can also have them shake out their extra energy, or even have them "try to push down the wall" by placing having their place their hands flat on the wall and push with all their might. For low energy, both children and adults can try going for a walk or jumping rope (or even jumping in place) to try and wake their body. They can even chew on crunchy snacks like carrots or pretzels to try and get the sensory input they need to wake up.

Emotional level:

First, learn to recognize what emotion you are feeling. For children, simple emotions such as "mad" or "sad" would be a good starting point. You can use an emotion wheel or chart to help them express what they are feeling. After figuring out the emotion, help them recognize what made them feel this way. Let them know it is ok to feel they way are feeling, and that just because they feel an emotion doesn't mean they have to act on it. For example, it is ok to feel angry, but don't act on the emotion by hurting others. Help them calm down with breathing techniques or role playing, and then try to move from calm to a more positive state.

For adults, try to dig beyond those simple emotions and ask yourself hard questions like if you're feeling angry, or feeling frustrated. Recognize that there is a subtle difference between closely related emotions such as frustration versus anger, jealousy versus envy, and shame versus embarrassment. For example, frustration stems from internal factors and is a slow and steady emotion, while anger usually has outside triggers and is a quick emotion. Envy is wanting to possess something that somebody else has, while jealousy is worrying about losing something you have to somebody else. Shame is based on a percieved personal flaw, while embarrassment stems from an action. Learn to recognize which you are feeling, as well as the fact that you may be feeling a combination of emotions. After recognizing the emotion, try to work through them. For example, don't hold on to a negative emotion. Experience it as a wave, let it ebb and flow, don't amplify it and don't supress it. As it ebbs further away and you reach a calm point, try to switch to a positive emotion. Recognize if you need to apologize for an action, or give forgiveness for a misdeed done to you. Also note if you need to avoid certain people or situations that cause too many negative feelings.

For both children and adults, learn to tolerate situations that make you feel awkward or anxious, such as visiting new places or talking to new people. For children, you can help them regulate their anxiety by practicing what to do in social situations at home, and then giving them adaquate opportunity to use those skills in real life. For example, practice what they want to order at a restaurant before the waiter comes or before getting to the front of the line at a fast food or coffee shop type place, and then have them tell the person their order rather than ordering for them. You can also help them become comfortable talking to new people by having them "buy" their own toy while at the dollar store or market. Practice how to wait in line, say hello to the cashier, hand over the money, and take back the change and reciept. If they are older, make sure they know how to check for correct change. If they are younger just focus on the social aspect of buying an item. After practicing at home, try taking them to a store with their allowance if they have one, or give them a few dollars if they don't, and let them try to make a small purchase themself. Teaching children these skills while they are young can increase their tolerance for handling feelings of shyness and awkardness, and help ease teenage or adult anxiety since they will have this practice and confidence when it is time to be more independent.

For adults expierencing social awkwardness, try finding a club for a hobby that you like in the area. Finding a group with shared interests can ease the process of meeting new people. You can also mentally practice your order or what greeting you will give the cashier if you have anxiety about making purchases. You can start small for tolerating new places by going to a different store location than the one you usually go to (such as a different HEB, or Game Stop, or Subway, than your usual go-to location). You can also try to increase your tolerance for new situations by giving yourself a few minutes to go inside of your usual Starbucks or fast food place and sit in the store to have your coffee or meal, rather than ordering through the drive thru and leaving quickly.


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