Regulation comes through mindfully become aware of ourselves and our situation.
It is the practice of caring for ourself through loving attention, movement and breath to help manage strong emotions, increase overall resilience, and reduce anxiety and depression.
It is about listening to the subtle signals regarding how life is affecting us, so we can offer ourselves something helpful: maybe a hug, a breath, some space, or just validating how we’re feeling.
These may seem small or even insignificant, but they make a big impact on how our brain responds, on our empathy, and on our ability to connect with ourself and those around us, as well as how much capacity we have for challenges (even little ones) in our next moments or our next days.
This is an important aspect of education and exploration with the adults I work with, an impactful healing component for a child as we play together and an important piece that I love and long to help parents with as well, both for the support and care it offers them as well as how it helps them model these options for their children.
For all of us, regulation normalizes challenging situations and offers options for how to manage them and the feelings they bring up, often in ways that are more supportive than what we were using instead.
Some Examples of Regulation
Take a breath
Talk yourself through a situation, by naming feelings, impulses, sensations, beliefs and Breathe
Stomp your feet and Big exhale
Shake your hands out
Push on your legs and Deep exhale
Hug yourself and Deep inhale
Hand on your heart/chest
Push into your hands and Deep exhale
Rub your arms or legs and breathe
Squeeze your arms or legs and breathe
"The secret of life that we are looking for is just this: to develop through sitting and daily life practice the power and courage to return to that which we have spent a lifetime hiding from, to rest in the bodily experience of the present moment~even if it is a feeling of being humiliated, of failing, of abandonment, of unfairness."
Charlotte Joko Beck
Regulation is not about stress management, in the sense of knowing you need to go to the gym, eat better or make your lists because X, Y, or Z is a really big stressor in your life right now.
Regulation is not about being calm.
Regulation is about having confidence that you can care for yourself and manage whatever comes your way.
Whether it's big stuff or seemingly little stuff,
whether it's homework or a hard day at work,
whether it's separation anxiety, transitions, boundaries, or bed time,
new relationship, ending relationship, new siblings, divorce, or illness
whether it's too loud, too many, or not enough
taking time to bring caring attention to ourselves and/or our children is important
Regulation helps us "make room" for feelings, upsets and challenges
and the energy (or lack of it) that goes along with this
Essentially it's about validating how things are instead of trying to make them different, and offering care and warmth to whomever is hurting, whether this is you or your child.
For all of us, starting with ourself is the first step, then we can be there for others
Take a breath
Feel whatever you're feeling
Offer validating self-talk that lets you or your child know that you're there, that you get it, and that this is hard
"Name it to tame it" as Daniel Seigel says, just call it like you are: "Uh! I'm so frustrated." "This feels so hard!" "I'm so angry" "I wish this was different" "I feel so alone"
Share your struggle with someone you love
Snuggle (with a friend or by yourself)
Let yourself off the hook. Remind yourself that you don't have to already be over it (whatever it is), that you don't have to feel good right now, that you don't have to be somewhere else, or feel some other way
***Some of these might seem easier said than done***
Some of the biggest dis-services we do to ourselves are critical negative self talk, comparisons (particularly against a fantasy of our self), and pressure
So practice compassion, curiosity, warmth, and patience
Some things to consider
We can’t do any of this without learning how to pause and turn our attention kindly and mindfully in toward our feelings, sensations, thoughts and beliefs.
Regulation takes practice.
It is a learned activity, like riding a bike or reading, and
It is constantly unfolding as we learn new things about ourselves and what we need, where our vulnerabilities lie and what feels good for us.
We can be regulated in our excitement and joy
as well as our anxiety, our anger, our disappointment or our hopelessness.
In any of these situations, we have the option of regulating, which brings us much needed caring attention, a sense that if nothing else we are here for ourselves, and allows us to honor how a situation is affecting us. It offers a perspective of the bigger picture as well as instills trust in our ability to manage this experience and get moving into life again.
Or we have the alternative, which includes coping strategies like pretending we’re okay, ignoring the discomfort, addiction, using distraction, etc.
Although these alternatives are also our attempt at caring for ourselves they often come at a pretty big cost: depression, overwhelm, tension, anxiety, sickness, rage, suicide and abuse.