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Improving Self-regulation

If you think about the people you know who regularly struggle with themselves, their inter and intra personal relationships or unprocessed lived experiences you may see that their ability to self-regulate is poor. Now, examine those you know who seem to sail through life with little difficulty regardless of what the waves of life have asked of them. It’s possible their self-regulation skills have been developed.

What Is Self-Regulation?

This refers to the ability to make intelligent decisions regarding your thoughts, words, and actions. It’s the ability to avoid acting on poor impulses. People who self-regulate well are less likely to have tumultuous lives, seek instant gratification or make regretful short-term decisions. Those with self-regulation skills also have a healthier relationship with their emotions.

Self-regulation has a wide array of definitions that spans mental health, politics, education, and business. To self-regulate is to pause and think before taking an action related to an emotion or feeling. Based on your culture, gender, and lived experiences being present to your emotions or feelings may not have been easily accessible. Bringing this skill into practice can improve your emotional well-being and also create empowerment with yourself and other relationships.

How to Develop and Practice Self-Regulation

The self-regulation process: The process of self-regulation consists of three steps — monitoring your behavior, judging your behavior and reacting to your behavior. These steps involve reflecting on your values and how they relate to your behavior.

You can use many strategies to improve your self-regulation skills. Everyone has an approach that will work best for them because of our unique personalities and experiences. Self-regulation strategies can include:

Mindfulness. Keeping your mind in the present and on the task before you is one form of self-regulation. It also makes self-regulation easier, as your mind isn’t drifting away and creating challenges for you. It also allows you to take a look at yourself in a non-judgmental manner.

Throughout the day, notice how often your mind is in the past or future. Also, notice how often your mind is thinking about things other than what you’re doing. It’s amazing that anyone manages to get anything done!

Monitor. Constantly monitor your mood and thoughts. When you drift from normal, you’ll be able to catch it quickly and subdue it before it gets out of hand. The same goes for your behavior. If you’re doing things you normally wouldn’t do, such as yelling at someone, ask yourself what’s going on.

Thought Labeling: This is a form of cognitive reframing which involves exploring how helpful or unhelpful your thoughts are. Once you have identified unhelpful thoughts you can start to replace them with a more helpful way of thinking. By rethinking your thoughts, you can develop a healthier response to the situation.

Sleep. It’s harder to manage yourself effectively if you’re overtired or are sleeping too much. Energy and alertness will give you better control over your thoughts and behavior. Most people find the optimal amount of sleep to be between 7 and 9 hours. Experiment and see what works best for you.

Emotional literacy: Your emotional literacy is your ability to identify and understand your emotions and the emotions of others. Improving your self-regulation skills with emotional literacy involves understanding why you feel a certain way and finding healthy ways to explore that feeling.

Have standards. Having standards has a similar effect as having goals. Your standards are a powerful way of limiting and regulating your behavior. Standards are similar to values. If you know your values, it’s easy to develop your standards.

● If you’ve never thought about your values, now is a great time to do it. Make a list of your values and then develop some standards for yourself.

Identify stressors and triggers: Everyone has certain stressors or trauma triggers that cause difficult feelings. Identifying these triggers can help you anticipate them and build healthy coping strategies for them.

Deliberate thinking: Staying calm and thinking rationally before you react to a situation can help with practicing self-regulation. Try relaxing yourself before you respond to a situation and objectively consider the consequences of what you feel like doing.

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