Trauma-Informed Organization: Self Regulation

Posted on January 04, 2023

You set your alarm for 6:00 pm instead of 6:00 am, only to wake up and discover it is 7:15 am. Letting the dogs out, you trip and stub your toe. Then that tall coffee with cream that you so desperately needed gets knocked over, spilling all over your clothes. You rush to change when your daughter comes in and “reminds” you that she needs to bring a science project to school.

You manage to pull it all together and get her to school on time. But now, traffic is backed up.

You glance in your rear-view mirror to see the driver behind you focused on their phone, not realizing traffic has stopped. He slams on his breaks just in time to avoid an accident. You think back to a similar time when you were not so lucky and were seriously hurt. Finally, you pull into the parking lot and step out of your car into a giant puddle. You slog your way to your desk and open your calendar only to discover you have a meeting in 15 minutes. You’re sweating, shaking and your frustration level is off the charts.

We have all had days like this—or something very similar. Before you head off to your meeting, you have two choices: take your chances and go as you are (emotionally dysregulated) or think of our co-workers and ourselves, pause and self-regulate.

Self-regulation, according to psychologist Albert Bandura, is a continuously active process in which we:

  • Monitor our own behavior, the influences on our behavior, and the consequences of our behavior
  • Judge our behavior in relation to our own standards and broader, contextual standards
  • React to our behavior

During our TIO training we discussed the Four Rs:

  • Realization
  • Recognizing
  • Responding
  • Resisting.

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) writes:

“A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system; and responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.”

When we can manage our own reactions or emotions about a situation, we are better prepared to help others navigate their journeys, as well. At the organizational level this can mean ensuring we wait to send that email, resisting the urge to gossip with a colleague or showing up to meetings regulated and ready for conversation.

An individual can achieve self-regulation, but it takes self-reflection, commitment and practice. Our personal and work lives can be stressful, so it is essential to practice self-regulation strategies regularly to be able to use them effectively during stressful or difficult situations.

A strategy that works for one person may not work for another. It is also important to note that based on the situation, the environment, internal body systems, etc., a self-regulation strategy that worked yesterday may not work today. It is important for everyone to have a variety of self-regulation tools available to use.

  • Practice Self-Awareness: Self-awareness is the ability understand our thoughts, emotions and behaviors. It includes how we see ourselves and understanding how others see us.
  • Meditation and Mindfulness: Mediation allows space for you to reflect on and gain more control over your thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware of our thoughts, feelings, environment and how our body feels.
  • Deep Breathing: The simplest deep breathing technique is “belly breathing.” Sit comfortably or lay down. Place one hand on your stomach, just below your rib cage. Place your other hand on your rib cage. Deeply breathe in through your nose. Feel your stomach push your first hand out. Your chest should not move. Breathe out through pursed lips. Gently let your first hand guide your stomach inwards. Slowly repeat the technique 5-10 times.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation helps a person to relax both mentally and physically allowing for self-regulation. As you breathe in, tense a specific muscle group (foot, lower leg, upper leg, etc.) and as you breathe out, release the tension. Move to the next muscle group and continue the process until you have gone through all the muscle groups in your body.
  • Positive Self-Talk: Self-talk is your internal dialogue. Engaging in positive self-talk has several benefits. It can decrease stress, improve self-regulation, reduce pain, improve immune function and promote a better quality of life."
    “I am capable and strong.”
    “I can and will do my best.”
    “I am enough.”
    “I can do hard things.”
    “I love myself.”
  • Exercise: Exercise increases endorphins which help improve your mood and decrease stress. Research has shown that regular exercise improves your psychological wellbeing, increases your energy levels, helps manage weight, improves your ability to fight off illness and disease, and improves your sleep.
  • Engage in Self-Care: Engaging in self-care helps you to achieve self-regulation. Be kind to yourself, eat healthy, get enough sleep and set boundaries. Self-care helps you stay happy, healthy and resilient.

Sioux Falls resources:

  • Check into SF Community Education wellness courses such as Essential Oils, Zumba, healthy food prep, or explore a new hobby.

Resources for all:

  • Watch and participate in Cosmic Kids Yoga (for families) on YouTube.
  • Try apps such as Insight Timer, Headspace, or Calm.