Trauma-Informed Organization: Self-Regulation - Why It Matters

Posted on February 22, 2022

Self-regulation is our ability to gauge our state of mind and emotions, and to keep these under control while we navigate social situations, life roles and relationships. It is a critical skill that allows us to control ourselves, make better choices and manage our emotions when we are angry, upset, sad or worried. Self-regulation is one of the core components of emotional intelligence (self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy and social skills). It is an active and continuous process. When we are better able to understand and address our own emotions and the emotions of others, we are better able to make sense of our environment, adjust to it and pursue our goals.

Self-regulation vs. Self-control

“Self-regulation is what makes self-control possible, or, in many cases unnecessary.” Stuart Shanker (2016)

Self-regulation and Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. It encourages active awareness of a person’s own thoughts and feelings and bolsters conscious decisions about how to act instead of doing whatever you feel like doing.

Click here for a 5-Minute Meditation You Can Do Anywhere

Research has shown the following benefits to practicing mindfulness:

  • Reduces negative thoughts
  • Decreases stress
  • Improves working memory
  • Improves focus
  • Decreases emotional reactivity
  • Increases cognitive flexibility
  • Improves relationships
  • Improves immunity

Practicing or learning mindfulness techniques can greatly improve one’s ability to self-regulate.

Self-regulation and Co-regulation:

Co-regulation is a supportive process between a caring, responsive individual and a dysregulated person that promotes the development of self-regulation.

It can occur across the lifespan by providing regulatory support through caring relationships.

By improving our own self-regulation skills, we become more competent colleagues and caregivers. When we see someone in the midst of an emotional storm, keeping ourselves calm and regulated will help them to regulate.

Click here for a 1 Minute Breathing Exercise

Techniques for Self-Regulation

  1. Mindful Breathing: By practicing mindful breathing techniques every day you will stay grounded and able to be present in the moment. It promotes self-regulation by decreasing stress, anger and anxiety.
  2. Reframe Negative Thoughts: Take a step back as soon as a negative thought enters your mind and reframe it for a positive outcome.
  3. Self-Affirmations: “I can do this” or “I believe in myself and my skills” or “I grow with every challenge” pushes you to try your best, even if you do not want to.
  4. Visualization: Envisioning a desired outcome can help you to self-regulate.
  5. Body Awareness and Sensations: Paying attention to your body and body signals lets you know how you are reacting to different situations and sensations. Mindfulness helps us to be present in our body.
  6. Bedtime Routine: Establish a consistent bedtime routine to promote healthy sleeping habits and self-regulation.
  7. Compliment Someone: Every day give someone a compliment. By doing this you become emotionally stronger and it improves your relationships.
  8. Gratitude List: Keep a list or journal of all the things that you love. It will remind you of all things good and help you to regulate.
  9. Express Yourself: Engage in self-expression through the things that you already love to do (dance, crafts, singing, reading, fishing, running, etc.). These all help you to express your feelings and emotions in a positive manner.
  10. Reinforcement: When you achieve a goal, reward yourself with something exciting or that you enjoy.

Check out this worksheet for Emotion Regulation Skill Development to learn more ways to improve your regulation skills!