Self-regulation is one of the most powerful tools to build emotional strength. When we practice self-regulation regularly we are far more stable to what happens around us. We don’t easily react to what others say or do anymore. We can keep calm and in peace with ourselves.
What is Self-Regulation?
Self-Regulation the ability to understand and thus manage disruptive emotions and impulses. In addition, self-regulation allows us to act in accordance with our personal values. If your values are kindness, it will enable us to respond in a nice way to someone who talks roughly to us. If we value helping others, it will allow us to help our family members with a problem, even if it is in the middle of the night.
Even more, self-regulation allows us to bounce back from failure and stay calm under pressure. Therefore, self-regulation is important to become more resilient.
What is an example of self-regulation?
Let’s imagine your boss at work is screaming at you. Because you are a calm person, you don’t say anything. But you can feel your tension rising. Furthermore, you feel totally embarrassed as all of your colleagues are present. How can self-regulation help? First of all, it helps you to understand that your boss should have social skills. Screaming at you is inappropriate behavior. Secondly, he crossed your boundaries. Thirdly, self-regulation helps you to understand that you must remove yourself from this situation.
Self-Regulation vs Self Control
Self Control is commonly defined as: “the ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations.”
Thus Self-control means that we have the ability to prevent strong impulses like screaming.
On the other hand, self-regulation is the ability to understand the reasons why we feel like screaming at others. Or in other words, understanding why something triggers us so heavily that we need to control ourselves. Usually, the reason is that we feel a threat in the environment.
Self-Regulation vs Self-Soothing
Whereas self-regulation is the understanding of what is happening, self-soothing refers to our ability to calm ourselves and get back into balance. Thus self-soothing is a proactive action that helps us to feel better.
The following graph explains the hierarchy of the three terms.
Effective Strategies For Self-Regulation
There are simple self-regulation strategies. It is about developing some tools to be prepared and understand what is going on. Having self control is strength that will make you more powerful. But it takes a lot of willpower to make it reality.
Self-Regulation Strategy 1: Setting Boundaries
Setting boundaries means to create a space between you and the other person or topic. The purpose of setting a healthy boundary is to take good care of yourself so that little can trigger you. This strategy will lead to more balance and thus less moments where you need self-control.
If our boundaries are too weak, our self defense mechanism gets triggered. This usually happens when we let people cross our boundaries. Those boundaries usually consist of respect and love, Whenever we get the overwhelming feeling that we are not respected for who we are and don’t feel loved, our survival or self defense mechanism gets turned on.
Let’s look at an example. We all understand that little kids might use screaming as a kind of survival skill or maybe to get heard in a busy and loud world. But as they grow older we have to teach them to respect that we also do have needs and that life is not: a kid screams and the adults or even older siblings have to jump. Setting healthy boundaries means that we have to teach kids how we feel. The reason is that even the kindest people have a right to be treated nicely and respectfully. Especially by their own family members.
Self-Regulation Strategy 2: Reinforcing Social Skills
Let’s be clear: No one has the right to scream at others. Furthermore, people who do scream at others have a lack of social skills. “Social skills are the tools that enable people to communicate, learn, ask for help, get needs met in appropriate ways, get along with others, make friends, develop healthy relationships, protect themselves, and in general, be able to interact with the society harmoniously”.
Social skills are also one of the most important leadership skills. If your boss or another person gets loud at you, this is a good reason for you to ask yourself: is this a positive environment for me or is it time to move on?
Unfortunately, social skills need to be learned. They need to be taught to us during childhood. Otherwise, it is hard for people to get along with each other.
Stay focused on your own behavior – use your social skills
In addition, keep in mind that when someone screams at you, you might not want to be drawn onto a level where someone has a lack of social skills. Knowing this on a rational level can also help you to stay calm and keep your self-control.
Personally, I had to learn that the hard way. My daughter had developed the habit of screaming at me. It was awful. But once I started to understand that screaming at others is a lack of social skills and everyone has the right to be treated with respect and kindness, I had developed the strength to say stop to my daughter. I just told her that if she would like something, she needs to talk to me in a respectful and kind manner or at least the same way she would like to be treated by her mum. The results were tremendous: our relationship developed and grew. And we both feel much better the way we treat each other now.
Self-Regulation Strategy 3: Stopping Emotional Contagion
As we pointed out earlier, self-regulation is about trying to understand what happens around us. So let’s look at another example. Do you remember the last time you came to the office or your workplace and immediately started to feel uncomfortable? Here the most likely reason why!
The most important lesson is to understand that very often you feel the emotions of others. You are scared because others are scared or you are suddenly angry because someone else has had a fight with his/her spouse in the morning. We all remember how awful it made us feel when our parents had an argument and were mad at one another.
Let’s imagine you had a normal start to the day. You slept well, had your normal morning exercise routine and your coffee tasted amazingly well. Even the traffic to your office was smoother than normal and you are in a good mood. The moment you open the door to your office room, you start to feel cold and uncomfortable. No one responds to your friendly: good morning, how are you?” Instead: silence. So you turn on your computer and silently start your work. After an hour or two you start noticing that you are feeling very aggressive, yes even mad and you have no idea why.
What you didn’t know is: your two colleagues had had a big fight about unfinished work just before your arrival. Because your boss gave them a very hard time and threatened to fire them, they are really mad at each other and plan not to exchange a single word for the rest of the week.
What does that have to do with you?
Christian Keysers and his team at Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience found out what you might have guessed already: emotions are contagious and travel from one individual to another.
When we look at others like our colleagues we intuitively start studying their face mimic or their actions. The mirror neurons in our brain automatically connect with the brains of the people around us. The rule is: the closer we are connected with those people, the more we can feel what they feel. The level of how much we can feel what others feel although depends on our level of empathy which often has to do with how sensitive we are.
So although you don’t have anything to do with your colleagues`conflicts you get emotionally involved which in this case means that you might not only have to spend the whole day working in an icy and aggressive surrounding, you even start feeling the same way. Worst case: you will take those emotions home and spread them to others.
To sum up: You risk losing control because you have taken over someone else’s emotions that might make you lose control. Self-regulation helps you to understand that.
Self-Regulation vs Self-Soothing
While Self-Regulation is about understanding what might have triggered you, Self-Soothing is defined as the process of calming yourself down so that you feel in peace with yourself again. We have gathered a few techniques for you that have proven to be effective. Thus they are worth trying. Please be aware that what works for one person, might not be right for the other person. So have the courage to find your own way.
Highly Effective Self-Soothing Techniques for Self-Regulation
Try what makes you feel better.
Technique 1: whenever you feel an emotion that is bothering you, ask yourself if this is your emotion or someone else’s.
Technique 2: try to establish a mechanism of letting the emotion go. Try to imagine a certain color surrounding them or go for a little walk. Others simply breath consciously into their stomach as a good tool to let go of what does not belong to them.
Technique 3: Distance – is the best, if possible, especially for the ones who are sensitive and beyond. They need to create distance to cut the system with the person their brain connected to. They simply need to focus on themselves.
Technique 4: break the ice by making a joke. Laughter is the best ice breaker in the world and a very important social skill.
Technique 5: Releasing tension. Check if you have lots of tension in your muscles. Try to stretch your head, shoulders and neck. This is where most tension is stored. Furthermore, to reduce the physical tension you could go for a walk or maybe even for a workout.
Technique 6: Focus on breathing as slow as you can. Try to breathe into your abdomen.
Technique 7: be gentle and good with yourself. Start a positive self talk where you tell yourself that you deserve to be treated nicely – by yourself and others. Encourage yourself that it is right to get yourself out of the situation and communicate to the other person that no one has the right to treat you rudely or disrespectfully.
Technique 8: Run cool water over your hands
Technique 9: Listen to soothing and relaxing music.
The results will be tremendous: relationships will develop and grow. And everyone involved will feel much better being treated this way.
Be savvy – Be smart – Trust SimpleSavvySmart
Self-Regulation is one of the most powerful tools a woman can have. Because some people try to use disrespect on purpose to hurt you or bully you. This especially applies to toxic relationships of any kind.
Also have the courage to distance yourself from people where you have the risk they might transfer their negative emotions or energy to you. You deserve the best.