Self-regulation is the ability to control and direct oneself, especially in terms of one’s values or long-term vision. Self-regulation is used by different people and organizations for a variety of purposes, but what I discuss here is emotional self-regulation.
The self-regulation that I needed to learn was a kind of down-regulation. Down-regulation helped me counter the effects of anxiety, anger, and stress. So, although self-regulation could also mean to up-regulate from a less activated state to a more activated state, when I mention self-regulation, I am referring to calming, or down regulation.
Self-awareness is the precursor to self regulation. You cannot manage what you are not aware of. This is why many people experience anger as “coming out of the blue”. It is because we are not even aware enough of ourselves to know how we feel in the moment.
The exercise below allows you to practice becoming self aware in real time. The key here is to acknowledge how you are feeling fully and completely. If you are feeling angry, allow for the feeling, accept it and yourself. The naming of the emotion and the accepting of it reduces the power of it. It becomes something temporary that you are feeling rather than who you are.
Self awareness allows you to heed the warning signs and self-regulation (breathing and calming) allows you to choose the right road to travel down. Self-regulation gives you control over what you want to do with the emotions you’re experiencing, as opposed to simply reacting to them—and hurting those you love in the process. Just because I feel angry doesn’t mean I have to act on it.
Together, self-awareness and self-regulation create that space between stimulus and response to give us choice. With choice comes control. With control comes more of being the parent you really want to be.
I found that if we don’t practice awareness and regulation, emotions go underground. They go rogue. If they go rogue, they bubble up and rise to the surface at unpredictable times and in uncontrollable ways. What could have been slight annoyance or hiccup can turn into an anger volcano if compounded by other stressors and given enough time and pressure to build up. The exercise here is a start to you regulating yourself. It allows you to relieve the pressure, regroup, and refocus.
* Do this exercise for 2 weeks straight, or until you gain an awareness of yourself.
* When I mention breathing I mean deep belly breaths.
* Use the wheel below to help you identify your emotions.
Download the PDF here: Emotion Log