Quick tips to help with self-regulation
- Quick tip 1Watch out for triggers.Watch out for triggers.
Think through which situations create stress or cause outbursts. Is it loud places, bright lights, or other sensory information? Is it when plans or routines change? Knowing the triggers helps you avoid or prepare for tricky situations.
Self-regulation is a skill that allows people to manage their emotions, behavior, and body movement when they’re faced with a tough situation. It also allows them to do that while staying focused and paying attention.
Lots of kids and adults struggle with self-regulation. They act impulsively in an emotional situation. And after the fact, they can say what they should have done instead.
It’s easy to confuse self-regulation with self-control. They’re related, but they’re not the same. Self-control is mainly a social skill.
Self-regulation, on the other hand, is like a thermostat. A thermostat kicks on or off to keep a room at a certain temperature, or a “set point.” It tracks temperature changes, compares them to the set point, and “knows” whether to heat or cool the room.
We all have a self-regulation set point. To maintain that level of control, we need to:
- Keep track of changes in our environment
- Assess how we’re feeling and reacting
- Compare it to our set point
- Adjust to get back to that point
Self-regulation is a skill that develops over time. People who struggle with it have trouble figuring out what will help them calm down when they get upset. They have a hard time being flexible when things change and might react with frustrated outbursts. It all has to do with how people process information that comes in from their senses.
About the author
About the author
Ellen Braaten, PhD is the director of LEAP at Massachusetts General Hospital.