The Impact of Stress
Recently, I felt overwhelmed by a task I was about to undertake. I could feel the signs of stress in my body: shallow breathing, increased heart rate, tightness in my belly and more. Since I was home at the time, I was able to tap into some built in resources to which I have access, in the form of seeking out significant people and loved ones for help. A tender bear hug from one who cares helped me to regulate my emotions and return to a place of stability. Those arms of safety, wrapped around my body, sent my nervous system a message of safety and connection. I felt okay and ready to face the challenge. This is the essence of co-regulation.
What is dysregulation, self regulation and co-regulation?
According to the Very Well Mind, dysregulation occurs when we struggle to modulate emotional responses. For instance, this is evidenced when a child, youth, or adult struggles to make decisions, struggles to manage emotions, or even avoids experiencing difficult emotions. We can see moments of dysregulation in children when they are not compliant with our directives. We can also see moments of dysregulation in ourselves when we are faced with an impossibly difficult task that seems insurmountable. Self regulation happens when we are able to stay calm and focused enough to exercise control over our emotions, thoughts and behaviours. Sometimes this is not possible. Co-regulation occurs when we need extra support for self-regulation to take place. In this capacity, someone other than ourselves assists us in implementing strategies and skills that will help us stay calm and stable.
How I Regulate Myself
I can and I have learned strategies that will assist in the process of self-regulation. Humans are adaptable and able to change. One change we can make for ourselves is to recognize disruptive, intrusive thoughts and to then think about what we would rather be experiencing. When we know better what we want, we can do better to advocate change for ourselves. Knowing that I want calm then provides me with a goal. I can seek out ways to stay calm, such as learning to increase my tolerance for uncomfortable feelings, learning to limit my impulses, as well maintaining an inner dialogue with myself, as well as an open dialogue with others. Past this, I can further find ways to utilize mindfulness in my everyday life.
How I Regulate Others
When I have learned the skills and strategies that enable me to self-regulate, I can then help others to do the same. This is the co-regulating ability of a person to help support another person finding it difficult to manage big emotions or who might be reacting adversely to challenging situations. The co-regulator, with a calm, steady presence, assists in lending their calm, supports by soothing, as well as helps by reminding the person experiencing dysregulation that they are not alone. The connection and stability provided in co-regulation is often enough to enable someone experiencing emotional dysregulation to find that inner calm they are seeking.
The Role of Solution Focused Therapy in Co-Regulation
The Solution Focused Brief Therapy approach is suited for supporting clients to regulate emotions and have an emotionally life-changing experience, leading to long-lasting opportunities for difference. While this approach does not explore the problematic emotions at length or in depth, it does explore what is wanted. Solution Focused Brief Therapy is hope seeking and strength activating. We encourage clients to explore preferred futures, even those preferred futures five minutes from the present. We then ask clients to consider alternatives. Instead of feeling dysregulated, we want to support clients in feeling stable and safe. The Solution Focused approach works with the client to support them in reaching the goal of safety and connection through goal formation and striving. Furthermore, the therapist has the unique role of being able to co-regulate the client in the process, coming alongside and supporting the client as they make the changes they are considering and seeking.
Co-Regulation in Everyday Life
I encounter moments each and every day in which I must check in with myself so as to self-regulate. I am also a co-regulating presence in the lives of many other people. As the saying goes, if I don’t place importance on looking after myself, I will have a hard time looking after others. Being aware of my emotions and the important role they play in informing me of my health and wellness is an important first step. When I am aware, I can look after myself. When I am regulated emotionally, I can then take on the challenge of supporting others.
Hey there! I am a registered counselling therapist at Your Life Design Inc., a Prince Edward Island based company offering online therapy and training. I am also a Canadian Certified Counsellor. I hold separate Bachelor degrees in History and Education. I also have a Master of Science degree from the University of West Alabama, as well as a Master of Education from U.P.E.I. I am a nationally certified Solution Focused Brief Therapist with CCPC Global, as well as I have a certificate in Solution Focused Brief Therapy through OISE at University of Toronto. I will be completing studies on my Advanced Certificate in Couple and Family Therapy at The University of Guelph later this year. I specialize in working with children and their parents, as well as I work with youth, teenagers, couples, and families while offering Solution Focused Brief Therapy, among other therapeutic approaches, to my many clients. I am also a writer, having written for many online and print publications, having co-edited a book on curriculum, as well as currently publishing my first children’s book. I live in Mill River East with my husband, Brian Gard, and our four children. To book a session with me, visit https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/therapists/solution-talk-counselling-alberton-pe/877550 or visit www.yourlifedesign.ca or you can also email email@example.com .
Luella Bredin says
Thank you for that very helpful article.