Thursday, May 12, 2016


“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” Maya Angelou

Last week, we looked at some ideas for cultivating resilience. This week, I want to expand on one of the qualities of resilient people that is a bit obscure: self-regulation. Self regulation isdefined as “the ability to respond to the ongoing demands of experience with the range of emotions in a manner that is socially tolerable and sufficiently flexible to permit spontaneous reactions as well as the ability to delay spontaneous reactions as needed.” In other words, people who self-regulate possess some control over their emotional health and expression. Even when they feel pushed to the brink by a stressful situation, they tend not to react in a volatile manner (even if they want to). Let’s delve into some characteristics of self-regulating people and how you can cultivate this habit:

One common misconception is that self regulation is synonymous with being in a zen-like state most of the time and being at peace in the middle of any and all storms. When imagined this way, self-regulation seems highly unattainable. On the contrary, self-regulation doesn’t mean that you never experience a negative emotion. It means that in instances when you do feel those emotions, you have the ability to think before reacting. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction like yelling or bursting into tears, you give yourself a moment or two to decide what a socially appropriate reaction looks like in that situation-calmly responding or walking away. It’s not a matter of minimizing your emotions, just expressing them in a healthy manner. Those who self-regulate understand the following sentiment: “You cannot control someone else’s behavior. You can only control your own reaction”

Although in some cases, emotional regulation can feel difficult and at times impossible, it’s something that can be worked toward. Meditation is a priceless exercise and helps with a variety of issues, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and so on. Incorporating this practice in your life teaches you how to experience your feelings with a sense of detachment- you allow yourself to feel various emotions, without the need to act on them (especially in a destructive manner like angrily calling someone). Other tips include avoiding mind-altering substances, as these can aggravate certain emotions and affect how we perceive a situation. Other habits include typical self-care tips, such as regular sleep and exercise and a healthy diet. It might also be helpful to consider working with a therapist in some cases.

Being able to control how we react to adverse or uncomfortable situations requires daily practice. We can’t predict what sort of conflict we may encounter throughout the day or even how they may trigger us. Equipped with this understanding, we may be better able to deal with situations that we find unacceptable, and bounce back to equilibrium: “Serenity is not the absence of conflict but the ability to cope with it.”

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