In my article, What in the World is Self-Regulation? Self-Regulation and Me!, I talked about self-regulation. This month I would like to provide more strategies for self-regulation, because I feel that it is a very important topic. In order to live a fulfilling life, you need to be able to regulate your emotions and behavior. Otherwise, it is very hard to cope, to go places, and to participate in the community knowing that at any time you could lose control.
A child is never too young to learn how to self-regulate, but he is also never too old. Sooner is better than later, but it is never too late! Once self-regulation is learned, it is easier to cope in everyday life. Personally, learning how to self-regulate has changed my life for the better.
Build a Self-Regulation Tool Box
There are many different strategies and tools that an individual can use to self-regulate. It is important to have multiple tools and strategies in your self-regulation toolbox. Sometimes a strategy or tool will work for a while, and then stop working. When this happens, I recommend putting the tool or strategy away in your toolbox for a later date. Months down the road, the strategy can be tried again. Sensory preferences change over time, therefore, something that helps calm an individual and regulate them one day, may not work the next.
I have spent many years of my life learning strategies to help me self-regulate and stay in control of my own behavior and emotions. And the hard work has paid off! I really need to thank my teachers and occupational therapist who have taught me many of these strategies. Remember, not all strategies work for all individuals.
19 Strategies to Try
Squeeze a Sensory Fidget
Exercise with Brain Gym
Count to 10, 25, 50, etc. in your head
Count forward and maybe backwards. Concentrating on counting takes the mind away from the upsetting situation.
Take a Break
Stepping outside for a short moment, or going to the bathroom can be a great way to get a break when in a situation out in public.
Deep Pressure Input
Apply Noise Reducing Headphones
Secure a Weighted Item
A weighted item such as a weighted lap pad, blanket or vest may do the trick!
Listen to Music
Have a play list of favorite calming music on stand by. Download to your iPad, iPhone or iPod.
Draw or Write
Engage in an Enjoyable Activity
Rocking in a rocking chair, or moving in a chair that rotates is quite calming.
Using something, such as an iPad, a favored video game, or a new book is also a great distraction from a stressful situation.
Rest Your Head
Putting my head down on the table for a short time is sometimes all I need to reset.
Drown Out Sounds
Consider a small desk fan to help drown out certain noises.
Turn Off the Lights
Dimming a room reduces sensory input. If the lights cannot be dimmed, put on a pair of shades!
Use Exercise Equipment
If you have treadmill, stair master or another piece of exercise equipment, give it a go. It serves as a distraction and helps release energy.
Take a Walk
A walk outside down the street, around the block or around the school yard is quite calming. It removes you from the overwhelming situation and releases excess sensory input.
Five Point Scale
I love Kari Dunn Buron’s Five Point Scale and it has been so helpful to me in many ways.
Create a Break Card
I like to write down how I am feeling. It is easier for me to communicate through writing. Verbal communication, especially when I am upset, is much harder for me. You can write out pre-planned break cards and keep a few blank ones on hand to write out your feelings.
Implement a Visual Schedule
Using visual schedules so that the individual knows what to expect and when to expect it goes a long way in keeping anxiety at bay!
I hope that these strategies prove to be helpful for you or an individual in your life who needs self-regulation support. Do not give up – teaching someone how to self-regulate will yield positive results. Sometimes learning a new skill such as self-regulation just takes time. Self-regulation is a skill that took me many years to master. It was frustrating at times, but learning this important skill was definitely worth every minute. I am glad that no one ever gave up on teaching me.