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Staying Cool in the Storm

When I say regulate what do I mean? I often think of regulation as our ability to turn down the dial down. The next question is how does adversity impact our ability to regulate? The two may not seem that they have much to do with each other but actually they do.

Let’s start with some working definitions regulation is to control or maintain the rate or speed of (a machine or process) so that it operates properly. Adversity is the  difficulties and tough times that we face. For many of us the uncertainty of the times we are currently experiencing are creating a level of adversity that many people seriously struggle. The predictability of lives suddenly upended, the uncertainty of employment, housing, financial resources, supportive relationships cut off, its just too much.

Persons of faith may start to question God, “Why now God, Why  me? This is the place where one really has to know who we they are as a person and what their about. Specifically, the keys of the foundation of your life, your values, beliefs, ethics, integrity, world view, the why of your life.

We all have the ability to regulate in adversity, as evidenced by how our location can determine motivation. Let’s just say you are at work with management or supervisors are close by. Despite your confusion, frustration or irritation about something that has taken place and the internal conversation in your head. You are able to harness the thoughts, feelings and actions to regulate, remain present and respond appropriately. By appropriately, responding or acting in a manner that is self honoring and respectful of others. I’m not saying that you have to like or agree with what is happening. We can address this scenario in another blog.

The flip side of regulation is dysregulation and that’s when you just can’t contain the intensity of the emotion. Consumed by the emotion and perhaps the internal dialogue that sounds like, ” Oh, no she/he didn’t?” or ” I knew this was going to happen!” You may even begin to time travel, way into the future where your worst fears have taken place. Before you know it, you need everybody around you to know what you’re thinking the filters are off so you let it go in the hopes that you will feel better.

Many people find themselves sheltering in difficult situations. If relationships already have strained communication and conflict management is void. The ability to regulate is critical, regulation can help with:

  1. Staying present

  2. Keeping the issue of discussion, the issue of discussion

  3. Helping both partners remember the why of their relationship

  4. Maintaining an emotional connection

We may believe if a person approaches us in a certain way we need to meet them with that same level of behavior. However I’m here to tell you that you can choose how you want to respond at any given time to in a given situation.

You can choose the day you want to have which requires you to be mindful. Being mindful means that you take ownership of your thoughts, feelings and actions. For example you’re having a relaxing moment and someone suddenly interrupts perhaps your child or partner interrupts your quiet moment to ask you a question

You notice that you feel slightly irritated or even a bit agitated, thinking that they interrupted your quiet space. Mindfulness allows you to take a moment check in with yourself turn the dial down this to say it’s at a 7.

You know that is better for you if you can respond to your child or partner at a level 4 so in that moment you intentionally take the time to switch the thought or feeling and bring the dial down.

Emotions can easily run from cold to searing hot in seconds and so I don’t want to make this sound like it’s a easy process it’s not. It will take some practice and you will get there.

This is what it takes to become the person that you were destined to be, the best version of you in all of your relationships. Most importantly you can interact with others and even your own thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed.

Today is a good day to try something different to begin to see how you can mindfully manage your day or mindfully manage one moment.

  1. Shift the focus to something neutral

  2. Allow yourself to slowly inhale, hold and slowly exhale

  3. Calm your mind

  4. Stay present

  5. Consider options and find the response or action that honors you while respecting the feelings of the other person.

Check out my website where you will find resources and tools to aid with your regulation practice.


Tammy Austin

Therapy Unchained

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