Creating a Self-Regulation Plan
with Dr. Lydiana Garcia
It must feel amazing for most of us that 2020 is out and done. With this new month comes all these new things about creating a new year’s resolution. But after last year, many are also considering different alternatives to that. On this blog post, I’ll be guiding you on how to create a self-regulation plan which is a great alternative to creating a new year’s resolution and also a great way to start the year. If you want to do more of a ritual, you can listen to the podcast episode I did last year about New Year’s Rituals.
You can download the Self-Regulation Plan or you may just also follow along and create your own PDF or write the below recommendations and resources down on your journal.
Importance of creating a self-regulation plan
It is so important for everybody to plan ahead and have an idea of what to do when you get dysregulated, instead of waiting to be dysregulated and struggling and then not being able to tap into what to do.
When we’re dysregulated, our brain is not integrated and we go into different survival responses. Our ability to problem-solve, think and do all the things we intend to do when regulated were being put in the background, are being shut down. This is why it’s very important that we work on getting ourselves regulated.
The whole idea of creating a self-regulation plan is mostly starting from the bottom up. This would help our brain gets synchronized and integrated, and then we can access our problem-solving abilities. Starting from the bottom up means working from your body via your senses so you can ground yourself and come back before doing affirmations or any mindfulness activities.
What to do to help you feel regulated
The first step to creating a self-regulation plan is doing a self assessment or bringing the awareness of where you are in terms of your level of distress. It would be really hard for you to figure out what to do if you have no idea of where you are. If you’re very dysregulated, it may be really hard for you to be able to tap into this that’s why this is going to be a practice and it’s going to take some time.
Here are three simple questions to help you assess yourself and know your current level of distress.
1. How much distress do you feel? Assess your current level of distress in a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most distressed.
2. Where do you feel it in your body? What kind of sensations do you notice as you’re tapping into that distress level?
3. How in control of “not loosing it” do you feel? Rate how you feel from 0-10, 10 being the most in control.
The higher you are in the control level, the more likely you’re not going to lose it. And the higher you are in the distress level, the harder it would be for you to go back at the moment. The more that you practice this exercise, the more you’re going to figure out yourself and know what’s causing your distress. Maybe your distress is being caused by fear. When you’re able to figure this out and able to feel how it feels in your body, then you’d be able to kind of plan ahead.
As you keep on practicing this, you’ll keep discovering the different emotions, the different sensations and the different feelings you feel in your body. And this is something that most people are not taught to be aware of. We’re taught to not pay attention to our bodies and just use our mind and keep on going - if you’re afraid, keep on going; if you’re anxious, keep on going; and all those kinds of things. So, this might be new to you at the beginning but the more that you keep on asking yourself, the more you’ll be able to be aware and build a relationship with yourself.
Another idea that could be helpful in assessing your level of distress is by using a color code. You can start by drawing a silhouette of a body, from head to toe, then color code the different emotions or feelings that you’re feeling at the moment. I usually do this with kids and adults and usually do the four basic emotions - sadness, anger, hope or love, and fear or worries. Most of the time, I use red for anger, blue for sadness, green for worries or fears, and yellow for hope or love. The next step is to color the body silhouette drawing on where you feel those emotions in your body and what’s the difference these sensations. A lot of people puts anger, hope and sadness in the heart but then they’re able to distinguish how sadness is like a punch in the heart kind of sensation, when it’s love it’s more like an expansion, when worries it’s like a shaking of the heart kind of sensation.
The more that you keep learning how these sensations feel in your body, then it would be much, much helpful down the road with many other things. You’ll may also find it easier to access the resources and the recommendations that I’ll be sharing.
Things to do to help you regulate now
Now that you already did the assessment in terms of your feelings and distress level, you can now move on to the next step of creating your self-regulation plan. In general, if your level of distress or intensity based on the self-assessment practice is very high (over seven or eight) and your control rate is low (below seven), then proceed to the below activities.
This is the B area in the Self-Regulation Plan which list the things you can do to help you regulate now. These activities are recommended for times when you are “about to lose it”, when you’re caught in “crisis mode” and you feel very intense and distress, so you can go back to the present.
1. Push against the wall. This is similar to doing a wall pushup where you’re leaning all your weight in your hands against the wall and you’re pushing against it for several seconds.
2. Lay on the floor with your legs raised on a chair or against the wall.
3. Drink cold water.
4. Put an ice pack or frozen veggies near the neck, thighs or forearms. This is my go-to when somebody feels like losing it and it kind of snap people out.
5. Do five burpees or similar exercise like staying in plank for 30 seconds.
6. Do fifteen jumping jacks or how many repeats you feel like.
7. Lay against a wall while squatting and hold it for 30 seconds or more. All your strength is coming from your thighs and it’s really hard to be in this position that’s why it tends to really bring people back.
8. Push a heavy ball or something similar like a furniture.
9. Take a walk counting your steps and walking fast. I have this little sequence of starting to walk really fast for about 25 steps or counts, then walk slower for another 25 steps, and then do 25 more very, very slow steps. The idea is to consciously go from really high to really low, low, low. You can definitely alter the steps or counts with whichever suits you.
10. Identify five things you see, four sounds you hear, three different textures, two different smells, and some drink or food you can taste. This 54321 exercise which I’ve also discussed on my previous blogs, is all about getting back into your five senses. And you can change this as well especially if you’re in a place where there’s not that many sounds, you can do four textures instead, then three sounds, etc. I also recommend that this is done fast with whatever comes to your mind, instead of thinking and figuring out which one you’d choose.
These are all the different ones that I tend to go to and that I even do in my practice. You can explore them, reflect on them, practice them and make a note of the ones that tend to work for you. This is not just do one of the activities. Most of times, it's a chain of effect where you’d have to do one after the other.
The whole idea about these exercises is for you to slow down, for you to not lose it, to stop you from screaming, or breaking things, or engaging in alcohol use or in something that you don't want to do. These would you stop from doing these things you might later regret and help you regulate in the now.
Read Part II of the blog HERE to get some recommendations and insights about co-regulation and having a support network, as well as how you can put everything in action.