How To Develop Self-Regulation Skills

You’ve learned a lot about yourself, your emotions, and how you respond to those emotions. Now that you have a higher level of awareness, it’s time to gently carve out the YOU that you would like to become.

Mastering Your Emotions

Choose one emotion to work on. There is no hurry to work on everything, all at once. Just think about the various negative, or overly positive, emotions you deal with on a regular basis and choose the one that’s giving you the most grief in your life. Stay there until you are ready to move to the next emotional struggle. Here’s a list to get you started:

●      Anger

●      Anxiety

●      Indecisiveness

●      Jealousy

●      Frustration or impatience

●      Shame or embarrassment

●      Fear

Pick an emotion that’s making your life more difficult or an emotion that gets in the way of achieving your goals. Proceed slowly.

Catch yourself when you first experience this emotion. The key is to notice it and how it feels in your body. 

Relax. Focus on taking a slow, deep breath, and really concentrate on how it feels moving in and out of your mouth or nose. This brings your focus back to reality, rather than allowing it to run wild with your thoughts and emotions. Relax your neck and shoulders. Allow yourself to feel open. Feel as if everything can just pass right through you.

Take a moment before you respond. There’s no rush. The world can and will wait for you to gather yourself. Execute your plan for dealing with this kind of situation. What would the best version of yourself do at this point in time? After the situation is over, record your thoughts. How did you do? What was the outcome? What could you have done more effectively?

Keep repeating the process until you’ve mastered a particular emotion in all areas of your life. Then, move on to another emotion. Keep going! It might take a while to get through them all; and there is absolutely no pressure to be perfect. You are growing, learning, becoming.

Mastering Your Thoughts

The human brain can be thought of as a thought-producing machine. Even if you were a monk living alone on a mountain for 10 years, your brain would keep chugging along throwing random thoughts at you. The frequency of thoughts can be reduced, but never eliminated so what can you do?

You can master your response to those thoughts.

The key to mastering your thoughts is to not grab on to them. Imagine that you’re driving down the street. There’s a constant stream of traffic from the other direction that passes right by you. You don’t give them a second thought. You notice them, but you forget about them as soon as they’re out of sight.

Now, imagine that you see a car that looks an awful lot like your ex-boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s car. Was it them? Who was that person in the car with them? It looked a lot like one of your friends. Should you follow them and verify? What’s going on? Maybe you should call your friend and see what they’re up to at this very moment.

This is a good example of what happens to everyone each day. Thoughts pass through our minds, and we allow most of them to drift away. However, there are a few that stick and potentially ruin our day. Once a thought sticks, it can be challenging to dislodge.  

Categorize your thoughts. Put a label on each thought. You can come up with your own labels, but some suggestions are:

●      Past. The things we regret, the things we enjoyed, or painful memories.

●      Future. Speculating about the future can create anxiety. But, these thoughts can be pleasant, too.

●      Fantasy. You might imagine yourself climbing a mountain, flying like a bird, or spending a night with your favourite celebrity. 

●      Critique. This is when you criticize yourself.

Notice the impact that thoughts have on your emotional and physical state. Thoughts can trigger all types of emotions: anxiety, anger, fear, happiness, and anticipation, to name a few.

●      Thoughts can affect your appetite.

●      Your sleep can be affected.

●      Your mood can be changed in an instant.

●      Your decision-making ability can be altered.

Redirect Your Thoughts. You can’t completely eliminate your thoughts, but you can focus on redirecting your thoughts in a more useful direction.

Awareness is the key. Notice when you’re engaged in a thought, particularly when that thought isn’t related to what you’re doing at the moment. What kind of thought is it? If it is a positive thought, enjoy it for a little while if you have the time to spare. 

Redirect all negative thoughts. Change the negative thought to something useful. There’s no reason to continue with a thought that’s harming you in any way. If you catch yourself talking to yourself negatively, reframe whatever you are wrestling with. “I’m an idiot” can become, “I’m intelligent about many things. I know I’ll find a solution to this challenge.”

Change your physiology. Stand up if you’re sitting. Sit if you’re standing. Take a deep breath. Jump up and down for 10 seconds. Yawn. Do something. You’ll be surprised how much it can shake up your focus.

Be persistent. Negative thoughts are often bad habits. You can create a new, positive habit, if you’re patient. Keep at it, you can do it.

Start with simple situations. For example, practise redirecting your thoughts when your attention drifts from your daily tasks. In time, redirecting your thoughts becomes a positive habit. You’ll find that you can quickly turn off negative thoughts before they have a negative impact. 

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