What Is Self-Regulation?

It is important to be able to calm yourself down.

*Deep breath*

Controlling behavior can be difficult.

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Photo courtesy of Rahul

Control Yourself.

Self-regulation is essentially the controlling of emotion and mood, which inevitably helps to control behavior. There are several coping techniques and pro-active strategies related to self regulation. If one can identify and control emotion, one can control behavior.

Most of the time.

Forgive Yourself.

Even the most level-headed person can do something regrettable in a fit of anger. Management of extreme emotions requires a high level of cognitive energy. Many that struggle with anger, for example, will struggle with having the cognitive energy to manage it.

It’s like having very little room on the hard drive while trying to download a very large file. It might fit, but the computer will start to lag.

Make no mistake – the person that struggles with anger is responsible for managing it. People that struggle with anger will often find they have spent so much cognitive energy on managing other extreme emotions or tasks, that there is nothing left in the tank to stifle the anger from erupting.

But anger is downstream – a secondary emotion.

This is also the reason irritability is often a co-occurring side-effect of depression. Body and brain have been working so hard to deal with being depressed, that anger punches its way through the paper thin walls of the emotional piggy bank.

Be Proactive.

  • Wake up at the same time. Every day. This is a simple but effective way to combat the cognitive drain. Waking up at the same time every morning allows for everything else throughout the day to fall into place. And waking up before everyone else in the house means some peace and quiet to reflect and prepare for the day.
  • Keep in mind that morning actually starts the night before.
  • Exercise regularly. Get a fair amount of sleep. Pay attention to how certain foods might alter mood and emotion. These are disciplines and require effort, but is akin to changing the oil and rotating tires before a road trip. It is preventative maintenance for the journey ahead.
  • Light some candles and practice some deep breathing. Read a book. Sketch. Color. Do anything healthy and simple that fosters relaxation. These can even be done before a potentially stressful day. Routine helps create time to practice these proactive disciplines.

Slow Down.

Too often, we get stuck in a hyper-conscientious mode of operation. Everything is urgent and anything that deviates from or exacerbates the urgency leads to catastrophe.

It is this reason we project a rough day at work on to a loved one. So much cognitive energy has been spent on work that any deviation or disruption at home becomes a mental overload.

If work is truly interfering with significant relationships, something needs to change. It is either time to start looking for less stressful job, or developing techniques and strategies for dealing with the stress.

If you think you need therapy, go to therapy.


The idea of regulation is empowering and projects a certain level of autonomy and independence. A person that struggles with anger can regulate their anger through both simple and complex techniques – but it can be done.

Emotions do not have to be so controlling, and do not have to lead to regrettable behaviors. Aggression, anger, and irritability are downstream, secondary emotions. Focusing on upstream repairs is crucial.