In reality, even if we are living into and out of a healthy trajectory, there will be moments when we melt. Even if we’ve grown a wide window of tolerance for what provokes us, there are times when we move out of functioning from our best selves to states of panic, anger, fear, anxiety, distress, and overwhelm. Why? Because we are human. We all have a breaking point, and in those moments, we can lose control of our sensibility and discernment. Self-regulation brings a touch of health into these spaces. But what is self-regulation? Self-regulation is the learned ability to manage your state of being, particularly your emotions and behaviors.

A stoplight is a helpful analogy for understanding one’s state. Greenlight is our GO state. In green zone we are functioning from our best selves. In green zone we are able to connect well with others, learn, communicate clearly, be playful, and discern. In reality, we don’t always stay in green zone. There are annoyances, frustrations, things that make us twitch, fears, anxieties, hurts, and sensitivities. These things move us into yellow zone, or PAUSE and pay attention zone. When you are provoked, listen to your body. You may tense up, your heart may start to race, your neck may tighten, you may become nauseous, your breathing may become labored. These are all warning signs your body is alerting you that you are moving out of green zone!

Be self-aware and listen to your body. Here in yellow zone is where self-regulation strategies are necessary to calm your state back into your best self. Here are some common helpful strategies: deep breathing, chew gum, suck on a hard candy or mint, cross your arms across your chest and tap back and forth, press your hands together, or squeeze one hand into a fist and then the other back and forth over and over. Other more personalized strategies may be more helpful to you, but again self-awareness with forethought is necessary prior to the heat of the moment. I use these strategies: calming music, running, hot chamomile tea, hot bath, quiet space, take a break during an intense conversation, and breath prayer. What strategies calm you? Have them handy in your tool belt. And acknowledge that at times we may need others to co-regulate with us until we are able to on our own. You may need to call or text or seek a hug from someone you trust that can help you regulate.

Ugh! There will be instances when you are unable to regulate. You will move at some point out of yellow zone into red zone (the volcanic rupture zone) or blue zone (a depressive state). Here self-regulation or co-regulation strategies are critical. Be aware if your natural tendency is fight, flight, or freeze when your lizard brain takes over.

In all this, extend yourself grace while you continue to grow and mature in the area of self-regulation to grow your window of tolerance in green zone. And of course, have a healthy perspective that we’ve been designed to experience emotion therefore remaining in green zone at all times is unrealistic. May we all grow towards wholeness as we become more and more self-aware toward healthy ways of being.

What do you need? This is a question close friends have asked me recently during a trying time. In the midst of crisis, it’s difficult to know what you need. Here’s where sitting in a quiet space listening brings awareness. The reality is we ought not wait for crisis to be questioning, what do I need? Self-awareness of needs yields health and puts us on a path towards wholeness.

Most of us function on auto pilot, unaware that wholeness is cultivated through nourishment. What do I need may be better stated as what is it that nourishes my heart, soul, mind and body? What is life-giving? Caught up in productivity of doing and serving, we are so distracted that self-care is neglected. I’d propose in addition to distraction, we too often live the false narrative that self-care is selfish. We’ve misread the verses exhorting us to love God and love others by leaving out the clause “as yourself.”

Neglecting self-care is a sure trajectory towards burnout. Warning signs of the need for rest and self-care can look like annoyance, jealously, competitive posture, overly critical of self or others, negative self-talk, retreating, excessive big emotions, outbursts, weariness, etc. Sustaining health requires self-care.

Here are some of the things I’ve discovered I need: a rhythm of exercise, daily silence and solitude, deep connection with close friends, and time reflecting on the Word.

What do you need?

Jen Binford, Coach

Categories: Leadership


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