What is self-regulation?
How does one return to well-being when we’re feeling unsteady and emotions are overpowering our senses?
Emotional self-regulation refers to the ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses and soothe our nervous systems in times of stress in a way that is consistent with our deeply held values.
The continuous feedback to and from the brain and adaptation of our bodies to our internal and external conditions is what we are hardwired to do. When our nervous systems are in overdrive, we adapt less effectively to stressors in our lives and our immune systems are impacted as a result.
It’s all connected, even when we feel disconnected.
Lets face it, on an emotional level, when we experience tension between our inner and outer worlds, it can be exhausting. Much of the time, we are running on empty and just struggling to get through the demands of the day. When we are tugged in multiple directions, our actions and behaviors do not always align with our core values.
So how do we signal to our nervous system that we are done with surviving and ready to thrive?
In a nutshell, it’s a practice.
Here are four ways to practice yoga for emotional self-regulation:
Although there are many paths to healing, we can begin to unravel how our bodies respond to stress and create new, healthier ways to find calm within the chaos with the tools that we already have.
1. The power of the pause.
Never underestimate the power of pausing and taking a few breaths.
When we create even a bit of space for ourselves, we can shift from our heads into presence. In times of stress I sometimes place my hand on my chest or over my solar plexus and breathe. Become aware of your surroundings and feel your feet on the ground.
This simple technique is doable in most situations, nearly imperceptible, and works quickly to begin shifting us from a heightened sympathetic nervous system state to a state of feeling safe in our own bodies.
2. Stop judging.
Negative self-talk feeds the stress feedback loop. Unfollow accounts on Instagram and Facebook that make you feel like you need to be someone else. If it doesn’t inspire you and leads you to compare yourself to others, delete it!
Our expectations on how we “should” feel or respond in situations can be painful and riddled with self-judgement. Many of our responses are subconscious and we’re doing our best. When we learn to be comfortable with our emotions, we learn to return to the body and breath.
When the idea of meditating might seem unbearable, try shorter, more regular sessions, and lowering your eyes and softening your gaze instead of closing them.
Practice meditation throughout your day by tuning into what is in your field of awareness in ordinary moments. This practice only takes a few seconds but is effective in developing your ability to return to your center. With every opportunity to practice present moment awareness, we become more resilient and more vibrant.
Becoming more aware of our thought patterns can support us in adapting to stress with increased ease. Each time we remember and interrupt habitual, unhealthy coping strategies, we are strengthening and creating new neuropathways.
4. A kind yoga practice is a powerful tool.
Returning to the body-breath connection or shifting focus to observe our minds or the environment around us are potent practices we have at our disposal.
Depending on what’s appropriate in the moment, we can access the nervous system through the mind (meditation) or we can access the nervous system through the body and breath (asana and pranayama). Developing ways to shift into an eagle eye’s perspective and connect to our center when we feel out of control are essential strategies for our health and well-being.
Reflection exercise: developing a self-care plan.
Set aside some quiet time when you are not under stress and make an inventory of techniques and tools that fill you up.
What are the self-care strategies that help support and increase your resilience to stress? What are the situations, people, and things present in your life where you feel most easily hooked? How have you self-soothed yourself in unhealthy ways in the past?
What are the cues that your body is offering to you that may serve as a signal for a need for pause, breath, and present moment awareness?
Supporting your intentions.
Resilience is a quality that develops over time.
The more we flex this muscle, the stronger it gets, and as we learn to listen to the more subtle cues of our nervous system, our self knowledge grows. We learn to create conditions for ourselves to thrive that strengthen our confidence and abilities to recover from stress.
Center yourself in the knowing that you are a storehouse of wisdom and healing capacity. Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat to at anytime to be yourself. You’re an illuminated soul and the world needs your love. All of our body systems are conspiring in each moment to help us return to inner balance. Beneath it all, we’re well-beings.
Much love and blessings to you on your healing journey.