Human bodies are amazing and self-regulating. We each have unique homeostasis that our bodies need to feel balanced and function optimally. We each need a variety of nutrients, needs, and level of stimulation/arousal to function optimally which is dependent on our upbringing, environment, interpersonal neurobiology, genetics, temperament as well as exposure to toxins or trauma. When we are pushed out of our unique window of tolerance or are deficient in anything, we will automatically react with symptoms and signals to get what we are needing. In a state of overwhelming distress, we can’t connect our wise mind or truly move on.
We can promote well-being, resiliency, and connection by ‘tuning in’ to our stress signals, our needs, senses, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships. Negativity, symptoms, and conflict often come from a state of stress and/or unmet needs. Below are the key ingredients to empowering oneself and others to make conscious choices to get vital needs met. Understanding and following these will harmonize your connection to your mind, body, and heart as well as your relationships.
The crucial first step is becoming aware of stress signals and stressors. Inconsistent or inadequate amounts/quality of the following vital needs often trigger dysregulation (dependent on context and individual temperament or special needs) and are common stressors:
- Nutritients/Hydration (food, water, oxygen, sunlight)
- Level of stimulation (from all senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, & smell)
- Connection and Emotional needs of feeling Safe, Respected, Important, Secure, Accepted, Included, Soothed, Understood, and Seen
- Unprocessed stress/trauma (emotional, social and physical toxins such as negative events, thoughts, emotions, chemicals)
“…kids don’t get dysregulated because we allow their emotions. They get dysregulated when they need to express an emotion but can’t. So, instead, they act (it) out.” ~Dr Laura Markham
Be detectives as a family… spy around for what might be triggering you and your family to act out?
When tension or negative behaviors are escalating, everyone HALT(S) and reflects:
Are we Hungry?
Lonely? Is it too Loud? Are we running Late?
Are we Tired or too hot or cold (Temperature)?
Sick (coming down with a health expression)? Stressed out?
Get regulated together by getting vital needs met daily:
- Take deep breaths, Eat nutritious food & Drink water
- Prioritize downtime, Rest & Sleep; Meditate, Slow down
- Reduce or change stimulation (i.e. adjust temperature, turn off electronics, lower lighting or noise level, go outside)
- Increase production of happy, calming hormones by getting social-emotional needs met by doing rewarding, interactive activities such as smiling, silly faces, singing, listening to or playing music, respectful touch, hugging, playing games, dancing, exercising, attending social events, spending special one-on-one
- Process stress & release negative energy through sensorial activities like playing with play-dough or sand, drawing/coloring, exercising, writing, tapping (Emotion Freedom Technique), role-playing, visualizing safe/happy place, assertive & non-violent communication, reflective active listening, asking open-ended questions, identifying/labeling possible feelings, empathizing and collaboratively problem solve…the list is endless and unique to each individual and family
Now be solution detectives and find ways that make you and your loved ones feel safe, loved and calm…
When applying these new skills for understanding and processing negative reactions, please be compassionate with yourself and family. Change can be really hard, especially when our negative reactions are often unconscious. It is easy to get stuck in our comfort zones even if they are filled with unhealthy habits because they are familiar and “safe.” Anything new, even if healthy, will often be perceived at first as “threatening” so expect resistance and regression. It takes on average 21 times to practice a new skill in order to make it a secure connection in your mind, body, heart, and relationships. It takes, even more times if there is any related trauma connected to the negative reactions. Deep breaths, baby steps, and trust the process. You can do it.
Resilience: the ability to cope effectively in the face of stress, adversity, and potentially traumatic experiences
Regulation: Emotional, physical, psychological state of being calm, thoughtful, responsive, connected even in times of stress; the ability to experience a feeling, know that the feeling signals a need and then know how to get that need met
Stress: any emotional, mental, physical, or chemical stimulus that is prolonged, unpredictable, and/or overwhelming
Trauma: personal experience of an event that involves actual or perceived death or serious injury and/or any stressor that continues to go on unexpressed, unprocessed, and/or misunderstood
Dysregulation: being in a state of STRESS beyond one’s threshold of tolerance which alters the chemistry and functioning of your mind/body/heart connections; Creates unconscious emotions of fear; Activates stress hormones and flight/flight/freeze mode of reactions; and Decreases ability to access higher brain functions (i.e. problem solving, planning, language). The longer one stays in a state of dysregulation, we increase the likelihood of causing harm, impairment, escalation of negative behaviors and the production of dysfunctional survival behaviors.
View these links for more info on children’s resilience and stress:
This is also a synopsis of some highlights I have learned from these amazing people:
Barbara Wetzel http://www.theergonomiccouple.com/
Juli Alvarado http://alvaradoconsultinggroup.com/
Bruce Perry http://childtrauma.org/
Dan Siegel http://www.drdansiegel.com/
Heather Forbes http://www.beyondconsequences.com/
Bryan Post https://postinstitute.com/
You can learn more about me and my online services at Wecounsel
Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA