Learning Skill #5 – Self-Regulation

I think of self-regulation as being aware of yourself and how you are doing both physically and mentally. I was a psychology major and I am naturally a very emotional and empathetic person so self-regulation comes naturally to me. However, for me this is something I learned as I grew up and not so much when I was younger. Thinking back to elementary school, when I was younger I don’t recall ever needing to reflect or check up on me because I thought I was invincible. If I fell, whatever, just get back up. However, I do remember one time in grade 4 my friend came to school and taught me how to mediate during recess saying that it helps you relax so there was a phase where I meditated.

I found peace through meditation (source: http://jonlieffmd.com/blog/meditation-and-brain-update-2014)
I found peace through meditation (source: http://jonlieffmd.com/blog/meditation-and-brain-update-2014)

As I grew older into grade 7-12 I had friends who went through complicated situations with family and relationships and I remember trying to go to my sister to talk about it because I was really stressed but she wouldn’t understand and she didn’t want me in that situation so her response was stop hanging out with that friend. I was at a loss because the one person I went to for help did not help me in my time of need and I didn’t know what to do. That’s when I stopped looking externally for answers and started looking internally. I thought, okay I am stressed and distressed so what can I do to relax. My answer was exercising so I exercised a lot and started eating healthier and as my physical strength increased, so did my mental strength. When I was in a strong mental and physical state I was ready to be there for my friends and whatever obstacles came our way.


Ever since then, I have been really good at being in touch with my own emotions. However, while I was in university my father passed away and that was the second time in my life I felt lost. I was doing well in school and I planned on going into healthcare like the rest of my family so I would have a stable job and make some money but then my father passed away suddenly and the shock set me in a standstill. My family was just as shocked as I but everyone was struggling to cope with the grief differently. I was the first one in my family to accept my dad’s death and I knew I needed to be the stable, emotional rock for my family. After days of ruminating over and over in my head what had happened I decided I needed to do something. However, my marks suffered and I didn’t know what to do because my life was spiralling out of control. I decided to help myself by helping others so I started volunteering at the library helping students who had trouble with their literacy skills and after volunteering with them for 2 years I realized that my state of mind has never been better and that teaching is what I want to do with my life so I applied for education instead of going into healthcare.

From what I just said, you can see it took me many years to learn how to self-regulate. We did not have counsellors in our elementary school so I had no one to talk to about my problems. No one taught me how to self-regulate so when I needed to self-regulate, it was so hard for me. As much as I like to help others, I can’t help others if I am not in a healthy state of mind so I think it is really important as educators to self-regulate. I know that in class everyone says it is not your job to solve problems for students but I think it is my job to give my students the resources they need when they need it.

Self-regulation can be as simple as knowing how you are feeling. Knowing you are hungry when you are hungry, when you are sad, happy, confused, or angry. Most of the time, in children and adults, we do not know what to do with the energy we have so it might manifest in the wrong ways, like through physical or verbal abuse. If we can just pinpoint how we are feeling, why we are feeling this way, and what we can do to feel better it would help both children and adults. In the classroom, just doing simple exercises like asking students to reflect on their mood or reflect on a time when they felt a certain way, explaining what happened and why might give them a way to self-regulate early on. If an incident happened on the schoolyard, it should not be dealt with in the heat of the moment. Everyone who took part needs some alone time to regroup and then when everyone is calm we can reflect on what happened, why it happened, and how to prevent future incidents. Also, having resources to help students like counsellors or group meetings where they talk about grief or bullying or other relevant topics can give them options when they need help. Although school is an important place to learn academically, it is also a place where students can learn and explore themselves, which will also help them in their future endeavours.

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