Saturday, 28 October 2017

Self-regulation - not just for kids!

I like this quote because I think that helps to counter some of the misconceptions around self-regulation that focus on having students identify their own state (I'm feeling red) and then figure out what to do about it to get back to green. Those types of programs don't seem to include a focus on the interbrain and the importance of relationships.  We know that when people are in that limbic state, they sometimes need someone else to help them turn off the limbic alarms by helping them feel safe and secure.
But I would change this quote so that it is the key to calming an emotional storm ..... it's not just children, it can be adults who are feeling overwhelmed and need another person to help them feel safe and secure.
Here's an example from my own life.  My husband and I had been home for a week and were heading back to our temporary 'home' in Argentina.  This meant three flights, three different airports and over 24 hours in transit. When we arrived in Cordoba late at night, the driver picked us up at the airport to take us to the apartment that was to be our home for the next five weeks.  This was a different apartment than we had been living in previously. Every time we went home, we had to pack up everything and then move to a new apartment when we got back. Stress.
When we arrived at our new apartment complex and the guard and the gate had no information about us arriving and wouldn't let us in.  After calling my husband's secretary, we finally were let in and headed up to our apartment.  It was SMALL.  The living room had a futon and TV and a dining table with two chairs. Tiny galley kitchen, tiny bathroom, small bedroom.  We dropped off our luggage and went out for a walk in the neighbourhood to find a restaurant. For 24 hours we had been living on airport/airplane food so we were ready for a real meal before bed.  Restaurants in Cordoba don't usually open till 9 pm so this shouldn't be a problem.
We walked and walked and walked - we were in a very residential area and there didn't seem to be any restaurants. All of our other apartments had been in very walkable neighbourhoods with lots of shops and restaurants, but this neighbourhood seemed more like the suburbs and we didn't have a car.  By this point, I"m exhausted and hungry. We hadn't slept much, other than cat naps on the plane. It's like those Snickers commercials - I"m not me when I'm hungry.  I was starting to have a meltdown, and I could hear myself. I sounded like a whiny toddler but I couldn't stop. I was ready to just collapse on the sidewalk and weep. 
John (my husband, who was just as tired and hungry as me but somehow managed to hold it together) gently took me by the shoulders and looked me directly in the eyes while he reassured me that we were going to find food, we were going to be fine and we could handle this. (In self-regulation, we would say he was able to lend me his calm.  He helped me to turn off the limbic alarms and reengage my prefrontal cortex.) We finally found a little sandwich shop and had a very late dinner before heading back to our new apartment for a good night's sleep. And in the morning, he went off to work and I managed to set up the apartment to make it quite livable for the next few weeks.
Here's a blog post I wrote about it at the time:

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