Three tips to build more supportive emotional regulation in daily life
Regulating or managing our distressing emotions is challenging and especially so when we are going through times of stress. Individual emotional regulation is typically what people seek when coming to therapy and I work with tried and true methods to help people manage themselves more effectively. Individual regulation will always be important and people are always surprised to hear how important it is to be able to manage our emotions with the help of a trusted person or to coregulate. Individualistic expectations are strong in our culture and people often see themselves as weak, hurting a loved one, in shame, or bracing for criticism when coming to another with stress or distress. With human beings as interdependent creatures we will always have strong benefits from connecting through distress and strengthening bonds with trusted others.
This article is here to help you learn some of the basics of coregulation and how it can help you become closer to your loved ones through stress rather than more isolated or distant.
What is helpful?
The first step towards more effective coregulation is defining what is helpful for you when coming to a trusted relationship with distress. If we don’t know what is helpful or what we like then we can start there. Is it helpful to be held? Do we just need someone to listen? Do we need solutions? Think about times in the past or hypotheticals of you walking away from a distressful situation feeling heard and validated for your experience to get you started.
Who is helpful?
The next step is defining who could be helpful to us or who has been helpful. It is useful to determine why this person is helpful. How has this person gained our trust? What are the helpful things they do when they talk to us about our distress? What happens after I talk to this person? Do I feel shame or criticism? Do I feel okay and safe in distress? What are the things that tell me I’m safe with this person? Defining who is helpful to us at times of distress will facilitate an automatic response towards healthy coregulation.
What are their limits?
After defining who a helpful person is in times of distress it is important to have some kind of acknowledgement or conversation about what their limits are. Presenting with distressing emotions or problems is emotionally taxing for the person who is trying to be supportive. It is important to understand that this is not a bad thing and its just a thing. Tiring out a supportive figure is fundamentally different than hurting them with the two often being mistaken for the other. Respecting someone’s limits in helping them to be at ease in trusting that they will not get overwhelmed by interactions that facilitate unhealthy disconnection strategies.
If any of this information resonates with you or you feel like you need additional support please reach out for a free consultation today!