In our world of neurodiversity, self-regulation is a frequently discussed topic. So, what exactly is self-regulation? Science and research have proven that we can manage not only our thoughts and emotions, but we can change how we respond to stressful circumstances. This might sound simple although not always easy and might even sound confusing, so let’s break it down.

Imagine a Stressful Day at Work

Picture navigating a stressful day at work. You are already overwhelmed with things to do, and your boss assigns you a new project. You might suppress your frustration or anxiety. You may keep your thoughts, emotions, and impulse to speak about the project to yourself. You maintain composure and move forward with discipline and deportment. This is often what we think of as ‘managing our emotions.’ In truth, it is more about ‘putting off those emotions’ until we are in a safer place, such as out with colleagues or at home with family, where we can release that frustration.

Understanding Self-Regulation

Self-regulation, on the other hand, gives us the opportunity to change how we think, feel and respond to the boss’s new project in the first place. It is a multi-step process that involves recognizing the onset of unhelpful thoughts and emotions and then implementing small strategies to address them. While discipline and deportment suggest ‘managing emotions and behaviours‘ is a straightforward process, self-regulation acknowledges the complexity of our thoughts, emotions, and corresponding behaviours. It recognizes that managing our responses involves more than just willpower or a stiff upper lip. Self-regulation is achieved through a series of subtle, ongoing adjustments in our daily routines.

The Struggle with Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is a challenge for many, children and adults alike. When emotions run high, people may postpone their external responses or act impulsively. Once the initial surprise subsides, we may question our behaviours and even feel embarrassed or dwell on how we could have responded better. Sound familiar?

Self-Regulation vs. Self-Control

Often, in these stressful moments, we confuse self-regulation with self-control. However, there are key differences. Self-control is more of a social skill, focusing on restraining impulses or ‘managing emotions’, much like discipline and deportment. In contrast, self-regulation is a complex set of processes. It is the difference between tossing food in a fishbowl and maintaining an aquarium. An aquarium, like our body, is an ecosystem. It has a diverse population and a complex, ever-evolving environment. An aquarium aims to maintain a consistent temperature, clean water, and a calm current. The aquarium, like any system, has its regulators, such as thermostats, filtration systems, and pumps, along with daily maintenance tasks. Similarly, self-regulation involves being aware of our surroundings, both internally and externally, as our circumstances influence our emotions and reactions.

  • If our environment becomes heated, we may want to turn down the thermostat to regulate our internal systems.
  • When encountering people who create chaos, we can use our filtration system to set boundaries and return to a place of calm and equanimity.
  • After a difficult week, we might need to adjust our pumping system to remove ourselves from a negative mindset.
  • Like daily maintenance for an aquarium, we need to ensure our way forward is clear and aligned with our values. Even a few minutes of mindful daily practice is sufficient to retain homeostasis and peace.

The Benefits of Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is a valuable skill that empowers individuals to manage thoughts, emotions, and behavioural responses, particularly in stressful situations. Beyond merely controlling impulses, self-regulation helps us maintain clear focus and attention on our tasks, ensuring that we remain productive and composed, even when faced with challenges.


Self-regulation is more than just a tool for managing emotions; it is a holistic approach to navigating life’s surprises with grace and ease. By acknowledging the complex cascade of events that influence our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, self-regulation empowers us to make subtle but powerful adjustments in our responses. This skill not only enhances our ability to cope internally with stress but also promotes external focus, resilience, and healthier relationships. As we continue to develop and refine our self-regulation abilities, we unlock the potential to lead more balanced and fulfilling lives.

You don’t have to do it on your own! I invite you to join me as I support women in a welcoming environment of trust and acceptance to construct their best life. It is easier to stay on track when you have even one person supporting you in the process.

If you would like to hear more about self-regulation, it’s benefits and how it can empower you to live your best life please call or use the link below to book a 30-minute consultation and get started with your free Values assessment. Learn about how to maintain mental calmness, composure and evenness of temper, especially in difficult situations.

Simone Usselman-Tod

Stress Mastery and Mindset Breakthrough Coach

Certified Neuro-Linguistics Coach and Master Practitioner

Certified Neuro Change Method Coach & Practitioner

Certified Trauma-Informed Coach