Self-regulation, self-control, and self-reflection helps you to adapt to each life challenge, no matter how painful or confusing, because you have learned to identify your triggers and how to manage them. Self-regulation provides strength and stability which can overcome stress and insecurity. A clear self-regulation plan gives you a structure for monitoring and mastering your moods, thoughts, and behaviors.
Your individualized self-regulation plan provides you with a proactive commitment to monitoring and putting forth effort toward the actions that may bring about desired outcomes. Your individualized self-regulation plan may involve revising current goals and creating new goals. Your monitoring of your daily progress toward task completion will require self-reflection aimed at the evaluation of your self-defeating thoughts, disturbing emotions, as well as your strengths, progress, personal values, and life goals.
The 4 Main Phases of Self-Regulation
When you develop and follow self-regulatory behaviors, you will also tend to live in the present, to have self-awareness of both positive and negative aspects of your personality, to use frequent introspection, and to acknowledge and process all of your emotions in a goal-oriented manner, rather than perceiving yourself as a helpless victim. You will not cling to anger, regret, or blame. You will view each life moment as an opportunity for growth and learning toward self-control. There are 4 key phases of the self-regulation process.
Phase 1 is Task Identification, which requires you to devote much time and effort toward determining the most important tasks to master in your daily life. You will certainly encounter anxiety, frustration, and confusion when sifting through ALL of the desired and necessary daily tasks and emotional triggers to put into your self-regulation plan. The Task Identification phase of self-regulation pushes you to evaluate your life goals and individual values by self-reflection. This clarification of the big picture of your life provides a framework for creating and following a plan as a proactive warrior and not a helpless victim. While you will always experience feelings of doubt and disappointment, you must remember that you can accept these feelings and work with these feelings. When you can constructively process and learn from negative feelings and thoughts, then the fear of all life’s events will decrease and increase self-control.
Phase 2 is Goal Setting, which requires you to deeply explore the purpose of different tasks and the possible difficulties and insecurities which may invade your mindset when trying to complete certain tasks. This phase involves much introspection and clarity about past, present, and future events, in terms of those which are harmful and those which are beneficial to your sense of self.
Phase 3 is the Self-Regulatory Action Plan. This action phase will have progress and setbacks, and you will need great flexibility, patience, perseverance, self-control, and self-compassion when this plan becomes challenging and when you become frustrated or disappointed in yourself. The Self-Regulatory Action Plan is a guide for monitoring your daily actions, thoughts, and emotions. During this phase, you must accept that your perceptions of past, present, and future events will be tested, but that is OK! You must remember that the PROCESS is just as important as the desired outcome, because you are gathering wisdom and strength throughout this process.
Phase 4 is Adaptation, which means that you gradually learn how to continue faith in yourself when you do not follow your plan or when you allow negative thoughts or emotions to interfere with your task completion. This phase is also the primary learning phase which self-reflection involves flexibility and empowerment. This phase requires the most perseverance. You will inevitably have successes and setbacks during this phase, but these experiences help you to navigate through a process of increased self-control and self-efficacy. In his social cognitive theory, Albert Bandura (1982) was the first psychological theorist to relate a strong sense of self-efficacy to one’s ability to view challenging problems as tasks to be mastered and to have a greater commitment to daily activities.
Emotional self-regulation is the process of knowing when you have certain emotions, influencing how you experience these emotions, and controlling how you express these emotions. Your emotions are adaptive responses that have a deep-rooted basis in evolutionary biology, in that the way you interpret them affects how you think, how you make decisions, and how you coordinate your actions in your day-to-day life.
Emotional self-regulation enables you to carefully judge which outcomes to embrace and which ones to avoid. For instance, poor emotional self-regulation and self-control can cause you to feel victimized, whereas strong emotional self-regulation can act as a buffer between real life experiences and their disturbing effects, such as fear, grief, anger, and insecurity. Emotional self-regulation is represented by the following eight main skills: (1) self-awareness of all emotions, (2) mindful focus of emotions in the present, (3) emotional adaptability to all life changes, (4) utilizing emotional supports, (5) commitment to daily affirmations, (6) pausing, (7) cognitive reappraisals of reality, and (8) evaluation of your emotional triggers and threats by self-reflection.
Cognitive self-regulation refers to having honest thought-processing skills, the ability to focus attention on the present, self-reflection, and the ability to ignore distractions. This also requires redirecting your thoughts as needed to regulate your emotions and behaviors. In doing so, you will feel increased self-efficacy. Albert Bandura proposed that the growth of self-efficacy continues to evolve throughout life as you acquire new skills and that self-efficacy is a primary guiding force for your coping behaviors and goal achievement.
Behavioral self-regulation refers to performing certain actions which are aimed toward your long–term goals. This type of self-regulation includes communication skills, self-reflection, self-control, nutrition and exercise management, assertive actions and words, stress management, anger management, and overall motivational strategies. Behavioral self-regulation also allows you to pay mindful attention to your circumstances and to weigh the consequences of possible responses.
Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy in human agency. American Psychologist, 37, 122-147.
Written by New Age Psychiatry’s Compassionate Therapist: Rebecca Wang-Harris PhD
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Want to learn more? Read on here to learn about part 1 of self regulation for the New Year series.