With a new year well underway and some of those overly ambitious resolutions fading, let’s think about practical, achievable and very positive self-regulation resolutions for the rest of this year and beyond. Here are seven that can make a real difference for kids and for adults:
- About that bedtime snack: Very tasty, much anticipated and a long-standing tradition for many, but digestion burns a lot of energy during sleep time when your body is meant to restore its energy reserves;
- Sleep hygiene: When I first encountered that phrase while working with Dr. Stuart Shanker, I thought he was promoting clean pyjamas and well-brushed teeth as bedtime rituals. Those are really good too, but the term sleep hygiene refers to the conditions (particularly light and noise) that can keep the brain churning in “alert” mode rather than being in a restful and restorative mode. Think about all the LED glow from various places in the bedroom: the bedside clock, the tv on/off button, the mobile phone charging on the bedside table. Now think about noise intrusions during sleep time. The booming vibration from downstairs music triggers the brain to be on standby alert. Those deep sounds are a lot like the growl of predators in our ancient history, so we can’t really “shut down” and restore;
- Clutter: Whether it’s in the classroom our house, some of us can be pretty quickly overwhelmed/dysregulated by the visual overload that clutter presents. Even busy and crowded artistic displays in classrooms can be too much for some kids. Their visual capacities are such that the myriad of stimuli prevent them from focusing on the areas which requires attention and concentration;
- Sitting: The bane of our post-agrarian existence. Our species is meant to move: our physiology is much more connected to a hunting/gathering/nomadic blueprint than one that has us sitting at desks, in cars or on the couch. Look at the evidence from schools that increase the frequency of activity time and find that it doesn’t take away from learning, but increases it. http://on.today.com/1IWfC1w
- Screen time, especially at night: When our kids (or we) go to bed with mobile technology or television screens glowing in the dark, we are delaying our quality sleep time long past when we hit the off button. It takes the brain a long time to settle after being bombarded with blue light, so factor that in when you think you are getting the amount of sleep need to keep you healthy and well-regulated. Here’s an article that expands on this issue:
- Exercise in Response to Fatigue: It feels counterintuitive, but one of the healthiest things a person can do in response to feeling sluggish is to get active. It’s a great way to either up-regulate (to snap out of lethargy) or down regulate (to return to calm from a hyper-alert state). Exercising one’s way out of fatigue feels like a bit of a riddle – just remember that it expends energy and restores energy all at the same time;
- Turn the lament into an inquiry: We’ve all heard “Why does all this keep happening to me?” as a lament. It is the voice of the powerless two year old, the frustrated teen or the overwhelmed adult. If we can manage to flip that to a place of curiosity and investigation, we begin to take charge – putting the self into self-regulation. If I begin to understand why this is happening to me, I may be able to influence some of the variables.