Zones of Regulation

zones of regulation

I’m not going to lie – I learned about this when trying to figure out how to be better parent and help my oldest son regulate his feelings better. But honestly, adults need this too…

Many people go through life and don’t acknowledge how they are feeling unless it’s a big feeling (excited, enraged, shame), but we have feelings and to be better people we need to start paying attention to these. If you understand what you’re feeling you can better interpret a situation and make decisions you feel better about.

When I first heard about the zones of regulation it was in reference to a stop light. I was asking Eli how he felt once and he said “blue” which wasn’t one of the colors. But he felt sad and sad is blue, so that’s what he thought. Interestingly enough, other people DO use blue.

The zones are very straight forward –

Green: things are good. I feel good. I can control my responses to situations and can think before I speak

Yellow (orange so you can read it): I’m irritated or beginning to feel uncomfortable. If someone did something mean or disrespectful to I me, I would snap. I might even snap for what seems like no reason at all.

Red: I’m mad. Likely really mad. Like saying horrible things to people I love and doing things I normally wouldn’t do. Think temper tantrum. This is the point to avoid at all costs as it is the “point of no return.” During this stage we are using our lizard brain which can only do fight, flight, or freeze. We cannot…I repeat, CANNOT… hear what others are saying or respond appropriately. So no lectures or thoughtful discussion. When someone is in the red zone they need to separate from the situation and get back to the yellow zone before they can talk or work through what happened.

Blue: I’m sad, alone, ashamed or scared. I would put this next to the yellow zone because I honestly believe we all do things in the red zone because of of fear and sadness. Someone cut you off on the highway and you get pissed. You’re mad because you were scared. You thought they would hit you, which is scary. But it’s much more socially acceptable to be mad than to be sad.

I could go on and on about how to use this in your daily life to be more mindful, and I will likely post more on this later. In general, we all need to work on identifying our zone and if it’s anything but green, we need to think about what needs to happen to get us back there. We also need to work on how we personally should respond to others in various zones. For example, my son has started to say, “Mommy, I’m in the yellow zone. I just need to be along for a minute.” Seriously guys, this is amazing.

This week I challenge you all to start acknowledging your zones. If you have kids, teach them this and have them start naming their zones.

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