Self-Reg: The Basics

Self-Reg for parents, photo of man and son sitting on the grass together

What is Self-Reg all about?

Shanker Self-Reg® is a process for enhancing self- regulation by understanding and dealing with stress. In Self-Reg we consider both our responses to stress and our underlying state of energy and tension when we encounter a stress.

Self-Regulation

  • Self-Reg is based on the original, psychophysiological definition of self-regulation, which refers to how we respond to stress— whether in a manner that promotes or constricts recovery and growth.
  • Self-regulation is fundamentally different from self-control: it seeks to reduce troublesome impulses, not to inhibit them.
  • Self-regulation is about understanding, not “monitoring and managing” emotions, thoughts and behaviour: in ourselves and others.
  • We all self-regulate, though sometimes in ways that are maladaptive: i.e., that lead to even greater stress down the road.
  • Self-Reg is not a program. It is an ongoing, lifelong, process of understanding stress-behaviour and involves interrelated practices for maintaining a healthy energy/tension balance.

    Shanker Self-Reg® looks at stress across 5 Domains of Self-Reg: biological, emotion, cognitive, social, and prosocial.

Self-Reg includes recognizing what calm feels like for yourself as well as what it feels like to become overstressed.

The ultimate Self-Reg goal is to help children acquire the necessary understanding of when and how to manage their own energy and tension, so they can adapt to the ever-changing and increasing stresses of life. But Self-Reg is also personal. If we are going to “lend students our calm,” we first have to understand our own stress and know how to manage our own energy and tension.

Self-Reg can help us understand and respond to the roots of behaviour, learning, motivation and social problems in all students and adults.

There are five practices in The Shanker Method: 1) Reframe the behaviour, 2) Recognize the stressors across the five domains, 3) Reduce the stress, 4) Reflect and enhance stress awareness, 5) Restore energy
Two children sat in a park on a bench

Self-Reg Terms

Blue Brain: When prefrontal systems that support thinking and
self-awareness are dominant.

Red Brain: When subcortical systems in the limbic system are dominant.

Gray Brain: Where survival mechanisms in the brain stem are dominant.

Stress Behaviour: Excess stress is causing behaviour. The child does not choose to act that way.

Misbehaviour: The child chooses to act a certain way even though they are aware they should not, and could have chosen/acted differently. Co-Regulation: When two people instinctively adjust to and regulate one another’s behaviour (mood, emotions, language) via bi-directional interactive signals and behaviours.

Co-Reg: The shared state of calmness that results when we reframe another’s behaviour and help them shift from maladaptive to restorative modes of self-regulation.

Limbic System: The subcortical structures involved in reactive behaviours and emotions. The limbic system monitors the environment for safety and danger and is also the source of some of our strongest social and prosocial urges.

Triune Brain: Blue - Neocortex, Red - Limbic System, Brown - Reptilian BrainTriune Brain: Blue - Neocortex, Red - Limbic System, Brown - Reptilian Brain
Self-Reg Journeys. The MEHRIT Centre uses four streams to help people identify where they are on the Self-Reg continuum and for moving forward. For more information see Self-Reg Schools: A Handbook for Educators. Image of a seed and sprout - Seeds: Self-Reg is an area of interest to you and your organization. Image of a sunrise and leaf - Sunrise: Self-Reg is developing in some areas of your organization's work. Image of a leaf in a quilt square - Quilt: Self-Reg is infused in many areas of your organization's work that you are linking together. Image of a leaf in two cupped hands - Haven: Self-Reg is part of your foundational framework through which all else is framed.
Dr. Stuart Shanker is a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Psychology from York University and the Founder & Visionary of The MEHRIT Centre, Ltd. Stuart has served as an advisor on early child development to government organizations across Canada and the US, and in countries around the world. Dr. Shanker also blogs for Psychology Today
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