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Help Them Unpack!

By: Shannon Calladine

Self-Reg is science!

Self-Reg is a process. Self-Reg has five interwoven steps: reframe, recognizing the stressors, reduce the stress, reflect and restore. When we look at reframing, we look at behaviour as communication. What is this behaviour telling me? We get our clues from step 2, recognizing the stressors. We become stress detectives. Searching all 5 domains of Self-Reg for potential stressors: biological domain, emotion domain, cognitive domain, social domain , and the prosocial domain.

We can use the visual of a backpack to see how heavy these stressors can be. Picture a child wearing a backpack stuffed with all kinds of things! Hunger, thirst, illness, hot, cold. Dealing with scents, bright lights, loud voices. Sitting still for too long on hard chairs, while feeling tired, and wearing uncomfortable clothes.

Let’s add more to that backpack! Let’s add fear, anxiety, disappointments. Keep adding! Grief, divorce, loneliness, depression. Let’s throw in a little conflict, anticipation, and embarrassment.

Let’s add a dash of time pressure, tests, difficult tasks. A splash of boredom, concentrating, interruptions , and confusion.

That backpack is starting to look heavy! But we’re not done. Throw in some peer pressure, group work, public speaking. And how about some confrontation, social media, bullying, or being excluded.

Just when you think the backpack is about to burst… add some injustice, world events, moral dilemmas, and other people’s stress. Let’s top this all off with being late, feeling unprepared, and dealing with other people’s limbic reactions.

Phew, that’s a lot!!!

Now picture the poor child that is carrying this backpack around. Picture the weight of this on them. Look at this child’s face. Are they happy and smiling? What clues could they be giving us that this is too heavy of a load to carry? Could they use behaviour to tell us? Can you see their tension going up? Can you see their energy coming down? Can they cope with the weight of all this ‘stuff’? Could you?

What if we could help them take some of this out of their backpack? What if they were met with calm in a difficult moment? What if we could soothe? What if we could get their thinking brain back online? What if they could spend the day learning? What if we could help reduce the stressors?

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