Prevent and Manage Dysregulation

On another page, we explained that dysregulation, which is the state we’re in when our nervous system is out of balance, is one of the most significant drivers of infighting. Please read that explanation if you haven’t done so already. Here, we discuss how to prevent and manage your own and others’ dysregulation.

Self-regulation is the practice of bringing ourselves back into a regulated state, and it’s one of the most important skills we can learn—as advocates, and as human beings.

Build self-awareness

Self-regulation requires, first and foremost, self-awareness. Trying to bring ourselves into balance when we can’t see ourselves clearly is like trying to drive while wearing the wrong prescription lenses.

There are lots of great tools to help you develop your “inner observer,” the part of you that’s observing what’s happening inside you without making up a story about it. Meditation is an excellent way to do this. You can also place sticky notes around your home or office to remind you to regularly pause, look inside, and notice what you’re thinking and feeling. offers many great tips and resources.

Understand your experience of dysregulation

It can be very helpful to write a list of your experiences of dysregulation. Developing awareness of your dysregulation triggers, symptoms, and tools for management is key to preventing and managing dysregulation.

You can start by writing a document where you answer the following questions. Build this document out over time, adding to it as you develop more awareness.

  • What kinds of things (in my advocacy, at home, or in general) tend to dysregulate me? (They could be external factors, like getting criticized in a less-than-ideal way by a colleague; or internal factors, like your own thoughts where you imagine the worst; or physical states, like being exhausted, too hot, and so on.)

  • What helps to regulate me (e.g., listening to your favorite soothing music, going for a walk, or being in nature)?

  • When I’m dysregulated, how does this usually show up in my body (e.g., feeling a tightness in your throat, feeling a heaviness in your chest, etc.)?

  • What are some red flags that tell me I’m getting dysregulated, some early warning signs (e.g., you start to feel restless or anxious)?

  • What kind of narrative do I have when I’m dysregulated? What’s the story I tell myself (e.g., that people can’t be trusted, I’m being used, I’m not competent, and so on)?

As you pay attention to your experience of dysregulation over time, you’ll start to automatically prevent yourself from getting triggered (when possible), and manage your dysregulation more quickly and skillfully.

Prioritize your regulation

Make a commitment to taking care of your regulation needs every day.

At least once a day, ask yourself: “Do I feel regulated?” If the answer is “No,” then ask yourself “What do I need to become regulated?” And then give yourself permission to attend to your regulation needs.

Attending to your regulation needs regularly can be a life-transforming practice.

Build your self-regulation muscle

There are many simple and straightforward techniques for self-regulating. The more you learn and practice self-regulation, the more adept and skillful you’ll become. Therapy in a Nutshell is an excellent, free resource with clear explanations and guidance.


Coregulation is the practice of someone whose nervous system is regulated helping to regulate someone whose nervous system is dysregulated.

There are a number of coregulation techniques, such as making eye contact, breathing in sync, and physical touch, although these may not be appropriate in all circumstances.

One thing you can do in any circumstance, though, is to try to be a calming presence, to bear witness to the other person with compassion and empathy and without judgment. If it feels appropriate, you can also ask them what they think would help them feel better. And practicing the formula for healthy relating is another way to help someone regulate.

For additional resources on coregulating, check out From Triggered to Tranquil.

Build healthy habits

It’s much harder to stay regulated if we aren’t taking care of our basic needs, such as eating healthfully, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, sleeping well, and so on. Give yourself permission to take care of your needs, and you’ll be giving yourself, and others in your life, a great gift.

You can learn more about building healthy habits by checking out Atomic Habits.

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