Sometimes, it can seem like emotional reactions are difficult, even impossible, to control. But what if there was an effective way to regulate emotional responses? The Zones of Regulation curriculum can help. This method of understanding emotional states or “zones” can help anyone approach situations with more confidence and success.
Author Charles R. Swindoll once said, "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it."
Ready to learn what the Zones of Regulation are and how to use them? Keep reading to find out!
What Are the Zones of Regulation?
This cognitive behavioral method teaches emotional self-regulation using simple color-coded categories.
The Zones of Regulation help people maintain control over their impulses and feelings, allowing them to face conflict, solve problems, and more, more effectively.
Leah Kuypers developed this method, and it's proven so successful her book has sold over 100,000 copies. Kuypers was an occupational therapist working in the public school system with students who had difficulty regulating emotions. ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders are often associated with self-regulation challenges.
Although the Zones of Regulation were developed with children in mind, this system is helpful for people of all ages who benefit from better emotional control. The zones allow both children and adults to take control over their academic and social success, using skills that will help them face any situation. The visual, color-coded system is easy to understand and use.
Image CC by 0, by klimkin via Pixabay.
Zones of Regulation Colors
Now, let’s take a look at the four color-coded zones. All of these zones are normal to experience, but some are more suitable for certain situations than others. It’s important to learn to use the zones to regulate emotional reactions based on the situation at hand.
The red zone is characterized by a heightened emotional state and extreme alertness. This zone is a place of intense emotions, but they don’t necessarily have to be negative.
Someone in the red zone might be feeling intense joy, for example. On the other hand, they might be experiencing intense anger, fear, or outrage.
In the yellow zone, intense emotions and alertness are still felt, but without the red zone's loss of control. In the yellow zone, one might be feeling stressed, nervous, anxious, or excited.
The green zone is when an individual is alert, yet calm. This zone is usually associated with feelings of contentment or happiness, along with a sense of alertness. The green zone is an ideal zone to strive for. It's the best zone for effective learning.
Finally, the blue zone is when someone feels depressed, low, or “down” emotionally. Blue zones are often experienced with someone is bored, sad, tired, or even sick.
What Each Zone Means
As you can see, these zones create a sort of “stoplight” system based on intensity. A red zone is the most intense zone with the least emotional control, so that is often a signal to stop whatever is causing the red zone reaction.
A yellow zone can mean “proceed with caution,” while a green zone means “go ahead” and continue. This isn’t the case in every situation, but it’s a helpful way to think about what the zones mean.
What about the blue zone? Although there’s no blue traffic light, you can think of the blue zone as being like the sign for a rest area along the route. Blue zones are often signal that a period of rest is needed to regain energy.
Each zone is more appropriate for some situations than others. For example, a child experiencing a yellow zone while playing with friends doesn’t necessarily need to proceed with caution: heightened excitement is normal then. But if the yellow zone happens while that same child is doing homework, they should manage their emotions appropriately to stay focused on the task at hand.
A4: Starting with resources like the Zones of Regulation not only teach students to identify their own feelings, but it also sparks a conversation around acceptance of emotions. Further PD such as SafeTALK and ASIST training is a huge asset #ONedchat pic.twitter.com/i8m8W3TemT
— Spencer Burton (@spencerburtonca) January 25, 2018
Why You Need Emotional Regulation
Everyone needs emotional regulation from time to time, and individuals with ADHD or ASD may need to use their emotional regulation skills more often. Why is emotional regulation so important?
Emotional self-regulation means controlling your emotions, rather than letting your emotions control your actions. This is an important way to take power over any situation in life.
When we allow our emotions to take over our behavior, we often find ourselves in situations we later regret. While in a state of heightened emotion, we may say things we don’t really mean, or do things we wish we could take back.
Self-regulation lets you manage your emotions and respond appropriately to any situation. It also lets you change your response quickly and appropriately as needed. This is an empowering set of skills that can set you up for success in every aspect of life.
Image CC by 0, by Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay.
Emotional Regulation Skills
So, how do you put this knowledge into practice? You’ll need to use a set of emotional regulation skills.
As with any new skill, it takes time to master emotional regulation. You may not feel like an expert the first few times you use the Zones of Regulation . However, practice makes perfect, and you’ll get better and better at using these skills over time.
1. Know Your Zone
One of the most important skills is knowing where you stand emotionally. This is where the Zones of Regulation come in handy. Even if you can’t precisely name your emotions, you can at least identify which zone you’re in.
With practice, you’ll be able to narrow down and pinpoint which specific emotions you’re feeling. However, start with just knowing your zone. That will help you know how to handle the situation effectively.
2. Understand Others’ Zones
A more challenging, but useful part of emotional regulation is trying to understand which zone another person is in.
It’s very hard to tell exactly what another person is feeling or thinking. However, you may be able to tell which zone someone is in based on their body language and other nonverbal cues, as well as what they say.
For example, someone with a red face and clenched fists is likely in the red zone at that moment. This knowledge will help you know how best to interact with that person at that time.
3. Move Between Zones
After learning to recognize which zone you and others are in, your next step is learning how to move between zones.
Of course, you can’t control which zone another person is in - you can only try to recognize which one it is. However, the more you can take control over your own state, the more successfully you can respond to different situations in life.
For example, you might work on techniques that calm you down, for when you need to move from a red zone to a yellow zone. Simply recognizing which zone you’re in and how you’re feeling - or even sharing that information with others - can be a helpful first step. Then, you can figure out which activities will help you get to the zone you need.
4. Try an App
To learn more about how to use the Zones of Regulation, you might want to try the Zones of Regulation App.
This app is designed to help students learn how to use the zones. As they progress on the app’s quest, they discover new emotional regulation tools, such as how to recognize the facial expressions associated with different emotions.
Although it’s designed for students, anyone who wants to learn more about the zones of regulation can benefit from trying out this app.
There are many more emotional regulation skills that can be helpful. Each person needs to find the system that works best for them.
However, no matter how you put them into practice, the Zones of Regulation are a useful way to understand and reflect on emotional responses. They can help children of all ages gain control over their emotions. The zones of regulation offer an easy-to-use framework for understanding how they are feeling. Adults will benefit from this simple emotional regulation system, too.
What do you think about using the Zones of Regulation? Leave a comment and let us know!
Featured image: CC0 Creative Commons by freeGraphicToday via Pixabay.