Friday, 27 January 2017

Self-Regulation and The Breakfast Club

We are currently learning about adolescents and self-regulation in our MEHRIT centre course.  We talked about how teenagers want to understand the science behind self-regulation, the biology and the cognition so that they understand why to do self-regulation and how it supports them. While I have never taught secondary school I am mom to two wonderful daughters and I remember the stress that they endured as teenagers and the stress that I endured as well.

One of our assignments was to select a teen-aged character from movies, TV or literature and analyze them using the question prompts from the Self-Reg Five Domain Student Profile. 

This is one of those assignments where I could spend way too much time just thinking about which adolescent character to use - Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from J.K. Rowling were my first thought.  Then I thought about Holden Caufield from Catcher in the Rye.  Instead, I went back to my youth and watched The Breakfast Club as my 'homework.'  I chose to analyze Allison, portrayed by Ally Sheedy, aka 'the basket case.'


Biological Domain:

  • Allison appears tired and withdrawn
  • She withdraws by putting her head down on the table and covering herself with the hood of her jacket. 
  • Her lunch consists of sugar packets (pixie sticks) and cereal on slices of white bread

Emotional Domain:
  • Allison is initially very quiet and withdrawn with occasional outbursts
  • when embarrassed she does not 'bounce back' but instead she withdraws and hides in her large jacket 
  • She reveals that she has a strained relationship with her parents as they are busy with problems of their own
  • She talks about running away from home
Cognitive Domain: - very little information is provided on the cognitive domain

Social Domain:
  • Allison states "I have no friends"
  • She engages in solitary activities such as drawing
  • She keeps herself separate from the rest of the group - sits away from them, uses her clothing and furniture as a barrier
  • She begins to participate in group activities as the movie progresses such as dancing on the top of the bookshelves with Claire
  • She reveals that she didn't actually have a detention; she comes to detention because she wants to. This makes me wonder if she wants to have friends, isn't sure how to make friends and going to detention is her way of being around other people without a lot of expectations to interact.  She is looking for peers to help her regulate and detention is where she knows she can find them.
  • She is willing to let Claire give her a makeover and kisses Andrew at the end of the film so she appears to be engaging in 'friend-making behaviour.'  
Prosocial Domain:
  • Allison is a compulsive liar
  • She is a thief
  • She does not participate in school activities such as clubs, teams, etc.
  • She purposefully engages in activities that would be considered 'weird' like using her dandruff to add snow to a picture 
  • She does understand the complexity of social norms.  When the students are talking about sex, she says,  "Well, if you say you haven't, you're a prude.  If you say you have, you're a slut.  It's a trap. You want to but you can't and when you do you wish you didn't." 
I found this to be a great way to practice using the five domains to analyze behaviour.  Since I haven't taught secondary school students, do those of you in secondary or post-secondary think this would be a worthwhile activity for students as part of ongoing learning about self-regulation?  I think it would also be interesting to look at Allison's behaviour through the Five Steps of Self-Regulation as well.  What character from what movie, TV show or book would you choose?

Monday, 23 January 2017

Applying the Steps of Self-Regulation

In our course, Dr Shanker talked about the impact that urbanization has had on stress levels. That really resonated with me as I thought back to my own experience.  I grew up on a farm and the closest town had a population of 650 people.  I went to a small elementary school and a small high school (400 students).  I lived at home and commuted to college for my Early Childhood Education diploma.
When I finished college I was accepted for the Early Childhood Education program at Ryerson in downtown Toronto.  They have a program where your two years of college count as two years of university; you just have to make up four electives, research and statistics. I had always wanted to live in Toronto and could hardly wait to get off the farm and start my big city adventure.  Within a few weeks, I was so homesick and I couldn't figure out why my dream was now turning into a nightmare.  Luckily I stuck it out and by Thanksgiving I was loving my new life and my new school.  Looking at it through the five steps of self-regulation:
Read and reframe - the problem wasn't that I hated the city and wanted to move home.  I was just stressed by a number of factors.
Recognize the stressors:
Biological - the noise of the city, the vibrations from the subway that ran directly under our residence building.  In our residence we were not allowed to have food anywhere but in the dining hall.  I had breakfast and dinner at the hall, no snacks, and had to eat lunch out every day.  I also had to get use to crowds and people invading my personal space.
Emotional - nervous about moving away from home; lonely because I only knew a few people in Toronto.  Since I was joining the cohort in the third year, they all knew each other already.
Cognitive - making the jump from college to university level requirements; problem solving and finding my way around the campus and the city
Social - fitting into the cohort when they all knew each other already; learning to live in residence and share my space with everyone. As the only daughter with two brothers I had always had my own bedroom.  Now I had no space to call my own.
Prosocial - I was feeling so stressed and crowded and I craved my own personal space.  Along with many classmates, I had a placement at the Ryerson toddler centre in their lab school.  We were supposed to do all these activities with them and I had a hard time.  I felt like the toddlers probably just wanted some space and to be left alone for awhile.  My empathy was getting in the way of being successful on placement.
Reduce the stressors
-my boyfriend had a studio apartment a short subway ride from the residence so I used to go there when he was at work so I could have some quiet alone time
-I went home for visits at Thanksgiving and Christmas to reconnect and recharge (no phones in our rooms meant limited phone calls home as this was back in the olden days, before cell phones and social media)
-I tried to make healthy choices like the school salad bar for lunch
-I gave myself time to adjust to the academic rigour of university 
-participating in some group projects gave me an opportunity to meet some of my classmates
Reflect - I realized I didn't want to move home and that I just needed to give myself time to adjust to the myriad of changes (stressors) that were all flooding me all at one time. I choose the ones that bothered me the most,  which were the lack of personal space and the change in eating patterns.  
Respond - Making incremental changes and allowing myself time to adjust were very helpful in getting through the first six weeks.  Years later, when my niece went through a similar experience when she moved from her rural home to residence at Fanshawe, I was able to reach out through social media and tell her to just hold on until Thanksgiving.  She told me later that she couldn't believe it.  In September all she wanted to do was go home, and by Thanksgiving she never wanted to leave college!

Friday, 20 January 2017

Resources to Help Kids and Adults Deal with the Stress of Inauguration

One of the keys to self-regulation is that we need to be aware of when we are feeling stressed - why and why now?  

Today is the inauguration of Donald Trump as the US President.  While I am a Canadian, I live right on the border with the US.  To paraphrase Sarah Palin, I can see the United States from my house.  My husband works in the US as do many of our neighbours and friends.  The day of the US Presidential election I was having an 'off day.'  I ate all kinds of junk that I knew was not good for me.  I knew it was stress eating but I couldn't seem to stop.  I was unable to focus on any particular reading or task that day.  It wasn't until I read Susan Hopkin's blog entry on the US election the next day that I realized the amount of stress and anxiety that I had around the election. 


If I look at this inauguration through the self-regulation lens, I can see stress in many of the domains:

Biological domain - lack of sleep and poor food choices due to stress; I have been trying to be more mindful of making good food choices and going to the gym to counteract these factors.

Emotional domain - worry and fear around the unknown.  Living in a border city, we spend a lot of time going back and forth across the border for entertainment,  and for work.  What will be the impact of Trump's presidency on our day-to-day lives as cross-border citizens?

Cognitive domain - In her blog, Susan referred to information overload during the election - the constant barrage of tweets, social media posts and news stories and there is the same media saturation for the inauguration.  It seems to permeate everything right now.  

Social domain - it seems like every social gathering over the holidays there was a conversation around the election.  I'm so done talking about what will or might happen during the Trump presidency. I feel like I just want to get this over with so we can get on to whatever our new normal is going to be for the next four years.

Prosocial domain - I'm trying to be open-minded and understand the perspective of those who voted for Trump but, to be honest, it's exhausting.  I'm avoiding the topic, especially with some our American friends and colleagues.  

Today I'll be mindful that it's going to be a stressful day.  I'm going to my dad's for lunch and I know we will watch the inauguration. (I can't help myself.) But I won't eat all the cookies I baked for dad; I'll leave them for him to enjoy.  I've already packed my gym bag and plan to stop for a good workout on my way home. 

The day of the election was awful - I stayed up really late watching the results and thinking that maybe it was going to change while eating unhealthy foods and feeling yucky.  Today I am more mindful.  I will use my self-regulation lens to understand the stressors created by the Trump inauguration.  I will strive to find healthy ways like good food and exercise to help me deal with this stress. And, most likely, a glass of wine at the end of the day!

Some resources you may find helpful:

How are you spending Inauguration Day?

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Self-Regulation vs Self-Control

Through the self-reg courses that I've taken so far I've been working on deepening my understanding of "what is the difference between self-regulation and self-control?"  Here are some of the resources from the MEHRIT Centre and Stuart Shanker's work that have been supporting my thinking on this question:
This infographic on Self-Regulation and Self-Control from the MEHRIT centre has helped me to continue to refine my understanding.
Psychology Today article - Self-regulation vs. Self-Control 
I've also learned from reading other people's blogs about the same topic such  as this blog by Aviva Dunsiger on The Connection Between Self-Regulation and Self-Control.   

and The Visible Parent Blog Busting the Myth of Self-Control
My understanding is still developing; I'm a learner not an expert.  I'm sure if you ask me this same question six weeks or six months from now my answer will have changed based on my ongoing learning.  My current explanation, when people ask what's the difference is:
Self-Regulation is non-judgementally looking at your impulses and cravings and asking why and why now?  It takes into consideration the social dimension, external factors and hidden stressors.  With self-regulation we learn to be stress detectives.
Self-control is judgmental. It focuses on why you as an individual can't control your impulses and your external behaviours.  In self-control we ask what's wrong with me? Why can't I control myself?   Self-control focuses on internal factors and on learning to control your weaknesses. 
Self-control is about inhibiting impulses and cravings while self-regulation is about reducing impulses and cravings by developing awareness of our stress levels and learning how to return to a calm state when we are hypo- or hyperaroused.
Many times in our readings we are reminded that self-regulation makes self-control possible.  
How do you explain the difference between self-reg and self-control?
What resources have you found helpful in learning more about self-reg and self-control?