What is Regulation?
Think of regulation as a balance in your body, a sense of calm and stability. To understand regulation, one must understand the way our brain interprets the world, and to do that one must look at the brain.
According to Dr. Perry, “The brain can be divided into four interconnected areas: the brainstem, diencephalon, limbic, and cortex.” The brainstem (also known as the reptilian brain) is responsible for our basic body functions, respiration, temperature and heart rate. Moving up, the diencephalon is responsible for our sleep/wake cycles, appetite and movement. Then comes the limbic, which is responsible for our memory, bonding, emotions, and reward. And lastly, at the top is our cortex, which is the most “human” part of our brain, responsible for creativity, thinking, language, time, and complex emotions like hope.
Our brain interprets our senses from the bottom up, meaning it starts at the brainstem and works its way up to the cortex. When we are faced with a sensation or an event, it first triggers our heart rate, body temperature and so on. However, it is important to note that it does not take time into consideration, so our body reacts to a sensation based on past experiences before it can reach the cortex that says, “No, this time it is different.1″
From Reacting to Regulating: Navigating Responses to Experiences
When our body is in reactive mode we react through our sympathetic nervous system. Our body is telling us to survive so we may either fight, flight, freeze in place, or fawn/disassociate. Based on our previous experiences we learn to react. Regulation is not reacting but feeling balanced and responding accordingly.
So a previous experience that shook you, for example a car accident, may have your body reacting when you see a fast car. You may experience a faster heart beat, increase in sweat and your mind may be in a panic, or on the other hand you may feel numb.
Based on previous experiences, you can feel the fear and want to run away from there or disassociate. But a regulated you can calm your heart rate, and not react but respond to yourself. I am afraid because of what happened last time, but I know that right now I am in a safe space and cars won’t always crash.
Finding Balance through Regulation and Trust in Allah
Regulation goes hand in hand with trusting Allah and submitting to His will. When we are dysregulated our mind and body are focused on surviving. But as Muslims we understand that Allah is the one who is All-Powerful and everything is in His hands. We have to be regulated to understand and accept this as well as to be able to submit to Him.
- Start by understanding your triggers and connecting with yourself. When you understand why your body is reacting you can start to distance the reaction. Remember fear is not equal to danger.
- Practice mindfulness and being present. (Read More Here) Being present means being in the here and now and not stuck in past memories. Taking deep breaths can help you calm your physical sensations. It can help slow your pulse and regulate your breathing.
- Muraqabah– self vigilance and Muhasabah- self accountability are practices that are encouraged in our faith and that keep us regulated. By regularly practicing self vigilance, where we are aware of what we are doing and how we are doing it we are essentially gaining control over our actions, and realizing that they are not in control of us.
Self accountability means taking responsibility for your actions, you are not blaming others but taking control over yourself and what has happened. This is key in regulating because you are telling yourself that even if things happen around me, I know I am able to control my being and what my actions are.
- Therapy: It is important for you to process the traumas with a professional who can hold space for you. Therapy is a great way to talk out the difficult moments that dysregulated you and help you find regulation in your life. By processing the difficult moments, you are no longer in their control but in control over them. Therapy allows you to process emotions in a safe space.