Emotional Regulation and Exercise for Children

What is emotional regulation?

“Emotional regulation is the ability to effectively manage and respond to an emotional experience. People unconsciously use emotion regulation strategies to cope with difficult situations many times throughout each day. When a child experiences dysregulation they aren’t able to diffuse their negative emotions. These emotions can take control leading to over-the-top reactions, outbursts, or meltdowns. This is an extremely common challenge for kids who have Autism, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, or other neurological differences.” (Nicole Day, 2017, link to source below).

For more information on regulation, check out our series on self-regulation: http://parklandplayers.com/self-regulation-defining-self-regulation/

Some children struggle with self-regulation and need assistance regulating their emotions. However, regulation is a skill like any other, with attention and practice children can improve their self-regulation skills.

 

How does exercise come in?

As an adult, do you find that exercise, even something as simple as going for a walk, can help you to calm yourself down when you are upset or stressed? The same can work for kids!

Let us explain. The stress response is an expression of high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn stimulates the production of adrenaline (this hormone is associated with arousal and energy spikes). An increase in cortisol and adrenaline leads to in increase in anxiety, increase in dysregulation, and decreased communication and social skills.

Exercise has been proven to reduce cortisol levels and increase dopamine and other endorphins which are hormones responsible for that positive feels of comfort and satisfaction. Basically, exercise puts the brain in a chemical state where it is better able to regulate emotions!

 

What can you do?

Our source site (below) recommends a daily 7 minute HIIT in the mornings. Put on some music and get an interval time going (you can usually find an app for this). In the seven minute period set the timer to 45 seconds of active with 15 second rest periods in between. Do as many of the following movements as you can in that period!

  1. Frog Hops
  2. Bear Walk
  3. Gorilla Shuffles
  4. Starfish Jumps
  5. Cheetah Run
  6. Crab Crawl
  7. Elephant Stomps

The mechanism and technique of the movement is less important than actually doing it, so take your own interpretation on each exercise type, as long as you are being safe!

At the end of your HIIT, cool down with some stretches or yoga poses (at Parkland Players, we LOVE yoga for kids!)

Doing this daily will help your child (and even you) start your day with your brain in a place where it is most receptive to learning, in a state of calm, and able to express regulated responses to stressful moments throughout the day!

Source: https://hes-extraordinary.com/improve-emotional-regulation-just-7-minutes-per-day/