Understanding and Embracing The Zones of Regulation

14th Dec, 23

Understanding and Embracing The Zones of Regulation

One term that has been gaining traction recently that you may have heard in educational spaces is the word "regulation." But what does it mean, and why is it crucial in our daily lives?

Regulation, in the context of human emotions and behaviour, refers to the ability to adjust, manage, or control our state of alertness, energy levels, and emotions. It encompasses various aspects such as self-control, self-management, emotional control, anger management, and impulse control. Essentially, regulation is the key to achieving personal goals, meeting situational demands, and attaining a sense of well-being. When we are regulated our brain and body, joined via the nervous systems, work together to manage the situations we face.

Two Paths to Regulation:

Regulation can take two main forms:

  • Self-regulation
  • Co-regulation

Self-regulation involves independently managing one's feelings and states to achieve goals and navigate different situations successfully. On the other hand, co-regulation is the process of connecting with a social partner for support in attaining goals and maintaining well-being.

Regulation in Action

Consider a student within the classroom who experiences frustration while attempting to solve a math problem.

In the case of self-regulation, the student independently addresses the feelings of frustration and employs a strategy or regulation tool. Taking a moment, the student practices deep breathing and engages in positive self-talk, enabling them to navigate through the challenging math equation by themselves.

On the other hand, in the context of co-regulation, the student signals their distress by raising their hand and expressing frustration to the teacher with a heavy sigh. Recognising the emotional cues, the teacher, attuned to the student's feelings, responds by offering words of encouragement and delivering additional teaching support. This intervention aims to foster the student's well-being and provides clarity to lessen any confusion they may be experiencing.

Both forms are integral to our daily lives, and as we develop our metacognitive thinking skills, we become more capable of both self and co-regulation.

The Zones of Regulation: A Framework for Understanding and Teaching Regulation

In education, The Zones of Regulation offers a proactive, skills-based approach to understanding and teaching regulation. This framework provides a common language to discuss and navigate the complexities of our emotional states. It provides individuals of all ages with a consistent, developmental sequence of lessons to follow, offering a systematic framework for metacognitive growth.

Organising Emotions into Four Zones:

The heart of The Zones of Regulation lies in sorting our emotions, states of alertness, and energy levels into four distinct zones. Each zone is represented by a colour and helps individuals better understand, talk about, and regulate their emotions.

Let's take a closer look at each zone:

  • The Blue Zone: This zone represents low states of alertness and down feelings. It includes emotions such as sadness, tiredness, sickness, and boredom. Regulating in the Blue Zone involves seeking comfort, energising, or resting to manage lower energy levels and blue feelings.
  • The Green Zone: This zone signifies a calm, alert state associated with positive emotions like happiness, focus, contentment, and peace. Regulating in the Green Zone involves using tools and supports to maintain a comfortable and focused state, supporting overall well-being.
  • The Yellow Zone: As energy levels rise, the Yellow Zone encompasses emotions such as stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, and silliness. Regulating in the Yellow Zone requires taking action to manage increased energy and stronger emotions, using tools like mindfulness to slow down racing thoughts.
  • The Red Zone: This zone represents an extremely high-energy state and intense, overwhelming feelings. Emotions in the Red Zone include anger, rage, elation, panic, and devastation. Regulating in the Red Zone involves pausing, assessing, and gaining control over strong emotions and high energy levels.

The Zones of Regulation provide a valuable framework for understanding and teaching regulation, emphasising the fluidity of emotional experiences and the importance of acknowledging all zones. By embracing the diversity of our emotional states and learning to regulate effectively, we equip ourselves with essential skills for personal growth, success in various aspects of life, and overall well-being. As we navigate the rainbow of emotions, let's remember that all the zones are okay, and each plays a crucial role in our life so recognise, accept, and support these feelings and do not send the message that the Green Zone is the only acceptable Zone to be in.


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