Self-management may be the hottest selling point for schools when considering SEL programming. To provide students with skills and strategies that allow them to increase their ability to manage (make pro-social choices) their behaviors even when handling uncomfortable feelings and unwanted conflict is the stuff of fevered teacher-dreams! Self-management is also key in helping students gain independence in academic work, personal/social development by teaching the underlying skills required for self-reliance. (Self-reliance is a highly valued strength for individualistic approaches to activities. Culture Matters) The good news is that self-management skills can be taught and can be learned. The other good news is that it's not easy. (Struggle makes us stronger! - that's some growth mindset stuff) The goal, for schools, would be to provide direct instruction to students so they can learn, practice, apply, and assess skills for delaying gratification, controlling impulses, managing stress, and persevering through challenges. Success with self-management can help reduce redirections, referrals for remedial academic and behavior support, and decrease the frequency of disciplinary action. There are many ways to support students in building self-management skills. Classroom jobs, peer mediation opportunities, restorative justice circles, "think time" space, class meetings, journal writing, and role play scenarios, are just a few common modes of teaching for self-management. If your school is using a Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) model the language of self-management is likely being activated. Here are a few questions you can use to increase your thinking and familiarity with self-management. You may notice that these questions sound a lot like advanced self-awareness questions. You're right! The core of being able to manage a feeling or thought is to first be able to recognize the thought and feeling. The add-on is to gain understanding about the level of discomfort or comfort associated with a particular thought or feeling and what that comfort or discomfort may demand. The ability to do these things will greatly increase the available options when it comes to what you do with a thought or a feeling.
What do I do when I'm feeling blue?
I would encourage you to use your self-awareness skills to pay deeper attention to how feelings around the sadness and sorrow and soul-tired and worn down spectrum feel. In this "blue"* spectrum of feelings (low energy, low pleasantness) there may be a good deal of discomfort. Weariness, dullness, lethargy, heaviness, soreness, may be familiar with feelings of sadness particularly when these feelings are prolonged in grief, trauma, or toxic stress. To help build self-management skills try to measure your own personal tolerance. What is the level of blue spectrum feelings that you can hold. Expecting and accepting times of discomfort is healthy so learn your levels. If you understand what you can hold by yourself than you are already managing. If you understand what you can not hold by yourself than you are also managing by knowing when to seek support. Thinking in advance of healthy outlets for these feelings can provide you with strategies for managing. For example, writing stories, journal writing, writing poetry, writing music, analyzing data, working with critical reflection, talking with a trusted adult, may be just a few healthy outlets for feelings in this area. (*I'm using the language of color association from the RULER Approach. I've written more about here on the blog.)
What can be said when I'm in the red?
Different from blue spectrum of feelings are red spectrum feelings. Red spectrum feelings are related to anger and fear. These feelings can contain the same level of unpleasantness as blue feelings but with higher amounts of energy, which can make these feelings uncomfortable in a different way. Understanding how the emotions of anger and fear (and subsequent thoughts and feelings from anger and fear) feel in the body can offer a great advantage to any person. For example, there is a great deal of injustice in the world. There is everyday injustice whenever you look at how public education is funded in Washington State. There is cosmic injustice when you consider that disease can happen to anyone. Both of these injustices can stimulate anger for an observant person. Self-management skills support a person in choosing what they do with that amount of energy in the body and mind and spirit. For example, if education funding can be a source of anger then perhaps that energy can be used to advocate for more thought and creativity to be put into revenue and spending. If fear can be sourced from disease than maybe that energy can be sourced to help a person pass organic chemistry, become a research scientist, and cure terrible diseases. There is something additionally important about fear and anger. Unfamiliarity with the tolerance level of fear and anger can make people more susceptible to manipulation, particularly if someone else finds out how to either help us feel afraid or tells us they can relieve our anger if we only... Many of the trappings of peer pressure, advertising, and political rhetoric are related to the target of these things being unaware and uncomfortable with fear and anger. (I have several classroom lessons middle and high school lessons on self-management that demonstrate a direct connection to discomfort with fear and anger and susceptibility to peer pressure, marketing, and political rhetoric. I will post them for free download on the Curricula Page soon. )
Can I hold on to helpful can I shift when it's not?
Using self-awareness to identify the feelings, thoughts, expressive desires, and expressive choices and using social awareness to identify the environment and others, self-management skills allow a person to either maintain a set of thoughts and feelings that are supportive or shift to a set of thoughts and feelings that would be. Holding on to helpful is about prolonging that which is working. Here self-management skills involve stamina and focus. One way to do this is to use induction. To induce something is to bring it about or give rise to it. Inducing a feeling or a thought can come from reflecting on internal or external things that promote that particular feeling or thought. For example, I have picture of a friend of mine who is a wonderfully patient counselor. He is more patient and calm than I am at almost any given time. WhenI recognize that my own patience is starting to dwindle and I recognize that it would be supportive to stay patient for the activity at hand, I look at his picture to help me induce my patience. Doing this helps increase my stamina to maintain my patience. Similarly, when I recognize the want to be ridiculous, I can induce ridiculousness by thinking about the professional fake wrestler Rick Flair. When I was a boy I loved him and his outbursts still bring wonderfully big feelings. WOO! To help cultivate this aspect of self-management use social awareness to find what is needed and use self-awareness to find the feelings and thoughts. Make time to reflect on the things that help induce thoughts and feelings for yourself. It is possible to find the "best self" for many of the common activities and events in the school day. I will also post some free classroom lessons that teachers can do with the whole group that can promote common language and understanding for "best selves" for common activities in their classrooms. Check the Curricula Page soon.