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Using Routines to Boost Self-Regulation Skills

Self-regulation and emotional regulation are two essential skills to live a healthy and productive life. If you’re neurodivergent, you might struggle with these skills in the same way you do executive functioning skills. Establishing daily routines can help you get a handle on both of these skills. 

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Understanding Self-Regulation and Emotional Regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to manage your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in a way that promotes positive outcomes. It involves being aware of your emotions, understanding how they affect you, and having the ability to control them. 

Emotional regulation, on the other hand, refers to the ability to manage your emotions in response to a particular situation. It involves recognizing your emotions, understanding what triggers them, and being able to respond in a healthy way.

Both self-regulation and emotional regulation are crucial for your mental and physical well-being. When you have good self-regulation skills, you can handle stress better, make better decisions, and maintain healthy relationships. Emotional regulation skills help you cope with difficult situations, reduce anxiety, and improve your overall mood.

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getting ready for the day

The Importance of Developing Self-Regulation Skills

Developing self-regulation skills is essential for personal growth. When you have good self-regulation skills, you can:

  • Stay focused on your goals
  • Manage your time effectively
  • Prioritize your tasks
  • Make better decisions
  • Control your impulses
  • Build better relationships
  • Handle conflicts better

Basically, self-regulation can help you maintain your executive functioning so you can become a more productive and successful person.

Using routines to boost self-regulation skills - woman showing morning routine

The Power of Daily Routines 

A daily routine provides structure and stability to your life, which can help you feel more in control. When you know what to expect each day, you can plan your time more effectively and reduce the likelihood of feeling overwhelmed.

Daily routines can help you improve your self-regulation and emotional regulation skills in several ways:

1. Consistency

Consistency is key to developing good self-regulation skills. When you have a daily routine, you know what to expect each day, which can help you stay focused and on track. Consistency can also help you build new habits and break old ones. Knowing what needs to happen in your day and what to expect can help you keep your emotions in check.

2. Predictability

Predictability can help reduce anxiety and stress. Because a daily routine enables you to know what to expect, you feel more in control. This can be particularly helpful for people who struggle with anxiety or other mental health conditions.

3. Accountability

A daily routine can help you stay accountable to yourself. When you have a plan for each day, you're more likely to follow through on your goals and commitments. This can help you build self-discipline and improve your self-regulation skills.

4. Time Management

When you have a daily routine, you can plan your time more effectively, which can help you prioritize your tasks and reduce stress. This will help improve your self-regulation and executive function skills.

Tips for Creating a Successful Daily Routine for Self-Regulation

Creating a successful daily routine can be challenging but worthwhile. A successful daily routine can have a positive impact on both your regulation and executive functioning skills. Here are some tips that can help you build your routine:

Start Small

When creating a new routine, it's important to start small and build gradually. Trying to change too much too quickly can be overwhelming and lead to failure. If you tell yourself you’re going to start getting up earlier to exercise and make a full breakfast and create a daily to-do list and plan nightly family dinners, you’ll burn out before you even get started. 

If you already have an established daily routine, start by adding one or two things to it. If you don’t currently have a routine, write down what you would like your routine to include. Then choose only one or two to implement. Once you are able to incorporate those things every day, then you can add the next item, and so on.

Be Realistic

Make sure your daily routine is realistic and achievable. Don't try to fit too much into your day, or you'll end up feeling stressed and overwhelmed. This goes along with starting small. You can’t do all the things or you’ll burn out or feel like a failure and then give up. 

Be Flexible

While consistency is important, it's also important to be flexible. Life is unpredictable, and sometimes you'll need to adjust your routine to accommodate unexpected events. This is a hard one because predictability is something many neurodivergent people crave. 

But you know you can’t control everything in life. So you need to leave some room for things to go wrong and interrupt your perfectly laid plan for your routine. 

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Strategies to Incorporate into Daily Routines

When you consider what to include in your new daily routine, you might want to think about adding specific activities that will help improve your self-regulation and emotional regulation. Think of these activities as maintenance. 

The more you build your regulation skills, the easier it will be to manage your thoughts and feelings. Again, don’t try to incorporate all of these suggestions. Choose one or two that resonate with you. Here are some self-regulation strategies to consider:

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing your attention on the present moment without judgment. By practicing mindfulness meditation, you can learn to control your thoughts and emotions and reduce stress.


Regular exercise can help you reduce stress and improve your mood. It can also help you build self-discipline and improve your self-regulation skills. Exercise doesn’t have to be a high impact workout or involve weight-lifting. You can do yoga or walk.


Journaling can help you process your emotions and thoughts. By writing down your feelings and experiences, you can gain a better understanding of yourself and improve your emotional regulation skills.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is a simple but effective way to reduce stress and anxiety. By taking slow, deep breaths, you can calm your mind and body and reduce the intensity of your emotions.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing your muscles to reduce tension and stress. By practicing this technique regularly, you can improve your emotional regulation skills.

Common Challenges for Daily Routines

Implementing a daily routine for self-regulation can be challenging. Anytime we start something new, we hope to see immediate change, but these things take time. Here are some common challenges and how to overcome them:

Lack of Motivation

If you're struggling to stay motivated, try to focus on the benefits of your routine. Remind yourself of why you're doing it and how it will improve your life. 

Also, make a list of things that are going well because of your routine. Maybe you haven’t been late for work in over a week. Maybe you’ve been able to cook dinner at home 3 times. We tend to spend a lot of time focusing on the things that go wrong. Instead of celebrating the fact that we cooked dinner 3 times, we remind ourselves that we ate out 4 times. 

Looking at the positives will help you stay motivated. Keep a journal or habit tracker so you have a physical, visual reminder of your successes. Seeing even the small steps can help with motivation.


Distractions can derail your routine. You might not even be aware of some of the distractions in your life. Spend some time tracking interruptions and distractions so you’re more aware of them. Then you can to avoid or eliminate those distraction. If eliminating distractions isn’t possible, find ways to work around them.

Resistance to Change

Change can be uncomfortable, but it's essential for growth. If you're resistant to change, try to focus on the benefits and take small steps toward your goal.

You might not even be aware that you’re resistant to change. I mean, you’re willing to try, right? But when it doesn’t work, you want to give up. Pay attention to how you feel as you implement your new routine. You might feel uncomfortable, but that’s normal. It’s how you react to that feeling that matters.

Taking it slow can help, as too much change at once can feel overwhelming. When you feel like giving up, you need to reflect on why you want to give up. Is it because it’s hard? That might be your resistance talking.

Daily routines can be an excellent tool for improving your self-regulation and emotional regulation skills. Having a daily routine gives us structure which can help with executive function skills. By incorporating self-regulation and emotional regulation strategies into your daily routine, you can reduce stress and increase productivity. What will be the first thing you add to create your perfect daily routine?

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