The Power of Co-Regulation (For All Of Us)

March 28, 2022

 was traveling home after a workshop this weekend, navigating a new airport. I love traveling and new airports are exciting for me, but I understand they’re not for others. I was walking next to a woman who just arrived from a different city. She was clearly confused and stressed.

She was looking for baggage claim. The signs were confusing. We were walking next to each other and went up an escalator only to go down another escalator a few feet ahead. She saw others from her flight go in a different direction. She was just about in “freeze” mode.

I asked if I could help her, which was quite bold of me (and potentially disastrous) because I didn’t know where I was going either. She explained to me her dilemma and I said to her “come on, we’ll figure this out together”. She thanked me, and we started small talking. I kept pointing out signs and explaining to her what I knew about airports to give her peace of mind. She was less stressed now. Even the tone in her voice lowered. She said again how much she appreciated my help and even asked me about my trip and why I was traveling. My original flight was 7:30 AM. I didn’t get on a plane until 4 pm. We were both running on empty, and co-regulating with each other!

We got to baggage claim and the woman found an employee and knew exactly where her bags were coming out. My favorite part: she even asked the employee about my bags! She was very excited to tell me about where my luggage would be located. I told her she was amazing, because even though she was worried, she still thought about me!

I retrieved my bag from a different location (the employee gave her bad information) and I waited for her to get her bag. Mission accomplished.

We talk about “self” regulation a lot, but it’s very rare that we regulate ourselves alone. We frequently use other people to get regulated, and as humans, we are wired for human connection. Co-regulation is vital for our feeling of safety and our ability to participate in occupations.

I learned two things during this encounter.

First, the power of co-regulation is very, very real. 

Next, that kindness feels amazing, both when offered and received. It’s a life skill that we need to demonstrate to our kids and lead by example, so we can raise a generation of human beings who choose to be kind for the reward of feeling wonderful BECAUSE they were kind. No extrinsic rewards needed.

Please share are this so we can show the world the power of co-regulation!