What does it mean to be regulated for educators?

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When we feel safe, both physically (there is no threat of physical danger) and emotionally (we trust the people around us and feel validated and respected ) we then feel safe. When we feel safe we experience what is known as “felt safety”. And when we experience felt safety our body is in a regulated state.

When we are in a regulated state, we are relaxed and it means the rational part of our brain has kicked in. This means we can share, socialise and experience joy.

For educators it means we can teach, learn, and build relationships with our students and peers.

Regulated v Dysregulated

It is expected for us to move between different states as we react to different stimuli experienced during the school day. The problems arise when we continuously become dysregulated and dont have the time or awareness to “bounce back” into a regulated state. Sometimes we can end up getting stuck in a dysregulated state, or our tolerance level becomes squashed.

Feeling Dysregulated

Our bandwidth for experiencing a regulated state can be thought of as our window of tolerance. Some people at different times in their lives have a wide window of tolerance— meaning they can experience most stressors without triggering a stress reaction (dysregulated state).

Through self-awareness about stress activation in our bodies and employing specific tools and practices, we have the ability to recover from these stress reactions and return to a regulated state.


Why is being regulated important in the classroom?

Regulation is the foundation of teaching and learning. A regulated teacher is the foundation of academic, social, and emotional growth in the classroom.

In a regulated state we can:

  • Lesson plan.
  • Sequence and prioritize.
  • Assess learning and pick up clues of learning differences.
  • Deliver instruction in a manner where engagement is inspired
  • Build positive bonds with students and colleagues.
  • Provide compassionate care to struggling students.
  • Enjoy being at work.
  • Embrace learning new skills.

When we are stressed or dysregulated, we can:

  • Lose focus
  • Get stuck
  • Feel demoralised and fed-up.
  • Experience stress and anxiety
  • Feel hopeless or discouraged
  • Become more intolerant of learning or behavior challenges.
  • Snap at students – potentially damaging relationships.
  • Head towards burnout.
  • Want to leave our job.

Dropping the S from “Self Regulate”. 

I hear alot about being “self-regulated”  … the thing is we are not born knowing these skills of regulation.  If we are fortunate we learn about regulation primarily from our caregivers. Through the connections we make in early childhood.  I didn’t know about the basics of  how to regulate until I was in my early forties … as no one taught me. We can’t expect people to regulate … if they don’t know how. 

Our resources, tools and programs all work towards sharing knowledge on “how to regulate” and move away from diagnosing disorders for everything. 


Polyvagal Teen® tools, resources and programs can help educators and their students to become aware of their states, recover from stressors and assist them in returning to a regulated state.

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About the author: Yasmin Shaheen-Zaffar

With a passion for improving the emotional wellbeing of young people, adults and parents, she is  the founder and creator of Polyvagal Teen®, she has developed an innovative approach to helping teens recognise and manage stress and anxiety through becoming “Polyvagal Aware”. In addition, Yasmin is also the founder of World Let’s Stop Shouting Day, which aims to promote peaceful communication and reduce conflict and aggression in our daily interactions. Neurosloth™ and The Hearts Whisper®

She also runs a small private practice providing counselling and neurofeedback  to young people and adults in North Yorkshire.

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