Improving Meltdowns, Tantrums and Emotional Overwhelm

What causes meltdowns and tantrums? Every child has them as part of their learning and growing process, yet some children seem to be subject to more intense outbursts than their peers, or continue to have them beyond the “normal” age. The ability to gain control of bodily functions, manage powerful emotions, and maintain focus and attention are all components of what is referred to as “self-regulation.” This process of self-mastery takes time for all children, and for some children it can be an even longer, more challenging process. In the meantime, their outbursts can create quite a strain on their family and teachers, alienate their peers, and potentially even be dangerous to themselves or others.

So how does the Feldenkrais Method® help with self-regulation?

Studies have shown that movement increases one’s ability to focus, learn and regulate emotions. As a movement-based method, Feldenkrais is a natural choice for helping children learn to better regulate their bodies and emotions. Feldenkrais improves posture and ease of movement. Most young children lack the language skills to express if they felt a subtle discomfort. And if it’s one they’ve always had, it will seem “normal” to them and they probably wouldn’t even think to mention it.  Yet if a child is uncomfortable sitting due to subtle postural challenges, how easy will it be for her to sit still at school for long periods of time and pay attention? Instead, she’ll squirm, move, or act out because she’s distracted or overwhelmed by the “noise” from her own body.  (This is especially true for autistic children, who struggle with sensory challenges.)

On the other hand, when you have a sense of grounded support and ease in your body, it’s hard to feel as anxious, flustered, or overwhelmed. So improving your child’s posture and movements will give him a tangible, physical sense of emotional support as well.

Think of a time when you felt stuck, defeated or powerless.

Imagine that moment as vividly as you can. Where were you? Who were you with? Now notice what you feel in your body as you imagine that moment. What do you feel in your chest? In your back? In your legs? How is your breathing?

Now imagine a time when you felt calm or self-confident.

Where were you? Who were you with? Picture the moment as vividly as you can. Now notice what you feel in your body as you imagine that moment. What do you feel in your chest? In your back? In your legs? How is your breathing? How does it compare to the example of being “stuck, defeated or powerless”?

Emotional states have corresponding physical patterns.

When you shift your physical pattern and posture event subtly, you also make a corresponding shift in the emotional pattern that goes with it.

Self-regulation challenges often continue into adulthood.

While we rarely say that adults have “tantrums” or “meltdowns,” adults still have self-regulation challenges in our own forms. “Anger management issues” are often a sign of difficulty managing one’s own strong emotions (often as a result of trauma). “Panic attacks” are another example. Even smaller things like shyness or public speaking anxiety can indicate a difficulty self-regulating strong emotions in certain situations.

By shifting our movement patterns, we also shift our emotions.

The Feldenkrais Method® provides structured tools for shifting our movement patterns and posture—resulting in a corresponding shift in our emotional states, and a better ability to manage strong emotions when they arise.

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