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Social and Emotional Functioning refers to the ability to develop and apply self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management skills which enable people to understand and manage their own and others’ emotions in social settings. Optimal functioning allows for individuals to better handle stress, make decisions (emotional and logical), form and sustain positive relationships, explore and engage with the environment, display empathy, feel confident and succeed in school and work environments.

Enhancing Social and Emotional Functioning

Being aware of controllable and non-controllable factors is a good starting place. Controllable factors such as what you eat, how much you sleep, if you exercise and how much, if managed well can greatly improve your ability to self-regulate.  Another concept worth understanding is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and how emotions play a role in learning.

Ignite clients work on this skill before every session.  It allows them to choose the appropriate levels of intensity of the physical task and difficulty of the cognitive task to make every session as productive as possible.  We teach coaches how to use this skill in our Ignite 101 course for one on one clients and even groups.

Managing the Controllable Factors

We can gather some very important information surrounding these factors just by talking to the parent, client, teacher, health care professional etc.  You will want to ask some questions that give you information about sleep patterns, stress management strategies already in place, nutritional habits, how often they exercise and if they take time to stretch.


The 6 controllable factors that can hinder or improve cognitive functioning are:

Stress, Nutrition, Sleep, Exercise, Energy Level and Mobility.

On a scale from 1 – 5, we can constantly monitor the effect these factors have on our cognitive performance.


Stress                   1 2 3 4 5       (1 being you are unable to cope, 5 you can take on anything)

Nutrition              1 2 3 4 5        (1 being did not eat, 5 being ate a complete meal including veggies)

Sleep                    1 2 3 4 5       (1 little to no sleep, 5 slept like a baby and feel rested)

Exercise               1 2 3 4 5        (1 rainy day on the couch, 5 haven’t stopped moving)

Mobility               1 2 3 4 5         (1 too sore to think, 5 feeling limber)

Energy Level       1 2 3 4 5        (1 nap time, 5 let’s run 2 miles and wrestle a bear)


If we have a poor sleep the night before, we have to make sure the other factors are as close to perfect in order to maintain balance. Or to prevent a snowball effect of bad things.   Not every day are each one of these factors going to be perfect but the closer they are to 5, the better the chance you will have optimal cognitive functions. When we assign a number to rate our day we’re much more aware of how we’re doing and then have more control over certain circumstances.


Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it’s easy to see how difficult it can be to access higher order thinking needed to overcome a difficult math problem or complete a challenging 15 minute workout.  The brain’s priority system will allow us to access certain levels, only if the more important levels have been taken care of (per say).  This particular prioritizing system is the same for everyone however management of the higher priority levels differs allowing the individual to gain access to higher order thinking.



Other activities that boost social and emotional functioning:

1.) Meditation or Mindfulness – setting time aside to allow thoughts, any thoughts, to come into consciousness for a brief moment then letting them pass as another one comes along.

2. Yoga or Warrior Yoga

3. Coloring books

4. Answering easy questions, as fast as you can for 3 minutes.

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