Stress and the Amygdala Hijack
Jun 27, 2011 / 5:00 am
Don’t you just hate it when something happens in your life and you react, wishing moments later that your brain had kicked in faster? You might feel foolish or embarrassed or even annoyed with yourself. You know the feeling - open up mouth, place in foot.
You are not alone. In fact, it’s possible that your emotions may take over your actions. When this happens, it is referred to as “The Amygdala Hijack”. The amygdala is the part of the brain that controls our responses, unless we choose otherwise.
When the amygdala gets triggered due to stress, anger or other emotions, it can create a response that's inappropriate and that you might later regret.
Of course, if you feel happy about your life (generally speaking), it may mean that the bumps that occur will be less dramatic or annoying as will your reactions. It will also depend upon how you look at what happens to you in your life.
If you are a “the glass is half full” kind of person, then unplanned or disappointing events may seem less upsetting to you. But if your glass is “half empty”, then you might feel the full force of disappointment, perceived failure, anger or other emotions that can get you into trouble.
Of course, if you have any unfinished business or unresolved emotional issues in your life, then you may be more susceptible to being triggered by specific situations that relate to your personal issues.
Worry, doubt and fear can fuel an overreaction. So, by becoming mindful of situations you may over-react to, you might be able to control how you respond.
The good news is you can fool your amygdala, by using two parts of your brain at the same time (both thinking and responding). According to Joshua Freedman (an educator, writer and emotional intelligence guru), we can control our response by using what he calls “the six second pause.”
Stop, take in a big breath and divert your mind by naming six of the ten Provinces. It’s kind of like the old notion of counting-to-ten-before-you-say-or-do-something-you-regret thing.
Not always the easiest thing to do, particularly if you are wired to react more than you are wired to reason, but it is achievable and you can learn to change how your reactions affect your life at work, home and socially.
My personal favourite is laughter. Laughter changes negative thought process. If you need to be stimulated to laugh, think of a funny situation or your favourite joke; if you have learned how to simulate laughter, start laughing.
You’ll find that your original negative feelings and subsequent potential response have vanished long enough for you to stop and think about the situation.
Take control of your amygdala. Do not allow it to be hijacked and you might discover that your journey can be more relaxed and enjoyable. At the very least, it may help to prevent “foot in mouth” disease.
Read more A Mindful Connection articles
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- Our interesting journey Sep 26
- Just Google it Aug 11
- Bench words Jul 11
- Pain: our body's warning system May 20
- Dancing neurons Apr 21
- Mother Nature Jan 27
- The gift of friendship Dec 23
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