The amygdala is a part of the brain which focuses on keeping us safe. It is tiny yet powerful. Continually scanning every situation in order to assess for potential risk and danger, it plays an effective role in keeping us safe. In a safe environment it can be calm and can also be calmed. This is important to be aware of when you’re trying to come up with great ideas or get new plans straight in your head.
When your amygdala is reacting, it is an unconscious process and it happens fast. It reinforces the flight/fright/freeze response. Ever felt so stressed that you could not make any decisions? Ever felt so frightened in a situation that you lost the ability to think rationally? That’s your amygdala taking resources away from other critical parts of your brain ready to allow you to run away. Great in our primitive lives when the threat was a bear, not so helpful when you have an important deadline or you’re in a job interview. Losing the ability to think rationally will obviously slow down your progress towards any goals or plans. This tiny part of the brain affects so much of how a person thinks that it is vital when coaching to make sure a client is in a good space mentally. If they’re not, then that’s where I will start before even looking to working on future plans.
How to help:
If you want to have your best ideas, find a place where you can avoid negative thoughts and stress responses.
If your amygdala is jumping, it is possible to calm it by talking to yourself to recognise and acknowledge the threat it is identifying. Ask yourself, “What one thing can I do now to help make progress?”
If you are noticing you feel a high level of stress regularly but are not sure why, try keeping a log of the circumstances surrounding your feelings. Our brains look for patterns and the initial trigger may not be immediately noticeable. Something seemingly insignificant such as a piece of music or even a smell can trigger memories which go on to trigger stress feelings.
Be aware of your default state for stress levels. It is well known that the effects of stress have far-reaching negative effects on our health. Explore ways to make changes if you find stress is becoming the norm.
What techniques do you use to help deal with stress? Let me know in the comments, it is always good to hear from you!
Photo by Matthias Goetzke on Unsplash