How many times have you gotten the “deer in headlights” look from others or experienced it yourself? Have you ever thought of the perfect comeback hours later that you wish you would have said in the moment? Have you ever been so angry you felt like you couldn’t even speak? How often have you seen (or been responsible for) a REPLY ALL email that seemed regrettable in retrospect?
All of these experiences point to a moment of amygdala hijack. This article will explain the basics of amygdala function and provide four clear steps to reestablish control during times of stress and pressure.
The amygdala is the emotional response center of the brain. It is where our emotions are processed and stored. The amygdala works at high speed, and it is estimated that an emotional response is up to 100 times faster than an IQ response. The key takeaway is that emotions come before thought.
When an amygdala hijack occurs, our emotions are in charge and the responses tend to fall into the 3Fs: fight, flight or freeze. The behaviors are often sudden, default behaviors that may not be skillful. The best thing you can do during such an event is to use the BOSS method:
- B: Breathe. Breathing is a key way to oxygenate and curtail some of the chemical overdrive that is fostering the emotional response. The additional time also helps you gain perspective.
- O: Open your palms. Generally, during a 3F moment, you will have a period of muscle tension. (Remember, you are getting ready to fight for your life when that sabertoothed tiger leaps.) So, relax your tightened fists, un-clench your jaw, relax your shoulders. Take the time to scan yourself for symptoms of tension.
- S: Stop. Take a pause on the thought train. It’s important to interrupt the thought patterns that put you into a state of emotional response. This is disconnecting from the trigger and reassessing the situation with a new set of eyes.
- S: Seek information. Be curious. Suspend judgment. Be an objective observer of the facts.
If you use the BOSS method, you will have better outcomes during stressful moments at work and in your personal life. Give it a try!