The Amygdala Hijack
⊕ From Stress to Success ⊕
A statement I tend to agree with.
Understanding ourselves better, including our brains, is always the first step in tapping into what’s possible, within, and all around us.
Did you know that fear and excitement share the same set of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, glutamate, and acetylcholine.
And the best way to shift from performance anxiety to excitement is to say one sentence on repeat.
Watch my latest YouTube video “Shifting from anxiety to excitement” to discover the simple phrase for shifting out of nervousness during high anxiety situations.
And learn why telling someone to “calm down” when they’re anxious rarely works.
Related Post: Are you left brain or right brained?
I write it on my bathroom mirror. I post it on my refrigerator door. I tape it to my office wall. I speak of it every time I teach.
These 4 words remind me to focus on what’s good, what’s working, what’s infinitely possible. Even (especially) when everything is going wrong.
Because if I can find one good thing in the course of a day, I have found my reason to live, to love, and to lead.
Sometimes the blessings are obvious. Sometimes they’re hidden. Sometimes it’s simply breathing. Other times “it’s the moments that take my breath away”.
Mantras work because they wake us up. Snap us out of it. They carry us from the perpetual loop of our worries to the equanimity of present time.
For we all need a gentle nudge in the right direction. A loving reminder to come back to reality.
Or we’ll all be too busy looking down that we miss the beauty of what’s right in front of us. Life itself. 💙
Related Post: Happiness in one word.
No matter how many times I give a speech or participate in a big event, I am often left with the same feeling for a day or so.
Sadness. A kind of longing. A sense of emptiness.
For weeks, sometimes months, I practice, prepare, and edit my work. Immersed, focused, lost in the creative flow.
At night. On weekends. During all my free time. Hoping to do my best. Not wanting to let down.
Afterward, what was once was filled with busyness is an open space. A hollowness that cannot be filled by looking back or planning ahead.
An ache. A void. For no good logical reason.
So I go for a bike ride knowing how Mother Nature always soothes my heart and replenishes my soul.
There is no more looking back or ahead when I am outside.
At that moment I hear three words deep in my heart.
Here I am.
For solace cannot be found in travelling through time.
It can only be found in where you are right now.
in the blooming trees
in the birds soaring
in the sun setting
in the water flowing
in this moment wherever you are.
Here I am. 💚
In psychology class this week, I teach one of my favourite subjects – Stress, Coping, and Health Psychology Chapter 11 in my psychology textbook.
I purposely teach this topic during the height of midterms. Raising awareness about the healthy (and not so healthy) ways students manage stress is critical for building resilience.
One of my top 10 techniques for shifting students from stress to strength is to share what’s going right even (especially) when things are going wrong. Small uplifts in the course of the day change everything. Fleeting. Unexpected. Goodness.
Based on my experience as a school psychologist, I will never deny the stress students are under. Witnessing adversity is an essential part of moving through it. However, I choose not to remain in the territory of “what’s wrong” for too long.
Once we acknowledge what’s wrong. We open our eyes to the grace that takes place throughout the day.
Students make the shift from powerless to empowered by sharing ordinary joys happening in their lives.
A radiant smile from a fellow commuter. Free coffee at McDonald’s. An unexpected A on a paper. A sweet parking spot. Spending time with an old friend. A surprise compliment from a stranger. Laughing out loud with fellow classmates. A really good night’s sleep.
And I’m the fortunate professor who gets to hear all these uplifts at the end of a long, rainy day. One more reason why I love working with students.
A friend of mine recently returned home from vacation to find his newly constructed house flooded.
The feelings of helplessness that followed were magnified by the story he was telling himself on repeat. That he was an idiot. Naive. A loser. Stupid for not knowing better.
This was something completely beyond his control. Yet there he was battling Mother Nature head on.
Making himself entirely responsible for the deluge of rain. All powerful. Yet completely powerless. Imprisoned by his thoughts alone.
He and his wife had only lived in their new home for 18 months. A dream house built for retirement.
Every aspect of the design painstakingly conceived. Which only amplified his despair.
But in that moment, the story in his mind was filled with self-accusation and punishment. Second guessing on repeat.
The loop in his head based on the assumption that he was all-mighty. At the epicentre of the universe. Fully in charge of Mother Nature and her actions.
This is what happens when we lose control of external circumstances. We attempt to control it internally.
Logically, he knew that it was not the end of the world. That there were far worse things that could have happened and have happened in his life.
But in times of panic, our emotional brain (the amygdala) hijacks our thinking brain and we can no longer think rationally.
And that’s ok. Because in order to heal, we must first bear witness to our pain. Only then can we move on and beyond.
It has been four days since the flood and thank goodness the overwhelming feelings of helplessness have subsided for my friend.
Time heals. And so does a wife’s love. The support of neighbours. And a mom’s embrace.
It happened. He is strengthened. He will thrive.
Now when he passes the construction zone in his house, instead of chastising himself, he thinks of how lucky he is to have a basement renovation just 18 months after moving in. Same basement. Different narrative.
What we believe matters. As it’s our mindset that shapes our physiological and emotional response to stressful circumstances. Ultimately, determining our ability to bounce back after adversity.
For example, when a relationship ends, if we view it as a personal failure, from a place of blame and shame, we are less likely to try again. Afraid to risk the pain, reluctant to venture beyond our comfort zone.
On the other hand, if we perceive the same breakup as an opportunity to learn. To begin again. To start over. Fresh. Renewed. We are more open to meeting someone new.
Today I am grateful for all of my relationship failures. For if it weren’t for the loss, the heartache, and the lessons, I never would met the wonderful man that I am married to today.
It was not easy at the time. Challenge rarely is. But if we just keep our eyes to the sky, and trust that no matter what we are going through, it will all be worth it in the end.
I hope you find comfort in your discomfort. And beauty in the stars.
Related Post: Lay down your burdens.
Are you flexible and open to new experiences?
Are you able to break free from old patterns and habits?
Or do you struggle to adapt to anything new and different?
In this video clip, I describe how the flexibility of palm trees helps them adapt and ultimately be strengthened by hurricanes.
Something so close, so within reach, we often forget it was there in the first place. The good night’s sleep we’re yearning for; waiting patiently at the end of each day. The connection to nature we’re searching for; available 24/7 just beyond our front door. That extra deep breath; we frequently forget to take.
When everything feels out of control, breathing is the one thing that will always be within our control. The times we’re under the most amount of stress is the exact time we need to expand our breathing – not restrict it.
The next time you’re under any kind of pressure. Stuck in traffic. Rushing from class to class. Dealing with a difficult customer at work. Desperately trying to recall answers on a final exam. Wake up to the formidable power that exists within you. Right here. Right now. Right under your nose.