The Amygdala Hijack.

I think that the most incredible part about life, is that you never know where you’re going to be. You can plan, and overthink the entire situation, and then get to a completely different place than you ever thought you would be. Life has done that a lot to me, recently especially. I over analyze, and over prepare myself for situations that i rarely ever come to.

Why? Because our amygdala (the brain structure responsible for our bodies “fight or flight” response) and our prefrontal cortex (the most evolved brain region—subserves our highest-order cognitive abilities, like judgemental skills, critical thinking/problem solving) are at war in stressful situations.

This is because when under stress, your amygdala’s first response is to sound the alarm, reduce functionality of the other areas of the brain, and puts your body into a full blown panic. All while your prefrontal cortex is trying to figure out how to regain control, and problem solve.

This is what we call an “amygdala hijack”.

When experiencing this, your adrenal glands send out cortisol and adrenaline, preparing your body to fight or flee. This causes us to make irrational, or impulsive decisions.

Have you ever been stuck at a light for what seems like forever, and in that moment you just snap at the street light? “COME ON!! THERES NOBODY THERE WHY IS IT STILL RED!?” Yep. Amygdala.

Or someone cuts you off so you lay on the horn for 57 seconds.

Clearly i have road rage, but if you’ve experienced these types of things as well,

They also come with some uncomfortable side effects.

As usual, i’ve created a list of icky feelings we may get when we are experiencing an amygdala hijack, and a health habit to try in the moment.

F-Racing heart

HH- Focus on the rise and fall of the chest while breathing. This helps regain control, and redirects attention elsewhere. This will slowly bring down your heart rate.

F- Shaking

HH- Plant your feet on the floor, and your hands in your lap. Close your eyes and think of the first thing that makes you happy!

F- Sweating

HH- Hydrate yourself, and run your wrists under cool water. Your wrists, and the back of your neck are great places to help cool your body.

F- Nausea

HH- Stay hydrated, and try to calm the nerves enough to snack on something.

F- Unclear thinking

HH- Meditate on it!

Sit comfortably and focus on your breathing. When you notice a you’ve lost track of the breath, simply note if it was a thought or feeling, and return back to the breath. At the end, review your notes, and monitor what thoughts/feelings came up more than others, or what is really bothering you, and come up with an action plan.

Meditation can help the cortex regain control and boot you into more logical thinking.

F- Shortness of breath

HH- Well, like i said previously, deep breathing! Count to ten, and start over. 1 with the rising of the chest, 2 with the falling of the chest, and so on.

Being in stressful situations can trigger your amygdala’s alarm, and sometimes it feels as if we’re walking in a minefield trying not to set it off. I’m here to tell you that it’s normal. Prehistoric even. Everyone experiences it in some way or another. Some more than others. Its just about recognizing the patterns in your thinking, and learning to adjust it.

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