Mindfulness Neuroscience Simple Neuroscience Stress Management

5 steps to help you recover from an amygdala hijack

amygdala hijack

In the book “Search Inside Yourself”, Chade-Meng Tan describes 5 steps that can prove useful to recover from an amygdala hijack and regulate our emotions.

Let’s imagine you are triggered in a team meeting because a colleague pushed negatively your status button.

Naturally, you might want to react instinctively on autopilot, by answering that colleague in a similar way. That reaction might feel better on the spot, but you might regret it later. This is why the first thing we need to do is simply STOP.

The second step, which might be the most important, is to BREATHE. Ideally, take a deep slow breath, because this is the best way to re-empower your prefrontal cortex (the “rider”), that part of our brain responsible for all the complex functions of the brain, including logical thinking, perception, planning, attention, abstract thinking, morality, etc. Simply paying attention to your breath without modifying can actually be enough to re-empower your prefrontal cortex.

Then NOTICE the situation, notice your feelings and label the emotion.

Now is the time to REFLECT on the best response, after having re-empowered your prefrontal cortex. At this point, you’ll be able to evaluate the repercussions of your responses on the future of your relationship with that colleague, on your image within the team and company, etc.

Only after these steps, you can RESPOND with conscious choice. Maybe you will still decide to defend your status, but it will be out of conscious choice, aware of the possible consequences of your response, or maybe you will choose a more subtle and diplomatic answer.

Some people will think that you do not have time to do these steps. We are not talking here about doing 10 min of breathing exercises and journaling your feelings. It is something that can be done in a few seconds. In any situation, you always have a few seconds before you need to react.

Victor Frankl, who wrote the book “Man’s search for meaning” (which I wholeheartedly recommend) after having survived concentration camps, wrote that…

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom“.

Victor Frankl

It is that space that gives us the time to re-empower our prefrontal cortex (“rider”) instead of letting our amygdala do the talking. So, I can only say, use this space! It will really help :).

Here’s to stronger riders and happier elephants! 🙂


PS: A big reason I write is to meet people so feel free to say Hi! on Linkedin here or to follow my Instagram here, as I’d love to learn more about you.

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