Last week’s tip talked about how your brain processes information, especially in the context of change. Lack of consistency, connection and fairness increase the threat response within the brain.
When your internal threat system is activated your ability to make decisions, process information and solve problems is severely impacted. Your thoughts may “ping-pong” between your reasoning brain and your emotional brain. To refocus your mental energy and escape the upheaval, here are some strategies for overcoming brain threats:
- Identify – name the feelings that you are experiencing. You can regulate emotions by putting words on your mental and emotional states. The more language you have for internal states the more you can regulate your attention. The more you can regulate your attention the more control you have over brain threats.
- Move – put yourself in a new physical space. Whether you go for a walk, head to the cafeteria or get up and look out the window you will disrupt the brain and give it new input to process. For an extra burst of brainpower make the movement rigorous and you will increase oxygen to the brain.
- Distract – reorient your focus by changing the topic of the conversation or doing something that changes the focus away from the situation that hijacked your brain. Parents are very familiar with this technique. Think about a time when your child was upset. If you pointed out something different to look at, handed over some cookies or put a favorite toy in front of your child you were practicing this brain balancing technique. You cannot make the situation disappear but you can reduce the threat response through distraction.
- Reframe – look for the silver lining in the situation. If someone cuts you off in traffic, imagine that they are rushing to the hospital to see their injured child. Step out of the situation and look at it from a different point of view. Reframing is about using a new lens to see things so that you reign in the negative emotion created by the brain threat response.
When your brain gets hijacked you can use movement, reframing, distraction and identification to manage the impact. Get control of your brain through these techniques. Once you are operating in the rational, thinking part of your brain you can deal with the situation more productively.