Have you ever wondered why you sometimes seem to be a total genius and sometimes do behavior that leaves you with your head in your hand? Clinically trained psychology professionals Karen Meager and John McLachlan aim to make the complex as simple as it can be in order for it to be useful to people.
Our brains have evolved over time and there are three main stages of this evolution. The oldest part of our brain is the reptilian brain, which is responsible for all our basic human survival instincts and functions. Then there is the limbic brain, which is responsible for our emotions and basic emotional connection to others. Finally there is the neocortex part of our brain, which is the last part to develop. It is responsible for creativity, imagination, problem solving, reasoning and other more complex developments.
To be the best version of yourself more often, you need to understand when the reptilian and limbic brains are overactive and therefore impacting your thinking. Here’s how:
Learn your trigger points
Know when your reptilian or mammalian brains are likely to get triggered. What kind of situations hit your hot buttons? It could be road rage, criticism, rejection, new situations, feeling out of control, other people’s emotion to name but a few. Once you are aware you can take steps to calm down your emotional responses before you respond to a situation.
Remember that these responses fire quickly, so the important thing is to engage your parasympathetic nervous system and get calmer before taking action. You can do this by:
Take a break – make an excuse to get away from the situation and calm down. This is important in all situations and especially so when dealing with children, they have super sonic emotion detectors so will know you are angry or upset even if you try and cover it up.
Take come deep belly breaths – this activates your parasympathetic nervous system and basically tells your brain you are not under threat and it’s ok to calm down
Self sooth – sounds odd but really works. Cross your arms as if hugging yourself and then run your hands up and down your upper arms – like you would do if you were cold. It’s a really good one for calming fear or anger.
Once you are calmer you will engage with the situation better, with better outcomes all round.
Work on your Emotional Regulation
As well as knowing your triggers, it’s a good idea to make it a personal development goal to work on improving your emotional regulation generally. We all overreact sometimes and if we work on it when our brain doesn’t think it is under threat, our brain’s neural pathways will adjust naturally, making us more emotionally resilient.
About the Authors: John and Karen are the authors of Real Leaders for the Real World, and founders of Monkey Puzzle Training and Consultancy, a leading UK training company in NLP. . Karen is a UKCP registered Psychotherapist and John is a Clinical Hypnotherapist.