It’s funny how every now and then the same issue crops up in each of my coaching sessions in the same week. Last week I found myself talking about the need to press the pause button in order to respond with greater choice and awareness to a person or situation. It’s not a new concept by any means, but one worth revisiting it seems.

If you’ve found yourself going ‘below the line’ or losing the plot with someone at home or at work lately or perhaps wanting to run a mile, chances are you’re having what is sometimes referred to as an amygdala hijack. The amygdala, that part of the brain that keeps us safe, you know the one that says FIGHT or RUN if you sense there may be danger, is sometimes referred to as the dumb bodyguard. Dumb because it thinks it has to protect us against any form of threat. These are not only real threats to our life but also threats to our sense of safety and security, threats to our ego, place in the world, sense of control or threat to how we like things to be for example. And you know sometimes when we’re not at our best we’re not able to tell the difference – we treat what might be a very ordinary activity or conversation as a threat. The lower our emotional health at the time, the less choice we have in how we respond (more about that next week). The trick is to become aware in the moment before you respond and give yourself a signal to pause.

 So here’s the short form hack:

  1. Recall the last time you thought ‘oh I wish I didn’t say/do that’. That time you either avoided standing up for yourself or perhaps the time when you went in all guns blazing in full fight mode. Play back the situation in your mind.
  2. Identify how you felt just before you responded. Maybe you felt a shortness of breath, heat to the face or heart starting to race. Take note for next time. These are your internal warning signs.
  3. Think of a physical movement for example squeezing your hand, pressing two fingers together or clenching your toes, that will act as a circuit breaker telling your body to pause. Practice a few until you find the one that feels comfortable
  4. Next time you notice the warning signs, try the physical circuit breaker action, breathe and ask yourself…
  5. ‘How do I choose to respond right now?’

Heard about this before, know the theory but don’t use it? Give it a try! It works AND it takes practice.