When dealing with a frustrating moment the other day, I was amazed at how quickly my mood changed. It occurred to me that no matter how mindful I feel I may be, something had set me off and the outlook on my day completely shifted. I recognized that I had to spend some time in self-reflection. Where did this reaction come from? It was definitely an impulse from my “reptile” brain that instinctively led my emotions to takeover my “rational” brain. The “reptile” part of the brain is comprised of the brain stem and the cerebellum. This section of the brain is responsible for the behavioral responses based on survival instinct, and reacting with impulses such as fear and fight or flight. Our “rational” brain, the frontal lobe makes it possible for us to respond with a higher level of self-awareness focusing on logic and reason. As my emotions washed over me, I went from self-aware to reactive. I needed to put a stop to the cascade of emotions that prompted this reaction, so I could come back into balance and have a valuable day.
Basically, when we get emotionally triggered by a situation, thoughts and feelings arise, which then sets off a behavioral response. We begin reacting on pure emotion, when our mood shifts back to some of the old messages and negative beliefs that makes us uncomfortable about ourselves. We unconsciously respond to a core issue when triggered as if feeling threatened. You know it’s a core issue when your reaction is bigger than the situation warrants. For instance, if you have abandonment issues – you may react when someone cancels plans on you.
How can you better respond to “getting your buttons pushed” and not let it ruin your day? You place a limit on yourself by becoming aware of your reactions to your feelings. This helps you to gain a deeper connection to self, which doesn’t make you so dependent on the negative stuff floating around in your mind.
Begin with the awareness that you have reacted in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable or distressed. Second, notice your thoughts and take a moment to register what has happened. Can you gain some insight from this reaction to better respond to the situation or is this going to set you off into a bad mood and awful day? This reactivity is not constructive to your well-being and becoming aware of how you respond is very important. There is a difference between reactions that are self-sabotaging negative patterns and reactions that are appropriate to the situation.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of living in our heads. Here are my tips for gaining back control and not allowing your “reptile” brain to hijack your “rational” brain when emotional triggers surface.
- Do my thoughts make sense in reaction to this situation?
- What emotions am I feeling?
- What negative belief is this bringing up for me?
- Where is this stress settling in my body?
- How can I adjust my reaction to gain balance in this moment?
- What is a more positive way to respond to this?
- Does this reaction add value to my day?
Remember to be kind to yourself as you begin to develop a broader outlook in response to what gets you stirred up. Notice what is happening in your body, where you feel points of tension or distress, this can reveal how you typically manage your emotional energy. Continue to be curious about how you can gently shift your perspective on stuff by respecting the process of self-awareness. These steps will help pull you back into the present moment. Being curious about your circumstances and challenging a negative outlook will help you aim for an overall better day.