“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
The lack of self-awareness can blind us to the power to choose how we speak and act. Without self-awareness, circumstances look like others are out to get us; we can easily get caught in a world of blaming, shaming and victimization.
When we lack self-awareness, we are often left feeling rejected, powerless and fearful of being humiliated around others. In the workplace, this can be a deadly environment that brings out the worst in everybody.
We lose confidence and trust in ourselves and in others to have our best interests at heart. Life becomes a jungle of real or perceived social dangers that we must survive every day. Harmful emotional conflicts arise and tensions can escalate. Expanding self-awareness can literally save your day.
3 Secrets to Expand Self-Awareness and Relieve Intense Stress
Awareness of How Intense Stress Impacts You
You walk into a staff meeting with thoughts such as “this is such a waste of time.” …”I have so much work to get done. Why am I even here?” … “Nothing ever gets done in these meetings.”
You observe yourself: What is the look on your face as these thoughts race through your mind? What emotions are you feeling?
Now, people are arriving 5, 10 and 15 minutes late. Everyone is sitting around a table, glancing at the clock on the wall, then looking down at their smartphones. You may cross your arms and roll your eyes at this time.
What are you feeling? Where is your attention right now in this moment? What are you doing? Is your stress level decreasing or increasing as the minutes go by?
Given how you’re thinking, feeling and acting, you may be experiencing an amygdala hijack. You may feel a loss of control with fear or anxiety becoming more intense. It is not a pleasant experience; survival impulses take over. It is now impossible to think straight.
Awareness of the Amygdala Hijack
In a nutshell, here is how the Amygdala Hijack works as described in the more detailed article, Amygdala Hijack and the Fight or Flight Response By Arlin Cuncic, (Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician, Updated October 26, 2018).
According to Arlin Cuncic and medical research for treatments of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Moral Injury, the amygdala is involved in the fear circuit in our brain. This fear circuitry is responsible for the fight or flight response that causes each of us to respond to threats.
An amygdala hijack happens when our brain registers a threat and triggers a potent cocktail of hormones such as adrenalin which increases our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing and the stress hormone cortisol which makes it difficult to think straight and solve problems.
Arlin Cunic points out that chronic stress can trigger more frequent amygdala hijacks which can impact your cognitive abilities and short-term memory.
What can you do to prevent an amygdala hijack?
Awareness of Your Plan to Cool and Calm Hot Buttons
Now let’s get back to our staff meeting…going in the direction of the amygdala hijack what it the likely outcome?
Sitting in the meeting looking angry, impatient or bored? Interrupting others when they are speaking or staying silent and not sharing ideas?
Any automatic actions motivated by the amygdala hijack will cause harmful conflict.
You notice your thinking, fast breathing and heart rate. You think to yourself, “I can cool and calm to interrupt this amygdala hijack”.
You put your smartphone away. Then you slowly take a few deep breaths in and exhale. You bring your attention to the people in the room and smile as you greet your co-workers sitting next to you. Your attention has shifted from the internal state of having intense internal stress to an external focus on connecting with others responding to your welcoming smile.
You have the thought, “I’ll make the best of my time in this meeting.”…“I’ll speak with my manager after the meeting to clarify my role in this meeting and the expectations of me.” You notice a different experience of yourself and others. Calmer and more focused.
Your self-awareness of what was happening and the impact it was having on you began to point you in taking a step in the right direction to restore your thinking brain.
How can expanding your self-awareness relieve intense stress in everyday life situations?
Prepare a simple plan that identifies your potential hot buttons which can trigger an amygdala hijack and one for a cooling and calming strategy to begin to give you control over your intense emotions, so you relieve intense stress and think straight.
What is your next best step to expand your self-awareness?
Strengthening Your Power To Choose
When you are aware of what you are thinking, feeling and how you are behaving as circumstances happen, you can discover more options to navigate the uncomfortable changes necessary to move forward with greater ease. The greater your self-awareness of limiting beliefs, biases, intense emotions, attitudes and judgements, the stronger your power to choose how you want to think, feel and act will be to get you where you want to be in life.
Curiosity To Experiment And Discover Something New
A growth mindset gives you access to ways of thinking that expand new ideas and possibilities to try out so you can continuously learn as you move forward. Your self-awareness gives you a sense of courage to speak your truth, listen to others and strengthen healthy relationships. Your confidence and sense of courage elevates as you learn from mistakes then choose to move forward with experiences of fulfillment and happiness.
What are your thoughts and insights?
My next best step to prepare a plan to cool and calm hot button triggers is…..