Do you know why you’re mad? Do you ever get so mad you can’t see straight? You may be experiencing an amygdala hijack. An amygdala hijack is part of the survival system within our brain, and it’s been with us since the earliest of times. Faced with danger or fear, molecules are pumped into the blood stream, diverting blood and oxygen from the prefrontal cortex (the problem solving part of the brain), to the amygdala, triggering a fight or flight response. The bad news is it’s part of who we all are. The good news is you can learn to control it.

How Long Does a Hijack Last?

Have you ever noticed when you’re in a fit of rage, or in the grasp of fear, that in 20 minutes or so it goes away? That’s because it takes about 20 minutes for the chemicals to run through your system and your brain to come back to full capacity. However, if you allow yourself to become upset again, it can recycle and the hijack will continue.

How Does a Hijack Take Over?

In Dr. Relly Nadler’s What Was I Thinking? Handling the Hijack (PDF), she explains how a hijack affects thinking and problem solving, “When the amygdala is active with blood and oxygen, there is less activation in the prefrontal cortex. Our thinking power is disrupted and there are deficits in our problem solving, because the blood and oxygen are in the amygdala versus the prefrontal cortex. It’s like losing 10 to 15 IQ points temporarily, which explains, “what was I thinking?”

How Do You Stop a Hijack?

Use the following strategies to re-engage your prefrontal cortex and begin thinking rationally rather than emotionally. Take deep breaths – this can help deliver oxygen to the prefontal cortex. Walk away for 20 minutes. Walking away is preferable to regrettable actions. Re-engaging the brain by asking yourself open-ended questions works best for me. For example:

• What really happened?
• How am I feeling?
• What should I be doing?
• What caused my anger/fear?
• How can I overcome this?

So, the next time you’re in the midst of a hijack, stop, drop, and roll your way out of it – breathe deep, walk away for 20, and ask yourself open-ended questions – unless, of course, you want to be mad. How do you control your anger?

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

So, does your business have a  management training plan? Because, if not, many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.

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