Imagine that you are a world-famous hotel tycoon. High rollers travel from around the globe to stay at your glitzy resorts. Because of this you have become a millionaire née billionaire. People say you’re the best billionaire ever. Life is good.
Then it happens. Out of the blue. The proverbial Black Swan appears. A pandemic sweeps the globe. People are afraid of the disease. Some die. And, in a blink of an eye, people stop traveling. Your resorts empty. Then they shutter. You’re losing millions of dollars a day.
In that moment how would you feel? Fear? Stress? Panicked? These are all completely natural reactions. When our livelihood and well-being are directly threatened, the part of our brain called the amygdala activates.
When threatened we enter the fight-or-flight response and our amygdala diverts resources to survival functions in the body. What’s sacrificed in this state? For one, our rational decision-making capabilities. Our focus narrows to what’s right in front of us. We lose our creative capabilities. We become myopic. This is the state called amygdala hijack, a term coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence.
Imagine you are in this state and you are granted a wish: Suddenly you had all the power in the world, and you could take any action you want. What would you do? How would you prioritize? Would you address the pandemic and listen to advice of global health experts? Or, would you focus on restoring your lost cash flow as quickly as possible. In the state of amygdala hijack, we would be more likely to myopically address the threat that triggered response than consider the bigger picture.
At this particular point in time, we are all likely to be grappling with unusually high stress levels. What steps can you take to avoid amygdala hijack and maintain your creative decision-making capabilities?
Mother Was Right
Being susceptible to stress-induced anxiety myself, I have tried many approaches to lowering my stress levels. My current approach is quite simple and remarkably effective:
- Eat nutritious meals every day
- Exercise a few times a week
- Get 8+ hours of sleep each night
I know, I know. This is easier said than done. If you are not doing it now, start. It takes practice. It takes building good habits.
And, there’s more good news. Not only will diet, exercise and sleep build your resiliency to stressful situations, they will also help your immune system response. And, who wouldn’t want a robust immune system now?
I am interested to know what you have found to be effective for you to maintain emotional balance and resiliency to stress. Please share your thoughts.