Truth or Consequences? Know Your Tipping Point to Stress. A Coaching Perspective

by Wanda Ropa on December 6, 2010

What’s Your Tipping Point to Stress?

Billy Joel performing Pressure

CNN – August 11, 2010 (Health)

Experts tell CNN’s American Morning what makes people like the JetBlue flight attendant snap under pressure.

Why is it that some people snap and others remain calm under the same circumstances?

It really is about our perception of how this affects us. In his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert Sapolsky, explains the latest theories on stress when we expect to predict and control our environment. According to Dr. Sapolsky, we differ in the psychological filters through which we perceive the stressors in our world.

So, let’s take a look under the hood and try to understand how your triggers work.

Your conscious awareness, or your intellectual brain is typically irrelevant according to Joseph LeDoux, one of the leading neuroscientists.  In his book, Emotional Brain, he explains emotional responses are hard-wired into the brain’s circuitry, but the things that make us emotional are learned through experience. And this may be the key to understanding, even changing, our emotional make up.

Your emotional brain contains your fight or flight command center (your amygdala) that is tuned into your memory center (your hippocampus), all part of your limbic system.  So, when you’re under pressure, your intellectual brain is basically irrelevant.  Your intellectual brain consists of thought, logic, critical thinking skills, language, and conscious awareness. It’s called your neocortex, since it evolved last.  At this critical time, when it would be helpful to be clearly logical, you are actually the opposite because your emotional brain is engaged and your amygdala is activated.

Without your logic, critical thinking skills, creative problem solving and decision making skills, you will not be able to clearly identify, investigate, or discern the root cause of your amygdala triggers and continue to experience unmet expectations, unsatisfactory results, or eventually snap under pressure.

If you are experiencing stress, pressure, and having difficulty meeting your current challenges, read more about the emotional brain, by downloading my free e-book, Three Brains for Success.

Before you can change anything in your current situation, use my debriefing tool to help you identify what’s going on.

Start by asking,
1.  What is working well?
Next, proceed to review:
2. What isn’t working so well?
Now, ask yourself,
3. What needs to change for things to work better?  If you don’t know, who does?
If you’re not sure, then seek professional assistance.  Remember, you need to first be ready to admit that something isn’t working so you can gain clarity about what’s really going on.

Stay tuned for more tips in the following weeks as we head into our busy holiday season, a natural stress booster.

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