Sometimes when your child is extremely anxious or stressed out, they may experience moments of flipping out! When this happens, logical reasoning gets kicked out the door and a knee-jerk emotional responses to situations ensue.
If this has happened to your child, they may be experiencing an AMYGDALA HIJACK.
Normally when people experience the world through their five senses, the cortex — the newer, thinking part of the brain — is sent information and helps one reason through reactions. When a threat is perceived, however, the thoughts can by-pass the thinking brain and get handled directly by the amygdala — residing in the older, emotional part of the brain. What does the amygdala do? It tries to protect you with an automatic and often fierce hormonal response to the stress.
During this reaction, the thinking brain would like to break through and reason with children, but the emotional brain doesn’t allow logic to penetrate through the hormones bombarding their body. Logic becomes hazy and they may even find it difficult to “think straight.”
Now, an amygdala hijack can happen to both anxious and non-anxious kids, but when one undergoes prolonged stress it’s possible for the amygdala to become highly sensitive and for hijackings become more frequent.
So, what should you do? Here are three tips:
1. Take 6-seconds to chill out – it takes the chemicals spewing out from the amygdala about 6 seconds to dissipate. Take take deep breaths with your child during this time. Try to find something positive to savor until the reaction subsides.
2. Engage your logic with writing – the logical brain wants to help sort through the situation. Help logic along by working with your child to write down the worst case scenario, best case scenario, and most likely outcome from the stressful situation.
3. Identify the trigger – after the situation calms down, identify with your child what caused the meltdown. Talk about it candidly. Awareness of triggers can help regulate the response in the future.