How natural leaders avoid emotional hijacks

The more developed your prefrontal cortex, the less you get hijacked.
Here’s how to strengthen your thinking brain. I’ll give you 3 strategies the next coming weeks.

How natural leaders avoid emotional hijacks

In my previous blog I wrote about the well trained prefrontal cortex of natural leaders. How strengthening that part of the brain helps staying emotionally balanced, even under great stress.

Natural leaders benefit from their emotional system, without becoming a victim of it. In one way or another they manage to show emotions, without being aggressive or over emotional. Even under pressure. This vulnerability makes us trust them and makes us want to connect with them. The key to engagement. How they do this? They train their thinking brain.

This blog is all about how you can train your thinking brain. The part of your brain that manages self control. The strategies I suggest help you in staying emotionally stable. As a result they are a natural prevention for burnout, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, …

The Amygdala Hijack

Amygdala Hijack

The prefrontal cortex (right behind our forehead) is the part of our brains that helps us with things like decision making and regulating our behavior. If well developed, it decides on whether or not to react on signals of the amygdala, the primitive fear center in our brains.

If you have ever freaked out and said or done something rash in the”heat of the moment” that you later regretted, you were probably the victim of an amygdala hijack.

Under normal circumstances the prefrontal cortex acts a mediator, taking impulses form the amygdala and deciding whether or not to act on them.

But when you are under a lot of stress (public speaking, annoying colleagues, misbehaving children, traumatic events, …) a short circuit might occur. Your thinking brain (prefrontal cortex) gets bypassed.

The more developed your prefrontal cortex, the less you get hijacked.

Here’s how to strengthen your thinking brain. I’ll give you 3 strategies the next coming weeks.

Strategies for coping with an Amygdala Hijack

Part 1

1. Stop and breathe. Stop what you are doing, breathe deeply with intention and purpose. Keep focusing on your breathing. In and out. When you keep your attention to your breathing you prevent a full take over by the amygdala (panic, black out, sweating, …). You outsmart it because it’s not possible to think at two things at the same time. Keep returning to your breathing when your amygdala tries to take over.

2. Observe the situation. When you feel yourself getting over emotional (flight, freeze or fight situations) start observing the situation. Become a neutral outsider. Look at yourself and the person/audience who is triggering your reaction, from a certain distance. This keeps you out of a downward emotional spiral.  In the beginning this is a tremendous difficult exercise. If you aren’t able to do so during the event, take the time to do it afterwards. Replay what happened in your head. Relive the emotions that were involved but this time try to stay out of them by observing. It’s like watching a movie on a big screen. Remember, although you play the starring role, you are not in the movie, you are merely watching it.

3. Say what is going on. Don’t be afraid to tell how you feel or what your are experiencing. Right there, when it’s happening, in the moment. People who dare to say exactly what is going on, are perceived as very powerful. It makes you human. By saying, you clear the tension, for yourself and the others. Humour is also a great tool to help neutralize a situation with hijack potential. See the funny side and understand that everyone makes mistakes.

Obvious strategies don’t you think? They make strengthening your prefrontal cortex easy! Although I must admit that the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.

I helped a lot of people in getting there.

Do you benefit from your emotional system, (as natural leaders do) without becoming the victim of it?

Find out by doing this free SELF – TEST

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook. Thank you!

So grateful to have shared this with you!

Live on purpose,


P.S.: Leadership Road to Freedom open training on the 30th of March. For more info and registration click here. Strengthening of your prefrontal cortex guaranteed!

Ann Baeke

Natural Leadership wants to help people, teams and organizations with their self-realization in an authentic and effective way. Self – realization brings freedom. People will feel happier and energized. Their performance increases. 

I put the mission of Natural Leadership –  finding self – realization and the freedom to unlock your full potential – to work by doing two things:

  • First helping leaders in strengthening their personal leadership.
  • Second helping teams and organizations in creating a culture of engagement.

Both reinforce each other and transform people and organizations. Result: Increase in well – being, profit and growth.




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