In the classroom, whenever I was transported out of the amydala’s alarm system that screamed “you are not safe” and into the upper regions of the brain where my senses and creativity were functioning, I had transformed fight or fight into “Learning brain” as Julian Ford and Jon Wortman call it.
And it was contagious.
When my students could feel that I wasn’t in fight or flight and I was enjoying the activities, they could enjoy the activities more.
How to Get Back to Learning Brain
1. One of the keys to getting into learning brain is not doing what you “have to.”
Wortman and Ford gave examples of having to please people and make people like you. When I was concerned with making my students like me, I got into trouble and I got anxious. Activities fell flat, or I was not engaged. As an improvisational comedian, you “die” on stage if you feel you have to make people laugh. The rules of improvisational comedy are set up so that you don’t caring about the past or the future. You simply respond to the moment and that usually becomes funny because the story takes on a life of its own.
2. Another key to getting out of fight or flight is to focus on how you are helping others.
I am immediately brought more into the heart and connection, and I can trip up the fight or flight response in the brain, when I connect to a positive emotion in the heart. Teaching was a great avenue for me to learn this. I had something I had to give others that they needed: language skills. This ability to focus on others’ needs saved me from the downward spiral of self-consciousness.
3. Another thing I can do is ask what is enjoyable for me?
What is the material that I love that I can get passionate about? This too can shut off or weaken fight or flight.
When I think about all the work I have to do to market my new book, I am completely overwhelmed firing off cortisol and adrenaline, going in many directions and accomplishing little.
When I can take one fun activity—maybe it’s writing this article or posting a poem on Facebook, it’s easy. There’s no stress. it’s fun. I’m in learning brain as Wortmann and Ford name it.
When are you stressed out during the day? How can you stop and switch into learning brain? Share your ideas below. And please share with a friend if this article helped you.
*Dr. Julian Ford and Jon Wortmann, Hijacked by Your Brain. (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2013.)