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Here’s How to Know if Your Protective Porcupine Is Hard at Work

coaching emotion regulation emotional intelligence emotions Feb 22, 2022

 Have you ever heard your amygdala referred to as your "protective porcupine"🦔?

Your amygdala, almond-shaped glands in your brain, are responsible for keeping you safe. They protect you from danger - real or imagined.

In fact, they can't tell the difference between a bear chasing you and the threat of imperfection in front of your peers. Both are dangerous. Both can cause us pain. Either situation triggers your amygdala and subsequently your flight, fight, or freeze stress reactions.

Throughout history, it's done a pretty darn good job!

However, in a day and age where physical dangers aren't as prevalent, our cute little porcupines 🦔 don't always serve us in the best ways possible. They get uber focused on the imagined dangers in our lives. Perfectionism, control, self-worth, embarrassment, scarcity, fear, and emotional pain are only a few of the things that bring out our little porcupine 🦔 friend. He wants to help us avoid these emotionally "dangerous" situations. His intentions really are good.

This past week, my protective porcupine 🦔 has been hard at work.

Here's how I can tell:

  • I've felt a lot of big emotions such as fear, anxiety, and desperation.
  • It has been easy to slip back into my people-pleasing mindset.
  • It's been hard to think clearly through my problems.
  • I've found myself pushing myself harder than I need to and reaching for perfection.
  • I'm easily triggered and have cried easily.
  • I feel emotional and physical exhaustion.

Our little protective porcupine 🦔, even with the best intentions, is not the part of our brain we want working. When he's activated, he shuts down the "thinking" (or prefrontal cortex) part of our brain. He overrides our logical thoughts. He makes it difficult to do normal day-to-day things.

We're never in our best place when we make decisions with our porcupine brain. We need our thinking brain 🧠 active instead.

What I have done to put my protective porcupine 🦔 down for a nap and reactivate my thinking brain 🧠:

  • I meditate. Sometimes it's a few minutes, sometimes it's longer.
  • I've been able to connect by talking to my husband about what I'm feeling.
  • I've made sleep a priority, including little naps when I need them.
  • I play relaxing music in the background when I work.
  • I adjusted my priorities and reevaluated what I really can do.
  • Kind self-talk and positive affirmations have been running through my head.
  • I spent a tiny bit of my time being creative and serving others.

What do you need to do to get your porcupine 🦔 to take a nap? Do you have favorite coping tools? Which ones are your go-to's when things get rough?

If you need some help figuring out which coping tools will work best for you, schedule a free discovery call here and I'll suggest a few things to help you get on your way!

For more information, download and listen to my podcast 🎙️Anxiety 101: Uncovering the Latest Research on Anxiety in Today's Teens

Are you looking for answers?

I'd love to connect with you to provide resources that will help you with your specific needs. When you schedule a free discovery call, I listen to you and help you figure out what the next right step is for you. No pressure, just answers. 

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