Is There a Reptile in Charge of Your Practice?

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

When a client emails you requesting a policy cancellation, how do you react? If your answer is: anxiety, fear, and stress, then…you are completely normal. In fact, you came with this reaction factory-installed in the form of your “Reptilian” brain (or “lizard”)!

Having your lizard, or your fight or flight response, triggered happens to each of us every day to some degree. Since a policy cancellation is a “threat” to your practice (it lessens your means of supporting yourself) your body interprets it as danger and activates this response involuntarily. Learning how to work with your own biology can help relieve your stress and make life more calm and enjoyable.

Your lizard is responsible for your survival. It responds to “lack” or “attack” situations. That can be a lack of Qualified Suspects, not enough meetings or worries about making payroll. Attack situations can be a real, physical threat or a psychological threat such as an email from your Managing Director asking you to stop by her office right away. We are usually most easily triggered by our families and workplaces because these are our bases of security. The body prepares for a physical threat even though in our modern world most threats are psychological!

Symptoms of a Triggered Lizard:

  • Adrenaline, cortisal and other chemicals are released into the bloodstream
  • It’s hard to breathe
  • Your heart races
  • Digestion and other nonessential body functions such as immunity are poor
  • You can't sleep or alternately exhausted
  • Thoughts are black and white--it’s impossible to see any gray area
  • You want to fight, escape or both. If you can’t do either you might freeze.

How to tame your lizard:

If you're really in danger, listen to your lizard! This part of your brain is stunningly good at keeping you alive when there is an emergency.

If it's a false alarm...

  • Take a long deep breath in and an even longer breath out. Take more breaths until you feel calm.
  • Think of something for which you feel grateful. The brain cannot process gratitude and anxiety simultaneously.
  • Say aloud "I am feeling fear and anxiety.” This activates your higher mind.
  • Give your lizard a name (such as “Spike” or “Bob”) and then talk to your lizard and laugh at the situation. Humor helps break the spell!

When you are first spotting your lizard out wreaking havoc in your life, be patient. It may take some time just to notice that this is happening. Eventually you will spot it and be able to take action. In the meantime, try taking deep breathes throughout your day. You need to breathe either way, right?