Lately we’re on edge and ready to pounce at any breach. At work, “How dare they question my agenda?” and at home, “No one’s showing respect”.

Sounds familiar? It’s understandable. Quite simply, our ego may have shifted into overdrive.

In its healthy form, the ego is a powerful guidance system, alerting us to move into self-protection when a personal value has been threatened or a line crossed, but a royal pain if it gets stuck in high gear.

We’re all complex machines, programmed with a lifetime of memories of past hurts, conflict triggers and plenty of stress.

In overprotective mode, our ego scans the horizon 24/7 sniffing out ‘trouble’ and our response to any perceived threat is swift, with a knee-jerk, fight-or-flight response.

We know the signs of our software gone rogue: speedy heartbeat, sweaty palms, hot face, or pulsing forehead, and all for… the smallest infraction.

Here are 5 ways we can reboot, and get our overprotective ego (OPE) back to operating normally:

Self-observe

Notice the moments when you feel edgy, agitated, frustrated, angry, concerned, or defensive. Ask yourself the question “Is this feeling legitimate under the circumstances or am I blowing this out of proportion?”

Becoming aware of our reactions is the first step towards taking control over the ones we’d like to manage differently.

Find the ‘Gap’

There is always a space in time between what we experience and our outward reaction to it. Intentionally step into this ‘gap’ and time-delay your response while you decide what is most appropriate.

Count backwards from three while you take a breath and think. You’ll find yourself returned to full control and the outcome of the moment may be dramatically different.

Shift gears

It’s easy to get lost on the dark side focusing on life’s frustrations, but one of the most powerful means of shifting our OPE is to acknowledge the parts of our world that are okay, good or great.

Placing attention on ‘what’s working well’ literally alters our chemistry, moving us off the defensive and into a position of more comfort, confidence and control.

Identify Your OPE triggers

Be fearless. Peek under some personal rocks and be accepting and non-judgemental about what you find.

Explore current stressors: What’s going on at the moment that may be generating excessive battle fatigue? Is it lifestyle, relationships, work issues, finances, health? Nail down the specific troublemakers and create solutions for them where possible.

Recognise conflict triggers: We all have them; a sense of unfairness, feeling disempowered or out of control, and not being trusted, appreciated, or respected. Which of these is responsible most often for activating your OPE? Work out how to shift your mindset around it in order to weaken its effect on you.

Anticipate and prepare

We tend to knee-jerk into default reactions when we’re taken by surprise, but if we’re prepared, we can manage the moment with more grace.

Scan your day for the events, meetings, or conversations that have the potential to derail your best intentions. Put a plan in place for how you’ll chose to feel, think and respond to generate the best outcome.

Nature installed an ego for good reason but sometimes, to keep the peace, we simply need to put ‘OPE Jack’ back in the box.