Green (Go) Feelings
Are “good to go” emotions. They’re emotions that are appropriate for all situations, and show control e.g. calm, happy, focused or content. They’re also appropriate feelings for interacting with others (being social), learning and working.
Yellow (Slow down) Feelings
Are “proceed with caution” emotions. In the Yellow Zone, you’re in a heightened state of alertness, but still have some control over your thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Examples of Yellow Feelings are: stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement and confusion.
Red (Stop) Feelings
Are “out of control” emotions. They’re emotions associated with being in an extremely heightened state of alertness, having intense feelings – anger, rage, explosive behaviour, panic, terror, elation – you’re not in control of. In this state, you need to stop and re-gain control.
When you’re able to acknowledge what colour zone you’re in, you can then use strategies to calm down and regain control. Different strategies work for different people, but some examples are: deep breathing, relaxation, taking a break, having a cold drink, talking to someone, asking for help, and exercise.
It’s important to remember that no feelings are ‘bad feelings’, not even anger. What’s important is how you react in heightened states of arousal (i.e. yellow or red zones). Yellow and Red feelings can prompt unhelpful reactions, but if you use the above framework to assess your feelings and reflect on what you can do to be closer to Green, you’ll find you tend to be less reactive and more in control, especially when strong emotions arise.
It is easy to think that what occurs, in reality, is all that matters, but the power of perception is stronger than we realize. For instance, it is easy to think that physical safety is all that is needed in order to learn or function well. However, this is false. The feeling of being safe is just as important - if not, more. And science proves why.
It is also easy to think that it is possible to overindulge or give too much to our teams, employees, staff or trainees or when you are self employed or freelancer - yourself! - but that is simply false. It’s honestly something lazy white men started saying when they did not want to put the effort into being a decent human. Just as with feeling unsafe, feeling unacknowledged or attended to or unvalued also hinders learning and functioning well. Again, science proves why.
Feelings and emotions are one of the key components of the traffic lights approach and what makes it so powerful. Being able to identify and name emotions actually decreases the intensity of negative emotions, helping us to calm down quicker and return to a better state of mind - which in turn will impact those around us.
Brain science has determined that operating out of the green brain is the best region of the brain from which to learn. This is because when we are in a green brain, we are using 100% of our IQ, and we are ready and able to learn well. Makes you certain someone like Donald Trump or Elon Musk has never used their green brain - or maybe they have, which is worse.
This state of mind is best for any person to function out of. One of the most important aspects of green brain to note is that when we are in the green brain, we feel safe, seen, productive and valued. Just because it is a workplace it does not mean people do not deserve to feel this way. You’d want to be in a Green Brain state of mind if, for example, you are going to put together an application for funding or support. Being in this state of mind is harder for self employed people or isolated freelancers, but awareness is the first step in improving and growing.