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Situational Awareness: Importance of Minimizing Distractions and Using Our Intuition

Updated: Aug 15, 2019

by Katarina Terzic Conrad, Ph.D.

Many women, after being assaulted by a stranger, claim that the attacker came out of nowhere. In reality, the attackers must have come out from somewhere, but the women were distracted and did not see them until it was too late. To improve our personal safety, we must get into the habit of becoming more aware of our surroundings in all situations we find ourselves in. A sure way of achieving that goal is by minimizing distractions, being alert and in tune with our senses, and thus with our intuition, which are our natural safety defense tools.

Minimizing Distractions

Living in the age of smart phones, it is easy to get distracted. Most of us find ourselves walking and talking, driving and texting, even crossing a road while checking our phones. We check our phones while eating meals, on the toilet and even in the middle of our conversations with someone. And when our phones are not competing for attention, our minds get preoccupied with the many things we are constantly and tirelessly juggling. This absence of peace and mindfulness in our daily lives can alter our awareness of our surroundings and the situations we find ourselves in, not to mention affect our daily balance.


Tips On Safely Walking To Your Car

The most common places women get attacked by strangers are grocery store parking lots and office parking structures. To minimize the chances of becoming a victim, follow these tips.

  • Have your car key in your hand ready to unlock only the driver’s door.

  • Free at least one of your hands. In the other have your car key and an object that you can use as a weapon such as an umbrella.

  • Walk confidently with your head up and shoulders pulled back.

  • Look around the car and if you see a man sitting next to your car, be cautious or go back and find an escort if possible.

  • Before you enter your car, look around the car, under and at your back seat.

  • Once in the car, lock the door and leave.



At some point in our lives, we've all experienced that gut feeling that nudged us to act without us being able to articulate the reason. It might be in the form of that uneasy feeling your child's coach is giving you. A relative that you just can't trust or a friend that makes you anxious. That inner voice telling us to stay calm or act in uncertain situations, or avoid certain places and conflicts. That sixth sense that nudges us out of bed to check on our sick child. All these signs are messengers of intuition that help us make better predictions and choices on daily basis. It also keeps us safe and helps us avoid conflicts.

In recent years, intuition has been identified in military research as a big asset worth exploring. In hopes of creating a perfect intuitive soldier, Joseph Cohn, a navy captain with a PhD in neuroscience and a program officer for the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency (DARPA) has been focusing on a new neural signature of gut feelings and "pattern matching" that helps individuals like firefighters make quick decisions based on their previous knowledge. Our minds know much more than we are aware of. Our bodies, for example can warn us of harmful people and situations that we have encountered before, even if we can not remember it. His more recent grant of $3.85 million from the Office of Naval Research allowed him to work on a project that focuses on training intuition.

But the military is not the only one interested in intuition. Harvard’s neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, in her book My Stroke of Insight, explains how before we can even put things that we observe with our senses into words, pass judgments and make rational decisions (our brain’s left hemisphere), we rely on our more primal instincts and intuition, the non-verbal side of our brain that is concerned more with the present moment, pattern recognition, and the energy that surrounds us.

Dr. Bolte Taylor, differentiates in great detail how our two hemispheres operate in her book and TED talk My Stroke of Insight. At the age of 37, she suffered a stroke that impaired her left hemisphere. After nine years, she was able to recover and give a detailed account of her first hand experience about what it is like to wake up without any sense of identity and free of worries, attachments and judgments.

With her impaired left hemisphere, and thus disconnected from her “rational” self, she had to rely on her right hemisphere to experience the world in the present moment. She explains how she felt expansive and without boundaries, at one with the universe as she recalls it. The atoms of her hand would blend with the atoms of her book and she couldn’t tell how far away objects were. Someone had to move for her to realize that the person was not part of the background.

She experienced a world where her senses were enhanced. She could hear all kinds of noises that were disturbingly loud. And without the help of her left hemisphere telling her which sounds she should focus on, at times she experienced sensory overload. Since people’s voices were muffled, and their faces were a blur, the only way she could tell who was who in her hospital room was the energy they brought into the room. She could tell right away which energies were pleasant and which were not. Everyone had their own unique energy they brought into the room, she recalls. One big take away from her book is that:

“We are responsible for the energy we bring into the room.”

Also, she notes that before our rational minds (left hemisphere) can make sense out of the world by using language and judgments based on past experiences, our instincts are already at work. We should trust our intuition. If we feel something doesn’t seem right, we shouldn’t ignore it or underplay it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

“We should trust our intuition.”

In his book The gift of Fear, Gavin De Becker tells us that our intuition is the best safeguard against danger. For now, all I want us to remember is to trust our own instincts. But in order to use our instincts, we need to free ourselves from distractions and become more mindful of our surroundings and ourselves.

"Intuition is always right in at least two important ways; It is always in response to something. It always has your best interest at heart."

― Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence


by Gavin De Becker

Nagging feelings

Persistent thought

Dark Humor





Gut feelings






How to minimize distractions and become more present and intuitive?

  1. To minimize distractions we should pay attention to what we are doing throughout the day. We don’t have to change anything yet, only become more aware of our surroundings. Do we text while driving? Do we text while walking? Do we pay attention to where we are or who is around us? How present are we while listening to others? How present are we at the dinner table? Do we feel rushed and busy all the time? Do we feel stressed? Are we impatient with those that are closest to us?

  2. Now that you are more aware of your behavior, list a few changes you would like to make. (Ex. Stop looking at the phone when walking, driving. Put the phone away during meals. Practice mindfulness meditation.)

  3. Mindfulness meditation is one of the best ways to train yourself to become more present and focused in the moment. There are numerous health benefits as well. Although there are many apps you can use out there, I love Headspace and Calm.

  4. Notice when the signs listed in "the messengers of intuition" start appearing. Where are you? What are the circumstances? What do you think they are warning you about?

  5. Watch My Stroke of Insight by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

  6. Read "The Gift of Fear: And other survival signals that protect us from violence" by Gavin De Becker

To try Katarina's HIIT&RUN program for 2 weeks click here.

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