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How can The Chimp Model help with Anxiety?

Have you ever been in a situation and suddenly felt overwhelmed with anxiety? You’re not alone. Anxiety can affect anyone at any time. It can be exhausting and overwhelming and take a toll on a person’s overall well-being. Fortunately, there are many ways to manage and overcome anxiety, and one effective method is using The Chimp Model. So, what exactly is The Chimp Model? It’s a way of understanding how our minds work, and allowing us to understand why we act, think and feel the way we do. By understanding how our Chimp operates and how this affects our thoughts and behaviours, we can begin to recognise when we’re in Chimp mode and learn to manage our emotions more effectively.

Let’s say you’re about to give a big presentation at work, and suddenly your heart starts racing, your palms start sweating, and your mind goes blank. This can be an example of a Chimp reaction. Your Chimp is responding to the situation with fear and anxiety, which can quickly escalate and become overwhelming. So what can we do to help manage this reaction and keep ourselves in a rational mindset? Using The Chimp Model, you can learn to recognise these triggers and respond how you would like to respond. You can develop strategies to regulate your emotions and thoughts to stay calm and focused even in challenging situations.

Keeping Perspective:

One strategy we can implement is to keep perspective. This means keeping things in relation to what life is all about and what is really important to you. If we look back at things that have happened in the past, most experiences will take on a new perspective. By keeping perspective, you can adapt to see anxiety as an opportunity for growth and overall self-confidence rather than something to be feared or avoided.

Grade A Hits:

Another thing we can do is find our ‘Grade A hits’. This is a unique tool that only you can apply to your life; a simple truth that resonates with you and helps. What works for one person may not work for someone else. A Grade A hit is a simple sentence that you can use to get yourself out of Chimp Mode. This can stop the Chimp in its tracks and help to stabilise the mind.

Grade A hits examples:

  • Will this matter tomorrow?
  • It will all be over soon. 
  • Life is not fair. 
  • Does it matter what other people think?
  • Most things work out in the end, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. 

Talking to others:

We all express our emotions naturally every day, but what happens when we are having anxiety and may not be expressing our emotions effectively and constructively? Talking about our concerns, no matter how irrational or catastrophic they might seem, helps us to address them and enables us to further understand and reflect on how we can create a plan to potentially avoid these feelings in the future. 

When we address our concerns and emotions, we need to remember to: 

  • Express all concerns – No matter how irrational or catastrophic.
  • Choose your listener carefully – Make sure the person you are speaking with can effectively help you with your thoughts and concerns.
  • Only cross REAL bridges – Make sure that you are not addressing concerns made on assumptions or predictions.
  • Exercise the Chimp before trying to listen. – We must let our Chimp fully express itself before we can listen and plan. 
  • Seek Help – Don’t struggle unnecessarily, find someone to help. Whether it’s talking to a therapist or counsellor, joining a support group, or confiding in a trusted friend or family member, sharing your experiences and feelings can help you to gain new perspectives, insights, and coping strategies.

Identifying previous ghost emotions

When we experience negative emotions, these can emerge based on past situations and experiences, and suddenly appear to haunt us. Our Chimp cannot distinguish between real emotions and ghost emotions; this leads to us responding to a current situation using previous responses from events that have significantly affected us. So how can we identify the ghosts? 

One of the things we can do is to decide if this emotion is appropriate for the current situation, and ask ourselves “Am I responding to this situation or something that has affected me in the past?”

You have the choice if you want to engage with these emotions or not; when we choose to not engage, this helps us to move on and stop reinforcing the emotional response. 

Remember, Ghosts are habits.

  • They stem from a memory, not a current situation.
  • You need to disengage and give them no time or energy.
  • This isn’t easy but will work if you persist. If things don’t improve, then clearly get professional help. Clinical psychologists and other therapists are experts in this area.

Anxiety can be challenging and sometimes overwhelming. The Chimp Model allows us to develop a better understanding of thoughts and emotions, and learn how to manage them effectively. By recognising your triggers, developing strategies to regulate your emotions and thoughts, keeping perspective, and seeking support, it is possible to overcome anxiety and achieve a happier, more fulfilling life.

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