Mind management – The Chimp Paradox | How to improve your mindset and reduce anxiety.
I have been extremely excited to write this post. I hope that this helps even just one person but keep reading with an open mind. If you didn’t notice, around six weeks ago I was struggling with my mental health. I don’t want to sugar coat it, it was horrible. I knew that I had to implement some changes in my life or I was going to continue being anxious. This was then playing a part in my job, my family life, and friendships. I want to base this post around mind management and how I decided to change my mindset, how I did it, and how I am getting on.
Note: I would like to note, this post can get very personal, and would appreciate no negative comments on my thoughts and feelings that I experienced.
Lyle recommended a book called The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters. He said that it was an eye-opener book for mind management. Firstly, I would recommend reading this book if you feel like you want to make the change. Accepting that sometimes you are the problem. Also wanting to change your behavior and attitude to different situations. It can be challenging accepting that you are the problem and accepting responsibility. After three weeks, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’m getting way ahead of myself! Let’s start at the beginning.
The basic plot around the book is that your mind is made up of three components. The chimp, the human, and the computer. I won’t go into much detail of the lingo that Steve Peters uses throughout the book as it does get confusing. The simple way to think about it is: the chimp manages your emotions and feelings. The human is your logical thinking, fact searching and lastly, the computer is where all the information is stored in your mind.
From the get-go, this book opened my eyes to my irrational thinking, which of course causes my anxiety. The first few chapters go into why we jump to conclusions, make assumptions, and overthink simple situations or create situations that haven’t even happened. I was a NIGHTMARE for doing this. My anxiety would be through the roof thinking someone was annoyed at me because they seemed short or dismissive.
Since reading the book, I have really tried to implement the changes. Taking a step back and not making assumptions until I have all the hard facts. Things that you can do are: Taking a step back, understanding that the person could be having an off day, have their own problems, and understand if they had a problem then they would come to you and of course the obvious, asking the person if they are annoyed at you. Although this sounds like a rational thing to do, I would never have done it before.
The book focuses on understanding your mind and your chimp. A recurring theme throughout is that you cannot control your chimp but you can learn to manage and live with it. Meaning, emotions are natural but sometimes not necessary and can make situations worse.
Another great analogy the book uses is gremlins. An example of a gremlin is “Everyone has to like me” when in actual fact it should be “I can only be myself, the rest is up to them.” I noticed a lot of gremlins in my life that I really wanted to change. My main one is being on time. I have the obsessive need to be on time, to the point where I’ll leave 30 minutes earlier than usual, just to ensure I am early. This was hard if I was ever late,
I would feel anxious, guilty, and really unsettled because I had a gremlin in my head telling me I ALWAYS had to be on time. Changing my mindset to, I would like to be on time, but if I’m not I will deal with the consequences, it’s not the end of the world, has made such a difference.
It’s hard looking back on situations you regret. I find myself constantly thinking about things I could have changed or done differently to have a different outcome. It’s important to realise that you cannot change the situation and that is okay. You can deal with the consequences and learn from any mistakes you have made.
Looking at yourself
In one of the chapters, it asks you to write down who would like to be, if it wasn’t for your mental health like anxiety, etc. I wrote confident, happy, relaxed, calm, and helpful. You were then asked to write down 5 things you believe you actually are at the current moment. I wrote anxious, temperamental, friendly, emotional, and sad (sometimes) I was then to ask my friends and family what they thought of me. The number of similarities to the person I wanted to be and not who I thought I was was very eye-opening.
I had always believed that my anxiety defined me, but it doesn’t. Sadly there is no magic cure to anxiety, but I noticed more and more that there are better ways to handle it.
I would say I feel an abnormal amount of stress for a healthy 22-year-old. The amount of stress I create on a daily basis – that looking back on, was unnecessary. The book goes into great detail on how to notice signs of stress and how to remove it from your life. This is a really important part of mind management. You need to learn how to manage your stress and bad times in your life. Of course, stress will always happen, but should only be used for the correct situations. Steve Peters created a seven-step plan for how to deal with stressful situations.
- Recognise the stress
- Pause button
- Helicopter (Getting perspective)
- The plan
I would say all of these steps are pretty self-explanatory, but sitting down and writing them out and devising your own plan is so beneficial. Of course, it’s hard to think of all these steps during a stressful situation. He advises you to pick a word that you’ll remember. Mines is Happy. When you feel yourself in a situation where you feel stressed, say your word and start working through your seven steps.
I have found myself using this on multiple occasions already and even just taking a step back and having a minute to yourself can make all the difference.
Facing those Demons
Looking at myself and understanding my bad habits and coping mechanisms that were not helping was hard I won’t lie. Looking at myself in the mirror and realising that it’s me who’s creating the problems in my life hurt a little. Accepting that and changing it has been the best thing for me. It has been a difficult part of my mind management process.
One of my pitfalls is drinking to mask my anxiety. This is a hard subject to talk about as it’s only recently I faced this problem. I am in no way an alcoholic, but I was drinking almost every weekend as a wind down from working hard all week. I would then feeling anxious after it, and knowing that it made me feel horrible, I would drink again the following weekend. You don’t realise how much of a difference it would make cutting out alcohol. Even after a short period of time, but my god it’s working!
It was difficult the first weekend, I feel like I was missing out and that was the only fun outlet that was available. It’s now been three weeks since I last had alcohol and I am so proud of myself. Removing myself from the situation has been the best thing for my mental health and I can’t believe how much my anxiety has reduced just by not drinking alcohol every weekend.
I feel like this was something I was already working on before reading the book. The book definitely helped put some things into perspective. If you don’t take anything else away from this blog post please take this:
Base your confidence on being the best YOU can be, not the best overall.
Learning to believe this and understand it has been difficult but over the short space of time that I’ve read this book, my mood, happiness, and confidence has improved so much. Of course, everyone has bad days, but it’s getting easier to manage by the day. My plan is to look into mind management a lot more, I can’t wait to document my findings.
I hope you find this blog post useful and PLEASE read the book. Sadly I cannot fit it all into one post, there is just so much to learn!
If you’re looking for other anxiety tips, check out my blog post on things to help anxiety.