Week 1 – Fear vs Anxiety
Our brains are hard wired for survival. Your brain’s number one job is staying alive. This, at least, is one thing that has not changed in over thirty thousand years. Whether it is a sabre-toothed charging tiger on a prehistoric plain or a car running a red light when you are crossing the road, the human reaction is the same and it is instantaneous. This is our Fight or Flight response. This week we take a step back in time and understand the difference between our fears and our anxieties.
Week 2 – Introducing our Monkey Mind and the Avoidance Cycle.
Our Fight or Flight responses feel real whether there is a real danger or not. If your brain reacts to a situation as dangerous – even if it’s not – your nervous system will act accordingly, such as, making your heart beat faster and your skin break out in a sweat. The system is sounding alarms!
This system is what we are going to call our MONKEY MIND. It’s relentless stream of scary thoughts is like a frightened monkey’s chatter. When you listen to the Monkey’s chatter and accept it as true, it always leads to avoidance. Avoidance lowers our anxiety, but it doesn’t help us to look at our situations logically, using our thinking brain. Avoidance works so well, you’ll want to use it again and again!
But, the problem is that the more you avoid a situation, the scarier the situation becomes!
Week 3 – Feeding the Monkey! How Thinking About Change Can Create Anxiety
The Monkey loves attention. For the Monkey the attention is as good as a banana. The problem is, the more you feed it the more it will chatter!
Changes in our lives are natural and necessary but can bring on our Fight or Flight response. This week we discuss big and small, fun and scary changes, to be able to be more aware of when we are feeding our Monkey Minds with unnecessary thoughts that create anxiety.
Week 4 – Feelings
This week we step into our Amygdala and take a look at our emotions. We all feel different emotions at different times and those feelings can change. What we once might have been anxious about, we may eventually feel confident in and come to enjoy.
There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ feelings and we learn to recognise how our emotions can affect our bodies, especially when angry or fearful. We don’t have control of our emotions but we do have control on how we act on them. When is it okay to physically show our emotions – Hugging someone when we show love/happiness/sadness vs hitting someone when we are angry.
Feelings can be like a stormy or a quiet sea. What happens if our feelings get out of control? How does this affect us and other people around us?
Week 5 – Spot the Monkey. The Thoughts that Create Feelings that Affect our Actions.
Thoughts drive our behaviour in any situation. These thoughts might be reasonable and true – signals that this situation is somehow dangerous for you. Or they could be false alarms, a product of the Monkey Mind.
Compared to humans, monkeys aren’t very bright, and neither is the Monkey Mind. When determining a risk, the monkey consistently makes two mistakes: it overestimates the threat of something bad happening, and it underestimates your ability to cope if something bad were to happen. We explore different ways that the Monkey Mind miscalculates and sets off false alarms, putting the body into Fight or Flight mode.
Week 6 – What to do with Everyday Worries.
Worries don’t necessarily set off our Fight or Flight response but they can follow us around and make us miserable. It is the Monkey Minds endless chatter of negative thinking that can often throw us into our Avoidance Cycle and prevent us from enjoying situations.
Those that are prone to anxiety can get stuck into this pattern of thinking about all things that could go wrong, they may have a Fixed Mindset. We compare different worries using “Playdough Vs Rock” and explore other strategies that can be useful to create a better Growth Mindset.
Week 7 – Rule the Monkey. Taking Back Control.
In the past, you may have allowed your monkey to run your life with it’s wild guesses and false alarms. Your monkey isn’t to blame, it’s just trying to do its job! But maybe it has been given too much power over you. You can’t keep playing by your monkey’s rules. You need to rule the monkey.
To do this you will have to change your behaviour as well as your thinking. Instead of avoiding the things that your monkey tells you are dangerous, you’ll have to move toward them and be willing to feel the anxiety that goes with that. When you move toward your anxiety you reverse the cycle. Your monkey has no power over you. This week we look at strategies to take back control.
Sorry Monkey – No Banana!
Week 8 – Shyness and Social Anxiety
Social Anxiety – the fear of doing or saying something that would cause others to make fun of or reject them, resulting in feelings of embarrassment, humiliation and shame. It is the most common type of anxiety affecting all ages. Many children have always been shy, others were outgoing when young but became socially anxious as they got older, especially in teenage years and into adulthood.
Going back in time we follow the progression of our ancestors and the need for tribes and packs. To this we add our Monkey Mind, who’s job it is to keep us safe.
When we are in conversation the monkey will be reading facial expressions and body language for any signs of disapproval or boredom, listening for anything that may sound threatening. Our Monkey Mind will be being fed with attention and the natural reaction will be avoidance. We look at tools to tame the Social Anxiety Monkey.
Week 9 – Separation Anxiety
Separation Anxiety – the fear of being away from a person one feels particularly attached to. When you are separated from this person, even for a few hours, you begin to feel anxious.
Anxiety is triggered by anxious thoughts, generated by our Monkey Mind. Your monkey takes its job very seriously and when we look through the eyes of a hypervigilant monkey, whose total focus is keeping you protected and safe, we can see where those anxious thoughts come from. However, our Monkey Mind is being fed with attention that can only result in the Avoidance Cycle. We take a closer look at what we avoid to keep the Monkey Mind quiet and we explore strategies to take back control.
Week 10 – “Thank You Monkey” Strategies to Move Forward
We cannot reason, argue or make deals with a monkey! All that does is make the monkey chatter louder! Giving your monkey any attention at all is giving it opportunities to distract you from overcoming the situation you are facing. Just say “Thank you, Monkey!” and move forward.
If you spend your time in the Avoidance Cycle, you train the monkey to believe that its wild guesses about that dangers of that situation are correct. After years of avoidance you’ll have a gorilla-size problem that seems beyond control. But the good news is, no matter how deep you are in that Avoidance Cycle, you can turn things around. With acceptance and courage, you will become strong enough to see the beast for what it is: a scared little monkey!
Week 11 – Party time!