Monkey Mind?

Ever find yourself unable to sleep? Or suffer from monkey mind? Get panicky? Fearful for no logical reason?

Welcome to the world of 5 million other Aussies. Most of us at some time or another get anxious. For some it can be devastatingly debilitating. For others it is but an occasional fleeting episode.

Some interesting research shows that learning acceptance helps with recovery from anxiety. Sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it? But the theory is that accepting the symptoms for what they are  instead of being terrified of them, enables you to be more in control of the anxiety.

So imagine this. You have the flu. Your nose is runny. You feel lousy. You got a fever. But you accept it for what it is. You’ll get over it.

Using the same process to manage symptoms of anxiety gives you the ability to control it better. That, and knowing how the brain works during an anxiety attack.

The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline increase when anxiety kicks in. The body is getting itself ready to launch into the ‘fight or flight mode’ controlled by the amygdala. It kicks into the protective drive. Pulse rate increases, breathing becomes faster and more shallow, mouth gets dry …

Problem is, this can happen at times when we are not in serious danger from being eaten by a monster. If it keeps on being triggered  it can become that debilitating all-consuming anxiety that so many sufferers fear.

However, knowing that the amygdala has gone off the rails  when the symptoms kick in gives an advantage to getting it back into normal working order. This is where acceptance will help. For example if those monkeys are busy chattering and bouncing around, instead of getting all anxious and worried about it, just let them chatter away. Accept the ‘snotty nose’ of anxiety, knowing that by doing so the amygdala will begin to realise that there is no imminent danger. The monkeys will stop chattering. Over time, the amygdala will return to its  default setting. The same process can be applied to other symptoms as well.

You will probably also have noticed that there’s a lot of stuff out there about Mindfulness, or being in the Now Moment. There’s a good reason for that. Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness regularly can reduce the size of the amygdala. Ergo, smaller amygdala, less anxiety. This can happen in as little as eight weeks of practicing mindfulness meditation.

Contrary to what was believed many long years ago, brain neuroplasticity is a real thing. Our brains can and do change, grow, develop new neural pathways. So retraining it by regular practice of mindfulness helps with managing anxiety.

Another good reason to meditate. You don’t have to jump in the deep end. Start slow and build on it. There’s lots of really good guided meditations on YouTube. You might like to start by checking out Smiling Mind and Headspace.

Raili Tanska

Still the Mind

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12 thoughts on “Monkey Mind?

  1. Great Post Raili.
    Not sure if you are aware of https://www.futurelearn.com/

    They offer lots of free courses, including mindfulness. The mindfulness is run bt Craig and Richard from Monash University.

    Ignore the “buy unlimited” at the top of the future learn home page, if you scroll down or search courses you’ll find that they are all free unless you want to have printouts of course material or a certificate.

  2. We studied this on the Pattern Programming Course and I can confirm that understanding similarities between the body’s response to anxiety and fear, and learning to pinpoint whether we are afraid, or just anxious, is a great step toward controlling anxiety. I’ve felt much calmer over the past few weeks. Something came up only yesterday which gave me a terrible scare, but I was able to minimised the effects by reminding myself that if the worst had happened, the police would already be at my door, sombre, sympathetic expressions on their faces.

    1. That’s so good, Jane. And it’s always good to get info from a first hand experience of the process. I know someone who wil benefit greatly from hearing this!

      1. Speaking of which, could you tell your friend that there is someone at the other end of the world praying for her. I know from experience (re Laura) that distance doesn’t weaken the prayer. I have an odd feeling that it might even distil it.

      2. It seems to be the case that navigating the system is as traumaic as the events themselves at times 😖 I don’t undertstand why this must be so, but it is. However,progress is being made slowly.

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