How to cope with back to school stress – chimp management style!

What a fabulous summer!  I hope all my readers took some time out to relax, spend time with family and friends and discover new horizons. Now, for many families, it's back to school mode - and with this comes the inevitable stress.  So, a few questions for you all - do you wonder -

  • Why you overreact in a situation at home or at work that wasn’t serious?

  • Why you feel constantly on alert and worry about things so much?

  • Why your brain seems to race and feel more stressed at night?

Well, it’s because your chimp is reacting, not you!  Let me explain!

On holiday this summer, I re-read an awesome book called 'The Chimp Paradox' by Professor Steve Peters.  The book simplifies the complicated world of neural science and explains why we often behave in a way that we don’t want to and why we can’t always control it. My recommendation is that you read the book as it's packed with excellent material and tips.

With 'back to school' getting every nearer (a very stressful time for all family members) I want to share my top 3 learning takeaways with you to ease that stress -

1.       Understand and respect your chimp

  • Your chimp is a key part of your brain that is hard wired and designed to help you survive (and stills thinks it is in the jungle!)

  • Every situation you experience in life will always get presented to the chimp first

  • It thinks and reacts to situations emotionally and irrationally often with paranoia, catastrophising, and black and white thinking

  • The chimp is in total control at night

You are probably starting to understand why you don’t always feel in control of your thoughts. As Steve Peters says - “Whenever you are having feelings, thoughts or behaviours that you don’t want or welcome, you’re being hijacked by your chimp!”

2.       You don’t have to be constantly hijacked!

  • The good news is that there are two other areas of the brain that can calm down and manage the chimp

  • Your human brain reacts and thinks logically, it is evidence based (works on facts and truths), see things in context with perspective and is open minded

Here’s a personal example to illustrate how the chimp and human brain view the same situation very differently.  On the first morning of our summer holiday, tired after a late arrival the night before, my partner and I went out onto our balcony (on the 13th floor) to admire the sea view, then realised the door was stuck.  We tried three times but it wouldn’t open and both our phones were inside the apartment!

The chimp reaction was - aaarrgghhh!  We’re stuck out here, it’s hot, we’ll get dehydrated or even worse, no-one is around to help or hear our cries!!

The human reaction was - let’s try it again, look for anything blocking the door, how could this have happened, we didn’t turn a key, where is the locking part?  This doesn’t make sense, try it again (didn’t budge), try a different technique of wobbling it a bit. After 8 minutes (which felt like a lot longer!) the wobble worked, but both our chimps were getting slightly stressed about the whole thing and getting annoyed with each other! I know if my son had been with us, the chimp hijacking would have been much worse!  When we argue with family members, worry about something or feel anxious, the chimp is in control.  I’m sure you can think of situations you’ve been in where the emotional chimp brain has taken over instead of the logical human brain.

The other element of your brain which manages the chimp is your computer. This holds your view of the world, experiences, beliefs and values. The computer is the most powerful element as both the human and the chimp always use the computer as the ultimate reference source.

3.       To get the most out of life you need effective “chimp” management

Your chimp is with you for life and will never change, so the key to a happy life is to find ways to nurture and manage it:-


  • Ideally be in bed by 10.30pm to get a good sleep so the logical brain can recharge and don’t make any decisions at night time when the chimp is on duty

  • Recognise and take away any extra pressures or expectations that you are placing on yourself or others that are not helpful or realistic so you can all relax more e.g. have to be on time, has to be perfect, can’t let anyone down, can’t say no, has to be done in this way

  • Find ways and time to relax – the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your chimp is!

Building up your self esteem, self confidence and identifying any unhelpful emotions or beliefs in your computer (your subconscious brain) that are holding you back include feelings of fear, anger, anxiety, fear of failure or not feeling not good enough. To effectively remove unhelpful emotions and change limiting beliefs held in your computer, you need to access the subconscious mind (which you can’t just do through talking) so talk to a professional like myself.

Every week, I help my clients to relax, to re-balance their body and mind and expertly connect them to their unique computer allowing them to make the necessary changes to get the most out of life. Moving from feelings of anxiety to calm, from fear to confidence, from restrictions in life to maximum enjoyment.  I've recently helped Emily and Viv:-

"I’ve gone from feeling total overwhelm, tiredness and anxiety every day to feeling calm, self confident and alive again - it has been life changing" – Emily, Hampton

“The emotional freedom and power you have given me feels like winning the golden ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I cannot thank you enough.” Viv, Surbiton

For more information on ways to help you and your family with the back to school stresses including a practical technique to instantly calm the chimp down, please talk to me.

If you would like to nurture and manage your chimp by recharging, relaxing and re-balancing, I’m offering a 10% discount on sessions that are booked in September.



Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash