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It can be helpful to have a Plan B; an option that you can implement if the original one proves impractical or unsuccessful. Whether it's a journey, a change of career or getting fitter or improving a relationship with a friend or family member, things happen. The weather changes, someone doesn't want to take part, health problems come up, it costs more money than you expected. But, if you really want to get what you want, there is always a way. And, most likely, there's more than one way! If we're studying, or doing anything that requires concentration, at some point our efficiency starts to drop. For most of us, this is at about an hour. If we push beyond that, we start accomplishing less and less for the time we are putting in. At that point, we need a break. Then our efforts will be more efficient again when we come back. (If we come back.) We can accomplish more in two forty-five minute sessions than we can in one two hour long session. If my attention limit is forty-five minutes, and I try to push myself to study for two hours straight, I've probably wasted about half an hour. We do need recreation and relaxation and breaks. We need to make sure that we get them. We also need to make sure that we aren't using the need for relaxation as an excuse to avoid doing something else that is difficult or unpleasant, or that we aren't sure we can do well. When I was addicted to computer games I spent many hours on them. I know it was an addiction. I would stay preoccupied with them in my mind even when I wasn't playing, and I would be doing them at times when there was something else I clearly needed to be doing instead. I had no control; I'd say, "OK, just one more game," or, "OK, but just for 45 minutes," but I couldn't hold it to that. That is addiction.

I finally had to give up the games entirely, erase them all from my computer and throw away the CD discs. If you were not stressed enough, would you do your best? No! You might not prepare enough, and you might not seem to care about the job. If you were too stressed, would you do your best? No! You might talk too much, or freeze up; and you might come across as being hard to work with. If you were just stressed enough, would you do your best? Probably! You would be alert and trying hard, but also relaxed and friendly. The thing is, in those games you have some control. That is, I had some control in the game, but not of the time I spent on it. You can win or improve (and you can pick the games to ensure that). You get a sense of mastery as well as a challenge. Probably most importantly, it doesn't really matter how you do. No one needs to know if I did poorly and nothing bad will come of it anyway. I can just play it again and try to do better the next time. And again. And again. It was a safe escape.

So if it's a personal interest and if it's a challenge, then my focus center will be turned on. And I really enjoyed those games, but they were interfering with my life. I had to get rid of them. Is stress always a bad thing? No! The right amount of stress can help people do their best work, it can boost performance and energy. Stress can help you to get ready for problems that could come up in the future: for example, if a student does not feel a bit of stress, she may not bother to study for her exam and may do poorly. In fact, it can feel boring to have too little stress. Stress becomes a problem when it is too strong or intense. For example, a student who is too stressed about an exam may panic, "blank out" and be unable to remember anything. For the teacher, it is modeling calm, gentleness, and compassion. A teacher will have experienced his own habitual urges to avoid uncomfortable or challenging experiences. Appreciating when they appear in his participants' responses requires an understanding of the release that can come when he surrenders to what is being experienced. The teacher can then see clearly what, if anything, is needed in that moment. Letting go. This is perhaps the most difficult of all the attitudinal foundations. We are inclined to want things to be a certain way. We grasp for what we want and often want more of what we like and think we need. And we tend to hold on to things long after they have ended. Interestingly, we have an equal propensity to hold on to negative situations as much as positive ones.

In mindfulness practice, by turning toward difficulty, we get to see how grasping will increase suffering. By observing this many, many times with kindness and gentleness, we are eventually released from this tendency, simply by seeing and understanding the suffering that results. Stress is also hard on the body when it goes on for too long. It can increase pain, lower the immune system, strain the heart and upset the chemical balance in the body. This can make you feel exhausted or always "on alert" for danger. There is an amount of stress that is "just right" for every task. A principle called the Yerkes-Dodson law, says people do their best work at an optimal point, when there is enough pressure to get them energized but not so much that it gets in the way. Think of a job interview for example. For the teacher, it is embodying a presence that models permission, kindness, spaciousness, and gratitude while gently holding what the practice is pointing to, namely that there is no aspect of ourselves that is not worth loving and taking care of. This is of significance throughout the MBCT program and is a core aspect of teaching and embodiment for the teacher. Nonstriving. Much of our lives involve taking responsibility for all the tasks of daily living, and of course this is important. But this doing mode of mind is inevitably goal directed and attached to outcome, which has problematic consequences when we view our internal experiences in this way. The idea of being with the unfolding nature of each moment liberates us from the constant need to be always doing something. Nonstriving supports us in being present, stimulating curiosity about what is being observed, tuning in, and turning toward various sensations regardless of how they are being experienced. Have you seriously made the commitment to reclaiming your health? If so, when did you make the commitment? And how do you plan to follow through with your commitment with your actions? List them. Have you checked with a trusted healthcare professional, certified fitness coach, and/or mentors to assist you?

If so, who are they and what is your action plan? What do you think about your new wellness and fitness partner? You know, that beautiful person you met when you looked in the mirror. Are you willing to be accountable to that person? List your actions of accountability. When did you get your I can do this attitude or aha moment about reclaiming your health? Describe it. Are you ready to let go of past hurts? If not, why? And have you requested the advice from a credentialed healthcare professional to assist you in this area? List your five favorite daily affirmations. And are you willing to say them daily? If not, why? It's easier to get straight on to the next step if you have already planned what to do and how you are going to do it. It allows you to maintain a steady pace and keep the pace going. It also gives you time to look at what is working and what isn't, and to decide if you need to change tactics. Instead of giving yourself a deadline to reach, simply focus on working consistently towards what it is you want to achieve, one step at a time. Visualizing creates the neural pathways that you will use when it comes to doing something for real. Visualizing also programs your brain to be aware of resources and information, ideas and opportunities that could help you to achieve your goals. Be prepared to change course in light of the unexpected.