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Another time in college I had only one more final to go, and I was totally worn out. I needed some help. So I got an amphetamine pill to help me stay up all night and study. I didn't know then that I had ADD or that amphetamines are supposed to help us focus, just that it would keep me awake so that I could study. That's the only time I've ever taken an amphetamine. And it worked. Sort of. I did stay up all night and I did stay focused. But I decided that I needed a break before I started studying. I picked up a book, Of Human Bondage, by Somerset Maugham. That's a very good book. And also quite long. I did stay up all night and I did stay focused: I read all of Of Human Bondage. Beginning to end. I finally finished it in the early morning and had about fifteen minutes to study before I had to go take the final. Didn't do too well on that one either. So, breaks can be a trap. So, if you had visualized travelling to a particular area in France and someone at work mentioned restaurants in that part of France, your ears would prick up; you'd be more alert to that information. It's your brain's reticular activating system working for you; bringing to your attention relevant information. Furthermore, if you can imagine yourself achieving something, your brain then believes and accepts that it is, indeed, possible and that you can do it.

The future you see is the future you get. (If you constantly visualize not being able to do something, your brain believes and accepts that too.) Your brain can't tell the difference between having visualized making that journey to a foreign country, for example, and having done it for real. And, as you know, if you've done something successfully once, you're more likely to believe you can do it again. This helps build confidence. And that's positive thinking! We do need breaks if we're studying or working on any long project, but we also need a way to limit the breaks, so they don't become traps. I'm not good at this, and I don't have any great strategies for it. An alarm clock or timer can be helpful, if I can force myself to follow them. But it's easy to just turn them off or reset them. Sometimes I can enlist my wife to help me, "Please come call me in ten minutes and remind me to get back to work." Or sometimes I can set another kind of limit, "I will read one chapter and then get back to work". That didn't work with Of Human Bondage though, and it didn't work with computer games either - "Oh well, just one more game and then I'll go back to work." If you have a good strategy for controlling breaks I would be happy to hear from you. There have been a lot of changes in my life in the last few years, including retiring and becoming a grandmother. I thought this would be a happy time in my life, but I am really struggling, especially since my budget is tighter than before. And now my MS became progressive, and I worry a lot more about the future. Any change in life can be stressful, even good changes. Now could be a good time to look at how you manage stress, notice what is working well for you, and see where you could try new strategies. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for controlling body systems that you don't need (or want) to think about like your heart rate, breathing and digestion. It has two modes of operating: "fight or flight" and "rest and digest." The stress response sends energy resources to body systems that help us fight or run better, while taking energy away from other body systems that help with long-term well-being. The "rest and digest" response works the opposite way, and prioritizes the systems that help with long-term health. When the stress response turns on, many changes occur in the body, and to emotions and actions.

It helps to know your early warning signs of stress because they can help you to notice when stress is building up. If you live with stress for a long time, it can feel normal, and you may not recognize when you need to take action to ease the stress until you are overwhelmed. It is much easier to turn off a small stress response than a big one--just like it is easier to put out a campfire than a forest fire. I noticed that during times when my stress was really bad, I would have a hard time walking. I would trip and fall a lot more, and would take days to recover. I really want to notice when my stress begins to increase and do something about it right away--before I start having falls. What Are Your Signs of Stress? Take a moment to check off any signs of stress you notice, or others notice in you. When you notice these signs of stress--be glad! You now have the chance to take care of your stress before it gets too big. Later, this chapter will talk about some ways to help yourself in times of stress. Beginner's mind. Beginner's mind is a key aspect of mindfulness practice. It prompts us to recognize when the mind has wandered off and escort it back with a commitment to begin again. It also allows us to be open to what the program has to offer, unfiltered by preconceived notions and judgments about mindfulness. And it allows us to let each moment be a fresh one, unfettered by the past or the future. For the teacher, it means maintaining an openness to each moment and recognizing that he will not necessarily know how it will present itself. It will also mean the dropping of expectations about how, what, and when learning will unfold for each individual and for the group. By embodying a gentle presence that understands the many modes of mind and behaviors that take us away from the present, a teacher articulates the process of beginning again. Nonjudging.

Nonjudging is the suspension of the mode of comparing, evaluating, and expressing preference. We are often most harsh toward ourselves and critical of how we measure up, especially if we are prone to or struggling with depression and anxiety. Awareness of our judging minds, and the ability to be with our experience without judgment, is key. For the teacher, it is the practice of embodying a friendly curiosity without immediately rushing to judgment, comparison, or evaluation. He embodies steadiness and patience through personal knowledge of the frequent intolerant cognitive modes of self-criticism, disparagement, and blame. A sense of kindness accompanies nonjudgment because meeting the judging mind with more judging makes things much worse. Practice mindful meditation, yoga, tai chi, and or other mental/physical exercises for strengthening your mind, body, and soul. Practice energy healing. Knowing the path is different from walking the path. This is what I would like you to do right now. Sit down for the next hour or so and write down the answers to the following questions. Remember, your answers will be the foundation and the root of your successful health, wellness, and lifestyle journey. Acceptance. When we get in touch with the contents of the mind and heart, aspects of ourselves that are difficult or unwanted can be revealed. Acceptance is the befriending of these challenges, finding a way to give them as much space as they need, and allowing them to be known just as they are. This acceptance is neither passive nor resigned, and does not require us to like our experience, but requires a compassionate courage to witness what is arising and to act only when needed. Walk into a room where there is a mirror, preferably a full-length mirror. Now take a close look at yourself. Yes, all of you--the beautiful person standing there. Meet your new wellness leader.

That is the person who will be with you 24/7/365 days of the year to help take you to your victory. Understand that every day, you are accountable to that person you see in the mirror. Know that you are your only competition. And you are the only one who can get in your way. If you cheat, you are only cheating yourself. Tell that person in the mirror that you plan to win, win, and win. Every day, know that you are transforming your life through self-care and tapping into your deep beauty and inner worth. Of the thousands of people I have worked with, the ones who were able to achieve and sustain success went beyond the physical aspects of self-care. They had a solid spiritual connection. Some achieved it through meditation. Others were connected to their faith community. Many combined multiple practices. Practice your spiritual connection and beliefs daily. Whatever you want to do and however you've chosen to go about it, you don't need to have fixed plans. As you work towards whatever it is that you want to achieve, you may need to adjust the steps you intend to take as a result of new knowledge and experience. You will need to be flexible and open to the fact that problems might arise. Be prepared to change course in light of the unexpected. This doesn't mean that you're giving up on a great idea. It means that you're not limiting your chance of success by focusing on just one way to accomplish it. If, when you were planning how to achieve your goal, you looked at all your options for achieving what you wanted, you would already have identified a Plan B.