Mindful Tools for Everyday Life - Week Three Handout

Worry, Guilt, Stress – Are they working for you?

Learning to Identify what is working for you and eliminate those mental habits that are not creating positive change.


What occupies your mental energy? If you had to label those thoughts, what would it be . . . judging, planning, worrying, stressing . . . Underneath all of these habits is FEAR.   We are afraid of not being good enough, not being prepared, not being loved, not being successful, not being perfect, not doing it right, etc.

Habits of the Mind –

  • Stress vs. Stressors –

“[I]t is not the potential stressor itself but how you perceive it and then how you handle it that will determine whether or not it will lead to stress.” (Dr. Seligman)

 How you see things and how you handle them, makes all the difference in the world.

  • If we feed these habits, they are like seeds and will continue to grow.
  • Our thoughts begin to have tremendous power over us.
  • Mindfulness is being aware of our thoughts. We must be aware of those thoughts, and then simply look at them for what they are.
  • These mental habits can create havoc on our bodies.
  • Stress is designed to help us get out of physical danger. We sense danger and this sets off the Amygdala, which triggers fear. People who suffer from anxiety have more reactive amygdala, leaving them feeling threatened more the time.
  • We must ask ourselves, “It there a real and present danger?” Most likely there is not and we must be aware of that there is no real danger to necessitate this fear response.

How to deal with our Mental Habits –

1)  Become aware of what we are thinking and feeling.

2)  Ask – What purpose is this serving?

3)  Worries serve no purpose and are unproductive (or counterproductive). Simply recognizing them as such. “Oh there’s that thought again, it’s just a thought.”

4)  Recognize that certain things are simply out of our control.   There is nothing we can do about it. Learn to tolerate powerlessness.   This may feel bad, but we can learn to accept it or tolerate it.

5)  What are we missing out on why we are worrying??

If we don’t foster those thoughts, they will not grow and those mental habits will lose their power and will eventually stop hooking us.

Maladaptive ways to deal with stress –

  • Overworking
  • Overeating
  • Denial
  • Drugs (prescription and non-perscription)
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking

Another option – Mindfulness Tools For Everyday Life

Building up your resources or your ability to deal with stress. Stop Reacting to Stressors and Start Responding – Choose a different Path.

(1) Breathe – When we notice a trigger or a thought, we can take a few long deep, belly breaths and create a space/pause before we respond, allowing us the opportunity to choose a different path.

  • brings our awareness to the present moment
  • helps us to find our calm center
  • brings our attention to our physical bodies
  • anchors us to a place of calm and stability
  • cuts off the stress response

(2) Present Moment Awareness – Remind ourselves that we are right here (almost never where the problem is). We can do this through being mindful of our breath, physical sensations, sounds, etc.

Thich Nhat Hahn, offers this short meditation in his book Being Peace: “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.”

(3) Thought labeling – if we can change what we see, we can change how we respond. Perception is key. So labeling what we are thinking helps us better understand our thoughts and recognize them. Awareness takes away their power and creates a space or pause.

(4) Self talk - Is this helping me? Differentiate realistic concerns from Worry. Is it happening now? There are things we can say to ourselves when we are getting hooked, that can be very helpful.

How is this serving me?

Thought is just a thought.

I am doing the best I can.

It is out of my control.

Tie up your donkey.


Meditation Practice - Meditating On Your Difficulties

You can meditate on your stressors - difficult people, difficult situations, and physical pain.

Meditating on Panic Attacks example . . . Mingyur Rinpoche's Story

Ways that don't work:

(1)  Your Panic (stressor) becomes your boss, telling you what to do and what to think. It becomes familiar to you. It becomes part of you, who you are. In some way, you like it because you know it.

(2) You hate your panic (stressor) and live in fear of it. You have a strong aversion to your panic and it becomes your enemy.

BUT (1) and (2) cause your Panic (stressor) to become stronger, your mind becomes more sensitive to panic, and more easily triggered.  It is adding fuel to the spark.

The alternative is to  make friends with your panic (stressor).

How?  Through mindfulness meditation training.  Sit with your difficulty, inviting it in.  Learn to sit with the unpleasant feeling.  Make it the object of your meditation.  This helps you to see it more clearly for what it is, and no longer allows it to control you.  You can see it as something that is not part of you, not who you are, but rather a feeling that will pass, no longer bolstered by some story and thoughts that only serve to fuel the flames.  You can also sit with it with an open heart and with compassion.  This takes away its power.  This will help you to better understand how you can work with it rather than fight against it.

All problems, difficulties or challenges (including challenging people) can become your friends, your teachers.

Sylvia Boorstein – Clinging is Suffering – Buddhist teaching that pain is inevitable, suffering is options.

“…[We often] suffer with whatever our life experience is rather than accepting and opening to our experience with wise and compassionate response. . . From this point of view, there is a big difference between pain and suffering. Pain is inevitable; lives come with pain. Suffering is not inevitable. If suffering is what happens when we struggle [against] our experience because of our inability to accept it, then suffering is optional.”