Category Archives: Mindfulness

Mindfulness and focusing

Do you do just enough thinking and end up making little real progress?

Are some parts of the day, week, month or year better for certain types of work than others?

Writing on his blog Study Hacks, Georgetown Professor Cal Newport sees the benefits of deep concentration as a technique to allocate time, focus and become more productive and efficient.

First, reduce the “overhead” you spend remembering where you left off and getting your mind ready to concentrate each time you only spend a few hours focusing on a problem.

When you focus on a specific deep work goal for 10 to 15 hours – two days immersed in deep work – you might produce more results than two months of scheduling just an hour a day.

Second, since your body works in cycles, match your rhythms. Consider your planning during a certain time and then another for actually executing.

This deep concentration probably yields better results than trying to mix everything together.

And multi-tasking? Fuhgeddaboudit!



Anxiety and you

Have you felt anxious at some point in your life?

Frequent worrier?

Have illness, being fired, feeling discriminated, unemployment, job searching, new job, moving to a new city— made you feel stressed and overloaded?

Have you had full blown panic attacks – chest pain, palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath and dizziness?

Is your anxiety becoming part of a cycle of doubt, worry, fear, inaction, paralysis, depression?

“You need some anxiety in your life and it’s there for a reason. It’s what motivates us to work and keeps us out of trouble,” says Dr. Tom Rebori, medical director of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Center at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare in Illinois.

If anxiety is interfering with your daily life – disrupting sleep or concentration – it could mean that you have an anxiety disorder. New treatments and research offer good news: anxiety disorders are highly treatable.

Here are the four main anxiety disorders, plus tips and techniques to cope with them and learn to deal with them.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

In the last six months, have you spent half of the days worrying?

Excessive worrying — which interferes with daily life — also causes physical symptoms like low energy, sleep disturbances, muscle tension, sweating, nausea and difficulty concentrating.

Here are two ways of coping.

Keep a worry log so you see patterns and learn to replace negative thinking with another thought until you gradually change your inner dialogue.

Set up “worry periods.” Dr. Dave Carbonell at Anxiety Treatment Center in New York tells patients to set up two 10-minute worry periods every day where they can isolate themselves. By giving their full attention to the worry, it becomes boring because there’s not that much content to it.

Panic Disorder

Scared of losing control, that you’re dying or fearful that you’re going crazy?

Panic attacks occur in certain settings—a crowded mall, elevators. You can associate a situation with that reaction and start avoiding certain situations. Just because you’ve had a panic attack doesn’t mean you have panic disorder, though, unless you’ve had at least two unexpected panic attacks, followed by at least one month of concern about experiencing another attack.

Getting to understand what’s happening is key to treating the disorder: facing (not avoiding certain situations), accepting (not fighting the panic attack, but welcoming it), floating (relaxing through the anxiety without resistance, like floating through water) and letting time pass (knowing that the attack will pass).


Social phobias involve an intense fear of situations – usually social or performance-related settings – for fear of having a panic attack.

Specific phobias involve an excessive fear of an object or situation that causes anxious symptoms similar to a panic attack.

Social phobias are treated the same as panic disorders. For specific phobias, the common treatment is gradual exposure.

The first step is to talk about the fear to begin to understand that you won’t die or go crazy when in contact with object or situation.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Whereas GAD patients worry about the future, PTSD involves worrying about something that happened.

PTSD is a condition where sufferers have been through some kind of traumatic experience. The symptoms are a heightened degree of arousal, nightmares or recurring thoughts, feelings of detachment, sleep problems, high startle response or jumpiness, flashbacks and depression.

Treatment is learning how to live in the present through relaxation.

Anxiety disorder symptoms can come and go. Yet it makes common sense to ease stress, eat healthier and exercise – lifetime habits that will help in the long run.

Set aside time every day for relaxing – use aPrayer, meditate, go for a mindful walk, enjoy a hot or naked yoga session, listen to music, soak in a hot bath – anything where you’re just being you.

For more information:

Edmund J. Bourne, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, New Harbinger Publications: 2000.

Anxiety Disorders Association of America

National Institute of Mental Health


Are you a good judge of people?

The most critical choices we make relate to people.

Being a good judge of people, however, is difficult – particularly when you throw in eons of biological prejudices or cultural biases, stigmas and discrimination.

How do you get better at sizing up first impressions?

Do you focus on extrinsic markers?


Try a little self-help

Sixty percent of DC-area residents believe psychologists can help them cope with mental health issues.

Here’s a self-help method to complement therapies!


How do you structure your journaling?

Use your journal, written or recorded, as an invitation to come forward, as a moment to meditate and reflect on your prayer and what you’ve seen, felt and experienced throughout your day.

How did I become aware?

How was I grateful?

Which aspects of my day’s experience or prayer excited, troubled, impressed, inspired or unnerved me?

What challenges did I face?

Which thoughts, emotions and feelings surfaced?

How did I acknowledge them?

What became of them?

What commitments did I make and what happened around those commitments?

What choices did I make? How did I discern?

Which feelings and emotions surfaced?

What made me smile and laugh?

What results and successes made me happy?

How do I look toward tomorrow?

Use the questions as a platform to help you gain clarity and keep you focused.

Use the questions to keep you writing!


How to use your journal

To get started, buy a notebook, start a computer file, create an easy private blog or use the journaling feature on aPrayer.

Date each entry for each day. Each entry should be at least two or three paragraphs or a page or two in length.

Write your first entry on the process of starting your journal.

Write your second entry on your first impressions journaling. Then take off on your own.

Read and reread your entries so that you can see your own development.


For more, Mark Cooper, Reflection: Getting Learning Out of Serving, Florida International University.

How often do you take stock?

Where are you today?

Where are you today on a scale of 1-10 in each of these areas:

Professional/Career Health
Financial Health
Wellness/Physical Health
Spiritual Health
Emotional Health
Relationship/Support Systems Health

Each segment represents a part of your circle of personal perspective. Each is an integral part of your life. At home. At work.


Rodin, The Thinker, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Do you have a mindfulness playlist?

Music’s calming effects can also help you focus and become mindful.

If you do use it for mindfulness, what are some of your favorite songs on it and why?

If you don’t, what songs would you pick to get one started?

A smartphone is an ideal way to keep a mindful music list to listen any time you need it throughout your day.


Deep breathing for relaxation

Deep breathing is a simple but effective method of relaxation.

Taking “10 deep breaths” to calm down does work!

To reduce stress, try it along with progressive muscular relaxation, relaxation visualization, mindfulness and aPrayer.