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Online Mindfulness-based Stress Management


Learn how to manage stress through mindfulness therapy


STRESS MANAGEMENT ONLINE

ONLINE MINDFULNESS-BASED STRESS MANAGEMENT VIA SKYPE

Mindfulness Therapy provides one of the most effective trainings available for managing stress more effectively by teaching you how to overcome the habitual emotional reactions and reactive thinking that causes chronic stress.

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online mindfulness-based stress management
Online mindfulness-based stress management

Emotional stress is something that we all experience when we have to cope with the many demands and responsibilities of home and work. Stress can be defined as an intense emotional and physiological reaction to a situation or the mental representation of a situation as a memory or anticipation.

Chronic stress is produced when stress reactions do not resolve themselves and become habitual. The sustained physiological effects of chronic stress can have a serious effect on the body and lead to an increased risk of disease.

The psychological effects of chronic stress produce fatigue, poor concentration and an impaired ability to perform tasks, which leads to more stress. Stress produces a general feeling of helplessness and negativity, both of which reinforce the stress reactions. We feel a lack of vitality, enthusiasm and creativity. Many people describe chronic stress as a heavy blackness that covers everything.

Chronic stress can result in an increased chance of accidents as well as reducing work performance. Chronic stress also reduces our listening and learning skills and this reduces the quality of communication in our personal relationships and family. Chronic stress is a problem that greatly impacts those around us as well as reducing the quality of our own life.

When left untreated, chronic stress can lead to problems with anger management, which in turn feeds the underlying stress reactions. Stress can also lead to depression and addiction, which is a common reaction to depression.

Other specific areas for stress management:

Online Mindfulness-based Stress Management

Welcome. My name is Peter Strong. I’m a professional psychotherapist based in Colorado and I teach Mindfulness Therapy online through Skype for the management of stress, for working with anxiety and depression and also for help with recovery from addictions.

So when we’re working with stress, we need to understand that stress is produced by our subjective reactions. Stress does not exist externally. This is the fundamental error that we tend to make, that we think that we are stressed because… and then we fill in the particular reasons such as “I am stressed because I have too much work to do.””I am stressed because I’m not making enough money to pay the bills.””I am stressed because of my health.” “I am stressed because my children are not doing well at school.” And so it goes on.

We believe that those causes are the reason why we experience stress. But the fact is that those external factors are not the cause of our stress. They are triggers. This is the term that we use in mindfulness therapy and mindfulness training.

We understand there are triggers that trigger habitual conditioned reactions. Those are the subjective reactions that create, the suffering. So the trigger triggers those habitual reactions. If you change the habitual reactions, then those triggers will not create stress. They won’t create that emotional anguish and fear that is associated with stress.

So in the approach that I teach, mindfulness therapy, for the management of stress, we first of all, look for all these triggers. We make a list of them, all of the reasons why we think we are suffering stress. And then we start to change these blinds, underlying habits, the subjective habits, that are the actual cause of the stress.

So we do this by learning how to meditate on those stressful triggers. So we meditate mindfully, bringing those stress triggers into their mind, but seeing them with complete conscious awareness, with mindfulness. We watch for the emotional reaction to those triggers that creates the feeling of irritation or anger or fear. When we see that emotional reaction, we learn to turn it into an object. This is developing what we call “objective consciousness.”

We see the emotion as an object, instead of what we usually do, which is to become completely identified with that emotional reaction, “I am stressed because…” When we see the emotion as an object, we break that linkage between the trigger and the emotional reaction.

And then we start to work with the emotional reaction, whether it’s anger or irritation or fear and we help it heal by developing a compassionate relationship with that emotion.

Part of what helps it heal is actually not to feed it by becoming identified with it, because then what happens is that reaction, that emotional reaction, then triggers more thought reactions. And those thought reactions reinforce the underline stress, the emotional reaction of stress.

So, typically stress is produced by this runaway proliferation of habitual reactive thoughts, and that all happens unconsciously without us really being involved at a conscious level, we have no choice, it’s conditioned, it’s a habit. Stress is fundamentally a habit. It’s a reactive habit. It’s not caused by those external factors.

So the best way to overcome any habit is to make it conscious. And that is the focus of Mindfulness Therapy and Mindfulness Meditation Therapy where we learn to meditate on the stress to see those reactions and to break free from the blind, habitual nature of those reactions. We see them as objects. When you see the reaction as an object you now have choice. You don’t have to react and suffer. You can actually start to interact with that objects in a way that helps it heal.

One of the primary methods that we use in healing the stress reactions, the emotional stress reactions, is to work with their imagery. So all emotions are based around imagery, psychological imagery. This is how the mind organizes emotional energy into particular emotions such as anger, irritation, stress, fear, depression and so on.

So that imagery is really what determines the emotion, it’s what makes the emotion happen. Well, when we are meditating on our emotions we can start to investigate imagery. And then we can help that imagery change, because when the imagery changes, the emotion changes. This is a primary, natural psychological mechanism that the mind uses to process emotion.

Generally, when an emotion is activated, there is strong emotional imagery and then over a short period of time, typically, that emotional imagery diminishes in size, becomes much less intense in its imagery, and that makes the emotion less intense, also. So this is how the mind processes emotions. So they start off very big, very vivid in color and detail, very close. And then over time, those the imagery changes, its structure changes, becomes further away, smaller, more faded, less intense color and detail and so on.

That’s a natural process. That’s how the mind is able to process emotions, by changing the imagery of the emotion. So when the emotion doesn’t resolve itself it is because that imagery gets stuck. So our job during meditation on the stress is to see what that imagery is that is stuck.

And classically, the imagery of stress can be described as having too many thoughts, too many objects, in too smaller space. So there’s a tremendous sense of chaos of, of a clustering of reactive thoughts in a very small space, and that creates the feeling of stress, being overwhelms.

In fact, that term feeling “overwhelmed” is very interesting because it tells us something about the position of the stress emotion. It tells us that it’s very large and that is above us in a high position in our psychological fields of vision, how we see it internally.

So it has to be big, it has to be formed of a chaotic assembly of thought objects in a small space in order to create stress. If you see that imagery, you can start to work with it. Once you become conscious of it, you can start to change that imagery. The imagery is formed out of habit, just like the emotion. It’s purely habit, meaning that it’s operating out of awareness.

But when we bring it into awareness, that always restores an element of choice. We can begin to re-train and that imagery and help the emotion heal.

So a classic thing that you will learn to do during our Skype Therapy sessions together is learning how to work with this imagery, the imagery of stress. And the classic thing that we start with, straightaway, is learning to move those thoughts, the thoughts that feeds the stress emotion.

So classically, what you will do is you’ll see those thoughts as reactive, stress-based thoughts and then you move them and put them further away and also move them to a lower level. Put them on the floor.

So you’re changing the imagery. When you create more space in that way around the thoughts, you will find that the thoughts become less stressful.

An analogy we often use here is to imagine the thoughts being like bees or mosquitoes or flies. If there’s a lot of them very close to you, then that causes a lot of distress. But if you move those bees or flies further away, put them in a field, there’s no stress. Even though it’s the same bees or flies.

So technically, it’s not the thoughts that cause stress, it is the lack of space around those thoughts that causes the stress. So that lack of space, that’s part of the imagery of how we see those thoughts. If they’re too close, they will be intense and they will exert a lot of emotional effect on you. But if they’re far away, they will have much less emotional power.So we learn to move our thoughts. And this can be immensely effective. Certainly something you can try yourself.

So that’s one example of how to work with stress during our meditation. Meditation is not designed to create an alternate reality to stress. Meditation is not trying to create an altered state of consciousness that is not stress. No, meditation is for the purpose of exploring how your mind creates stress so you can change that. Meditation is a process of investigating the mind. Mindfulness mindfulness meditation is about investigating how the mind creates emotional suffering. And then exploring how to resolve that emotional suffering.

Mindfulness meditation was developed by the Buddha. The Buddha’s primary interest was in the resolution of suffering because he saw that that is what stops us or keeps us from expressing our True Self, our natural nature, which is very positive and very joyful and free from suffering in its natural state. We simply get distracted from our natural state of being by becoming identified with our stress reactions, these blind habitual reactions.

So if we want to restore happiness in our life, the best way to do that is to look at those things that are keeping you away from being happy, that are inhibiting that natural expression of happiness, which is your natural state of being.

So this is why we use meditation to explore what is stopping me from being happy. What is causing this suffering? Not a natural state. So I’m not going to blindly accept that. I want to see how that works. And I want to start changing that blind habit, because that’s all it is. Stress is the result of habit. In fact, anxiety and depression also are the result of blind, habitual reactions. Emotional suffering is the result of blind habitual reactions that we simply don’t see.

So our job in mindfulness training is to awaken to the cause of our suffering, and that goes beyond simple stress and irritation and anger, to look at depression, anxiety and emotional trauma as well, as in PTSD. We look to see how does this work? How do I create my emotional suffering? What are those subjective processes at work and how can I help them change?

So this is a brief introduction to mindfulness therapy for the management of stress. If you’d like to learn more and you’d like to schedule some Skype Therapy sessions with me, then simply go to the Contact Page and send me an email.

Ask any questions you may have and let’s schedule some Skype Therapy sessions so you can learn how to manage your stress using mindfulness.

The approach is very effective. Most people see dramatic changes and improvements within a matter of weeks once you start really getting on top of your blind habitual reactions that are the real cause of your stress.

So please contact me if this interests you and let’s get you some Skype Therapy sessions. Thank you.

GO TO MY CONTACT PAGE ME TO LEARN HOW TO START SKYPE THERAPY WITH ME

Stress is a Habit – Habits can be changed

It is well recognized that stress reactions are learned and originate from the influence of our own mental outlook and from belief patterns acquired from our parents, family and culture. Stress always contains both an objective component and a subjective component and in most situations it is the habitual subjective emotional reactivity that generates the emotional tension and physiological changes of stress.

There is pain and there is suffering. Pain is the objective component that is often inevitable or unavoidable, but suffering is a subjective reaction that we generate and add to the pain. The Buddha described this subjective suffering as dukkha and not surprisingly, mindfulness, which is one of the main teachings of the Buddha, was and continues to be very relevant for working with and resolving emotional stress.

The main problem is that we believe that our stress is caused by objective causes, as in “I am upset because I have too much work to do and not enough time to do it in”, and “I am stressed because I can’t afford to pay my bills.” We blindly accept the because as on objective causal connection. But the reality is something quite different.

There is no because.

Stressful situations are NOT the cause of our stress; they are triggers, but not the cause of our stress. Stress and all forms of emotional reactivity are subjective, they are our personal reactions to those triggers. To put it bluntly, WE CREATE OUR STRESS and we do that through the blind attachment, called Reactive Identification, to those subjective habitual reactions.

There is nothing inherently stressful in not being able to pay a bill. We make it stressful through our unquestioned habitual reactivity to that fact. And we know this is the case because we see how different people respond in totally different ways to the same triggers. In fact, you know also that you will react differently at different times to the same triggers depending on your mood and other factors. Clearly the triggers, the objective facts, are not the cause of our suffering.

online mindfulness-based stress management. Talk to an Online Mindfulness Therapist via Skype for help with Postnatal Depression

WORKING WITH STRESS REACTIONS USING MINDFULNESS

All habitual emotional reactions rely on two elements – ignorance and emotional energy. The first task in MMT is called RECOGNITION, in which we learn to recognize our stress reactions as they arise in stressful situations. This counteracts the automatic and mechanical part of what makes a reaction habitual. The maxim of MMT is that all change begins with mindfulness and awareness is the first and most important step. However, what keeps a reaction alive is the associated emotional charge without which the reaction would have no power to cause stress. MMT teaches us how to form a non-reactive relationship, the Mindfulness Based Relationship, with this underlying emotional energy that compels us to react.

The mindfulness relationship is very important. This is where we allow ourselves to open our awareness and investigate the emotional energy, which is quite different to our usual reaction of ignorance, avoidance or aversion.

Mindfulness creates a therapeutic space that allows the emotion to unfold and undergo transformation. If you give it space it will change. This is one of the great discoveries made by the Buddha, 2500 years ago and which we are rediscovering today. It is not what we do that matters as much as how we relate to our emotional stress. When this relationship is based on the receptivity and openness of mindfulness, then we create the best possible conditions in which the emotional tension can resolve itself.

Without this emotional power, there is nothing to sustain the reaction and life-long patterns of stress producing reactivity begin to dissolve, leaving you free from their compulsive grip. Like the petals of a lotus bud that were previously held and constrained so tightly, the mind begins to explore a new freedom with all its possibilities and choices. This is the freedom that the Buddha talked about and that is possible for all of us to discover through the practice of mindfulness.

MMT teaches you how to apply mindfulness to resolve your patterns of habitual reactivity so that you can realize your full potential and enjoy your life and relationships to the full.

ONLINE STRESS MANAGEMENT

anxiety therapy over Skype

Emotional stress is something that we all experience when we have to cope with the many demands and responsibilities of home and work. Stress can be defined as an intense emotional and physiological reaction to a situation or the mental representation of a situation as a memory or anticipation. Chronic stress is produced when stress reactions do not resolve themselves and become habitual. The sustained physiological effects of chronic stress can have a serious effect on the body and lead to an increased risk of disease. The psychological effects of chronic stress produce fatigue, poor concentration and an impaired ability to perform tasks, which leads to more stress. Stress produces a general feeling of helplessness and negativity, both of which reinforce the stress reactions. We feel a lack of vitality, enthusiasm and creativity. Many people describe chronic stress as a heavy blackness that covers everything. Chronic stress can result in an increased chance of accidents as well as reducing work performance. Chronic stress also reduces our listening and learning skills and this reduces the quality of communication in our personal relationships and family. Chronic stress is a problem that greatly impacts those around us as well as reducing the quality of our own life.

It is well recognized that stress reactions are learned and originate from the influence of our own mental outlook and from belief patterns acquired from our parents, family and culture. Stress always contains both an objective component and a subjective component and in most situations it is the habitual subjective emotional reactivity that generates the emotional tension and physiological changes of stress. There is pain and there is suffering. Pain is the objective component that is often inevitable or unavoidable, but suffering is a subjective reaction that we generate and add to the pain. The Buddha described this subjective suffering as dukkha and not surprisingly, mindfulness, which is one of the main teachings of the Buddha, was and continues to be very relevant for working with and resolving emotional stress.

WORKING WITH STRESS REACTIONS

All habitual emotional reactions rely on two elements – ignorance and emotional energy. The first task in Mindfulness Meditation Therapy (MMT) is called RECOGNITION, in which we learn to recognize our stress reactions as they arise in stressful situations. This counteracts the automatic and mechanical part of what makes a reaction habitual. The maxim of MMT is that all change begins with mindfulness and awareness is the first and most important step. However, what keeps a reaction alive is the associated emotional charge without which the reaction would have no power to cause stress. MMT teaches us how to form a non-reactive relationship, the Mindfulness Based Relationship, with this underlying emotional energy that compels us to react.

The mindfulness relationship is very important. This is where we allow ourselves to open our awareness and investigate the emotional energy, which is quite different to our usual reaction of ignorance, avoidance or aversion.

Mindfulness creates a therapeutic space that allows the emotion to unfold and undergo transformation. If you give it space it will change. This is one of the great discoveries made by the Buddha, 2500 years ago and which we are rediscovering today. It is not what we do that matters as much as how we relate to our emotional stress. When this relationship is based on the receptivity and openness of mindfulness, then we create the best possible conditions in which the emotional tension can resolve itself. Without this emotional power, there is nothing to sustain the reaction and life-long patterns of stress producing reactivity begin to dissolve, leaving you free from their compulsive grip. Like the petals of a lotus bud that were previously held and constrained so tightly, the mind begins to explore a new freedom with all its possibilities and choices. This is the freedom that the Buddha talked about and that is possible for all of us to discover through the practice of mindfulness. MMT teaches you how to apply mindfulness to resolve your patterns of habitual reactivity so that you can realize your full potential and enjoy your life and relationships to the full.

Stress and anxiety are produced by habitual patterns of negative thinking and emotional reactivity. You can re-train the mind through the application of mindfulness, one of the most powerful forms of self-help skills available. You can learn these skills through individualized online coaching-therapy, using Skype. A convenient way to learn the skills you need to overcome stress, anxiety and depression and to improve the quality of your life. Email me today to learn more about Online Mindfulness Therapy.

Online Mindfulness Meditation Psychotherapy is a form of coaching, using Skype in which individuals work with an expert in the area of mindfulness-based counseling. This convenient approach is proving to be the number one choice for learning the skills needed for overcoming anxiety and stress.

The single major cause of emotional suffering and stress in our lives comes from the accumulated habitual emotional reactions to life events that we acquire through unconscious learning. We become victims of recurrent negative thoughts and patterns of emotional reactivity that operate automatically in the mind, and that operate outside the sphere of conscious choice. We become prisoners of our habitual thinking and suffer accordingly. Therefore, it stands to reason that if we want to reduce our level of emotional stress and suffering, we must learn new strategies to counteract and neutralize our conditioned habitual reactivity, and regain freedom and choice in how to respond to the demands of life.

Mindfulness Meditation Therapy teaches you how to work with your habitual reactivity through a series of exercises designed to help you recognize reactivity and then defuse this reactivity through mindfulness. Mindfulness is empowering, restoring freedom and choice, while creating the right inner space that allows emotions to unfold and resolve at the core level. Mindfulness training stops you from being the victim of conditioned stress reactions, and puts you back in the driving seat, allowing you to control how you want to feel, rather than simply falling under the spell of your habitual reactivity. The approach is relatively easy to learn and can be communicated very well through email correspondence and online webcam sessions.

Stress

It is 8am and you wake up after a difficult night’s sleep only to discover that the alarm didn’t go off. This makes you very agitated as you realize that you will be late for work and your boss told you off for being late only last week. You tumble out of bed and rush down stairs for breakfast. No coffee. You become flustered at the prospect of starting the day without coffee, and you lose your temper with your partner for forgetting to turn on the coffee maker. Then you feel guilty about being angry, and that weighs heavily on your mind as you climb into your car. The car won’t start. Now you are furious, because you recently paid a lot of money to have the car serviced. Being late, you hit rush hour and have to deal with all the frustrations of slow traffic, which increases your stress level to boiling point. Things are made even worse when a car cuts in front of you, and you explode with anger and yell at the driver. The driver turns out to be an old lady, and you feel embarrassed and guilty for your inappropriate reactions. Eventually you make it to the office, but there is nowhere to park, since you are late and you become even more dejected. Exhausted, you finally make it to the office, sit down at your work and begin a day doing a job that you don’t enjoy in an environment that you hate and with people who do not seem to appreciate how hard you try. The boss says he wants to see you and panic sets in.

Does this sound familiar?

For much of the time we live as slaves to the negative habitual emotional reactions of agitation, disappointment, frustration, anger, guilt, stress, anxiety and fear. The emotional suffering is not caused by being late or the difficult drive to work. These may be a source of pain, but are not sufficient to cause mental suffering. Suffering is always a product of the way we react to such events and these subjective reactions are something that we have learned unconsciously. As the saying goes,

“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.”

We learn to react with anger and disappointment when things don’t go our way, in exactly the same way that we learn to be happy when our expectations are fulfilled. This is an important point, because although we cannot have complete control over external events, we can control how we react to them. If you remain attached to your reactions, then you will suffer as long as those attachments remain in place. This is what mindfulness is all about: learning to recognize your reactions and then responding to each of them with mindfulness, and through that process of touching each reaction with mindfulness, you learn to let go of your subjective reactions.

Mindfulness is something that we are all familiar with at some level. We learn to be mindful when painting a picture or doing any activity that requires concentration. If we are wise, we will practice mindfulness when listening to our spouse or friend. We all know how important it is to listen with an open mind and be completely present. If you are not present, and lost in your own thoughts or lost in your own impulse to try and fix things, then your partner will probably feel that you are not listening, and communication will suffer. Being mindful, means being aware of what is happening right now, in the present moment. This means recognizing all that happens in the subjective world of your own reactions, as well as in the objective world of experience. In order to be fully present, you must be mindful of both internal and external events.

In our usual unaware and unmindful state, we let our thoughts and emotions run wild, like unsupervised children, and this leads to confusion, disorder and emotional stress. Developing the skill of mindfulness means that we stop, look and listen to what is going on in the mind. We teach ourselves to recognize a thought when it arises and to see an emotional reaction when it arises. This is learning to recognize the contents of the mind and to respond to it with mindfulness. Now this is immensely important, because in that brief moment of mindful recognition there arises a moment of choice, before we become lost in the thought or emotional reaction. In mindfulness practice, we learn to recognize this interval and cultivate it so that it becomes longer in duration and stronger. With practice, we gain a completely different perception, and see the contents of the mind as objects, like the children in the classroom. We begin to see that we do not have to react, that we do not have to be dragged into reactivity by the thoughts or by the emotions that arise in the mind. We can learn to say, “Thanks, but no thanks. I choose not to react right now.” This is a completely different scenario than our usual impulsive reactivity, where we are compelled to react according to whatever content happens to arise in the mind.

What we learn during Mindfulness Meditation Therapy is to make a fundamental shift in our identity from being identified with the contents of our mind, to being the knowing of the contents of our mind. Anger, disappointment, frustration, anxiety arise, but now we don’t identify with this content; we simply say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and remain mindful, observing and knowing what is present, but without the further reactivity that simply makes things worse. This is learning to see that we are not the same as our thoughts, but that we are actually much bigger than any of the thoughts, emotions or negative beliefs that arise. Our essential nature is as the container of all this content, the conscious space that contains; the pure knowing itself. This fundamental shift from being our thoughts to being the knowing of our thoughts is the most important first step on the path of inner transformation, and mindfulness is an excellent tool for cultivating this new state of being.

Mindfulness Meditation for Managing Stress

We can practice mindfulness throughout the day in all our activities: in our physical actions; when speaking; and most importantly of all, the activities of our mind. This is cultivating mindfulness of body, speech and mind. What we are learning through mindfulness is to be more present for all these activities, whilst also learning to be mindful of any impulse to react to any activities involving body, speech and mind.

Set yourself a task. Challenge yourself to be mindful when talking to a friend or colleague. Besides learning to be mindful of these activities, also look closely for any impulses to react emotionally. Look for anything that causes agitation and pulls you off balance. Recognize these reactions and respond to them with mindfulness.

It’s also good to set aside 15-30 minutes each day to practice mindfulness meditation. Not having to deal with lots of distractions and demands can give you time to really work on your mindfulness skills. Mindfulness meditation means turning your attention inwards to examine the mind in detail and in depth. The more familiar you become with all the activities, impulses and habitual reactivity that constitute the mind, the less control they will have over you, and the more freedom you will experience. It is always what you don’t see that does you the most harm, and mindfulness meditation is learning to see exactly what is present in the mind. When we become cut off, or dissociated, from our inner emotions, they will control us. The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to reconnect with these inner parts that clearly needs our attention and care.

Take a few minutes to relax and then close the eyes and go inside and get in touch with that inner stillness that lies just beneath the surface when we let go of thinking and reacting. Spend the first part of your meditation session residing in this inner stillness and watch for the arising of thoughts, worries and other mental objects, which will inevitably arise. Greet each thought, feeling or impulse. Acknowledge it and then gently let go of it and return your attention back to the still center. You my notice sounds, sensations in the body, or other physical sensations. Note each sense object as it enters your field of consciousness and then respond by gently letting go. In this way you cultivate the inner place of pure knowing that is still, tranquil and not reactive. This inner state of composure and stability is called samadhi, and as we develop samadhi, we develop a very powerful inner resource and strength that helps us maintain balance and prevents us from becoming reactive. After we have developed the felt-sense of this inner center of stillness, then we can proceed to the more difficult step of investigating our patterns of emotional reactivity.

Imagine a scenario – past, present or future – that you know is a hot bed of reactivity. Perhaps a recent argument with a spouse, or something that you are worrying about, or some topic that creates anxiety and stress in your life.

Now practice learning to recognize any emotional impulses that arise and try to pull you off balance into thinking or becoming upset or agitated. Learn to recognize each mental object, each thought, feeling and impulse, and respond to each with mindfulness and just see it as it is. When you respond with mindfulness in this way, then in each moment of mindful-contact, you are also spontaneously letting go of the impulse to react. Notice how, each moment of mindfulness returns you to that inner stillness and inner calmness that is not identified with the reactive content of the mind.

This is not an easy process, and it will take time to develop, but what could be more important than learning not to react; of developing inner freedom and choice; of cultivating the inner strength and stability of mind in the midst of the chaos of our lives? If you make the effort, you can develop the skill of mindfulness, and it will grow exponentially as you begin to experience the benefits of not being the victim of the ups and downs of life. Every response of mindfulness strengthens the mind; every reaction based on unawareness weakens the mind. Mindfulness energizes our being; reactivity drains the mind and spirit. Mindfulness makes us more compassionate; reactivity makes us more violent.

The choice is yours: responsiveness or reactivity; mindfulness or suffering. Good luck!

anxiety treatment online

Stress is caused by patterns of habitual emotional reactivity and negative thinking. Mindfulness Therapy teaches us how to overcome this reactivity and heal the underlying emotions that feed our stress.

OVERCOMING EMOTIONAL STRESS REACTIONS

Emotional stress is something that we all experience when we have to cope with the many demands and responsibilities of home and work. Stress can be defined as an intense emotional and physiological reaction to a situation or the mental representation of a situation as a memory or anticipation. Chronic stress is produced when stress reactions do not resolve themselves and become habitual. The sustained physiological effects of chronic stress can have a serious effect on the body and lead to an increased risk of disease. The psychological effects of chronic stress produce fatigue, poor concentration and an impaired ability to perform tasks, which leads to more stress. Stress produces a general feeling of helplessness and negativity, both of which reinforce the stress reactions. This produces a lack of vitality, enthusiasm and creativity and many people describe chronic stress as a heavy blackness that covers everything and in its severe form, chronic stress leads to depression. Chronic stress can result in an increased chance of accidents as well as reducing work performance. Chronic stress also reduces our listening and learning skills and this reduces the quality of communication in our personal relationships and family.

It is well recognized that stress reactions are learned and originate from the influence of our own mental outlook and from belief patterns acquired from our parents, family and culture. Stress always contains both an objective component and a subjective component and in most situations, it is the habitual subjective emotional reactivity that generates the emotional tension and physiological characteristics of stress. There is pain and there is suffering. Pain is the objective component that is often inevitable or unavoidable, but suffering is a subjective reaction that we generate and add to the pain. The Buddha described this subjective suffering as dukkha and not surprisingly, mindfulness, which is one of the central teachings of the Buddha, was and continues to be very relevant for working with and resolving emotional stress.

The other major source of stress comes from unresolved traumas that result from physical injury, assault, domestic abuse and violence. In general this kind of trauma-related stress results from experiences and associated emotional reactions that we cannot process, because they are outside of our normal range of experience. These unresolved wounds become repressed and submerge into the subconscious mind where they continue to simmer and generate a generalized anxiety. This is described as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Occasionally, in severe cases of PTSD resulting from war or other intense situations, the stress reactions will erupt as nightmares and flashbacks in which the individual re-lives the trauma.

Whatever the source of the stress reactions, it is important to understand that each reaction has an internal structure in the form of negative thoughts and beliefs and associated emotional energy that gives power to these thoughts. It is often very helpful to examine these negative thoughts and try to change them. This is the approach taken in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Another approach is to change the emotional energy that empowers the thoughts and beliefs, because without this compulsive charge, the beliefs will have no power to generate stress. This is the approach taken in MMT. Through careful attention and investigation of the emotion through mindfulness, we can uncover the internal structure of the emotion and discover what needs to change. As the structure changes, so does the emotion. Resolve this and you will neutralize the stress reactions.

OVERCOMING STRESS REACTIONS: THE FOUR Rs

Stress is generated by habitual emotional reactions to external events and internal beliefs. These patterns of negative thinking can be changed by the application of the four Rs, which are the primary focus of MMT. These are: RECOGNITION, REFRAMING, RELATIONSHIP, RESOLUTION.

RECOGNITION

All habitual emotional reactions rely on two key elements: ignorance and emotional energy. The first task in MMT is to learn to recognize our stress reactions as they arise in stressful situations. We train ourselves to watch very carefully for any impulse to react. This counteracts the automatic and mechanical part of what makes reactions habitual. The maxim of MMT is that all change begins with mindfulness and mindful-recognition is the first and most important step. You know what pushes your buttons. It might be in your personal relationships with your partner or with your children or perhaps with your parents. One of the most important steps you can take on the path of self-transformation is to take the initiative to examine what stressors cause you to react and to learn to recognize your impulse to react. This is very empowering and changes your attitude from being a victim to being a warrior. For most of the time, most of us react out of habit and have no awareness of what is happening while it is happening. We are simply seduced into the same automatic patterns of reactive thinking over and over again. Clearly, the first step is to break this pattern of ignorance and know what is happening as it happens. This is the fundamental first part of mindfulness. Mindfulness means to be present for experience as it is unfolding.

REFRAMING

Now you are learning to recognize anger reactions, disappointment and frustration reactions, fear and anxiety reactions as they arise in real-time. This new awareness can be very transformational by itself by simply making you conscious of what you are doing. It is a truth that what you don’t see is what has the greatest power over you. Awakening to what is happening is therefore the first step to change.

The next step that paves the way for transforming the emotional energy that powers stress reactivity is to change your relationship to the emotion. Our usual response is to say I am angry or I am afraid or I am upset and we literally become the emotion. Contrast this to saying I notice anger/fear/upset in me. Now the emotion becomes reduced to an object, not me, that I can relate to with mindfulness. This simple reframing of how we perceive an emotional reaction – as me or as an object that has arisen in me is itself transformational.

RELATIONSHIP

However, what keeps a reaction alive is the associated emotional charge, without which the reaction would have no power to cause stress. MMT teaches us how to form a non-reactive relationship, the Mindfulness Based Relationship, with this underlying emotional energy that compels us to react. This is the RELATIONSHIP phase of MMT.

The mindfulness relationship is very important. This is where we allow ourselves to open our awareness and investigate the emotional energy, which is quite different to our usual reactions of ignorance, avoidance or aversion. We choose to be fully present with the inner feelings behind the stress reactions, rather than getting sucked into the content and story line. Just as in personal relationships, it is the quality of our PRESENCE, our ability to listen with an open mind and heart that is most important. Now we are learning to cultivate this same presence for our inner emotional stress. The nature of the mind is such that if you allow things to change, they inevitably will. If you allow things to change and unfold into this safe spaciousness of the mindfulness-based relationship, things will change in a beneficial direction that will transform and resolve the inner conflict and pain. It is the habitual reactivity that stops this natural healing and as we learn to disengage from the patterns of reactivity we create the right conditions in which emotional tension will resolve itself.

RESOLUTION

Mindfulness creates a therapeutic space that allows the emotion to unfold and undergo transformation. If you give it space it will change. This is one of the great discoveries made by the Buddha, 2500 years ago and which we are rediscovering today. It is not what we do that matters as much as how we relate to our emotional stress. When this relationship is based on the receptivity and openness of mindfulness, then we create the best possible conditions in which emotional tension can resolve itself.

Resolution can be understood as the process in which a stress producing emotion like anger or anxiety or disappointment undergoes a process of unfolding and differentiation. When we investigate anger with mindfulness, we begin to see that the anger is actually an assembly of more subtle content – the inner structure – in the form of feelings, memories, sensations and often some form of inner imagery that pulls all these parts together into the form of an emotion. The anger differentiates into feelings of sadness, emptiness, fear. With intense stress reactions resulting from trauma, we will likely notice vivid inner imagery. It is by uncovering the internal structure of the emotions and associated imagery that change becomes possible and mindfulness provides one of the best ways of cultivating a safe relationship with painful content by teaching you how to stay present and avoid becoming reactive to what you are uncovering.

Through becoming conscious of the inner structure of the emotions that power our stress reactions, the emotional energy will change and resolve. Without this emotional power, there is nothing to sustain the emotional reactions and life-long patterns of stress producing reactivity begin to dissolve, leaving you free from their compulsive grip. Like the petals of a lotus bud that were previously held and constrained so tightly, the mind begins to explore a new freedom with all its possibilities and choices. This is the freedom that the Buddha talked about and that is possible for all of us to discover through the practice of mindfulness. MMT teaches you how to apply mindfulness to resolve your patterns of habitual reactivity so that you can realize your full potential and enjoy your life and relationships to the full.

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ONLINE MINDFULNESS THERAPY FOR ANXIETY & DEPRESSION & OCD

Peter Strong, PhD is a Professional psychotherapist and Online Therapist, teacher and author based in Boulder, Colorado, who specializes in the study of mindfulness and its application in Mindfulness Psychotherapy for healing the root causes of anxiety, depression and traumatic stress.

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ONLINE MINDFULNESS THERAPY FOR ANXIETY & DEPRESSION

You can learn more about Mindfulness Therapy by reading his book, ‘The Path of Mindfulness Meditation’ (Amazon.com).

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