How to Tame Our Worry Mind and Shift From Hypervigilance to Higher Vigilance

I sometimes call my new kitten Buddha-Pest because at times he has the serenity of a Buddha, but at other times he is a pest -- nipping, biting, and digging his claws into anything that moves! This is much like my mind, which at times rests in a sublime state of peace and acceptance, and at other times pesters me with gnawing, clawing worry thoughts, like, "What's that ache? What's that twinge? Why am I so tired? Could it be the cancer is back!?"

I wish I could rest in a Buddha-full state of serenity all the time, but ever since I was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, my mind is ever alert for danger. That's what the lower reptilian brain does -- its prime directive is survival and avoiding harm. For that reason, according to Rick Hanson, author of the book Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, painful experiences are more easily and deeply imprinted in our brains than pleasurable ones. He explains: "There is an innate negativity bias of the brain, whose unfortunate default setting is to be Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones."

Here's an example: A few weeks ago I saw a three-foot snake on the nature path behind my house. It was patiently poised beside a gopher hole, so I'm assuming it was a gopher snake; nevertheless, it was a SNAKE! And it was BIG! I haven't been back there since...until today. I walked along the path, vigilantly scanning for snakes, seeing twigs, and even shadows of branches, as snakes. Even though I was surrounded by beautiful nature, all I could envision was snakes! I sadly realized, "Every time I walk here now I will be looking for snakes." The same is true with cancer -- with each minor ache and pain and mind leaps to cancer.

Buddhists call this "the pain of pain" -- the initial pain is unavoidable, but the reaction to that pain, the fear and resistance to it, is self-inflicted. The challenge is to get free of the pain of pain, to let go of negative reactions, because those reactions and perceptions are what cause the greatest suffering.

My goal is to walk along life's path and see the beautiful flowers, the blue sky, the mountains, instead of imagining twigs as snakes and twinges as cancer. I want to be higher-vigilant instead of hyper-vigilant -- to see life from the higher perspective of my soul, where I remember that I am an eternal being, where I know that cancer is my great teacher, life enhancer, and burr under my saddle that woke me up and keeps me awake!

Fortunately, the higher brain has neuroplasticity, which is the ability to learn from experience and imprint the positive new learning. But in order for this to happen, research shows that the new belief and feeling needs to be repeated many, many times. Fear is an easy neural pathway to go down. Faith needs to be repeated over and over again. Therefore, whenever fear appears, I remind myself, "What's the truth? The truth is that right now I am safe. Right now all is well. Right now is all there is." I breathe a big, deep breath, really feeling and letting in this belief.

Rick Hansen says we need to hold the desired thought and feeling for about 30 seconds so that it can imprint in our memory. We need to bathe in it for a bit, feel it fully, and generate excitement about it, because the longer it's held in awareness, and the more stimulating it is, the more it will increase neurons firing and wiring together into new neural structures.

I am passionately intent on firing and wiring beautiful, Buddha-full neural pathways in my brain -- pathways where a snake is just a snake, simply another of God's creatures, and a twinge is just twinge, reminding me to breathe and shift from hyper-vigilance to higher-vigilance, and cancer is just a kick in the can, waking me up to my true self.

Is your mind a Buddha-pest, serene at times but pestering you with habitual, hyper-vigilant worry thoughts? I invite you to shift into higher vigilance and fire and wire up some new, positive, life-enhancing neural pathways!

Janet Jacobsen, author of the book, Oh No, Not Another 'Growth' Opportunity! An Inspirational Cancer Journey With Humor, Heart, and Healing

If you or someone you know is coping with cancer or other life challenges, you can read more of Janet Jacobsen's FREE, inspirational, entertaining, and informative essays, as well as the first 4 chapters of her book, at to

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Transforming Anxiety Using Heartmath

I'm on a Heartmath theme at the moment; dropping down into your heart really is hugely healing. It's changing the way I feel and the way I approach life as well. Clearing my heartwall was step one, these exercises are solidifying the changes.

Anxiety is rampant today; persistent anxiety can quickly change into an anxiety disorder. Heartmath's solution is about harnessing the way the brain and the heart communicate, and being able to release the patterns that the brain automatically defaults to as a way of coping, even if it's dysfunctional.

A maladaptive pattern can form in the brain, causing you to feel familiar with things like worry and anxiety, and when you're not anxious you feel there's something wrong, you're uncomfortable. This is how habits are formed.

Heartmath helps to recorrect by intervening and recalibrating the brain through easy heart-focused techniques, so a new reference pattern is formed, one the brain tries to match with outside references. This becomes the new baseline on how to be.

Overidentifying and overcaring is the most common cause of anxiety. We all know what not caring about something feels like, but overcaring saps your energy to the point that you are out of balance. Passion for something is not the same as overcaring. Overcaring is anxiousness and the situation loses its real meaning.

Caring is programmed into our DNA, but when it's not managed properly and we overidentify, then overcaring turns into anxiety.

Close on the heels of overcaring is overattachment. You care so much that you are overly attached to the outcome, to a person, to a situation. You become obsessive.

Heartmath exercises will work on changing the default pattern of your brain from anxiousness to being calm and serene. You will feel resistance doing these exercises because it feels normal to go to that place of worry and overcare.

Remember it's not the problem that drains you, it's the significance you have attracted to it. So the idea is to start to siphon off some of that accumulated energy that has been stored.

One way to do that is to breathe love in through your heart and out through your solar plexus for about 30 seconds. Your brain may want to pull you back into worrying as it feels natural. Just keep going.

Something I found really helpful is an exercise called heart soaking. I place the issue that's bothering me in front of my heart and soak it with love.

Once you've tried a few of these techniques, go back to the situation and see if it looks different. Have you been able to bring yourself back to a normal level of caring?

Kate Strong is a psychic/healer and specialises in Soul Healing and Relationship Readings. Please contact her at

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Is Work-Life Balance a Pipe Dream for Women in Business?

If you looked up to working mom Kate Redding as a role model, (Kate is played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the film I don't know how she does it), I suspect you'd come to the conclusion that work-life balance is a pipe dream. Kate does a fantastic job taking on responsibility for everything and everyone, leaving little time to do anything for herself. Just watching the film tired me out! But does it have to be that way? Are there no alternatives if you decide on a career AND a family?

At a recent women's networking event I was horrified when I heard that one of top tips for getting ahead was to "work harder than your male colleagues, partner, husband, or brother." Really? Is this what we are teaching the up and coming women in business today? Aren't we creating this burden for ourselves by promulgating such superwoman behavior? It's not about working harder. It's about working smarter and focusing on a few critical things that matter in building a career. Since we're not superwomen, we're only humans, promoting such behavior as goal surely results in a lack of work-life balance.

Work-life balance is NOT a pipe dream, but there are 3 key ingredients which are often overlooked in making this aspiration a reality:

1. Keep yourself motivated and challenged 2010 survey Career vs Paycheck revealed that a working mother was happy in all aspects of her life when she had a high level of job satisfaction. It's worth noting that job satisfaction was highly correlated to a meaningful career or job - it wasn't just about the money. Once we lose the buzz we get from our careers, the whole work-life dynamic falls apart.

How many women do you know who come back from maternity leave, feel side-lined, and subsequently give up. "What's the point?" they begin to wonder. If they're going to leave precious little ones in someone else's care, the job has got to turn them on. I remember one day when my elderly neighbor saw me coming home from work and how amazed she seemed that I was chirpy and energetic after such a long day in the city. The secret? I felt challenged in my corporate career - the things I was learning made life very interesting.

2. Map out a routine for maximizing your individual level of performance

Organize your easy and tough tasks and challenges around those peak performance times. Tackle the tough challenges when you feel at your best. For me it's the first thing in the morning. My confidence and patience levels are up and my head is clear.

I learned this by trial and error and being aware of how productive I was (or not as the case may be) at which times. There's a key piece missing here. In order to be at your peak at work, you also need to figure out how much exercise and other activity you need to do (and how to make it happen) to keep your enthusiasm up at work. What do you really like to do in your personal time that re-energises you. There's so much focus on time management. It's misplaced. We need to be focusing on managing our energy rather than our time.

3. Think Like a Business Owner

Point 2 leads really nicely into this point. At the end of the day, what does a good manager really care about? That's right, performance. I recently gave a talk about how important it is to invest and enrich in both the personal and professional dimensions of our lives, highlighting that it's having both parts that can help you achieve optimal performance in each. Huh? Simply put, by having a varied life you avoid getting burned out, whether it's caring for an elderly parent, hyper kids or a demanding career.

Dipping in out of both lives makes you appreciate each life and the benefits it brings. At the end of my talk an eager member of the audience asked, "But Christine, if I tell my boss how important my personal life is, he or she won't get it, they won't care." I replied, "Well your boss may or may not care, but that's not the point. As your manager, your boss expects you to organize your life so you can be at your best. That's YOUR responsibility. Your boss wants to know where you are on your projects."

The best rule of thumb to use when thinking about how to blend our increasingly complex professional and personal lives is to think like a business owner. A business owner wants you to be as productive as you can and to manage your life to achieve this. Working 24 x 7, losing your enthusiasm, creativity and motivation isn't good for you and it's not good for the business.

Work-life balance is not a pipe dream. Like anything though, you've got to be strategic and focus on the most important parts or you'll get lost in the detail.

As a former MD in Fixed Income, wife and mother of three Christine offers practical strategies on how to get the most out of your work and life. Her recently published book 'Step Aside Super Woman: Career & Family is for Any Woman' offers time-tested advice on how to create work-life balance. She is an accomplished international speaker and has been featured by the London Evening Standard, Women in Banking & Finance Magazine, Computer Weekly, WDRC 1360 AM, and many others.

Christine Brown-Quinn together with her business partner Jacqueline Frost are firm believers in sharing their hard-earned success strategies with professional business women. With over 40 years' combined business experience in the financial services industry, they established Women in Business Superseries to response to the challenges that many women still face in the current business environment. To join as a guest on the next Women in Business webinar, email

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