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The Catalyst

MUSC Wellness - Quieting the "Monkey Mind"

Yoga practitioners call it “monkey mind.” It is the reflexive mind ready to judge, worry, analyze, and compare everything in the moment.

For Kristen Clasen it is these pervasive thoughts that bring about the most tension in her life, and spurred her to participate in the November Monthly Mindful Challenge, which encouraged staff to “release the tension.”

According to Clasen, a program coordinator with the Public Health Sciences Department, internal factors cause the most stress. “I’m a terrible worry–wart — I get that from my grandmother.

My mind is always cluttered with what–ifs: what would I do if that happened, how so–and–so would react, what would that cause, etc.”  

She hoped that participating in the challenge would provide her with some added tools to help quiet her mind and pay attention to “what is happening here and now.”

One effective technique to regain the feeling of being “centered” involves an intense focus on the breath. Simply breathe in and out counting how long it takes to fully inhale and exhale. Experiment with extending the breath for another second or two and see how that feels.

Sometimes what works best is to simply accept what is happening. For Clasen, “prayer and acceptance of God’s will are the most powerful techniques I use to combat stress.” “Focusing on the good helped me keep things in perspective by helping me realize that negative issues will soon pass, and overall I have a very good life.”

The end of the year often adds an extra measure of stress. To help combat it, the December Monthly Mindful Challenge is to “bring balance” to your holidays.

To begin, take the first December Monthly Mindful Challenge survey at

Wellness Events

  • Take the Monthly Mindful Challenge and be eligible for prizes by completing a short survey at the beginning and end of the month. One employee will be featured in our “Spotlight on Wellness” column in
  • The Catalyst.
  • Chair massages — Free massages are offered to employees midday on Wednesdays. Check broadcast messages for locations and times.
  • Farmers Markets — Fresh fruits and vegetables are available from local farmers on Fridays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Horseshoe.

MUSC Urban Farm

  • Midday Work and Learn — 12:15 to 12:45 p.m., Tuesdays
  • Early Bird Maintenance — 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Wednesdays. Get your day started at the farm.
  • Sunset Work and Learn — 4 to 5 p.m., Thursday

For information, contact Dr. Susan Johnson via email at or Suzan Belan Whalen at

December 19, 2014



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