Guide to worry-
My top suggestions for a mindful approach to defuse stress and worry .
Ideas and suggestions I have encountered and adapted through the years in one place ..
As you age you realize that many of those quaint trite sayings you mocked as a kid for being simplistic have actually been cultivated by insightful people in similar situations. They are common to the human condition and apply universally to most of us in so many ways .
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing
is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” — Albert Einstein
1.The serenity prayer. You might say this is where it all begins for most of us on our search for peace of mind. It has been a cultural go-to quote for times of stress and when we are stuck for centuries. A sort of approachable Zen answer to the dilemma of how to change the world…. is to change yourself first. “It’s not the stressed and difficult times in your life that cause you pain and suffering it is how you react to them”.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change . Courage to change the things I can . And the Wisdom to know the difference”.
- 10,000 feet- any time you are stuck and feel like you cannot go on or have not moved forward whether it be an illness, job, studying, etc. imagine you are looking at your life from a 10,000 foot view. As though you have made it to the top of the mountain and see clearer where you have been where you are, your relationship to your life and where you are going .Always good to give yourself perspective, seeing where you are and how far you have come. Your current situation looks smaller and minuscule compared to your whole life and the world in general. Then as they say your problems related to the world do not add up to a molehill.
- Look up , the sky is blue- most of us just look down or only see what is immediately in front of us. We never look at the great expanse of opportunities and wonderment beyond our immediate surroundings, especially when we are trapped/obsessed in stress and worry . But you can always look up into the infinite to see the beauty beyond where you are. It is limitless and exhilarating to look up to the tops of the trees, the green all around, the birds flying, the clouds passing by, and the vast expanse of it all. Always changing , moving in the midst of when we are fixated on our worry- just look up – the possibilities are always there. The rain will pass, the storm will move on and the sky is always blue underneath the clouds.
- I have done this 1,000 times and in more difficult circumstances and survived. Just think back to all the times of your life that you had complete fear and panic regarding some terrifying situation and you survived. Always being worried that something is going to turn out terrible whether it be a test, medical result, job interview, public speaking, etc. You also realize if you pay attention you realize that not only have you been able to deal with any worry, event, or difficulty, you actually faced previous adversity successfully and survived better than you expected. Just make sure you do not get too complacent with this tactic. You still have to deal with difficulties but you know that you can handle it not ignore it.
- Worrying does not help and in fact Is counterproductive. Things are usually not as bad as you think. Your ideas compared to others may be good, But you feel you have to be perfect; perfection is not the goal , growing, expanding is the goal Always move forward, perfection keeps you stuck since it is unattainable, like they say “it’s the journey” which means it is a process and not perfection as long as you will keep moving forward and learn along the way.
- Test yourself -keep a worry log. See how accurate your judgments, assessments, worries are and how they turn out moment to moment, ( mindfulness) and overall. Usually you are wrong. Your level of anxiety and worry distorts your viewpoint out of proportion with your concern.When you keep track you will realize that your perceptions are not reality. You have mostly worried for nothing. Even in the worst of times you can only die once but with worry you cause yourself a million deaths .
- Who and what are your gurus- suffering and struggle are the best teachers.Lean in to the difficulties .Breathe and face your demons. What situations and which people stress you out the most?. These difficult things are your gurus- learning experiences. Face them and use then to make you stronger.
- Meditate, breathe in and out.Count to ten- slowly then backwards.Find your breath- hands on tummy, finger right over your nostril, blow out slowly. Rapid panting breath or fast fire breath- like a mom breathing in a Lamaze class. All quick breathing and mediation shortcuts to diffuse anxiety. Meditation using visualization – some of your best calming situations to go to .Go to your favorite places. Real or imaginary.Turn off all devices, all media, all TV. “BE” with yourself. But go there. A place in the house that brings you peace. A library. Waterfront. Mountain.
- Exercise – when compared to drugs for anxiety and depression is truly a better medicine. Push your workout until you feel the endorphins. You get a sense of well being from consistent exercise. Follow your breathing when you exercise not your pulse. You will notice when you are out of breath and can push a little more.
- Babies are the best medicine. In my line of work it is easy. I could be in a terrible mood but all I need is one baby to smile at me and make a cooing sound and I am toast. Impossible to be in a bad mood around a little munchkin who is completely oblivious to your stress or worry. That is the moment you need to be in. Make a baby smile and laugh and you have no choice. As so many self-help gurus like to say we are born innocent and in the moment. Just observe children play with abandon and free of worry. Well play with babies and children and let them be your guide.
12.Find humor in any situation.Everything is an opportunity to be funny and find humor. The more stressful the more ridiculous the angrier , more frustrate, the more you need to turn it around. Observing humans acting badly has always been a staple of the best comedians and jokes. if you step out of the situation the humor is there. Think Jerry , Richard, George, and Chris. What would they do ? When you are in a bind, in a fit of anger, in the middle of a difficult situation – say to yourself what would Jerry do. Write it down and try to make a joke out of it. It only has to be funny to you. That is what counts. If it is really funny well you just started a comedic career.
Hold in that laugh! Have you ever been in a situation particularly with a friend where you found something ridiculous and funny but you could not laugh. In class, police pull over, airport-TSA line, etc.. Well think of something really ridiculous and try to hold in a laugh . The more you try to hold it in the more you want to laugh and finally burst out with tears from trying to hold it in so hard. You will stop your worry and the problem will look less threatening while you are trying not to laugh.
- Put on your silly shoes. Silly clothes. Dance sing . Be a rock star. Lighten up . It’s only one moment in your life . Do you even remember the things that worried you when you were 5? Don’t take it so seriously.
14.Get help from your furry friend– hard to be angry around babies and your favorite dog. All those silly cute pet YouTube videos are downloaded by the millions for a reason. Put peanut butter or your dog’s favorite treat on your nose. Let’s see what happens? Try staring into your dog’s eyes . They say you both get a surge of oxytocin a calming and happy hormone .
15. Inspiration from others, from prayer, religious teachings or those who have been through far worse like Anne Frank. If they can go through all they did and be inspiring we can learn to as well.
“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart” – Anne Frank
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” Anne FrankT
Warren Krantz MD