Category Archives: Mindfulness and meditation

Guide to stress and worry : 15 helpful suggestions

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”.

  1.  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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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 .            
  3.  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.
  4. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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


What my dad taught me about mindfulness and “quality of life”

It’s only fitting that my first mindfulness blog is based on the lessons I learned from my dad during his terrible struggle with metastatic melanoma and generally with his poor health and medical treatments and mistreatment.

Portions of this was from the eulogy because you cannot discuss a life without discussing the struggles and how someone handles that . He has had major medical maladies for 25 years. The nature of these and their relationship to his lifestyle will be discussed in another post . But for now this is dedicated to him and how he lived .

I watched my dad fight his melanoma for a year after it came back with a vengeance, and metastasized everywhere . One thing you realize is that if you are not mindful of your life and breathing while you live you will be forced to at the end of your life .

As you weaken and become ill every day is a blessing . Every visitor is a joy. The simple movements become monumental and anything you can do better today than yesterday is a victory.  

My dad went from strong and vibrant to laying in the ICU with an uncomfortable alien mask forcing oxygen into his face . He could not breath on his own, do any bodily function on his own, or even scratch his own itch.  But as he had all year he wanted to live. It had moved from milestone to milestone. First  making it to it to his birthday.  To the next  family celebration.  The holidays.  Children’s visits.  Being able to walk on his own.  To make it around the living room . To make it to next month.  Next week.  Next day . And finally next breath. .

What he taught me about mindfulness and being grateful for what you have is possibly his biggest gift to me. Treasuring the moment   Appreciating the small things. The minutes the hours . Being with your family for the little things – that is life, that is the return on your investment.

He would buy an hour even a miserable one to be with us.  He tried so hard to stay alive even in pain as long as he could.  

This was his quality of life. As a physician we learn to talk about quality of life in terms doctor’s understand,  not of the patients, but really not understanding that quality of life is individual. From the second he had his ferocious cancer come back… the doctors started whispering the term “good quality of life”. But what I learned from my dad—- is this; quality of life is individual… it is more about the life– it’s what you as a person feel is important.  Living becomes much more important than doing. Who you are and with are much much more valuable than what you have. All the travel, and accomplishments pale in comparison to having the people you care about and love be part of your life. Quality of life is the quality you give to being alive- the value your life has and is worth fighting for —one minute is an eternity when you value that minute. Every breath is worth fighting for if you love to open your eyes and see your family that is what he taught me.

This ultimate mindfulness is a stark reminder to what is truly important and how when each breath counts when you treasure each moment. How do we learn from this painful experience and value each breath and recognize important moments now … while we think we have infinite breaths. If we pay attention we will realize that all our breaths are numbered. Then maybe we will start to value them, and enjoy each moment without wasting any.

Maybe we will use each breath to recognize and value the love, the people and things we truly care about while are still able to breathe,without an end in sight. Each moment that you get to spend doing something you love with people you care about is your real life.

Mindfulness is in it’s basic form is honoring each breath and what each moment has for you , your life , and loves. Mindfulness is the process of bringing that with you wherever you go. Find your breath in everything you do. Enjoy it. While you walk, while you drive,, when you work. Pay attention to each breath and let it bring you into life- each precious moment you are alive. Let your breath bring you gratitude for all things you will lose if you become ill. Treat each day as though you are about to lose it all.

Don’t wait until you realize you are getting close to your last breath to be mindful of what you have , who you are with , and what each moment really means.

What he taught me is that every breath, every moment, every day is a gift.

Warren Krantz MD, FAAP

To Bob