Joys of Accepting and Mastering Discomfort (aka. Stress Management and Mastery)

Reflect back on your life. The further back you remember, the more you can find what stands out and matters most to you. Do your best, your happiest, your most cherished memories include relationships that had ups and downs? Do they include new experiences that could not be predicted, no matter how small or mundane? Do they include memories when you worked really hard and achieved something that seemed impossible and you felt so proud? Do they include those thrilling moments when you knew you had created something incredible?

Yes. The greatest joys and personal growth often come from moments in life when you work through the discomfort and get to the other side. There are times in life when we accept or are forced to accept situations that we do not choose, that throw us into the unpredictable and uncontrollable, that make us uncomfortable. We all have to get to the other side of that. Let me share with you how you can make that journey a bit easier.

Here are the steps to mastering the discomfort. Writing this down or talking about this with a close confidant or neutral person can be helpful.

  1. Identify your discomfort and figure out what is in your control and what is not in your control. What is causing you discomfort? Why? Describe and label it.
  2. Take what is NOT in your control & “put it away.” Imagine putting it into a storage container or a mental file cabinet or write it down and put it away. You can re-visit this later -if you want.
  3. Take what IS in your control & “work it.” Think about best and worst case scenarios.
  4. Consider worst case scenarios and figure out ahead of time everything you in your control that you can do to prevent the worst case scenario and make a plan to do that. Figure out how you would manage it if the worse case still came to be. Consider how that scenario could be the Universe (whatever higher power you believe in) delivering you a gift to teach you something important you need to learn, to benefit you or another being, or to propel your personal growth forward and upwards. Recognize you are resilient and accept that you are doing the best you can with what IS in your control.
  5. Now, spend time focusing on what you DO want to have happen, the outcome you ARE aiming for. Visualize, dream, brainstorm, strategize and make plans to go for the BEST case scenario. Define it, label it, “see it.” Regularly repeat this step- the more the better.

Mastery is when you are in control of the discomfort rather than the discomfort in control of you. Remember that everything happens for a reason and we may not know the reason right away. Appreciate that the discomforts in our life are there as messages to help us refocus. Accept that there will be those times of discomfort and then make a plan to master the discomfort and keep moving forward. You’ve got this.

Healthier Together Series: 7B. Physical Activity – Stimulus to Change

robert-collins-tvc5imO5pXk-unsplashWe are always changing. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on many factors, some of which are in our control and some of which are not in our control. The best part — We Are Designed to Thrive! Provide your body the right environment, and your body can heal, regenerate, and thrive. This is reassuring.

Throughout the Healthier Together Series, we continue to share the ways in which we can help create the right environment for your body to thrive.

Nutrition provides your body with the “supplies” to create new cells and to do what it needs to do. Depending on the nutrition you provide, you will have healthier or less healthy cells and you will have better or worse function of those cells in your body. So we can make choices about our nutrition.

Physical activity, is the way we signal to the body that we need to be alive and that we need to “change” or adapt to be able to thrive. It is actually the stimulus for change. In fact, if you decrease your physical activity enough, your body starts to decay. This leads to rapid aging and decline in function. The good news – it doesn’t have to be that way and you can turn it around. Even if your body is not in its best state right now, or you feel unwell, or you have chronic health concerns, or if you are in good shape and want to continue to be well and maintain your independence and freedom as long as possible, over the long term, by moving your body, you stimulate your body to continue to “change” to stay functionally “young.”

When you make choices to power your body with the essential nutrients – like water, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins (vegetables), you provide it with everything it needs to repair itself the best it can. Then, when you make the choice to move your body, regularly, in health-promoting ways, you stimulate your body to heal, regenerate and thrive. Your body can and does the work to “get better.” Physical activity is one of the areas that is in your control and can be a powerful stimulus for your body to heal, regenerate and thrive. The choice is yours. For me, I’m heading out with family for the evening walk around the neighborhood to connect and provide that stimulus for change. =)

A Tool for High Performers: The Caffeine Nap

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We’ll keep this quick, because you have things to do. As a physician of high performers, sleep is a common discussion topic. Due to travel across time zones, irregular schedules, long days, responsibilities and/or having lots on the mind, there are times when sleep is limited and yet we need to be able to perform. Here’s a common formula: [Feeling Sleep Deprived & Tired] + [No Time for Full Night’s Sleep] + [Need to Perform at Peak Capacity] = [Unnecessary Unhealthy Stress.] This can be treated or prevented.

Here’s one tool (of many) that you may find helpful for those times: The Caffeine Nap*. (*If you have a caffeine sensitivity, are responsible for operating heavy machinery or are driving or flying, this is NOT recommended.)

1. Set alarm for 30 minutes.

2. Drink an unsweetened coffee or espresso.

3. Nap. (We will review HOW to fall asleep quickly in a future post)

4. Wake up to the alarm as your caffeine kicks in and your mind is in “Game On!” Mode.

5. Know that you’ve got this.

Let me know how you’re doing. Drop me a line.

Healthier Together Series: 7A. Nutrition – The importance of calories in

hessam-hojati-M4hazNIyTsk-unsplashWe’ve heard that weight is all about the calories we consume. In fact, someone recently shared with me that she felt betrayed. She had been successfully losing weight eating very low carb, and had not been counting or restricting calories. She had been feeling so happy about her progress and how easy it was and how she had so much more energy that she had now been regularly working out for over 2 years. However, she recently heard that eating very low carb or “keto” was effective for weight loss because it cuts calories. This whole time, she thought it was being low carb that worked, not the calorie restriction. She felt “tricked.” Have you heard this too?

Allow me to clarify. If you are eating carbohydrates and your waistline is enlarging or you are gaining excess weight or you have prediabetes or diabetes or PCOS or metabolic syndrome, you have insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that your body produces excessive amounts of insulin for the same amount of carbohydrates you consume. So, if you eat carbs, your body dumps too much insulin into your blood stream.

High levels of insulin prevent your body from being able to access your back up fuel source – your fat cells. You will not be able to get fuel from your fat cells. This means that when you need fuel, you will need to provide fuel, to run your body, by eating or drinking it. You know the feeling- you will be hungry or get the munchies when your fuel in your blood stream starts dropping low. Again, you have to eat or drink calories the have the fuel to continue to run your body. If you don’t eat and your insulin level is high, you don’t have access to your back up fuel source, so your cells begin to panic. You get hungry, ravenous and feel your blood sugar dropping and feel very unwell. Eating or drinking carbs (including sugars) is the fastest way to “feel better” in this scenario.

Now, let’s go on the “common” diet of cutting calories or portion size. If you started out eating a standard American diet with lots of carbohydrates and then begin calorie restriction, or cutting calories or eating smaller portions, it usually means you cut back on the fats and eat mostly carbohydrates. Carbs spike insulin. This means you keep insulin pretty high and as a result, you starve those poor cells in your body. Your body doesn’t like starving, so it adapts and starts to cut back on its activities and slows your metabolism to “conserve” your limited energy. With this method of weight loss, weight loss is very difficult to maintain unless you continue to add more exercise and/or continue to cut calories. There’s a limit to how far you can go with this.

When someone pursues a very low carb or ketogenic diet, your body adapts to running on the ketones produced from burning your fat stores (it continues to make glucose too). Good news, ketones act as a natural appetite suppressant- so you don’t need to eat as much or as often. You just aren’t that hungry because with this method, your insulin levels stay lower. When insulin is lower, your body can burn fat for fuel when it needs fuel (burning fat for fuel instead of requiring eating for chronic re-fueling). Also, by eating a very low carb or ketogenic diet, your brain and gut can receive the signals that you are “full” when you eat fat and protein.

Ultimately, by keeping insulin levels in the naturally lower range, when you need fuel, you can easily burn fat for fuel, your appetite is decreased overall, and your brain and gut can receive signals and know when to stop eating. Voila! Less calories in, but it is because you don’t need or want them- NOT because you artificially put your body into a starving panic mode. VERY different reason for less calories in. VERY different body response to less calories in. Long term weight loss and weight loss maintenance is achievable. Pretty cool, right?

3 Questions for a More Joyful Life

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As a physician, I hear so many stories and witness so many ways to live life. Here is what I have observed and learned from those who live joyful lives. It’s so simple. We can all learn to live joyfully. At the start of each day, focus on being able to answer YES to these 3 questions:

  1. Did I genuinely laugh today?
  2. Did I experience love today?
  3. Do I have 3 “things” I am grateful for today? (for example: experiences, people, animals, privileges, surprises, gifts, blessings, etc.)

At the end of each day, answer the 3 questions. If you do not answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, reflect on your day and think about how to spend tomorrow, so that you can add another “yes” to the end of your day tomorrow.

person holding lighted sparklers

If you can genuinely answer “yes” to each of these, you were present for joy in your day and you had a perfect day. You may want to write a note to remind you about the details for each answer. Over time, you will have a personal journal of moments of joy in your life. How fun that will be to read.

The universal power of laughter, love and gratitude are immense…and contagious. They connect us to each other and to our universe. The more you practice this, the more joyful your life will be and it will spread to those around you.

***If you’d like to share your joy, add it to the comments below.***

Healthier Together Series: 6D. Putting it all together – Organizing Your Day For Productivity & Success

hannah-olinger-NXiIVnzBwZ8-unsplashToday, we are finishing up our 6th series. You have all the tools and knowledge to make the choices to optimize your health. How do you make it all happen? Here’s how to set yourself up for success. Make adaptations to make it your own. Here’s the basics.

Once a week:

  1. Review what happened last week. Make notes about what you learned, what you need to do, what has to be carried over from last week. Are you making decisions that align with your mission statement and your values?
  2. Brain Dump. Make a list of everything on your mind, everything you need to do, everything you are worried about, anything that is taking up mental space. Empty the brain of distracting thoughts.
  3. Prioritize your goals for the week. What do you need to accomplish this week? Include your goals for nutrition, physical activity, sleep and relaxation as well as any social goals.
  4. Develop action items, or next steps towards achieving those goals. Prioritize them or mark the most important ones so you work on those first. Also, it helps to have  a list of action items that are take less than 10 minutes to complete so that you can easily complete those tasks when you have sudden open moments like when a meeting ends early or you find yourself waiting for an appointment.
  5. Next to each action item, it helps make some notation or color code it to indicate a location. For example, some actions require you to be at your computer (sending an email or creating a powerpoint or editing a document) or at home (pack for trip).
  6. Review your calendar for the week ahead and fill in any of the necessary appointments or usual activities and block out those times. Account for every hour of every day. Remember to include your commute times, food prep, eating, shower, workouts, relaxation times, sleep times, etc. There are 24 hours in a day and remember that you cannot be in 2 places at the same time.
  7. Now you see how much of your week is open for discretionary time. Find the largest blocks of time and block those for your most important projects or creative activities so you can do a dive deep into them. Fill in the smaller chunks of time with errands and To Do’s that don’t require much thought or creativity but take up some of your time.

At this time, you likely have a brain dump list, a prioritized list of goals, a prioritized list of action items with locations and a prioritized list of “10 minutes or less” tasks.

Daily:

  1. At the end of your day, review your day (see #10 below) and then review the weekly calendar for tomorrow. Make sure you have carved out enough time for a bedtime routine and sleep and personal hygiene. Review your list of remaining action items and “10 minutes or less” tasks. Determine which of those items and tasks need to make it onto your calendar- pick the most important ones first. Print out or write your schedule for the day with action items and tasks.
  2. Figure out your foods and drinks for tomorrow and prepare or plan for optimal nutrition. If you are going to eat out, make a plan for what you will have. If you are monitoring or logging your foods, you could enter in what you plan to eat or drink and review the nutrients and macros of your planned foods and drinks. This allows you to make modifications.
  3. Confirm your physical activity plan for tomorrow based on your body state, your schedule and time available. If you drank alcohol, your body will benefit by some exercise tomorrow morning.
  4. Identify a pocket of time for self care and self reflection – whatever will be best for you. Some days, your physical activity plan may also include self care and self reflection.
  5. In the morning, follow your healthy morning routine and check in with your personal mission statement, your goals and your day calendar. Avoid checking email or social media when you wake up. This is to prevent other people or outside demands from taking control of your mind and mood so early in the morning.
  6. Start your day in control and do what’s best for you.
  7. Use your calendar and lists to help you maximize your accomplishments during the day. This will save you from spending time trying to figure out what to do with your time.
  8. If you happen to have an unexpected time that’s open, make a choice to move around, listen to music, draw, sit in nature, meditate or work on your “10 minutes or less” tasks.
  9. Cross off the items or tasks as you accomplish them throughout the day. It feels so good to do that! Write in anything extra you complete or any alterations to your schedule so that you have a log of how you spent your time.
  10. At the end of the day, review your day. Look for patterns and learn from your day. Over time, you may identify patterns of your best, most productive times of the day, or that some things take longer than others, or that other items on your calendar are constantly skipped and may not be a true priority for you.

***Share your wisdom in the comments below.***

Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

5 Exercises to Maintain Fitness While Traveling

Side View Photo of Woman Doing Lunges Against Black BackgroundIf you travel frequently and your workout schedule gets thrown off, let me share with you 5 moves you can focus on to help you stay fit while traveling. Of course, there are great apps that you can use, and the famous 7 minute workout, but if you like another option to keep it simple, here’s the 5 main moves.

To increase resistance, if there is no gym, pack some resistance bands or use your body weight. Do these movements slowly to really engage the maximum muscle fibers.

  1. Sun Salutations: 90 seconds for each sequence. You can download a sequence online.
  2. 2 x PUSH: Push up, Push forward (90 seconds each, learn the proper position of your hands and wrists first. A personal trainer can show you how.)
  3. 2 x PULL: Pull down, Pull in (90 seconds each, learn the proper position of your hands and wrists first. A personal trainer can show you how.)
  4. LEGS: Squats and/or Lunges (90 seconds each, learn the proper form first. A personal trainer can show you how.)
  5. Photo of Woman Doing YogaCORE: crunches and/or plank pose (90 seconds each)

To really keep your body in a good place, avoid sitting as much as possible. If you have to sit for long periods of time, plan to get up at least every hour to help circulate your blood and stimulate your muscles. If possible, stand instead of sitting, and make sure you walk as much as possible. Every time you move your body, you signal to your body that you have to heal and recover. This is much better than the alternative, signalling that it is ok to decay. Keep moving as much as possible.