Tag Archives: relaxation

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.

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.

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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: Cycle 3C. Relaxation & Sleep — Missing Nature

behzad-ghaffarian-LBjA0WPtUhQ-unsplashAre you wired 24 x 7? Do you ever unplug? Maybe it’s all about missing nature.

We are busy. There’s so much to do & often, not enough time. When we are staring at a screen for much of our day (smartphone or tablet or TV or computer or movie or presentation), we are missing an opportunity to view nature, other beings in 3-D, in real life. We may be focused on driving to our destination or doing a task (often with electronics involved), we may miss the subtle beauty and appreciation of the world around us. We lose the ability to process and recover from our daily events and it becomes easier to close ourselves off to the joy and vibrant world around us and we may gravitate towards UNhealth: increased stress, poor sleep quality, more frustrations, poor nutritional choices, less time spent making healthy choices, increased blood pressure, more chronic disease issues, less enjoyment,  more depressed or anxious moods, diminished sense of humor, fewer interpersonal relationships, decreased sex drive and burn out.

In addition to meditation, journal-ing, listening to beautiful music, singing, dancing, physical activity, connecting with others (people/animals), one of the simplest ways to recharge is by spending some time in nature. Just being in nature. It has been shown that even having a picture of nature in plain site, improves overall well-being in those who see it, so imagine how powerful it is if you can see it in real life. All it takes is a few potted plants outside where you can sit or stand. Or a small path you can walk along with plants or pond or water along the way. A place where you can feel the wind on your skin and hear the birds or the waves or the movement of water or leaves.

This small but powerful exposure to nature doesn’t have to be exotic or take a long time or require time off from work. In fact, put some plants in your office or home. Put a cut flower in a vase. Step outside into the sun (or rain or snow) for a midday break. Take a walk in the woods or arboretum or park or neighborhood. Allow yourself to pause and notice the nature around you. Seeing and appreciating the natural world around you will nourish you. Think about whatever you want. Spend as much time as you plan – whether it is based on need, ability or desire. Nature accepts you as you are and you are part of nature. Remind yourself that you are human and it’s OK to take a small break and recharge.

Over time, if you allow yourself regular exposure to nature, no matter how brief, you will notice a small change inside of yourself. That internal flame, your life source can glow and grow. Then there’s the ripple effect. Things will start to improve. You will start to feel better. You can gain perspective, remember the beauty and awesomeness of nature and learn to love and accept yourself and others as nature intended. There is always change around us, and we can’t control it all and that is how life is supposed to be. We can more easily accept and adapt to those changes, improve our sleep, enjoy more relaxation and our continue to improve our overall well-being by allowing nature to recharge us. We are natural beings. Give nature a chance. You may just be missing nature.

Photo by Behzad Ghaffarian on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 1 D. Putting It All Together — Midwest Winter

In this section, I am hoping to integrate people’s experiences and wisdom and/or offer examples of how we apply what we have learned. Please be sure to share your experiences and wisdom. This is how we can help each other and become healthier together.
*Disclaimer: Apps or links are listed as examples & do not necessarily represent the BEST ones or the only options. They are included to help you get started on your search for the right resources for you. So please share what you are using too.

Here is an example of putting it all together:

Scenario: Midwest. Winter. Cold. Darker earlier, longer. Work is busy. Traffic is terrible in bad weather- longer and more frustrating commutes. Not going outside much. Limited exposure to nature. See fewer people socially. Sleep is messed up. Craving and eating comfort foods that increase blood sugar and therefore insulin. Gaining weight. Getting more tired. Being less active. Feeling bad about not exercising, eating poorly and weight gain. Feeling progressively more down…sound familiar?

Thank goodness for Spring! However, what about all those months before Spring arrives?

Winter happens EVERY year. Plan for it. Let your healthy habits continue to help you. Many people schedule a break to warmer climates during winter or early spring (maybe too expensive for some of us), or they embrace it and find a physical activity that they can do in the midst of nature’s healing effects. Mental planning helps. Journal or keep a log of your observations. Here’s a plan:

1. Limit your new transitions that use up your activation energy and brain energy. You have lower reserves in the winter. Keep the things, people, activities that rejuvenate you and give you energy, maybe even increase the duration of exposure to them. Note: not adding more, just make it longer. It might mean eliminating some of the energy drains.

2. Maintain your healthy eating habits. In particular, keep the amount of white starchy carbs and sugars lower. This will keep your energy and mood up and also your weight stable! Stay hydrated- UNSWEETENED clear nonalcoholic beverages are best, like water or unsweetened tea.

3. Always continue your regular daily physical activity, especially in the winter. This is not the time to change it up or take a break. Start your day with a boost of activity- as little as 7 minutes will help you! It will save you from the winter blues and regulate your sleep and eating and your weight. When you are away from home or when there is a time crunch, try the 7 minute workout which you can find online. A sample iphone app: The 7 Minute Workout “Seven” with High Intensity Interval Training. There are MANY online videos that also show how to do the complete body workout.

4. Practice your self hypnosis to allow you to develop control of your mind so you can relax or sleep when you need to. When you are particularly stressed or if you have insomnia, it is nice to have your brain help you. Given the nights are longer, maybe you can use some of the extra darkness to practice relaxing the mind. 2 sample apps on the iphone: *Hypnopack. Has 5, 15, 20 & 27 minute programs and also can be used for other behavior change helpful for public speaking, anxiety release, studying & memory, etc. *Create Inner Peace & Calm with Glenn Harrold is another iphone app that many find helpful, has some free & some components you can choose but have to pay for.

5. Reach out and connect with nature and the people who energize you. This might mean taking a walk or snowshoeing in nature on a winter morning with a friend.

Bottom line: you can learn from previous experiences, what your patterns are and maximize the joy you get out of your life with a little planning. Taking care of yourself is a choice and it helps make the world a better place. And you deserve it!

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 1 C. Relaxation & Sleep — There’s an app for that…

Today’s Relaxation & Sleep Notes:

This group of notes will be geared towards how to relax, decompress, reduce stress and/or have more satisfying sleep. As a physician, I often have people come to me looking for a pill to help them relax or sleep or otherwise decrease their mental activity, quiet the mind. They are basically asking me for something to turn the brain’s conscious mind “off” or at least turn it down. Unfortunately, many of these pills are addictive or at least can cause a physical dependence. The media seems to promote these drugs as if everyone is taking it and it is “normal” almost to the point of making these pills trendy.

I am not a fan of pills if they are not necessary. And I am DEFINITELY not a fan of causing someone to become dependent on pills unnecessarily, and especially if there might be an alternative way to take care of them. Many of these pills, other than having dependence and addictive potential, can cause motor vehicle accidents, injuries at the workplace, allow misuse by “sharing or selling” it to others, and they take away your control of your own mind’s abilities to self regulate and calm itself. Also, over time, some of these meds require increasing doses as the body adjusts and needs more. They can have terrible withdrawal. In the worst cases, they can kill.

You can imagine, I wanted to learn other options for my patients–and initially, this search was prompted when I first started interacting with pediatric cancer patients and their family members. The children were scared, anxious or in pain or uncomfortable or dreading treatments. Also, their parents, siblings and close friends were having difficulties watching a loved one go through pain, procedures and fearing suffering and death. I wanted to be helpful.

I looked for options that would actually empower my patients and their families, improve their well-being, allow them to sleep, decrease their anxiety. I searched for options that would be able to be used on the road, at work, in the hospital, anywhere & whenever they needed it. I wanted tools that could be flexible – used for relaxation or for sleep, and that got more effective with time.

Fortunately, I went to a medical school that is progressive and understands the complexity of the human experience and appreciates an integrated model of providing health care. I had the opportunity over 3 years, to get advanced training in Medical Hypnosis. And guess what I found out? Using what I learned in my Medical Hypnosis training, I learned to teach my patients how to quiet their own minds. They learn how to train their own minds to relax, and if they want, to sleep!

Interestingly, there are apps for this also. The key is practice. How do you practice? Repetition.

I recommend finding a self hypnosis app or use Bud Winter’s sleep training or find a trained specialist who does medical hypnosis and chose a single method you like and use it regularly for a period of time. It will become more effective, and work faster, with practice. It’s a way of learning how to allow your conscious mind to talk to your subconscious mind. Once you learn the power of self hypnosis and develop the ability to control your own mind, you can accomplish anything. Relaxation and sleep will be within your mind’s control because you will have learned a way to quiet the mind.