Overwhelmed? Overworked? Over committed… Too much to do and too little time?
To be completely honest, that is exactly how I have been feeling lately. The unfortunate truth is, it’s not just me. It seems that we are all doing our best to SUCCEED AMIDST the CHAOS! A just like that, one of my favorite people popped back into my life…exactly at the right time, Coincidence? I don’t think so. More like a “God wink” (a “God wink” is God’s way of saying, “don’t worry, I’ve got this”).
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie is an emergency room doctor, clinical assistant professor, national on-air health expert, super mom of 2, my sweet friend and now bestselling author of Mom Hacks. Her life is about helping women everywhere get back their “I’ve GOT this”.
I know what you’re thinking. If you had time to sit down and read a book you wouldn’t be stressed out and crazed in the first place. Do yourself a favor and take 2 minutes for yourself and read the following Q & A with the good doctor.
Tara: What led you to write Mom Hacks?
Dr. Darria: I wrote Mom Hacks because I wanted to help every mama and woman find her “I’ve GOT this”. As an ER doctor, I always had a feeling that no matter what came through those double-doors, I could handle it, that “I’ve GOT this”. And for the most part that played out in my daily life until I developed a chronic autoimmune arthritis when I was in residency. Suddenly I didn’t feel any “I’ve GOT this”. In fact, I went from running daily to being unable to stand up when I evaluated my patients. I made major health changes on my own and took back control of my health. Fast-forward a couple of years and I became a mom and felt many similar fears and concerns. I realized that most moms felt the same way. Much more like, “I DON’T GOT this”. Since I had figured out my health once before, I started to wonder: Could I take the skills I’d developed as an ER doctor to thrive in chaos and my lessons as a patient, taking back control of my health, and make it possible for myself and EVERY other mama and woman out there to feel that “I’ve GOT this”? That’s how hacks started.
Tara: What are hacks?
Dr. Darria: Let’s be honest as moms we don’t even have time to go to the bathroom by ourselves. I also knew most moms didn’t have time for a total-life-overhaul. Let’s face it- moms also do not need me to tell them to eat an apple instead of a cookie. That’s obvious. We know WHAT to do for the most part, but we need the HOW. So, I pulled in lessons from design thinking and behavioral psychology to make good health simply EASIER. As an ER doctor, the solutions had to have two features:
(1) Be entirely science-based
(2) Save precious time and effort
Instead of fighting our cravings, low energy and stressors head-on like some MMA cage match (or what I also call “bath time with a toddler”), you can work smarter, not harder. Instead of hating and snoozing the morning clock, you can use bright light strategically to reset your Circadian Rhythm. Instead of fighting your afternoon sugar cravings, you can do a sugar rehab and reset for the long term. Instead of letting feelings of inadequacy and disappointment get you down, you can learn how to shut DOWN that mean girl inner critic.
Tara: What is the Chronic Stress Disequilibrium?
Dr. Darria: The more I looked at health as a mom, the more I realized that the problem wasn’t that we were “weak” or “didn’t have enough willpower”. I realized that most mom’s today fall into The Chronic Stress Disequilibrium (CSD), a term I use to describe the vicious cycle of chronic stress, insufficient sleep and exercise, and constant, irresistible cravings for comfort foods and sweets. I also researched the science of decision and realized how eff’ing hard it is to make healthy choices in today’s environment. This is what I call Cavewoman Brain in the modern world. And as a last bit of twisted irony, when we try to diet/force healthy decisions, our stress hormone levels rise even more which makes everything (including weight loss) harder.
Tara: What are a few favorite hacks?
Get bright light the moment you wake up. For most of us, our Circadian Rhythm is off. Fortunately, the same bright that can throw it off, can also be used to reset it. Let bright light hit your eyes as soon as you wake up to reset your body clock daily. Look outside (if it’s light), use an alarm clock that lights up, use the bright lights in your bathroom or your smartphone syncing your “wakeup time” on the clock to your body clock. That immediately signals the brain to shut down melatonin by resetting your body clock. You will also have an easier time falling asleep at night and waking up the next morning.
Temptation Bundle As physicians, we recognize the value of exercise and also the fact that it can still be hard to actually DO it! It may be time to bring in the big guns and appeal to your basic human tendencies or leverage your “guilty pleasures” for something good! In a Wharton study, participants who were ONLY allowed to listen to an addictive audio book when they exercised put in 51% more gym time than those who could listen whenever they wanted. Find your own “temptation” and only allow yourself to watch/read/ listen when you’re exercising, and you’ll start looking forward to your workouts!
Rearrange your pantry This is a hack that I’ve done in my own home, but just as important is one that I share with my patients who struggle with their diet. It’s one thing to “know” what you shouldn’t eat (and come on, we all “know” we shouldn’t eat the entire bag of M&Ms before bed). It’s not rocket science, but what’s even more powerful is the “how” to make it happen, and the “how” to make healthy decisions easier.We like to think that we are intentional, thoughtful beings. Not true. One study showed that if people wanted to eat less, all they had to do was put a single obstacle between them and food. Participants in this study ate 70% less without using any willpower at all. Have a tempting candy or treat? Put it on a shelf that requires you to use the stool even if the stool is just a step away. It reduces your intake by 20% without willpower. That’s a win and an effortless step in the right direction.
Focus on the single NEXT thing that needs to be done When we leave work and we face an endless set of tasks; the demands can be so overwhelming, and we become cognitively overloaded. Our stress levels rise and our decision capacity falls. In medical school we learned the ABCD’s of trauma. Despite the fact that there are 50 different issues grabbing your attention while attending a patient, you focus on the single most pressing one and then move on to the next, and so on. I’ve started doing this in my home and it’s what I call “single-tasking”. Juggling multiple activities simultaneously doubles our rate of error and cuts productivity by 40%. The next time you feel overwhelmed, jot everything down on a list. Choose ONE thing to tackle first and focus solely on that. Only when that is complete, do you move to the next item. Your stress levels, your family, and your to-do list – will all thank you.
You can take control of your health (and that of your family) once and for all – one hack at a time. It’s not just possible, it’s easy. Thank you Dr. Darria!
Remember everyday get up, dress up, show up and NEVER give up! You’ve GOT this!