#51: The Secret to Getting More Done! Parents & Students!

August 12, 2020

Did you know that getting organized can actually help you get more done?

I know this now, but I didn’t always know this! Trust me when I tell you, it’s a game changer!

I think I must have been about 15 when the floor in my room was barely visible. I had so many things thrown around that it was hard to even know what was actually in there! Being messy was just the way I was and in my teen years it was worse than ever! Between school, chores, sleeping in, babysitting and hanging out with friends, there was little time for really cleaning up my room….or so I lead myself to believe!

School was a different story, I was always a good student and was extremely organized when it came to my school work. Most of my work was color coded and neat. I loved getting all my new school supplies when the first day of school came. There is just something about a brand new notebook and freshly sharpened pencils..those #2 pencils!

Of course, when I was in school there were no computers so pencils and pens were very important! We all had our favorites and traded at school with friends.  I remember writing down a list of all the homework I had in a little memo book that I carried everywhere. Crossing things out is a very gratifying experience! 

Fast forward to college and medical school and things weren’t any different, my room was a mess but my work and my outside responsibilities were always organized. Looking back I wish someone would have sat me down to explain to me that if I actually made an effort to organize my time, I actually would have gotten so much more done!  

The truth is the old me probably wouldn’t have listened! In medical school you’re kind of in survival mode. The days and nights are long, there is no set schedule since every few weeks your schedule changes. So I’m going to forgive myself for those 7 years (medical school and residency) when I didn’t prioritize time management.

Whether you’re a mom at home with your kids, a working mom, a student or a teen, everyone needs to learn about time management! 

I wish someone would have told me how thirty minutes once a week would help me:

  1. Feel more in control
  2. Get more done
  3. Actually feel happier
  4. Clear my mind 

All of the things I really needed not only then, but now too. About two years ago, I stumbled across a podcast that was talking about time management. I listened to the episode and decided to give it a try. For the next 2 weeks I spent 30 minutes each week getting organized and I can’t tell you how productive I was in the weeks that followed! 

Somehow, I had time for everything I needed to do, my mind was clearer, I felt more in control and I actually felt happier. In the end, this simple exercise even helped me to sleep better. I’m convinced that most of a mom’s insomnia is because of their never-ending “to-do” list circling in their head! 

It was such a simple exercise that I decided to tweak it for use by teens and their parents of course! If you click below, you can download the simple PDF “Survival Kit for Parents of Middle Schoolers” with exactly what I do on Sundays and what a difference it’s made for me in my life! For teens I suggest Fridays, only because their weekends are really the only “free time” many of them have, so they really need to maximize the use of their time on the weekends (relaxing of course included!)

I truly hope this helps you and feel free to share it with a friend who might need it too! 


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#41: 5 Effective & Proven Ways to decrease stress and anxiety

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength. ” – Charles Spurgeon

April 8, 2020

At the first of every month, I sit with my monthly dry erase marker and plan out my family’s month. In the calendar I include birthdays, special events, work schedules, sports games, doctors appointments, meetings, and special dates. Everyone in the house can see it. We frequently check it to make sure there are no conflicts before we make plans. It is always filled with all of the things important enough to make it to the calendar. This month when I sat down to make the calendar, the only thing I wrote were birthdays and anniversaries. With a future so uncertain, there was not much else to write and the blank calendar was serving as a reminder. The truth is it’s hard to live day to day without thinking about tomorrow. It’s weird. We all feel it. Listening to the news and scrolling through social media doesn’t help – in fact it makes it worse! 

I wanted to share with you some proven ways that we can manage the days ahead. 

In 2016, Neuroscientists from the University of Pittsburgh found pathways that connected the cerebral cortex (where all of our thoughts are) with the adrenal medulla (which is what dictates how our bodies respond to perceived stress). Their studies proved that there is indeed a mind-body connection. Not only that, but they also realized the reason that meditation and certain exercises like yoga and pilates can alter the way our bodies respond to stress. They also found that many areas of the cerebral cortex controlled the adrenal medulla, but the most important ones were the ones that came from the motor areas of the cortex and the ones that were involved in awareness and affect. Another interesting finding was that when people were asked to re-imagine or think about a stressful event, the messages sent to the adrenal medulla were just as powerful as the actual events. 

So, why am I telling you all of this? Well, I am worried. This is the first time in history that we are living through such a tragic event with 24/7 news coming at us in all directions. If what these scientists found in their studies is true, every time we read, listen to or experience the stress of the current situation, our bodies are sent into a state of fight or flight mode and this in turn affects not only how we feel but our physical state as well. 

The great news is that because we know all of this, we actually have real ways that we can deal with stress, not only today but always. 

  1. We need to manage how much time we allow our thoughts to be focused on a stressful situation. Worrying about every news story or every facebook post is not changing the future or helping anyone. In fact as the scientists in the study showed, each time you think about it, you are hurting yourself with the same intensity as the first time. So while you want to stay informed, limiting the amount to time worrying is most important. 
  2. If you change your thoughts about the situation, you will change your body’s response. Start your day with gratitude. I know it sounds corny, but when you stop to be thankful for the things you do have, you remind your mind and your body that not everything around you is negative or scary. Take the time to write down 3 things you are grateful for and be as specific as possible. 
  3. Meditate for at least 10 minutes a day everyday. If you have never meditated or think it sounds crazy, I challenge you to try it for 7 days, every day and see how you feel. My favorite apps are Headspace and Calm. 
  4. Move! Movements like Yoga and Pilates, or anything that relaxes you can send positive messages to your body too! So make a commitment to yourself to move everyday. Do not be rigid with your schedule, just do something that makes you feel good that day. Just do it, even when you don’t want to. Get your kids to join too!
  5. Write down 3 things every night that you want to accomplish tomorrow. When you wake up in the morning, take a look at your list and just get those things done. Simple things are important. 

The little things you do every day will help to keep you healthy. You are in control of what you chose to think about or not think about. Pretending to be happy is not the answer. Shifting your thinking to other things, is. Moving your body in a relaxing way will not only help your body but it will also help your mind. 

So there you have it, real scientific proof that we can control more than we think. Please take care of yourselves, remember that you matter, what you do everyday matters not only to you but to your kids too. 

Share with a friend – We are stronger together!

A day at a time! 

-Elizabeth Vainder, M.D. 

*Richard P. Dum, David J. Levinthal, Peter L. Strick. Motor, cognitive, and affective areas of the cerebral cortex influence the adrenal medulla. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016.

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#34: Moms need friends too

March 4, 2020

Happy Wednesday!

I was recently reading that according to a study done in 2018 by the Global Health Service Company Cigna, 46% of adults in the United States reported feeling lonely and 47 % reported feeling left out. I don’t know about you but these numbers are not only sad but they are alarming. Here we are 2 years later and I wonder if these numbers are even higher than they were then!

I have definitely seen an increase in sadness, depression and anxiety in my patients and their parents. While we do not specifically ask patients if they are feeling lonely, I suspect that many would answer yes to that question.

We are living in a time where we are fooling ourselves into feeling connected via social media and chats but is it makes you wonder if it is really fulfilling our innate human need for relationships. Humans are social. We thrive when we feel included, loved and worthwhile. This is not just children, its adults too.

New moms often feel isolated as they find themselves for the first time home alone with one or more kids that depend on them for everything they need leaving little time to do anything for themselves. Feeling alone and with feelings of guilt for being sad when the world expects them to feel grateful all of the time for being moms. The problem is that along with those feelings of gratitude in parenting there are days that are just hard, and that doesn’t make you a bad mom.

When a mom is feeling sad or overwhelmed this affects her ability to show up as her best self day after day. This affects her relationship with her kids and sometimes results in yelling, frustration and impatience. The worst part is that usually when we lose our temper we feel terrible about it.

So try to put yourself out there. Join a mommy and me class if you can. Try to find another new mom that maybe you can walk with or meet up with once a week. You need to make it a priority in the same way that you make it a priority to take a shower. Relationships are what help our minds healthy and we need to prioritize this. Do not let motherhood isolate you from your friends or the rest of the world.

Even if you feel like the friends that don’t have kids just don’t get it, keep the friendships that mean something to you. You are still the same person you were before you had kids just with a lot more responsibilities. Don’t shut people out because they aren’t going through what you’re going through. Grow together and forgive each other when you make a mistake.

I know you know how important it is for your kids to have friends, so make sure you remember that you do too.

Have a wonderful week!

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