30 minutes to get all our mind-body S**t done and love ourselves for it

I’ll admit it. I’m totally jealous.


Who are those women who have seemingly endless time to hit the gym, do a yoga class, meditate and move past all those worries, parent like a boss and have an endless array of sunshine on their perfect, perky hair? As physician and mom of two toddlers, I’m lucky to eat a hot meal every other week.


Sound familiar? As women, we are supposed to do more, live more, BE more. And do it all with work-life-family balance. Well, balance THIS, gurus.


What about we normal women that don’t wear a big gold “W” on our chest?  I’ve tried “the do-it-all routine” and I can tell you I was vastly unhappier with myself. I “did it all” right into therapy.


Guess what, ladies, we can’t do it all! And as a friend of mine said, “You sound fed up.”  Yep.  I totally am.


So, in the spirit of the new year, I’ve been racking my brain (does that count as mind-body work?)


How can us non-Amazonians do more for ourselves without hating ourselves for not achieving it all? It may not be the perfect solution, but I believe I’ve carved out only 30 minutes to accomplish all the mind-body s**t we aim to do.


Full disclosure: I tried this. I liked it. Totes gave me the feels that I did something good for me.  And as a time-challenged person, I liked that I completed so much in a short time and I noticed the effects stayed with me all day. I liked that I could break it up and do some in the a.m. and some at night.


In other words, it worked.


You can make up your own–the goal here is to ONLY do this much. Too often at the beginning of the year we try to “overdo” it and then we lose our steam.


Can you commit to 30 minutes?


Not sure how to wring 30 more minutes out of your already hectic day?


Once I did this program, I felt so good about myself I easily found the 30 minutes by cutting out:

Fretting about getting a workout in (20 minutes)

Harboring bad feelings or grudges (that could easily be 15 minutes a day)

Comparing myself to others (Infinity.  Ok, maybe 12 minutes.)


Wait, did I just find you an additional 42 minutes of time a DAY? WHAT? It’s a New Year and I’m like Mother-Freakin’ Time right now!  I bet I could totally find more, but in recognition of not “overdoing” it, let’s just keep it real for now.


And it gets better!


All you need to feel like a true mind-body warrior? You. Your mind. Your body. A timer.


30 Minutes of Mind-Body Bliss


Alternate nostril breathing (1 minute)

Ok, this premise is simple. Sit somewhere.


You can sit up straight and cross your legs to look cooler. Take your index finger and put it to the side of your nose (very important–to the SIDE, not INside). Plug one nostril and take a deep breath in through the one not plugged. Exhale through the same nostril. Repeat using the other finger and other nostril.


The benefits of this exercise? Scientifically, it can reduce blood pressure but it also balances out your energy and does relax you.


HIIT or Tabata (7-8 minutes)

Exercise that is beneficial for heart and muscle health in 7 minutes? Sign me up!


Tabata is a high-intensity workout done for very short periods of time (usually 8 minutes or less). The workout consists of 20 seconds of all-out exertion, followed by 10 seconds of rest.


Used by Olympic athletes to prime themselves for sport, a good Tabata leaves you feeling like you just conquered the world (and you may want to throw up a little bit).


Many Tabata apps are free.


Other great programs are the 7-minute workout challenge, which may cost a few dollars but geez, it’s a full workout in 7 minutes!


HIIT exercises burn calories fast, also helping with insulin resistance and diabetes.


Check with your doctor if you’re just starting a workout program.


Meditation (10 minutes. Yes, they exist.)

When I think of meditation, I think of a long, dreamy process, but in truth, you can do a beneficial mindful meditation in less than 10 minutes.


More importantly, there are guided meditations to take you through the steps.


Try this 7-minute loving-kindness meditation by meditation mama Megan Winkler


Apps like Calm and hypnotherapy apps by Andrew Johnson are other options that provide a short (<10 minute) respite from everyday stresses.


Legs up the wall (5 minutes)

Also known as Inverted Lake, this mild inverted yoga pose is known for a wide range of health benefits –improved digestion, brain function, relaxation and sleep–as well as its anti-aging effects.


Ancient Hindu scriptures claim that this pose hides wrinkles in addition to banishing old age and death. Um, count me in! While true yogis can do this pose from 30 minutes to several hours, we everyday gals can benefit from just 5 minutes of this a day.


“I am enough” affirmation in the mirror (1 minute)

This exercise seems so easy but it is HARD.


Looking yourself in the eye and saying this over and over for 1-minute works wonders for your self-esteem. Bonus points if you can do this exercise “nekkid” after getting out of the shower.


Difficult but empowering!


Journaling (5 minutes)

Journaling your goals for the week, dreams, worries, what have you. It can be a 5-minute doodle session, but connect your brain to hand to paper.


Forgiveness (1 minute)

For your friends, family and most importantly, for yourself. I do this at night right before bed. Forgiveness is a powerful tool.


And all of this, my lovelies, equals 30 minutes of total mind-body time. Some naysayers may balk at “timing” mind-body exercises, and I realize the multi-tasking mind-body gal isn’t the ideal, but it’s practical and the real deal.


Give yourself the gift of this 30 minutes each day–and find that your mind and body are both more resilient and stronger.


You can mix it up if you like (switch out child’s pose for legs up the wall), or add in a good clay facial while you’re doing your legs up the wall or meditation. Some days, you may need more mind than body or vice versa.  But most importantly, just stick to 30 minutes a day!


And tell me how it goes!  Maybe we can unlock some of those Amazonian secrets together and experience true mind-body bliss.


Heather Bartos, M.D., is a leading voice in the field of women’s health and wellness. Follow her on Twitter to learn more about living a healthier, more fulfilling life.


Vacation: A Necessary Prescription for a Healthy Life

This week, I embark on a vacation – my first – in more than two years. That seems rather sad, right? It’s certainly not healthy; I’ll admit that freely. But come on, admit it…I’m not alone. Per the U.S. Travel Association, Americans collectively did not use 662 million vacation days in 2016. More than half of all working people in the United States forfeited paid time off at the end of the year.  Self-employed people suffer the worst — if they aren’t working, they are actually losing money. The process of vacating must be a prescription then, as surely as any other, for our health.

Look it up in the dictionary:

“late 14c., ‘freedom from obligations, leisure, release’ from Old French vacacion and directly from Latin vacationem: ‘leisure, freedom, exemption, a being free from duty, immunity earned by service.’

“Meanings ‘state of being unoccupied,’ ‘process of vacating’ in English are early 15c. meaning ‘formal suspension of activity, time in which there is an intermission of usual employment’ (schools, courts, etc.) is recorded from mid-15c.”

bicycling on the beach under a palm tree

Historically, recreational travel – i.e. vacation – was a luxury that only the wealthy could afford. This sometimes took the form of the Grand Tour, which for British tourists usually began in Dover, England, and included luxurious stops in Ostend, the Netherlands or Belgium, Calais or Le Havre, France. Other highlights included trips across the Alps…A huge vacation even by today’s standards (lederhosen optional).


Puritans in early America didn’t tend to take breaks for reasons other than weekly observances of the Sabbath, and in fact, breaks were frowned upon. It’s easy to see our society has held onto this attitude at least in some respect – we don’t travel like we should!


One reason Europeans seem so much healthier than us? They actually use their vacation – or as they call it, holiday. Most employers give employees 4-6 weeks per year of said holiday. Now keep in mind, tax rates over there near 50% and gas prices are $5/per LITER (or roughly $10/gallon). So, don’t get too jealous just yet.


We can still mimic the healthy benefits of vacation that the Europeans have perfected.


Vacation is a prescription for health


Vacation Can Reduce Stress

As a physician, I feel perfectly guilty taking a vacation – and that is something I have to clear out of my own head. I have patients who get very upset I would ever think to be off when it’s their turn to come into the office. Before and after I leave, I bust my toochie to get things cleaned up.  I have to find coverage at three different hospitals. Plus, I have to do all the usual pre-trip mom things: pack the kids, find a dog sitter, make sure everyone’s paperwork is in order. I know many women feel the same way – you almost wonder if taking a vacation is even worth it!


But think about this: Getting AWAY and having down time is akin to meditation. It resets you by breaking your stress cycle. I know that self-care is important to the parasympathetic system (the same system promoted in yoga classes). In addition to the normal rest and relaxation benefits (decreased cortisol anyone?), immersing yourself in new experiences and cultures can promote better family bonding and increased feelings of overall well-being. So, taking a much-deserved holiday will promote better sleep, digestion, and mental health? Um, who couldn’t use some of that mindset medicine?


At the risk of upsetting some, I am vastly opposed to the idea of a “staycation.” That’s like trying to craft your own Robitussin at home. When I’ve tried that – I ended up reorganizing the pantry, sock drawer, and weeding. Hardly a ‘-cation’ by any stretch.

I prescribe that every woman should take four different “doses” of vacations:

  • Family: Even the most disconnected of families benefit from time away together. And I know, family vacations can be stressful (and expensive). If you look at places like Disney World or other “theme parks” the stress seems to outweigh any potential benefits of the vacation. But in fact, science shows the reverse.
  • Friends: A girls’ (or boys’) weekend now and then can rejuvenate your childhood jubilance and sense of mischievousness. Many find it hard to justify leaving their family and work for something like a girls’ weekend. But I find it highly valuable. Think of rejoining your sisterhood in a tribal setting. Frankly, you get benefits from your sister tribe that you just don’t get from anyone else.
  • Couples: This one frequently suffers when there are children involved. In addition to work guilt, mom guilt gets involved as well. Strengthening your relationship will only strengthen the core family unit. And it’s good for kids to see how parents take care of themselves and their relationship. You’re being a better role model for them.
  • Personal: The hardest – preferably by yourself. Solitude. Checking in with the person that matters the most to you… This feels so self-indulgent. I went to a writer’s retreat by myself this April, and boy was it regenerating. I enjoyed reveling in my thoughts and bettering me. I came back with lowered blood pressure and a renewed sense of passion about nearly everything!


Vacation is Easier than You Think!

Vacation increases wellness

Worried about cost? Who isn’t! I found several small weekend retreats that were very reasonably priced – these would be outstanding. Outside North Texas, near Sherman, is a meditation retreat that is incredibly priced. Worried about time? I suggest that even a WEEKEND (or for shift workers a couple of days) for yourself – scheduled, planned at the beginning of the year. You can also start your “vacation year” now!

Most Americans have about two weeks of vacation time. Try breaking it down like this: plan two 5-day holidays with the family and your partner. Then that leaves two long weekends for your friends and yourself. The following year, mix it up and reverse it.

Did I mention that my first vacation alone with my husband in SEVEN years (since the birth of our first child) is happening in 6 days? I suffered from a terrible case of getaway guilt and an appalling shortage of self-care. My cure is to make a conscious effort to follow the above dosing schedule, because I believe it will positively impact my mindset, and thus my health.

So, plan four distinct vacations, get a good dose of some Vitamin “V” …and call me in the morning.

A Stone’s Throw from Better Health: What My Kidney Stone Taught Me

Recently I embarked on a new health journey. I prefer the word “journey,” to crisis or problem. One week ago tonight, I awoke with a searing pain. Like most women, I extracted myself from bed and thought, “Maybe this is gas pain,” or “Maybe I ate something not quite right.” But as the hours ticked by while my sweet family snoozed, I felt as though I was going into labor. Waves of nausea hit, followed by smacking spasms along my sigmoid colon.

As the 3-hour mark hit, I realized I knew what this was. And I needed medical help. So – maybe not the smartest but now the most efficient way – to get to the ER (a place I dread going, even as a physician!), I left my family in bed and drove myself to the emergency room at the hospital I practice. I started vomiting along the way (and this is the reason I highly recommend keeping a barf bag in your car at all times) and stayed on the phone with my mother, in case I passed out from pain.

The ER knew what I had walking in, as did I. A kidney stone. In my case, a 6 mm (1/4 inch) jagged piece of oxalate had decided to birth itself out of my left kidney. Except, it was stuck, about two fingerbreadths north of my bladder. And it was making itself known that it was pissed off.

Using My Own Principles

Now, I highly recommend the principles we talk about in Mindset Medicine, but like yogis and monks, I am still a student of it as well. At the moment, trying to birth the baby I aptly named “Rocky,” I encountered my first piece of “doctor play” in the ER. The ER doctor – a man – told me kidney stones were worse than childbirth (and he knows, how?) and that he had one. And that I could go. At that moment, I asked myself, what did I need, a guiding principle of mindset medicine. And I told him that as a busy mom and OB, I needed to stay in-house and get some fluids, pain medicine, and rest. He shrugged his shoulders and walked away to call urology.

Within a few hours, somehow I was going for laser lithotripsy, which sounds like a game at Chuck E. Cheese but in actuality involves shoving a telescope up my left ureter, and playing space invaders with Rocky. Thankfully, this would be done under general anesthesia.

The urologist explained to my husband, while I was in Margaritaville recovering, that he had to place a stent – a small flexible tube to help my ureter heal. And that removing this could be done myself, and that it was like “pulling out a tampon.” I’m not sure why two middle-aged white men should be having this type of conversation, both of whom I’m fairly certain have never inserted or removed a vaginal menstrual device.

Sometimes Visualizations Don’t Work

I stayed two days, requiring pain medication. At this point, some might ask, couldn’t I just talk myself out of the pain? Create a vision board of how I wanted to feel? Normally, I could try. At this moment, I was in acute pain, and no amount of reprogramming how I felt about the situation could help. The biggest gift to my body was listening to it, and going with what felt right.

I tried to do clinic one hour after discharge. I was there, sure, but not as present as I’d like. It was a fairly easy clinic, and my patients were understanding that I wasn’t quite myself. I received a litany of medications on discharge – bladder spasm medication, pain medicine (2 of them), antibiotics, bladder numbing medicine, oh, and my great friend, Miralax (because you know all those pain meds were going to stop production for at least a week).

Fast forward one day – my husband and daughter got into a car accident, which left the vehicle undrivable. By Saturday, I was still miserable, and the words the urologist told my husband were starting to get to me: “This is really simple and she’ll be great after this procedure – I mean, people just go home and get right back to it.” Now, because of those words, I felt partly incensed, partly humiliated and defiant. When I called him to get instructions on how to remove my own stent in the office, he seemed surprised I was back at work. I did what I loathe to do: I went to Dr. Google. Stories from all over the world came back about people missing two weeks of work, or the immense pain of the stent.

The point was, I let someone else’s opinion get in my head. Who cares if that’s what we thought? Over the past few years, studying mindset medicine, I knew I needed to listen to my body and do what was right for me. This doctor was nice but practiced in an old style. Words I wanted to hear: “I mean she must be really tough to endure all she did, I think with her feistiness, she’ll feel better faster than most, but that’ll really be up to her and her body.” If I had heard those words – I would have felt empowered. Relieved. Listened to and trusted. Why don’t more doctors talk like this?

The following day I woke up looking like I had lip fillers injected three times. Or a hive of bees attacked my face. The diagnosis? Angioedema, a potentially life threatening swelling caused by a number of possible items (think Goldie Hawn in “The First Wives Club”). I traced it back to the Levaquin I was taking (which thankfully I had stopped the day before). I could breathe, I knew I was safe, but still – scary to think that the week continued to down spiral. Kidney stones? No reason to get one. Angioedema? What the heck.

Fake it Till You Make it!

I had enough. And it was time to call on my mindset medicine training to get out of this health funk. Like a good doctor, I showed up Monday morning ready to work. The first thing the nurses asked me on L&D was “How are you feeling?” In truth, I still felt cruddy. My lips were cracked and swollen. It was hard to swallow. I wanted to regale them with stories of my stone, my story. But that wasn’t helping anything. To get out of the funk, I had to start here and now.

“I’m feeling better – stronger every day.” It felt forced and fake to say it, but they didn’t seem to think so. They nodded and agreed. I expounded on it as the day went on and I saw more people who had heard of my tale.

“I’m like Gandalf the great white wizard – none shall pass! But I showed that kidney stone who’s boss,” laughing at my punchiness (keep in mind, I was off all pain medicine so don’t blame my bad jokes on that).

Throughout the day, I started to feel better. Stronger. On the 30-minute drive home I took stock of why I was where I was. How can I own this experience and learn from it? In truth, I wasn’t drinking enough. In my quest to be everything, I was quickly becoming paralyzed to nothing. I was working myself too hard, pursuing perfection. My marriage was in temporary turmoil, as all marriages are at some point. I felt unheard. My kids – perfectly gorgeous in their extreme toddlerness – were in a particularly needy phase. We adopted a new puppy, who delighted in finding fudgy feline treats in the cat box and piddling every 20 seconds on the floor. The house felt disarrayed.

Taking Care of Me First

So I made a plan. I was going STOP. THE. MADNESS. The first person I would take care of was me. My body was my mind incarnate screaming for me to listen to it. I turned off all electronics. I got out my computer to write. I started my emergency self-care plan (we’ll go over this). I doubled-down on the kids, demanding earlier bedtimes, tooth brushing without exemption, and tales of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dragons Love Tacos instead of electronics. My husband made dinner tonight, and although I wouldn’t have cooked it, I thanked him profusely. And I enjoyed it. I pulled the piddle puppy on the bed and let him sleep next to me, with his little snorts and dream woofs making me giggle.

I decided to start with hydration. I knew I needed it. Tomorrow it’s hydration. Water, water, water. That’s one thing my body was telling me I needed (or what Rocky was telling me). I didn’t try to rearrange my life, but to listen to my life. My poor health was a sign of my sick thoughts and my abysmal self-care. And that’s about to change, as it has many times before in many health expeditions.

All along, I was a stone’s throw away from a new health journey. Which starts…now.

5 Ways to Stop Stress Eating for Better Health

We all race home and find the dog peed on the floor, the toddler’s finger painted all over your dining room table, and the traffic took twice the time as normal. What do most people do to cope? If you’re an American, you likely turn to food. Stress eating—taking the edge off of your day with some comforting albeit unhealthy food—is taking the country by storm. After a couple of years of this, the weight creeps up, the inflammation kicks in, and you’re in for a full body assault. It’s not good for the body or the mind—so why do we do it?


“We view food as a comfort,” says Dr. Heather Bartos, of be. Women’s Health & Wellness. “That pizza, those nachos, that ice cream play a biochemistry trick on our brain. But we can outthink it.”


To do so, Dr. Bartos suggests reframing how you view the food you eat.


Dr. Bartos recommends 5 ways to reframe how you look at food. You can implement these right now to break free from the stress eating. Get ready to jump back into the driver’s seat:


  1. Especially about how we’re feeling. Sometimes we feel icky or have a blah “off” day. We might be cranky and don’t know why. We don’t want to feel it. The first step is to say: “I’m feeling off. What is my body communicating to me?” A feeling is just a feeling, not good or bad. We can shift that feeling and say, “Huh. Is there something deep down that’s making me feel this way because I have a stressor that’s driving this behavior?” Take a moment each day and think before you reach for food-journaling. What was I craving? How was I feeling?
  2. How to manage the stress? Waiting until the end of the day to relieve our stress is a bad idea. Close your eyes, take deep breaths. Blow away all the stress after thinking about your happiest moment. Turn up the brightness in the picture. At the office? Hop into the restroom and take a calming moment for yourself. In other words, don’t want until later in the day!
  3. Limit distractions during Otherwise you’re 70% more likely to overeat. Eating in front of the TV is one of the worst things you can do. If you sit in the same place doing the same thing every night, your brain automatically associates sitting in front of the television with ice cream or whatever you eat there. You will be fighting within yourself because your brain already made that connection. That’s why it’s challenging to break the cycle, but it’s not difficult: move to another spot at your table, 2 chairs down to form a new connection in your brain. Be more mindful in your eating habits. It’s much better to eat at the table and not on your phone.
  4. Choose your words. Don’t say things like “I’m just fat,” “I’m just lazy,” or “I’m not motivated.” We are creators, and we create our reality through the things we say to ourselves. Did you know that our subconscious is 5-7 years old? Our core beliefs are driving us and when we embed negativity into those beliefs, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Be mindful of the way you speak to yourself. Use the phrase, “I choose…” when thinking about your habits. Remember: negative thinking is habitual. Instead of negative thoughts, try some of these on for size: “I am healthy.” “I am fit.” “I am strong.” “I am a loving person. I am attracting abundance.”
  5. Change the story about food. Change how you think about food by changing the names of things. Such as a Whopper with cheese, which might become a “sick-cheeseburger.” Shift your thinking about the foods you no longer want to eat to change the emotions around the food. For example, pizza might symbolize friends and fun and youth, but if it makes you feel bad, perhaps a better way to view it is in terms of a once-in-a-while treat or a food to avoid altogether. What would happen if you shifted your pizza thoughts?


“Each one of us has the power to shift the emotion with food,” says Dr. Bartos.  “Rethinking how you will feel and understanding how your body processes the foods out there puts you back in control.”


Taking Care of Your Thyroid

It weighs only 25 grams (about the weight of a handful paper clips), and it sits at the base of your neck. You may not think much about your thyroid gland, but that little butterfly-shaped gland is not functioning optimally then nothing works well.  January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and in honor of that little butterfly-shaped gland, here are some tips on taking care of mother nature’s circuit breaker.


  • Dine on Iodine: Thyroid hormones such as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) are named T4 and T3 due to the number of iodine molecules they possess. T4 possesses four iodine molecules, and T3 possesses three. Without iodine, your body simply cannot make these thyroid hormones and issues then follow. Iodine deficiency is common, though we can increase our intake of it by consuming iodine rich foods such as seaweed, fortified dairy products, and seafood.
  • Choppin’ Broccoli: The brassica family—kale, broccoli, and cauliflower—are what known as “goitrogens” which means they can suppress the function of the thyroid gland by blocking the uptake of iodine. Cooking them lightly will reduce the negative impact of these powerhouse foods but keep all their vitamin-rich goodness.
  • Let’s get nuts: Selenium is required for the thyroid to convert thyroid hormone T4 to T3 as the enzymes required for this conversion are actually dependent on selenium. It is also a potent antioxidant; protecting the gland from oxidative stress.  Brazil nuts are one of the highest natural sources of this mineral. Alfalfa, broccoli, butter, eggs, fish, garlic, onion, turnips and seafood are also fantastic sources.  Eating one unsalted Brazil nut daily is an easy way to increase your intake and also provides your body with other minerals and healthy fats.
  • Up your ANTIOXIDANTS: Antioxidants are well known to help lower the signs of aging but they’re also fantastic for your thyroid, especially if you have an autoimmune thyroid disorder, such as Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease. The thyroid is very susceptible to oxidative stress. Consuming a rainbow of fruit and vegetables daily will ensure you are getting a lot of antioxidants as well as B vitamins which will help to protect your thyroid and ensure proper hormone balance.
  • STAY AWAY FROM FAD DIETS: Good advice in general; starving yourself is never a good idea! When you dramatically lower your calorie intake or deprive your body of sustenance for certain periods of time, your body will do everything it can to help you survive. One of the body’s primary survival mechanisms is for the thyroid to release a hormone call reverse T3 which acts to slow your metabolism. If you are starving to death in the middle of the desert, this may come in handy, however, if you are trying to get to a healthy weight and feel healthier, then not so much!

Lastly, the key to thyroid health is to eat plenty of nutrient-dense foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy, lean sources of protein—both animal and vegetable sources—drink plenty of water and lower your intake of refined sugars, junk food, sugary drinks and get plenty of rest. A thyroid-healthy diet will enhance all of your health, and what better month to start than right after New Years!