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.


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.