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.