Ask. Listen. Learn. Love. How to interview your parents, capture their stories and make memories.

We celebrated Father’s Day in grand style last weekend with a wonderful lunch at the new Porter Creek restaurant, flowers, candy and a card. 7 year old Grant all on his own found the perfect card for his dad, with a reference about having a relaxing day and a joke
about snoring! We also bought cards for my dad, Grandpa Mark and my late father-in-law Grandpa Howard. Grant also selected some flowers for his grave.

Son Interviewing Father

When my grandparents passed away and my father-in-law passed away and I found myself thinking, “I wish I had known them better.”

I wish I knew more stories about them, stories I could pass along to my son Grant.

I wish I had asked deep, thoughtful questions a little more often.

I wish I had recorded them speaking, just to preserve the sound of their voices.

Now it’s too late, and quite honestly, I regret it.

Parents get some well-deserved attention on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but it’s important to celebrate moms and dads on the other 363 days of the year, too.

One beautiful idea:

Sit down with one (or both) of your parents, a pad of paper, and a voice recorder app, and interview them for an hour. (Or more).

Try to ask questions you’ve never asked before, or haven’t asked for a long time.

Questions that dive below surface level.

Questions like:

– What is one of the biggest challenges that you’ve had to overcome? How did you do it?

– What was the world like when you were very young? What do you remember?

– What were some of your favorite things to do when you were a teenager?

– How did you meet [mom / dad]? How did you know that you were in love?

– What kinds of careers did you consider pursuing, or dream about pursuing, when you were a kid?

– What matters most in life? What doesn’t really matter?

– What’s something you often worried about when you were younger that you don’t worry about anymore?

– What is something you regret?

– What is something you will never regret?

Encourage your mom or dad to share how certain events felt — revealing emotional details, not just facts and dates. Record their stories. Get them transcribed. If you like, you can turn the transcription into a beautiful “legacy book” — complete with photos and scanned images of handwritten letters, receipts, newspaper clippings, recipes, and other pieces of history — for yourself, your kids, and future generations.

Need inspiration? Listen to exquisite, vulnerable recordings of conversations between ordinary people (mothers, fathers, kids, friends) at the StoryCorps website.

Want more questions? Use TableTopics cards to spark conversation around the family dinner table.

Ready to print? Add a few pictures, get your book formatted, then bound in softcover or hardcover and shipped to your doorstep using a self-publishing service like Lulu or Blurb.

Want some professional writing, editing, or design help? The folks at Echo Memoirs specialize in producing beautiful, professional-quality family legacy books.

All too often, parents pass away and we feel like we “never really knew them.” Don’t let that happen. Create the time to connect deeply, listen, and learn.

Walk with me for a while, my friend you in my shoes, I in yours and then let us talk. ?Richelle E. Goodrich

Sit, share a cup of tea with a loved one, and let the stories begin…

~ Son Interviewing FatherDr. Sue

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15 things to do when you’re sick, injured or stuck at home

I hurt my knee last week and struggled though my clinic day, limping and grimacing.

Checking List

The good news is a little bit of rest, ice and Aleve did the trick, and I was back at it
Monday, zipping (almost) from room to room.

But I’ll admit, I did worry that I might need a knee scope and would be out for a few days. At first I stressed out. Then I fantasized for a few minutes about what I might do with forced leisure time, a “get well soon” list. You could do a few of these on a snow day next winter, too.

  1. Reorganize the inside of your fridge. (I don’t know why, but this is so incredibly satisfying!)
  1. Use your downtime as an opportunity to upgrade your diet. Your body needs high-quality foods to heal faster! This could be the perfect time to start experimenting with green smoothies, Paleo breakfast bowls, Chia pudding or even something as simple as sprinkling some walnuts or flax seeds on top of your green salad. Pack in those nutrients!
  1. Ask friends and family members to add their favorite books, songs, movies and TV shows to a public (or private) Google document. Build an epic list of things to watch, listen to and read during your recovery, curated with love.
  1. Choose seven people that you’d like to reconnect with, or get to know better, and write one letter per day, to a new person each day for a week. There’s something so soothing about writing a handwritten note. (Receiving one is rare and amazing, too!)
  1. Exercise, slowly and safely, to the best of your abilities, even if it’s just stretching in bed or rolling out your sore muscles on a foam roller. Even mild, gentle exercise will boost your endorphins and immune system and help you heal faster.
  1. Watch the most inspiring TED Talks of all time. Feeling creative? Outline your own TEDx Talk and practice delivering it to an audience of one (your cat or spouse, perhaps). Someday soon, perhaps you will feel ready for the main stage.
  1. Get a massage. A good massage can alleviate anxiety, lower your blood pressure, soothe sore muscles and tension headaches and much more. Some insurance providers will even cover part (or all) of the cost for certain types of injuries and issues. Call your provider to find out.
  1. If you are feeling lonely or isolated, host a storytelling night in your home. Invite loved ones over for a potluck (bonus, you won’t have to cook much) and have everyone take turns answering one question, like, “What’s been the toughest part of your year so far, and how did you overcome that challenge?” or, for a lighter twist, “What’s been the best part of your week so far?
  1. Make a “grown-up list” — a list of all of those grown-up, responsible things you’ve been meaning to do for a long time but keep putting off. Like cleaning your bathtub. Or renewing your fishing license. Or buying more postage stamps. You don’t necessarily have to “do” everything (or anything) on your list right now, but organizing your thoughts and getting it all down on paper will still feel good.
  1. Get some sunshine. Sunlight helps your body heal by stimulating the production of white blood cells, which boost your immune system. If you’re healing after breaking a bone, good news: Your body produces more vitamin D after being exposed to sunlight, and vitamin D is what allows your body to absorb calcium — essential for bone health.
  1. Master the ultimate chicken noodle soup recipe. Or make a big vat of bone broth — a rich broth made by simmering bones for multiple days, rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and other minerals that your body craves. (Pro tip from a chef I know: Add some miso, kombu and dashi to your bone broth in the final hour of simmering for a yummy Asian-inspired twist. Not into those flavors? Add a big handful of fresh parsley and basil and just a hint of salt for an Italian-inspired broth.)
  1. Indulge in some extra-special deliveries and TLC. Our local grocery stores deliver for a very small fee. In some cities, you can use Taskrabbit to find a housekeeper, organizer or handy fix-it guy or gal. Outsource an administrative project that’s weighing heavily on your shoulders through HireMyMom. Order dinner through Grubhub. Help is readily available. Seek it out, with zero guilt!
  1. Detox your inbox. Unsubscribe from all of those newsletters you never read (try Unroll.me for a one-click solution). Create an “out of office” email auto-responder to let people know that you’re recuperating and might be slower to respond than usual. Give yourself permission to unplug and check out. If there was ever a time to take a “digital sabbatical,” it’s now!
  1. Learn how to meditate. Try a free guided meditation online, and if you enjoy it, try a meditation tip of the day. If you’re dealing with pain, try Jon Kabat-Zinn’s wonderful meditations for pain relief. Got a short attention span when it comes to meditation? Try this one-minute meditation for a quick mind-body shift.
  1. Help someone less fortunate. It can be so difficult to stay positive and maintain a healthy sense of perspective when you’re dealing with pain or physical limitations, but the reality is, no matter how icky you currently feel, it could probably be much worse. This quote says it all: “There are people who would love to have your bad days.

See if there is a way you can reach out and lift somebody else’s spirits, even if it’s just with a text, an email or leaving a loving comment on someone’s blog.

If it’s within your capabilities, volunteer your time or make a charitable donation to a service organization, like Dakota Medical Foundation’s Lend A Hand, helping those in medical crisis.

Committing an act of generosity, big or small, will lift your mood and help you feel better, every time.

Take good care of yourself. Get well soon.

~ Dr. SueChecking List

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What is growing in the garden of your mind?

Did ever grow anything in the Garden of your Mind?

You can grow ideaspeony 2

In the Garden of your mind

 

It’s good to be curious about many things

You can think about things and make believe

All you have to do is think

And they’ll grow

~ Fred Rogers [listen to the song here]

The peonies are in full bloom and the community garden done by Farm In The Dell is already looking gorgeous with neat rows of seedlings growing before my eyes. We have basil and thyme in pots and Grant will try to train Luke the Cuke to grow in a patio pot.

But regardless of the color of your thumbs, green or black, Mr. Rogers reminds us that we’ve all got gardening to do. Are we growing ideas and thoughts like beautiful veggies and flowers, or weeds in the garden of our minds?

We’ve come to realize that our minds are a very powerful force and thoughts warrant tending. Unfortunately we are programmed to have automatic negative thoughts (ANTs- how appropriate) so it takes mindfulness and intention to overcome them.

Your mindset, not your environment or other external circumstances, is ultimately what determines the quality of your life.

If you focus on the beauty in a particular situation, even a challenging one, that beauty is magnified.

If you focus on the darkness of a particular situation, that darkness is magnified.

There’s an old saying, “We teach the lessons that we need to learn,” and for me, that’s always been very true.

Though I am quite a few birthdays older than my son, I am still learning how to master the art of positive thinking.

Still learning how to fill “the garden of my mind” with positively beautiful thoughts.

Still learning how to nourish those thoughts so they can grow.

One question that helps me tremendously — especially when I’m faced with a distressing or challenging scenario — is simply asking myself:

What is working here?

Maybe my workday at the medical center didn’t go exactly as planned. Flexibility and grace under pressure are an art to be practiced!  But I still managed to help several patients look and feel better — and I even made one crack a smile in the midst of a procedure. That’s a big checkmark in the “win” column.

Maybe Grant is being a bit cranky or refusing to eat his dinner. But then he says something so unbelievably wise, funny and observant, my little philosopher inside a seven-year-old body! — and I can’t stop smiling at his perspective.  Another check in the “win” column.

There are so many opportunities, every day, to focus on what is working — what is good, meaningful, precious, and beautiful — rather than what is not working.

Wherever you invest your focus, that is what grows.

What is working in your life right now?

Keep placing your focus there.

As Mister Rogers reminds us, you can grow new ideas in the garden of your mind.

All you have to do is think

And they’ll grow

Dr. Sue

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Drowning Doesn’t Look or Sound Like Drowning

Despite gray skies and cooler temperatures drowningon Memorial Day Weekend, Grant and I christened the summer and went to the pool. We were the only ones there, but the lifeguard came out of the pool house and sat with eagle eyes watching him swim and jump off the diving board.

Even though, I was watching too, I was thankful for the lifeguard’s attention. Drowning is the second-leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1 to 14, behind motor vehicle crashes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

A lapse in adult supervision is thesingle, most importantfactor in child drowning deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

But even if a lifeguard is on duty, drowning can occur so quickly, and so silently, that a swimmer can die before anyone notices. The CDC says that 50% of drowning deaths occur within 25 yards of a parent or other adult, and that in 10% of cases, a bystander watched the drowning with no idea it was happening.

Why? Because drowning doesn’t look or sound like “drowning.” There is no splashing, yelling waving or calling for help. “Drowning is often silent,” says Mario Vittone, a water safety expert and a former U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer.

As a parent, I’ve learned that quiet in the house is usually a sign that there is mischief going on… the furniture gets decorated with markers, chocolate syrup makes lovely designs on the carpet and once, Grant sported his new shaggy bangs look.

But around water, quiet can be deadly.

The best way to know if your child is OK is to ask: If they’re in trouble they most likely won’t be able to answer. They are too busy trying to breath and stay afloat.

The Instinctive Drowning Response—so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scenemagazine, suggests  being on the lookout for these signs of drowning when persons are in the water:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs—vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder
  • May be unable to reach out for an assistive device like a rope or life-ring.

The best prevention is swimming lessons and vigilance. Wherever kids are swimming in pools, backyards, lakes or rivers, an adult needs to be nearby and attentive.

One other part of this PSA article… Please keep your eyes on the men in your lives too.

Male drowning victims outnumber women 4 to 1. In the teen and young adult years, that number is 9 to 1.

Research presented at the 2011 World Conference on Drowning Prevention showed that each hour spent in water is two hundred times more likely to prove deadly than an hour cruising the highway.

Why? Men’s Health Magazine had some answers. Men are more likely to swim in oceans, lakes and rivers, which are 3 times more risky that pools. Men have a greater propensity to swim solo, at night, and in unguarded waters. Men tend to over-estimate their swimming prowess. Men tendAnd men tend to drink and swim. Over 50% of male drowning victims have elevated blood alcohol levels.

The moral of this story, have a great summer at the pool and lake. Keep everyone safe by teaching swimming and water safety, being very vigilant with eyes and ears, and by not taking risks.

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Beauty bullying: it’s got to stop.

“That outfit is totally inappropriate. Does she think she’s seventeen? Looks ridiculous.”

“I can’t believe she’s eating a donut. Has she looked in the mirror lately?”

“Wow. She’s going to the gym… again? She’s already so skinny. Talk about obsessive.”

“Looks like she got some ‘work’ done. How sad. She looks terrible.”

If there’s one thing that breaks my heart more than just about anything else, it’s seeing and hearing women cruelly pick apart and tear down other women.

It’s disturbingly common. Even women who are usually gracious, spiritually centered and kind can slip into this kind of vicious gossip around a brunch table. Especially when the mimosas are flowing… and the victim of this cruel banter is out of earshot.

We see it in the news as female political candidates are judged by their hairstyle and size of their ankles. There was lots of “talk” about Princess Kate because she dared to put a little makeup on and brush her hair shortly after giving birth…. She was deemed “too beautiful” for a new mom. And don’t forget Fashion Police was one of the most popular shows on E! Network.

Why do we do it?

I’m a physician and surgeon, not a psychologist, but if I had to guess… I’d say that this kind of behavior is a reflection of deep insecurity.

When you feel fearful, resentful or powerless, it’s much easier to tear somebody else down than it is to face what is not working in your own life.

Making comments other people can (temporarily) make you feel more virtuous and powerful.

Part of the problem is the beauty paradox that has become part of our generational story. Vivian Diller, PhD, describes the “beauty paradox” as the predicament created by two incompatible messages:

Message 1: Deny. Your looks shouldn’t matter. If they do, don’t let anyone know. Stay true to your real self. Let your looks take their natural course as you age.

Message 2: Defy. Your looks should matter, and don’t you forget that. Buy wrinkle creams, work out at the gym, and defy aging at whatever cost, in any way you can. Oh, and be sure to make it look natural.
 
These contradictory messages foster and inflame these deep insecurities we have about our looks and are part of the reason for the comments.

But understanding the reason doesn’t make it right. The comments are mean-spirited and cruel. But we can learn to navigate this paradox and come up with a definition and an expression of beauty that empowers us: Not too much, not too little,  but just right.

Beauty bullying means criticizing other women because their definition of “beautiful” is different from yours.

We’ve got to put an end to this kind of behavior, and we all play a role in making it stop.
We teach our kids about kindness and being accepting of others as we shine the light on bullying in school and online.

We need to shine the light on beauty bullying as well. Light is the cure for darkness.

If one of your friends is beauty bullying… call her out as compassionately as possible. Say, “Hey, I don’t enjoy talking about other women. She has the right to dress, look, and behave however she wants, just like you and I do. Can we change the topic of conversation?”

If you catch yourself in the act of beauty bullying… stop. Say out loud to yourself and the group, “Whoa. What I just said was really cruel and unnecessary. I don’t want to talk about other women that way and I apologize for my snarkiness. Let’s talk about something else.”

If you are the victim of beauty bullying… let it go. Know that it has nothing to do with you — and everything to do with other people’s insecurities and unresolved emotional muck.

In certain situations — like if someone says something offensive directly to your face (“You’d look so much prettier without all of those tattoos…”) — you can choose to turn the situation into a “teaching moment,” if you want to.

You could respond, “Actually, I think I look beautiful just the way I am. I think you are beautiful, too.”

Or, “I love having the freedom to express myself however I want. It’s wonderful that you have that same freedom, too. We’re all allowed to have our own definition of ‘beautiful.’”

Imagine if every single woman on the planet took a pledge, today, to never engage in beauty bullying again.

That one pledge — that one choice — would create unimaginable shifts in our culture. Not only for women, today, but also for the next generation of girls growing up.

Repeat after me:

“I have the right to live, love, work, dress, enhance and adorn my body however I want — and so does every other woman in the world.”

May our love and mutual respect drown out the bullying voices.

May we all lift each other higher — instead of tearing each other apart.

~Dr. Sue

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Your guide to the ultimate power nap.

What do Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, nap in the shadeEleanor Roosevelt, Capuchin monks and top-performing military pilots and astronauts all have in common?

They are all proud, devout nappers!

While some people view napping as “lazy,” or something that’s only appropriate when you’re recovering from an illness, the truth is that taking a daily nap is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and well-being, mental clarity, and productivity.

To me a nap sounds like the ultimate guilty pleasure, rarely indulged. But after reviewing the research, I may have to reconsider!

Taking a nap is like plugging yourself into wall socket and recharging your batteries for the rest of the day. Need proof? A study at NASA on sleepy astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34%.

If you’d like to feel 34% more alert, energetic and productive for the rest of the day… read on. Your official guide to the ultimate power nap is right here.

– Time it right.

A high quality nap… is all about timing. Use Dr. Sara Mednick’s brilliant “Nap Wheel” to calculate the optimal time for your nap based on when you woke up and when you intend to go to bed.

Nap at this time and you’ll reach “a perfectly balanced state in which REM and slow-wave sleep are equally proportioned, and where The Ultimate Nap occurs.”

– Set the scene.

You don’t need a sleep researcher to tell you that napping is easier when you are comfortable! If you’re at home, draw the blinds to darken your room. Gather your favorite pillows and blankets. Invest in ear plugs and a light-blocking eye mask or some aromatherapy oils. Lavender is especially relaxing and nap-inducing.

– Quiet your mind.

If your mind is racing, write down whatever tasks or concerns are frittering around in your noggin. Or make a list of everything you intend to do once you wake up, if that’s helpful to you. (Personally, I’m always worried I will forget something important, so dumping everything into a list instantly alleviates some stress.)

Quiet your thoughts and remind yourself, “Everything on my to-do list will still be there when I wake up… and I’ll be much more alert and efficient. Everything will be easier after my nap!”

– Have a cup of coffee.

Surprised? It’s counter-intuitive, but having a cup of coffee immediately before settling down for a nap means that you’ll wake up extra-bright and bushy tailed.

Why? To quote this piece on The Huffington Post:

“It all boils down to body chemistry — specifically, to the competing effects of caffeine and adenosine, a drowsiness-inducing chemical compound that accumulates in your brain when you’re awake and dissipates as you sleep.

Caffeine’s alertness-boosting effect typically peaks about 30 minutes after the stimulant is consumed. So by sleeping for 20 or so minutes of those 30, you can reduce the amount of adenosine the caffeine has to compete with. And voila, the caffeine has a greater effect.”

Translation: a cup of coffee turns a power nap into a super-powered nap!

But this doesn’t give you carte blanche to chug triple-shot lattes all day long.

Try to ramp down your caffeine intake starting a few hours before you intend to take a nap so that you can relax. Then have a cup just before you close your eyes. That’s the ideal timing! And most of us should cut-off caffeine for good by mid-afternoon so that you can sleep well at night.

– Aim for 45 minutes or less.

There’s a bit of disagreement about how long the “perfect” power nap ought to be.

Most sleep researchers agree that a 10 – 20 minute nap can provide a measurable alertness and productivity boost.

Other studies suggest that a longer nap — about 45 minutes — can provide different kinds of benefits, including heightened creativity and problem solving abilities.

If you’ve got plenty of time, you could aim for a 90-minute nap, which will allow your body to move one complete sleep cycle, passing through all five phases of sleep. This means you’ll wake up feeling as rested as possible, instead of groggy and discombobulated.

My thoughts… Who has time for a 90-minute nap? You probably won’t be sleepy at your usual bedtime, which could throw your body and lifestyle out of whack. But everyone is different. Experiment with naps of different lengths to figure out what feels best for your body.

(Maybe, like the eccentric artist Salvador Dali, you will become obsessed with a “one second nap!” He swore by these micro-naps and believed they unlocked new depths of creative brilliance. Could be worth trying, at least once!)

“Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.”
— Barbara Jordan, American politician and Civil Rights movement leader

I could not agree more!

Even with a frantic schedule, could you plan for a short nap? You might just wake up refreshed and better equipped to tackle everything on your to-do list.

Whether you are flying a space ship, leading a civil rights march, working on a blog post, or finishing up a project at home, everything feels more doable after a nap!
 

~ Dr. Sue

Question of the day: what is the strangest place you’ve ever taken a nap?

(Me: At a club concert during college…I was soooo tired. I still remember the band Robots Raised In The Wild. My body needed it badly, and my friends didn’t mind that I snagged some spontaneous shut-eye. And the music was really bad, so I didn’t miss much!)

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Start a foolish project.

 “Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah… it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.”
~ RumiStart a Foolish project

I put the finishing touches on my painting — a vibrant peacock with rainbow plumage — and leaned back in satisfaction.

I am a physician, not a painter. I am sure there are fifth graders with more skillfully honed painting techniques than me. I imagine a professional art critic might have a lot of not-particularly-kind things to say about my painting abilities.

But I don’t care.

I signed up for a painting class at Susie Rischer’s house just because it sounded like fun.

And it was. There were eight ladies around the dining room table. Old friends and new!

It was fun because I chose to dive into the experience with no expectations or agenda. Not trying to create a museum-worthy piece of art. Not intending to sell my work online. Not trying to impress anyone. Not even trying to impress myself.

Just painting for the sheer pleasure of putting colors on a canvas.

There are so few moments in my busy life where I feel this kind of freedom.

Now that I have tasted it, I can’t wait to experience it again.

This moment of pleasure and agenda-less creation provided a kind of healing that I didn’t even know I needed. This moment reminded me: “This is the point of life, ultimately. To enjoy the ride. Really enjoy it.”

So I scheduled a date with Rando, and spent the afternoon at his downtown studio. He coached a colorful butterfly out of me and it now graces the wall of the microscope room at Catalyst.

Today: why not do as Rumi suggested and start a foolish project of your own?

And it doesn’t have to be an ark— though we are very grateful for Noah’s work.

It could be a five-minute project, or a five-hour adventure, or a project that occupies every Sunday afternoon for the rest of your life.

Big or small, let your heart be swept up in it.

It makes absolutely no difference where it leads or what people think.

Be jubilantly foolish. Your spirit. Your expression.

Enjoy it.

~ Dr. Sue

Foolish & wonderful resources to inspire you:

–    Start a foolish project: an e-course from photographer Andrea Scher. She inspired this post!

–    Improv Anywhere: comedy flash mobs cropping up in cities all over the world, simply because it’s hilarious and fun.

–    Heart Attack: people dressed as hearts dancing and giving people hugs on the street. Because why not?

–    Hello Soul: online painting courses from mixed media artist Kelly Rae Roberts.

–    Silly food shaped like bunnies and frogs and penguins and even a strawberry octopus (too cute!) Grant and I have a date for a few of these creations! The possibilities are endless on Pinterest.

Go play! 

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Less clutter. More light. How to exfoliate your skin and life.

As a facial plastic surgeon who sees soap and loofahmany beautiful faces, I often preach the merits of regular exfoliation.

A gentle exfoliant removes dead skin cells and accumulated grit from the surface of your skin, leaving you fresh-faced and glowing. It’s such an “instant gratification” experience. Dull to radiant in a matter of minutes! I love my Clarisonic skin brush with a gentle cleanser or use Revision Finishing Touch Microdermabrasion Scrub to make me feel polished. [both items may be found in Catalyst’s Clinical Spa!]

It’s surprising how quickly your skin can

accumulate dead weight that needs to be lifted away — even if you take very good care of your skin by washing, moisturizing, and applying sunscreen religiously.

It’s exactly the same with your career, your daily habits, your home… your entire life!

It’s surprisingly easy to accumulate “stuff” that you don’t particularly want or need. Commitments that seemed like a good idea at the time, energy-sucking friendships, physical objects that are just taking up space. It can all creep in so sneakily, even if you’re being mindful and conscious about your choices.

Remember, I write what I need to hear too. I’m a devoted fan of Ms. Simplicity, Melissa Schmalenberger. She’s sworn to secrecy about my piles of magazines and paper stacks, but I cleaned out my makeup drawer and the clutter on the dining table. I’m a work in progress. But sometimes, it’s my to-do list that needs recycling— or at least revising.

Just like exfoliating your beautiful face to keep it fresh and healthy, it’s a good idea to exfoliate your life, too. And what better time for a good, cleansing scrub than… springtime?

This goes beyond adding to the pile on the curb for Spring Clean-up Week.

One of the simplest ways to exfoliate and de-clutter your life is to ask yourself, “How do I want to feel as I move through my day?” (a brilliant question inspired by my friend Danielle LaPorte and her book, The Desire Map).

Then ask, “Is this ______ helping me to feel that way?”

You can apply this feeling-driven exercise to anything — a cluttered desk, a messy bedroom, a yes that should have been a no, a relationship you’re feeling uncertain about, or even the appointments on your calendar.

Maybe, in this era of your life, you want to feel “serene.” Or “generous.” Or “creative.” Or “abundant.” Or “vibrant.” Or “disciplined.” Or “devoted.” Or “energized.” Maybe it’s not just one feeling. Perhaps you’ve got a couple of words that sum up how you want to feel. (Danielle calls these your “Core Desired Feelings,” or CDFs.)

Once you’ve identified your CDFs, start by moving through a small area of your home.

Take a moment to look at, or even physically touch, every single object in that area.

Ask yourself, “Is this [item] helping me to feel [feeling that you want to feel]?”

For example: “Is this basket full of random bits and old receipts helping me to feel energized?” “Is this old, ratty chair helping me to feel abundant?”

You can do this exact same exercise with non-physical objects, too.

For example: “Is this weekly volunteer meeting helping me to feel creative?”

Listen to the answers that come from deep inside of you — and then act.

Clear away whatever is blocking you from feeling the way you want to feel.

Try to avoid falling into the old “but what if I need it later?” trap. If it doesn’t feel right, and it hasn’t felt right for a long time… it’s very unlikely that you will regret letting it go.

Be courageous and keep clearing, clearing, clearing, as best you can.

You are giving yourself a precious gift:

The gift of a radiant, less-burdened, more-spacious life.

A wide-open canvas for new goals and possibilities.

A fresh start.

 
~ Dr. Sue

What is one area of your life or home that could definitely use some “exfoliation”?

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The slippery slope of “just one more thing…”

It was the end of a long, challenging day at frustrated woman lying next to her computerthe medical clinic. Up at 5am. Finish charts on my computer. Take Grant to school. Directly into the office. Patient appointments in the clinic. Staff meetings over lunch date. More clinic. Paperwork. Then emails.

The clock hit 6 pm as I see my last patient of the day. I realized, “Wow. Thirteen solid hours. Today was… intense.”

I took a moment to breathe deeply and center myself. I packed up my belongings, said goodbye to a few colleagues, and then made my way for the door.

I drove home, looking forward to a quiet evening with my family. It started beautifully: dinner, conversation, and special play time with Grant.

But then, it happened.

That seductive little voice inside my mind. “Just one more thing…”

I opened my laptop and popped into my inbox. Never a wise move at this time of night. I began answering messages that felt “urgent,” telling myself, repeatedly, “Just one more thing… almost done… it will feel great to knock this out of the way before tomorrow…”

You know how this story ends, because I suspect you have lived a similar story yourself.

It ends with “one more thing” turning into “five more things” and then “fifty more things.”

It can lead to a restless night, poor sleep, a groggy morning, and a lackluster day.

It ends with burnout, resentment— and sometimes— serious illness.

The story may start off innocently, but it never ends happily.

I know this. You know this.

The question is: why do we do it?

Why is it so tempting to be lulled by the siren song of “just one more thing…”?

My theory is that it’s got something to do with fear.

Fear of not being good enough, valuable enough, fast enough, smart enough, pretty enough, lovable enough.

When this kind of fear is present, we human beings will do anything and everything in our power to make those uncomfortable feelings go away at least temporarily. We will overeat. Over-drink. Overspend. And yes: overwork.

Honestly? I want to be over it.

The next time I hear the voice of “just one more thing” in my mind, I promise myself, I will say:

“No. Not this time. I am enough and I have done enough for today.”

I know the same is true for you, as well.

Right now: decide what “done” means for you and when you reach that point today, let yourself be truly done. Let yourself rest. Let yourself be enough. Let the fear dissolve into contentment.

“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.” —Brenè Brown

Don’t let shame drive you into burn out and despair.

You don’t need to fight to be “enough.”

You are already there.

~ Dr. Sue

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Stress: it’s not “funny” or “cool.”

Have you ever seen this comic by Randy Japanese zen gardenGlasbergen? It’s a classic.

“I’m learning how to relax, doctor,” the patient in the strip says.

“But I want to relax better and faster! I want to be on the cutting edge of relaxation!”

I had a good chuckle when I first saw this comic. That’s how so many of us approach our lives.

We claim that we want to feel “calm” and “zen” and “mindful,” yet at the same time, we live in the world of same-day delivery, fast-food and movies on demand.

The truth is, most of us are living in a state of chronic stress:

Environmental stress (like those noisy trucks rumbling by your office window,)

Physical stress (like operating with too little sleep for several days in a row,)

Emotional stress (worrying about money, relationships, the future), and

Self-imposed stress (like obsessing over perceived imperfections, or setting unreasonably high goals and then beating yourself up for failing to achieve them).

Stress, stress, stress.

The comic strips may be funny, but it’s really no laughing matter.

When your stress levels are chronically elevated, you pay a price.

That price? Digestive issues. Sleep disorders. Weight gain. Memory impairment. A lowered immune system. Not to mention: a higher risk for basically every disease.

So what can we do about the stress epidemic that’s impacting our lives, our families, and communities?

Three ideas:

1. We can stop making stress a “badge of honor.”

When a friend confesses, “I am soooo busy” or “I’m so stressed! So many patients! My business is growing like crazy!” rather than nodding in agreement, or congratulating your friend on her busyness, pause. Say, “Wow. Are you OK? What are you doing to manage your stress levels? Can I do anything to help?”

2. We can communicate mindfully and use words that help to reduce stress for others.

Little wording choices and details matter. The simple act of adding a phrase like “no response required” or “no rush” or “take your time, this isn’t urgent” to the bottom of an email can allow your recipient to breathe a sigh of relief. This is one that I need to remember….too many asaps from me.

Your tone matters, too. Try to be gentle and compassionate when making requests. Even if you’ve been “on hold” for what feels like an eternity, waiting for a customer service representative to attend to your needs, remember that every human being deserves patience and respect.

3. We can lead by example, as often as possible.

Take your allotted vacation time. Unplug when you’re with your family. Make an effort to un-clutter your calendar. Try to laugh at yourself when things don’t go as planned. Show the world, “Being chronically stressed out and frantic is optional — not mandatory. It’s possible to move through the world in a different way.”

Big question of the day:
Who would you become, and what would it feel like, if constant, relentless stress was no longer part of your life?

Move into that new reality.

Our bodies were not designed to withstand a constant barrage of stress.

By making small, daily choices at an individual level, we can decrease our own stress levels, move through the day more gracefully, and in doing so, create a less stressful world for others.

I feel calmer just thinking about it.

Ahhhhh, peace,

~ Dr. Sue

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