Your heart is a very good doctor: 3 HeartMath practices for stress relief, strength and resilience.

Not too long ago, many western doctors held great skepticism about the connection between “emotions” and “physical health.”

“There’s nothing wrong with you — it’s all in your head,” was a common “diagnosis.”

Or: “You’ve just got a broken heart. You’re fine. You’ll get over it.”

Thanks to a deluge of new research, though, physicians can no longer deny the connection between emotional and physical health. The two are intrinsically linked.

So, if negative emotions like fear, anxiety and grief can contribute to obesity, hormone imbalances, cognitive decline, and other physical issues… then the question becomes: Is the reverse true as well?

Can positive emotions like care, appreciation and generosity actually make our bodies physically stronger and more resistant to disease?

Many experts — including the founder of HeartMath, a non-profit research group that studies emotional physiology and heart-brain interactions — say: “absolutely.”

“With every beat, the heart not only pumps blood, but also transmits complex patterns of neurological, hormonal, pressure and electromagnetic information to the brain and throughout the body,” says Doc Childre, founder of HeartMath.

And if you want to change your lifestyle, stop an unhealthy habit, or make a quantum leap with one of your personal goals, stop trying to “think” your way into it, Doc says. That won’t always work. Instead: operate from the heart.

“Since emotional processes can work faster than the mind, it takes a power stronger than the mind to bend perception, override emotional circuitry, and provide us with intuitive feeling instead. It takes the power of the heart.”

Your body wants to be healthy — that is its natural, baseline state — and your heart wants to help you to get there.

Here are 3 ways to start re-connecting with your heart to reduce stress, feel better, and allow your body to rest, digest, move, and function at full capacity.

(I’ve adapted these practices from the “Free Tools” section of the HeartMath website. You’ll find lots of other free exercises right over here.)

- Name your feelings.

Whatever you’re feeling right now? Say it out loud. (“Stressed!” “Overwhelmed!” “Nervous!” “Tired!” “Excited!”)

Do this all throughout the day as a little “emotional check-in.” (Great to do with kids — you can practice together!)

HeartMath researchers have found that refusing to acknowledge what you’re feeling is the emotional equivalent of clogging up a drain. It cranks up the stress hormones that can cause you to gain weight or sleep poorly, and makes you feel tired and crummy. Simply speaking your feelings out loud can help you unclog the drain.

- Ease it out.

If you’re feeling a negative emotion — and it’s interfering with your day — practice a technique the folks at HeartMath call “easing it out.”

Breathe deeply for a few minutes and feel your heart rate start to slow down as your body returns to its natural state. Calm. Present. No more “fight or flight” mode.

Then visualize the negative feeling departing your body, through your heart, out your chest, up, up, and away.

You’re not “forcing” it out. Just easing it out. Like gently inviting a friend to say “goodbye” at the end of a dinner party. No hatred. No anger. No violence. Just… “Thanks for visiting. Bye. Time to go!”

- Recall & coherence.

Place your hands over your heart. Breathe deeply. Press gently, almost as if you’re trying to softly “wake up” your heart from a nap. Close your eyes.

Recall a joyful moment, person, or place. Your favorite birthday party. Your first kiss. Snuggling with your child or a favorite pet.

Step back into that moment as if it’s happening again, now. Stay there for a few minutes, breathing naturally, without effort.

You may notice your heart rate slow down or accelerate slightly. Whatever happens? Let it happen.

Take a few more breaths. Open your eyes. Notice if you feel different, now, than when you began.

By “recalling” a beautiful memory — and aligning your heart rate and breath pattern with that memory — you have just used your heart to “re-set” your entire body. Right now, your body is flooded with positive neurotransmitters, stress hormones are decreasing, and all of your organs are functioning at a higher capacity.

All that… just because of a few new “cues” from your heart!

Pretty incredible, right?

Of course, not every health issue can be “cured” simply by breathing deeply, visualizing positive experiences, or focusing your attention on the heart.

But there’s no doubt about it: it’s a powerful place to start.

Your heart wants you to be well — and it’s a very good doctor.

Pay a visit to the heart-doc today.

It’s open 24/7, there’s no waiting room, and… bonus! No co-pay.

Do you need some heart-healing, today? Give one of those three practices a try.
Let your heart do its work.

~ Dr. Sue

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Sweat, tears and chemical peels: What REALLY goes into creating a “red carpet look.”

On Sunday, February 22, thousands of people will tune into their televisions for one of the most exciting evenings of the year: The Academy Awards!

It’s Hollywood’s biggest night; the most prestigious award show of its kind.

And of course, all the stars will be sauntering down the red carpet looking their absolute best.

As a physician, I can tell you: those magnificent red carpet looks that cause viewers to hang their jaws on the floor with amazement… don’t just “happen.” There’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into creating that kind of ultra-glam, camera-ready appearance.

Here are just a FEW of the steps that your favorite stars are taking to achieve that level of glamour:

HAIR. Deep conditioning for weeks leading up to the event.

Stylist Adir Abergel, whose clients include Rooney Mara and Eva Green, gives her clients a series of deep-conditioning hair masks to apply — and sleep in — during the weeks leading up to that big red carpet moment. This ensures ultra-glossy locks that gleam under the bright lights!

SKIN. One full month of preparation.

Celebrity skincare pro Joanna Vargas puts her clients on a month-long pre-carpet regimen, using mild electric currents to drain puffiness, tone muscle and tighten things up. She also gives her clients an intensive resurfacing peel to remove dead, dehydrated skin.

BODY. Six weeks of intense training, minimum.

Celeb trainer Valerie Waters puts each client on a customized, high-intensity program for at least six weeks leading up to the event, focusing strongly on whichever body-zone is going to be exposed in her client’s gorgeous gown.

To soothe those sore muscles and keep stress hormones (which can cause weight gain) levels down, some trainers insist upon their clients getting a DAILY massage, especially the week of the big event. At least this part sounds good to me!

NUTRITION. A super lean & clean meal plan.

While some celebrities are infamous for their wild drop-weight-fast detoxes and diets, most of the top celebrity trainers advocate a more “common sense” approach. (After all: their clients are training like athletes. They need high-quality fuel!)

Nutritionist Heather Bauer, who works with stars like Tyra Banks, encourages her clients to cut out processed foods, white sugar, white bread, and artificial sweeteners that lead to gas and bloating (like diet soda and sugar-free gum).

Bauer also recommends drinking two liters of water every day, minimum. (No flavoring or sweeteners. Straight up H20!)

Rachel Beller, author of Eat to Lose, Eat to Win, recommends sipping fennel tea for the five days leading up to the event (it’s reported to have de-bloating properties).

On the actual day of the event? Nutritionist to the stars Haylie Pomroy tells her clients to keep high-protein snacks, like turkey jerky, hidden away in their diamond-encrusted clutch bags to prevent a “hunger crash” during the long awards ceremony.

BUT… That’s just the beginning.

As if six weeks (or more!) of grueling preparation, highly-disciplined eating and Olympic-level training isn’t enough… there’s still more work to be done.

Most A-list celebs will also undergo (in no particular order): laser hair removal, teeth whitening, spray tanning, hair extensions, lash extensions (J-Lo and Beyonce love their faux-lashes), Botox, fillers, B12 vitamin shots, a last-minute juice cleanse, and (probably) plenty of other tweaks and techniques that they’re not always willing to admit… in public.

Bottom line:

The starlets you love make “red carpet glamour” look completely effortless, but the reality is that it takes a bewildering amount of effort to pull off this kind of look.

As Julia Roberts once confessed: “It takes 17 people. It takes a village. It really does.”

My personal stance?

As viewers at home, we can enjoy the glamour, beauty and pageantry of award season, while still understanding that this “look” is a very calculated and intricate “performance.”

This person didn’t just roll out of bed, swipe on some lip gloss and hop into a limo, ready to roll. This moment was six weeks, if not six months or years, in the making!

Our challenge, especially as women, is to try to cultivate “appreciation” without falling into the trap of “comparison.”

If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts while watching the big gala unfold (“Oh, I’m so fat,” “She’s gorgeous, but I’m hideous”) do your best to stop those thoughts in their tracks.

Remind yourself:

“Looking this particular way is this actress’ job. She put in a staggering amount of work to make it happen. I can appreciate this moment of over-the-top glamour without letting it bring me down.”

Tell yourself, too:

“I get to decide what ‘beauty’ means for me. Whether it’s a low-effort, natural look or a high-effort, super-glam look, it’s my skin, my body, my life, my choice, my freedom. Beauty is mine to define. I can pursue whatever kind of ‘look’ feels fabulous… to me!”

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. Which celeb is your all-time favorite to watch on the red carpet? (Mine? Reese Witherspoon for her girl-next-door charm, and Cate Blanchett for her ethereal presence.)

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Feeling unloved… or undervalued? It’s time to discover your Love Language!

Your best friend sends a bouquet of flowers for your birthday.

“Nice,” you think to yourself, “But I would have appreciated a phone call so much more.”

Your partner leaves a handwritten note on your pillow that says, I love you.

“So sweet,” you think to yourself, “If only he’d vacuum or fill my car with gas once in a while! Now that would really feel like love to me.”

When an expression of love leaves you feeling kind of “flat,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an “ungrateful” or “unappreciative” person.

Often, it means that the people around you are not speaking your primary “Love Language.”

People might be trying to show you how much they appreciate you daily! But they’re not expressing their appreciation in a way that your brain is wired to understand it.
(Kind of like speaking Chinese to someone who only speaks Russian. It’s not going to work!)

That’s the big takeaway that I got from Dr. Gary Chapman’s simple, classic guidebook:
The 5 Love Languages.

Here’s the basic premise:

Human beings like to express and receive love in different ways.

We’re not all wired the exact same way.

The problem? We often forget that we all have different preferences and needs. We tend to assume that other people want… exactly what we want! This leads to a lot of misunderstanding, wasted effort, and unnecessary friction between partners, colleagues and friends. This leads to stress… not healthy!

According to Dr. Chapman’s research, there are five primary Love Languages — five ways that people like to receive love, appreciation, and affection.

      Words of Affirmation
      Acts of Service
      Receiving Gifts
      Quality Time
      Physical Touch

(You can take a free quiz here to identify your primary Love Language.)

Most people have one language that is noticeably stronger than the others. Some people (like me!) have two that are “tied” for first place.

Once you know your language? You can invite other people to speak it.

Once you know someone else’s language? You can speak it to them!

In this way, everyone feels more loved and appreciated.

The concept is so simple to grasp, yet so powerful — and not just for romantically-entwined couples.

Now that I understood the Love Language principle, I will start paying closer attention to my colleagues at work — trying to pinpoint each person’s Love Language so that I can say “Thank you!” and “I appreciate your hard work” in a way that will really resonate for each individual.

Some of my employees are “Words of Affirmation” lovers. For these folks? A handwritten note filled with gratitude can change the entire course of their day!

But other team members are “Quality Time” people. For them? Words are pretty meaningless. But a heartfelt conversation or a 1-on-1 lunch date? Now that means something.

So, the next time you’re feeling a bit unloved, undervalued, or underappreciated, take action! Speak up. Instead of silently wishing that other people would behave differently — or read your mind! — express what you want and need.

Say, “This is so wonderful, and you know what? My absolute favorite way to [receive praise for good work / get rewarded / feel your love] is ___________. In the future, that’s what would make me so happy.”

Be on the look-out to identify other people’s Love Languages, too. Make an effort to “speak” the ideal language to your friends, family and co-workers as often as you can.

Imagine a world where everyone feels deeply understood and appreciated, every day. We would be happier and healthier. Clinics and hospitals would be quieter.

Here’s your Love Challenge:

Choose one person who might need some extra love today. Do your best to figure out their primary Love Language. Then speak it. See what happens.

There’s always room for more love, every day, all year!

~ Dr. Sue

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Alphabet Soup…. MD, DO, NP, DC, ND, PA….What?! How to determine which kind of “medicine” you really need.

As a physician, I cringe when I hear people pestle and mortarsay things like:

“Western doctors only focus on Band-Aid solutions! They never treat the root cause of a problem, just the symptoms!”

…because, that’s not accurate. The incredible majority of health-care providers are well-intentioned and have your best interests at heart. They get up every morning to help you be the best you can be.

There are many different types of training, styles of practicing medicine, and many different philosophies. Thus, an individual provider may have a different focus depending on how they were taught and what their beliefs are.

It can be confusing, even for a medical professional like me, to remember all of the groups and subgroups in the industry.

But it’s important to have a basic understanding of what’s what, who’s who, and what all those letters really mean. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list or in-depth description of any one style, but will guide you if you want to learn more about any particular philosophy.

Here’s a little glossary of major terms to know (no jargon! just plain English) so that you are in the know.

Conventional Medicine. Traditional Medicine. Allopathic Medicine. Osteopathic Medicine. Western Medicine.

If you go to a doctor’s office for an annual checkup, or go to the hospital for surgery, or go to a pharmacy to fill a prescription for antibiotics, or get a shot to prevent the measles, you are likely experiencing conventional medicine.

It’s a bit misleading that “Western Medicine” is often referred to as “Traditional Medicine,” because it’s only really been “around” for a couple hundred years. Other types of medicine such as Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine have been practiced for over 5,000 years — so, chronologically speaking, Eastern care providers have been preventing illnesses and helping sick people much longer than us Westerners!

Physicians who practice Western Medicine are generally called MDs (medical doctors) or DOs (osteopathic doctors.) The education is similar, with MDs having perhaps more exposure to specialty medicine and DOs having some additional training in physical manipulation.

Physician Assistants (PAs) and Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs, FNPs and CNPs) are also considered providers. Some NPs take a pathway with additional doctoral training that leads to a DNP degree.

MDs, PAs and NPs attend highly-specialized training programs, and must adhere to very strict standards when practicing.

Chiropractors (DC) are also part of the healthcare team and, increasingly, the larger multi-specialty groups have them as part of the medical staff.

There’s a stereotype about Western Medicine — that it just fixes “symptoms” but doesn’t address the deeper issues that created those symptoms in the first place.

That’s not exactly true.

If you rush into an emergency room with a broken arm, your Western doctor is going to fix your broken arm by setting it in a cast — not sit you down for a deep conversation about all of the emotional, spiritual and lifestyle factors that may have led to you breaking your arm. That much is true!

But more and more, primary care physicians and even some specialists are taking a broader look at health and wellness. They might take a functional medicine approach to look for interactions among genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that influence you. It’s tough to accomplish in one office visit and you will likely have some “homework” to do, as well as follow-up care.

This approach is excellent for treating chronic pain issues, as well as feelings of tiredness, fogginess, headaches, and other ongoing issues that don’t seem to have just “one” root cause. More information is available at

Alternative Medicine. Complementary Medicine. Naturopathic Medicine. Chinese Medicine. Homeopathic Medicine. Eastern Medicine.

Eastern Medicine is a broad term that can refer to a wide range of healing practices, many of which are rooted in traditions that are 2,000 – 5,000 years old.

Two major types of Eastern Medicine practitioners are Naturopathic Doctors (NDs or DNMs) and Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCMs).

Many people think that these kinds of practitioners just give out herbal tea and neck massages, but that is not accurate.

Naturopathic doctors actually receive some of the same training as Western / Traditional doctors, and they are qualified to provide many (but not all) of the same forms of care. They emphasize prevention, as do most primary care providers, and encourage the individual’s inherent self-healing process.

For example, Naturopathic doctors can order labs and scans (like blood tests and food panels). They are also trained in pharmacology, and in some states, they can write prescriptions for medications.

Many people with chronic health issues will seek advice from an “alternative” practitioner. Sometimes, several different types of providers will collaborate on a treatment plan to give a patient the best and most thorough care, possible.

Not sure what kind of practitioner you’re talking to?

You can ask questions like…

-What type of medical school did you attend?
– Are you a Medical Doctor (MD), Osteopathic Physician (DO), Chiropractor (DC), Nurse Practitioner (NP), Physician’s Assistant (PA), Naturopathic Doctor (ND), or Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
– Are you board-certified in a particular specialty? Which one?
– Do you practice functional medicine?
– Are you allowed to prescribe medication?
– Can you refer me to a [Western / Eastern] care provider, if necessary?

All of that being said…

Many are still skeptical of non-Western health practices because there aren’t enough stringent double-blinded, placebo-controlled trials.

But some Western doctors are becoming certified in Eastern modalities, and vice versa.

Places like UCLA’s Center for East-West Medicine, The Center for Spirituality and Healing at University of Minnesota, and Mayo’s Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine are blending the boundaries.

Sometimes wellness takes a village.

To your health!

~ Dr. Sue

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How to get amazing skin (a stripped-down + simple regimen).

“Beauty, to me, is about being comfortableClarisonic brush in your own skin.”  ~ Gwyneth Paltrow 

I got a Facebook message recently…

“I just want to know… what are some things I can do to get amazing skin?”

That question didn’t surprise me. It’s one that I get asked just about every day!

Even though women spend an estimated $426 billion a year on beauty products, many people still don’t know if they’re doing the “right” things for their skin, or not.

The confusion is completely understandable. There are so many products, systems and formulas out there, most people get completely overwhelmed.

The good news is that healthy, glowing skin is simpler to create than you might think.

I’ll lay out five easy steps. And I’ll give you some helpful product favorites (both professional and OTC drug-stores finds!) from my colleagues at Catalyst Medical Center: Kate Sedlaczek, Abbie Boyle, Trisha DeSautel, Lindsy Sheeley, Janna Ness, and Karen Williams.
** Items in red may be purchased at Catalyst Medical Center! **

Step 1. Cleanse

Cleanse your skin each morning and evening. But steer clear of most bar soaps — they strip the skin’s natural oils and lipids and can leave you dry and irritated.

Use a gentle liquid or cream cleanser that’s specifically designed for the delicate skin on your face.

Favorite professional cleansers: iS Clinical Cleansing Complex, Aquanil, Vichy 3-in-1.

Favorite OTC cleansers: Cetaphil, Cerave Foaming Cleanser, Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel
Step 2. Exfoliate

Good exfoliation removes dead cells from the skin’s surface, brightening and smoothing skin texture, preventing breakouts and giving your skin a healthy glow.

Choose a gentle exfoliant– not a harsh crushed-apricot-shell paste!

Most people exfoliate one to two times per week.

At least once in your life, treat yourself to a professional microdermabrasion. Your skin will be left baby soft and you’ll walk out feeling refreshed.

Favorite professional exfoliators: Vivier Vitamin C Scrub, Theraderm NuPeel, Revision Finishing Touch, Clarisonic Cleansing Brush

Favorite OTC exfoliators: AmLactin, Burt’s Bees Citrus Scrub, Neutrogena Deep Clean Invigorating Scrub

Step 3. Moisturize

A good moisturizer will hold water in your skin, keeping it soft, fresh and smooth.

Favorite professional moisturizers: Neocutis BioCream or BioGel, Obagi Hydrate

Favorite OTC moisturizers: Cetaphil, Coconut oil, Dr. Hauscka Rose Cream, Garnier Gel Moisturizer

Step 4. Sunscreen

Most people don’t bother wearing sunscreen every day. But it’s absolutely essential.

Choose a sunscreen that includes full-spectrum UVA and UVB protection. I prefer ones that have zinc and titanium ingredients, which are great physical blockers of the harmful rays.

Favorite professional sunscreens: TiZO, SkinMedica Daily Physical Defense SPF 30, Revision Intellishade Tinted Moisturizer SPF 45, Obagi SPF 50, Neocutis Journee

Favorite OTC sunscreens: Aveeno Positively Radiant, and anything else that comes with zinc oxide.

Step 5. Rejuvenate

While aging is inevitable, there are products that can help prevent and correct skin troubles. Talk to your dermatologist to explore all of your options.

Favorite professional corrective products: SkinMedica TNS Serum, iS Clinical ProHeal, iS Clinical White Lightning, SkinMedica Lytera, Obagi system and tretinoin (prescription)

Favorite OTC products: Boots No. 7 Protect and Perfect, RoC Retinol

Step 6. Happiness

OK, I know I said there were only 5 steps… but that wasn’t 100% true.

The truth is, caring for your skin starts from the inside out.

Deep sleep, good nutrition and proper hydration are just as important as cleansing and moisturizing.

A positive attitude is essential, too.

Moving through life with a spirit of appreciation and gratitude has innumerable health benefits ? including lowering your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can interfere with your sleep and metabolism. Better sleep and better metabolism = better skin!

As this gorgeous photo gallery proves… happiness is the ultimate beauty secret.

My favorite mood booster: Dancing with my son, outdoors if possible!

Caring for your skin isn’t “vain.”

Your skin is an organ– just like your liver, your brain or your heart.

It deserves daily attention, care and respect.

But skincare doesn’t have to be complicated.

A simple daily routine of cleansing, moisturizing, wearing sunscreen– and wearing a beautiful smile– can go a very long way!

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. What made you amazingly happy, today?
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Sometimes Mom needs to work.

It was the phone Grant and Momcall that no mom ever wants to get.
“Grant just threw up his breakfast.”

Uh oh.

I glanced at my schedule for the day and felt my heart sinking.

All I wanted to do was rush home to be with my son, but — as a physician — it’s not always possible for me to just “skip work.”

My son is the center of my world, but the reality is there are other people who need me to care for them, too. I have patients, staff and bills—office and household—just like everyone else.

If I go home, then people don’t get to see their doctor.

If I don’t go home, then my son doesn’t get to see his mom.

Kind of sucks, no matter what.

I know that I’m lucky. I have a nanny who is flexible. My husband is a farmer and land broker. He was done with harvest, and while real estate keeps him very busy, he has seasons when he can be flexible too. We have family in town who could help out in a pinch.

I’m also lucky that Grant is pretty healthy. We haven’t missed much school. We had to miss Thanksgiving Day a couple of years ago, and this year New Year’s Eve was a bust.

But my fingers are always crossed!

Happily, on that particular day, luck was in my favor when I got the phone call.

A patient cancelled an afternoon appointment, and I was able to shuffle a few things around and finish earlier than expected.

My husband and I did the trade off at home later that morning. Grant and I spent a beautiful, quiet afternoon together. He’s very graceful when sick and usually aims pretty well in the little bucket. When he was awake we were reading books, cuddling and talking quietly, with no TV or loud music. (He was very excited about being allowed to drink as much ginger ale as he wanted!)

I loved the “sick day” that we shared, but I also know that sometimes that’s not the way it’s going to unfold.

Sometimes Mom needs to work.

This has been difficult for me to accept, but it’s the truth.

Rather than fighting the truth, I am learning to accept it.

My son will always be my central focus, and there is nothing that I wouldn’t do to help him be the happiest, healthiest child he can be.

I know that Grant is probably a little too young to understand right now, but someday I hope he will grow up to share the values that I hold.

Values like:

“Treasure your family.”

But also:

“Ask for help.”


“When your commitments conflict, just make the best choice that you possibly can, get the help you need… then forgive yourself and let it go.”

I’m still working on the “forgive / let it go” part.

Getting there.

In the meantime, I will treasure every chance that I get to be “mom.”

And I will make sure that Grant knows I love him, even when I am being “Dr. Mathison.”

~ Dr. Sue
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The power of a good hair day.

My beautiful niece just turned 20, and watching her stewedding hairstylep into the world, all grown up, is an amazing thing to behold.

But I remember when she was 3 years old — the year that she got her first “big girl” haircut.

Her wispy little toddler locks got chopped into a sassy, chin-length bob.

We called it “The Dominant ‘Do,” because after getting her first haircut, this little girl discovered her inner swagger! She walked differently, became noticeably bossier, and marched around like she owned the town.

Her mom and I still giggle about it, to this day.

But that’s the power of a good hair day. It draws out your strength and confidence, and allows you to stride through the world with a positive attitude.

I recently attended a writing retreat in Los Angeles, and we all got blow-outs at the local Dry Bar salon on the final day of the retreat — which meant we all went home looking fabulous. (I remember swinging my suitcase into my Lyft ride, headed for the airport, thinking, “I feel… sassy!”)

I had tons of paperwork, appointments, hiring meetings and all kinds of responsibilities waiting for me back at home, but somehow, having a fantastic ‘do made everything feel more… doable.

This is in stark contrast to a horrible high school perm that made me want to crawl under a rock until it grew out… which meant months!

Throughout history, human beings have been fascinated with chopping, coloring, styling and decorating our hair. And thanks to Kate Middleton, America’s favorite Royal, hair “adornments” (like the fascinator!) are even making a comeback.

Is it “silly” or “frivolous” to fuss over your hair?

This doctor says… if it makes you happy? Then, no.

Research continues to confirm that there’s a direct connection between your thoughts and feelings… and your overall health and well-being.

Thinking “grateful” thoughts can lower your blood pressure.

Cuddling up with a cute dog can lower stress hormone levels.

Walking through a beautiful forest can boost your immune system.

And — although I’ve yet to find a scientific study to confirm it! — I believe that looking at your reflection and loving your hairstyle can have a profound impact on your self-esteem and physiology, too.
I always say that I can do surgery, but I can’t blow-dry, so I am eternally grateful when my stylist Edward takes over. He even did a 5am appointment once to get me ready for a photo shoot. And his scalp massage is amazing. What a way to start the day!

So, go ahead. Wash. Cut. Style. Be fabulous.

Give yourself– and your mind & body– the gift of a good hair day.


~ Dr. Sue

P.S. What was your worst hairstyle of all time? What was your best?

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Sniffling? Sneezing? Wheezing? You might have winter allergies.

“Achoooo!”spring cleaning

Most of us associate annoying allergies with springtime.

But millions of people suffer from “winter allergies” — irritations that pop up during colder months when most of us spend lots of time indoors, often in poorly ventilated homes with minimal fresh air.

Winter allergies can cause sneezing, wheezing, watery eyes, coughing, itchy eyes and nose, and difficulty breathing. If you’ve got asthma, or have a kid with asthma, allergies can exacerbate asthma symptoms, too. Not fun.

Influenza can cause some of these symptoms as well. So if you feel acutely ill, congested, feverish and achy, get checked out to see if you are a candidate for a medication called Tamiflu which can decrease the severity of your symptoms. This year’s flu is a tough one.

If you have been feeling mildly junky for a few weeks, winter allergies should be on your radar. Your doctor can help you with the detective work, by differentiating cold, flu or allergy. Here are 3 of the most common winter allergies, and a few tips on how to deal with each one.

Dust mites.
These little critters are microscopic animals that hang out in your bed… because they like to nibble on flakes of human skin that you shed, during the night. Totally gross.

Solution: Get a set of allergen-proof bedding (it’s made from a special fabric that dust mites don’t like to live in). Wash your bedding weekly in hot water, just in case. If your allergies are severe, consider swapping the rugs / carpeting in your bedroom for wood or cork floors.

Cork is considered once of the best flooring choices for folks with allergies, because cork naturally contains suberin, a substance with antimicrobial properties that reduces the growth of mold, mildew, bacteria and other allergens. You can pretend you’re walking around on the top of a champagne bottle every night. We have these at Catalyst, and cork is easy on the legs too!

Mold thrives in damp, humid areas like basements and bathrooms. Sometimes, it forms right on the surface of the wall (pretty easy to remove). Other times, it forms inside your walls (much harder to remove).

It can be tough to detect without the right tools, but you can buy a mold detection kit from your local hardware store, or hire the pros to scan your home for you (just Google “mold inspection” + the name of your city).

Solution: Get rid of that mold! You can kill mold with bleach, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, and natural, no-fume products like vinegar and tea tree oil.

However: it depends on where the mold is growing. If you’ve got mold growing on a porous surface (like a soft wood), it’s much harder to clean, because most household cleaning products won’t be able to penetrate deeply enough.

Sometimes, you’ve got to call in the pros. (Google “mold removal” + the name of your city to find someone who can help).

Once you’ve removed mold from your home, you’ll need to take some preventative measures to stop it from forming again — like fixing leaky roofs and poorly-ventilated bathrooms, for starters. (Here’s a list of ways to make your home mold-resistant. Basically: it comes down to reducing moisture!)

If you’re allergic to a cute, cuddly animal, you’re probably not allergic to their fur — but rather, to a particular kind of protein found in pet dander (aka, old skin cells) as well as proteins found in saliva and urine.

Pet allergies can become more severe in the wintertime because you and your pet are probably spending a lot more time indoors, in close quarters, with the windows sealed shut. If you’ve got a heating system that is blasting hot air through your home, that means it’s also blasting pet dander into every room!

Solution: Make your bedroom an allergy-free zone. Get allergen-free bedding, clean the room thoroughly, and don’t let your pet inside (Sorry, Fido!). Get rid of furnishings that tend to collect pet dander, like big heavy drapes and thick carpets. Bathe your pet weekly to remove excess dander. (Here’s a list of more tips on how to deal with pet allergies, straight from your friends at the Humane Society.)

Winter allergies are no fun. You may require testing to see which ones are affecting you. Saline nasal sprays like Ocean, Ayr or Simply Saline can help flush the little particles away before your tissues have a chance to react. But with a little common sense and some elbow grease, you can get to the root of the problem and prevent allergens from piling up on your bed, in your carpets, inside your walls, and inside your heating system. With a few adjustments around your home, you may start to feel relief very quickly.  

Wishing you a peaceful winter, full of good food, friends, family, and gently falling snowflakes—and not the sounds of sneezing, hacking, coughing!

~ Dr. Sue

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Big Goals or Tiny Changes?

Tis the season that makes us think about so many stairswhat we want to do differently in the future.

A few years ago, my life was feeling incredibly packed and frenetic.

I knew I needed to make some changes.

I wanted to feel a sense of peace, calm and order.

But every time I started to think about all of the big changes I needed to make, I started to feel overwhelmed. I felt paralyzed. There was so much to do, and I was already so busy. It all just felt… too… big.

You may have heard the question: How do you eat an elephant?

Answer: One bite at a time.

But I was too overwhelmed to open my mouth!

Then I discovered a very smart man named BJ Fogg.

He’s a professor at Stanford who studies habit-change — the science of how human beings create and stick with new habits.

Through BJ, I discovered a concept called Tiny Habits.

The concept?

Instead of tackling the biggest, scariest change first, start with the absolute smallest change you make.

Like, ridiculously small.

So small, you think, “Seriously? That’s almost… stupid.”

Just one step.

BJ says: Make a tiny change to your daily routine. Establish a new Tiny Habit. Prove to yourself you can do it. Then keep doing it.

The pride and energy that you feel from that tiny success will fuel the next step in the process.

I figured I’d give it a try, and I decided that my Tiny Habit was going to be:

Taking three deep breaths every morning.

That’s it.

I committed to taking three deep breaths every morning, and I told myself, “I don’t have to change anything in my life else right now. Just three deep breaths. That’s it.”

Committing to this new habit felt so good — and so easy! A little extra oxygen does wonders!

It may seem silly, but I felt a surge of pride every single time I did it!

These positive feelings spilled over into the rest of my morning, and the rest of my day.

The momentum started flowing, and eventually, I felt ready to make some other changes.

Like keeping up with my charts better.

Eating more veggies and less sugar.

Working out with a personal trainer.

Holding interviews to bring new staff members onto my team.

Tiny changes lead to new habits.

New habits lead to new (and more positive) feelings.

New feelings fuel more positive changes.

So, the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, stuck, or frustrated with some aspect of your life, resist the temptation to (a) do nothing or (b) try to change everything, instantly.

Instead, start tiny.

Start with something so small & manageable, you are practically “guaranteed” to do great.

Put one foot in front of the other. One small step!

Ask yourself:

“What’s the tiniest change I could make?”

~ Dr. Sue

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How “old” do you want to feel?

I met the holiday baking legend Donnakrumkake Carlson when she was in her late seventies and our friendship lasted until her death a couple of years ago in early January. She was well into her eighties when she passed away.

I was proud to be her customer and was so glad to have awesome treats to bring to holiday parties and family gatherings.

My order? 80 dozen krumkake. 40 at Thanksgiving. 40 at Christmas. The best I’d ever tasted. Dear Grandmas Agnes and Daisy in heaven, I hope you’re not mad, but Donna’s cookies were awesome.

I told Donna that if anyone ever ordered more than me, to top it by a dozen.

Donna assured me that my order would no problem at all, and I believed her. No doubt in my mind.

After all: she was our community’s official Krumkake Queen. Kevin Wallevand crowned her with the title and celebrated her with a news story on WDAY TV.

She always completed the orders on time. I picked up the cookies from her apartment, which was filled with empty shoeboxes (her cookie storage unit of choice) and the scent of hundreds upon hundreds of delicate cookies, fresh from the griddle, and rolled … by hand.

Donna’s fingers were arthritic and bent with age. Her face was lined with wrinkles. Her hair was silvery and wispy. She certainly didn’t “look” like the young woman she had been, decades ago.

But she was happy, industrious, chatty… and she absolutely loved making krumkake.

(Not to mention: earning money for her efforts! No “retirement” for this domestic goddess.)

She also loved praying, and had a long list of good intentions for friends and family that she shared with God daily.

In her mind? She wasn’t a smidge over 32.

Donna passed away just a few weeks after her WDAY debut. Her illness was quick in its decision. Right up until her final days, she was still… Donna.  

Her family told stories about the positive, energetic woman we all knew and loved. They celebrated her with a toast and… krumkake, of course. Since I ordered so many, I had just enough left over to give for her family to share.

To me, Donna’s life and legacy is a reminder that “getting older” is inevitable, but that “feeling old” is a choice.

It is our mindset, our attitude, our beliefs — more than anything else — that determine how “old” we feel.

This isn’t just speculation, though. It’s proven by research.

There’s an incredible story about a study led by a Harvard professor of psychology back in the early 1980s. Professor Ellen Langer took eight elderly men into a house that had been set up to “transport” them back to their youth in the 1950s.

For 5 days, these men were encouraged to think and behave as if they were young again. They were responsible for unpacking their own clothes and settling into the house, taking care of themselves, and enjoying the music, movies, books and magazines of their youth.

After 5 days?

“They were suppler, showed greater manual dexterity and sat taller — just as Langer had guessed. Perhaps most improbable, their sight improved. Independent judges said they looked younger. The experimental subjects, Langer told me, had “put their mind in an earlier time,” and their bodies went along for the ride.” [NY Times]

This may seem miraculous, or even impossible, but numerous studies have confirmed what Ellen Langer suspected to be true:

Age is nothing but a number.

It’s how old you feel inside that really counts.

Your mind is connected to your body, and — in a very direct way — your mind sets the tone for your overall health and wellbeing.

Think and act like a younger person, and your body will tag along for the ride.

This doesn’t mean that every illness or aging issue can be “cured” simply by thinking positive thoughts or pretending to be a teenager again. But your thoughts do make a difference — and the difference could be bigger than we realize.

You don’t have complete control over your body and destiny, but to a significant extent, you get to decide how “old” you want to feel.

It starts in your mind. Donna was always young at heart and mind, and what she accomplished through her positive spirit and delicious cookies will always be with me.

And I sure missed her krumkake this year.

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. How old do you feel inside? How would it feel to spend the rest of today as if you were 11… 21… 29… or 32? Why not… try?

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