Summer reading

Summer is here and this brings some well deserved break. The kids are not in school and for most, the hectic routine slows down a bit. Thank goodness for vacation, right? We can take time off and spend it with family and friends or even go on a trip. During the summer people are more willing to read books maybe because they are able to slow down. For a minute they can stop and smell the roses.

If you are looking to read books for personal and professional growth, I want to share with you some that I have enjoyed and helped when making important life and work-related decisions in the past.

The first one is Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg’s well known bestseller. In it she shares her own experiences as a student and then as she climbed the ladder (she refers to it as “monkey bars”) all the way to her present position at Facebook. I love how she empowers women by inviting them to “Sit at the table” and to “not leave until you leave”. I took her advice to heart and started seating at the table at department meetings. You see, cardiology has traditionally been a male dominated field and I am still working at the same hospital where I trained. That means I am working with people who may still see me as their junior and I have to confess I may see some of them as my mentors. Talking about pressure!

The first time I decided to sit at the table was not easy but I was determined to sit there and only if I was asked to move then I would. Well, I sat there and to my surprise no one asked me to move. Not only that, in future meetings I was expected to sit at the table and contribute. Wow! I had just been accepted! Not really…I had been accepted long time ago, I just didn’t believe I deserved it. Now I know I do.

The second book is Getting a Grip by Monica Seles. She was the #1 tennis player until a fan of her opponent entered the court and stabbed her in the back. She not only had to deal with the emotional and physical damage from her wound, but her ranking dropped quickly afterwards. In a second she went from being the #1 woman in the world to losing it all. This was not some error she made that she would fix with practice for her next game. To top it all, her father got sick with cancer.

In her book she passionately describes her struggles to get back on the court, gaining weight and trying to lose it, as well as coping with her father’s disease and his eventual death. You can almost feel her powerlessness among the tragedy. I love how she describes the way she finds herself and gets a grip. As an athlete in my younger age who had to stop doing sports due to lesions and the demands of medical school, residency, and dealing with my own father’s disease and eventual death to cancer I totally identify with her life story.

It really opened my eyes to the curve balls that life throws at you and that you cannot force yourself to get out of certain situations. You have to be mentally ready otherwise you continue slipping and falling no matter how hard you try. You need to have the right mindset.

I read these books a few years ago.  More recently I started How Remarkable Women Lead, by Johanna Barsh and Susie Cranston. This one caught my eye while scanning through the aisles of the bookstore. I can’t remember what I was looking for, but when I saw the title I started reading it right then and there and couldn’t stop. The author starts by describing experiences lived since her daughter’s childhood years all the way to adulthood and how she helped her child respond to challenges and fears. Needless to say this is on my night stand and I have to read at least a few pages every night.

I invite you to read these books if you haven’t yet or other books that you find interesting. The summer is here and while the days are longer the season goes by quickly. Take advantage of the break to find ways to help yourself get to where you want to be in life. Before you know it we will be back to packing lunches, hectic mornings and running out the door to make it on time to carpool before the bell rings.

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The Second Half

June is here! Can you believe the first half of the year has passed?  You know what that means, right?

A little over six months ago many of you made goals and resolutions for this year. You made the decision to write down a list of things you wanted to accomplish. Were your resolutions to lose weight, run a marathon, change jobs or have more time for yourself? What you have done so far? Have you forgotten all about it?

It happens to all of us, myself included. We have the best intentions to do something, but then as time goes by we get busy and tend to leave things for later. It may have been that “things got in the way” or “life happened”. Sometimes we take too many responsibilities knowing that we are already booked but we don’t want to disappoint others by saying no. The problem is that we end up disappointing ourselves and not doing the things that will help us accomplish our goals. We put ourselves last and our goals never get done.

If you find yourself making the same list year after year and not accomplishing anything, it’s time to revisit. The good thing is you still can go back and act on those resolutions. Be determined. Whether you have to start anew or get back on track is just a matter of taking action.

In order to make things happen it’s necessary to prioritize. Identify what is making you deviate from accomplishing your goals. Are you spending time doing something that doesn’t help you get where you want to be? Do you find yourself watching TV for 4 hours straight instead of dedicating 30 minutes a day to exercise? Are you dreading your job every day but haven’t yet updated your CV?

If you have not made your goals a priority it is unlikely that you will see any change.  You got six more months to act before the end of the year. Now is time to put them in your calendar, set an alarm and make them happen.  Go on, you can do this.  There’s still time!  I even invite you to add another goal to your list:  make the resolution to complete your goals and not letting anything get in the way.

Have a successful second half of the year!

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Do you do it all?

“How do you do it?”  I get asked this question almost on a daily basis. As a female Cardiologist, in solo private practice who is also a wife and mother, I happen to be asked this question a lot by other women in cardiology. Usually these are younger women still in training who are either thinking about their future career and having a family.

It makes me truly proud to see more women engaging in careers that are still traditionally male-dominated however, the demands and expectations seem to still be different for women.

As women, we feel the responsibility to take care of the house, the children and the husband in addition to performing well in our careers. Our phones are the first ones that ring when the school nurse calls informing one of our children is sick and we are the ones being called in the morning by our husbands and children when socks and shirts cannot be found.

At home we are the ones holding the fort. We are the ones juggling behind the scenes making things happen. That is a great skill however, in a work environment this, may bring confusion and discrimination. I know I am not the only woman who has been rejected from a job opportunity after having children or who was thought of as not wanting the job as much as the guy next to me because I am married.

Women are qualified to do any job however, it may help to change things around a bit. In order for us to perform we have to decide what is our role in each situation. Are we the directors or the performers? Do we have to take care of every little detail and troubleshoot all the time? This is something we need to have very clear because it will determine how well we can perform and how we will maintain the energy along the day.

Being able do it all, does not imply we have to do it all. When we try to do it all most likely we end up failing in one place. It is important to know that other people are also capable of doing lesser tasks that would take time away from those things that have a high priority and only you can do.

Whether it is relatives, hired help our our own spouses and children, delegating on others makes our lives more feasible. For some, having a diverse support network may be key. In case one person is suddenly unavailable we will have the option of tapping another one’s shoulders and getting the help we need.

How do I do it? Well..I do not have a magic formula but I have learned the hard way that the more I do the less I get accomplished. While I am still a work in progress with room for improvement, I now delegate more and drop my expectations. Even when things are done differently from how I would do them, if the end result is the same I will take that any day and spend energy on what really matters.

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Weight Loss Beyond New Years Resolution

New Year's Resolution

This post originally appeared on Certainly Her

Patients ask me all the time about the best way to lose weight. They are either requesting a diet or an exercise program that I think is best for them. While I try to educate them about eating less calories, reducing food portions and exercising, there is another aspect of weight loss that they need to learn about.  As any other goal in life, a weight loss plan requires what I consider the three essential keys to be successful.

1. Determination. The first step to make any lifestyle change is to actually want to do it. When you have set your mind into making a change, you are actually able to take action and to continue for a longer time to actually see results. Writing your goals makes it easier for you to stay focused and get to your destination. I am not talking about the yearly resolution that people write on a napkin before the clock strikes midnight and forgotten three minute after kissing under the mistletoe. Your best option is to have a journal. Write your goal on the first page and continue entering information as you progress. Looking at the data in print will make you realize your progress and will also keep you accountable of your own actions. It will be a tremendous uplifter when you see the pounds coming off and for those days when you deviate from your plan.

2. Information. You wouldn’t take an exam unprepared, right. Well, the same goes for weight loss. Once you have decided on a goal you should learn as much about the process as you can. But…weight loss is just diet and exercise, right? Wrong! It is about a new attitude, about learning the process and ways that will help you as an individual to actually lose the weight and keep it off. You need to learn about how many calories are optimal for your height, weight, your age, level of activity and so on. In addition, you have to adjust your calorie intake as your weight changes. You also need to learn about what kind of calories you should intake to successfully lose the weight and keep it off. Are you eating more carbohydrates than protein? What about fat? Are you drinking enough water? Do you drink sugary beverages that add calories without realizing it? As you see, there are so many aspects of weight loss beyond eating and exercise that people need to be educated about. You can always find multiple sources of free information online and watch exercise videos. However, the best approach is to consult your physician before starting an exercise program and to consult a nutrition specialist to create an achievable calorie intake plan.

3. Support. This is an essential point that is at many times not practiced. People feel they have to hide their plans from others to avoid shame if they are not successful. However, as any other aspect of life, weight loss is not a straight path from A to B. Dealing with daily life you will encounter many bumps in the road and situations that will deviate you from your plans and interfere with obtaining your goals. Keeping your focus on the goal you are more likely to obtain results. It may take longer than expected but you are more likely to do it if you have someone holding you accountable. Not only that, we all need someone to cheer us up when we do not see the light at the end of the tunnel as it happens when you hit a plateau in your weight for a few weeks straight. Having someone that suggests a healthier alternative to that slice of cake or someone you can look up to who has made a change in their life are ways in which you can find support. Tell your plans to other people that you know will not put you down. Look for weight loss groups and search fitness and nutrition pages on social media. You will be surprised how many people who you don’t even know personally can support you when they are on the same path.

I hope this article helps you in your weight loss plans. Remember to take one day at a time. It is a marathon, not a sprint. You have a whole year to make this happen!

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Beat the Back to School Stress

We all know that stress is bad for your health. It raises your blood pressure, it can give you anxiety, headaches, and interfere with your performance at work. Today I want to help you deal with one of the major stressors for families: Back-to-School. Right when we were just too comfortable with the summer vacation we realize that it’s almost time to go back to school. Already?! Pretty soon we will be back to early morning rush and homework evenings.

Because this is a stressful occasion people tend to procrastinate finding themselves later in crowded stores searching for last minute items. Here are a few ways I have developed to be more efficient and have more time left to enjoy the last few weeks of summer.

Order your school supplies in advance: I remember the year my twins started preschool. I was running like a headless chicken from store to store looking for last minute construction paper, glue sticks, nap mats and double of everything! That was on top of working full time in my clinic and seeing patients at the hospital…Ay, Ay, Ay!  When I discovered that there is a company that delivers school supplies directly to the school, I knew I would be ordering from them every year for as long as my children are in school. At the beginning of summer, I take advantage of the dates when they offer free shipping and delivery to the school. It is a major stress reliever to know that with the click of a button your child will have all the supplies on the first day of school. If like me, you live in an area where there are services that deliver your school supplies you are done! If you have not yet done this, find out if there is such a service in your area or order materials online to be shipped in advance.

Get your children’s medical forms ready: Every year I take my kids to their pediatrician for a well-child checkup. That, and the winter flu shots are mandatory in our home.  Being a physician, I know that close to the beginning of the new semester, parents will crowd doctor’s offices in order to fill school forms or get their kids vaccinated before school starts. One sure way of getting this done with less stress is to do it at the end of the school year. Before you go on vacation ask your school for the necessary forms and requirements. Make an appointment with the pediatrician and inform the staff that you need the forms signed by the doctor. Try to fill as much information before you give them to the office staff. It is an easier way to have all forms filled on your appointment day and your physician and staff will appreciate the heads up. You will be relieved when you don’t have a longer wait because the clinic schedule is overbooked. Your doctor and staff will also appreciate that you were diligent and brought the forms one or two months before everyone else.

Tackle the paper monster: We all know that kids bring a lot of paper from school, especially in the early elementary years. When you have more than one child, the mess grows exponentially. You need a strategy to deal with the paper monster, as I call it, in order to maintain your house (and life!) organized. I learned very early that every important piece of paper needs a dedicated place or it will be lost right before you leave for school in the morning.

As soon as your children get home and start taking stuff out from their backpacks, decide what needs to be signed and returned, what will be kept at home and what will be tossed. First, get anything that needs to be signed and returned to school. Sign it and put back in their school bag.

Art projects and crafts sent home are tricky because you obviously don’t want to hurt your child’s feelings however, how much macaroni art can a house hold? Involve your children in the decision of how long it will stay displayed and in the tossing process, if possible (I have to admit I have tossed more than they know, otherwise we would have to find a home only for paper).

Have a color-coded system to file their paperwork and quarterly awards. An accordion file for each child keeps everything in its place.  Scan anything you want to keep and make a file for each child by grade, school year and month. The original can be discarded afterwards. Trust me, the paper pile will grow faster than you think. If you keep things organized you will have more peace of mind, less morning stress and running around. At the end of the year you should be able to purge what is left and decide what to keep.

Having a system before the kids start school makes it easier to beat some stress in your life and helps you enjoy the last few weeks of summer. Let me know what you think about these tips and please share your own ways to stay organized.  See you next time!

Dr. Landrau is a Cardiologist, women’s health advocate, professional speaker, medical blogger and media expert.  She inspires professional women to advance in their careers by teaching them to recognize their talents and voice their achievements. She helps women understand how to best use their skills and to manage their time efficiently. Her talks on empowering women help them regain confidence and to take the necessary steps to become leaders.
Dr. Landrau is available for speaking to corporations, groups and conferences.

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