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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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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