Walk — even if it’s only 10 minutes, the body needs physical exercise to stay healthy. If you’re busy and can’t make time to get to the gym, try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the furthest bathroom as opposed to the closest one, parking at a distance from the store instead of in the front row. Small bursts of effort add up throughout the day.
Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?
As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anjani Amladi, M.D., a double board-certified Adult Psychiatrist and Child/Adolescent Psychiatrist focusing on an integrative approach to patient care. Dr. Amladi has an extensive background in treating a wide variety of psychiatric disorders such as: ADHD, OCD, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia, and eating disorders. She is the author of Amazon best-selling children’s picture book, When the World Got Sick, which helps children and caregivers talk about the impact of COVID-19 and how to navigate this stressful time.
She has captivated audiences through speaking and teaching engagements on topics such as: Autism Spectrum Disorder, physician burnout, ADHD, psychosis and mood disorders. During these engagements, she focuses on providing audiences actionable strategies, resources, and techniques to help them navigate these issues. She has also been featured in multiple publications discussing topics of child abuse, depression, stress, relationships, and grief.
Her latest book, When the World Got Sick, focuses on helping caregivers navigate the difficult conversation about the pandemic in a way that is easily accessible for children. When the World Got Sick features colorful images that will help children cope with negative emotions brought on by the pandemic and will spark a sense of hope for the future. The book is available through Amazon, Kindle, and paperback and Dr. Amladi is planning to release various other children’s books, including the upcoming Piggle Wiggle Wiggle Wobbles, which focuses on the presentation of ADHD and the effect these symptoms can have on a child’s emotional well-being.
Dr. Amladi holds a Doctor of Medicine degree (M.D.) from the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Scranton, PA. She completed her residency training in adult psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) at Fresno campus and completed her sub-specialty training in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of California at Davis (UCD). Dr. Amladi was nominated and inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society and has volunteered with nonprofit organizations such as the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Dr. Amladi lives in Sacramento, CA with her husband and many pets where she currently splits her time between group private practice at Pacific Coast Psychiatric Associates, and community mental health at Uplift Family Service and Gateway Residential Treatment Center. For more information, please visit: https://anjaniamladimd.com.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born and raised in the California Bay Area by two loving parents. My mother is from Hawaii and my father emigrated from India to attend college and graduate school in the United States. Growing up my parents were very big on travel and thought it was important to expose me to different parts of the world. I learned so much from having the opportunity to travel, meet different people and observe different cultures.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
By the time I turned 14 I had been to at least 5 countries, and continued to travel as an adult. Many of the countries I traveled to were developing nations. Homelessness, poverty, illness, and food insecurity were all things I became aware of at a young age. As I grew up it became clear to me that I wanted to help with these issues. Becoming a physician felt like the most natural and meaningful way to address all of these issues in one profession. Part of medical training is being exposed to multiple specialties including internal medicine, family medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery, neurology, psychiatry, and radiology. After rotating in each of these specialties in medical school, psychiatry quickly became my favorite. I became a psychiatrist because I enjoy this particular kind of helping. Psychiatry is complex, complicated, interesting, meaningful, and at times quite difficult. There is no “one size fits all” method of treating patients. We learn about our patients by talking to them, listening to them, and understanding how their symptoms affect their daily lives. We have the privilege of spending time with our patients, getting to know them, and bearing witness to their experiences as human beings. Patients sometimes tell us things about themselves and their lives that they have never told anyone before. Psychiatrists are keepers of secrets, trauma, hurt, pain, and anguish. There is no greater responsibility or honor to hold these feeling for our patients and actively work with them to reduce their suffering. While I deeply enjoy working with adults, I absolutely love working with children. The majority of my practice is seeing children and their families, but I also continue to see adults.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My Mom is my greatest cheerleader. The road to becoming a physician is not easy, so having a strong support system makes the journey much smoother. When I was in my first year of medical school I was diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer, needed major surgery, and had to undergo radiation but was determined to make it back to school to stay on track to graduate with my class. My Mom was there with me in the hospital, through recovery, went to all of my doctor’s appointments, and helped me get back on my feet so I could get back to school as soon as I recovered and was able to return.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I wouldn’t call it a mistake, but one of the most auspicious things that happened when trying to find a specialty to pursue while in medical school was falling into the field of Psychiatry. Going into medical school I thought I would be more interested in surgery or internal medicine, but there is something about mental health and the complexity of Psychiatry that is not only fascinating but rewarding as well.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder. This book is truly inspiring as it follows one man, a physician who finds his life’s calling to cure disease using modern medicine. It tells his story of how he delivers care to people all over the world in desperate need of treatment, help, and compassion.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“We accept the love we think we deserve.” Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
This quote not only applies to love but life in general. Sometimes we settle into relationships or situations that are not good for us, often due to fear. Fear of starting over, being alone, not being successful, and the list goes on. Sometimes it can feel like we just bend to the whim of our surroundings when in reality we have more control over the outcome of our lives than we think. We have the power to enter or exit relationships, push for a promotion, start a new business, write a book, etc. We so very often settle for what we think we deserve because we are afraid to embrace the idea that we may deserve better, and are even more afraid to ask for it. This is a culture that we need to change.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
When I was in medical school, residency, and fellowship training I never had the time to get into social media, so I’m just now learning how powerful of a tool social media can be, especially when it comes to health education and advocacy. I’m working on curating mental health content on my website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and am also working on several children’s mental health picture books to help teach people how to talk about mental health and get the help they need.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Just because 2020 is over doesn’t mean that the struggles we faced in that year are as well. There are still real fears, worries, and obstacles that we have to contend with, and we can’t do it alone. Having strong social support is critical to our well-being, stress management and overall happiness. Instead of turning on the news which can be anxiety-provoking, call or video conference friends and family to connect and see how they are doing.
Sleep is one of the most important wellness gifts we can give ourselves. When we don’t sleep well it affects our mood, temper, focus, concentration, productivity and many other aspects of our lives. It’s important to minimize stimulating activities before bed to help your body wind down. Instead of television, try reading a book, meditation, light stretching, an herbal tea, snuggles with pets, or soft music to help get your body ready for bed.
2020 was a difficult year for many of us, and stress when endured for such a long time can take a toll on both our mental and emotional well-being. Sometimes we can’t talk to friends or family about how we truly feel about things due to fear of being judged, lack of comfort with the content, or want to be sure what we have to say is confidential. Finding a therapist, an objective party to help you process what you have been through can be a great solution.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
I like guided meditation as it is difficult for me to quiet my mind on my own. I use the Calm app which has all sorts of different guided meditations and other exercises to help with restoration and relaxation.
Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Stretching — with many of us working from home, being sedentary is how we spend most of our day. Stretching helps loosen our muscles, provides a much-needed break from work, decreases the risk of injury — particularly repetitive stress injury, and it feels really good.
- Walk — even if it’s only 10 minutes, the body needs physical exercise to stay healthy. If you’re busy and can’t make time to get to the gym, try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the furthest bathroom as opposed to the closest one, parking at a distance from the store instead of in the front row. Small bursts of effort add up throughout the day.
- Drinking water — our bodies are 50–75% water, so hydrating is an easy way to keep your body working at its best. Water helps our bodies get rid of toxins, cushions joints, and helps to regulate our body temperature. If plain water isn’t your favorite, try adding fresh fruit, or buying a water carbonating machine.
Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
Time is often our greatest challenge. When we are pressed for time we usually do what is fast and easy, not what is healthy. One way to help with this is to carry healthy options with you, so when you’re hungry or thirsty and in a hurry, you have something at your fingertips.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Set your boundaries and stick with them. There is a common misconception that if you set boundaries that means you’re selfish when in reality setting boundaries is a skill. Why? Boundaries keep us safe and healthy by letting us know where we stand. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to set your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits and stick to them. If you don’t respect your own boundaries, it is unlikely that anyone else will.
- Kick deprivation to the curb. Many of us have tried strict dieting in the past, and it’s no secret that this is unsustainable. It’s about moderation. The world will not end if you eat that scrumptious cupcake that’s staring at you in the bakery window. It’s also important to put things into perspective. In 2020 millions of people were faced with the possibility of their own mortality. Do a thought experiment. If you were to die tomorrow, what would you really want to do? Or say? Or feel? Think about that as we slide into 2021 and take charge of your life.
- Don’t take it personally. There are some people in our lives that can really mess with our positive vibes. Remember that when negative people try to bring you down. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Take it with a grain of salt and keep on moving. You cannot control others, you can only control how you react to them. Make the choice not to buy into the negativity.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
The simple act of smiling can trigger the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin which can help boost mood. Smiling not only helps you but it can help others as well. When someone smiles at you, it’s hard to not want to smile back. Plus, smiling makes us feel good, look good, and is much more attractive than a scowl.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Focus on the positive. Thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are all closely linked and thus influence each other. In other words, your emotions can change based on what you choose to focus on. One effective way to break out of negative space (ie. much of 2020) is by choosing to focus on something positive. For example, is the glass half-empty or half-full? Well, that depends on how you choose to view it.
- Invite gratitude in. Gratitude is a purposeful practice of thinking about what you have in your life right now. Practicing gratitude teaches us that despite our missteps or mistakes, there are still people in our lives who love and care for us, and things in our lives that we can look forward to. Journaling, creating a gratitude box or jar, and meditation can go a very long way toward tapping into the power of positivity and a happier new year.
- Shape your environment. Our environment has a very big impact on our mental health. While there are many things in our immediate environment that we are not able to control, there are some things that we can. One of the best first steps you can take is one small act in the morning. Admiral William H. McRaven author of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World is based on a 2014 graduation speech he gave at the University of Texas that went viral. In that famous speech, he discussed the importance of your environment. He said,
“if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. If by chance, you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that’s made. That you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
My favorite thing about being in nature is the quiet. There is something beautiful about silence because it provides a much-needed balance to all the noise we experience daily. Silence allows us to reflect on our thoughts, feelings, emotions and can help us to connect to our needs, wants, and desires.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My greatest wish is to decrease the stigma associated with mental health. Although I am primarily a child and adolescent psychiatrist, I also see adults. I regularly see adults who have struggled in silence for years due to concerns about what their friends or families might think of them if they went to see a mental health provider. What I wish more than anything is for mental health to be treated as seriously as physical health. People suffer in many ways, not all of which are visible. There is merit to mental health struggles, and most importantly there is help available.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I have been so moved by the new show Peace of Mind with Taraji. I think it is such a gift when people in a position of power and influence are able to use their platform for positive change. Mental health, especially in communities of color is still very stigmatized. I think her show is a meaningful and much-needed step toward healing in these communities.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @anjaniamladimd or at my website www.anjaniamladimd.com
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.