Dr. Paris Sabo: “Talk to someone”

Letting go. I don’t know about you, but I, for one, seemed to have accumulated a ton of stuff since the beginning of this pandemic. A ton of emails, a ton of mail and packages and a ton of wine! It is a great idea to purge and clean it all out. This is also […]

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Letting go. I don’t know about you, but I, for one, seemed to have accumulated a ton of stuff since the beginning of this pandemic. A ton of emails, a ton of mail and packages and a ton of wine! It is a great idea to purge and clean it all out. This is also great with emotional baggage- journal it, talk it out, get help for it and let it all go. It is surprising how emotionally cleansing it is to do this.

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 Dr. Paris Sabo, MD.

Dr. Sabo is the Co-Founder, chief scientist and the COO of Dr. Brite, a California manufacturing company of wellness products that are thoughtfully created with your health in mind. As a fellowship trained cancer surgeon, her deep belief in mind-body healing and a holistic approach to patient care led her to attend to her patients with combined treatment strategies, all rooted in evidence-based medicine. She is also a fellow at the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative medicine pursuing her passion for total body wellness and patient health. Dr. Sabo plans to use her learned Integrative and Functional medicine principles to create Dr. Brite products that are designed to positively change people’s everyday lives.

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?

Thank you so much for having me. I am a first generation Iranian-American. I immigrated to the United States with my parents and siblings from Iran in the heat of the Iran-Iraq War. My childhood in Iran was full of enjoyment and love for the most part that I remember. Before we left my life was full of anxiety with bombs going off in the middle of the night followed by way too late air sirens. It is unbelievable that my family and I survived! I remember quite clearly being ushered into a dark makeshift bomb shelter by my parents more than once. Some of our friends and neighbors were not so lucky. That’s when my parents decided to take me and my siblings on “Summer Vacation” to visit our uncle in California. I haven’t been to Iran since then and in my opinion, we are better for it. In the US, my siblings and I thrived, took to English so fast that we were only in ESL for half of a semester and we loved our new, although much tinier, home. I quickly began to love school. When in Iran, I remember hating it. Later, in fifth grade, I had the best female science teacher whose enthusiastic rhetoric about women in science opened my eyes and made me to want to learn more and more. From biology, chemistry, physiology, physics, and anatomy, I loved it all and made sure my life was filled with research and experiments. I even traded in my Barbie dolls and the Barbie house (with the pool set) for a microscope, a set of slides and a too cool dissection kit. It was a very powerful time in my life that started explosively in a war-torn country and ended with my passion for science and medicine. I even attended a Medical Magnet High School in East Los Angeles. I would wake up at 5am to drive twenty minutes to the bus stop for the 6am pickup and a two-hour ride to school. Loved every minute of that time of my life.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My teacher started me on my path and a friend’s father, a cardiothoracic surgeon, showed me my first quadruple bypass. Well, he didn’t really show it to me, he had let me watch the recorded 8-hour long surgery which was intended to be shared with his colleagues. Since I begged him to play it and didn’t run screaming out of the room like all the other kids when he opened his patient’s chest cavity with a saw, he allowed me to watch about 20 minutes of it. I think he was fascinated that I was the only kid standing there and asking him questions- I was 13. Those 20 minutes sealed my fate, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. And by doctor, I mean I knew I wanted to be a surgeon. At that time, cardiothoracic surgeon sounded so wonderful.

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?

No one I knew or that my family knew went into medicine. They were engineers, lawyers, businesspeople and dentists, but not medical doctors. It was a little different for me, but this did not stop my family from helping however they could. Out of my whole family, my father was my biggest advocate and cheerleader, and he still is. I remember that he used to drive me to my college classes when I was too young to drive and he even drove me to take my MCAT (the medical school admissions test). When I went to medical school, he drove me to the airport and cried saying goodbye. He also knew what to say when I needed him the most. He would often call me (yes, every day) and sometimes give me his, “When I was a soldier in the army, I used to sleep on the muddy, cold ground in the rain and drink water from the stream. You are in a great place learning to be a doctor, so chin up soldier, this is nothing.” This always made me laugh because when my father was a soldier in Iran, it was compulsory, and I think he said he tried everything in his power to get out of it. He couldn’t and he didn’t, but his experiences created the best stories of resilience to share. All his stories and support helped me get through medical school, surgical training and founding a startup.

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?

There are so many stories that I, as a physician and surgeon, cannot share due to HIPPA regulations and patient privacy and what-nots, however the funniest story I can share is from my days as a medical student in clinical rotations. I was part of a group of students who would practice minimally invasive procedures on each other so that when it came to our patients, we were ready to go. On one overnight call a group of us practiced blood draws and I.V.’s on each other’s arm veins, and I came out the worst, with bruises and bandages all over my arms. The next morning, on my clinical rounds in the cardiac floor, one of my very sweet and older patients saw me with my bruises and cut up hands and arms. Shocked, and with a grand-motherly concern, she softly said “Child, I don’t know what you are into, but this can’t do you any good”, pointing to me and shaking her head in dismay. I quickly explained to her that I wasn’t into anything bad and it was all for the sake of “do no harm to my patients” that I took a beating, literally. When she heard my story, she was relieved and laughed so hard at my misfortune that her heart rate converted into an abnormal rhythm. Her monitor alarms started screaming and the whole cardiac crash team came on site only to see me in my bandaged-up glory trying to hide my arms while my patient was hysterically laughing. Thankfully, her arrythmia resolved on its own and she was OK. I, on the other hand, had to explain what happened to everyone, all of whom had a good, long laugh at my expense. I will forever remember the laugh of sweet my caring patient, and I have never gone into another patient room without my white coat. Lesson learned.

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?

The first book to have a significant impact on me was the first long “grownup” book I read. I read it to be more like my teacher/mom when I was nine. It was the “Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I read all 800-plus pages of that book in one week straight. It was the most fascinating and thought-provoking book I had read in my young age. It was, as I later learned in my re-reading it in college, a classic Dostoevsky about life and death, the pull of evil and the questioning of faith. All feelings and universal shifts I witnessed reading this book, resonated with me and made me more determined in my quest of becoming a doctor. Nowadays, after decades of reading thousand-page medical and surgical books, I listen to audiobooks more than I read books. I just finished listening to “Educated” by Tara Westover and loved it. I am now listening to “Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy” by Sadhguru. I listen to in my car while commuting to my office.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

One of my most favorite life lesson quotes is by C.S. Lewis: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start here and change the ending.” This resonated with me when I was choosing to follow the next chapter in my career. I stressed over the decision to leave a successful private breast surgery practice when my startup, Dr. Brite, was growing and needed 100% of my attention. It was a risk I was willing to take and I am happier and better for it. It was the ending that I changed in my life, which in turn created a new beginning. Such a powerful iteration of life in this short sentence.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

As the formulator for Dr. Brite, I am working on some hemp-based, natural personal care and oral care products for people and pets that will be changing the categories they are in. Hemp and CBD products have gotten a lot of attention over the past few years as being great for inflammation and pain reduction as well as being calming to the mind. What we are going to do is combine this with other plant and mineral based ingredients to make multi-purpose products. I believe that having ingredient-driven, multipurpose personal care products is going to make it so easy to provide highly effective products to our customers.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In our work, we talk alot about 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.

My three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness are:

1. Meditation: I think it is most helpful for optimal mental wellness when you meditate and calm your brain to see your thoughts and make order out of chaos. This way you can pick and choose one thought or concern from those that are filling your mind and deal with them one at a time. Be aware of your thoughts and know that they are there.

2. Talk to someone: There is no shame in seeking professional help, whether from a life coach and licensed counselor or if you need it, a psychologist to help keep your mind healthy. There are many times that I talk to a life coach when I feel blocked down and not motivated at work. It is great to get an unbiased look at things. Also, some people may have brain chemistry imbalances unknown to them and a psychiatrist is the best person to diagnose and help treat them.

3. Make exercise part of your mental wellness routine. It’s easy to see what regular exercise can do for your body wellness, but regular exercise can help your mental state as well. This isn’t a new idea. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, a physician, used to recommend exercise as a treatment for mental illness.

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 use meditation daily and practice my 4–7–8 breathing three to four times per day. In fact, I recommend this breathing technique to all my patients who, like most people visiting their doctor, get a nervous elevation in their blood pressure — part of the “white coat syndrome”. With this breathing technique, you sit upright comfortably and start the meditation with an open mouth then exhale while making a swishing sound. You then take a deep breath through your nose to the mental count of 4. Hold your breath to a count of 7. Then, exhale with an open mouth with your tongue pressed against your upper front teeth while making a swooshing sound to the count of 8. You repeat the process three more times for a total of four. The more you practice the slower and calmer your breathing gets but don’t worry about how long to breath, the most important factor in this technique is the count, always 4–7–8. This breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath”, has been clinically shown to reduce stress with a measurable reduction in heart rate and blood pressure. It also calms the mind and centers your energy.

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.

The three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness:

1. Exercise your body and mind daily. You don’t have to overdo it but being active and moving every day is wonderful for your overall health. The endorphins from exercising also help clear your mind and make your mood better. It is a great cycle of mind-body health.

2. Don’t overdo a good thing. If you drink alcoholic beverages, stick to one drink consisting no more than 2 ounces of hard liquor, 5 ounces of wine or one beer and never sugary drinks. If you exercise, don’t go all out potentially causing an injury if you haven’t been exercising regularly. Also, take breaks regularly so that your body can rebuild and recenter.

3. Get good sleep. You have all heard this before, but it is so much more important with our current WFH situation. Exposure to computer screens and all the blue light will mess with our body’s innate sleep rhythm. It is extremely important to shut off all screen-time electronics and logoff social media at least 30 minutes to an hour before bed. Create a bedtime routine that is pampering and would make you look forward to going to bed. Create a mood or add an essential oil diffuser with scents of lavender, chamomile, sandalwood and bergamot to calm your atmosphere. Use your bedtime to pray if you want to reflect on, learn from and let go of the day’s stressful events and, if you want, cozy up to a great read or journal. Be sure to come up with three things every night that you are grateful for: your health, your comfy bed, your great penmanship — it could really be anything that you are blessed with and create a mantra you can repeat in your mind as you drift to sleep.

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?

I have many thoughts on healthful eating, and I would love to share them with you and hopefully make it a little easier to integrate them into a busy life for the better. We lead extremely busy lives and at times it is hard to shop, meal prep and cook for everyone. For people like me, there is never enough time. Meal planning is tasking and a trip to the grocery store during this global pandemic is more a bother than anything. There are also so many diet trends out there from Vegan, Paleo, Gluten Free, Keto, etc. and it can be overwhelming and a blockage for us eating healthy. My advice: keep it simple. Don’t start your healthy eating journey with a complicated diet requiring hours of meal prep, stick to the basics. Buy whole organic foods, plenty of yummy veggies and dark leafy greens, a select bunch of fruits and berries and one or two lean meats and fish. Stock your pantry with some whole grains like quinoa and have whole grain pastas and add everyday seasoning such as garlic powder, black pepper, turmeric, cayenne and crushed red peppers, cinnamon, ginger and Himalayan pink salt. While you’re looking through your pantry, do a purge and get rid of all the “nasties” — the leftover holiday cookies and candies, anything that can weigh you down and tempt you (those big box store bags of chips?). Get rid of them and start fresh. I think this pantry refresh will help get most people to start eating healthier. Once you get started, it’s easy to stay on track, especially with grocery and meal delivery services out there. My favorite delivery service is an organic coop delivering fresh veggies and fruits to me weekly along with a nutritious delicious recipe. I love it and it keeps me from doing something I hate- meal prep and grocery shopping.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

The three good habits that lead to optimum emotional wellness are:

1. Being open. It is in our nature to be protective and not trusting at times. With the isolation from the COVID global pandemic, we may be even more closed off- closed to new experiences, new friendships and new beginnings. It is a good idea to try to be more open to new acquaintances and experiences but joining an interesting online club, a book club or even better a friendly but competitive online trivia group. If an in-person connection are more your thing, then get outside and talk to strangers — socially distancing of course!

2. Letting go. I don’t know about you, but I, for one, seemed to have accumulated a ton of stuff since the beginning of this pandemic. A ton of emails, a ton of mail and packages and a ton of wine! It is a great idea to purge and clean it all out. This is also great with emotional baggage- journal it, talk it out, get help for it and let it all go. It is surprising how emotionally cleansing it is to do this.

3. Sharing. Talk about your emotions, write it down in a journal, join your friends on Friday night Zoom and share. Share your dreams, your darkest fears and your hopes. If you have something wonderful and positive to share, do it!

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

I completely believe in the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness. Smiling has a powerful effect on our minds as well as our bodies. A smile triggers the release of neuropeptides from our brain. These neuropeptides keep our immunity at the ready to help fight off potentially serious infections. A smile induces the brain to release dopamine, endorphins and serotonin that uplift your mood and make you happier. These endorphins made while smiling can also temporarily reduce minor aches and pains in your body. Smiling gives you a positive, powerful energy and feel-good vibes. It uplifts the mood and total wellbeing, so smile big every day.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Our spiritual wellness depends on how we connect to others, faith, music, art, nature, and even food. In essence spirituality is interwoven with our emotional and physical wellness and all good habit tips can be applied for optimum spiritual wellness. Some of my favorite spirituality boosting tips are:

1. Dance or sing or air guitar like no one is watching. Music has a huge positive effect on our spiritual wellness. It is the connection we feel to certain music that can literally change our lives. The head-banging, hip-thrusting, singing-out-loud-in-the-car music can elevate our spirits and instantly connect us to the artists’ pain, pleasure or happiness.

2. Connect with people. Next time you see someone walking their dog for the 10th time that day, smile and say hello. If you have a mask on, smile with your eyes and say hi with a big friendly wave- it’s always great to connect with people in a positive way. Practice it every day with strangers and you will be surprised how wonderful you will feel and maybe you’ll make a friend or two doing it.

3. Pray. Prayer is the ultimate in boosting your spiritual wellness. It doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, you can create a positive mantra for yourself and repeat it in a chant. You can even write down your blessings and your gratitude. It is a practice that will heal and nourish your spirit. My favorite is writing three new things I am grateful for in my journal every day. It can be anything- anything you want it to be that makes you feel blessed that you have it, that you are connected with it or that you want to manifest. After a few weeks, look over and read all the countless blessing and connections in your life. It’s really powerful to see it written down.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

Nature therapy or ecotherapy has been used for thousands of years as a broad treatment using a person’s connection with nature to help improve their physical and mental wellbeing. One of my favorite practices is Shinrin-Yoku, the Japanese art of forest bathing or nature bathing. It is when people immerse themselves in nature, forests, woods, deserts, the beach by connecting and grounding to it (barefoot to connect literally to the ground). Nature immersion has been scientifically proven by standardized mood tests and brain imaging to have neuropsychological benefits showing its powerful impact. People have often experienced improvements in their blood pressure, breathing, hearth rate and even experienced boosted immunity. It is a positive connection to nature that helps us cultivate spiritual wellness.

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.

I want to encourage and inspire each and every one of your readers to try to connect with or understand people they don’t know or usually associate with and to do this with compassion, without bias and with an open, positive mind. It is much easier to have respect and trust in one another if we can connect on more than a superficial, social media twisted level. Connect IRL to each other. Our genuine connections, understanding and unity can make our world so much better today and in the future. We can change our ending.

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 🙂

There are so many people I would love to have a mastermind with, I can’t pick just one. My ideal power lunch would include Arianna Huffington, Andy Puddicombe, Madam Vice President Kamala Harris, Drs. Tieraona Low Dog, M.D. and Mark Hyman, M.D. And Oprah — of course she has to be on my list. Fingers crossed they all see this article and we can connect IRL.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Absolutely, you can read blog posts I’ve written for or follow me on twitter or Instagram @parismd

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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