Establish phone free time. With the world only a finger tap away it is difficult to remove oneself from the endless stream of information and noise. Research has linked our phones to increased anxiety and depression, and it is vital to disengage and learn to be present in the moment.
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 Ahna Fulmer, MSN, ACNP-AG, FNP-BC.
Ahna Fulmer is a world-renowned transformation coach with a passion for helping others learn how to embrace imperfection to claim success. With two Masters in Nursing, Ahna is an internationally recognized speaker and has been published by the American Heart Association and featured on major networks like iHeart radio and ABC News. In 2019 she founded a leading DIY lifestyle blog, Hammers N Hugs, where she inspires visitors to reclaim their hearts and homes with DIY ideas, house renovations, and strategies for healthy living through her virtual fitness and nutrition business. She is a freelance writer for Wayfair and has been featured by Apartment Therapy, Home Talk, and Food Talk, to name a few.
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?
Oh wow, we are starting it off by throwing it back! I love it.
When I think back to my childhood I am flooded with memories full of warmth and fun. My father was a post-graduate seminary professor, and my mother was a critical care nurse. We lived in Scotland until I was 5 years old, and then we moved home to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
I was the eldest of 3 siblings and proudly lived up to the firstborn stereotype. My leadership skills were first developed in this role such as the time I persuaded my brother to pee on an electric fence or when I convinced my sister to play “horsey” which involved tying a rope around her waist while she pulled me around the basement on my rollerblades.
Strategic delegation at its finest right there.
Both sets of my grandparents owned farmland in the beautiful countryside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania (no we were not Amish), and these acres were an extension of my own home. My memories are saturated with playing in the woods, sledding down snowy fields, feeding animals, and hours of laughter with extended family around a homemade meal.
My passion for helping others reclaim their hearts and homes certainly stemmed from my own idyllic childhood.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Let’s start with the story that convinced me I would never enter the medical field.
Spoiler alert: I did.
I was 7 years old, and it all began one morning when I watched my mom kill my dad at our dining room table. My dad needed fasted blood work done, and in the spirit of efficiency my mom drew his blood at home before going in to work at the hospital. As the blood started draining from his arm my dad went white as a sheet and passed out, and to my 7-year-old eyes was resurrected back to life as he slowly came to.
I experienced a legitimate phobia of needles for the next 10 years, but in true Enneagram 8 fashion when it was time to choose a college major I decided to take on the career I had sworn off for the last decade and entered the profession of nursing.
Two Masters in Nursing and 10+ years of emergency medicine later, it is safe to say I conquered my fear of needles.
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?
Certainly, my parents set the foundation for success by raising me in a stable, loving home, but I believe it is the collective relationships and subsequent experiences I had with dozens of relatives and friends alike that made me who I am today.
The greatest paradigm shift I experienced as a kid, however, happened when I was in 10th grade. Dr. George Murray, then the President of Columbia International University, was speaking at a youth conference I had attended, and he said this:
“God does not merely want to be included in YOUR plans. He wants you to be included in HIS plans.”
As that stereotypical firstborn, planner, and achiever I suddenly felt anything was possible if I was willing to relinquish the pen to my story and trust the Author. I wanted to accomplish things beyond what I could even imagine, and it is a core belief I hold to this day.
It is the belief that Your story matters because it is part of a Divine one, and when you let Him write it anything is possible.
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?
Is there a word limit for this answer? 15 years in medicine yields endless stories, many of which are unsuitable for publication, but we could talk about the time I had to redo a gaping, multi-layer wound closure in a man’s arm because as I was tying the last suture realized I had buried a dozen non-absorbable sutures in his arm. This did not bode well for a high patient satisfaction score.
I could mention the one and only time I verbally assumed a patient’s visitor was his mother when she was actually his girlfriend. You only make that mistake once.
Or we could chat about when I was a speaker at a national conference and made the rookie mistake of inhaling 2 cups of coffee prior to going on stage leaving no time to use the ladies’ room first. Needless to say Q&A time was cut very short.
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?
In 2010 a medical nightmare occurred when I was working night shift in the ICU. I can still see the blood draining from my hand after it had been stuck with a dirty needle from a patient dying of HIV/AIDS.
I was assigned the highest risk category and started a cocktail of antivirals to prevent potential spread. I was so ill on those drugs I could not work for over a month.
Statistically, I knew it was unlikely I would contract HIV, but I also believe God does not promise an easy life. He just promises to be faithful. I was unsure what my story would be and had to wait 6 months before a status could be confirmed.
During that time I read “Waiting on God” by Andrew Murray, and it was another massive paradigm shift in my worldview.
“Learn to worship God as the god who does wonders, who wishes to prove in you that He can do something supernatural and divine . . . Consent not to know what and how He will work; expect it to be something altogether Godlike, something to be waited for in deep humility, and received only by His divine power. Let ‘And now, Lord what wait I for? My hope is in You’ become the spirit of every longing and every prayer. He will in His time do His work.”
I was reminded again to relinquish control to the Author to write my story as He would and find hope in His faithfulness not my circumstances.
And what an incredible chapter He wrote.
I did end up testing negative for HIV, but through it met my future husband, started a family, and launched a new career as a nurse practitioner through John Hopkins University.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“Work hard. Play hard.”
I am a list-loving, check-marking, life-planning kind of girl. I thrive on accomplishing goals, but at the end of the day “playing hard,” or the concept of taking the time to be present in the moment without an end goal, of loving and being loved, is as important as any life achievement could ever be.
As I say on my blog at “Hammers N Hugs,” hugs build a home as much as hammers build a house.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Several months ago I chose to leave the security of bedside medicine to pursue a full-time career sharing what I am truly passionate about which is helping others reclaim their hearts and homes by sharing DIY projects, house renovations, and strategies for healthy living through my virtual fitness and nutrition business.
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.
1.) Prioritize sleep. Quality sleep has been shown to prevent disease, promote fat loss, and improve mood and energy.
*Pro Tip: Go to bed at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning. Use black out curtains. Turn off all screens at least an hour before bed. Sleep with your cell phone out of the bedroom. Consider using a weighted blanket that is 5–10% of your body weight.
2.) Declutter and Organize. Research has shown that decluttering and organizing a space can reduce stress and improve mood. Decluttering involves removing unnecessary items completely.
*Pro Tip: Take a trash bag and bag anything that doesn’t get used or played with on a regular basis. Schedule a porch pick up with Salvation Army at https://satruck.org/donate/choose.
Organize what remains and arrange it in such a way as to optimize the visual appeal and practical utility.
- Pro Tip: Consider creative storage solutions like under sofa/bed slide out boxes, mounting baskets on the wall for vertical storage, or investing in custom cabinets and shelving like Closet Maid from Amazon.
3.) Establish phone-free time. With the world only a finger tap away it is difficult to remove oneself from the endless stream of information and noise. Research has linked our phones to increased anxiety and depression, and it is vital to disengage and learn to be present in the moment.
*Pro Tip: Create a physical home base for your phone, preferably out of easy reach, where you determine it will stay untouched for a set period of time. For example, Each night from dinner time until the kids go to bed is phone-free time.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
Monday — Saturday I wake up every morning at 5 am. I pour myself a cup of fresh coffee that was set to brew automatically the night before. I sit at my desk, light a candle, read my Bible, and chat with Jesus. I do not open my phone until 530am. It has become the most precious, life-giving 30 minutes of every day.
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.
1.) Prioritize whole food nutrition. Whole food nutrition simply means consuming food that is as close to its most natural state as possible as there is a growing body of evidence to suggest artificial ingredients and food additives are contributing to disease.
*Pro Tip: Fresh is best. If it is from the earth or can give birth, then it is probably fair game. 80% of your groceries should come from the perimeter of the grocery store as the majority of processed foods reside in the center aisles.
2.) Practice the 16:8 intermittent fasting method. Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve neurological function, decrease cholesterol, reverse insulin resistance secondary to diet-induced obesity, promote fat loss and preserve lean muscle mass.
*Pro Tip: Try skipping breakfast and consume all your nutrients from 12p — 8p. Prioritize whole food nutrition and especially focus on lean green protein with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables.
3.) Exercise. 30 mins of moderate to high-intensity exercise 5 days a week has been proven to prevent disease and reverse some chronic conditions.
*Pro Tip: Start with 15 mins 5 days a week. Set your alarm clock for 15 mins earlier each day and walk up and down your stairs, jog outside or on a treadmill, use an elliptical, or walk around the perimeter of your house fast enough that it is difficult to speak for 15 mins 5 days/week. Slowly work your way up to 30. Some exercise is always better than no exercise.
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?
The distance from one’s head to one’s heart is perhaps the greatest chasm known to mankind. I believe the primary reason we struggle to convert head knowledge to life application is a fear of inadequacy.
We are terrified of imperfection and failure, so we create feel-good concepts to filter the stark reality that we know to be true — we are flawed.
Take the health and wellness concept of “self-care” as an example. What was meant to reflect a pursuit of overall well-being, “self-care” has become a thinly veiled justification for a day at the spa or a large piece of cake when in reality this is not self-care but self-indulgence.
To be clear I am in full support of a day at the spa, and I have the best chocolate cake recipe in the world, but the vital takeaway is that self-care is not to be confused with acts of spontaneous self-gratification.
Self-care is, in fact, the process of embracing your health inadequacies and leveraging them to claim success by establishing day to day habits grounded in a strategic sense of self-discipline in order to improve one’s overall health and well-being.
Precisely the kind of strategies I am articulating in this column.
If we want to see transformation in our lives, including fat loss secondary to healthy eating, then we need to remove the feel-good filters and embrace the struggle in order to claim success.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
1.) Increase sunlight exposure. It is believed that sunlight helps to release a chemical in the brain called serotonin that stimulates energy and can elevate mood and outlook.
*Pro Tip: Replace standard curtains with sheers or convert full-length curtains to valances.
2.) Complete a DIY project. Passion fuels purpose. Find a project to undertake and make it a mission to finish it. Start small. Get in the habit of experiencing success.
*Pro Tip: Visit the blog “Hammers N Hugs” for DIY tutorials and project ideas.
3.) Paint walls a lighter, brighter shade. Psychology has demonstrated that color subconsciously affects our mood.
*Pro Tip: Repaint your walls in a shade of white, gray, green or yellow.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
Interestingly the relationship between our well-being and smiling has been studied at length, and not surprisingly, it only yields positive benefits to all involved.
Workplaces have demonstrated improved productivity when employees report seeing administrators frequently smile. Watching someone smile has been shown to objectively decrease blood pressure and subjectively improve mood.
And really why NOT smile? Smiling is surely the most natural enhancement of true beauty.
Even through heartache I pray that in the end, in all of its wrinkled glory, my face tells a beautiful story of hope that is reflected in a smile.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
1.) Practice quiet time. Prayer and meditation has been shown to improve mood and decrease anxiety.
*Pro Tip: Set your alarm clock 15 minutes early Monday — Friday, and use this quiet time to write down 3 things you are grateful for from the previous day. Consider reading religious texts or praying.
2.) Prioritize fellowship with people. We were Divinely designed to be in relationship with others. Not social media friends but real-life people. In fact, research has demonstrated that hugging another person reduces blood pressure. I have yet to see a study demonstrate the same outcome with virtual relationships.
*Pro Tip: Be intentional about being routinely and physically present with others. Even with social distancing, safely prioritize in-person meetings and conversations.
3.) Pursue Truth through written text. The problem with Truth is that is it true whether we want to believe it or not.
If there is a spiritual reality that exists and a God who created us to be in relationship with Him, then surely He would want to reveal Himself to us. One way He may do this is through written text.
*Pro Tip: Start reading through sacred and ancient texts and ask God to reveal Himself to you if He does exist. Find books from religious and spiritual scholars and seek Truth.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
C.S. Lewis, a legendary British theologian, once said “We do not want merely to see beauty . . . we want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”
I believe we were divinely designed to be inspired by and to aspire to the beautiful, and what better example exists than our organic response to nature — the breath-taking colors of a glorious sunrise, the calming trickle of a babbling brook, or the awe-inspiring grandeur of a soaring mountain top.
Soaking in the vibrant, organic beauty of nature is an opportunity to know God better.
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.
What if we banned the availability of all media filters? #liveunfiltered
There would be no filter to smooth our skin on social media, and wrinkles and blemishes would return to the aesthetic standard.
There would be no software to trim thigh gaps or slim waist lines so that body inclusion was no longer just a theory but an authentic practice.
There would be no CGI or special effects for movies so that actors and actresses were limited to their natural talents as demonstrated in theater, and fans would realize that movie stars are simply human just like them.
If we stopped filtering the ordinary to elevate beauty, then perhaps the ordinary would become beautiful once again.
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 🙂
Hmmm, what a great question. I would have to say Henry Cavill and not just because my son eats, plays, and sleeps in his Superman costume or that my husband has a man crush on Henry’s PC building skills, but because he inspired a paradigm shift in my approach to social media as a fitness and nutrition coach.
For years I blissfully avoided social media until it became a professional necessity when I started a DIY lifestyle blog in 2019 which quickly transformed into a platform to share my health and wellness expertise.
It did not take me long to realize even the basic concept of exercise had not gone unscathed in the filtered world of social media. Per Instagram fitness appeared to require flattering workout clothes, extensive gym set ups, and hero hair that could miraculously withstand the sweaty demands of a high intensity workout.
Around this same time, I watched the Netflix series, “The Witcher” in which the very fit Henry Cavill stars, and like any well-adjusted human being I stalked him on Instagram. He was the first celebrity I followed, and it fascinated me to see how meaningful it was to his followers when he routinely shared a snapshot of his fasted cardio workout which often involved a picture of an elliptical screen or a clip from his run.
Followers would comment how inspired they were to see his real time, unstaged routine, and others credited him for their renewed commitment to exercise and getting back into shape.
It struck me how powerful it was to share the real life process and not just the aesthetically pleasing outcome. I committed to being the fitness influencer that was willing to share the sweaty, unflattering, bed-head routines of living fit and not just conveniently curated snapshots.
So yes, Henry, I would love to do breakfast anywhere that kale is not a staple on the menu. I may look like a skinny girl, but I do not eat like one.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Pinterest: @Hammers N Hugs
Facebook: @Hammers N Hugs
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.