Time Constraints: many people feel it’s easier to drive through at McDonalds than it is to cook fresh fish. Unfortunately this can sometimes be the case, but there are ways to eat healthy, quickly and cheaply. Additionally there are new meal delivery services that focus on fresh, organic foods. It’s a matter of demonstrating how simple and easy healthy eating really can be.
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 Dr. Sara Mikulsky, PT.
Dr. Sara Mikulsky, PT, DPT, FNS, CEAS is a licensed doctor of physical therapy, NASM certified personal trainer, and nutrition specialist. She has over 15 years of experience in the health and fitness industry and is based in New York City. She is the founder of Sara Mikulsky Wellness Physical Therapy, PLLC and is a contributor to popular news outlets such as US News, MSN, and Healthline. Her website is www.saramikulsky.comhttps://content.thriveglobal.com/media/042498d8b352a414c803b764b442bcd3
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?
Growing up in California, I was always very active and involved in sports. It was a little odd since both of my parents were not really sports lovers or that athletic for that matter, but I was influenced by my uncle. As a result of my involvement with sports, I was very familiar with injuries. During these formative years, I became more exposed to physical therapists, personal trainers, and learned a bit about nutrition. And I found these professions to be quite interesting and, of course, helpful in my injury recovery. I became so interested in these fields, that I learned some treatment techniques for ankles, knees, and such as a high school soccer player. I of course then went on to college for physical therapy and attended Boston University’s Physical Therapy Program.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I was drawn to anatomy and medicine at a young age, and knew that I wanted to enter the health field in some capacity. As I got closer to my college years, I was debating on a medical school track versus attending a physical therapy program. What intrigued me about physical therapy was that the therapists really knew their patients, understood the human body movement system, and had direct impact on a person’s injury. Since I was also involved with fitness, the field seemed like a perfect match. I eventually became a NASM certified personal trainer, doctor of physical therapy, and nutrition specialist. As I developed my skills as a physical therapist, I began to see the limits the field had in getting clients to the “next level.” Many times, my rehabilitation techniques were hampered by insurance limitations and practice guidelines. Clients not only needed help with their injuries, they also needed help with nutrition, stress management, and sleep techniques. I could see having deficits in these areas had a direct impact on their progress and recovery. I knew I had the skills to get clients beyond just recovering. So in 2016, I founded Sara Mikulsky Wellness Physical Therapy, PLLC and based the practice in New York City. I wanted to offer a more holistic approach to healing and to encourage healthier living.
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?
I have to give credit to my parents. As I mentioned, neither of them enjoyed athletics nor spent much time exercising. At the age of 17 I decided to attend physical therapy school. My parents, despite not really knowing what physical therapy was, completely supported my decision. And even though they wanted me to stay in California for college, they encouraged me to apply to physical therapy programs throughout the US. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to Boston University’s Program, which was ranked as one of the top 5 programs in the US. So I moved clear across the country, not knowing anyone out East, with the support of my parents. Additionally, my husband has been my biggest advocate, and encouraged me to open my practice in 2016. Without his support, I would not have found my true passion of holistic health.
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?
Working with and staying on top of social media has been, by far, one of the hardest challenges for me. Initially I posted a few videos here and there. I made a lot of mistakes as I really had no clue what I was doing. But as I learned more, I realized I needed a strategy and schedule. This helped me feel less overwhelmed and kept me on task. I started posting one to two posts a day, developed a theme and brand identity, in addition to writing a blog. But I still found myself comparing and contrasting my brand to others. I felt a bit lost in the mix and did not know how to differentiate my brand from others. As I started to reflect on why I had started my business, and what I wanted for my own health and life, my brand “voice” became a little clearer. I am a busy 40+ working female, trying my best to keep balanced, stay fit, eat right, get enough sleep, manage my stress, so that I don’t develop unwanted health complications, require medication, and can continue to do it all! So I stayed true to that voice and continue to move forward, as I learn more about the “beast” I call social media!
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?
One of my favorite books is Becoming by Michelle Obama. This book shows how things are a process and that if you are supported by your network, you can achieve your goals. But it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice, so you really need to want it. This book encouraged me to stay true to my vision, my voice and my brand. I keep focused on why I wanted to start my business in the first place, and what problem I am trying to solve. After that, it taught me to be patient. Things take time.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
One of my favorite quotes about life is “Sometimes you’re the “-or” and sometimes you’re the “-ee.” It’s a bit crude, but it gets to the point that life is not perfect. You will have wins and losses, just like in business. But just because you lose one day, or even win that day, you should never give up, keep working hard, and stay true to yourself.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
My wellness practice focuses on not only healing and injury recovery, but it also seeks to address longevity living. Longevity living is the practice of seeking balance in diet, exercise, sleep and stress. As a result, I recently launched my RENU Method. This method focuses on helping clients Restore and get enough (and the right kind of) sleep, Nourish and eat appropriately for their biological needs, Energize and exercise without causing injury, and Unwind and learn stress reduction techniques. The program is online and on-demand, so I’m hoping to have a broader reach than just New York City. Helping people practice longevity living will have great impact in their wellbeing and health, to ensure a longer, healthier life. Longevity living seeks to eliminate the need for medications, prevent “preventable” diseases (such as diabetes), and ensure independent lives as we age.
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.
- Express yourself
- Be true to your “voice”
- You’re not perfect
What I mean by express yourself, is don’t keep your feelings bottled inside. If something makes you feel bad, confront it. If something makes you feel good, celebrate it! Keeping our feelings inside can lead to resentment, depression, anxiety, or a lack of appreciation.
When I say be true to your “voice” it means don’t compare yourself to others and try to change. You are unique and have unique talents and gifts. Let yourself shine and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Going against the grain can sometimes be the best thing for our mental health, especially if the “grain” is not in line with our values or goals.
And lastly, you are not perfect, and that is just fine. Striving for perfection can stifle our growth. Focusing on perfectionism prevents us from learning more about ourselves and life’s lessons. Rather appreciate all the imperfections in yourself and your life.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
For me, yoga does not help my mindfulness. When practicing yoga, I realize have inflexible my body is! Instead, I often find that meditation for me works best while on a run outside, talking a long walk outdoors, or riding my bike. My mind feels free and relaxed. And often times after my run, walk or bike, I feel more level-headed and can make clear decisions.
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.
- Strength training is as important as cardio
- Do not ignore pain
- Sleep is the most important thing you can do
Many people think that losing weight and staying healthy is just about cardio. But strength training is just as (if not more) important in our physical wellbeing. Strength training helps us develop muscle tone and preserves bone health. It also prevents injury, improves metabolism, and increases blood flow.
Pain can be an indicator of injury, organ failure, or other diseases. Don’t ignore the pain, especially if it lasts longer than a few days. But also start to understand pain that comes from working out a little too hard, versus pain that should not be occurring.
When we are time limited in life, sleep is the first thing we throw out the window. But this should be the one thing we absolutely keep in our wellness plan. Sleep is vital to our functioning. Sleep helps are bodies heal, decreases inflammation, improves metabolism, strengthens our immunity, and allows our brains to process information. When we don’t get enough sleep the negative impact can affect all of our systems. It can also have negative impacts on our mental and emotional wellbeing. Without enough sleep we become irritable, stressed, lash out, and often cannot think straight. I would argue that sleep is more important than exercise and perhaps eating!
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 Constraints: many people feel it’s easier to drive through at McDonalds than it is to cook fresh fish. Unfortunately this can sometimes be the case, but there are ways to eat healthy, quickly and cheaply. Additionally there are new meal delivery services that focus on fresh, organic foods. It’s a matter of demonstrating how simple and easy healthy eating really can be.
- Bad Habits: many times when we go food shopping, we buy the same items. We are somewhat on “autopilot.” But if we learn to stock our homes with healthy foods, then we can break the bad habits and learn to eat healthier.
- Cultural Eating: sometimes the foods we eat are tied to our culture. This is especially true around holidays and family events. But if we can balance healthy eating a majority of the time, indulging in the occasional traditional sweet is ok.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
I’m going to quote the late, great Coach Jimmy V — “We should do three things every day of our life. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is to think, we should spend some time in thought. And, number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears.” Jim Valvano
I truly believe in this mantra of laugh, think and cry every day. It is important for our emotional wellbeing to be open with our thoughts and feelings. And if more people did this every day, we would all have a better understanding of each other, accept each other and live in a more peaceful world.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
I once heard a keynote address at a conference that spoke about the power of smiling to believe. What the speaker meant is that even if you feel bad or upset, smile. Keep smiling until you no longer feel that anger or pain. Smile until you believe in your smile. I have tried this from time and time, and I will admit it’s hard to stay upset for a long period when you are focusing on smiling.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Appreciate the beauty around you even when things are going wrong
- Give thanks for one thing each day, even if it’s something small
- When all else fails, pets can truly show us spirituality
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when the world was on lockdown, people were dying quickly and everyone was in a panic, I found myself outside in Vermont walking my dog. I started to notice that the sun was still shining, the tress were starting to bloom, and the birds were chirping. Things were somewhat “normal” and it gave me great comfort. I try to carry that lesson with me whenever I find myself stressed or disconnected from the world. Look around you, take in the beauty of nature, and appreciate its calming effects.
It’s very easy to focus on all the things we do not have, but it is imperative to take time to appreciate what you do have and have achieved. Every day I try to stop and appreciate one thing about my life, even if it’s something as simple as my husband making fresh coffee every morning. Those small wins and little appreciations can go a long way when life gets tough.
I’m a dog lover, and I grew up with dogs. When my husband and I finally got our pup, I could swear that she is truly part human! When you look into your pets eyes, and they look back at your with love and appreciation, I can’t help but think, “How do they know what I’m thinking, but somehow they do.” Whenever I’m sad or happy, my pup knows exactly how to cheer me up or join in the fun. The connection is surreal.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
Being in nature is good for everyone. I’m very fortunate that we have a house in Vermont. Whenever New York City becomes too much, too overwhelming, I escape to the hills of Vermont. The fresh air, the green tress, and the mountains always reset my welling.
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.
Sleep right, exercise right, eat right, meditate right to feel better, look better.
Listen to your voice, listen to your mind, listen to your heart to be happier, to be fuller.
Doing all these together, will ensure you live healthier and live longer.
That is the core of longevity living.
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 🙂
One of my business role models in Julian Michaels. Not only do I like her because she is a strong woman who advocates living well and staying healthy, but she has remained very open and honest about her life and who she is. She tells everyone about her wins and losses but keeps pushing herself forward. And she has been able to stay true to her brand and her voice.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My website: www.saramikulsky.com
My Instagram: @drsaramikulsky
My Facebook: Sara Mikulsky Wellness Physical Therapy
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.