Know when to pump the brakes: In a society that applauds “the grind” it is important to know your own limitations to prevent burn out.
As a part of our series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Sasha Hamdani.
Dr. Sasha Hamdani is a Board certified psychiatrist and ADHD clinical specialist. She completed medical school at the 6 year accelerated BA/MD program at University of Missouri Kansas City. She completed three years of residency training at University of Arizona and a final year of training at University of Kansas Medical Center. She also has a robust social media following as a mental health clinician and advocate.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
My mother is a beloved pediatrician in my hometown so I grew up knowing I wanted to do medicine. When I entered medical school I knew I wanted to do pediatrics but didn’t know what I wanted to specialize in. As I ran through all the possible pediatric specialties, I did a rotation in Child psychiatry and fell in love with it. The more I explored psychiatry, the more I felt drawn to it. Now I have been practicing in this field for almost a decade and couldn’t be happier with that decision!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Honestly, with psychiatry everything is an interesting story. It is fascinating to be able to help navigate people through these complex parts of their lives.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I think when I was starting I got lost in the mindset that I had to be miserable to prove that I was being effective. I would work absurd hours and continuously strive to out-do other people’s productivity. At the end of my first year of training I was exhausted, emotionally drained, and burned out. I realized that this drive to propel forward is wonderful, but only when it was coupled with self care.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My medical school journey was difficult. It was the first time I was away from home and I transitioned from being a big fish in a small pond to being a very mediocre, tiny fish in a seemingly enormous sea. I previously let my academic acumen define me as a person, but now I was surrounded with people with similar (if not superior) accomplishments. The person who constantly kept my hope alive and would work with me tirelessly (even if it were something he didn’t initially understand) was my father. I wish they could have given him an honorary MD as that guy can now explain the inner workings of a kidney to perfection.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
I hope that raising awareness and reducing stigma about mental health will eventually change the landscape of the way we view our physical health. I think opening a dialogue about our own internal environment makes for more a more compassionate community.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Drink more water: Once this is actually built into a routine then sleep, energy, mood, and cognitive function expand and improve.
- Be more present: It is so easy to lose yourself in your phones (especially in these isolating times). I often recommend having dedicated periods of time without the phone (meals, 30 min before bed, etc) as it detracts from being mindful in the moment.
- Learn how to eat for your body: Learning HOW TO EAT is a vital stepping stone in creating a more comprehensive state of health. In terms of fueling my needs I have found that I need to eat every few hours instead of three basic meals. I need something protein heavy in the morning and higher in fat for the evening.
- Know when to pump the brakes: In a society that applauds “the grind” it is important to know your own limitations to prevent burn out.
- Regulate caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulating substance that needs to be used therapeutically. Very often you can get into a situation where poorly regulating caffeine can lead to anxiety, mood swings, and insomnia.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would start a movement to increase accessibility to care. There is such a significant portion of the population that is barred from accessing care (due to financial burden, location, stigma), yet those are typically the people who need it most. I would love to find a way to bridge technological advances to provide comprehensive psychiatric care.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1.”You have your own timeline.” I wish someone had told me that I could achieve both personal and professional accomplishments in a different timeframe or order. That little bit of grace may have prevented me from languishing in the comparison of my life to others.
2. “Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.” A lot of times a problem isn’t readily apparent unless you point it out and suggest a solution. There have been numerous circumstances that could have been alleviated by asking for what I wanted.
3. “Take breaks before you think you ‘need’ them”. Historically the only time I would stop for air is when my body or brain couldn’t possibly continue. In regulating my own pace more, I recognized that taking small breaks actually made me more resilient.
4. “Time can be more valuable than money.” In early stages of my career (especially coming out of training) I was offered contracts that would require long commutes, or short bursts of long hours for larger starting salaries. Later, I recognized that just not having to drive when you are mentally and physically exhausted or being able to work more regular hours rather than very difficult weeks followed by easy ones, helped me fill my time in a way more aligned with protecting my mental health.
5. “Keep it simple.” So often I got mired in overthinking the multiple complexities of patient care that it was helpful to always circle back to “What would be BEST for this patient?” Just being able to remind myself to return to that principle has provided me with immense fulfillment.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Recently I have been on social media (TikTok and Instagram) and trying to provide accessible and accurate information about mental health. I’m specifically interested in the impact of ADHD in women of color and marginalized populations and how social media is being used as a tool to fill in the gaps. Due to my clinical background and lived experience, educating others regarding ADHD has become a passion of mine.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
They can access my website at drhamdanimd.com or follow one of my social media accounts on instagram or TikTok as thepsychdoctormd. Those primarily focus around ADHD awareness and management.
Thank you for these fantastic insights!