Well-Being//

How Handling the Chaos as an ER Doctor Helped Me Tackle My Own Health

"With tiny improvements, it’s entirely possible."

Akinbostanci/ Getty Images
Akinbostanci/ Getty Images

It’s March 14 and I’m trying not to cry in front of the electrician. I had spent a night in the ER with my sick baby; our bathroom had flooded the house and we’d have to move out for two weeks, I was behind on my book deadlines, and the babysitter canceled—for the entire week. I had just hung up with a (I try to believe) well-meaning relative, whose response was: “This is why it’s too much for moms to work outside the home.” Cue the electrician with more flood-related bad news.

Some days, as a mom, you swear you’re being Punk’d. (Yes, I may have checked my hydrangeas. No, Ashton was not waiting to jump out).

Because for all the amazing moments (and there are those—an absolute beautiful wealth of them), then you have “those” days. And if you look at most moms today (and women in general), it seems like we’re having more and more of “those” days. In fact, studies show thatmoms sleep less (for the first six years!), eat worse, and exercise less. One study found that every additional pregnancy ups a mother’s risk of metabolic syndrome by 7 percent. Of course if you look at women as a whole, we’re struggling with higher rates of obesity, stress[i], and chronic diseases.

That wasn’t ok with me. You see, for as exhausted as I felt in this new world of motherhood, I’d seen better. I knew that it was possible to regain control. As an ER doctor, no matter what comes through those double ER doors, no matter how chaotic, no matter how many patients I have, I know that I can handle it – that “I’ve GOT this.” I’ve also been a patient before, diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune arthritis, and I turned around my health when I was told it wouldn’t happen. Both of which gave me the knowledge – but primarily the gumption – to believe that I could apply these lessons to motherhood. I started to do research, pulling from all of my experiences as an ER doctor, patient, mom, and medical expert in TV and media, and bent on finding a way to give every woman that same “I’ve GOT this” feeling every day.

The more I learned, the more patterns I saw. For instance, many moms fell into The Chronic Stress Disequilibrium (CSD), a term I use to describe the vicious cycle of chronic stress, insufficient sleep and exercise, and constant, irresistible cravings for comfort foods and sweets. I also researched the science of decisions—and realized how eff’ing hard it is to make healthy choices in today’s environment (or what I call, Cavewoman brain in the modern world). And—as a last bit of twisted irony—when we try to diet/force healthy decisions, our stress hormone levels rise even more—which makes everything (including weight loss) harder.

I knew WHAT to do (no one needed me to tell me to eat celery instead of sriracha chips, get more sleep, and exercise more), but I needed the HOW in order to make it actually doable. Since I’m an ER doctor, the solutions had to have two features: (1) be entirely science-based and (2) save precious time and effort – like the “process improvement” steps we’d take in the ER to streamline efforts. Instead of fighting our cravings, low energy, and stressors head-on like some MMA cage match (or what I also call “bath time with a toddler”), we can work smarter, not harder. Instead of hating and snoozing the morning clock, we can use bright light strategically to reset your Circadian Rhythm. Instead of fighting your afternoon sugar cravings every day, we can do a sugar rehab and reset for the long term. Instead of letting feelings of inadequacy and disappointment get you down, we can learn how to shut DOWN that mean girl Inner Critic.  

Which is how Mom Hacks was born. I wanted to share everything I learned on my way back to my “I’ve GOT this.” Mom Hacks is divided into nutrition, exercise, sleep, and resilience; each of them feeds on the other. Do one hack in nutrition, and you’ll see a ripple effect across resilience or sleep, without any additional effort. Adjust your sleep patterns and your exercise and nutrition will automatically improve. That’s the point. The WHAT is just as important as the HOW. I don’t have everything figured out, but I have figured out things that work—and I use these hacks every single day. I worked to find a solution; now it’s yours to use in your own life.

It doesn’t require a new 5K habit, an extra hour of your day, Instagram perfection, guilting yourself, or brewing your own kombucha (how do you even DO that? I just got tired). Hacks don’t add to your to-do list, they make it easier to do. Feeling good is not “too much” to expect. Motherhood on whatever your terms are, is not “too much”. With tiny improvements, it’s entirely possible. Now you have the tools. 

And remember, You’ve GOT this.

Godspeed,

Dr. Darria

**Want more? Check out my newly released book, Mom Hacks! Mom Hacks takes the best scientific evidence to help all of us find our “I’ve GOT this”. Finally, you can take control of your health (and that of your family) once and for all – one hack at a time. It’s not just possible, it’s easy. You’ve GOT this.

Dr. Darria is a board-certified Harvard- and Yale-trained Emergency physician, favorite expert on national TV shows including CNN, HLN, The Dr. Oz Show, and The Doctors, mom of two, and author of the upcoming book Mom Hacks (Hachette Book Group). Mom Hacks hits shelves on February 19th, sharing 100+ super-charged hacks to make good health simpler for mom and baby. Grab Mom Hacks and find your “I’ve GOT this”, today.


[i] https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2012/gender

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