We are all universally stressed from the ongoing pandemic, and in my recent discussion with ER physician Dr. Jaime Hope, I pick her brain on how we can all safely relieve stress, create simple habits for healthier living, and more!
Dr. Hope is an Attending Physician specializing in Emergency Medicine. She is also the author of Habit That!: How You Can Health Up in Just 5 Minutes a Day and a contributor to my book, Authentic Power!
Here’s a recap of our conversation:
- Ashley: First, tell us a little bit about your background.
- Dr. Hope: I’m an ER physician who works at one of the busiest level one trauma centers in the US. I constantly see people there who are living the worst days of their lives, and one day thought, they don’t have to be here, so I dedicated a career to helping people create healthy habits now so they don’t have to go upstream and wind up in the ER.
- Ashley: Can you talk a little bit about the toll that the pandemic has taken on medical workers and what you’ve seen change in your field?
- Dr. Hope: We went into this with a huge sprint and we’ve been running a multi-year marathon, but you can’t sustain that. At that time we were scared of what was going on, but we were also all connected. However, over time, we’ve actually become disconnected. The truth is, we’re tired and very short-staffed, and that’s what’s delaying patients getting care, so we have to take care of ourselves so we can be the backbone of the medical system.
- Ashley: What do you think people can be doing to help you all out and show you more love?
- Dr. Hope: It’s not just medical staff, it’s happening to other industries, too. People have to understand that it won’t help to yell at one of the last 5 workers left in the restaurant because he was late serving you coffee. We have to acknowledge them and say thank you. There needs to be a lot more love!
- Ashley: I’d love to hear more about what you talked about in my book, Authentic Power, around the topic of stress. What are some ways we can release stress at work and at home?
- Dr. Hope: We can’t change the stress that is coming into us and at us, but we can change the things we have control over. Think of life as a prism. We can choose what we allow in and how we reflect back to the world. I think we also need to stop the toxic positivity. If someone gets cancer, sometimes it’s ok to be a hot mess instead of saying “be strong” all the time.
- Ashley: Yes! We’re primal beings and we’re meant to express it! Can you talk a little more about that?
- Dr. Hope: We all deal with so much crap and if we hold it all in, we’re full of crap! So, in addition to the toxic positivity, people will tell you really absurdly unhelpful things like “calm down”. That doesn’t calm them down! Or “relax and take a bath”. But when we’re talking about tough things, we’re ignoring our reality by not expressing our true selves. When something crazy happens, our body sparks that fight or flight mode. So why are we not acting like it’s real? Let it out! I teach stress soft and stress hard techniques. Stress soft techniques are doing things like relaxing and taking a bath. But in between, when you’re experiencing those fiery emotions, that’s when I suggest using the stress hard techniques – punch a punching bag, go for a run, try whacking a pillow with a tennis racket. You can also try dish therapy – smashing dishes, while wearing protective eyewear, of course! Be a hot mess then pick yourself off the floor.
- Ashley: It’s so true! I think we’re actually very death-phobic and as a society we don’t allow enough time for the grieving process.
- Dr. Hope: It’s absurd! If your loved one died and you took three days off, you get judged for coming back into work crying. Three days isn’t nearly enough. It’s completely ridiculous! I balled my eyes out last week when my dog died and I’m still grieving!
- Ashley: How long do you think it takes to truly grieve? I remember going back to school a week later after my dad died and I think the idea was to be thrust back into “normal life”. In hindsight, it was the worst idea because I was still in shock. And it doesn’t need to be a death, it could be a divorce or a loss of a job.
- Dr. Hope: I think there’s some variation depending on how sudden the trauma is, the individual, and what “normal” looks like. If someone died from a slow illness, it’s expected, but still hard. When my infant nephew died suddenly, I was in the middle of a work shift and I felt like I had to stay because I would get fired, but thankfully my colleagues made me leave. It actually took me more than six months to work a pediatric shift because I knew I wasn’t going to be the best person for the job. We still miss him and he’d be a teenager this year. For you, going to school one week after your father died was probably not what you needed because you were surrounded by kids whose fathers were still around.
- Ashley: What advice can you share for people who want to be healthier and where can they get started?
- Dr. Hope: I’ve heard that a goal without a plan is a wish. And it’s actually a good place to start. Next, people set intentions like “I want to be healthier”, but then people skip the next step – the action – that leads to the goal, like “I want to lose 20 pounds in a month”. Instead, find something that you can do, figure out what your barriers are, and take steps to break them down to make healthy habits that help you reach your goal. Just give yourself grace. We always see the before and after but not the middle period. When we focus on the actions we can do, we can achieve anything. If you’re a slow and steady person like me, that’s great! If you want to dive all in, go for it! But if you want to do baby steps, cheer on those baby steps! Don’t be upset about it.
- Ashley: Yes, I love actionable baby steps! And it doesn’t have to be working out. If you want to be a writer, write a sentence! That can lead to great transformation.
- Dr. Hope: Dr. Jill Kahn is the founder of the Everything is Right About You Movement and one day she said “lower the bar on what you can achieve today, and lower the bar on celebrating what you achieved.” If you put on pants, fed your kids, and washed the dishes, celebrate it and see what more you can do tomorrow, and keep on celebrating!
- Ashley: This was amazing, Dr. Hope! Any parting words?
- Dr. Hope: Remember that everything is stress around us, so spread kindness and share smiles with someone who might need one.
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