Guest Post: Four Stress-Free Ways to Improve Your Health by Martha Rosenstein, Function Medicine Nurse Practicioner
Hi Friends! Do you know what one of THE coolest things about being a ginormous internet celebrity is?? Me neither...BUT what I do know about the internet is that it has hooked me up with some really amazingly intelligent, kind, and all around badass human beings. I'm not even kidding, some of the people I talk to the most during the day are all friends I've met through this social media space, and for that I am so grateful! One of these aforementioned women, is Martha Rosenstein, former L&D nurse turned Functional Medicine Nurse Practicioner. Basically, someone I am in awe of.
A few fun facts about Martha before we dive into the meat of this incredible guest post she's so graciously shared with us!
- Born, raised, and currently live in Anchorage, AK live with my boyfriend (of 9 years) and two dogs
- In the healthcare field for over 8 years as an L&D nurse then as a functional medicine nurse practitioner
- Found paleo/real food in 2009 after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
- Became passionate about functional medicine/helping others who were "failed" in the western medical model after a year of fatigue and other vague symptoms that no one could figure out - diagnosed with a reactivated mononucleosis infection/adrenal fatigue by a holistic/functional practitioner after seeing FIVE doctors who had no idea why I couldn't get out of bed some days, needed a nap after going to the grocery store, gained 10 lbs in two weeks, and my hair was falling out.
- Realized the importance of other lifestyle factors (i.e. reducing toxins) in 2015 after my mom died of a relatively rare autoimmune condition and my dad asked me if I was going to get tested to see if I had it, that prompted a discussion of the effect of environment on genes and how I might not get it even if I was genetically predisposed to it.
- I'm a runner and a triathlete - in 2017 I completed my first half ironman distance triathlon and my first ultra marathon (a 50k). I also love skiing, hiking, and anything that requires me to be outside in the woods or the mountains (which are quite literally in my backyard).
Martha, did we just become best friends??
Now that you know all about this wonderful woman, let's dive into THE KNOWLEDGE she has to share with you all today! As we near the end of the holiday season, STRESS LEVELS BE HIGH MAN. HIGH AF. Everyone's talking about how to be "a better you" or "get your body back" or you suddenly feel pressure to start overhauling your entire life in an effort to become MORE HEALTHY. The pressure to be BETTER is crazy, and Martha is here to tell us how to make small changes to improve our health, STRESS FREAKING FREE. Can I get an amen?! Hit it Martha.
One of the biggest challenges many of my patients and people who I work with face is knowing where to start with improving their health. This is an especially big challenge for those who are not suffering from any particular health condition, but who do not feel their best or those of us who know that we could make improvements in our health and lifestyle.
As women we tend to be busy and feel like we need to do all the things. And I know for a fact a lot of us (myself included) have trouble asking for help. I’m not a mom, but I know that the idea of improving your own health and finding a way to fit those changes into your lifestyle while still caring for your family can be an even bigger challenge and often leads to feeling overwhelmed and then making no changes at all! The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to sacrifice your own health at the expense of caring for your family. The even better news is that none of this has to be stressful AND you can bring your family along for the ride (and there’s a very good chance that they won’t even know that anything has changed)!
Today I’ve got 4 stress-free (and nurse practitioner approved!) ways to improve you health for you! One aspect of health that is often overlooked is stress management. You can eat all the healthy things 100% of the time, but if you are stressed out about it, your awesome diet won’t even matter. Stress has a huge impact on your overall health and wellness, so it’s important to find a way to make changes that are sustainable and do not cause increased stress in your life.
1. Take your time and go slowly. Even if you are an all or nothing kind of person, taking the time to make small sustainable changes is the way to go if you are juggling family life along with prioritizing your health. Many years ago when I went Paleo I also decided that I wanted to quit putting sugar in my coffee. The problem was I didn’t love the taste of coffee without sugar in it. So, instead of giving up on the idea or ripping the bandaid off and dealing with gross tasting coffee for weeks, I took it slowly. Every few days I would decrease the amount of sugar in my coffee and then wait until my taste buds adjusted to the new flavor. By the time I got to the point where it was time to just stop putting the sugar in completely, I hardly noticed a change in the taste! No stress, no fuss, no big deal. Now I happily enjoy my coffee with just cream.
This can be applied in so many situations. If you want to eat more vegetables, try adding an extra serving every few days until reaching for veggies at every meal becomes a habit. If you want to increase the amount of exercise you are getting, try parking farther away at the grocery store or pick an active game to play outside with your kids for 10-15 minutes. When I went Paleo my boyfriend was really not on board with the idea, but I do most of the cooking in our house, so I just slowly stopped buying the things I didn’t want to be eating and started making the occasional Paleo substitution (like spaghetti squash or mashed potatoes) and he hardly noticed.
2. You don’t have to do it all, prioritize. Eating healthy, exercising, stressing less, reducing the toxins in your home...the list of things you can do to improve your health is endless, but you are almost guaranteed to fail if you try to improve all of these areas at once. It’s just not sustainable no matter whether you are single with all the free time in the world, or a busy mom of 3 with hardly a minute to breathe between activities. Pick one or two things and work on that. I usually tell my patients to prioritize vegetable intake and stress management over all the other things and once you have solid practices in place for those things, move on to something else.
Also, remember that stress management and self care isn’t just taking a bath or going to get a pedicure (although those things count). Try and work on a more meaningful and beneficial practice of stress management such as meditation or journaling. And when it comes to self care, be sure you are getting your necessary medical checkups in addition to that massage or pedicure. When my patients tell me that they just don’t have time for these types of things, one thing I “prescribe them” is five minutes of alone time at least three days per week. When you do this, you can use your time however you like, the only rule is that you MUST be alone and you are not allowed to think about anyone else. Your focus should be on what you need in that moment and just being with yourself. If you want to meditate or journal or do yoga, you can, and I actually encourage you to spend this time outside if possible. Almost every single patient who I have prescribed this to has told me that they were surprised at how much this practice benefitted them.
3. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Unsupportive family and not being able to get your kids or the rest of your family on board with making healthy changes in their lives is one of the biggest barriers to mom’s making these changes for themselves. One of the things that I have found works best for so many of my patients is to just fly under the radar a bit. Don’t announce to your family that you are quitting sugar or going Paleo, just do it (and make those changes slowly as we talked about in the first tip or they’ll figure out what you’re doing really fast). I think this is especially helpful when getting your kids on board.
If the changes you are making are around food and you do a majority of the cooking, just make the changes you want to make without a big fuss. I have several patients who did this and their families hardly noticed. I’ve had other women whose husbands and kids got kind of upset when they realized there was no spaghetti for dinner. In those cases it was suggested that they could cook their own dinners if they did not like the choices which stopped the complaining quickly. Obviously you need to do what is right for you and your family, but I have found that the less of a big deal you make the less they notice that anything has changed.
When it comes to family gatherings or social events, you don’t need to announce that you aren’t eating sugar or you gave up alcohol, just make a different choice without any fuss. Choose fruit for dessert, say “no thank you” to the cookies, and drink soda water with lime instead of a cocktail. People are probably not paying as close of attention to what you are doing as you might think and they probably won’t even notice. This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t talk about your healthy changes if it comes up, but chances are it won’t unless you are the pumpkin pie eating champion at Christmas dinner and suddenly passing on the pie.
One other suggestion for social gatherings is to bring a dish to share that you can eat (if your health improvements are dietary related). That way you know there will be something there for you to enjoy and when everyone tells you how delicious your dish is, you can tell them that it’s Paleo or grain-free!
4. Do the best you can with what you’ve got. This is my mantra in life, but it definitely applies to making healthy changes in your life with less stress. I think a lot of people get wrapped up in the idea that if you are going to change your diet or lifestyle you need to eat completely organic, grass-fed everything and have a gym membership or join a challenge or invest in expensive workout equipment. While those situations may be the ideal in some cases, they are not required and are certainly not something that should keep you from starting.
Yes, organic, grass-fed, and pastured vegetables, meat, and eggs are the best option, eating non-organic vegetables is better than not eating vegetables because you can’t afford the organic ones. Prioritize organic where you can (check out the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list if you want to know what vegetables and fruits you should always buy organic if you can), but don’t get wrapped up in that part of things. I tell my patients that I would much rather that they spend some time focusing on eating real food instead of products than worrying about getting the best or highest quality food (that can come later if it’s important to you). The same goes for working out and reducing toxins in your life. You can get an excellent workout using nothing more than your bodyweight (Google “bodyweight workout,” you’ll find plenty of options).
When it comes to choosing safer personal care products for ourselves and our families, we get the idea that we need to just pitch all the toxic stuff and start over. But for a lot of people, budget is a legitimate concern. So, you can approach this in one of two ways, as you use up your “toxic” products, replace them with less toxic, safer products. Or you can pick one or two things that you want to start with and then continue to replace things as your budget allows. I’d recommend starting with things that stay on your skin such as moisturizers and lip products and then add to those as you learn what brands you like and what you are looking for. It has taken me several years to replace all of my personal care products with safer options, and I’m completely ok with that.
I hope these tips have been helpful to you and that they will allow you to make healthy changes for you and your family with less stress and more smiles!
Isn't she the raddest?? If you want to learn more about what Martha does, you can find her at www.marthaflorence.com. She also has an INCREDIBLE ebook, The 30 Day Energy Reset available for purchase by clicking below! I can't even begin to count how many mamas have messaged me concerned about their energy levels being at an all time low post-partum. This guide takes you through "resetting" your body by focusing on foods, sleep, movement, mindset, and so much more! All from a woman who has done the work, the research, and has put it all together for you in one easy place! Check it out below!