December 12th is coming and I’m freakin out!

Dec 12th…..Dec 12th 2020. It’s where it all started. The morning I woke up feeling like I was choking with a voice yelling inside my head to get up and look in the mirror. Whether it was my own gut instinct or my late father I will never now. That morning changed my life. I did get up. I did look into the mirror. I saw the lump on my neck and off I went. It was the beginning of a battle of fear, frustration, and anxiety as made my first steps toward my cancer revealing itself and everything that followed.

Well, that was almost two years ago. I thought I was getting better at letting it go. I really did but nope, here we are. It’s less than a month away and suddenly the panic attacks, the anxiety out of nowhere, the wondering about every little symptom is all back. It is PTSD at its best/worst. I can’t really believe how long it took me to figure it out. I guess I had to waste time beating myself up for having anxiety first. We all do. Then it hit me! Of course. The anniversary of one of the most traumatic times in my life is coming up! What normal brain can completely let that go? That trauma gets stored and buried, with significant effort from me. But, even I can’t hold it back all the time. Lord knows I try.

So, what do I do? I can’t keep fighting to suppress it. That will only keep me prisoner to it longer. I have to acknowledge it! I have to embrace that it is real and that it happened and that it affected me in ways that I still don’t fully process. I have to actualize my own feelings about it. The only way to be free is to go forward through it when the feelings flood me. The only power I have is the power to see it for what it is and decide how I want to proceed. The choice of direction is actually completely up to me. I could allow a day( or two or three) to break down and crumble. I could stop functioning. Or, I could move forward and use the experience for good. They say that the final stage of healing occurs when you are able to use what happened to you to help others. That is what I have chosen and continue to chose. I have written my books. I am giving my talks. I am helping other cancer patients. I help other people “get their mind right” for the battle ahead. I share knowledge every day to help give people some sense of control as to what is happening to them. These are the battles I chose to fight every day. These are the battles I want to win. I realize that my past trauma is still with me. I cannot change that, but I can chose to change what I do with it.

Dr. Katz

Taking Ownership

How many times have we all waited for someone to take care of something for us? How many times have we been stalled in a work project, waiting for someone to finish their part? The frustration and loss of time in doing this makes no sense. I say forget it! Let’s try a different strategy. It’s time to take ownership.

So, what does that mean? According to the Harvard Business Review, one of the most egregious momentum killers is waiting for someone else to act, take initiative, or take charge. Most of the time, no one is coming. So, why do we do it? If help isn’t coming, let’s liberate ourselves and take responsibility and move forward. Start believing in yourself as an individual and take stock of the fact that it is, in fact, your responsibility for the quality and timeliness of an outcome. This applies even when you are working with others. It doesn’t mean that you are always in charge of everything. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t collaborate with anyone. It just means that you take ownership of your part and the results.

The same article in the Harvard Business Review went on to discuss that there are a couple of basic things to understand about taking ownership. First, I think we need to be able to tell the difference between fault and responsibility. When we finger point at others or at ourselves when something is not getting done, the perception of fault gets in the way of taking ownership of a difficult problem. Then, the problem still doesn’t get solved. Get rid of the blame game and we will all be more successful. Second, taking ownership frees us up to move toward getting results or finishing a project. Last, we can actually help others not just ourselves by taking ownership. Sounds like a win win to me.

The bottom line is, taking ownership/accountability/responsibility for your part can only help yourself, others, and the project move forward. Blame and finger pointing does nothing but waste time and energy. Don’t waste the energy. Put your big girl panties on, take responsibility and forge ahead!

Sometimes you have to give yourself a pep talk!

You know, sometimes you just need a pep talk and there is no one else around. That happened to me this morning. My fibromyalgia was in a total flare. I was in pain. I was feeling tired and defeated. I was all alone in my car. I needed a pick me up just to face the day. What did I do? I gave myself one! I reminded myself that this fibro thing was nothing new and that I even had it before I was sick with cancer last year. I dealt with it before. I told myself in the third person, “Laura. You got this. You know what to do. Hydrate. Get mentally strong. Take an nsaid. Move forward!.” So, that’s what I did. You can too.

So, let’s talk about what a pep talk is. A pep talk is defined as a strong, encouraging, emotional talk to a person or a group, intended to arouse enthusiasm, and increase determination to move forward to succeed. They can build morale, refocus everybody and help to rebuild teams. Did you know that there are scientific studies looking at the phenomenon of pep talks everywhere from the workplace to the ball field. They all say the same thing. A pep talk is the key to bringing new energy to any situation or goal.

Well that sounds fantastic for a group setting, but how about a solo setting? Can you really give one to yourself? You can! I read this great article in Medium from Jan 2020 that describes science-backed strategies for self- boosting. Let’s talk about it.

Dr. Benjamin Rosenberg, a psychology professor at Dominican University, says that “giving oneself a pep talk (self-talk) actually has an advantage over getting a pep talk from someone else.” The advantage is that, for the most part, we trust ourselves over anyone else so who better to pump us up than ourselves? Self-talk has been scientifically proven to have a positive effect on self-confidence and self- efficacy. In other words, it helps us to believe that we have what it takes to get the goal at hand accomplished successfully.

So, how do we go about it? First step: take note of your symptoms. Talk silently to yourself. This can decrease the anxiety side effects that often creep up before we have to perform or do something. This helps us to decrease the cognitive anxiety, negative, or repetitive thoughts.

Second, dampen down the fear by separating it from your task. For example, tell yourself that if your hands are feeling clammy before a speech that you just have a little bit of stage fright. It does not mean that you are going to mess up the speech.

Third, get some distance for yourself. It sounds weird, but one of the best pep talk strategies for yourself is to talk about yourself in the third person. That sounds totally bizarre right? The logic behind it is that we are more comfortable thinking about other people than we are about analyzing ourselves. Therefore if we refer to ourselves in the third person, it helps us control our emotions better. There should be less emotional reactivity.

Fourth, make sure you have reviewed your own plan. This type of strategy breaks down into the motivational (“You’ve got this”) and the instructional (review all the necessary steps before doing them). Don’t let yourself get all jittery because you are not prepared.

Fifth, give yourself compliments and be generous with them! This is not the time to embrace your negative self-image. Tell yourself how qualified you are. Tell yourself that you are prepared. Apparently it works even better if you can do THIS in the third person as well. Honestly, I would just have a reserve of positive things to say about yourself that you can use any any time, for any situation.

Those are the basics according to Dr. Rosenberg. I think they are really on point plus now you have a legitimate excuse any time anyone catches you talking to yourself! Lol. Just kidding. Bottom line is that pep talk really do work. They are not just the fabrication of inspirational movies. They work in real life too and if no one else is around, just do one for yourself! You got this!

Dr. Katz

I think I’m addicted to giving compliments.

I really think that this is true. I love saying something nice to somebody. On top of that, if there is an extra challenge factor and the person is grumpy that day, I try even harder! Compliments are great to give and receive. They let us show our appreciation for each other and how much we think things are worth. They help us work together and face challenges productively. One would think you couldn’t go wrong with them. However, there are some fine points to consider.

What does it take to give a good compliment? Well, first of all, you have to actually mean it. Otherwise your facial expression, body language, and tone will give you away. If someone has a shirt on that you think is hideous and you try to say how much you like it, you are gonna flinch somehow. Most people are able to tell when a compliment isn’t sincere. You can avoid this scenario easily. Everyone has some quality to be noticed and complimented on. Just pay a little more attention and pick something else. The genuine compliment will go much farther.

Another key component of a good compliment is paying attention. Give your focus to the details of your surroundings and the people around you. It will allow you to say something nice that is specific enough to really mean something to the other person.

Let’s talk about specificity for a minute. Truly, the best compliments are specific. They zero in on specific characteristics or traits that are individual to that person. When you mention something specific, it shows that you are really paying attention. For example, you could tell anyone that they are pretty. That could apply to a lot of people. However, if you told someone that their gorgeous brunette hair was really flattering, that would probably mean a lot more.

Let the compliments flow when you are making them. You don’t have to stick to just one, unless the other person is visibly uncomfortable.

Last but not least is the thing that I suck at the most. Learn how to receive compliments well! I really stink at this. Somebody says something nice to me and ten reasons why it’s not true come word vomiting out of my mouth. Why God why do I do that? It’s like don’t want anything to interfere with my preconceived negative self-image! No good can come of this! I will simplify it for you. Here is the one time I am going to go against the former “be genuine” advice. Even if you are cringing inside thinking of how it is not true, just smile and say THANKYOU!

Have a great day guys!

Dr. Katz

“I thought the dog was just twerking.”

We had a very full weekend over Labor Day: a house full of kids and grandkids with a side of plenty of mayhem and fun, even though the weather took a crapper. We have always used the no tech at grandma and grandpa’s rule so no tablets, phones, tv, YouTube, etc to allow us more time to talk, bond with each other and PLAY OUTSIDE! It’s a marvelous idea in theory. It encourages ten times more interaction than we would normally have. It is a double-edged sword however, because YOU also have to be willing to put tech aside, pay attention, and engage because you have just assigned yourself the role of main entertainment, which was formerly handed off to a barrage of impersonal, widely variable, non-censored electronic input.

So, now that the kids have your full attention and you have theirs, get ready for some unpredictable fun. When you are fully engaged, you can really get a sense of the full extent of their childhood innocence in some areas, and where they have had way too much exposure to the world in others.

We were sitting around the living room the other day and one of our dogs begins unceremoniously humping the other one. They seem to always wait until we have a full complement of company before they do this. Of course, we yell stop like we have never seen it before. Then my granddaughter says. “You know, I used to think the dogs were just twerking when they did that.” At first I am relieved that her first thoughts at 11 didn’t go to sex as a possibility. But, then I realized wait? She thought they were twerking? Where did she see that? How does she know what twerking is? Maybe her childhood innocence is not so intact after all.

What is childhood innocence anyway? This refers to the simplicity of children, their lack of knowledge and a purity that is not spoiled by the world just yet. They are ignorant of life and death. They are ignorant of sexual relationships, etc. They believe that anything is possible because their imaginations soar unchecked. It is heartbreaking in a way because once it is gone, they can never go back. It is a quality of ignorance that we visciously eschew as adults. We tell ourselves that we must have infinite knowledge and awareness of everything, which leads to depression and anxiety, overthinking and over analyzing.

So, if we know this is the ultimate outcome, why are we in such a hurry to overexpose our kids to the world at such a young age? Without supervision, they can access things on social media that would shock me even now! Stuff on TV or in movies is full of violence, drugs and sex. It is a totally un-censored barrage. We need to pay attention to what is filling our kids’ minds. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized. So, let’s all put down our phones, turn off the tv, and put the tablets away at least for a little bit every day. You won’t regret it.

Dr. Katz

So, why did you come in to see me?

Just remember. This is supposed to be funny, but with a side of truth.

You know, my life is full and interesting. I get to help people every day and do what I love. That makes me one of the luckiest people I know. I will never forget that. I used to think, before I actually went into medicine, that every patient that would walk in that door wanted to be there and would be ready to be a part of their own healthcare team. Weirdly, that is not the case. This is true for a large portion of my patients, but for some, I am not so sure.

As I reflect over the last 20 plus years, I realize that there are several types of patients in my practice. Let’s review.

There is the patient that you inadvertently become friends with and become attached to. To some extent, this happens to me all the time. I always try to bond with my patients in attempt to care for them better. I try to get insight into their lives to help them through whatever issues they are trying to solve. They always tell you in medical school never to get attached, but sometimes I can’t help it. In my mind, it is a reflection of the depth of my caring. I am always careful to respect doctor patient boundaries though. It’s not like I go party at their houses or anything.

There is the patient that doubts literally everything you say. I mean everything. For every plan you come up with, they have a counter plan or they doubt that it will work. They question your every move. They constantly re ask the same questions to see if they can trap you into giving a different answer. I realize that most of the time, this has nothing to do with me. Often, these are patients that have been bounced from office to office without actually getting the help that they need. Or, worse yet, they have had a bad experience or suffered malpractice and this makes it very difficult for them to trust any doctor. I try to take that into consideration when working with them.

There is the patient who thinks THEY are the doctor. You know the one. They grew up with family members or friends that are physicians and they know just enough to be dangerous….to themselves and your 16 plus years of schooling are not going to change their mind.

There is the entitled patient, who thinks only of themselves and becomes indignant when attention is not focused on them. These are the patients that become irate when their pap smear is interrupted because I have to run to the hospital to save someone who is hemorrhaging. The “big picture” is somewhat lost on them. They want special treatment and have tantrums when things do not go their way, regardless of the reason. I try to set very clear communication and expectations with these folks, but sometimes they get upset nonetheless.

There is the patient that “never goes to the doctor.” This is the patient that hasn’t been to the doctor in years because they haven’t had any symptoms. This is the patient that doesn’t trust doctors and has to make sure you know it by repeating the first two statements multiple times during their visit. However, if this same patient suddenly has an issue that they determine to be urgent, you had better drop everything and address it right away. Never mind that they have neglected their health for years. It is up to you to fix it….and quickly……so they can go back to never coming in for check-ups.

Let’s not forget the self-diagnosing patient. We all know that with the help of Google, our friends, our family and the chiropractor, we can figure anything out on our own, even before reporting to the doctor’s office. Those are the folks that come in convinced they have a rare tropical disease because Doctor Google said so after they typed in their symptoms. It is often very difficult to talk them out of it, but I try. Half the time, they are apologizing for looking stuff up in Google, as they are insisting that it has to be correct!

There is also the patient with overbearing family members. In my case, this most often presents and the teenage patient with the anxious parent. The parent is often on a covert fact-finding mission to discover if the teen is sexually active or not. They talk over the patient, and try to fill in all the details to show how concerned they are, but then don’t really seem to want to hear what the teen has to say. I get that they want to make sure the patient gets what she needs, but this behavior only shuts down any potential successful communication that I was hoping to have the patient.

There is a final category. This is the one we spend our whole careers hoping to encounter: the patient that reminds you why you went into medicine in the first place. This is the patient that appreciates what you do for them and how you care for them. This is the patient that is nice to your hardworking staff. This is the patient that follows through with what you recommend. This is the patient that talks with you not at you at the office.

The bottom line is that my job offers infinite variety. All of these patient types keep me on my toes and my mind fresh and ready for anything. They each have their own advantages and challenges. It’s not exactly how I thought it would be, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Dr. Katz

Am I seriously chastizing myself right now for not being busy enough?

Covid has really forced me to “slow down” lately. It really doesn’t give you any choice. Until you progress pass the point of feeling out of breath just by moving, you really don’t have any other option but to slow down. I am just not used to it. I am used to being busy. I thrive on being a multitasker. I feel like my mind is always on the next thing. But, now that I have some time to ponder it, is that really healthy or ok? Why do I like being busy so much?

Even before the covid slow down, I really started to notice that I was not as busy when I would look at all the social posts from dance mom friends. The constant competitions, rehearsals, and travel used to fill my life too. It has been a hot 3 years since those items have been on my agenda that’s for sure. But, I did put in 10+ years so I guess I paid my dues. I guess I have to say that I don’t necessarily miss the 4 am mornings and trying to figure out all the schedules, but there is a part of me that misses it all the same. I seem to have filled up the gaps nicely with work, writing books, blogging, doing the household finances, running an office, etc.

So again, back to the original question, why do I crave being busy? There are many reasons. I think that one of the most important ones for me is that when I am busy, I feel like I am contributing. I feel useful. I feel like I am “pulling my weight.” I know that is something I need.

Some people say that being busy is like a coping/avoidance mechanism. It is a way to stay focused and push away the worries about something that is bothering you and keeping moving forward. This is both good and bad. It is good in that you are not allowing something that is worrying you to stop you. But, it is not so good if you rely on keeping busy to avoid dealing with anything. Keeping busy is all good until it overtakes you to the point that you forget how to enjoy life or take anything in.

Jamie Bloch, psychologist and clinical director of MindMovers Psychology says that some people are actually addicted to being busy. When these people complete tasks, their brains actually release dopamine, which makes them feel good. I am not sure that I am actually addicted to being busy, but it does make me feel good.

Sometimes people feel the need to be busy because they are seeking approval. The need to please everyone keeps them from saying no to any tasks and therefore they are always up to their ears in activity. In the end, all this does is run them ragged and they probably do not get much in return for their efforts.

I think society expects us to be busy and in motion all the time. It all goes back to the sense of worthiness that I mentioned in the beginning. We all feel like we are worth more if we are accomplishing something.

The desire to be busy sometimes sets us up for failure. We tend to set up these gigantic to do lists that are sometimes impossible to achieve, which leads to anxiety and a sense of letdown. This is not healthy.

I think the key is to strike a balance between our productive lives and our restorative lives. Yes, keep our productive lives to accomplish and achieve and feel worth. But, also keep our restorative lives in which we practice self-care (which isn’t selfish) and take a minute to breathe, reflect, and preserve and let go of the notion that we need to be in motion every minute. I think that the key to doing this is to let go of the nagging worry about what society expects of us in terms of activity level and get to know ourselves more and what we can handle. I think we will all be a little bit healthier in body and mind for it.

Dr. Katz

I finally got Covid

I have held off successfully for 2 and a half years. I have boosted. I have vaccinated. I faithfully wear my mask without complaint, except for the excessive sweating. I have done everything i can think of and still, it finally happened. Yes. It sucks. I am congested. My head is splitting from time to time. I am very congested. Exhaustion is my new middle name. Everything hurts. The cough is like…are you kidding me right now? Is it necessary to literally throw my back out with every hack? Sheesh. Everyone is worried with my heath history as of late. The doctor wants to throw the latest antiviral my way.

I am going to say something that will probably sound quite strange right now, but bear with me. There is a part of me that is kind of like, “Whew, that is finally over” right now. What I mean is, I feel like I have been living in fear for the last two and a half years, waiting on the precipice of this amorphous unknown monster called Covid. There are times when I would almost have a panic attack if I found out that I was exposed. Well, the wait is over. I can stop walking on eggshells. I just have to power through this incredibly shitty cold virus cousin. Now that I have something to relate to, provided that I DO get through this like I intend to, I feel like I can let go of some of the fear. I realize that this illness can be deadly, but so can even a cold for some people. Anything can be potentially deadly in the right( or wrong) patient. When I say that I am ready to let go of the fear, I do not mean let go of common sense. I am still going to mask up in crowds, even if I am overheated and miserable. Yes I will. Because I realize that, even if it looks like it might not kill me, I still don’t want to get it again if I can help it.

“They” say that money isn’t everything…but who’s they? The people with the money?

The Dalai Lama once said that “These days, in our materialistic culture, may people are led to believe that money is the ultimate source of happiness. Consequently, when they don’t have enough of it they feel let down. Therefore, it is important to let people know that they have the source of contentment and happiness within themselves, and that it is related to nurturing our natural inner values.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Earl Wilson said, ” Always remember, money isn’t everything-but also remember to make a lot of it before talking such fool nonsense.”

So, who’s right? How important is money in our lives? How important is money to our happiness? I am sitting here browsing through all these wise and quippy quotes about money. The trend that draws my attention is that every quote that belittles the possession of money or summizes that it is insignificant, seems to be made by a very wealthy or famous person. The rest of quotes that address the fact that some financial backing is essential to survival seem to be made by everyone else.

Interesting. I think all of them are correct actually. Once you have achieved fame and fortune, money becomes less important because you already have it. You already have a foundation. The struggle is over. For the rest of us, we realize that human beings need money to pay for all the things that make your life possible. You need it to pay for your basic needs like healthcare, food, and shelter. That is just a fact. Having more money gives a person more choices and comes with more autonomy in their own lives. Can money buy happiness? Well, I think we have answered that question with a resounding no over the ages. Money cannot buy happiness. I am sure there are miserable millionaires everywhere.

There are some plot twists though. There are studies that show that, while having enough money for basic needs and provide a safety net is essential to well being, having additional income may not actually increase wellbeing and may even have a negative impact. Here are some statistics.

A study was done looking at per capita income in the United States from 1946 to 1990. Per capita income rose 150%, yet the percentage of people who reporting being happy fell significantly and depression rates rose ten fold. People who won large sums of money with lotteries were not actually happier a year later and had more daily dissatisfaction. The University of Minnesota did a nine experiment series that showed that when people are thinking about money, they isolate themselves from others. Money made people want to be free of dependents, be less helpful to others. When people compared themselves economically to others it only caused distress. Well, none of that sounds good.

So, why think about money so much? It does allow for some instant gratification possibilities. It does help provide for our basic needs, but we have shown that it doesn’t buy happiness. In fact, we have shown that sometimes too much of it can make things worse. I think it is not realistic to say that it doesn’t matter at all. That is not really possible. I just think that it can’t be your primary focus all the time. It’s too disruptive mentally and physically. There are other things that matter more like relationships, purpose, and happiness. Within reason, I think over focusing on money should take a back seat to those.

Dr. Katz

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

As you may or may not know, I am an ObGyn who also practices aesthetic medicine. We perform all kinds of procedures that tighten, get rid of fat, get rid of hair, tone, fill, contract muscles, etc. We like to post pictures of results to celebrate a patient’s success. Invariably, it seems that someone has to comment negatively that the procedures are not necessary or that they didn’t work or that the patient did not need them. I am never sure what the intent is of doing this? Is it telling the patient that they were not worth investing in themselves? Is it undermining their confidence? Is it telling them that they should not invest in their own sense of beauty? Or are they just trying to interfere with our business and our services? In any case, none of these reasons are healthy or positive and I really wish that people would refrain. All they are doing is causing potential hurt to the patient. I am just not sure that they understand that.

So, let’s talk a little bit about beauty. What does the word beauty mean? What does it mean to feel beautiful? The Oxford dictionary defines beauty as a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. It also describes beauty as a combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense. And finally, it states that beauty denotes something intended to make a woman more attractive.

I think that it is truly difficult to define beauty because it has both subjective and objective counterparts. The concept of beauty as a property of something is the objective part, but it also depends on the emotional response of the observer, whether it is the person themselves or an outside observer. You see, it’s both.

So, who is to say what is beautiful and what isn’t? I suppose that we all think of certain qualities that are essential to all beautiful things like proper proportion, harmony, radiance, pleasure, and value. But, even these qualities can be subjective. There are no absolute measurements for any of them. It’s similar to that one saying that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure . What is beautiful to one person may not be beautiful to someone else. It is ultimately up to the individual to decide. This also applies to someone’s decision to invest in themselves to feel more beautiful. So, the next time you think about making a negative comment, please don’t. All you are doing is hurting the patient’s feelings. Nothing more.

Dr. Katz