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Vanquish stress and anxiety with the silver bullets of mindfulness
Dr. Steve Noonan shares his day-to-day strategies for finding inner peace.
Former veterinary practice owner and practice management consultant Steve Noonan, DVM, continues his quest to share the mindfulness, happiness and self-care tips that turned his life around with veterinarians and veterinary team members. Part four of this series covers “in the trenches” tips that Noonan uses in everyday life.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health approximately 20 percent of people will suffer from some form of mental illness in their lives. I have experienced this and it's not pretty. I fully understand what it feels like to consider suicide as a serious option. From this experience, I learned about positive psychology and with the help of my beloved wife, veterinarian Diane Corlett, and other professionals I have found a huge body of information on self-care. I am passionate about sharing it.
What are my silver bullets to combat mental illness? I'll take you through my day-to-day strategies for practicing mindfulness.
Start with clarity. At 6 a.m. I get up and meditate for at least 20 minutes using a voice-guided program like these Guided Mindfulness Meditation CDs by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I drink lots of water to keep my brain cells hydrated starting with at least 2 cups upon waking and consuming at least 8 cups per day.
Keep your brain cells happy. I take 2000 mg of DHA Omega fatty acids, 1000 mg of Vitamin C and 400 IU of Vitamin E, all of which work to reduce inflammation in my body and brain. I also take 1000 IU of Vitamin D BID which is known for its antidepressant properties.
Listen to your doc! I follow my doctor's orders after critically assessing them.
Supercharge your cooking. I use organic coconut oil for cooking and olive oil for salads, which are medium chain triglycerides. Neurons are 70 percent lipid; it makes sense to use fats that are readily incorporated into the brain.
Fuel up right. I mainly eat lean meats and lots of veggies. I minimize grains as they rapidly metabolize into sugar in my body and leave me hungry.
Skip the sugar crash. I avoid white sugar instead using coconut sugar or sometimes maple syrup or honey. I believe using lower glycemic index sugars prevents large fluctuations in my glucose levels with less mood swings.
All things in moderation. I avoid alcohol because of my past history and my family's genetics. Moderation is the key. There are wonderful calming effects to modest amounts of alcohol and the social benefits to having a drink with friends and bonding with them is significant.
Cut the caffeine. I love coffee and switch to decaf in the afternoon. Soda is extremely acidic with high sucrose and fructose. Consume it sparingly as it may be the devil's own brew. It tastes good though!
Get your heart rate going. I exercise vigorously every day for at least 20 minutes, starting with morning stretches.
Stop and refocus. I try to stop several times each day and just breathe, allowing the moment to calm my central nervous system knowing these moments of mindfulness have been proven to increase happiness. I try to stop and observe things for a moment, for exactly the same reason; the scenery, my pets, my wife's garden, our farm.
Give back. I try to do things every day to make others happy or get them to smile. I volunteer as president of our triathlon club, a sure-fire kindness strategy, plus a chance to bond with friends.
Show gratitude. Before bed I write in my gratitude journal three things I am thankful for, or what went well today and why. This is the touchstone of my self-care strategies and no matter what happens, I reach for this journal every night.
Get enough rest. I go to bed by 10:30 p.m. with the goal of falling asleep by 11:00 to ensure I get at least seven hours of sleep. We use blackout blinds, a loud fan and I wear a mask with the goal of keeping things very dark.
It seems pretty daunting, huh? Do I do all of it every day? No. But some days I do. I apply Pareto's principle, or the 80/20 rule. I am pretty close to being compliant with my own self-set regime 80 percent of the time. When things are crappy I may do barely anything except hang on to that gratitude journal for dear life.
It is my dearest wish you can find ideas for yourself for your own self-care. The actual process of developing these will galvanize your resolve to follow your own protocol.
Dr. Steve Noonan, CPCC, is a veterinarian, management consultant, counselor, mindfulness instructor and professional life coach living in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.