So last Monday I started doing the Whole 30, and I wanted to share a little bit about why I decided to do it. Let me start off by saying that I usually don’t support fad diets. Nutrition is an area of research that we still learn about every year, and as one’s medical conditions and activities change, so do their dietary necessities. I also don’t believe that the Whole 30 is the best diet out there – but I do believe that it is one of a few good places to start if you’re interested in changing your diet to benefit your health. I find it hard to believe that any one way of eating is “the best” way of eating. If I’m being critical, I don’t believe absence of all grains, dairy, and legumes is “healthy” (refined sugar on the other hand is a different story). In other words I don’t believe that everyone benefits from cutting out these staples especially since there is a lot of positive research supporting them in health and wellness.
So why did I decide to eliminate sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol, and any refined/processed/chemically laden foods for 30 days? Because I know myself well and I knew this would be a good way to kick my butt back on track. This past summer I got out of sync with my normal eating patterns. I was eating more carbohydrates (think white pasta and everything bagels), and eating less vegetables than I would have liked. My weight increased a bit and my loose pants started to feel snug. I knew I wanted to make a change and I thought the first week of 2nd year organ blocks would be the perfect time to do it.
I personally don’t do great when I say “okay starting Monday I’ll eat healthy”. I know myself and I know that when I implement a behavioral change, I do better with set goals and set guidelines. Whole30 provided me with the goal and guidelines, and all I had to do was follow through. I was also inspired by one of my good friends who successfully completed the Whole30 and saw some really positive results. I did a similar, but more intense, elimination diet last year called the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (AIP) to see if eliminating certain foods would help my chronic eczema. Although the AIP protocol did not help my eczema, I felt amazing overall. I attributed the positive changes in my energy and overall health mainly to the reduction of refined carbohydrates and maybe (still undecided) the reduction of dairy. So when I saw the guidelines for the Whole30, I figured it wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
I’ll update with how the Whole30 is going this weekend, and then again at the end of the 30 days! One thing I will say right now though is that I’m loving exploring new recipes – I made slow cooker carnitas this week that were 100x better than chipotle. If you’re interested in learning more about the Whole30, I’ll post the website link below (realize though the the diet’s website will be inherently biased!). I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Whole30 – please comment below or comment on instagram!
These past few weeks have been a little crazy with the summer research block coming to a close. Between abstract submissions, presentations, and keeping up with the class work, I’ve had my hands full with med school life. Although it has been a little busier than normal lately, I balanced my priorities and made sure to sneak some self care into my schedule. I wanted to share some of those self care activities with you.
One of my favorite ways to deal with stress is to leave the books, the emails, and the text messages behind and head out into nature. This is usually in the form of running trails or hiking. I went on quite a few runs over the past few weeks, but my favorite one was on the Towpath Trail south of the city. The trail extends for miles and miles and snakes along a river – so the views are gorgeous and the path is flat (major plus in my book! haha). One of my secret reasons why I love running on trails and in parks is because there are so many dogs! And there is no better excuse to take a break than meeting a new furry friend! I actually have run into the same dog (Pumpkin!) now so many times on a trail by my house that the owner has started recognizing me. The only downside to my pup breaks is that sweaty hands + fluffy pups = fur covered hands, but I don’t mind! Even if there are no dogs, getting outside and having nothing else better to do than move your body does wonders for stress levels.
When all your friends are medical students, organizing nights out can get difficult. One of my favorite self care activities is to organize events that my friends can attend. My friends and I love paint nights because it allows us to schedule far in advanced to ensure we can all attend, and its also therapeutic to paint (no skills required!). Even if you are total science nerds like us, I highly encourage you to try sometime artistic every now and then. My roommate and I also go on spontaneous pottery painting trips throughout the year – it’s a great way to do something creative and take home a fun mug or bowl!
If I’m anxious, upset, or basically anything other than happy, being near water has a way of making everything better. I grew up by the water, and its something that feels so normal and calming to me. Before I interviewed in Cleveland I was worried about being in the Mid West and away from the coast – but I quickly learned that Cleveland is on the North Coast! Lake Erie is amazing. Last week my roommate and I went to a park on the lake and watched the sun set right over the water – it was gorgeous. I can be on a beach in minutes, or I can visit numerous rivers and creeks on hikes all around the city. I’ve been considering purchasing a small fountain for my room because that’s how much I just love the sound of water.
These are some of my favorite self care activities and they’re ones that I do quite often. I’d love to hear what your favorite self care activities are – feel free to comment below or let me know on instagram (@beingfranke).
Self care is a concept that was introduced to me only a few years ago. At first I thought it consisted of drinking kale slurpees and going to the local hot yoga sweat-fests. If this is your conception of self care, than I hope these are things that actually make you feel good and boost your energy, spirit and mood. However, if you’re like me and can’t get past chunks of vegetation in your straw, then hopefully the rest of this post will shed some light on to what self care can be to you.
First thing to know about self care is that it is an action. It is something you do for yourself intentionally in order to boost your own wellness – physical, mental, emotional or social! There are so many different actions that can fall under the self care category: taking a hike, getting a good nights rest, watching The Bachelorette, purposefully not watching The Bachelorette, going for a swim or a day at the beach, or coloring in your favorite adult coloring book. So where do you begin? How do you decide what kind of self care is right for you? Or is self care even right for you? I’m a big believer that everyone can use some intentional self-care now and then because we are all human. No one is perfect and we all have our own struggles, and thus we all need a different type of self care. But what type of self care is best for you is something that only you can decide.
The second thing to know about self care is that in order to get the most out of self care, the first thing you need to do is know yourself. “Of course I know myself Caroline, what are you talking about?”… I’m talking about knowing the fine details of what brings you up and what brings you down. There are a lot of different ways to get to know yourself and the intricacies of your wellness. I’m sharing three simple and easy ways to start to understand how you react and deal with the world around you so that you can better take care of yourself:
So a lot of people misunderstand what it means to be an introvert vs. an extrovert. An extrovert is not a person that likes to be around people, and an introvert is not a person that likes to be by themselves. Extrovert vs. introvert has to deal with how we direct our energy. An extrovert’s energy comes from the external world – they feed off of other people and situations. An introvert’s energy comes from within themselves – they feed off of reflection and ideas. One simple way to start to figure out if you’re an introvert or an extrovert is to think about how you feel after a big party or social situation, are you tired and drained, or are you excited and filled with energy? After big events where I’m talking and socializing for a while, I personally feel drained and want to go chill on my couch – yes, I am a proud introvert. I love social situations. I love talking to friends and having fun, but I’m just tired afterwards. I use my knowledge of being an introvert to help with my self care in two different ways. First off, if I’m having a weekend with some big events going on, I’ll make sure to doing some self care that is quiet and relaxing to me – usually a hike or walk. Also because I’m an introvert, I can sometimes shy away from social events for fear of not getting work done during the rest of my weekend (yes sometimes I can be that tired after a night out with friends!). So knowing that, I take care of my social well being as well by making sure that I am getting time in with my friends. Sometimes my self care involves dinners with friends even though I am an introvert – it’s all about balance and knowing my own needs.
2. Pleasure vs. Mastery – Your Daily Activities
Think about what you did today, what you did yesterday, and even the day before that. Think about how you spent each and every hour, even if it was washing the dishes or laying on your bed staring at your phone. Then assign the category of Pleasure or Mastery to each event. A mastery event is one where you accomplished something. A pleasure event is one that you enjoyed. So here’s the catch – every single thing you did needs to be listed as either mastery or pleasure, and then rank it from 1 to 5 in terms of how much mastery or pleasure that event brought you. What this will hopefully start to show you is that there are some activities that we do every day that don’t really mean anything to us (if you take these events out of the daily routine maybe it will free up some time for more self care! yay!). The second thing that I hope this will do is make you think about what you actually enjoy to do! Most of us think we enjoy TV. But how do you feel after watching two hours of TV? Are you happy and recharged or are you still the same old tired but now with 2 fewer hours in your day? Really think about how you spend your time and how those events and activities make you feel. When you start to understand those things that make you happy, energized and recharged, you’ll start to know the type of activities that will be best for your self care. There are a lot of printable daily calendars online that you can use to keep track of these activities, just search Mastery and Pleasure calendar if you’re interested!
3. Record your own wellness
The last tip that I have for starting your self care journey is to check in with yourself about your own wellness. Think about your wellness in terms of your social, emotional, mental, and physical well being individually. Although they are all related, we can have different struggles in each department. If emotionally and socially you’re doing great, but you’ve been sluggish and foggy lately, maybe an extra hour of sleep and an hour of cardio would be a good place to start! Keep a record of how you’re doing in each category and think of ways to improve in areas that are struggling. Sometimes it can be hard to be honest with yourself, because no one likes to admit they are struggling in an area, but know that we all have our own struggles and battles. We can all improve our lives, but we have to know how and where that improvement is most needed!
Self care is an action to improve your wellness, but before you start self care, you have to know yourself. Think of things that you do that make you feel a sense of pride, a sense of gratitude, a sense of enlightenment. What have you done recently that put a genuine smile on your face? When was the last time you sat down feeling refreshed? Reflection on our past is one of the best ways to improve the present and future. Hopefully this post makes you start to think about how to improve your own wellness and where to start on your own self care journey as well. Follow along on my instagram account (@beingfranke) as I share some of my favorite self care activities and why they specifically help me!
Some people don’t love the phrase “work-life balance” because they believe that work should not be dichotomous from life – that you should love what you do and it should be a part of your life. Although I agree that your work should fall under the umbrella of life, I have a slightly different way to conceptualize how I balance all of my interests, passions, and priorities. The way I conceptualize it never had a name until recently. A few months ago I was talking to a very wise and compassionate neonatologist. He told me about his philosophy of “living life in parallel”. To fully understand this concept, I am going to rewind time a bit.
When I was a freshmen in college, I was sure of my passion to pursue medicine. My life also consisted of playing D1 lacrosse, studying hard, having fun with my friends, and a long distance relationship. I saw my life spanned out in front of me in various stages. I was focused on doing the best I could possibly do in academics, with the remainder of my energy divided between lacrosse, my teammates and friends, and my boyfriend. My college friends remember me as super shy and quiet during my freshman year (quite contrary to how they know me now). In lacrosse I was reactive rather than proactive, I showed up and I tried, but now I know I could have done so much more. Freshman year was exhausting but with the focus on getting into medical school, I stayed positive and inspired. I was excited by the future: medical school, then residency, then practicing, oh yeah and things like family and enjoying life would just fall into place once I reached my goal of becoming a physician… right? Well that’s how I thought then, and throughout my 4 years in college this concept of mine changed.
I realized early on in my college career that, yes, getting into medical school is a goal of mine, but it is a goal among other dreams, interests, and aspirations. My lacrosse family really helped me to realize this. I was surrounded by some truly amazing women. They constantly reminded me, and sometimes dragged me, to be in the moment. A few of them are extremely skilled at appreciating all of the little things. As I formed friendships with my teammates and they turned into my family, I learned the importance of keeping my life full. Always focusing on getting to the next step in a career/relationship/goal ect. can be extremely beneficial towards reaching whatever it might be, but it risks allowing everything else to fall from view. Life is constantly moving forward, and unfortunately nothing is promised.
Living life in parallel is exactly what it sounds like. It means that rather than segment your life into periods, life should be filled with what you want longitudinally. It means pursuing all dreams and interests (even the ones that seem far out on the horizon) now. It doesn’t mean to juggle between things, but rather weave the different components of life into one. I’m not perfect at living my life in parallel, but I’ve been getting better at it each and every year. For example, I make it a point to build on my relationship, stay in touch with my friends, connect with my current classmates, explore my new state of Ohio, stay fit and continue to work out, give back to my community in ways that I am passionate about, oh yeah and studying and staying on top of my classes. This blog was also an attempt to hold myself accountable and continue to live my life in parallel. I wanted a way to explore my interest in wellness, health, and writing – so this seemed like a good way to incorporate it into the here and now. Living life in parallel is an action, not a goal. I hope this posts at least makes you think about what your life is filled with, and if it is really what you want in the here and now.
I wanted to explore the definition of health, because although this seems like something a kindergarten student would know, its actually not as simple as we seem to think it is. It seems like a lot of people think that being healthy is to have no physical illness or medical condition. However, the World Health Organization has defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (1). This is how I have begun to see health, and I hope to show you why. I view health as a multi-factorial state. I believe that many things fall under health, such as physical health, emotional and mental well being, social well being, and quality of life. These factors are not independent, rather they are extremely dynamic and can influence each other – which is why they are all extremely important. I think that the health care community can and should always address all aspects of a patient’s health and not just their physical health.
I have personally experienced the complex interactions of my own health. I suffer from moderate-to-severe chronic eczema. I have had it for over 4 years without any “remission”, and it can vary from a small patch on my arm to covering the entire back of my legs, arms and back (about 15-20% of my body). My flares worsen with stress, such as during exam time in college or before medical school interviews. My flares have also made me self conscious for situations where my eczema is fully visible to other people, such as in the summer when it’s too hot to wear long sleeves and pants. Its a tough cycle to control, and I am still trying to figure out all the things that make my eczema better or worse. So far, I found that exercise, a healthy diet, and stress reduction practices really influence (but not totally prevent) my flares.
I love sharing stories about different topics, but I also think it is important to dive into more concrete examples of how different facets of health intersect. One area where this has been shown is in cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that patients with coronary heart disease that are also depressed are more likely to have major cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes (2). It is suggested that this is because depressed patients are less physically active (2). Stress levels and social support in the work place has been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (3). And heart attacks have been linked to a significantly lower quality of life even years after they occur (4). Although these are very specific associations that have been found, I think they provide examples supporting how different facets of health influence each other.
In the future, I hope to be able to address all of these subcategories of health for my patients. Although physical health is the main area that physicians focus on, I believe they should be aware of their patient’s emotional, mental and social health as well. I think that this focus on the entire health of a patient could be extremely influential for a lot of different conditions, and particularly chronic conditions.
When I look back on this year, I see it in distinct snapshots. Some of these memories are extremely happy, others are rather somber, but most reflect the amount of growth that this year has brought about. This year has given me new friends, a new family. It made me both confident and insecure. It would be impossible for me to explain this year in a blog post. Instead, I would like to share some of those snapshots with you.
I have many extremely positive and joyful memories from this year, both within and outside the halls of the hospital. There were lots of summer festivals where I was able to explore my new city: the little Italy festival, Asian night market, and even a garlic festival (haha I loved that one!). I can smell the 12 pounds of baked ziti that my roommate pulled out of the oven for our friendsgiving dinner in November. There was the 20 some hours spent with friends snuggled in my family room as we watched all 8 Harry Potter movies straight in a row. There were weekends spent hiking, biking, boating, and exploring my new home state of Ohio. And probably my proudest moment outside of the hospital this year was completing in my first half marathon! Within the hospital, there are memories of bonding during orientation week. There was the first time I shook a patient’s hand in my white coat. The time when I finally was able to navigate the series of hallways within the hospital so I could get from school to my car without getting caught in the rain. I can still hear the quick clear heartbeat of the few week old infant as I held my stethoscope up to her tiny chest, and the time I was able to comfort a crying patient without feeling helpless. This past year was full of sparkly bright memories that won’t fade for a long time.
There were also many uncomfortable moments that made me think, made me stronger. There were the interview questions where I wasn’t sure if the patient or myself was more uncomfortable. There was the first day in anatomy where the bodies were cold but the blood still oozed (my program uses fresh rather than preserved bodies – a distinction that wasn’t entirely clear to me until after that first day in anatomy). There were the painted fingernails, the scruffy beards, and the hair scrunchies in anatomy that always snapped me away from the edge of frightening comfortability. The biggest darkest memory from last year however was my first direct encounter of mortality. I shadowed in the trauma ER for a short 4 hour shift. I knew it was possible to see a trauma within that time period, but I don’t think I processed that going into the shadowing opportunity. Within an hour of being there, the trauma pagers were going off. I was set up to observe the incoming trauma right inside the room, against the wall and off to the side, but still very much in the room. The man came broken in as many ways as one could image. I watched for almost 2 hours as the team worked together to try to save the man. Unfortunately, he did not make it. I really wasn’t able to process what I saw that day. It was heart wrenching, but I was also inspired by the trauma team. The way they worked together, the way they made decisions and worked tirelessly for this man was inspirational. Seeing death occur for the first time and having both extremely negative and positive emotions left me confused and uncomfortable. I think I sort of just saved that memory to process later rather than really think through it in the moment.
The highs and the lows pushed me to adapt, and some of those highs were a result of my growth. Sometime in the fall I realized I needed to change the way I balanced my life. I was used to undergraduate school where you had your assignments and you could check off what you finished. What I realized though was that in medical school, the check list wasn’t a finite list of seven things you had to do. Rather it was of things you had to understand, and it’s up to your judgment to decide when you know it well enough. Because of this, I had to learn what my limits were, what I wanted to know. I had to adapt how I worked and how I decided I was ‘finished’ with my ‘check list’. Most importantly, I learned how easy it was to get consumed with studies, yet how important it was to maintain a life outside of medicine. If I was to talk to a stranger and tell them who I am, it would be so easy to just say I’m a medical student, but that is not what I want. It is important to me to maintain a balance of my passions, because medicine is just one of them and I don’t want to lose the others.
Overall, I loved my first year of medical school. I learned a lot but I also had a lot of fun and tried new things. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone (think mountain biking and half marathons ) but I balanced it with some home comfort (Harry potter marathons and roommate movie nights). I look back with a smile and I’m excited to move ahead into second year.
Hey there! My name is Caroline Franke and I am a second year medical student! I am starting this blog so that I can document my journey of learning about health and wellness. To me, health is so much more than the absence of disease – it is overall human wellness. This includes physical health, mental health, social health, and emotional health. Health can be discussed on an individual level, a group level, and a global level. My passion is focused on nutrition, mental health, and fitness. I will also this blog to share some of my experiences as a medical student.
A little more about me: I am a huge sport lover. I particularly love basketball, football, and lacrosse. I played D1 lacrosse for four years in college, and I loved every second of it (my teammates were the absolute best). I no longer play lacrosse, but I have found long distance running as my new fitness outlet. I am also a huge lover of dogs and babies. Kids make me so happy, probably because I’m still a huge kid at heart!
Stay tuned for more posts in the near future! Feel free to follow me on instagram @beingfranke
Hi! My name is Caroline Franke and I am a second year medical student in North East Ohio. I love cooking, running, and playing with dogs and kids. I am on a mission to learn as much as I can about nutrition, mental health, and physical well being. Feel free to join along as I try to navigate the world of wellness.
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