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Last week I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about the “art of living” a balanced lifestyle. Balance means doing and not-doing. It is very easy to forget to exercise, stretch, meditate (conscious relaxation), create social gatherings, eat slowly, and eat healthy or to take some time out for yourself.

I often remind my very busy patient “super moms and dads” about taking care of themselves. I often use the Oxygen Mask analogy to express my teachings about balance.  When going over safety procedures on a plane pre-flight, a parent is instructed to use the mask first. The parent has to be able to have enough energy to “feed” the child his or her oxygen supply. The old saying goes, “You can’t give anything, if you don’t have anything to give.”

Refining the way we live a balanced life requires “daily watering or attending” the garden.” I really enjoy the phrase, “5 minutes gained, 5 minutes trained.” It’s better to take a walk 15 minutes every day than to take a 2-hour walk one day per week. A simple exercise like walking helps balance the hemispheres of the brain (hemi=half and sphere=circle). The repetition of walking will remind the brain to maintain a balanced mental state. “Rest and Digest” is another one of my favorite life balancing phrases. Sleep is the time when most of our digestion occurs. The parasympathetic nervous system takes over when we are resting. If we don’t sleep enough, digestion suffers. If we eat too abruptly, digestion is disturbed. Acupuncture and massage are very effective healing modalities that can activate the “calm nervous system.” Also, breathing Aromatherapy oils such as lavender and sandalwood can quickly slow the super stressed mind down.

In our childhood we were trained to work, work, and work. Achieve, achieve, and achieve. Nobody taught us how to relax and how to eat properly. Nobody taught us how to stretch or how take a deep breath. When I educate my patients about lifestyle adjustments I use the word “incrementally.” This can be done by substituting one healthier choice per week for an old unhealthy lifestyle habit. For example, many patients say they do not like to drink just plain water. My simple healthier choice would be to add an ounce or two of fruit juice to your bottled water. This fulfills getting enough water intake per day and adding a refreshing sweet taste to it. Trying to make too many changes at once will inevitably end with not making any changes especially when dieting.

Here are a couple of simple food combination tips to help you digest your food more efficiently. Try not to combine carbohydrates and proteins. Mix a vegetable with either a protein or a carbohydrate (for example- a meat and vegetable or rice and vegetable). Eat your fruit alone either 15 minutes before or after a meal. Carbohydrates require a more alkaline environment. Proteins require a more acidic environment. When combined, the stomach is confused and it just “sits” in your stomach for a longer period of time. It ferments. That’s why you feel bloated after eating a burger and fries. I have watched many patients lose weight with just this simple “eating formula.”

Changing your atmosphere can be a very healthy time to “reset” your intentions or just to feel like you are getting away. A walk on the beach, a short hike in any of the parks that are available to us on Long Island, a drive to the vineyards or taking an “overnighter to the Catskills, just a couple hours away can help us rebalance and see things from a different perspective.

No matter how busy you are, time can be put aside to rejuvenate. I am often reminded of the phrase “people take better care of their cars than of their bodies and minds with regular tune-ups, washings, oil changes, etc.” Let this article be a friendly reminder to give yourself some time to rejuvenate, reflect, rejoice and enjoy the fruits of your labors and accomplishments.