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Personal Growth Through Social Support with Dr. Hansa Bhargava
Episode 48th February 2023 • Embark Sessions • Embark Behavioral Health
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In this episode of "Embark Sessions," Rob discusses social support and its impact on mental health with Hansa Bhargava, mom, pediatrician, and Chief Clinical Officer of Medscape. Hansa and Rob discuss the importance of finding mentors early in life, and how community is essential for maintaining a healthy balance. Hansa explains how her “C’s” (compassion, connection, communication, and calm) help her manage the stresses of day-to-day life as a parent and pediatrician. 

Related Blogs:

https://www.embarkbh.com/blog/how-to-take-care-of-yourself-so-you-can-take-care-of-your-child/  

https://www.embarkbh.com/blog/stress-vs-distress-how-do-you-help-your-teen-navigate-a-stressful-world/  

https://www.embarkbh.com/blog/how-much-stress-is-too-much-a-caregivers-guide/  

Related Videos:  

School Anxiety: How to Help Your Child | Roadmap to Joy 

Gratitude Journal With Me

How to Improve Teen Mental Health

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Have a question for our experts? We want to hear from you! Submit your questions to: askatherapist@embarkbh.com

About Dr. Bhargava:  

Hansa Bhargava, MD, is Chief Medical Officer at Medscape Education. Her leadership includes leading innovation-driven initiatives for physicians and healthcare professionals, with a focus on issues of resilience, burnout, and mental health.

She has practiced for over 10 years and was previously Senior Medical Director at WebMD. She has extensive experience in producing digital content and partnership collaboration, and is a board-certified pediatrician and the author of "Building Happier Kids: Stress-busting Tools for Parents."

Find out more:

hansabhargavamd.com 

Building Happier Kids 

About Rob:

Rob Gent, M.A. LPC, is the Chief Clinical Officer and one of the founding members of Embark Behavioral Health. Rob has been with the company for 15 years and has led the Embark organization in the clinical development and growth of numerous programs. He is the lead developer of the proprietary CASA Developmental Framework, which is pervasive throughout Embark’s programs.

Through his dedication to advancing clinical development, practice, and research, he has become a nationally recognized expert in the field. His specialization in clinical development is enhanced by his therapeutic expertise and has yielded such accomplishments as the development of; The CASA Developmental Framework, Vive Family Intensive Program, Calo Preteens, Canine Attachment Therapy-Transferable Attachment Program, and other specialized programs.

Transcripts

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Well welcome everybody to our Sessions podcast. I can't tell

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you how privileged I am to have our guests on, I would say 100%.

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I'm immensely privileged to spend our time with Dr. Hansa

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Bhargava, she listed on her website I got a big smile on her

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this she's a renowned speaker, an author, but she lists on her

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website, she's a mom, first a pediatrician. And a

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nutritionist. And somebody as, you guys know, I'm super

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concerned with Holistic Health, and not just compartmentalizing

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when we look at health and development and functionality.

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But I love that she recognizes that she's like everybody else.

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I'm a mom. And I do have expertise and being a

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pediatrician. And of course, I'm fascinated to talk about

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nutrition and the gut brain access and how that affects us.

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But Dr. Bhargava, has an exceptional purposely driven

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life that has taken her from being the senior medical

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director of WebMD, to the Chief Medical Officer of Medscape.

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She's often relied on as an expert for the White House, and

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has an x is an extraordinary author who has facilitated

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parent coaching, teachings in reduction of anxiety and stress,

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and really talking about holistic health. So I am just, I

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just can't say thank you enough to be able to spend some time

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with you, and to hear your story and some convictions that you

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have and some maybe some techniques in helping us as

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psychotherapist and parents. So Dr. Bhargava. Welcome,

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Rob, thank you so much. And that was such a kind introduction.

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But I'm truly honored to actually have met you to have

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met Sabrina to know of your organization because you're

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doing tremendous work. So thank you for being here.

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Well, thank you so much. Well, I'd like to start off with just

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telling us, yeah, what got you into this tell us a little bit

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about Of course, I love the story. But where did it begin

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for? You? would just love to hear that?

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Yeah, absolutely. Well, if you really want to know about my

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beginning, I should struggle to in childhood, right?

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Yes, yes.

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And so I always, I was born in Canada, raised in Canada by an

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immigrant mom, you know, my, my parents actually got divorced

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when I was about 10, or 11 years old. And my I had two younger

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sisters. So my mom had a tremendous influence on me, both

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from the cultural aspect where, you know, she was trying to

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straddle straddle the line between, like her old culture

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and the new Canadian culture. And then also, of course, being

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a single parent and being courageous in that regard. And,

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you know, holding down like a job getting, you know, educated

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in different courses, which would make her more, you have

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even better job opportunities and raising three little girls

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all at the same time. So I mean, I can't tell you what an

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inspiration she has been and to me in my life, and how even that

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time of wonderfulness, but adversity too, you know, trying

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to kind of be in that middle class environment. My mom was an

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educated person, she had a master's degree in Sanskrit,

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which was is an ancient Indian language, but unfortunately, not

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very relevant in the 70s and 80s, in Canada. And so, you

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know, she had to re educate herself, taking college courses

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in various computer science, whatnot, while kind of holding

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down a job in the daytime and raising these kids. And so there

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was adversity. I mean, I think it was hard, it was not easy.

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But I think that, you know, my purpose and my main, like line

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through all of what I teach is kind of rooted in that because I

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understood how important it is to ground, the kids to also make

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sure that there's a family unit, that there's connections and

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communications. And that is like what I have taken with me

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wherever I have gone. So I'll stop right there.

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My mind is running wild. Mom, just three girls holy cow. That

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that is a lot to manage. So she in many ways has modeled this

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resiliency, I you know, if that's the term I love that you

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use the term adversity. When, if I can ask, When does your

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identity and this sense of maybe well being or I'd love how you

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defined it, when does that start to form for you?

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Yeah, and I think it was the kitchen tables, discussion. I

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like to eat dinner and she always she always insisted that

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we should eat dinner together. You know, no matter how many

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things we were running to and from as as we grew up, and so I

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think, you know, having that also like having a village, we

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had a community where we would celebrate certain events, but

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also summers, long, lazy summers with my uncle at my uncle's

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place in New Jersey, you know, and she was very close to her

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brother. So all of that kind of contributed, those are all like

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ingredients in the recipe, right. And then, of course, the

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will to do good and be good, you know, to constantly like, not

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just be ambitious and and be driven to put education at the

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forefront, but also to constantly have that moral code,

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the ethical code to look at people like they are you, like,

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you know, they're just like you and always be good no matter

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what walk of life they're coming from, and to try and help the

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greater good. So I think those are values she gave us. And from

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there, you know, I took that to medical school, I wanted to go

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to medical school, because I was really interested in health, and

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I wanted to help others. And then I went into pediatrics,

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because honestly, and I don't know, if you agree with this,

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Rob, but teens and kids are so unique in terms of helping them

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right? Because you have the possibility and the opportunity

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to influence such a long trajectory of life, right? A

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long trajectory of health, whether it's physical, mental,

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or emotional, and to really do good in a person's life over a

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long period of time. So that's what attracted me to pediatrics

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and to kids and teens.

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Was that something that you knew, even in high school, like,

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Oh, I'm gonna be pre med in undergrad? And I'm gonna go on

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it was that?

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No, oh,

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I didn't know that my school. And that kind of goes back to

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you know what, people it's funny, because I was talking to

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a mom yesterday that at a at a parent event, and she said,

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Well, how do you? How do you make career pivots? You know,

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like, how do you actually change? And what you know, she

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asked me specifically, so interesting, Rob, like to have

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this conversation right after on the heels of that conversation.

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But she asked me specifically, she's like, what, what makes

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makes you brave enough to kind of just jump, right? You've

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jumped several times in your career. And, and I said, because

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I want to grow as a person, right. And so what also

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contributed was that in high school, I thought I wanted to be

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an engineer, right? I was a geek, I was a nerd. And I loved

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science and physics. And I love science fiction. And I still do,

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by the way, and I love like movies that are science

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fictiony. And, and so that's what I thought I would want to

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be, you know, and I wanted to be an astronaut or an engineer or

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an aeronautical engineer. But then, you know, I was, I was

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really lucky to have someone who influenced my life. She was a

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doctor, who was in our community, and she's doing such

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great work and helping patients. And I was like, wow, like,

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that's really cool. So, you know, I changed around the age

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of 18 to 19. And decided to go down, like the pre med track. So

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yeah.

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Yeah,

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So now you're at 19, you recognize, oh boy, I want to

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integrate not only my analytical mind, but this humanitarian,

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really values proposition to say play, how do I integrate those

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together? Wow, fascinating. And then when you go to pre med,

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when does this thing of oh, I'm going to be a pediatrician. When

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does that? How does that?

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so I think it was probably in my third or fourth year of medical

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school, we went through the different specialties and again,

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like, I was considering several of them but again, like the, I

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think it's two things from it's like, you know, what's the main

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theme? What's your main purpose at that time is to help people

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okay, so I want to help people, but it's also just like that

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doctor who influenced me to kind of pivot to medicine, it's also

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people around you the influencers in your life, I

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guess. Right. And so, you know, that, you know, again, I was

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influenced by my mentors, my teachers, you know, the people

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that I liked, and so, you know, we went on my pediatric rotation

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and, you know, really loved these people. They were just so

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mission driven, and just, you know, great people like Susan

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Tallaght, she was my program director at the Hospital for

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Sick Children. And I had just so much respect and admiration for

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the way that she led her life. She was from South Africa

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actually. And, and, and just, you know, was just enamored by

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by the doctors who taught me and so I think that's, you know,

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that, of course, influences you. Right? Like, they talk about

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that in high school and school for kids and teens. You know,

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find somebody who can be like their coach, you know, outside

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of their family who they're enamored by that a soccer coach,

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is it their physics teacher, you know, is it their health

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teacher, their math teacher, and they have a huge influence,

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right?

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Yeah, we always talk about mentorship is really one of

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those key things is finding those people but it's

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interesting because we're hearing a lot more difficulty

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for parents finding that mentor for their kids or their kids,

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aren't you as active in sports are those people aren't as

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readily available anymore? It's really, I don't know, if you're

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experiencing the same thing, but it's fascinating.

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I think it's very hard. I think it needs to be. I think it's so

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hard in so many ways. And I could talk more about that and

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would love your thoughts, Rob, because you're such an expert

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yourself. But I think it's about the village. And, you know, if

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we look back at humanity, a different countries, different

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cultures, there's a few threads that are the same, right? And I

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think that threads that are the same is connection community,

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right. So as we go along, whether you go to church or

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temple or anything else, we had those people in our lives, was

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it the priest, you know, was the rabbi was it, you know, was it

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you know, your uncle or the next door neighbor, and we were still

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connected, right, like we were when, you know, I don't know,

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20 3050 100 years ago, it seems like we lost that opportunity.

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And I think that's what I wrote about in my book, like the

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overscheduling. The running and running and running, and the

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race to nowhere almost has, has had a side effect, it's had side

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effects. So kind of derailing this essential threads we need

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as humans,

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my mind is really just, it's running what wild. Because I

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keep thinking back to the pattern that you were even

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saying, as a child, you had this village in Toronto, I had

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community, I had village and just translating it into my

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psychotherapeutic language, that there was a place, that village

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probably helped to be a focal point for stress management,

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that I would just use the term co regulation, there were secure

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attachment figures, a secure base that were all around you,

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that when things were stressful, you could go back to that, and

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maybe not even knowing it. And I know in today's society where

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we're slipping away from having that village mentality, and I

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wonder if maybe if you can speak a little bit about as being a

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stress management expert, like, did that function as a stress

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mitigator and without the without that what's happening?

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Completely? I agree with you. So you look at you, people may look

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at my career and say, wow, you know, you've been successful,

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but what is that success coming from? And I, you know, I could

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easily, you know, people can say, Oh, well, it's a success is

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because my education, or, you know, my ambition or drive, but

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I really think the success, like success and happiness is rooted

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in that connection. Right. And that village, I truly believe

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that. And, you know, I think that for my own childhood, and

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even now, you know, I went back to see my sister for a few days.

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And, you know, I was, we have times in our lives, where, you

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know, we're more connected or less connected. And over the

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last few weeks I've been so, you know, so encompassed by work,

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that I felt a little bit disconnected when I went to see

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my sister, I was like, you know, I need some grounding. Actually,

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I need something. And it wasn't intentional that that happened

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at the same time. But when I actually hung out with my

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sister, and my mom, you know, and her family, after a few

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days, I was okay, now I feel grounded again. I feel stable,

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and now I can run again. And so just saying that, to your point,

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like, I do think that we need to, as a society, make that a

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priority, and set boundaries and say, No, I'm going to safeguard

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this because this is what feeds me. This is what feeds my

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emotional strength. It feeds my mental strength, it feeds my

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soul. And, you know, I think I think I wish that that's the

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message that people hear from my book, from my talks, that, you

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know, we must stop, and we must prioritize, and figure out, you

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know, what we really think is important. And that was

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important for 1000s of years. And our brain has not changed in

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50 years. It is the same human brain, you know, this, right.

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Like, we all know this.

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Yeah, but we always think there's, you know, there's

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something new under the sun, this generation is unlike any

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other I'm gonna always smile, right? Because there's not we

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have new technology. But yeah, and I wanted to point out that I

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wonder how many people and I know your book does such a good

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job of talking about this, I would encourage everybody to get

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the book, of course, but is that I wonder how many people just

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even adults in this state aren't even aware that what this

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grounding could be or what it should be? We're just were so

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fast paced, running, running,

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sprinting, you're on the treadmill. Yeah. So I would say

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two things. One is look, I talk about the C's a lot like the

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C's, so you know, make room for the Cs you know, as a parent, as

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a teacher, as a person, right? We all need room for the seas

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and the seas are essentially like compassion. So self

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compassion. So people are like, what's self compassion? What is

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that like bubble bath? No. But no. But it's not actually self

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compassion, by definition is an unwavering attitude of kindness

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to yourself. So, when we when something goes wrong in our

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lives, and it always does, everyone has stuff that happens.

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What do we say to ourselves? Do we say it's all my fault? It's

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because of this, I should have done this better. I should have

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been stronger, faster, whatever. And, and what we end because of

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like a lot of media, we feel like we should be perfect,

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right? Like social media is giving us these filtered

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versions, right? Nobody looks nobody posts when, you know, bad

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crap happens. Like, like the car accident where my bumper fell

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off. Like, I'm not posting the app. Like, why would I post

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that? Right?

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Here's me with a flat tire.

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Yeah. But unfortunately, it

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feeds the myth that we all have perfect lives. And it's anything

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but the truth, right. And so you know, I think I think going back

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to all of that, like we have to a be aware that our lives will

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never be perfect. No one's is and be, be compassionate to

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ourselves. So I'm getting back to the C's. So the other C is

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really connection, and action and connection to like an inner

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group of people. So like five people in your life, maybe it's

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three people, maybe it's one person, whoever is your, you

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know, your person that you can go to when things go good, and

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things go bad. And they'll give you positive energy back, right.

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But then there's also wider community where everybody knows

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your name, like the cheers, song, right? Like, go to a place

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where everyone knows your name, and it makes you feel like

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you're part of something. So that could be anything. Is it a

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book club? Is it you know, your neighborhood, your neighborhood?

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Is it your church? Is that your temple? Like, what is it

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exactly? So those are the seeds that I think everyone should

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have in their lives? And this is, and the reason is, because

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adversity absolutely will happen to each and every one of us. And

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I don't know if you agree with that. But I firmly believe that

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I've never met a person who has not had some sort of adversity.

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Let me just

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recap real quick. So I like this sees we're talking about

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compassion, self compassion, connection, and community. Those

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are the ones that you've talked about. First. And yes, I do

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agree with that. Adversity is everywhere. I always like to

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talk about when we talk about stress, and I know we'll talk

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about this going forward. But I always laugh because people have

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vilified stress and adversity to a point of I'm like, Well hold

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on a sec. Gravity exist, and it's positive in our lives. And

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that's actually some stress on us. That's actually positive

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stress you stress right? Like, stress exists, it just is it's

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the way we manage the stress. Let's stop vilifying stress

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because it's necessary. And it exists.

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100%, I couldn't agree with you more. Right. And like, I think

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that trauma Research Institute has a great graph, right? I

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don't know if you've seen it. But it's like, it's almost like

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a heart rhythm, right? Like, you know, our hearts go up and down,

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our heart rates go up and down, right. But we have to be in this

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range of 60 to 100 beats per minute, right? So what we don't

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we want our heart rates to go up and down. In fact, heart rate

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variability means that we're more athletic. So the more we're

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able to do that, that same for resilience, right? Same for

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resilience. So we want to know, we want to be able to take that

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stress and go up, and then come back. And that's, you know,

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that's actually healthy emotionally, mentally, to be

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able to take those stressors and bring them back. What's wrong is

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if the stress is if you are constantly living up here, where

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you're in super stressed state constantly, that's like

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sympathetic overdrive, like fight or flight response

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constantly, right? So that's not good. Or if you're like, down

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here, you're cranky, irritable, and depressed, paralyze

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whatever. So you're right. I mean, some stress is good

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stress. We want our system to be stressed sometimes.

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Yeah. I wanted to answer your question. So one is Managing

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Stress. Please, everybody, get the book. Read it. Secondly, is

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you mentioned the term self compassion. And as a therapist,

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I've been doing treating a lot of families, families,

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adolescents, children, with what we call core shame. And I've

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noticed that when we talk about compassion, that sense of like,

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yes, self compassion is right. But it's fascinating to me how

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much that's a struggle when there's core shame,

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developmental trauma, whatever is caused that, that it really

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is a block. Like I'm not worth it. I I'm just I'm not I don't

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know what the self compassion is. It's my fault. I'm just

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unworthy. But I know you've run into people like that. What is

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your recommendation to when when you run into that shame?

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I think you're absolutely right, Rob. And you know, I was very

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fortunate to have stumbled upon this program a few years back

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when I was actually having some adversity in my life. It was

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called cognitive based compassion training, cognitive

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based compassion training. And it's a program out of Emory

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University, there's several universities that have it, you

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know, different iterations. Stanford has one too. And, you

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know, basically, it is the kind of where I learned about self

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compassion. And they do like when you go back to adverse

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events and childhood, absolutely right, though, that can be the

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root of a lot of like self bullying, or, you know, I'm not

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good enough and all of that. So I would say that that absolutely

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exists. However, the good thing is that we do have

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neuroplasticity in our brains, right? So I think that there is

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definitely a way to come out of that. And this, of course, is a

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really good one, I think it was very, very helpful for a lot of

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people. But there's other courses trauma Research

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Institute has it, there's all kinds of ways to actually come

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out of that. But one of the biggest things we have to do is,

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in my opinion, is to recognize that we are often in sympathetic

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overdrive, and that we constantly live in this like

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sympathetic stress, like the fight or flight response state.

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And when we do that, it is very, very hard. And please tell me

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how you think, with your background, to see clearly

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because your lens is blurred. So I'll give you a really good

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example. So I was stressed out and tired and fatigued. You

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know, I'd had a long, few weeks, a few years ago, and my boss

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sent me an email. And in the email, he said something and I

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looked at it, it was like, I don't know, five or six o'clock

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in the evening. And I'm like, Grr, he, I mean, what did he say

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this? Like, doesn't he understand that? This is

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whatever. And I was just like, ah, or maybe it's me, maybe it's

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me, I should have done a better job like, oh, there's this self

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chatter, right. The next morning, I woke up, and I had a

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really good night's sleep. Right? Again, another issue in

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the American culture, were not getting enough sleep. And my

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lens was clear. And so I opened up my laptop and I looked at the

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email again, I'm like, he didn't say anything bad. It was just

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stating a fact. And he gave me a solution. And there's just

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there's nothing there. So I was so thankful that I hadn't

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replied to that email Rob, like the evening before. But it just

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goes to show you that, like a lot of these things of like self

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unappreciation, self bullying, and all of that is a consequence

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of the fact that we're constantly in that stressed out

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state. So remember, we said, stress is good, but you have to

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be able to come down from it too. And if we're constantly in

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sympathetic overdrive, and we don't activate our other system,

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which is a parasympathetic system, that really causes havoc

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on our mental emotional health, but also on our body. Physical

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health, which is why we, we bonded so much on the holistic

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health, right? Like we're just causing damage everywhere. Like,

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why are we doing this?

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Well, I'm not always amazed. But I'm always wanting to highlight

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that. People in sympathetic, I always talk about, you know,

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literally, their lid is flipped, and they're in this sympathetic

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place. Many times they get that's a familiar place for them

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to be. And we're trying to do therapy. And I always like to

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ask, how is your eating been lately? Well, I'm surviving on a

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pack of Oreos, and a bag of Doritos. And my body's craving

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this instant sugar, these carbs. And we wonder why therapy is

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really hard. I mean, especially, I mean, you've seen it

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adolescents who don't have proper nutrition, and it's the

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snowball effect, right? Or sympathetic or hyperactive,

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we're in Go, go go. We want these instant fuels. And it's

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just, it's interesting. And I'm sure I'd love for you to speak

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to this. I call it the snowball the snowball effect, right?

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Totally. We don't even want to we don't even know how to come

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down from that. Right. First of all, you know, the first thing

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of any curing any kind of difficult state is to understand

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that you're in it. Right? Acceptance, right. So moving

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from denial to acceptance, or like, unclear to clear, okay,

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see myself that I'm in here. The second thing is to activate like

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solutions or interventions, right? So in order to actually

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step away from it, we need to actually do some work to be able

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to recognize it. But then let's just talk about the solutions

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for a second, right, we talked about the Cs so the skis are

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really important use its buffers right buffers to pull us out of

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that state. I do think deep breathing. That's been shown

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scientifically to have you know, box breathing or deep breathing.

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Meditation can certainly help but trauma research institute

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some really interesting methods to bring yourself out of that

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super sympathetic state also, like touching wood or metal and

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just focusing on it right. And that nationally stigma. Mental

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Health actually has the 54321 method, right? To bring you back

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to the present, to calm you down. So these are things that

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are really interesting and important. And I guess I would

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say to the, to our audience, or professional audience, you know,

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the self compassion also means that you kind of have to take

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care of yourself, in order to be the best deliverer of care. And

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that's why I took the course actually, because it was offered

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free to doctors and nurses, health care workers who have

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severe burnout right now. And then I liked it so much, I went

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back, and I did like a one and a half year training program. So I

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became a certified instructor of it. And it really changed my

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life, Rob, to get us out of that sympathetic overdrive. So we

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talked about connections to get us out, we talked about the

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trauma Resource Institute method, the community resiliency

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model to get us out the deep breathing, the meditation, or

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what they teach, which is a nurturing moment, to nurturing

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moment actually pulls, it's a visualization technique, where

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it basically takes you back to a time where you felt safe, and

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makes you kind of sit in that time to kind of bring you back

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into the state where you can actually listen, that you can

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actually listen and you can inhale, what you're being taught

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or talk to about. Does that make sense?

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Absolutely. And I think all of our professional people will

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certainly appreciate those resources. I liked that you

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talked about the breathing, I think many of us, even as

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professionals underestimate. Now I'll geek out with you a little

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bit if that's okay, that our deep breathe deep breathing is I

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love to say that the diaphragm is a way to actually be able to

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regulate our central nervous system. And that diaphragmatic

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breathing really controls our heart rate variability. And so

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the breathing is just is just phenomenal. A little plug for

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Andrew, Dr. Andrew Huberman. I know you and I, you and I had

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that. in common. He talks about the physiological sigh being an

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amazing way that two breaths in through the nose and one long

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exhale, just there's these techniques to really help be

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able to move you and those are connected. And I think your

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speaking does, being able to get that sense of personal

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regulation will help with the connection. And the community,

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as well. So they all go together,

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They all

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go together, and they were a part of our into, they are an

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integral part of the way communities have been, right.

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Because when we rest and we pause, we have an opportunity to

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do those things. Yeah.

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Well, let me jump back because all of this is taking place and

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you have such an amazing mind. Let me go back if I can, because

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I know there's some personal stuff in or mixed with, you get

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done with med school, there's a lot has happened maybe in its

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efficient way. Walk us through finishing med school, and then

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your career gets going if you don't mind would be Yeah,

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absolutely. So I finished at the Hospital for Sick Children with

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my residency. And at that point, again, going back to the career

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pivots, you know, I decided that I wanted to go to the United

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States. So it came from Canada, from Canada. And there's, you

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know, some even there's some specialized training in

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nutrition at UPenn. That seemed like a valuable opportunity. So

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I go there, I do that training. And then I you know, I ended up

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practicing pediatrics for a while actually teaching

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residents and I love teaching loved teaching. I think it's a

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it's probably from my family. My grandfather was a professor and

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so was my dad. And so it comes kind of through that probably,

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but so I taught the residents for a while. And then I moved to

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Atlanta, Georgia, and and started working in the emergency

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room urgent care centers of the Children's Healthcare of

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Atlanta, which is a really big hospital system here. And again,

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I think it goes back to the self confidence, the self efficacy

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because they wanted, when I first interviewed for that

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position, they said, Well, you can be one of the pediatricians

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here. And I said, No, I, I think I'm I'm well equipped to

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actually be the medical director for you. And, you know, I

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emailed her, the person who's interviewing me, and she's like,

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well, you know, you kind of yearn for that. And I was like,

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No, but look at my resume. I promise you give me a chance to

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persistence, persistence. Persistence was important. And

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then after she saw the resume, she interviewed me and she was

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like, Yeah, we're gonna hire you as a medical director at this

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urgent care center. We said 30,000 patient visits a year. It

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was very, very it was and this is important, because thank you

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for asking, but it is important to the story, I think, because

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after about seven years of that I was totally burnt out. It was

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it was really affecting me because we had long shifts and

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my kids started saying, you know why? Aren't you home for

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bedtime? Mom? Weren't you home for Christmas? Weren't you home

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for this? And that because I was working nights and weekends and

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all of that. And I just sat down one day and even before my kids

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came in, she was pregnant. It actually I had to had

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infertility issues. So finally I got pregnant, I was carrying

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twins, and I was working these long shifts. And I remember

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like, I wrote an article for Thrive about this. I sat down

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and the nurse brought a stool over and she's like, put your

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feet up. I was pregnant is so big. And she's like, What are

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you doing? Exactly? You know, like, is this good for your is

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this good for your kids? Like your babies? And unfortunately,

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it wasn't, they came premature. Yeah, and a lot of doctors

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unfortunate a lot of female doctors, because of the long

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training that ends up happening. But But anyways, you know that,

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you know, I was burnt out. And that's when I again, started

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looking. And, you know, found this amazing position at WebMD.

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So, so you think it's like, Oh, crap, I think adversity happens.

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But often it's that whole old theme, right? Like every cloud

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has a silver lining. Like, we can't be afraid to pivot. We

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can't be afraid to jump right. Sometimes there's something else

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behind the door. And the one thing that when I jumped to

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WebMD, somebody said to me that I'll never forget. And they

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said, you know, you will not know until you go through that

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door. What other doors exists beyond that?

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Yeah. Wow.

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Oh, yeah. Don't be fearful.

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Can I ask what was maybe a your biggest lesson learned or

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something unexpected that you took away from your ER time?

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Energy that?

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I? You know, that's such a great question. And I think it was

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such a good experience, like I look back at it don't look back

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at it negativity at all, it was very positive. And the way it

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was positive was that I got to really understand the health

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system. And the the challenges of the health system, especially

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for those who are, you know, don't have as much resources or

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access to care. So our population was 80%, Medicaid. It

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was 80% African American, it was in a poor area of town. And we

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had the sickest kids come in like sickest kids, sometimes we

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would have to helicopter them out. And you know, they were so

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sick. And I just felt like, like, it was really an

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interesting experience, because it really gave me so much

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understanding of what's going on. Right. And the resources

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that we lack of the system. The inequities that exist and how

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parents are, are everywhere are struggling. And now with the

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mental health work that I do, I see that it's on both sides,

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like it's on both sides, you have the lower socio economic

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groups that suffer because they might not have the access to,

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you know, financial resources or food on the table. One quarter

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of our kids are actually food insecure right now. And then you

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have the upper echelons who are also suffering for different

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reasons. It's just hard to be a parent all round. Yeah, it's

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hard to be a teen all round.

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All around. Yeah. So you have this significant experience

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managing this er, and then you make a jump to WebMD. I'm sure

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not only me, but everybody's fascinated. Tell me what WebMD

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is like, because you've heard this probably a billion times.

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My wife gets a hangnail, she gets on WebMD. And she's got a

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brain tumor, right? And then I'm like, stop, take it within

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context. So I'm just fascinated, like, please, yes, what was

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WebMD like, it's amazing. Oh,

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my God, I was at WebMD for about nine years, eight years. It was

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fabulous. And I'll tell you this, some of the smartest

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people I know, when I worked at WebMD. Truly, not just not just

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healthcare professionals, but journalists, Tech Tech people,

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like, you know, design, marketing, whatever, like it was

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a group of people, we launched a lot of great products. But the

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reason I liked them so much is because we all had the same

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Northstar. And that was like, help the patient, like, give

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them information to arm them, to arm them for their own health to

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be advocates for their own health. And it was wonderful. So

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I got a ton of experience. I can, like, so grateful for that

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experience, um, to get more experience and get, you know,

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grow in different directions that I never would have if I

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hadn't jumped actually, honestly about.

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Yeah, no, I believe that. So you know, it's stepping stones,

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you've got this. ER experience. Now you've got WebMD and the

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pieces are coming together, is now you get towards the end of

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your WebMD experience. Like are you is the book in your mind?

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What is next? I'm what's next at this end of the webinar.

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I would say it was probably 2016 2017. I was involved with a

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lot of public health initiatives with WebMD. We did a lot of

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partnerships with the CDC, the White House, this that and the

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other thing, right? And I started seeing the mental health

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crisis starting and that's what you people are like, Oh, the

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pandemic you know, had said yes, the pandemic did catalyze it,

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but it was absolutely there before seeing like just hearing

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Stories personally, of people who worked with me in the

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hospital or wherever else and the struggling as parents, you

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know, their, their kids cutting or, you know, became suicidal

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becoming addicted to substances, like just this all on and off,

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like what is going on. And then I started seeing the stress in

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my own kids. You know, I was a little bit tigerish, I'll be

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honest, my mom was a tiger mom. So like, I learned from her. And

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so I was trying to fish. And then I started seeing it, like

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my own kids having anxiety, and stress. And I was like, Oh, my

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God, like, this story, these stories need to be told, we need

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to come together as a society. So that's where the book kind of

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started. And then, you know, COVID happened. And during that

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period of time, unfortunately, I went through a divorce. And, and

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so while I was going through the divorce, I was struggling, of

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course, I was leaning on my people, my my inner circles, and

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the community, right? Because you gotta, I mean, when you go

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through adverse times, you have to have people like literally

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with a safety net. Yeah, right. And so that happened. And then

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the other thing that was really important that happened, for me

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to kind of explore our mental health a lot more with my nephew

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died. So my nephew, my sister's stepson, who is such a wonderful

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kid, just wonderful kid, he's a hockey player, just

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compassionate, warm, wonderful, unfortunately, has substance use

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disorder, and bipolar disorder. And, you know, my sister

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struggled for years to help him through rehabilitation, and all

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of that. And, and, you know, in 2018, he lost his life, to, to

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this and to the monster, as they call it, you know, and, and so

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that I just that really kind of catalyzed my journey I talked

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about in my book, and his name was Alec. And, and so all of

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those things kind of came together. And so I kind of

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follow that road. Yeah, yeah. And it's obviously such a need

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Rob, like, the work you guys are you and your organization is

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doing is just so important right now more important than ever?

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Well, I appreciate that. And I can't imagine what one is, I'm

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sure your sister was leaning on you for all kinds of input. I

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would imagine, like, what do we do? You're the expert, what do

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we do, and even with all of that high level expertise, it, it

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didn't prevent a tragedy from happening.

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That was the saddest part. And I think to this day, like she

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feels like she somehow didn't do enough, again, the self

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bullying, right. And I'm telling her, there's nothing else you

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could have done, right? It's hard. Man, parents of substance

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use disorder kids. I mean, they go through so much, so much.

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Yeah, it's so hard. And I think as, as a, as therapists, we

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might even underestimate how grief whether we're aware of the

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grief or it's hidden grief actually might really impact our

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ability and ability to have that stress tolerance to stay and

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maintain that window of tolerance. I can't imagine your

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sister just so grief that you know, you exist in that

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sympathetic place. And

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yeah, and this was her husband's firstborn son. I mean, it's just

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really, really hard. To his credit, he did actually go to

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experience the vipassana meditation for 10 days. Oh,

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which is a really hard one to do. Like, they take everything

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away, and you're basically on silence for some days. I don't

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think I could do it. Yeah, but he did it. I mean, Dan, good for

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you. And it really, really helped him with the grief. But

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you know, losing a child's losing a child so.

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So what So walk me through the time lapse and then you when do

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you complete your book, building happier kids?

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Published kid. So it started with the story that I was

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hearing and my own story with my own daughter, I finished I

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worked with the American Academy of Pediatrics, again, grateful

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to them for doing this with me, they published it, and they

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guided me through it that you know, they were obviously they

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have the on the pulse of what is important for kids and teens. So

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they, you know, kind of helped advise me on it. And it, we

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completed it at the end of 2021. No, at middle of 2021 got

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published in March of this year, and had a book signing at the

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American Academy of Pediatrics national conference like just a

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few weeks ago. So

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you're making such a difference. And again, the book is

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fantastic. I think it's important to take it all in

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maybe just speak a little bit about you know, I'm always

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concerned with not compartmentalizing health. I

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think that's an important I think you are too, like, let's

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look at this holistically. Maybe what is one thing that as

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therapist is professionals that we can do to improve our

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practice by looking at clients more holistically.

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Yeah, and I think you're so right about that, right like as

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as Doctor urs we often just deal with the issue in front of us.

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But we actually have to look holistically at the mental

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wellness. Similarly, when we deal with mental illness, I

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think it's also important to understand all the factors that

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are weighing in on that person's life. So for example, like just

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basic things like, do they have the seeds, for example? Right?

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Do they have the Cs? You know? Or do the parents have the Cs?

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Because those parents are like, similar to that email thing? If

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the parents constantly have a blurred filter? How what's

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happening in the home, right? What are the socio economic

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resources that might be impacting them, you know, what

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other disparities could be impacting them. And then I think

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the other sees like, the compassion, right, like

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compassion, we never have, we didn't have a chance to talk

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about this. But you know, just trying to be compassionate to

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the patients, to understand them to kind of get on their level,

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but they're just like you ultimately, that's why, on my

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website, I say mom first because I'm just like you, like, I'm

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just like every other parent like that's first and to

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understand that everyone has their own crosses that they're

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bearing. And to be kind, I think it's really important. But

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lastly, sorry, since you asked me, my advice to them, is also

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self care, like self compassion, and self care means filling your

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own cup, because you can't pour for others, unless you know,

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your cup is full. And that, that starts with kindness to

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yourself. But also giving yourself space to, to, to kind

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of replenish yourself is so important,

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when I really appreciate this, looking at it as the kindness

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piece, the community, the connection, seeing those things,

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because so often we think of self care is I need a longer

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vacation, I need something to distract me from what's

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happening in just knowing you have to come back to the same

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environment. It's just it seems to perpetuate this cycle of

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actually, that type of self care is not fulfilling your well.

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I totally agree with you. Right? Because, you know, I went to a

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talk with Dan Harris. One day, he wrote that book 10% happier.

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And he was an ABC anchor. I don't know if you remember that.

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But he had a panic attack on air, right? And that's what made

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him kind of stop and do things. And so he said in his lecture

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was so interesting. It's like, how many vacations can you go

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on? How many five star hotels? How many? Four star hotels? How

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many three star hotels? Are you gonna stay at how many beaches,

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the happiness is actually inside you? Like, wherever you go, you

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take it with you. So if you're not feeling it here, it doesn't

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matter if you're in Bali, it doesn't, right, like it kind of

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has to be here. And that's how we get to that is actually being

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kind to ourselves kind to others and having those circles around

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us to catch us I think right?

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Yeah. Wonderful. And I really appreciate your perspective.

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Yeah. As a psychotherapist, I do want to ask you this question,

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because it's always, we love working with psychiatrists love

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hearing from the pediatricians. And you're bridging this gap.

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What do you see as being really effective? When it comes to

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psychotherapy, when you refer clients? Or what is it? What do

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you see as valuable when it comes to psychotherapy?

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Look, psychotherapy is so essential, so important. And I

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think, you know, I would say the most effective things as a pet,

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like being on the outside as a pediatrician, is really like

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holding hands with the parents and the pediatricians and the

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providers like, we are all in it together. And we want to, you

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know, make that circle around the child or teen. So kind of

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communication, being really, really important, not just with

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the kids, not just with the families, but even any other

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doctors or experts that are involved is is very, very

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important. So that's one thing. And secondly, like if there's

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any way like, again, I know I'm plugging this self compassion

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thing, but get make sure you're mentally and emotionally well

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yourself, because that will enable your glass your lens to

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be clearer. And for you to be more compassionate seeing it and

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be able to have the side understand the side of the

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family even better than you are like, obviously, you guys are

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right, because that's what you do. But I'm just saying even to

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clear it even more. That can help. There was a great article

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in The Atlantic. I don't know if you saw it, but it was basically

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power something to the effect of power injures the brain. It was

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excellent. You know why? Because it talked about how like as

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people climb the ladder as professionals or as politicians

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as CEOs, whatever, there's parts of the brain that actually

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shrink. There's parts of the brain that get grow and you and

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I know, neuroplasticity of the brain. So when the amygdala

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grows, because we're not taking care of ourselves, we have

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burnout, like whatever it is, then you lose your ability to

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see broadly and to see other people's point of view. So the

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whole argument about that article was that it there's

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there is damage that happens if you can't see broadly.

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Ultimately, it Facts, your profession and your capability

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of doing what you want to do. So, I think that's really

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important to make sure that our lens is clear.

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So the self compassion piece, we could really have some more

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clarity around what that looks like having the psychotherapist

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we always like to use the term we have to do with the parents

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as we want them to do with their children. The the adolescence

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because oftentimes there, you know, we as therapists can even

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be boiled and expectation like the parents are like, well just

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make them better or do this and or their parents, they should

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know better, right? Like, oh, I tend to cringe because then we

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lose our compassion for the parents and their narrative and

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their story, their attachment history and their ability to

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maybe they have unrealistic or inaccurate expectations or

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unresolved grief or whatever that is. So working, I'm hearing

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you say, Help help the parents get into that place of self

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compassion, but it is I would use the term experiential, that

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we as psychotherapist can help facilitate that self compassion,

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because oftentimes, as parents were boiled in it, we can't see

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the forest through the trees, right.

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So hard and like the patients I've dealt with, which are like,

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and you know, pediatricians and physicians often have what we

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might call challenging patients, you know, not really listening,

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they have their own seeming, their seeming agenda or whatever

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to penetrate down is just to literally get to their level,

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right? And say, Hey, I'm just like you. I'm a parent. I like

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and that was the most effective for me, like when I actually was

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able to really communicate with them, either I, you know, and

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say, I want to do for your child or teen what I would want from

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my own child and teen. You know, and and that's when they really

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listen to actually, that's when they listened, right? So I think

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for us to be able to put ourselves into the parents

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shoes, enables us to communicate more effectively to them, don't

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you think?

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Empathy, empathy, empathy? Yes. So if I can just catch me up to

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catch me up to today? I mean, how are things with your kids?

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How are things with your life? I'm just, you know, because we

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say it's integrated. Right? Your story is part of your expertise.

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Yeah. And Rob, like, you want the truth?

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I do want to choose because I believe that adversity and

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growth is part of of our story.

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And adversity. Growth totally is and so look, it's it's, you

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know, it's not easy being a parent, and it's not, you know,

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I have two kids that are absolutely different. I have to

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honor their differences, right on are the differences tweak my

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communication style, according to their differences, right.

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It's a constant tweaking of communication style, and you

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have teens as well, like, when they were 11, how do we talk to

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them? When they were 13? How do we talk to them? When they're

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16? How do we talk to them, right, and it's constantly like

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resetting everything, right? And then resetting according to to

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the kid. But I do think that as a parent myself, what I've

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learned is, my North store is keeping that as communication

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lines open. Because if I lose that communication and trust

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with them, they're not going to come to me if there's a crisis,

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they're not gonna come to me if things go bad, they're not gonna

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come to me if things go good, but they might not. But they

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won't come to me when there's a crisis. And that's why

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communication is like one of the C's, the C, we're going back to

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the three C's, it's actually five C's, the fourth C is

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actually communication. That's the big C. And then the fifth

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thing is calm, calm, finding calm.

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Can I ask really quickly, what are the couple of factors that

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are the biggest blockers to that communication with the kids? Be

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it your own kids or parents, I would think there's a few things

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that come up that are like, ooh, this will hinder your

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communication.

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check your ego at the door. I think that's true of every

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thing. Right? It really is. Really, because, you know,

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authoritarianism, I don't think really works. You know, I think

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that I really try hard to bring them back to the family values.

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And sometimes it's the chat that hey, you know, I don't really

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care what other people are doing. This is what's happening

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in our home. And these are the reasons why like, you gotta give

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them reasons why. Right? And, you know, I think sometimes you

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just have to check yourself at the door. Like to walk in

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bringing your job with you. Right? Okay, this is my, I'm

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putting my parent hat on and taking the moment to have find

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that calm. The calm is so important as a parent. I think

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it's so important like because then that'll stop you like

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taking a breath before you react. Really important, right?

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Viktor Frankl? I think we talked about this.

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Yeah, man. Yeah, right. And it's

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really like an event happens. And there's a reaction but the

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space between the event and the reaction if you can just like a

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be able to control that, like, whatever, there is a deep breath

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or just looking the other way for a second while you compose

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yourself or just saying, hey, you know what, I need a few

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minutes. I will talk to you a few minutes. I will talk to you

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tomorrow morning about this, because I'm not at my best

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moment right now. Whatever it is, we got to do it. Right. And

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again, I know I keep going back to self care. But that's why

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self care is important. Because it kind of keeps your lens

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clean.

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Well, and all those things actually reduce defensiveness. I

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mean, we all know that adolescence, but most people are

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pretty easily triggered into defensiveness and as well as us.

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And then we lose the safety and the compassion and the ability

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to be open and all lost. And there's techniques, I loved what

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you're giving us. These are techniques to reduce your own,

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calm yourself, reduce your own defensiveness and not triggered

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the defensiveness and others really tremendous. So okay, so

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I've got some really questions, the big ones I'd love to ask,

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what part of your story is untold? is still untold?

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Yeah, I knew that was gonna come my way.

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you knew

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it was coming? Well, I gotta ask it. I gotta ask it. It's the big

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one for me.

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I mean, I think the story, the problem is really that's untold

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is I do want to make a difference. I want to help

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people. You know, I, I want to continue on that journey. The

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question is, where in the health sphere? Can I really make most

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impacted by health? I mean, holistic health, not mental

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health, not physical health, but the two are very tied together.

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So how can I really do that? Because that is like what I

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really would like to do. And that's really a historic part.

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That's I'm told, I think I'm making a difference. I want to

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make a bigger difference. And you know, what does that what

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does that look like? If it? Is it? Like this 360 degrees of

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health? Like, is it looking at different ways to deliver

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therapy for mental well being? Is it prevention? Is it public

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health? You know, what is it exactly? And then the other

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story that I'm told, of course, that's a huge part of me is, you

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know, the parenting story. I mean, we all want to be

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successful parents. So what is successful parenting, it's to

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me, it's not about getting into, oh, the first year of college or

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the big fat job, it's really about fun, helping my kids find

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happiness and contentment. I love

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it. Love it, what what legacy will you leave?

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I think there's a couple of things that I feel like we're

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missing as a society. And that is honestly hoping to bring

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people back to fundamentals. Fundamentals being just, you

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know, you know, just the importance of how the importance

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of community. I'm hoping I can make a difference there. And

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also Rob, the importance of preventative health, talking a

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lot about chronic diseases, and, you know, issues around mental

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health and all of that, but I really believe that we should

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start upstream to you should really have that conversation.

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So I would say to a psychotherapist, that might be

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listening, is there something you can do to kind of teach

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resilience and resilience is an overused word, maybe the word is

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emotional, mental fortitude, to understand to let people

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understand, that are left to understand that, you know,

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sadness, and happiness is part of everyone's life. Sometimes it

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converts into a disease or an illness. But often often, it's

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like that resiliency model, right? So talking more about

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prevention, and how we can do that. And I do think the three

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C's are part of that. I do think as you and I talked about what,

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you know, the Huberman labs talk about like, sunlight is part of

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that nature is part of that exercise. Part of that sleep is

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part of that, right? Like there's physical attributes that

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are part of that, too. So there's a lot of pieces to that

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pie, but I really do think we need to come up with upstream

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solutions. Also.

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I said it was probably my last question, but I lied. That's not

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my last question. So being a medical doctor, you know,

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medication is just on the rise, like, no others these days,

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maybe just take a moment. What's your view on medication with

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this whole relationship with stress management and adversity

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and functionality, and

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I view it as one piece of the pie. There's a 360 degree pie.

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Some of its prevention, obviously, psychotherapy, maybe

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it's even psilocybin. Right? Maybe it's, you know, other

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alternative forms meditation. There's so much there, right?

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And I think medication is in its place, but it's not all of it.

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Like we can't just go to the RX. We can't. We just can't and I

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think one of the things That is really something a challenge

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that we all need to work on is we need to have like a three or

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four prong solution. It can't be a one point solution. Most

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people need multiple prongs.

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It seems like our society is looking for the hack on

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everything.

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Yeah, like the magic pill, literally, right? And

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I always laugh because I have to say to parents in a very

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compassionate way, there's no pill for shame. They haven't

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developed that one. We have to work through it. We've got to do

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it. We've got to look at it holistically. And how do we

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rob like, how do we kind of shift the culture, shift the

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culture to actually understand that there is no magic pill, you

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got to work through it, adversity happens, you got to

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let it go. Like, you know, let's be a team, let's be community

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like the we not the me.

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I think this is a perfect way. And I thank you for so much

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joining me and telling your story and your own

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vulnerability. I mean, you're a living model of what it really

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takes to look at connection. I mean, the all of those who have

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who have had the privilege of listening are drawn into the

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story and relating it to our own lives. We all face adversity.

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And if it's real, yeah, the struggle is real, but it's an

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inevitable inevitable part of our existence and not be

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overwhelmed by it.

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upside is every time there's a struggle you grow from it,

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right? Yeah, like you build that muscle. Right? You go to the

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gym, and it hurts the day after but guess what? You're building

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those muscles.

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It sounds cliche, but I always push Carol Dweck growth mindset

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pick up the book. It's a really great, simple read. Yeah, really

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fantastic. Well, I can't thank you enough for joining us and

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being a part of this. You've joined our community. We're a

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part of yours. I think this is a great step in making the

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movement. Yeah. Thank you so so much for your time, Dr.

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Bhargava.

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Rob, it's such an honor to be with you guys. And thank you so

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much for inviting me in such a great conversation. I really

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hope to work together with you more on all these wonderful

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things.

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Yes, we will. Well, thank you everybody for joining us. This

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