Many big things have happened in 2017, but amongst all the politicking and rhetoric, I’ve learned a powerful lesson that took me 36 years to fully embrace.
I’m usually not one for new year’s resolutions because I find it arbitrary to wait until January 1st to make changes in my life. Then again, change is hard and we sometimes need an excuse to start. So last year at the start of 2017 I resolved to make a change that I knew I could keep: to avoid wearing a tie to my office for the entire year. While this may sound silly, the reason for this decision was simple. I wanted a visual reminder every morning when I stood in front of the mirror before going to the office that I was on a mission, not just to help my patients and alleviate human suffering, but to work every day towards improving myself.
It was in mid-November 2017 after having flown over 60,000 in 11 months that I started to realize that I’d strayed from my goal despite maintaining my resolution. I had spent dozens of hours volunteering, mentoring students and new doctors, building two thriving new companies and serving in leadership capacities outside of my practice and home. I hadn’t slept like a normal human being in months. I was mainlining coffee daily and while I haven’t smoked in over 10 years (before I became a chiropractor), I was still chewing between 8mg and 16mg of nicotine gum per day. I was eating clean and avoiding sugar, artificial sugars and emulsifiers as much as possible, but wasn’t exercising as often as I wanted to out of fear of further aggravating a chronic shoulder injury. I gained weight, felt sluggish, I wasn’t getting checked for vertebral subluxation nearly as often as I needed and most notably, found myself becoming alienated from my family.
None of this is ok. I’d made excuses for my behavior for long enough. This feeling become startlingly clear after a patient called me out for my coffee addiction: “Dr B, why is it ok for you to drink coffee, but it’s not ok for me to?” She was absolutely right. It wasn’t ok. I’ve known that my *HRV has been poor for years, but made the excuse that life is just stressful when you do what I do. Not ok. (*HRV = heart-rate variability, a stress-adaptability test we run routinely in our office.)
From that point on, I made it my mission to focus on taking care of myself first. I remember why I started 2017 with a daily visual cue in the first place. I gave up coffee cold turkey. I stopped chewing nicotine gum cold turkey. Brit and I started intermittently fasting daily; this means that from 7pm to 11am the next day, we do not eat. As a consequence for creating this disciplined routine, I feel like I have mental clarity for the first time in years. I’m regaining my energy. I’m slowly beginning to sleep normally again. I’m happier and my family is happier.
You see, we cannot pour from an empty cup; this means that in order for us to care for the people that we love, i.e. my family, my team, my patients, my community, we have to take care of ourselves first. The moms in my practice know this dichotomy all too well. So often, I see parents bringing their children into my office for care, but put themselves second because, “the kids need it more.” Not true. I’m reminded of something Jim Sigafoose – an old time chiropractor – used to say before he passed away a few years back: “What are you doing here in my office getting healthy while the rest of your family is at home being sick?”
So, for 2018, my resolution – as loathe as I am to set one – is to be selfish and to wish that selfishness on to all of my patients. Fill your cups. Take care of #1 so that you can care for everyone else in the world that needs you. This year, my practice structure will change to reflect this resolution so that we may serve more WHOLE families in South County. Join me in my quest to serve #150families in our community this year so that our children will grow up healthier than we have.
Chiropractic today for healthier communities tomorrow.
Dr Daniel Bronstein is the clinic director of The Beacon Clinic of Chiropractic in Grover Beach CA and specializes in the chiropractic care of children and pregnant mommas. He is Certified by the Academy Council of Chiropractic Pediatrics, is Webster Technique Certified by the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association and devotes the core of practice to helping children and families live healthy lives. You may find him on Twitter and Instagram @Dr_Bronstein.