Dr. Pooja Lakshmin joins the podcast to talk about self care.

Dr. Pooja Lakshmin’s new book Real Self-Care explores how faux self- care like bubble baths, pedicures, and yoga are nice but that principles around value-based decision making are true self care. How we make choices and set boundaries for ourselves has more of a ripple impact on our mental wellness than some of the actions we traditionally think about as self-care. Dr. Lakshmin is also the founder of an equity-based women’s mental health program called Gemma.

"Real self-care is the internal decision making that is threaded through every choice you make in your life."

- Dr. Pooja Lakshmin

In this episode, we cover:

  • How to identify Real Self-Care.
  • What are four principles to establish Real Self-Care?
  • Why is the bandaid of faux self-care so seductive?
  • How does Real Self-Care require boundaries?
  • How does Real Self-Care require compassion?
  • How to claim your power as you seek Real Self-Care?

Megan Gipson
So today on the family brain, I am so excited to welcome Dr. Pooja Luxman, who is a psychiatrist specializing in women's health a clinical assistant professor at GW or sorry, George Washington University, I grew up in the DC area. So I say GW, George Washington University, author of the book, real self care and founder and CEO of Gemma, physical, sorry, physician led platform centered on equity and changing the conversation around women's mental health. So I guess what brought us together today is the launch of your book real self care?

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 0:43
Yes, I am so excited to be here with you, Megan, and to be talking about all things real self care. Yeah.

Megan Gipson 0:50
So when this episode comes out, real self care will be on a shelf, or be able to be delivered to people, I was lucky enough to get an early digital copy of it. But I want you to know, I have a pre order. Ready, because I'm gonna do it again. Read it again. And journal while I do it. Oh, wow. Because there's so many good questions. That it's easy just to be like, oh, yeah, oh, yeah. But I think if I write some of these things down, it'll sort of like, solidify really well, for me. So anyway, my copy is ordered. And there's

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 1:24
also an audio book for people who are not, you know, don't have time to actually sit down and read with the book, I actually narrated the audiobook. So that's almost a little taste of being in in session with me in the office. So that's another option. And that also comes out or will be out on March 14. So there's lots of different ways to get it. Yeah. And I'm really

Megan Lakshmin 1:52
sorry about myself during the pandemic was I learned much better nonfiction books listening. And it was just interesting realization. So maybe I'll have to listen to it also. And one of the things before we start, I just want to tell you, I am thankful for you for rescheduling this conversation. I was super sick. And the night before we were originally supposed to talk. He was like, I can get through it. You know, and I'm like, this is the exact thing, right? It's I was so sick. And even now I have an episode I just recorded because I thought I was feeling better. And I sound pretty yucky. You know? So I wanted one for you to be for to thank you for being gracious about rescheduling. But to it was interesting how some of the work in the book helped me realize like, No, it's okay. You know, it is a inconvenience for people to reschedule. But this is what it is. Yes, yeah. And sort of pushing past that discomfort of like, ooh, messing up people's schedules. And yes, annoying. So it's just kind of an interesting, real, but yeah,

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 3:00
that makes me so happy to know that you were able to read the book, and then start to immediately implement some of the concepts and the ideas and that it was felt accessible to make that new type of choice for yourself, because that's the whole concept of real self care, that it's not about taking a bubble bath, or drinking glass of wine, or, you know, it's actually about the decisions that we make, and how we make our choices and the way that we talk to ourselves, and whether or not we give ourselves permission to actually be human beings that have sick days that sometimes aren't able to keep commitments. And for me, the beauty of it is, you know, when I got that message from you, I was like, of course, like, it's totally fine. You know, I'm a mom, I have a nine month old, I was on antibiotics four times last fall, because he's in daycare. So it's, you know, someone is always perpetually sick. And usually it's me. You know, and so I think it's like, it's, it's like a, you know, I think when you see other people asking for help, or asking for compassion and understanding, it engenders in, in the other person, the feeling of wanting to be understanding, right, but you don't, you don't see that happening unless you take the risk of going outside your comfort zone. So So I'm glad that we were able to, we're able to be here now when we're both healthy and you know, kind of dive in to, to what real self care is, and hopefully provide folks some takeaways that they feel like they can sort of use and start right away.

Megan Lakshmin 4:47
Yeah. And if I'm being honest, I loved your book so much, that I didn't want you to think I was like, a space case because I was so sick. And so that was also part of the decision making. But and because I was so excited and I was like How am I I'm not even gonna be able to show up. So anyway, so one of the things I wanted to talk a little bit about, and it kind of is interesting to me. So I used to end the podcast, with whatever guests I had, you know, sometimes podcasts will ask the last question, that's kind of always the same. And I would ask people, What do you do to take care of yourself. And I have since stopped doing that, because it really brought up a lot in people. And I kind of felt like it was unfair, like, I was thinking of it as a cute little fun. What's the last thing you know, and just kind of seeing what people said probably also trying to get ideas for myself. But it felt like it caught people really off guard. And it's, it's just interesting to me that I've stopped doing that, because I think it's a bigger deal than we sometimes communicate. So I was wondering if you could sort of talk about like, how we see self care out in the world and how it's sort of sold to us and how this book is different from that.

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 5:58
Yes. So in the book, I distinguish between what I call faux self care, versus real self care. And so I use a framework of methods versus principles. So faux self care is a method. So it's taking a bubble bath, it's getting a massage, it's going to a yoga class. And before anybody like asks me for like, trashing yoga, I'm not trashing yoga, like all of those things are great, they're methods, they're tools, they are something that you can do, or something that you can buy. Real Self Care is the internal decision making work, it is an underlying set of principles that can be applied across your whole life, across your career, your professional life, your family life, how you think about your free time. So it's a much bigger concept that can be threaded through every single decision that you make. And so instead of saying that self care is like, I'm going to take 15 minutes out of my day, to meditate. I'm saying that real self care is actually in the entire way that your day is set up. It's in all of the decisions in how you structure your time, and how you think about your energy and how you make choices about what you're going to do and what you're going to prioritize. So I'll give an example that, hopefully will speak to folks that is really common in my practice, and something I struggle with myself. So it's like the woman you know, I specialize in women's mental health. So my practice is all women, the majority of whom are moms, but not all of them. So it's the woman who's who finally kind of works up the nerve to take an afternoon off. And she's so because I did, and she books a massage for herself. And then she spends the whole time in the massage while she's on the massage table, worried about her to do list and worried about everything she needs to get done. And then by the time she gets back to her desk, she feels like she needs to make up for all that loss productivity. So she's like, even more stressed. And so the reason that that happens is because we are employing a method, the massage, but we haven't done the internal work of the principles, setting boundaries, learning self compassion, identifying your values, and then making choices based on those values. And then finally, understanding that actually, this is this is what power is like, this whole process of real self care is how you actually reclaim your power from these toxic systems, whether it's patriarchy, whether it's, you know, white supremacy and racism, whether it is toxic capitalism, you know, there's, there's so many different sort of forces that are conspiring against our mental health, especially as women. So that's all the internal work. So you have to do that, in order to be able to actually receive the massage to actually have the massage. And if you skip all that, then that's when you ended up just kind of on the massage table ruminating and then feeling guilty that you you know, dropped $200 on a massage that's like, didn't have you really feel any better.

Megan Lakshmin 9:21
Yeah, yeah. I had a guest on the show recently who got like almost teary talking about this sort of like false sale of like hope that people will sometimes like whether it's a massage as an example, but like also sort of people who are spiritual leaders or gurus or even mental health professionals that sort of say, I've got the answer for you. Sign up for my course sign up for this and we got you and that it's such a more complicated internal system and I think they are internal work. And I think it can be tough as As a therapist as a provider, because oftentimes people will be wanting that, you know, and it's more complicated than that. It's I wish I wish I could give you here, yes, I have the solution. But the people who are really being honest in the work are, you know, I'm here, and I'll help you work through it. But there's not, you know, this really specific plan that you just have to put a few, you know, bucks into.

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 10:26
Right, right. And that I think that's sort of you know, the reason that I wrote self care, was, I guess, it's coming from my professional expertise as a psychiatrist, as a physician being in this field for almost a decade. But more than that, it was coming from my personal experience of, you know, being somebody in my late 20s, who had sort of followed all the rules in life and was the good Indian girl and became a doctor and went to the Ivy League schools and did you know, kind of checked all the boxes, and then I found myself at 27, or 28, kind of being like, Okay, well, like now I'm allowed to be happy, right? Like, I've done all the things I was supposed to do. And then I was like, Okay, now I can be happy, but I wasn't happy. I didn't know how to be happy, I didn't feel good, I felt really empty. And so I was really angry and sort of, you know, I, I left my marriage, I moved into a commune in San Francisco that was focused on female sexuality. And I pretty soon after that dropped out of my residency, which, you know, my Indian parents were like, super happy about. And, you know, I had been like, I was like valedictorian of my high school class. So like, all my friends were just like, what happened to Pooja and I spent two years with this group. And the reason was like what you were talking about, like, I thought that the answer could come outside of me, I was so angry at modern medicine, you know, because I was, I felt like, as a psychiatrist, I didn't actually have the tools to solve my patient's problems, like I could prescribe medication, I could do psychotherapy, but I couldn't get somebody health insurance, I couldn't get somebody housing, right. And so I was like, Wait a second, like, the world is broken. And like, I thought I was going to be a doctor and really help people. But instead, I feel I feel just as powerless as my patients. So I ran towards sort of like the spiritual world, the wellness, woowoo space, because I was like, oh, you know, that that's where the answer must be. And it turned out that, that no, the answer wasn't there, either. You know, you anytime that you look outside of yourself for a quick solution, you're bound to end up heartbroken, because the reality is that life is hard and complicated. And, you know, and in writing real self care, like it's all, you know, I really wanted to come from a place of compassion. And as a place of like, you know, I've been depressed, I've been anxious. I'm, I take medication, I went back on medication when I was pregnant. You know, I've been through my own psychoanalysis. And I still don't have all the answers, right? And like, I'm still on this journey, too. And every transition that I come up in, in my life, whether it's becoming a mom at almost 39, or being an entrepreneur and founding a company, right, I have to relearn, right? It's not, it's not, there's no just like one solution, and you learn it, and then you're good. It's like, no, it's like, you have to keep teaching yourself. And, like, so much of this is influenced and determined by your life circumstances, how much money you have, what your family support is, like the color of your skin, you know, whether you're cisgendered, or, you know, just sort of like what your status is in our society and how other you are. That plays a role too. And so I really felt like, I wanted to give voice to that truth and not make it seem like it was like some sort of easy thing. And I hope, and I appreciate what you said, because it's also tough when you're, you know, talking about a book and promoting a book, because sometimes people really do want you to give them an answer. And to say, like, well, you know, there's actually like, 20 different answers. Mm hmm. And your your job is to like, figure out which answer works for you. And only you know, that, I don't really know that, you know, I can give you some structure and I can like ask different questions, to help you sort through what's most important and what the factors are, but ultimately, like, you have to be the one to make the change in your life. And that's the hard part.

Megan Lakshmin 14:52
Yeah. And usually something has to give I think, you know, it's like, you might not be able to do all that deep work and key Pick your work schedule going at the same pace and not give up any social time and not give up. I mean, it's I think that that's one of the other false bills sort of is like, this idea that nothing has to give, you know, and that there are going to be sacrifices in figuring out, you know, what, what feels right. And what, what? Well, I'm kind of jumping ahead, but one of the things I love that you talk about, is that piece of social justice and how kind of getting more clear on what is true for you can help you then stand up and, and speak up when it matters, and sort of differentiating when it matters, and not that it usually matters. And can you stand up every single time? No, yeah, yeah. But I love that, that it's all integrated, you know, it all sort of builds on each other. Yeah,

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 15:52
because I think, you know, kind of, traditionally, there's been like this divide between, you know, the world of sort of advocates, and people that are really social justice oriented, that are trying to change all of the collective ways that the world is on fire, and the world is terrible. And then there's like this, like, sort of, like spiritual person, sort of world where it's like, well, no, I'm just gonna do lots of healing for myself, and like, the world is a mess, and I can't cope with it. And so I'm just gonna go over here and make myself better. And so what I'm trying to do with real self care is sort of like bridge that those communities and help people understand that actually, the two are interconnected. And they don't happen in silos. And that the people that I know, that are actually the biggest advocates, and some of the biggest change makers would never really call themselves an advocate, you know, they're just trying to do what's good, and what uplifts their community, in their own family in their own life and their own school, or, you know, just in the place that they live. It's like, again, it sort of all comes back to sort of our relationships and the interconnectedness. And that real self care. So, so many of the thought exercises in the book and like the reflective prompts, are thinking about, like, how you show up in your relationships, and what you're asking for, and how you're navigating your needs and the needs of others. And like you said, it's always going to be a compromise, right? Or there's never a solution. That's like, you're gonna get everything that you want, you know, or that, right? Like, we all live in this incredibly complicated world of interpersonal dynamics. And, you know, as, as you talk about on your show, like, we have these families, right, we're all trying to get our needs met, and how do you balance all of that, so there's always going to be a cost, but feel like I kind of lost my thread there. But the point being that we're all living in community, right? And like the act, the work of healing yourself, and coming from a place of generosity is included in that sort of advocacy work. Like it's all connected.

Megan Lakshmin 18:18
Yeah. One of the things I wanted to kind of go back to is you mentioned how your ability for self care like what that looks like, for you can be different based on patriarchy, capitalism, racism, all of the things that exist in our world. And it was interesting, I was listening to that Huberman lab podcast, do you ever listen to that?

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 18:43
I have not listened to it. But I've heard of it. It's

Megan Lakshmin 18:46
it's pretty interesting. He's it's super science. And it's, but I feel like it's got some good points. But he had Dr. Sarah Godfried on and she was talking about women and hormones and mental health. And she said, he said something to the effect of like, what is one of the biggest things that impacts women and mental health and hormones? And she said, the patriarchy and the comment section of that post around that point, what was so interesting to me, and I'm not usually want to go to the comment section, but I knew there would be some interesting stuff in there, just people's reactions. And to me, that is part of the that the issue, but like, that's part of the recipe, is that Pete There's so much pushback to it. That No, that can't possibly be true. And I think when you say it, I know people, I'm sure people are listening and thinking that, you know, what do you say to people when they when they have that kind of response, or do you get that kind of response?

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 19:51
Um, you know, I, so my whole clinical practice is women. Oh, Um, and so I'm shielded. I'll say I'll, I'm shielded from this a lot, because I'm speaking to people day in and day out that live this. And that understand, you know that childcare is part of mental health, right? Because it is because I see that in my practice all the time when a woman gets a text from her kids school or her daycare saying your kid is sick, and someone needs to come pick him up. It's literally a panic response. Yeah. And I felt that to myself as a mom. So so it's like I live in breed that. So to me, it's like a little bit sort of like, well, that's really isn't that nice that that you live in this world where you don't have to experience this? Like, that's, that's really quaint

Megan Lakshmin 20:50
kind response.

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 20:53
You know, but I do think I wrote a piece for The New York Times last year about my ambivalence about motherhood for so long after I, you know, gone through divorce in my 20s, and my whole history, and also just being a South Asian, second generation woman who the, the, the version of motherhood that was modeled for me was very much martyrdom. And so through my 20s, and my mid early to mid 30s, I was really just like, I don't think that I can do this, like, I don't think I'm going to be happy. And ultimately, I did decide to to pursue motherhood and went through IVF. And so I wrote a piece for The New York Times about how my preparation for becoming a mom was very focused on my own mental health. And I decided to go back on Zoloft. And, you know, we had the resources to pay for a postpartum doula and have night nurse and protect, sleep and do all these things. And in the piece, I talked about how, you know, we hadn't yet decorated the nursery. But all this other stuff was in place for me. And all of that actually was the most important thing. And actually, evidence based, you know, coming from my expertise as a perinatal psychiatrist, sleep protection is an evidence based intervention for, for preventing postpartum depression. And the comments section was scathing, like people were just like, wow, if you need this much help, during pregnancy, like just wait till you become a mom. And you know, if you are going to center yourself, then why are you even why are you even becoming Why are you even having a kid? So to me, that's just another example of how ingrained misogyny, sexism like how much people in America just really fear and are triggered, like when a woman says that she's going to do something for herself and, and really take care of herself.

Megan Lakshmin 22:59
So people warn people not to read the comments section, but I think some of those kinds of reactions are almost like put that in the evidence section. Like this goes in the references of like, this is more evidence that we have an issue, because anger and the cruelty really, is just very much on display. So one more thing on

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 23:23
this sorry that you're now you've kind of sent me off on a rabbit hole. But um, so when I was a resident at GW I, you know, previous to kind of my writing work, I used to be have this whole other academic life that was in global mental health. And so my family is originally from Bangalore, in India. And so I did a research project in Bangalore, where I was studying it was a qualitative study. And we were looking at depression in rural women who lived in the villages outside of the main city. And what we found is that they interpreted their depression within their interpersonal lives. So the way that depression showed up was in feeling unsupported by their partners in feeling like they didn't have help in the household. And the global mental health research actually supports and validates that women who have less support in the home and women who are not given autonomy in their decision making do have higher rates of mental health conditions. And I thought it was so interesting because a lot of what I was hearing from the women in rural Bangalore was so similar to what I was hearing in my clinical practice in Washington DC and DuPont Circle, which some of with some of the, you know, the most highly educated, well resourced women in America. And I mean, I'm not equating the two because obviously people that are living in low and middle income countries have a host of stressors and, you know, a different type of struggle, but I just thought it was, to me like, that's just another example of how women are, wherever you go, women are under this stress, and it shows up, regardless of how much resource you have the kernel, like the volume might be different, right? But like the kernel and the seed of where it comes from is the same.

Megan Lakshmin 25:36
Yeah, yeah, no, that makes so much sense and sort of ties into some of the things I noticed in your, you wrote something about the times during the pandemic, when it's just like, all the lack of support systems come to the surface like that. We depend on women's unpaid labor to take care of things. And I think it just ties into the self care of like, kind of allows for that piece of self compassion, to know that it's not all on you. It's not you just can't get it together. But we're sold this sort of Bill that like I keep saying sold this bill, I don't know what it sounds right. sold, sold this, this idea that that we got this, you know, and like just be resilient, keep working. You got this. And it's sometimes it's like,

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 26:29
no, right, right. No,

Megan Lakshmin 26:33
I don't want to get this not something I'm interested in. And yet, that's sort of what we're set to reach for.

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 26:44
Yeah, yeah. I, I talk about it as betrayal, not burnout. So when we conceptualize this as burnout, it puts the onus of change on the individual, as opposed to looking closely at the social structures and the system, whether it is talking about affordable health care, or whether it's talking about paid parental leave, or reliable, affordable childcare, right? All these different social structures, instead of really looking at how do we build those up, we end up blaming ourselves. So So yeah, that's really kind of like the ethos of real self care is understanding that it isn't your fault that you feel this way. You're, you're swimming upstream. So that's why it feels so hard. And the solution is actually taking your power back. And like taking your agency back and thinking differently about how you protect your time, protect your energy and making different choices for yourself, so that you can actually be living a life that feels aligned with what you really want, as opposed to just constantly feeling like you're

Megan Lakshmin 28:11
drowning. Yeah, yeah. One of the things that stood out to me was how you talk about in learning to set boundaries, which boundaries, I didn't even learn that word until I was like, maybe in my 20s, I was like, I don't understand, I thought we all just kind of melt into each other and flop and like melted crayons, you know. So boundaries, differentiating yourself from someone else and what you need. One of the things that was really helpful was when you talk about learning to push past the guilt, because I think for a long time, I thought that if it didn't feel good, then it was like, maybe not right, you know, that I shouldn't be doing this. But that guilt, and sort of, I don't know it almost the way you describe it almost makes me think of like, it's like getting that muscle stronger, you know, to be able to bear doing it. I don't know. Can you talk a little bit more

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 29:02
about Yeah, yeah. I'm glad that you brought that up. Because I think guilt is sort of the number one issue that gets in the way for women when it comes to boundaries. And so I conceptualize guilts as essentially like, background noise. So I think of it like a faulty check engine light, like it's like the check engine light that's just like always blinking. But you know that there's nothing wrong. It's just there, you can't figure out how to get it to turn off. So guilt doesn't ever give us any meaningful information. It's always there, no matter what choice you make, no matter what direction you go in. So my solution to this is you shouldn't try to stop feeling guilty. Because if you base your decision making compass on not feeling guilty, then you're going to just get completely lost. You're gonna get so far away from what you wrote. really wants. So instead, we need to think about just turning the volume down on the guilt. And just being okay with letting it be there. But you don't have to listen to it. It's almost like it's sort of like a flyer that you can swat away, but it's not providing any valuable, meaningful information. The guilt doesn't have to be your moral compass. And this, like my framing of it builds on the work of Martha Beck, who is a sociologist, and, you know, became famous for being Oprah's life coach. Her work is awesome one of her first, but I think it might be in her first book, it's called breaking point why women fall apart. And she actually wrote a beautiful blurb for real self care. She talks about this from a sociological standpoint, in that in terms of culture, and how our culture is always putting these contradictory expectations on women. So on one hand, you're supposed to have like this Pinterest, Pinterest, perfect house that's perfectly decorated. And these gorgeous children that are wearing white and totally clean, right at all times, and like make the cupcakes for school. But then on the other hand, you're supposed to also be succeeding in the workplace, and like getting a raise every year and climbing the corporate ladder. But and

Megan Lakshmin 31:22
staying humble at the same time, being humble

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 31:24
at the same time, and being right, and being super generous and helping every other woman come up along the way. And, and you can't actually follow all these rules at the same time, because some of them are contradictory. So as women, we see that happening, and it's very confusing, right, and it's contradictory. So we internalize those contradictions, and then we make ourselves the bad guy. And that's where the guilt comes from. The guilt is actually a symptom of those toxic narratives and those contradictory expectations. It's not actually yours, the guilt isn't yours. It's like you're getting it from the outside. So, you know, I think that, again, like, I think it's disingenuous to tell women, well, you can just think it's disingenuous to say that the guilt can go away, because it won't, because this is our society that we live in, right. So you have to understand that it can be there, you can turn down the volume, you don't have to listen to it. You can use, you know, in going through with real self care, kind of, we say, like, instead of looking at the guilt, it's like, get a closer read on your own values, and what's really important to you, and then use that as your compass, as opposed to paying so much attention to the guilt and giving the guilt so much oxygen.

Megan Lakshmin 32:49
Yeah. And I think it can become almost a habit. You know, like, if you're not aware of the guilt popping up, once I started to notice it a little more. It's almost like you can you can note, like you said, the check engine light. Oh, that's right. There's no problem. There's just something wrong with the check engine light, you know, yeah, we're aware I am a bit, the more I feel like I can push through it. But often, or historically, let's say it's kind of been an autopilot thing. So I love them. Bring it up, just to say like, check in on that. Yeah. See what that's about?

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 33:25
Yeah. And I think and, you know, I liked what you said earlier, and I talked about it this way in the book, too, that it's like a muscle that you have to start building. Like in the beginning, it's gonna feel really uncomfortable. You're gonna feel selfish, you're gonna feel terrible, you're going to be nauseous. Right? Like, that's to be expected. And as you practice more than it starts to feel less,

Megan Lakshmin 33:46
less scary. Yeah. Well, and sort of what one thing you mentioned before, is I think we don't have a lot of generational examples of some of this. And that's hard to is that we don't, you know, I think, prior generation two generations ago, looked so different in terms of what what was allowed for women to do in terms of boundary setting, or, and of course, there were people that, you know, went off the map for that. But I think in some ways, we just don't have that mentorship all the time of what would that look like? So it makes sense. It's a little

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 34:21
hard. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And I think that's like a big piece with real self care, especially as we kind of talk about power and sort of like as you learn these skills, and as you start to reorient your decision making, when you feel like you're coming from a more of a solid place, then like, how do you give that to the younger women in your life? How do you give that to the next generation? Although I will say that I think Gen Z is really great at boundaries and talking and thinking about mental health. So there's also learning that happens on the other side,

Megan Gipson 34:56
too. Yes. I'm learning greater A lot of things. I'm like, I just don't know what that word means, if you could tell me.

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 35:05
Yeah. So I think there's also like there's a you use that word humble earlier, I do think there's like a humbleness to the real self care process where it's like, thinking of it as a learning process. And like, not that these are just like skills that you know, memorize, and then you are just like regurgitating but more than it's like an evolving process, as you're navigating different seasons of your life as well. I know for me, and I write about this a little bit in the book of like, this new season of motherhood and kind of acknowledging that I've been able to achieve so much professional success up until this point, because I wasn't a parent yet. And like, I didn't have to deal with the demands of parenting and the unpredictability of parenting. And now that I'm in this season, I, I'm humbled by it, you know, I've had to cancel patients. Like, well, I've had to cancel more patients in the past six months. Because of being sick from daycare than I ever had in my career, you know, and it, it was really hard for me, um, and, but I think I was able to, at least most of the time, be compassionate with myself. And yeah, it's like, I think there's just like, with every kind of like new phase or transition, and you know, whether it's like taking care of older aging parents, dealing with illness, right, like, there's just so many ways are having a kid that's struggling, and like, kind of navigating the balance of like taking care of your own mental health, while also trying to parents, a kid that has mental health struggles, like, there's just so many unique situations that can kind of turn up.

Megan Lakshmin 36:51
Yeah. Well, I am just curious, I feel like we've covered a lot, and I'm so excited to get my hardcover of your book. Is there anything that you were hoping I would ask you about or that we would talk about that we haven't covered?

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 37:07
Um, I'm trying to think I feel like we have covered a lot of ground. Um, I think

Megan Lakshmin 37:20
I'm just taking a minute

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 37:21
to sort of think through if there's any big pieces, I think one of the concepts that, you know, I think self compassion is something that is tough. And, you know, I always sort of rolled my eyes at self compassion, especially, you know, if you're somebody who's sort of high achieving type A, there's a way that compatibilism can feel. Not that we would know anybody like,

Megan Lakshmin 37:44
Oh, my friend, yeah,

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 37:46
right, like, right, right. Use a way that like self compassion just sort of feels like it's like letting yourself off the hook. Like it feels sort of weak. Um, and in the book, I referenced the work of Dr. Kristin Neff, who's also an ASA fellow Austen person. And she's kind of like the foremost researcher on self compassion. And I love how she frames it as along the lines of psychological flexibility, which is kind of a framework that I use in the book pretty often. So instead of thinking of self compassion as like, Oh, I'm just gonna, like, use this mantra, or I'm gonna, like, you know, kind of, like, recite these affirmations. Instead, it's about the conversation that you're having with yourself, and really sort of opening up a new line of dialogue. So when you have that sort of narrative of like, well, I'm just not doing enough. I'm a bad mom, I don't have it together, things are a mess. You're just kind of like questioning like, oh, well, that's interesting that I'm like talking to myself like that, again, you know, like, where did that come from? Paying attention to like, the patterns of when it pops up, and allowing yourself to question sort of those automatic thoughts. And that inner critic, think that's another space where I think like, sort of reframing all of this can be helpful, especially when it comes to women and parenting and sort of family life. So yeah, that's kind of maybe the only piece that we didn't touch on. But um,

Megan Lakshmin 39:34
one of the things I love in your book is you give little snippets or little outtakes, where you explain a concept and then you say, like, you might be one of these people, if you know, and I feel like that would be a good one. If you roll your eyes itself. You probably don't have self compassion are helpful though, because sometimes I would read the principles and then you'd give examples and I'd be like, Ooh, that sounds like me. Kind of encourages me to look back again and see like look a little bit further. But yeah,

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 40:05
yeah, it is. It's nice. And I also got to make a little quiz. So I made a quiz in the book that called the real self care thermometer. And it's sort of kind of to assess your real self care level. And that was fun for me, because I was sort of taking myself back to like, my teenage years when I was reading Cosmo. And, you know, you could check off a little boxes, but it's more about boundaries, and sort of like imagining these different scenarios, like, oh, you know, you're on vacation, and you get a text from your boss, just as you're about to like, step into a yoga class, and what do you do? So that was a it was actually really fun doing that, because it was like, as I was writing, because, um, you know, for me with writing the book, I was sort of like, well, how do I take what I do one on one in my practice, and like, make it into something that is that you can engage with? Yeah, book form. So hopefully, it sounds like that, that came through. So I'm excited to see how people interpret it and like what they take away, because that's the other thing too, I think every person brings a completely different lens to all this work, and you never know, what what's gonna resonate? And what will really stick with one person versus another. So I'm excited for

Megan Lakshmin 41:20
that. Well, I'm excited to follow your journey, because I think it you do an incredible job of articulating things that are very hard to articulate, because I read some other things. And I was like, That's it. You know what I mean? Like, if you just put it in words that kind of make it more concrete, and it's like something that you kind of have a fuzzy inclination about sometimes, but that it's it just you communicate it very well. So I think it'll be a fun journey for you to see where this lands.

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 41:51
Well, I really appreciate that. It's a thank you. Thank you.

Megan Lakshmin 42:00
So where can people find out more about you and learn more about you get your book all the good things?

Dr Pooja Lakshmin 42:05
Yeah, so I so the book is called real self care. A transformative program for redefining wellness crystals cleanses and bubble baths not included. You can get it in all the places that you would buy a book so Amazon bookshop, all the places, and it's a hardcover and ebook and then also there's the audio book that I narrated as well. And then my women's mental health community is called Gemma G. MMA. Our website is Gemma women. And I built this community with two of my physician colleagues, and it's a place where you can interact with other women's mental health experts. We have a membership, we have courses, WhatsApp threads, for all different stages of life. So it's not just for parenting but kind of across the whole spectrum on and I'm on Instagram at Pooja Luxman and I'm really excited to to hear what you think. If you read the book or you know, read any of my work or come to Gemma, I would love to hear from folks and again, it's just been really a pleasure to have this conversation with you.

Megan Lakshmin 43:13
Likewise, thank you so much.

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