Episode #110: [Interview] How to Feel Fulfilled with Dr. Sarah Smith

May 14, 2024






In this episode of the Unstoppable Mom Brain podcast, I’m sharing my journey from feeling overwhelmed to finding balance and fulfillment in my career as a physician. Joined by Dr. Sarah Smith, we delve into the mindset shifts necessary for personal growth and professional success. I reflect on my struggles with academic pressure and self-doubt, my path to discovering a passion for obstetrics and gynecology, and the transformative process of unlearning old habits to embrace new approaches to studying and working.

Sarah Smith is the Charting Coach for Physicians and clinicians and a practicing Rural Family Physician in Alberta. Sarah is the founder of the Charting Champions Program helping more than 150 Physicians in the specific area of getting home with their charting done. 

She has a passion for reducing burnout and overwhelm resulting from the administrative burden of clinical medicine. Using evidence-based coaching to help Physicians find their most simple solutions within the clinical environments that they work in.  

Sarah is married to her husband of 21 years and has two sons and lives on her small farm. Evenings and weekends are for enjoying pursuits such as farming, exploring, reading and coaching. 


Sarah’s Links:

Website: www.chartingcoach.ca

Podcast: Sustainable Clinical Medicine

IG: https://www.instagram.com/thechartingcoach/ 

LinkedIn: Sarah Smith

If this podcast resonates with you, get my Free 5 Minutes Per Day Weight Loss Mini-Course over at: https://www.theunstoppablemombrain.com/email 



What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • My personal journey from feeling overwhelmed to finding fulfillment in her career as a physician.
  • The importance of storytelling in inspiring others and planting seeds of possibility.
  • My experience with academic struggles and the pressure to pursue a career in medicine and how I discovered my passion for becoming an OBGYN.
  • The concept of the "boardroom of emotions" and reshuffling the seats to prioritize feelings of satisfaction, sufficiency, and contentment.
  • How to navigate away from pressure and worry towards confidence and calmness in work habits.


Listen to the Full Episode:



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Featured on the Show:


Download the full transcript here.


  • Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Hey, this is Dr. Priyanka Venugopal. And you're listening to the Unstoppable Mom Brain podcast, how I created career fulfillment and went from feeling overwhelmed to feeling a lot more balanced in my life. I am sharing a podcast conversation that I had over on my friend, Dr. Sarah Smith's podcast on the Charting Coach podcast, where she interviewed me on a lot of the practices that I employed as I navigated my personal journey as a physician, I shared a lot of my clinical journey in a way that I have not really shared on this podcast. And I thought that it was such a good episode that really talked about a lot of the mindset shifts that I had to have to create a lot more fulfillment, to fall in love with learning again, when I was navigating sitting for oral board exams to take the dread out of a lot of parts of my life as a physician that I wanted to bring that podcast episode here and Sarah graciously agreed to let me air this podcast here. So this podcast episode is from the lens of Dr. Sarah Smith interviewing me and truly it is such a good conversation and a lot of my journey that I think will resonate with so many of you. This conversation is for you, whether or not you're a physician. A lot of the principles that I touch on in terms of how I found fulfillment for myself, how I started to fall in love with the processes of the things that I was doing is what led me to get out of overwhelm. I think will translate to any professional working mom in any industry. And I really hope that you enjoyed this conversation. So without further ado, let's get into this conversation that we originally had over on Sarah's podcast. And I'm so glad to bring it to you here. If you want to reach your ideal weight and create lightness for your body. You need to have simplicity, joy, and strategic decisions infused into your life. I'm a physician turned life and weight loss coach for ambitious working moms. I've lost over 60 pounds without counting points, calories, or crazy exercise plans. Most importantly, I feel calm and light on the scale and in my life. There's some delicious magic when you learn this work and the skills I'm going to be teaching you. Ready? Let's get to it. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Hello. Hello. And welcome back everybody. So we have with us Dr. Priyanka Venugopal, who is going to talk to us about all the things about her medical journey and some of the things she's doing now for our physician and clinician community. So welcome. I'll let you introduce yourself to us.

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Thank you so much, Sarah. I am so excited to be here. First of all, I just want to say thank you. I think that we've talked about this before and offline. I think sharing stories around our personal experiences, particularly as physician women, is so incredibly important because we get to plant the seed of what's possible when we're sharing stories. You're not alone if it feels hard at times. I think storytelling is just The best way of doing that. So thank you for having me on your podcast. I love being here a little bit about me. So my name is Priyanka. I am a board certified OBGYN physician, and I'm no longer in clinical practice, which we'll get to if we get to. I think, you know, the journey, the part of my journey that I really wanted to share on here is my journey to becoming a physician. And really a lot of the hardships that I faced in my young adult life. And, you know, I, I was not ever one of those kids. I'm, I'm sure that maybe some of your listeners can maybe relate. I was not one of those kids that was just a natural, a natural in the classroom, like getting the A's just, you know, A's did not fall into my lap. Let's just say the A did not fall into my lap. They did at one point, I think when I was like five or six or seven, like in elementary school, I was the straight A kid that Always got the A and that was when I developed this identity around really feeling proud and accomplished and good about myself. When I got the a, that identity started at a really young age. But unfortunately for me, the A's did not keep falling into my lap. And it starting as early as middle school and definitely high school, where I just was like, this is hard for me. And I started to really bring along, I think of this as like a little backpack of emotions, I think pressure and inadequacy were my ride or die. Friends at that time of my life, which really pushed me to work really hard to kind of put my head down. I had a lot of comparison, like I would compare myself to my friends and peers who seem to have the A's fall into their lap and what that would mean about me. And yeah, I really had a lot of pressure and worry driving me in my young adult life. And. That is really how I got through high school and then into college and I got through college and then into medical school and, and it's a journey that, you know, I, I look back on now, I have no regrets because I think that I had to go through that journey the way that I did. I also have so much love for my young self holding this really heavy backpack. I have so much tenderness and love for her. And also I think that. There comes a point along the way as when we go from child to adult, that we have to know the skills of how to reassess our backpacks. And so that's kind of what I wanted to talk about today. I think that's kind of part of my journey. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Yeah, nice. I like that. I identify with the, it comes easy for a while, but we then run out of smarts. And I think Carol Dweck has a great book on that, which I think if I had understood that earlier years may have been just so much easier that that change mindset of a growth mindset. She talks about there about the, we run out of smarts, so then we have to put in the effort and we should be proud of our effort rather than just relying on our smarts. So, super important that you identified that. So tell us what happened next. 

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Yeah. So I think I would say that I never really should have gone to medical school to be I'm not perfectly frank and honest. I don't think that I basically chose medicine because it felt like the right thing to do the way that I was raised. My parents were very focused on me having a professional degree. And they didn't necessarily push me for medicine specifically, but it was like be a doctor, be a lawyer or go be an engineer.

    It was like one of these three pathways. And. I, I think because as a young person, I just respected them so much and, you know, we respect the big people in our life. We don't think, we don't really think to challenge what they think. I, in my mind was like, I guess that's, those are the three options. And I didn't really explore in my young adult life in high school or college, I didn't really explore much. Between undergrad and medical school, I did work at the NIH for a few years where I was trying to decide, do I want to actually do medicine or maybe. get a PhD, maybe go into research. And it was one of those things where I just felt so bored. I'm sorry to everyone that does their research. I love you all so much. And I'm so grateful to you. I just couldn't do bench research. I did it for a little while. I felt so bored. And then I was like, I guess. I guess medical school, I guess that's what it is. And so I applied to medical school. My husband at the time, we got married during this time in between undergrad and medical school. And he got a job out in San Francisco in California. So I was like, okay, I guess that's, that's where we're going. We're going to California. I applied to medical school and in medical school, I think that I would say it was in the middle of the pack. In terms of the natural smarts and the efforts that I had to put in, I could feel like now everyone was having to put the effort in. Whereas in high school and college, it felt like some people just naturally got it easy. I think in medical school, everyone was like, whoa, okay, we all have to work a little bit. And there were those people in the class that of course, were just really, really, really, um, brilliant at, at medical school, but that was not me. And I think that that was where I just started to learn if I pressure myself a lot. If I tell myself you have to buckle down, I would get results. So it, it was a strategy that worked in my young, young adult life. It started to work in medical school. I got through medical school. And again, because I didn't ever feel called into any one profession, I did not know what I was going to do until third year when we do our clinical rotations. I started my OBGYN rotation. Oh, Sarah, day one. Okay. Day one, it was like the universe came together and said, Priyanka, you have been confused forever, but here's a gift. I just, it was everything that I wanted. Everything that I wanted. I felt my heart sink. It was women's health. It was emergency care. It was long term health. It was preventative. It was everything. It's a little bit of everything all rolled up into one field of a surgery. I mean, I remember I called my husband that night and I said, I think I know what I want to do. I want to become an OBGYN. And he was like, seriously, of all of the things, this is what you pick but he never heard me be passionate really about, cause I had been kind of floating along and I am so grateful to him because. He said, I've never heard you sound like this about anything. You have to do it. And that was when I really went on a mission. I felt all of a sudden this passion uptick around. I don't just need to study to pass the, to get through medical school.

    I want to get into an OBGYN residency. And that was when I felt this drive and this desire to lean into. And my education lean into rotations. Where do I want to do my sub eyes? Where do I want to really start thinking about my future from a totally different place than pressure. And that was a lovely experience for me. I did rotations all over the place. And I ended up of course, then in an OBGYN residency in New Jersey. And I think that that was when I just learned the value of hard work. I don't think that residency was a place where, I mean, smarts mattered, but really working hard and learning discipline and just focus and how to operate in a way when, even if you don't have a lot of rest, became really valuable. But I think that was when I had to do the most unlearning and relearning was during residency and then definitely into attending life. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Tell us about the unlearning. What does that look like? 

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Yeah. So this was for OBGYN oral board exams. I, oral board exams were one of those things. It was like the little monster in the closet that you hear about as an intern. You see the seniors all studying for their board exams. And it was just this thing that you feel a little bit scared about. And then as the, the, the year comes closer and closer, it becomes bigger and bigger, but you get closer and closer to it. And for a very long time, I. went back to my familiar pressure, the pressure feeling of how to study. That's how I got through high school, college and medical school was with pressure. And I tried to use that approach with studying for oral boards. And it did not work because now I was at a state where I was Working full time over more than right as residents, we were working more than full time, and I didn't have the spaciousness in my calendar to just sit and study. What would end up happening is I would print out the year, like a calendar for the whole year, and I would write out all the chapters. It felt really good. By the way, I love the planning. I have all the highlighters. I have all these, like, you know, all these, like markers, all the markers, all the planners. It felt really good for the hour that I plan out my whole year. And it would work for maybe a week. I'm reading all the chapters of practice bulletins. And then after a week, maybe it'd be like a Friday night where I've stacked three articles on a Friday night. I purposely chose three articles on a Friday night and Friday night would come along and I put, I just deserve a break. I've been working so hard. I have a very convincing compelling story that I need a break. I'll get to this tomorrow. And, you know what, I'll just, I'll take these three articles and I'll space them out, so I'll just do one extra on Saturday, and one extra on Sunday, and one extra on Monday. So that way I can just have a break, I can just take Friday off and enjoy a movie with my husband, and relax. And then Saturday would come around, and I would see now the pile that I have in front of me. The bear has gotten a little bit bigger and the mountain that was already a mountain has one more article piled on top. And I was like, you know what, let's just, oh, it is Saturday after all. And, you know, we do want to be healthy and get outside again. Another very convincing source. I would put Saturday off and all of a sudden what would happen is my pile would move to the next day to the point where I couldn't sustain the mountain anymore. And rather than really evaluating my process, which is the journey that I had to go on. The relearning that I had to do, the unlearning that I had to do was I would print out a brand new calendar. I just like forget the whole thing. I would print out a brand new calendar for the whole year and redo all the chapters. And it got to the point where my husband, every, few weeks, you'd see the, you would see the printer going with like, you know, the monthly calendar getting printed. He's like, oh, we're doing another, doing another calendar, huh. And he just knew it's not going to work. And so the unlearning that I had to do was, the feeling that I was using to drive my studying was pressure. And I lost months of time. In this where I would even open the book, but because I felt so much pressure, my, I wasn't actually focusing. I would read a sentence, but it wouldn't land. And so then I'm now rereading the sentence. You know how much time I probably, in your words, I'm thinking of you. I did this work for time. I read the chapter instead of reading it once and letting it sink in and like understanding and knowing the material and then taking it out into the world. I had to read the chapter four times. Not only did I read it four times, I would then get to the exam and be like, I, what did I And read. What was that again? So the unlearning that I had to do, and I had to go through this experience. I think if somebody had told me, Priyanka, you can't use pressure to study. I would have probably rolled my eyes at them, maybe, you know, laughed at them. You know, there would have been a little bit of like a, you don't know what you're talking about experience because I didn't have a better alternative. I had spent so much of my life. And I remember I had this, it was like a lot of pressure for me to feel accomplished and proud and to fulfill any feelings of inadequacy that it was a very habitual feeling a very practiced feeling that did get results for me in my young adult life.

    It just was not working for oral boards. And I remember I had this, it was like, You know, one of those pow wow talks you have with your besties where we, we all, we all cry. We have a good cry. I was talking to my best friend, Ruth. She was my chief as, as an OBGYN and she'd already gone through the experience. And she said to me, Priyanka, why are you doing any of this? My husband asked me the same question. He's like, you don't even have to be board certified. I was like, what are you, what do you mean? We need to have all the degrees. We have to have all the certifications. There's like, that's not even a thing. He's like, actually, no, you don't. So my husband, who's not in medicine, and my best friend, who is a board certified OBGYN, is like, why are you even bothering with this? And that question, when I dropped my defensiveness around the question even being asked, it led me to tap into why was it that I wanted to do this? And that led me to tap into the feeling of passion that I was talking about when I discovered OBGYN residency. I was like, wait a second, I actually want to be the best physician that I can be. I want to be that person that just knows all of the things. I want to be the person that can just spit out the facts. Why? Because what if that was just so, could be so fun for me? And all of a sudden, I started to feel this desire to study. I want to be that person that can just spit out the facts. In a way, this might sound crazy, especially if you've been with pressure your whole life, but I felt like, ooh, what am I going to learn today from this practice bulletin? And all of a sudden, the way that I was focusing on the article or focusing on the chapter, I got to read it once because I was reading it in a way that was like, Oh, what am I going to get out of this? What am I going to learn? Wait, that, that study applied to that group. Wait, that doesn't apply to that people. And I'm thinking about my real life patients. I'm thinking about how this is going to apply to me next year. And it just changed how I started showing up in my study experience, which then also started changing how I showed up as a physician, which I mean, to me, that was. It was a game changer. I would say it was like one of those game changing moments you have in your life where you take a 1 percent shift. You know, you're on a totally different trajectory. You're going to end up in a totally different place. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Yeah. That's very, very fun. Yeah. And the fun way of doing it. Yeah. We found the way that was impactful for you, the way your brain was going to remember it. You're starting to link it to the types of patients you've seen and how this could be useful to you later. And that's going to recall a lot faster in an exam situation. But then even the questions you're asking, right? What am I going to learn from this bulletin that's useful to me and my patients rather than I got to get through this bulletin and the next three journal articles and this chapter tonight?


    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Absolutely. And, you know, Sarah, what you're talking about is the difference between saying I have to do something versus. Why might I want to do something? And I think, and I keep thinking about your example with the superhighway. You know, we have these superhighway thoughts. It's like we've created these habits in our mind, and I have to has become a habitual thought, especially if you're a high achieving physician, you're a professional woman. It's become one of those thoughts that we, we just, we've stopped challenging. We say it like it's the news. I just, I have to. And I think that that's one of those thoughts that will hold you hostage for a lifetime. And I can, when I reflect back, I can see how it held me hostage in my young, in my youth. I, I don't even have any memories really from high school and college. I don't even remember it very much because I think I had so many thoughts that created pressure and worry and, you know, fear of failure and, and those thoughts will hold us hostage. So I think it's important to at least see them. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Yeah. I'm thinking of my group who have a big backlog and they're looking at this mountain, just moving the mountain forward with that pressure and negotiation, like you were talking about it's Friday night. I need a day off. It's Saturday. No, I don't want to do all of the things and that pressure of, but I have to, and I will delay joy and I will delay, you know, time with my family and I will delay. Fun for the pressure of this, this insurmountable mountain in front of me. And I just find that even the question of why would I want to do this and what else is possible about this, we wouldn't even consider if we have the, I have to do this, it just kind of shuts the door on possibility of thinking about anything in a different way.

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Oh, absolutely. And even, I think the other point, point to highlight with this idea of pushing the mountain off to later. I, I teach this concept, I call it the 3C concept. Basically, we're very practiced. It's normal if you do this, you're not alone, we all do this. We tell ourselves very convincing, compelling, and convenient stories to take us out of Putting effort in now, and it's normal because our brain is designed to not expend effort and energy. So I think what we have done, however, is we have tried to gimmick our way out of that by planning. So we will spend a lot of time planning about the work and planning to do the work of the mountain and planning the schedule. And, and even I want, you know, if anyone's listening to this, you can even think about how much time do you spend thinking about the work, just like the thinking around it, the rumination, the in your mind, going over all the scenarios, you're thinking about the meeting tomorrow, you're thinking about the meeting yesterday. So our mind has come up with very brilliant tactics to convince us that we are putting a lot of work in when in fact it is our just, it's our convenient way of being comfortable. So planning and thinking about the work is way more comfortable than actually doing the work, opening up the book, looking at the mountain of charts and just like picking the first one up. up off the table. And I think it's so important to start becoming aware. Am I choosing a convenient story that is, feels like work and effort, but really it's my land of familiarity versus what would it, what's in the way of me just picking that first chart up or opening the textbook to just make a dent in the mountain?

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Yes. See, we have all this pressure and you're reading that sentence over and over again, and you're not really, you're kind of spinning in that overwhelm of I've got so much to do tonight, or I'm, I just have to knuckle down and get this done, that pressure, and it's not allowing you to stay present to the activity that you're doing, what do you think it is? The shift is when we're getting the work done and it feels like that isn't so hard. That wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Oh, I'm done. Like, what do you think that shift was for you personally, that would bring you out of that overwhelm of rereading, rereading pressure and kind of shifted you into your new way?


    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Yeah, so I think that for me, this, this happened, I think, probably subconsciously or inadvertently as I was studying for board exams, it definitely happened for me in my weight loss journey. That was when I really noticed the difference, but I, I realized that I was on this perpetual chase. So even after I passed board exams, it turned out that the pressure didn't go away. You know, even once I graduated residency and became an attending, it turns out that the depression worry wasn't going away. So I started to realize every time I hit a mile marker, that feeling is not going away. And you know, if we keep, keep that kind of way of thinking, we are on this perpetual chase for a feeling. So I think the the most valuable thing that I had to kind of go through and what I think. We all, we all need to kind of ask ourselves is what is it that I have been wanting to feel if, if I, and I, and I think about these as I call it the boardroom of emotions. So pressure and worry and, you know, shame, even blame, criticism, fear. These are all members of our boardroom. They're not bad feelings. They're just members of our boardroom. They might not be the most valuable players. But they all have a role in the ecosystem of our life. And I think when we ask ourselves, what is it, if, if pressure has been driving me, like you have to do this, or you better not mess up, or I can't believe you made a mistake, you went off track, what is it that. If I followed the thread of that, what is it that I'm hoping to feel? What am I hoping to, why is that feeling here? What is it trying to tell me? And if I played that out both with my work life, absolutely with me losing the weight I wanted to lose, but how I wanted to show up as a mom, the way that I wanted to feel was satisfied. I just wanted to feel satisfied. Proud. Sufficient. Content. So I started to ask myself, if I don't want to be on the perpetual chase anymore of feeling those emotions, because it turns out I got board certified, graduated med school, I became an attending, I have these two kids, turns out I'm not feeling the feelings that I thought I was going to feel, what would it be like for me to start feeling those emotions in the, in the work? In the process of hitting goals and this required, I mean, this is where I think coaching was so valuable and so important to parse apart, separating the difference between hitting goals and feeling good about yourself, feeling proud and satisfied and sufficient. And I think that that is the work of a lifetime. How can I create a feeling of satisfaction and sufficiency in the work in taking this chart off the mountain, you know, Opening the textbook in me doing this project that I've been putting out. But what I have to believe about myself and this work in front of me right now in the messy work, messy implementation that would create a feeling of satisfaction, pride. And it turns out, I think when, you know, when we start to practice this, and this is, this is a skill you practice, it's not going to happen overnight. When you practice the skill, you start. dropping fatigue from your work life. You stop because now you're not carrying this heavy backpack with dumbbell, you know, with, with the pressure and the worry weighing you down. They might be there because they're members of your boardroom. They don't have the mic anymore. They're not holding the mic. You know, in, in how you're running your life. And I think that that, again, I think that's something that just takes, it takes a practice and an awareness as well. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Nice. I like that. All right. So we're going to invite satisfied, sufficient and content to come along to this board meeting too. Oh, yeah. I like that. I think that's fun because you're right. I think we're giving the mic to something that we've given it to. Too much, too well practiced, he's got center stage, he's taken over the meetings, he turns up and says we need this planned out and beautiful and perfect and it must be done this way and if it's not done that way, it's, you know, the whole thing has to be redesigned and saying, no, no, how can we take the pressure off a little bit? How can we have a bit more fun here? How can we start to bring in those little glimpses of good job? 

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Right. And it's, and this is not to say, I think this is very different than platitudes and just telling yourself positive thoughts. That's not what I'm talking about. I think this is like, so to use our boardroom example, you know, if we, if you took a school bus when you were a child, or maybe if you remember, like in your youngest years, when you would come into the classroom, you, and you did not have assigned seats, you might've found yourself sitting in the same seat day after day, or a similar seat on the bus. If you were not assigned the seat, you would just. fall into the same spot, sit at the same place in the lunchroom. So just like we have developed these shortcuts, our brain has done this brilliantly to avoid decision making all the time. It's so normal that we've done this just like that. We have, you know, feelings like pressure and worry and inadequacy and fear and nervousness and doubt. These emotions have simply for many years, and maybe decades for some of us have gotten very used to being. The front and center of our boardroom. So they've just, it's like we walk into the meeting and how we're going to run our life. And these meetings, these emotions walk on in, they're not even thinking twice about it. Everybody just takes their place without thinking about it. So what we're talking about is we don't want to make ourselves wrong. We don't need to blame our blame or judge our judgments and, you know, put pressure on top of our pressure just to simply hold. You know, with, with the gentleness and with maybe with some compassion that, Oh, my child self, my youngest self put these emotions without realizing it at the front of the room. And we're going to come in now as the CEO and be like, Hey guys, love you all so much. Thanks for participating. We're going to shuffle some seats around. And all that we're saying is we're not trying to necessarily take the mic away from doubt or worry or pressure, because again, they're valuable. They're just signaling to us that something matters to us. But our question is, how do we want to respond? So now when pressure might say to me, you have to get this done, or if blame is like, you shouldn't have made that mistake, I can't believe you did that, or you're getting so far behind. Me cheerleadering myself in the moment is, is actually an act of me ignoring a very valuable member of the boardroom. So I think a way more valuable strategy here which is, who would I want to be making this decision. Is it sufficiency? Is it calm? Is it grounded? Is it confidence? What is the emotion that I want to be living in? How would that emotion respond to the other member of the boardroom? So we're not gonna just be like, hey, shut up, doubt, or like, go away, worry. It's like, oh, I totally get that. That you're feeling this way. I totally understand your, your perspective. And also, I have some really good ideas. And really having a dialogue with these other parts of us in a way that will start to navigate away from worry and now confidence or calm or sufficient starts to hold a mic more, you start creating new work habits.

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Mm. It changes the whole dynamics in there. Right. It's not denying those automated responses or those well practiced responses, because if we just simply think that they're wrong, we're not going to believe ourselves. 

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Absolutely. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Because we're going to think it's important and it has to be done. And how can we do it in a way that may be a little lighter, a bit easier, or maybe can also give us a bit of time this weekend to not just fill up the entire space.

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Right. And I think it's important to, you know, when we cheerleader ourselves, you know, like, and I've, and I'm, I'm very guilty of this with my, with my son, who's now eight. If he used to, when he was younger, he would come home and maybe he had an incident come up with him at school or maybe with a friend, I'd be like, Oh, that, don't worry. You know, you've got this. And we, we do these. Very well, meaning because because we want our Children to not feel disappointed or discouraged or upset about something, but we sometimes invalidate their very normal emotions. And I think that we do this with ourselves as well. If we cheerleader ourselves without giving some significance to the fact that you know, the pressure or the worry while it's not the most valuable player in the room has had a role is just trying to share with us. Okay. We care about this. That's all we care about this and also maybe it's not the most valuable member that's going to come with a strategy on how to make it happen. And I think we only can do this when we know how to take objective inventory of the past. If I really look at the past, what did pressure actually create? I ruminated, I second guessed, I made a plan, then I would make a plan again, I would succumb under the pressure, I would throw away the whole thing. If I really took pressure or worry or inadequacy down the line, what did it actually create? It didn't actually create what we wanted it to create. Noted. Least valuable player. Not the worst, just not very helpful in the life that I'm trying to create for myself. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Yeah. Just the noisiest one. 

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: That's it. That's it. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Super helpful. Okay. All right. So it's a team member that does all the worrying, but none of the work. Yeah. Exactly. So fun. This is great. This is great. Okay. All right. So we get through boards. 

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Yeah. Yes. We got through boards. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Good job. 

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Got through the boards, got to practice. And I, it's a funny thing. And I'm sure that so many people have experiences. You think, you know, once I survive residency and get through board exams, then life is made. I'm just like settling back in my chair. I can just chill out, relax. Oh no, rude awakening, because now I'm the one really responsible. for the patient. And it t a whole other layer of pr to myself that I didn't k And, and I think that, the, the awakening that I wait a second, I've worke So hard, my whole life waiting to feel satisfied, content, happy, joy, accomplished, proud. And I'm still feeling like I'm just not having any of that. And I think that that was, that was actually when I discovered coaching to begin with. I didn't even know what coaching was prior to, I think it was 2018 or 2019 when I was in the midst of being a busy, busy person. positioned with, you know, with my kids and my husband, my practice. And I was living my life in a way where I had this now good on paper life. So I had checked off all the boxes that I was supposed to check off. And yet I was not unhappy, but I was feeling dissatisfied. I was like, is this? Looking around, I was like, is this the whole thing? Is this, is this it? Because I worked really hard to get here and this does not feel like what it's supposed to be. You know, and I think that there was a period in my attending life where I went into a little bit of blame. I would blame my husband. For not being, you know, understanding enough or loving enough. Or I would blame my, at the time, three year old son for being difficult. Like, maybe that's why I'm feeling so frustrated. Or I would blame my call schedule. Or I would blame, you know, something about the hospital schedule. Or like, the way that administration and management's happening. I would blame I, because I didn't have a better alternative. Like, why else would I, I have this good on paper life? Why else am I not feeling the way that I want to feel? It must be somebody's fault. And I think that was actually also part of the reason that I would go to food. So, you know, the way that I would cope, medical school, residency, and definitely early attending life, definitely oral boards, is I would pressure myself to overwork and over deliver in my mind definitely, you know, physically. And the way that I would treat myself would be with chips, crackers, cheese, glass of wine, Cool Ranch Doritos with the Kraft cheddar cheese on top. It was something or another. And little nibbles, licks and bites turned into 60 pounds over 10 years. And I think what I realized in 2018, 2019, when I stumbled onto a podcast, kind of like this, when I stumbled onto coaching was, wait a second, it turns out that this feeling that I have been chasing is available to me. And it's nobody else's job, other than my own, to create this for myself. I wonder what's been in the way. I wonder how this is, like, I'm really just starting to go down the journey of understanding if I wasn't perpetually chasing a feeling, and if I wasn't perpetually blaming my husband, or my kid, or my, or my work, For the feeling of dissatisfaction, I wonder what has been in the way. And that was really when I started to discover the very important piece of mindset skills, as it pertains to being consistent. You know, you see a mountain, how are you going to take the first step? That's hard. That first step is hard, right? So how do you know, and really learning the mindset skills necessary to take not just the first step, but then where the work really happens is in steps two through nine.

    The first step is exciting, actually, you know, when you first start something, you're like, Oh, today's the day, Monday morning, fresh, you know, grab the chart off the stack and can wait for this excitement. It gets boring by Monday night, Tuesday morning. So seriously, you know, steps two through nine, I still have to deal with this. Yes. And that's actually where I have discovered, especially with weight loss. When you get consistent results is knowing that having a mindset skills to manage steps two through nine where you feel bored you don't feel like it and how do you follow through in a way that? You're you're not chasing satisfaction anymore. You drip it in along the way So I would say that that was a big part of my attending life I'd been in practice for a few years when I discovered coaching and I Because of coaching, I really did change how I felt about being a physician. I never, I feel really fortunate. I know there's so many physicians that are burnt out and so many physicians that are being overworked. That was not me. I did, I was in a practice that I really do respect and I never got to the point of burnout, but I was feeling this desire for something more. And I think coaching just started to unlock for me, number one, a lot more agency as a physician in the practice that I was in a lot of agency as a mom with my, at the time, three year old who was quite a handful. And I just got bit by the coaching bug and I just realized it was something that I wanted to, you know, know more about. I just, just for me, not with the intent of leaving medicine. My goal was never to leave medical practice. And I got certified as a life and weight loss coach. And I just, it just was one of those, I feel like my world shattered open a little bit at the possibility of just taking this work to the next level. I started coaching some people. And just the impact that it felt on them, I think is, is what drew me to coaching. So yeah, that's, it's, it's been, it's been quite, quite a ride to go from medical practice, really doing a lot of this work as a physician, I lost the weight as a physician, I feel like I really healed a lot of the pressure that was driving my life as a physician and then making the change to something that was different.

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Yeah, what did it look like on a day to day when you were making the changes from the dissatisfied, pressured, disappointed, attending, who would then use food to satisfy? What, what did it look like? As you transitioned. So how did that actually play out day to day for you? 

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Yeah, there are two key things for that, that I distinctly remember. The first one is I had to stop winging rest, relaxation, and pleasure. What I had been doing because I was a chronic overworker and so used to being productive and a little addicted to the gold stars and like, You know, the colleague or the boss saying, good job, Priyanka. I was very addicted to overworking. So my play time, I'm going to put play time in quotes, but adults should be playing and having fun and resting. I would squeeze it in when I could. And that was basically never, which is why I would overwork on a Friday night. I'd go into screw it mode and like. I would basically try to steal pleasure with the quickest way possible, which was cool ranch Doritos, Kraft cheddar cheese, and like, you know, two or three glasses of wine. So the first step was actually planning properly for fun and rest and relaxation first. If I wanted to plan in Like in a way that felt deeply gratifying. What would feel fun if I didn't want to use food and alcohol as my only means of fun and relaxation? What, what would be five other ways? And I took up sewing. I started YouTube. I like YouTubed, how to sew a blanket or I forget, what did I YouTube? I forget what I typed into the search engine. But I found it became this like passion project where I be like, got a sewing machine and it was so much fun a hobby. That I actually had this beautiful product at the end of that. I had no regret afterwards where my body didn't feel like, ooh, after I, you know, overate. It was amazing. So just discovering that there was ways of playing and resting and having fun separate from food and planning it in, in advance. And then I think that the second piece of the process for me was really changing the narrative around weight loss for me used to, it used to be that if you, if I wanted to lose weight, you have to count calories and points and stick things into an app and then like do a calculator, get out the, get out another calendar, do an algebra equation and wonder, like, am I going to be in a deficit? And it turns out when our brain perceives deprivation, even when we are surrounded by food. It's going to make weight loss and fat loss really hard, our metabolism slows down, our urges go up because we're not designed to live in a state of deprivation. And so, that was, I think, that was more of a layered work for me on a day to day basis around how I wanted to eat in a way that I truly loved that was free of deprivation. And I think that that meant really changing my relationship with how I was eating. It made me change my relationship with my body. And that did not happen overnight. So it was one of those things that, that it was like a, it was one of those practices. I think the first thing was something I could implement right away, planning and rest and pleasure. But the second piece, changing my relationship was really thinking about what are all the things that I love to eat? And I'm never going to feel deprived of, I'm never, ever, ever going to be hungry when I eat on purpose. If I'm hungry, I promise myself I'm going to eat. Really changing that relationship. And that was like a moment to moment practice. It would happen in little moments. And I think it's really just changed the course for how anyone, if you want to lose weight, how you then maintain it for a lifetime. It's not a gimmick. It's not a quick fix. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Yeah. And hearing the objection of, but you don't understand, I don't have time to put in play. Like, why would I buy a sewing machine? I don't walk enough steps as it is. Where would you go with that? Like, how, you must have taken a decent amount of effort to overcome that thought that I don't have time. 

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: So I think that we are really used to giving time a lot of responsibility. We think that time is responsible for the results we're producing. Time is responsible for the fun we get to have. Time is responsible for I mean, if you really think about, and this is like in your words, Sarah, like the highway thought, like a very super highway thought, I don't have enough time. The amount of time that we spend thinking I don't have enough time, the amount of time that we spend planning and then not following through, the amount of time that we spend opening up the laptop and then closing the laptop and then open the laptop and closing the laptop, or thinking about the fun and thinking about the plan is actually hours upon hours per week. So I would almost say, and, and this is the, you can, don't have to take my word for it. I actually recommend we all go on a little, like, let's have a little play today. Just ask yourself, how often am I telling myself I don't have enough time? And just now, now that we've said on the podcast, you're just going to signal it like a little, like a little siren song. Oh, there I go again. And let it be a little playful. And sometimes I think we have this idea that play, you know, what play looks like play has to be an hour of a massage or it has to be a mani pedi scheduled in. No, I think that's a really, that's one way, but it's a really small, very narrow perspective of what play looks like, so it's possible that if you actually look at your calendar, you might have back to back meetings or a 10 hour surgery, or really, if you look at your calendar, it is quite full. You can introduce play in small moments in the life you're experiencing. And that is a mindset piece. So I think that when we, we do this exercise of asking ourselves, how much time am I actually spending thinking thoughts. That are not creating fun and play or satisfaction. How much time am I actually wasting? So that's what I would say to that. Go on, go on little scavenger hunt and ask yourself how often you're thinking about for play time. 


    Dr. Sarah Smith: Yeah. Love it. It's really, um, important. I think the, the time loop pressure that we see over and over the pattern, right? 

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: And it's, I just want to say one more thing on this. It's, you know, if we, if you really think about. For, you know, for me, it was losing 60 pounds or for you, it might be like to get all the charts done or to, you know, pass boards. What does it take to accomplish any goal is a series of decisions and a series of following through on those decisions. I have said this, I mean, my, my, my clients hear me say this time and time again, making a decision and following through takes a moment. The decision itself takes a moment. To pick the chart up takes a moment. To stop eating when your body's not hungry just takes a moment. The thing that takes time is the negotiating that we do in our mind. Is the back and forth that we do. Should I? Shouldn't I? You know what? I do deserve a break. Maybe I'll go later. That's actually where the minutes of our day end up going. And I think that just being aware of that as if you make it a game, make it really playful. Don't be, don't add on the, remember, we're not adding shame on top of the shame. We just want to make the soul playful. Like, Oh, look at me like negotiating again, as opposed to make a decision and just follow through. It feels so good. And I always say that it tastes better than a cookie. When you do what you say you're going to do in the moment that you say you're going to do it, it tastes so good. That is like in, in my experience, just the purest feeling of proud pride. And I, yeah, there's like, it's never laced with regret. It's never laced with, Oh, I wish I hadn't. There's none of that. So I would just encourage that game too. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Games. We like games and play with you. That's awesome. Where do people find you if they're looking for kind of more of your wisdom? 

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Yeah, so absolutely. So I am The Unstoppable Mom Brain everywhere on the internet. I specifically work with type A professional working moms to lose weight and of course to level up. This, what we're talking about here, really level up your working life, your mom life, why losing the way you want to lose. I have a podcast, The Unstoppable Mom Brain podcast. And that's what I am on the internet theunstoppablemombrain.com. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Yeah. Yeah. And we just love your fresh and fun approach because I think that you're right. There's not a lot of that coming our way or allowing us to let that in, which is super cool. 

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Yeah, just like breaking in, you know, I, I think sometimes we, we take everything so seriously because as physicians, our work is serious and our patients lives and their health is serious. And I think what ends up happening is we forget to bring in likeness. We forget to bring in play. We forget to, you know, where does that role end of a patient's life go? is serious and their health is serious too. How can I introduce some lightness for me? And that's why I think sometimes making things into games, making them into fun challenges, it's what makes the process fun. So, you know, when you hit the goal, yeah, that's fun. But what if the process was fun? It kind of comes back to, again, bringing the feeling into the work. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: Beautiful. Is there anything we didn't talk about that you've wanted to talk about before yet?

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: I feel like we covered a lot. We covered a lot. I think one of the big pieces and, you know, I know we're going to be probably talking about this like in the future is how to handle mistakes. And that's a huge one because, you know, if, if just in our day to day life, we're feeling pressure and worry and doubt when we make a mistake, it's like doing, it's like 10X saying the negative self talk. So I think that it's really important for us to have a very clear strategy in place, how we want to handle mistakes powerfully without drama, without self criticism. And I think it was James Clear, who recently said this, it's a little spicy, but he said, when you, he said, I'm going to paraphrase. He said, if you make a mistake and react foolishly, you're basically making the mistake twice. And I love it. It was, again, it's spicy because I don't want to ever think of us as being foolish, but when we make a mistake or go off plan, and then we react in a place with blame, shame, judgment, criticism, doubt, we're basically making the mistake twice. Right. And I, I just, I loved the way that he, he phrased. I think that that's probably the next, the next layer of work. Once we create play in our day to day life, how do we handle it, handle mistakes with that same lens too. 

    Dr. Sarah Smith: I love that. Yes. And Priyanka will be back with us as a workshop coming up later in the year. Uh, so make sure you like, or follow us on Instagram so that you will see when that workshop is available, because you'll be able to come along and get all of that goodness. That we're going to get in that teaching. So I love that. Thank you so much for being here with us today. It's been amazing. So good. We will look forward to seeing you all later. 

    Dr. Priyanka Venugopal: Have a good week, everyone. Bye. Bye. I hope you all enjoyed this podcast conversation, this interview, where Sarah interviewed me on how I created more fulfillment as a physician. And I really love sharing. This part of my journey, because I don't talk about it very much on this podcast, and I think it really does paint a picture for how anyone in any field can start to create more fulfillment, more satisfaction, how we can start to step out of overwhelm when we really start to identify the thoughts and feelings we're having that are keeping us stuck to begin with. So I really hope that you enjoy today's podcast interview where I'm the interviewee. I've been loving doing these, as you can tell, it's, it's really fun for me to share my journey in different angles, because I think that so much of the struggles that I have had in my own personal life or my professional life are stories that I want to tell so that we can normalize and validate what struggle looks like for the professional working mom who really wants to have more. And I often share on here, you are listening to this podcast because you don't just want the status quo. We are here to challenge it. And it happens with stories like this one.

    So I hope that you feel inspired. And if you did, I would love to hear from you. Send me a message on Instagram. I'm @theunstoppablemombrain. Or send me an email and let me know what was one takeaway that you had from this conversation. And I cannot wait to hear from you. I hope you guys all have an amazing, amazing day, and I will see you at the next one. Thanks for listening to the Unstoppable Mom Brain podcast. It's been an honor spending this time with you and your brilliant brain. If you want more resources or information from the show, head on over to theunstoppablemombrain.com.


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