Grounding Yourself with Mindfulness to Beat Daily Stress

Imagine you are driving home from work. You are replaying the day, as usual. You think about that conversation that you had with your boss, a project you hurried to finish at work, an argument you had with your spouse through text. You think about what happened last week, last month or years ago and you make judgements about all of it. You think to yourself, “I didn’t handle that well. I didn’t do my best. I should have… I could have…”

Or you are thinking about all of the things you need to accomplish when you get home. You think about the dishes that need done, the laundry that has piled up, what to prepare for dinner, or how you will address that argument with your spouse when you see them. And of course, you make more judgements. “I’ll probably not get it all done. Why did I let this pile up? I’m such a procrastinator. I’m a bad partner.” All of this causes one thing: stress. Suddenly you get home and it dawns on you… you don’t remember the drive. (Or worse, you’ve driven to the wrong place!)

Have you ever been on autopilot before?

Sound familiar? Why does this happen to so many of us? It’s called being an “autopilot.” For those who practice something called mindfulness meditation, it’s something you can strive to avoid by being more present within your day. Being more present within the day can give our minds a break from all worrying about all those future and past events, when in reality those things aren’t even real, and they certainly aren’t here now!

How does mindfulness work?

So how do we practice being present?  One of the easiest ways to practice mindfulness is to “check in” with your five senses or “ground yourself” throughout the day. Zoning out while you’re in the shower?  Think about how the water feels, how the soaps smell, how the rushing water sounds and tastes, and how a loofah feels on your skin. Suddenly you can take a mundane task, where you typically might feel more stressed afterwards, and make that task a more genuinely relaxing experience.

Give your busy mind a much-needed break. Try this technique a few times a day, or better yet, specifically when you are doing tasks on “autopilot.” This strategy is a great way to incorporate self-care into your busy day. So sit back and enjoy the ride!


Considering Diet to Help Prevent Cancer

March is colorectal cancer awareness month, and many health care organizations are promoting scheduling regular screening for colorectal cancer, such as getting a colonoscopy.

Colorectal cancer screening targets everyone over the age of 50. Your doctor might even recommend getting screened earlier if you are at higher risk or have a family history of colorectal cancer. While you should still count on regular screenings as your best bet to prevent colorectal cancer, there are some things you can do diet-wise to help prevent colorectal cancer.

Prevent Colorectal Cancer: Diet Do’s

The best things to eat—and this applies to really everyone, not just someone trying to prevent cancer—are high-fiber whole grains, green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables. The following are lists of types of these foods, so you can get an idea.

High-fiber whole grains

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Barley

Green leafy vegetables

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Romaine lettuce

Cruciferous vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts

Green leafy vegetables are important because they contain carotenoids. Carotenoids help prevent cancer by acting as antioxidants. Folate, also contained in these veggies, may offer protection against colorectal cancer, breast cancer and lung cancer.

Prevent Colorectal Cancer: Diet Don’ts

You might see a little repeat of information here from other blog posts, but only because these “diet don’ts” are pretty applicable for anyone wanting to live a healthier lifestyle. Limiting foods rich in animal fats, red meat and alcohol help prevent colorectal cancer.

Diets high in red meat have been associated with an increased risk for colon cancer. To eat less meat, think of fruits, vegetables and whole grains as the entrée at meals, with meat as the side dish. And you can drink a little, but it would be better to not drink at all. Alcohol has also been associated with an increased risk for colon cancer.

Looking for more information on colorectal cancer?

The Springfield Clinic web page for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month has a lot of information about colorectal cancer and colonoscopies, including an article written by one of our Colon & Rectal Surgery doctors, James Thiele, MD, FACS, FASCRS, about the importance of getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer and how the colonoscopy procedure works. Check out this information and schedule your colonoscopy today!

Gas it Up: Give your body the energy it wants

Let’s talk about how the body gets energy. “Glucose” is a fancy word for sugar, and it’s best known as a fuel for our body. All food is broken down into our bodies for fuel, but glucose is the body’s main energy source. Just like we need to put gas in our cars to go, we need to put gas in our bodies too. And just like we have different octanes of fuel for our cars, we have different octanes of fuel for our bodies.

Beneficial glucose

The best source of glucose is found in a macronutrient known as “carbohydrate.” And when you think of carbohydrate, you’re probably thinking about bread, rice or pasta. But in addition to these foods, fruits and a few vegetables are also carbohydrate sources.

These fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and lean proteins, are the best fuel to nourish our bodies instead of depleting our energy levels. These foods are permissible AND beneficial.

Less beneficial glucose

Processed foods, such as cake, doughnuts, cookies, sugary liquids and some white foods are among the types of foods that may be permissible but are not always beneficial. These carbohydrate sources are most often found in the center aisles of the grocery store. Let’s break down two of these foods/ingredients.

Enriched white flour

You see the word “enriched,” and you’d think this would be better for you. Bogus! Enriching means stripping the grain, removing most of its natural nutrients, then replacing some of those nutrients during processing.

When enriched foods came to the market, there were good motives. This food processing technique came about to better preserve foods for longer periods in order to prevent food famines. But now, when you see “enriched” on a food label, know that this will give you some quick energy, but your gas tank will quickly be on empty.

White sugar

Yummy in my tummy!—is what I always think when I think about foods made from white sugar or sucrose. Sucrose provides an immediate blood sugar surge. Your metabolic system lights up, and the body produces insulin and raises your serotonin levels (happy hormones).

Raised insulin levels can cause you to overeat while also causing you to be as hungry as you were before you started eating. In addition, your body will become more resistant to the sugar, causing you to feel the need for MORE sugar and unnecessary calories to elevate your mood while emptying your gas tank and causing you to crash just as quickly. What a vicious cycle.

How can we get more “good” fuel?

Focus on retraining your taste buds. Yes, you can retrain your taste buds! Try to remove or at least limit these permissible but not beneficial foods and then replace them with foods that will provide you with more clarity and energy, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Your body will thank you!

Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

This month we’re thinking more about heart health and preventing heart disease, although protecting your heart is something you can do all year long. Eating “heart-healthy” is a way to lower your risk for heart disease, especially when paired with regular physical activity.

Eating better for your heart doesn’t have to mean a dramatic change in your diet. You can start just by substituting one or two foods at first, and then move on to changing other eating habits.

As part of “heart month” in February, we’d like to offer this heart-healthy recipe. This recipe also has the following health benefits:

  • Dairy free
  • Diabetes friendly
  • Gluten free
  • Gout friendly
  • High fiber
  • Low cholesterol
  • Low fat
  • Vegetarian
  • Low sodium

Butternut Squash & Cranberry Quinoa Salad
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  1. Salad
  2. • 3 cups butternut squash (chopped)
  3. • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  4. • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  5. • 1 cup water
  6. • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  7. • 1/3 cup red onion (finely chopped)
  8. • 3 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
  9. Vinaigrette
  10. • 1/2 cup olive oil
  11. • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  12. • 1 teaspoon honey
  13. • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  14. • 1 clove minced garlic
  15. Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the coated squash on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  4. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until the squash is tender and lightly browned.
  5. While the squash is roasting, rinse the quinoa under cold water until the water runs clear.
  6. Place quinoa and 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan.
  7. Bring the water to a boil, reduce it to a simmer, and then cook the quinoa partially covered until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  8. To prepare the vinaigrette:Add all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl or Mason jar.
  9. Whisk or shake until thoroughly mixed.
  10. To assemble the salad: Combine the cooked quinoa, roasted squash, dried cranberries, finely chopped red onion and toasted pumpkin seeds in a large bowl.
  11. Pour the vinaigrette over the mixture.
  12. Stir until the salad is well mixed.
Something to Chew

This salad is a good source of protein as well as fiber. Serve in a bowl with a spoon or fork. Visit for more healthy recipes.

Instant Pot®: Yay or nay?

Last Black Friday, I jumped on the bandwagon and bought an Instant Pot®. Yes, I had to find out for myself what the craze was all about, so I actually bought in. And Instant Pot® is a programmable pressure cooker that is supposed to speed up cooking considerably. This week, I want to share what I’ve done with my Instant Pot® and how I’ve made it work for my family.

What’s the best part about an Instant Pot®?

First and foremost, what I absolutely love to make in my Instant Pot® is hard-boiled eggs. You may be asking, aren’t eggs bad for you? Despite their occasional negative portrayal, eggs are a fantastic protein source, as long as you aren’t going overboard with the number you eat.

I typically hard-boil about eight to 12 eggs a week for our family of five. The Instant Pot® makes it super-duper easy to do so. Here are the instructions:

Megan’s Hard-boiled Eggs

  1. Put one cup of water and however many eggs you want into the pot.
  2. Program five minutes of pressure, followed by five minutes natural release, followed by 5 minutes cold water bath.

I don’t shell them right away, but put them in a bowl in the fridge to stay fresher for longer. We shell them as we eat them.  

What else can you use the Instant Pot® for?

I also have made a whole chicken with my Instant Pot®, although this is not something new to me. I usually buy whole chickens when they are on sale and freeze them. Typically, I’ll thaw the chicken and put it in the crockpot with all the seasonings I want—by the evening, we’ve got chicken. I’ll shred the leftover chicken and freeze into patches so we can use it for subsequent meals, such as chicken spaghetti, chicken tacos, white chicken chili and BBQ chicken.

How does the Instant Pot come into play? One time, I forgot to thaw the chicken the night before. I placed the whole frozen chicken in the Instant Pot® with the seasonings and a little water. In no time, the chicken was cooked. This is a definite plus of having the Instant Pot® around.

What are some of the lesser-known features of the Instant Pot®?

My last favorite I’m going to talk about today is burrito bowls. When making this recipe, I use more than just the pressure cook feature. You can make the whole burrito bowl meal in the Instant Pot® and not dirty another dish, thanks to the fabulous sauté feature.

Megan’s Burrito Bowl for the Instant Pot®

  1. Put oil, peppers, onion and garlic into the pot.
  2. Use the saute feature to cook, and then add beans, salsa, chicken, rice and low-sodium chicken stock.
  3. Close the lid and pressure cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Quick release and ladle out. Add some fresh cilantro, cheese and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and serve.

This is always a fun, full meal for my family, and it leaves behind great leftovers.

Instant Pot®: Yay or nay?

There are some great features for the Instant Pot® outside of pressure cooking. It has a learning curve, and it’s a little difficult to use and get used to. Sometimes when recipes say “10 minutes,” it’s actually longer because it takes time for the pressure to build. And, I will be honest, it takes up a lot of space if you don’t have much in your kitchen. All that being said, the Instant Pot® can be right for a lot of people and would be a good addition in your kitchen. Happy Instant Potting!!

Instant Pot image from


Recap: Try a “Non-Resolution”

It’s Throwback Thursday and the first anniversary of making a “non-resolution.” You may or may not be anxious to hear how my January went, but I’m going to share anyway. So here’s a little recap about my non-resolution.


I encouraged you to come up with a 2018 goal for yourself—in a word or phrase—and break it into a 12-month SMART goal(s).

MY 2018 word is PEACE. I chose this word as there has been a lot of disorder and mayhem in my life affecting my health.


My January action was to meal plan. My specific meal plan action:

1st week goal: plan three dinners, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

2nd week goal: plan four dinners, Monday through Thursday.

3rd week goal: plan five dinners, Monday through Friday.

4th week goal: plan again for five days.


Once the week or month is over, look back at your goal and see how well it did or did not work. Did you achieve this goal?

My mantra is PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. My January did not go as planned. I had set a S = Specific, M = Measurable, A = Achievable, R = Realistic and T = Time-specific goal. Thus, I can look back and see how it went.

1st week of January – my grandfather was in the hospital and passed away, I was hardly home, so no meal planning happened as we didn’t know where we would be when.

2nd week of January – I planned two meals, as once again I was hardly home, helping to take care of my grandmother.

3rd week of January – I planned three meals.

4th week of January – I planned four meals.


So when should you start? Any time that’s right for you. Make sure you have a fresh mind and are more rejuvenated than you may be on the first of the month.

As you can see, I had planned to start the first of January, however life happened and I was not able to begin when planned. But the key is, I didn’t let the month slide by. I picked up when I could with my meal planning. While working on the meal planning I found a tool to better help me.

It is the “Knock Knock What to Eat” pad that I found on Amazon for about seven dollars. Is this something you have to use if you plan to meal plan? Absolutely not. But, this is the tool I found to help me with my goal. You can also use our free printable!


I’m going to continue my meal planning and then focus on my SMART goal for February: REST!!!

For the month of February, my goal is to set a bedtime. The specific goal is to be in bed by 10:30 p.m. four nights out of each week, Sunday through Thursday. This is technically 5 days. So, if one of these days doesn’t make the 10:30 p.m. cut, then I have another day to work with. By setting a bedtime for myself, this should allow for a minimum of seven-ish hours of sleep for myself.

Although my goal didn’t go quite as planned for January, I made it work. And I know you can too if you let your goals slide a little bit. How did your SMART goals go for January?