Dr. Romie Mushtaq – a Doctor's Career Change Story and What We Discussed:
- Overwhelmed? Dr. Romie’s Teaching
- Is Life All about Duty and Obligation?
- Wish You started with a Different Career?
- How to Shut Out the Chaos and Live with Purpose and Peace
- Simple Way to Reduce Stress (But Most Ignore)
- Stressed and ill – a Doctor’s Career Change Story
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More about our featured guest Dr. Romie Mushtaq
Romila “Dr. Romie” Mushtaq, MD is a traditionally trained neurologist with additional board certification in integrative medicine. As highly sought after professional speaker and media personality, she teaches audiences how to conquer stress with her “Mindset Matters” program based in neuroscience, positive psychology, and mindfulness.
[00:02] Joel: Welcome to ReLaunch, your daily does of fresh ideas, inspiring stories, and practical solutions to help you build a business and a life that you love. And if you are a daily listener, welcome back to the show, thank you for tuning in, and thank you for joining in the before and the after show online conversations. And if you are new here, just know that you are among friends, and this is what you can expect, unique insights, a-ha moments, actionable information from self made successes that share their trials, their tribulations, and their come from behind victories. And if you are like a lot of us that struggle with information overload, focus, and direction, boy! That's me. You definitely gonna wanna tune in and listen to what today's guest has to share about mindfulness and what she has learned in her own experience.
[01:02] Joel: Dr. Romie is traditionally trained as a neurologist and also has a board certification in integrative medicine. And in her career as a physician, the compounded stress and the fatigue brought on it's own complications, and in the end, well, Dr. Romie had to become her own solution and she had to find her own way to conquer stress, to conquer her own fatigue, and she used a blend of neuroscience and positive psychology which we're gonna talk a little bit more about today. But before we get into that, Dr. Romie, this is a pleasure. Welcome.
[01:44] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: Thank you so much, Joel and Dr. Pei. I am honored to be here. And for that sweet introduction, I feel like you just gave me a big virtual hug and I'm hugging you right back.[chuckle]
[01:55] Joel: Well, thank you very much for that, Dr. Romie, and we appreciate your time on the show today. And as you know, this show, it's all about the relaunch. And while many of us have experienced numerous launches and relaunches throughout our life, I generally ask our guests to zero in on the relaunch that has been the most significant for them or that's been the most transformational, and then just unfold the story from there. And we'll do that with you here in just a few minutes, if that's okay. But, if you don't mind, I like to start off the show with a quick piece of take away gold. So, if you will, Dr. Romie, and you're an expert in this so you're gonna do just fine, but in your experience, what would you say is the most effective and one of the easiest ways where we can all melt away our stress, that kind of an easy way that for whatever reason, people just don't think about?
[02:50] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: Well, it's a great question, Joel, and I have a two word answer for you and all of our listeners today. Just breathe.[chuckle]
[03:03] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: Beautifully done, yes. Inhaling to the count of three, hold the breath for one second, and exhale to the count of four. Good. In this simple step, we turn off that heightened stress response that is activated inside our limbic system in the brain when we're multitasking with digital devices all day long, trying to process information coming from all different directions, and it actually shuts down that analytical mind that we need to be productive as successful entrepreneurs and business people during the day. You stop and you take that breath break. You're turning off the stress response, and immediately within one minute of doing this breathing exercise shifting to what is known as the relaxation response. And when you're in that relaxation response, a few things happen. Not only do your blood pressure and your heart rate comes down, you get more blood flow to the brain, and all of a sudden you can focus. And instead of reacting to a problem or a situation, you're actually able to control your emotions and respond in the most effective and efficient way. Just breathe.
[04:22] Pei: I love that, and I just wanna add that I know you teach yoga in the past, right?
[04:30] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: I still do. It's a great question. Part of my journey that we're going to be talking about was learning the critical importance of the role of mindfulness techniques in our healing in our day to day life.
[04:44] Joel: I wanna hear that.
[04:45] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: Yeah. I traveled the world learning yoga and meditation techniques. I'm a 200 hour certified Hatha yoga teacher, and so I did it for my own knowledge and now in our clinic at the Center for Natural and Integrative Medicine in Florida, I teach patients who are challenged in their movements in their bodies by things like Lyme disease, adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalances, menopause, and we teach yoga from a healing perspective.
[05:12] Joel: I love that. Let's definitely remember to touch into that. And also, let's come back to, before we end today's show, with the idea of just breathe because I want to, hopefully we'll have a chance to unfold why that seems to be in conflict with what we're trying to do, because as you just pointed out, we're logical and we wanna get things done, and as adrenalin starts to pump faster and faster, we wanna do more things. But on the other side, following the doctor's advice, we need to just breathe. So, let's try to wrap that in a little bit later on in today's show.
[05:55] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: Absolutely.
[05:56] Joel: But before we get into that, Dr. Romie I watched your TED Talk as I was getting ready for our show and you talked about in your TED talk when you as a physician ended up being the patient. I'm just curious here, I don't wanna put words into your mouth, but do we need to start the story of Romie's relaunch there when you were getting ready to undergo your own surgery or is there a better place to start?
[06:21] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: No.
[06:22] Joel: You tell me.
[06:22] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: Absolutely. You bring that up and when you say that, I just sitting here breathing with you all initially, get transported back to that feeling that I had laying on the gurney in pre-op holding at the University of Washington in Seattle. Before you have extensive surgery like this on your entire esophagus, stomach and intestine, I had nothing orally by mouth for almost 24 hours. I had severe chest pain and was laying there, but what most people don't believe, at that point, the fear of maybe ending up permanently disabled if the surgery didn't work, praying to God that they didn't find esophageal cancer, that all had gone away. I was in this deeper darker place wondering who am I and what have I done with my life. And I think there's no more humbling and humiliating and at the same time inspiring place to be in your life than in that moment when you hit that place. I don't know any kind of relaunch there is in life, Joel.
[07:31] Pei: Wow. So. Dr. Romie, how long you've been practicing, by the time that happened and tells us a little bit how it leads to that point if you don't mind.
[07:43] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: Sure. No problem. So, you know, my gosh, so many traditional people who have Indian parents, I heard this from a very young age, “We have one daughter, and you will become a doctor.” And even as a young child that thought would give my stomach a little rumble and upset. But I went through a combined Bachelor's MD program which was six years. Four years total of neurology residency. Two additional years in fellowship for epilepsy and neurophysiology. So, hence the comprehensive understanding of neuroscience and how the brain works and then I was in practice for eight years after all of that training. And it wasn't something that happened overnight. It just kept getting written off as your typical type A personality, highly driven, you have really bad acid reflux disease. So, probably Pei about seven years leading up to that point. It was progressively getting worse and unfortunately misdiagnosed because I would keep telling 'em, “I got this chest pain that's bad, and I can't swallow.” And it was this high stress lifestyle I was leading working 100 hour work weeks. Not able to cope with stress at all effectively. Feeling very emotional from being sleep deprived that was making all these symptoms worse. And I think you know it got to the point that I was ending up with frequent pneumonia because I was choking on my own vomit and saliva as I was sleeping.
[09:11] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: That was like the key that something is really severely wrong. Because at that point, I was only 34, 35 years old. And at that age, you don't get pneumonia. Most of us are very healthy and so it really had to hit rock bottom, I think for me to listen to all the signs that the universe always gives us but we don't listen.
[09:31] Pei: So, all that time when that physical symptom was building up, did you suspect, “Hey, maybe it's my lifestyle.” “Maybe this is not what I should do.” Or did it actually happen that realization of “Who am I? ,' “Why am I here,” only happened in the hospital at that moment?
[09:56] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: I really think when you're in a place in life when you're having a true relaunch of your mind, and your body and spirit, it isn't this on-and-off switch. I can say it was building up that I knew I was unhappy. And like so many other people, I initially thought I'm unhappy while I'm working all these long hours and I can't do anything about it, but maybe if I meet the man of my dreams, I'll be happy. Maybe if I by more shoes, I'll be happy. Right? Finally, I'll get to go to Italy and I'll be happy. And that was like a temporary happiness, not true joy and I think it wasn't until I was laying on that gurney that I realized like my mindset was completely traveling in the wrong direction. And it wasn't like I woke up from surgery and automatically had the answers. A spiritual awakening is a journey and not a destination. I'm still on this beautiful journey, I'm just more angered at my intuition.
[10:53] Joel: Let me ask you this Dr. Romie and thank you for sharing and laying that out for us.
[10:58] Pei: Yeah.
[10:58] Joel: Was it a surprise for you to realize what you just said that, that your path is a journey and not a destination? And the reason I ask you that, is because a lot of people that Pei and I work with either in groups or in one-on-one and this probably happens to you too. A lot of times people with the best of intentions. They think that, “You know what? I need to be here and then when I'm there at this destination, this Utopia like destination, then I'll be happy.” And not that, “Well, this is a journey.” And it has peaks and valleys. Was it a surprise for you to embrace that journey concept?
[11:43] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: It was beyond a surprise. I felt very down on myself and had a lot of self-pity and self-shame. Because at that point, I knew it wasn't anybody else's fault, it was my own doing. I had gotten myself into this mindset and I wasn't just quite sure how to see the light again when you're stuck in a place of darkness. And for so many people its striking this balance we all have dreams and goals but we keep those dreams and goals when we know we're being of service and living our life purpose those just naturally unfold for us. What we don't realize is, if we think we have to set a certain goal, for instance, running a million a dollar company or being able to travel around the world. When you do it if you're not in pure unadulterated joy in that moment then you realize that it's your mindset traveling in that place of attaching happiness to material items instead of connecting to a true place of inner joy.
[12:50] Joel: I got you. So let me ask you this, I am kinda fast forwarding a little bit, gosh, there's so much meat in this story that we are not gonna have time to do it full justice in just a little 30-minute program, but if you'll humor me here, what were some of the things coming out of surgery and off on this relaunch. What were some the things that you either learned or re-learned about Romie and about your potential your possibilities and the value that you had to bring to yourself and to those that were the closest to you.
[13:30] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: It was the first realization was, that at that age in my life I realized I wasn't living my personal truth. I come from a culture bound by duty and obligations of children. And so even as a daughter of immigrants and both of my parents have been here since the late 1960's there's this difficult balance that can happen of trying to make your parents happy by their expectations of you. Do well in school, become a doctor, get married, have children all these external goals and realizing well that's not my path; and the harder part was then to divorce that path that I realized was society and cultural expectations but do it in a way without anger and resentment. So the first place was, I was very angry and resentful towards maybe a path or the things that people expected of me and then became so angry of myself for allowing me for myself to live so long working at a job and a career that really wasn't my true purpose. And then once I learned through mindfulness how to heal this self-loathing and this anger it was really just sitting and connecting to that place of intuition and knowing that something bigger than myself was unfolding and that often goes back to the truth we know as young children and that's exactly what it was for me. It was what did I know I was going to do as a child and once I connected to it and believe it with all my heart the doors are opening faster than I can even walk through them.
[15:17] Joel: From a practical prospective Dr. Romie how did you wade through the limiting beliefs or the beliefs that were opposed upon you by other people or the self-loathing that you talked about because gosh, that is a real challenge that me, you and everyone that's listening to this show deals with it at some level.
[15:41] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: It is and I think that's the first thing that you bring up that I wanna highlight for the listeners. There is no successful person in any field out there that hasn't had periods of self-doubt, anxiety, fear, worry, in the yoga world what we call the low vibrations states. In fact, we often can dip there everyday it's knowing how to get yourself out. The second lesson is, just because we're leaders in our industry or “successful career people” doesn't mean we can't ask for help and so my journey did not come through me just learning these techniques on my own. I am blessed to have spiritual teachers around the world, mentors, and entrepreneurialism because as a doctor in medical school I never learned what it was like to be an entrepreneur, I sought out mentors and certainly have no shame to say that I was so thankful for going through even traditional psychotherapy to understand what my limiting beliefs were and how to shift past them.
[16:41] Joel: Now let me ask you this, what was it like when you embrace that idea of going through your own personal growth process. The reason I asked you that is because, we're taught to be or at least a lot of us are taught to be good soldiers and to learn how to suck it up and you're gonna figure this out by yourself at some point in time, but sometimes you gotta just throw your hands up and surrender to that moment and link arms with a coach, with a therapist, with a band of supporters.
[17:19] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: I call it your spiritual family and in your spiritual family, are going to be a mixture of healers whether they are business coaches or traditional doctor or holistic doctor not one person has all the answers for your life. This is the truth that I tell people when we are in the place of darkness we feel isolated and that we are alone. The ‘I' in illness comes from isolation and when you let go, the path really does appear and how does that path appear? Just one light at a time I really believe God, the universe, this larger being you believe in is placing people as lights in your path. And if we let go, we just see them one by one, of people that are there to maybe teach us one lesson to be our lifelong mentors, or to just open one door so that we may walk through.
[18:18] Pei: I so believe that because I'm just looking at my own journey personally. I went through some personal coaching and then once I start to develop a little bit more clarity then I hired quite a few business coaches and each pour in their knowledge, their experience, their heart into our life. It's a continue growth journey. Thank you for sharing that.
[18:45] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: Oh, Dr. Pei you're so right and I appreciate you sharing that. And now look at what you and I have the ability to do through your wonderful podcast and through my professional speaking. We now share these lessons we learned along the way as wisdom to help other people find the light on their path out of the darkness.
[19:04] Pei: Yeah. Thank you. And speaking of knowledge and wisdom, I think your background even with the traditional conventional medicine, all the learning you had is very interesting to think about what you do nowadays. So I'm just curious, we see training, years and years of studying, testing and then practicing neurology. You know that's people's mind. Which part you felt like you have to maybe let go, that's not entirely, I wouldn't say not true. But for people to really reach the happiness and success, what is missing in that conventional medicine? You were, yeah.
[20:00] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: Yeah. Well Dr. Pei that could be an own 30-minute podcast.
[20:02] Pei: Yes. [laughter]
[20:03] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: Now, is the sinking Titanic of the healthcare system in the United States. But I think at the core of what is hurting medicine is that there are so many factors that are hurting the doctor-patient relationship. As a neurologist, my job was to listen to a patient's story through a very thorough physical exam. Talk to witnesses, family members who've seen maybe what's going on in their lives. And when insurance companies and hospitals limit you to a brief 10 to 15 office visit, 10 to 15 minute office visit, you're so limited. And you can't even make that human connection with your patients.
[20:44] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: And then this litany of tests and to practice defensive medicine et cetera, et cetera. I think that was the part for me that wasn't working in traditional medicine. What people who are listening to this podcast need to understand is integrative medicine is not alternative medicine. I still use all of that knowledge and wisdom I have on understanding how the brain works and diagnosing diseases of the brain and the mind and in my current practice it's just creating a balance between traditional medicine and eastern medicine.
[21:19] Joel: I love how you kind of came in, circled in on that because one of the things that I remind people often and I'm sure you do something similar Dr. Romie is that whatever experiences, education people have been through, and before, regardless of what your next chapter will be, you don't have to throw the baby out with a bath water. Because everything in its own perfect way has been preparation for where you're destined to be next.
[21:51] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: Oh that is so beautifully said. I think whether it's your own health journey, your trying to find your path in your career, or trying to find your soul mate, when we're in the middle of what feels like a war, it seems like almost everything maybe unrelated. I really felt that way when I took a prolonged vacation from traditional medicine to go for Yoga teacher training, or leave for meditation retreats. It felt like so foreign from what I was doing in my day to day practice in a traditional hospital before I left traditional medicine. I couldn't, in that moment, see how they related but it was letting go and trusting that the path was appearing. And when the time is right and that door is meant to open, the vision all becomes clear. And that's how we become uniquely ourselves living our life purpose.
[22:43] Joel: Oh I love that living your life's purpose. Okay. Coming in for our landing on this one, I remember how we started today's show. While you were taking us through that breathing exercise and you were talking about how important it is to give yourself that minute during the day but on the other side of the coin, there is the task master part of us. So if you would, as we kind of close out today's show, help us understand in a nutshell if you will, why there is a conflict between those two parts of ourselves and the best thing that we can do to bring our own antidote to the equation.
[23:29] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: Yeah. Thank you Joel for that great… You know I think there's this misnomer or a misconception that has been put out in the media that I don't completely agree with. Having my neuroscientist background that we're either right-brained or left-brained, really you want both parts of your brain working together in harmony. And so when we're under emotional stress, whatever it may be, acutely because we've been in a car accident or chronic stress, worried about a deadline or paying your bills, it actually just inactivates two sides of the brain that we need. One is your creative center, which is often our right brain. But it also disrupts the frontal lobe areas that are key for productive analysis, which we all need in running our day to day lives and businesses. I mean if you're here in Florida and stuck on the I-4 Interstate that runs by Disney World, you want to be able to have your wherewithall about you to manage traffic. Right?
[24:32] Joel: Right.
[24:32] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: So, that's where we want that balance, and this is where that breath break comes in. It shuts off that fire alarm that's going in the amygdala. How do you know that the fire alarm is going off in your brain? If you feel like you have adult ADD and you can't focus on any one task. You have multiple browsers open. You're checking your Twitter feed on your cell phone, and maybe watching TV in the background. You're trying to multi-task and nothing is actually getting accomplished. If feelings of anxiety or sleep disruption are coming in. Then you know it's time to stop and take a breath break. What we talked about in the initial, this is based in a yogic pranayama technique. You inhale to the count of three, hold the breath and exhale out to the count of four. You do this for just three minutes. Schedule this breath break at the most stressful time of your work day or your home life, and time yourself for just three minutes. We shut off the chaos, we put out the fire in the brain and we bring balance between both hemispheres, so that we can both be productive and creative and just go in the flow of our mind, which will take us into the flow of our life.
[25:52] Joel: Love it.
[25:53] Pei: So beautifully said.
[25:55] Joel: Indeed. Talking with Dr. Romie today. Of course we will have all of the social media hot spots available in the blog article that accompanies this episode.
[26:06] Pei: I love it.
[26:06] Pei: Dr. Romie have a wonderful rest of your day. Thank you so much for that.
[26:09] Dr. Romie Mushtaq: Be blessed, namaste.
[26:11] Pei: Namaste.
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