EP 16: Achieve Your Optimal Health

Episode Description:
This week, Hope4Med features family medicine physician Dr. Dolapo Babalola (Dr. Babs). In this episode, we explore the journey of a physician and a mother and how she combated stress and achieved optimal health.

Connect with our guest, Dr. Dolapo Babalola
Website: https://livingatyourfinest.com/
Email: DrBabs@livingatyourfinest.com
Living At Your Finest Podcast: https://livingatyourfinest.com/podcast/

Transcript:

[00:00:00] Dr. JB: Ever wish for a safe place to have conversations that need to be had? A place where you could say the things that need to be said? Well, welcome to Hope4Med. This is Hope4Med, med. New day for med, med. For us, by us, and just for us. This is Hope4Med, med. This is Hope4Med, med. New day for med, med. For us, by us, and just for us. This is Hope4Med, med.

[00:00:37] Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Hope4Med podcast with me, Dr. JB. Today we have a special guest by the name of Dr. Dolapo Babalola, who goes by Dr. Babs. Dr. Babs is a board-certified family medicine physician practicing both clinical and academic medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine, where she is also an associate professor and clerkship director. She is a health and fitness coach and founder of Living At Your Finest company. Welcome, Dr. Babs.

[00:01:16] Dr. Babalola: Thank you so much. It’s a great delight for me to be on this platform, get an opportunity to talk with you and your guest listeners.

[00:01:26] Dr. JB: Perfect. So Dr. Babs, you are a family medicine physician. Can you tell me what made you decide to become a physician in the first place and what led you to becoming a family doctor?

[00:01:42] Dr. Babalola: Yeah. So as far as I can recall, and I always tell everyone five years old, like I recall wanting to be a doctor at that age. You know, I’m the oldest of four kids, I’m originally from Nigeria, so there’s this huge responsibility upon me to always care for my siblings and at five, you know, my father always told me about his dream of wanting to become a doctor, but he ended up– when he lost his mom when he was in medical school, he decided I’m not going to pursue medicine anymore, the person that I actually want to take care of is no longer alive, so he switched to neurophysiology. But, I saw him always talking about medicine and that desire and how unique the body is, I mean, he’s a neurophysiologist so he was very intrigued by the brain, and I started growing that interest.

[00:02:37] So my interest also was fostered when my younger brother, the youngest in my home, was ill. And I recall in Nigeria, sometimes you get the medications from the pharmacy and when he wasn’t feeling better, we took him to a family doc and the family doc asked me the question, “so what did you get, what did you get for your brother, what medication was he treated with?” I remember we called call my mom who was out of town, so I had to take him with the driver and I said, I don’t know. And he accosted me that day, he said, “how can your brother be on medication and you have no clue what he took or what they gave him?” And, I recall it like it was yesterday, so I said, never again am I going to be in a position where I’m not certain about what’s going on in my body or my family’s body, so not only did I want to become a doctor, but I also wanted to become a doctor that was well versed in everything. I didn’t want to say, “oh, I don’t know, I have to send you to the surgeon or I have to send you to the OB-GYN,” so that was why I decided family medicine was just the thing for me, and I love the continuity of care. My family physician as a child took care of my mom, my father, took care of me and my siblings, so that’s the genesis of why medicine and why family medicine.

[00:03:55] Dr. JB: So you did your medical training where?

[00:03:59] Dr. Babalola: Medical training started in Nigeria, but I completed it in University of Guyana, and that’s in South America.

[00:04:07] Dr. JB: You know, the funny thing about it is oftentimes people will say, oh, I want to be this specialist, like for instance, I was going to be a pediatrician my whole entire life and then when I got into medical school, my mind changed. But you said you wanted to be a family doc from the time you were five or you wanted to be a physician when you were five, family doc when your brother got sick.

[00:04:37] Dr. Babalola: Yeah, mhmm.

[00:04:38] Dr. JB: And how old were you then?

[00:04:39] Dr. Babalola: Well, so I’m 11 years older than him and I recall he was somewhere, I think he was… I recall I was probably 18 or so and so he was much younger, and you know, he had malaria and they had treated him with so many things over-the-counter, it wasn’t getting better. So my mom said she was out of town and was like, take your brother to the family doc, so I must have been somewhere around that age– not yet, I remember I was in high school, so somewhere there and I felt responsible for him. And it’s funny because when I now got into medical school, just like you said you wanted to be a pediatrician and ended up being in emergency medicine, I got kind of, you know, derailed a little, because I was like, oh my goodness, I love peds, I love OB, I love– the only thing I knew is I didn’t want to do surgical procedures, right? So I actually started off doing psychiatry because I connected with my patients so well, but then in the middle of it, I was like, no, I miss my stethoscope, I need to do a lot more. So, you know, it’s amazing how our journeys take us to different parts, but it’s never been a dull moment in family medicine so I was really grateful that I was able to change my path to my original love, which is family medicine,

[00:05:57] Dr. JB: And one of the greatest things about family medicine is that you actually do get to partake in all of those things that you really enjoyed when you were in medical school, right? Because you see people of all ages as a family doc.

[00:06:10] Dr. Babalola: Yes, diaper to diaper.

[00:06:15] Dr. JB: I like that, diaper to diaper. But I take it you do not deliver babies.

[00:06:23] Dr. Babalola: Well, I used to, I used to. When I graduated initially, I had all that passion for delivering baby, and that’s the beauty of family medicine, there’s different facets and you can take it as far as you want to. So, when I graduated from residency, I was part of the Maternal-Child Health Division, so yes, I delivered babies, I did circumcision, newborn exam, and I did it for about five years and I was like, you know what? I think I want to focus on a little bit more of, more of the academic medicine and the continuity of care, so yeah, I don’t deliver anymore, but I did do that for a minute.

[00:07:01] Dr. JB: Okay. And so, so you went to, you said University of Guyana for medical school?

[00:07:07] Dr. Babalola: Yes.

[00:07:09] Dr. JB: Okay. And then what happened after that?

[00:07:12] Dr. Babalola: So right after I graduated from medical school, I went back to my country, Nigeria, because I was so homesick and I wanted to pursue what we call “out internship.” It’s called internship for anyone trained outside of the U.S. where you spend one year, some of the countries will do two, but I spent a year in Nigeria, spending about, it was a whole year so we had to spend about, I think it was two to three months in each division. So, like in surgery, we spend a few months just training again, brushing up those skills we learned in medical school, so it’s like an intern year of residency, pretty much. So, I did that, I spent a year on that, and then I came to the United States to pursue residency.

[00:07:58] Dr. JB: Okay. And so when you came to the U.S. or even when you’re in Guyana, did you have to do the USMLEs?

[00:08:08] Dr. Babalola: Well, it was an option, you know, any international graduate, international medical graduate, has the opportunity to take those exams before coming, but I didn’t do that. So I waited until I came to the U.S. to take those exams and once I was ECFMG-certified then I applied for residency.

[00:08:29] Dr. JB: Okay, perfect. And then currently you are in Georgia, is that correct?

[00:08:35] Dr. Babalola: Yes, I am, Atlanta, Georgia.

[00:08:38] Dr. JB: You said Atlanta?

[00:08:41] Dr. Babalola: Yes, Atlanta, Georgia.

[00:08:41] Dr. JB: ATL, yes. And so is that where you moved directly from Nigeria, straight to Atlanta?

[00:08:49] Dr. Babalola: Yes. I moved here directly. So, my fiancé, now my husband, was in Atlanta at the time and I, I always joke with him. I’m like, I’m so glad you selected Atlanta because it’s just the best for me, the weather is tropical, it’s similar to Nigeria weather, the snow, as you might’ve already heard, we don’t have enough snow, and when we have a little snow, then we all freak out, so, you know, this is all I know. Atlanta is all I know, and I settled down here, I got residency here, and just stayed working here.

[00:09:23] Dr. JB: And currently you’re working where?

[00:09:27] Dr. Babalola: So, I work at Morehouse School of Medicine, as you alluded to in my bio, I am associate professor there, I love academic medicine, clinical medicine. I’m also the clerkship director and I’ve been here actually for 14 years, I feel like, how is that possible? But yeah, it’s been a joy, just staying at Morehouse. I knew that I was interested in academic medicine, I guess my upbringing, I guess some genes that I might have inherited from my dad, seeing how he graded his students’ sheets and just impacting knowledge, so I stayed on, and I’ve been on, in two different divisions. As I mentioned, maternal-child health, I did some delivery for a while, did some research, and now in medical student education.

[00:10:15] Dr. JB: Perfect. And so, you’re also a mom?

[00:10:21] Dr. Babalola: Yes, I’m a mom of three, three bundles of joy. I always call them Energizer bunnies, but yes, I am.

[00:10:29] Dr. JB: And how was that transition into motherhood for you?

[00:10:33] Dr. Babalola: Well, it’s been a journey. It’s everyday evolving and learning to get better, right? I am a lifelong learner, I’ve always been and I always want to be better at what I do. Even when I’m failing at it, I know there’s an opportunity for, for improvement. So, you know, when I completed my first year, that’s when I had my first child, first year of residency, I had my first child. My three kids are three years apart and I’m so glad that it worked out that way. So it’s been three years to figure out one child and then when that first-born was so clingy and was like, I need company. She wouldn’t want to come home with my husband and I, was like okay… or when she wanted us to be her playmates 24/7, I’m like, okay, no, this is not going to work, you need a sibling. And so, you know, thank God we were able to have another child and you know, that’s how it’s been, so I learned over the years. It’s joy, it’s a lot of joy you’ll learn. They say that being a parent is not for the weak, so learning off of my kids, and I’ve read a lot of books on parenting, my faith has helped me, my husband, we would just do everything that we can to make um, peaceful, peaceful environment as much as we can. So it’s, it’s been fun.

[00:11:59] There are some tough parts, not knowing what to do, and like I said, lifelong learner, I know how to ask questions from people ahead of me. Even my patients teach me some skills, parental skills, you know, the older ones, because I have several generations, I have like great grandparents, grandparents, so I learned from them and just hearing people’s experiences, I know what not to do and what to do. So it’s been a journey, but I’m grateful. I’m especially grateful that they, they’re three years spaced apart and I’ve taught them and I’m still teaching them to be equipped on their own, right? So that, you know, they say, if you want someone to excel, give them, teach them how to fish and not just provide fish for them all the time, so that’s my concept and my kids know that, and we have a fun time together. They are as adventurous as I am and my husband, so that does keep us busy, but we’ve learned how to balance and we’re still, we’re still working. We’re a work in progress.

[00:12:57] Dr. JB: And I understand that with your first child, was there a health scare?

[00:13:04] Dr. Babalola: Oh yeah. Well with my second child, actually. So my second child, yeah, and that’s all part of balancing, right? I had to learn that the hard way. So yeah, just right after having a first child. She was very interesting, and I tell her to today, her name is, her nickname is sunshine, but man, was she far from sunshine. She was always, you know, she was just clingy. I guess as the child, only child for three years, very clingy and spoiled, if I would say, and you know, we, we waited to have kids, so I guess we were all just daunting over her, but right after she was born, all the clinginess, we did all of that, but when her younger sister was born, I guess I thought I had the same mentality that I can figure it all out, you know, still using the same concept that I used for one child, thinking that it was going to apply to having two kids, a newborn and a toddler without knowing that I needed to adjust. So I was overwhelmed, severely overwhelmed, I say that I have OCD and I have this, um, Type A personality, and really wanted everything to be perfect. You know? And so I, I burnt out. I burnt out by my own doing.

[00:14:24] And so the health scare was I was having the worst headache ever, it was shortly after I had my second child and it was like, oh, I’ve just been, just sleep deprived, that’s all it is. But then it just kept getting worse, and cause I was nursing, I didn’t want to take any medications. But I was so glad that by the fourth day of having the worst headache ever, I had an intuition to check my blood pressure. And I’ve never had problems with my blood pressure, so I’m just so glad that I even thought about it. And I checked my blood pressure and it was 220/120 and I was like, I freaked out, I was like, oh my gosh, I’m going to die. I just had a newborn baby, what am I going to do? Well, the next thing was to go to the emergency room and thank God for emergency doctors like you, right? There was one that– yeah, emergency doctors on the best, I love you guys– so yeah, I mean, they did all the blood work, you know, just the, there’s potential of having eclampsia even after a baby, you know, within seven days or so, so they were thinking that maybe that was what it was even though I didn’t have it during pregnancy, but all of that was negative and they had to do a head CT, that was negative. It took quite a bit of medication to get my blood pressure down, but it still was high, and I recall the doctor sitting by my bedside and telling me, you know what, whatever is stressing you, because everything is normal, we can’t find any abnormality, although this high blood pressure could lead to a stroke, you’re not there yet and you need to de-stress. And I was wondering, how does he know I’m stressed? Where did that come from? And I recall saying something when they were driving me to get my head CT, I mentioned, why are you doing the head CT now? Wouldn’t you, don’t you want to wait on all the blood work, for it to be negative? I mean, I was following the, you know, the sequence, the path, because I was thinking the insurance wasn’t going to cover the head CT. So, he probably, I don’t know, maybe there was some sense in my voice that I was just hypertensive and just nervous and stressed about bills and all of that altogether, while I was having the worst headache of my life.

[00:16:25] And that was what I had to learn, that it was stress. I was so stressed that my cortisol level was shooting up and causing all sorts of internal havoc. And over the three months I had to learn to destress. At that time, I actually wrote a book because I was journaling. The journaling helped me tremendously. I was journaling my thoughts, you know, what I was going through as a, as a mother of two, and I ended up turning it into a book because it was such a relief. It was such a relieving factor for me. And I started walking, I lost some weight, I started eating better. So the medication I was on didn’t even do the trick, it was the lifestyle improvements that helped. So that was what I did.

[00:17:11] Dr. JB: Wow. So, were you still in residency at that point or had you finished residency?

[00:17:19] Dr. Babalola: Yes, good question. So that was in 2008, my second child was born in 2008 March and I graduated 2007 June. Yeah. So I was out, I was a new faculty member. Yeah. So I wasn’t in residency, I only had one child during residency.

[00:17:40] Dr. JB: That first year out of residency is such a steep learning curve, right? And so oftentimes people think, oh yeah, I got through residency, I’m good, I’m set, and you don’t realize that you are about to go through this terrifying period in your life when you are no longer under the wing of your supervising attending, right? Your decisions hold, your, your decisions stand, and you have to, be the final say and that’s terrifying.

[00:18:17] Dr. Babalola: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. It was terrifying because I had to make decisions on my own and there was no one to crosscheck with, right? And, you know, having my own family, growing family, and I just couldn’t figure out what was going on. I thought it was going to be the best time of my life, out of residency, this is all me now. But I realized that in our journey in life, as professionals, whatever profession you’re in, that it’s a learning curve, every experience is a new experience and you have to learn how to adjust and cope, because if you don’t do that, then that’s where the increased stress comes in.

[00:18:58] Dr. JB: And so you are a new graduate, first-year attending, you have a three-year-old toddler, and you just gave birth, and you’re having a health scare. And it’s true with blood pressures that high, you could have had a bleed, you could have had an intracranial hemorrhage, and that’s what that doctor was trying to see, whether or not you had that, you know, was this some kind of like a subdural bleed or whatnot. And so yeah, you definitely were stressed. That’s a lot of stress. That’s, that’s a ton of stress.

[00:19:40] Dr. Babalola: Yeah, it was, it was so stressful that my husband and my mom, they were overwhelmed. They, they felt so helpless. And they felt, what were they going to– especially my husband, you know, with two little girls, you know, what was he going to do? And so everybody just made a quick adjustment. We had to reevaluate what was going on with us. And I had to do what I needed to do to be well, right? You can never pour out of an empty cup, so I think I might have run myself dry so I need it to refill. And that was the journey that I started.

[00:20:21] Dr. JB: And the, it looks like the first step with that journey was narration. And so where you journaling prior to all of this?

[00:20:28] Dr. Babalola: So, I’ve always loved to journal, but during residency, I didn’t do much of that. I did it more in medical school, uh, but during residency, I barely recall doing it maybe just once a week, but during medical school, it was every day, had several books piled up. You know, I was away from home, as I mentioned, I started medicine in Nigeria, but, then I left to go to South America where my auntie was though. I was journaling, that helps me cope a whole lot. But during medical, um, during residency, I just lost the touch for it because as you know, residency is a different kettle of fish. So, when I had this health scare, I started back again and there was so much joy and liberation doing that. It was soothing, it was calming, I was able to meditate and air out my thoughts and anxiety, because there were many, I guess there were some underlying things. And sometimes you feel like, oh, your life is pretty perfect, right? Out of residency, you have a second child, other things going on, I believe we may have just bought a house too or something. So, there was all those good things, but then there were states of anxiety. So yes, the journaling picked up then and it turned into what I call my inspirational book titled My God, Even in the Last Minute.” And it really did help to calm me down. I was finally able to get off those three blood pressure medicines, I was on it for almost three months, but I was able to wean off, my doctor was able to wean me off, and I’m so grateful that I learned it and it gives me, it allows me to even be a better doctor with my patients, because I tell them about lifestyle medicine and about stressors and what it can do, you know, I’ve lived it. So, yeah, it really, I think it was a great lesson for me to learn.

[00:22:33] Dr. JB: So, you know, I don’t know about my listener, but three months is a very brief period of time to have been on three different blood pressure medications and be able to wean yourself off of it. How did you do that?

[00:22:49] Dr. Babalola: Well, so it was, again, with my primary care provider. When I left the hospital, I was on one and then by the time I followed up with my PCP, which is what we usually will tell our patients, right? Um, you know, we start you on something, we need you to follow back up, let’s see how it’s working. But it wasn’t working my blood pressure, it was weird, it was the weirdest thing. I mean, even though they told me to monitor my blood pressure often, I was over, I probably would do it three or four times a day because I was anxious too, I was nervous. But when I followed up in a week, the blood pressure was still high. It was bouncing back and forth and they incorporated another blood pressure medicine. And still even after a two week follow up, it was still very high. And so that was where it was adjusted over that three months, and I, it stayed at that, I believe at the end of the first month was when I had gotten the third one and that was cause it still went back up to that level. Now, I wasn’t having those headaches anymore, but it went back up again. And so, I was on the three medicines for maybe about, I would say nine, nine to ten weeks, and then we slowly weaned me off. So the last time I was on three was the three months, but I was slowly, gradually weaned off over the next couple of weeks and saw that I tolerated it, so it wasn’t just stopped abruptly. But I was, during that period though, during that period, I was doing all the other things, lifestyle modifications, I was learning not to stress.

[00:24:24] I was learning to outsource things, the mentality where I feel like I can do everything myself, it’d have to be my way, has to be perfect. You know? I was learning and I think that might have been where I learned the skill for my three year old, to teach her how to do things for herself so that you’re not always needing me or requiring me to do things for you. It was funny because I started reading books where they will tell you what a three-year-old is expected to do, what a four-year-old is expected to do, so I was trying to adapt and tailor all of that, and adjust as appropriate. So yeah, I, I learned how to destress. So, I believe it was the lifestyle modifications that really helped, you know, we can take medications all we want, but if we are just putting a Band-Aid over the situation or the issues, the medicine is of no, of no good. And there’s an African proverb that says that actually.

[00:25:24] Dr. JB: Let me just clarify a couple of things. during these three months, did you stop being a mother?

[00:25:31] Dr. Babalola: Oh, no.

[00:25:32] Dr. JB: No. Okay. Alright, so that stayed the same. So, you’re saying you’re still, you’re still a mother to two children. Okay. Did you stop being a physician?

[00:25:46] Dr. Babalola: No, I did go back to work, so I was on maternity leave for, I was on maternity leave. Right? Cause it was just a week after I had my, my second child that this all happened and I was out for about six to eight weeks, so I did go back to work. And no, I didn’t stop.

[00:26:03] Dr. JB: You didn’t stop, okay, alright. I am just trying to clarify, I’m just trying to clarify some things. All right. So you continued being a mom of two, you continued working. Did you sell your house?

[00:26:18] Dr. Babalola: No.

[00:26:18] Dr. JB: I mean, these are silly questions, I know, but what I’m trying to get at is, you were able to do these changes despite still having some of those big life stressors still in your life, right? You were still fresh out of residency graduate, you know, you were able to take, what, three months off work and then you had to go back?

[00:26:42] Dr. Babalola: Yes, it was, I believe it was about eight weeks. It was my youngest child that I took the whole three months. So yeah, the first child was four weeks, the second child was eight weeks, and the third child was twelve weeks. I took the whole time off. But no, I didn’t stop, but I had to learn to adjust my life to my current situation. So that’s, that’s the caveat there. Adjust it to my current situation and, you know, ask for help, do all those necessary things to fill my cup, all those things, self-care. So, there was a lot of things that went into making it doable and not to burn out on the second time.

[00:27:27] Dr. JB: Yeah, because, you know, oftentimes people will say I’m too busy, I’m too busy to engage in any activity of self-care or, I have so many things on my plate, I just can’t do it, that’s not my life. But you were able to carve out that time. There’s still only 24 hours in the day, right? But by offloading, by asking for help, you were able to carve out time to be able to take care of you, take care of your health.

[00:28:00] Dr. Babalola: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, life taught me the hard way and I needed to listen, right? I had a choice. Did I want to die young? Or did I want to find ways to make it possible, feasible to, to care for myself and my family? And it was the latter. I wanted to live and I knew that there was a way to do that. So, yeah, and that was what I did. I, I recall when I, I spoke to one of my church members, actually my pastor’s wife, and she mentioned, “oh yeah, you know, we have some church members that you can leave your baby with.” My toddler was in daycare, and you can leave your baby with, and you can go on a walk, you can exercise, do whatever it is you need to do. Or, you know, just some time out, we can take care of it. Cause I didn’t want to have a nanny, I wanted somebody familiar to care for my child. And that’s usually what our issues are, is that we don’t and, and rightfully so we don’t know who to trust, so we do it all ourselves, right? Because of that issue.

[00:29:07] But I have to figure out like, okay, I can’t be with my child 24/7, I need time for myself, and so she, I mean, I still talk to her to today. I mean, she’s amazing. I was like, you helped me out when I needed you to help me out, she took care of my child, monitored, watched over while I did some self-care. And so I, I believe to our listeners, that’s the important thing, to figure out what you can do, because there’s always a way out, where, you know, there are tons of resources available. We just need to figure out which one will work best for our families, because we don’t want to, just like you said, 24 hours in a day, but if we don’t use the time well, it’s not going to serve us any good, and so that was where I needed to adjust. And I’m glad that I was able to, because it’s been 13 years now, my child that I’m talking about is 13 years old. She was 13 in March and they hear me say it all the time, I don’t want to go back and start taking blood pressure medicine, don’t stress me out. So, they’ve heard that story over and over again, when mommy is beginning to get stressed, like she doesn’t want to go back on blood pressure medicine, leave her alone. Yeah, so that’s my line. So everybody’s like, okay, don’t stress mommy out, so it works out well.

[00:30:27] Dr. JB: So, you continued to work at Morehouse and you transitioned from a child and maternal health to primarily, I guess just family practice, gave up the, the OB portion of your practice, but got into the teaching and educational portion, working with the clerkship, and ultimately becoming the clinical and clerkship director. And, but yet, in addition to that, you are a fitness coach and you created your own company. So, walk me through– oh, wait, say that again.

[00:31:07] Dr. Babalola: I said, yes. That’s, that’s exactly right.

[00:31:10] Dr. JB: That’s summarizes it, summarized it pretty well. So, so walk me through the creation of that, like what happened, what made you decide to pursue that?

[00:31:17] Dr. Babalola: Yes. So, you know, I’ve always had a passion for just preventative medicine, let’s put it that way, because as you can tell, I don’t like taking medication, I really don’t. And part of my “why” to improving my health then was cause I wanted to get off medicines and there’s just something about me popping pills. Now, of course, if you have to, you take it. I took it because I didn’t want to have a stroke, right? But I still prefer preventative medicine and I look at it that, just based on the data that we see, that majority of the chronic diseases are lifestyle related. Having that passion in my practice, I’ve always done like preventative medicine, I’m that provider that will spend the extra time to educate patients on why you need to be on this medicine, why you need to do this. I just don’t give patients medication and just tell them what they need to do, right? I need their buy-in, I need them to understand.

[00:32:19] And so with that drive and that passion, I, and this was last year, I’d always known that it was just something that I was going to do, but I guess with COVID and having a little extra time, I said you know what, make hay while the sun shines, it’s what my mom always said. I was like, you know what? I might want to build this company now, Living at Your Finest, and that was where that all came about and moreso, last year I lost my father in January. He passed from cancer, gallbladder cancer, and I recall that he has always been able to overcome several health challenges, but this one really took him down, and the conclusion was that his immune system was just so weakened because he was so sleep deprived. So with my father having chronic insomnia, you know, it just never got better. I tried to give him some tips on how to maximize his sleep, hygiene, but none of that worked and unfortunately, he wasn’t able to recover just because he was so sleep deprived. And it made me consider taking courses in sleep because numerous of Americans, if not worldwide, are sleep deprived. I have a patient that we thought was depressed and when we actually took a deeper dive into his sleep patterns, found out that he had sleep apnea and the moment he started sleeping better, he tossed his antidepressants because that was really what was going on with him. I felt that, you know, there was no perfect time as the present then to just dive into these issues instead of, you know, putting a band-aid.

[00:34:12] So I took multiple courses, I did an obesity medicine certification as well as lifestyle and functional medicine certification, just so that I can learn a little bit more about getting to the root cause. And during COVID, as you aware, it, it really took an impact on our community, communities of color, and so I thought this is the best way to empower our community, to just nourish their bodies, their minds, and their spirits so that they can flourish as health champions. And I do this by just sharing lessons learned from my personal health struggles, as well as my extensive professional training. I developed a coaching program as well as a YouTube and a podcast. So, that’s how it all started.

[00:34:59] Dr. JB: Wow. So I am so sorry to hear about dad and his passing. It sounds like he was a true inspiration for you throughout your entire life. And even now, you know, because his passing was what kind of jump-started this next phase in your life.

[00:35:20] Dr. Babalola: You’re absolutely right. You’re absolutely right.

[00:35:24] Dr. JB: And you know, interestingly enough, this is in addition to everything you’re doing currently, correct?

[00:35:31] Dr. Babalola: Yes, it is.

[00:35:34] Dr. JB: So are you able to sleep yourself?

[00:35:41] Dr. Babalola: That’s a good one, and I like that question because you’re keeping it real. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. You know what, truth be told, love all that I’m doing, but I’ve had to make some adjustments. I’m like you talking about sleep, you’ve done all this training, but yet you’re burning the midnight candle to develop all these programs, to put this podcast out, and all of that. Yeah, well, you know what, as I said, I am a work in progress, I’m not perfect.

[00:36:13] Dr. JB: Of course, you know, and nobody is, nobody’s perfect.

[00:36:17] Dr. Babalola: Nobody is, you’re absolutely right. But you know what? What I like about me though, is I know how to be honest with myself and we keep ourselves accountable in my house. So my husband goes, are you living at your finest at this point? Why are you still up? You’re supposed to get, you know, the recommended hours of sleep is seven to nine and so, like, you, you need to be off at this time, and you’re still awake? So yeah, we check on each other and that, that keeps me in check. So yeah, when I started building the business, it did take some time and I’ve had to adjust just because my body knows how to tell me that it’s sleep deprived. I’m like the worst when I wake up, I’m not sound, and I can’t do that to my patients, right? I need to be sound for my patients, for myself, and my kids, my family. I just really learned what things to drop. So even though I say I do have these things, I don’t do them all at the same. It does not all happen at the same time, it’s not possible, it’s not feasible. I believe as women, strong women, we can, or a professional, you can do what you need to do, you can do all things, but you can’t do it at the same time. There’s a season for everything, so that’s what I’ve adapted. I’ve learned to let go of some things and pick it up another time when the time is right. And the fear that that opportunity will not come again, I think I’ve learned to, to get rid of that fear because there’s tons of opportunities. There are tons of opportunities, if it’s the right one for me, it will cycle right back, so that’s how I’ve been able to handle. And so, even though I say I do all these things, I am adventurous, and I, I tend to– meditation has helped me not to want to do everything that I want to do, to be calm, and let go, and let be, so that, that helps keep me in check.

[00:38:10] Dr. JB: Yeah. And it sounds like you’ve, you’ve been here before, right? Because there is that time after your second child when you had all this stress and you realized that you needed to let go and delegate and hold on to the things that you found the most important, like your self-care that allowed you to get off these medications in a mere months, and then continue to blossom.

[00:38:43] And so here we are, so, you know, kind of circling back around. Your life is expanding, you have even more passions, your children are growing up, they’re becoming more independent, and you have these businesses that you’ve created that are needed. And the question is, how am I going to be able to do these additional things while not losing sight of myself and my self-care and the other responsibilities that I have?

[00:39:15] Dr. Babalola: Yes, and that’s always the question for every, every individual, you know, multi-, multi-talented multi-passionate, so trying to figure out how to balance. And you know, for a while, we’ve always heard balance, how do you balance? But I think it’s harmonize. That’s the word I like to use. How do harmonize? Because there might not really be a balance, you know, some things are going to be off. I look at the, you know, the pillars of holistic health and it comes under eight umbrellas. I have a code, I call code it, right? So, it’s physical pillar, it’s occupational pillar, financial pillar, intellectual pillar, social pillar, emotional pillars, all those pillars, they cannot all be on the same level every single day of the week, that will be just too difficult to figure out because we’re not just dealing with ourselves, right? We’re dealing with human beings around us, right? Your partner is a human being. Your children are human beings. They all have their different emotions every day, we all have our different emotions. So as long as we harmonize them, and then, you know, if you have to pick up on one other pillar and do a little bit more, then you do it because that’s the one that needs a little bit of touch. And then, so not doing it everyday and doing it all out, it would just burn you out, and I didn’t want to go back, like you said, to where I was before, so it’s always a reminder that I need to figure out the best use of my time and knowing that the foundation is for me to sleep and self-care. And my mental health is so important to be able to equip me for these different roles.

[00:40:55] Dr. JB: Because if you lose your mental health, then you’ve kind of lost everything. That has to stay sound. And in terms of sleep, I mean, so many of us are so sleep deprived and we don’t realize the value of sleep and how detrimental it can be to our health. When they talk about immunosuppressive agents, you know, talk about chemotherapy and diabetes and whatnot, sleep needs to be added to list.

[00:41:28] Dr. Babalola: Oh, yeah, it should be one of the vitals. We need to make it one of the vitals. I mean, I know that in the clinics where, you know, just like they added pain to the vitals, you remember it just used to be blood pressure and all of that, and then they added pain. I really agree, I believe, and I’m hoping that sleep will be added where we check off, not just the quality, the quantity, but the quality.

[00:41:58] Dr. JB: Yup. Yup. That’s what I was going to add, I was like quality. Because you could, you know, you can take medication and make you go to sleep, but you don’t feel rested.

[00:42:06] Dr. Babalola: Right, exactly. So quality matters. Yes, absolutely. Yes. I have an acronym for sleep and you know, that’s all part of what I have in my coaching program, where we go over it and I apply it to myself as well, make sure that, you know, I’m following the same guidelines, because what is good for the geese is good for the gander. So with all of us, it makes us to show up at our best and have our optimal health in check.

[00:42:36] Dr. JB: So when you work with these residents, do you work with medical students and residents or?

[00:42:42] Dr. Babalola: Yeah, so mostly, mostly medical students because I’m the clerkship director, but I do have residents that I precept once a week and then we have Wednesday sessions together.

[00:42:56] Dr. JB: And do you talk about the importance of sleep?

[00:42:59] Dr. Babalola: Absolutely. My, my learners now know that the approach that I take, and I tell my patients too, I use an integrative approach when I care for my patients and when I teach. It’s all about getting to the root cause so we dive into what are the issues behind the symptoms? So you have all those symptoms, but what’s the root problem? And yeah, so we talk and I talk them, not just to them for their approach to their patient, but them as individuals, as not even just as doctors, but individuals, cause it makes a difference. You know, I have students that, you know, sleepless night, they don’t study, I mean well, they study, but they don’t sleep, right? And then they don’t perform as well and not understanding what the issue is, and it’s the brain and not being rested. Or if they, you know, just not being able to self-regulate and that’s because you have all those high cortisol levels, lack of sleep. So we dive into that, because as I mentioned, I’ve taken a few courses on sleep just to understand it a whole lot better so I can help myself and my community, so we dive into that for them as individuals and how they can translate that information into their patient care. So it is transformational.

[00:44:25] Dr. JB: And so, what are, what are some recommendations, you know, in terms of optimizing your sleep?

[00:44:33] Dr. Babalola: Yes, so the recommendations, again, as we said, the hours of sleep, it’s very dependent on age. The younger kid, the golden rule that we say 10 by 10, so if you’re 10, you’re supposed to be at least 10 hours, and you know, as you get into teenage years, it’s 8-10. Now for adults, young adults and older, it’s 7-9, but it matters about the quality. So it’s not just the number of hours of sleep. So I have an acronym, they SLEEP. Which, you know, the S is Set up your environment. Excuse me. So how do you set up your environment? A lot of times, and I’m guilty of this, I’ve definitely learned a lot now, so I’m doing better. It’s how do I want my, my, my bedroom to look like, you know, am I going to have blue lights on? Am I going to have the TV on? Am I going to have electronics? So all those things, you really need to cut them down because it affects the melatonin, that’s the hormone that helps us to sleep. So cut those down, get your, set up your environment so that you can, you can increase that melatonin, your body’s natural melatonin. You have to get, you know, all those TVs and blue lights, cut back on them. Electronics, the recommendation is at least one to two hours before bedtime.

[00:45:56] Whereas to talk about things that we drink, so what are we drinking? Like people that take a lot of caffeine, if you’re having caffeine about 6:00 PM, that’s not good. It does take about, how many hours, it needs to be, the half-life is about eight or so. So your last caffeine drink really should be about 2:00 PM, just because of how long it stays in the body. If you take it at six, it’s still going to be in your body, so, you know, it’s really going to get you all riled up. There are other things we talk about, your bed. So bed is only for just intimacy as well as sleep. Anything more than that, you are confusing your brain. And that’s why I have patients that will lay in bed with TV on, with their books and everything, and your body’s like, oh, she’s just, this is our usual stuff, she’s not ready to sleep. So they toss and turn when they’re ready to sleep, so the bed really needs to be sacred and just those activities, intimacy as well as rest.

[00:46:55] We talk about preparing yourself in terms of, you know, do you need something to calm you down, soothe you? You can have a cold bath, some people prefer to have a warm bath, it doesn’t matter. You don’t want to do any vigorous exercise because that would also be, get you all riled up, something light, meditation, journaling, so activities that would get you all ready for bed. So there’s tons of those things that we talk about, and we also talk about things during the day that you can do that would prepare you. So all of these activities is put together nicely where patients identify ,or would I say clients identify what are those things that they’re doing? Some of them, they don’t even know that they’re doing anything wrong, but how do you, you know, balance it and how do we eliminate the things? A lot of the easing of sleep is eliminate, lay the foundation, and all of that.

[00:47:45] And key is to prioritize. So prioritize your sleep, put it on your calendar. I have it on my phone now, it actually rings when it’s time to start winding down. I take a caramel tea to calm me down, lavender tea, also works, you know, the essential oils just to get, cause a lot of us have this fast-paced mind, it doesn’t want to slow down at all. You know, you are like, oh, I have this thing to do, I want to finish it before I go to bed, but I prioritize my sleep. And again, you know, there’s some days where you’re traveling and it’s not all the time, but as long as we don’t make it a perpetual problem where we’re always not sleeping, that’s where it affects us tremendously. And, you know, there are times where we used to think we could always catch up on sleep, but studies show that there’s no such thing. Your brain cannot, it’s not able to restore itself, your immune system is not able to do that if you don’t get that sleep for the day. And that’s why, you know, with kids, babies, they always have to have their nap because for them to, to store the memories, it has to be done within a certain period of time. Now we can do ours at the end of the 24 hours, but for kids, they need to have their rest at a certain age at least twice or three times a day. So those are some things that we talk about that really helps to optimize people’s health.

[00:49:02] Dr. JB: And what about for health care workers and people of other professions that don’t have regular schedules? So if they can’t go to bed at the same time, how do you optimize sleep with them?

[00:49:17] Dr. Babalola: Yeah, yeah, you’re right. I mean, It’s really doing the best that you can and figuring out what are those pockets where you can actually sleep. At least, if you’re doing more sleep on those times, days where you can, versus, you know, not even making an effort. So I know that there’s some that work at night, you know, nocturnal, I don’t know what you, you’re an emergency room doctor too, I don’t know what your hours are like. Or if you, like some of my friends that they work at night, but then during the day, then they make sure that they get their seven hours. It’s better to get it at night, but again, you know, you have to provide for your family, you have your career, as long as you still get it. There has been some talk as well as studies that say getting your sleep between 10:00 PM and 12 midnight is really the better time because that’s where your melatonin is the highest. And then you get that REM sleep and all those deep sleep that helps with your memory. But if you can’t, if that’s not possible, it doesn’t mean that you still lose it if you still get your sleep at a certain time.

[00:50:22] So what we recommend is using the same principles, but just knowing that it’s shift to a different time. Now, if you can change your job, which I think is not realistic, because I mean, you still need people to work at nights, right? Everybody can’t just shut down at night, but just making sure that you still apply those same principles. So let’s say you get off work, you go straight home, you have your place prepared for your sleep, block out noise, do all the things that will enable you to at least get that number of hours of sleep. Because if you, if you don’t do that, you could be surviving, but you’re not working at your optimal best. So that’s really what we do. And, and the course that I took, we actually sit down and do, it takes about an hour, to kind of meet, modify people’s schedule and figure out where they can, you know, add on a little bit more hours. Some people take naps during the day, even though it is not recommended, it’s still, if you don’t have an option of getting a full seven hours, some places it is possible to be able to do that and it will still help.

[00:51:28] Dr. JB: Yeah, I think in terms of putting our wellness central, we can’t lose sight of sleep and its important role in our health, both mental and physical wellbeing. And it probably does take looking at your schedule and planning sleep, just like you plan other things in your life, planning, you know, when you’re going to go exercise, if you don’t plan it, it’s not going to happen, right? And so, setting your alarm clock like you’ve done, in terms of, okay, this is when I’m going to start winding down and getting ready for bed. And again, working with your schedule. If you, if you work as an emergency medicine doc or in another setting that’s open 24/7, it’s open 24/7.

[00:52:11] That means that there are people that are going to have to be awake throughout the night to take care of people when they come in and see you. And so, and those people are not going to be able to go to bed between the hours of 10 and 12 like it might be recommended, but there are things that can be done with their schedule that can make it a little bit more feasible for them to stay healthy. Especially, you mentioned about the emergency room, my hours are all over the place. And so sometimes I’m the early doc, sometimes I’m the middle doc, sometimes I’m the overnight doc. And, and if you, and if that is your life, if that’s your reality, then working with your scheduler to facilitate so that you kind of goes, goes along with your circadian rhythm. Right?

[00:52:57] So, okay. Then let me have X amount of shifts as the early doc, and then transition to X amount of shifts as the middle doc, and then transition to X amount of shifts as overnight doc, and then I can set my schedule right? To be like, okay, so on days when I’m the overnight doc, this is what I’m going to do, on days when I’m the AM doc, this is what I’m going to do, and kind of just have like a gradual transition so that your body has time to adjust versus what happens more times than not is oh, two nights, I’m the morning doc, then one night, I’m the overnight doc, and then I have like a day off, then I go back to morning. And you know, you’re kind of flip-flopping and that’s so detrimental to your health.

[00:53:39] Dr. Babalola: Yeah, absolutely. You’re correct. You know, they say failing to prepare is preparing to fail, so being very strategic about what we do definitely helps a whole lot. So, I mean, there are things that just have to happen in terms of, you know, jobs and things like that, but if we adjust our schedule and we’re very strategic about it, then it can help too. It can help with the transition that our body needs to live at its optimal health. And of course, to reduce those stressors that goes on and also to just help our community, because the way we show up, we show up better when we’re well rested.

[00:54:20] Dr. JB: Yes. Yes, indeed. So Dr. Babs, we are nearing the end of our time together. This has gone by so fast, and so with that being said, I do have two questions for you.

[00:54:35] Dr. Babalola: Okay.

[00:54:35] Dr. JB: Number one, if my listener wanted to get in touch with you and learn more about what you do, how can they do that?

[00:54:46] Dr. Babalola: Yes, I would love to hear from your listeners. I can be reached at livingatyourfinest.com, so that’s my website. My email, I can drop that as well, it’s DrBabs@livingatyourfinest.com. And I do have a YouTube channel where I, weekly have our, just educational video on different health related topics, cause the whole idea is to empower us to nourish as, as health champions. So I provide different topics, so that’s Living at Your Finest with Dr. Babs at YouTube, as well as my podcast and Facebook page. So, everything is Living At Your Finest, that makes it very straightforward. I do have a freebie that I would love for you listeners to partake in, it just talks about my signature course that just breaks down living at your finest, what it means to live at your finest, and it can be found on the home page of my website, Living At Your Finest.

[00:55:56] Dr. JB: All right, perfect. And then the second question is do you have any words of advice that you would like to leave my listener?

[00:56:06] Dr. Babalola: Yes. So, the word of advice I would like to leave your listeners, and thank you listeners for hanging in, and I’ve enjoyed speaking with you, Dr. JB, thank you for this opportunity. You know, we are in this journey called life and I’ve learned that we never arrive, you know, we can say, oh yeah, I’ve made it, I figured it out. Tomorrow is going to have its own challenges, its own joy, its own setbacks, but the beauty of being a lifelong learner is learning to pivot and adjust and grow. And so, my encouragement to all of us is that we should take it one day at a time and just have that growth mindset, that growth mindset and not to sweat the small stuff, because that was what I was doing. So I think the small stuff that led, almost led to me having a stroke and, you know, being ill. So really paying attention to our optimal health and adjusting. Everything can’t be perfect all in one day, it’s about progress, so whatever it is that we, we have to reflect that you’re doing. If it’s sleep, if it’s your nutrition, if it’s exercise, how do we get better the next day? Not– you can be inspired by people, but you’d be better than your yesterday is, is definitely the end goal for us all.

[00:57:39] Dr. JB: I love that. Stop comparing yourself to other people, stop looking outside of yourself, just focus on yourself and slow but steady improvements.

[00:57:53] Yeah, who says a doc can’t rap? D O C T O R J B. The greatest doctor to ever touch the mic. The greatest podcast ever broadcasted or prerecorded. Come learn some, each one, teach one. I’m done.

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