We interrupt our regularly scheduled financial conversations to cover a subject that’s even more important than your money. How are YOU holding up?  

Even if you’re in good shape financially, we’re still navigating through an unprecedented period of COVID-related stress. You may have adapted and changed, but chances are you’ve had to abandon many of the comforting habits you used to rely on to survive and thrive. 

To help you tend to your personal well-being, we were delighted to host an insightful webinar with Michael’s personal physician, Ari Levy, MD, MBA. In 2016, Dr. Levy founded SHIFT, to help people approach their health by describing it as building their WELLth from a fresh perspective that moves beyond just the medicine. SHIFT’s evidence-based methodology is not only highly applicable to life’s current challenges, it bears an uncanny resemblance to our own Cogent strategy for managing families’ financial wellbeing.  

Below, we have paraphrased some of our recent conversations with friend and colleague Dr. Ari Levy. 

Q: What do you mean by “building WELLth”? 

Dr. Levy: When you get sick, you become a patient, and the medical community takes care of your needs. But while we’re all sick sometimes, nobody wants to be a patient all the time. To move from sick care to healthcare, you shift from being a patient, cared for by the medical community, to being a member of your healthcare community. You are the CEO of your life; your healthcare provider becomes an executive VP of your health and should help steer and guide you along the journey.  

Q: Everyone values good health, so why is it so hard to stick to healthy habits?  

Dr. Levy: Unless you’ve been exposed to a healthcare crisis (or have a chronic disease) at an early age, you simply aren’t built to prioritize your health. Think about kids, for example. They don’t worry about a healthy diet or how many steps they’re taking. They’re just eating and playing. Over time, our health habits grow out of whatever has been modeled for us by our parents, our peers, and the medical community. We don’t go to the doctor for a common cold. We go when we can’t breathe anymore, and we end up in ER. Similarly, our healthcare system has made tremendous advances. Look at today’s vaccines. But at its core, it’s a reactive system, structured to stop rather than prevent problems. 

Q: How do we shift from a reactive mindset when we think about our health?  

Dr. Levy: It starts by accepting that good health is earned, not given. Put another way, your health often rests in your own hands. We all have genetic tendencies for certain conditions. Based on what you do, you can aggravate or minimize how these tendencies express themselves. That’s incredibly powerful and scary. SHIFT exists around this ethos. By emphasizing progress over perfection, and providing support and accountability, we seek to help our member patients build a trusted network for treating any acute conditions, as well as building healthful habits with stronger outcomes.  

Q: What are the key elements for WELLth? 

Dr. Levy: You probably already know the basics: Exercise, diet, and sleep, we say Purposeful movement, fuel and recovery because these words, these themes encompass a broader understanding of how to build WELLth. These principles must want to connect to an individual’s purpose. 

For example, for exercise, some people can’t fathom going to a gym. Their purposeful movement may be outside, in nature. Gardening counts! As another example, strength training is going to be different than an endurance workout, stimulating different parts of the circulatory versus the musculoskeletal system. You want to be purposeful about both. 

For sleep, we’re thinking about restorative quality and quantity. Energy management is a really important part of how you move through your day. Are you being drained or fueled by how you spend your time? Sleep is like a superpower, especially after a demanding day. 

Similarly, we compare nutrition to your fuel. We’ll start off a day well-intended, building up energy reserves. Then, after exhaustion sets in, we might make some “withdrawals” from our nutritional “account.” So, it’s not about choking down nothing but alfalfa sprouts and green beans, or never enjoying a late-night treat. It’s about finding what works for you, and understanding that health generally gets built by being consistent most of the time. Then we can quantify and track what that looks like. A little bit of math can go a long way. 

Q: Any advice on how to come out of COVID with more purpose? 

Dr. Levy: First and foremost, I advise empathy—for yourself and others. Even though we may be in the same space, we’re not all in the same place. Each of our reintegration processes is going to be different. Our interpersonal interactions are going to be forever altered. Some folks are simply going to require more before they feel comfortable around others. Better to understand and respect, than to judge and condemn.

Q: What about mental wellness?  

Dr. Levy: This is a time when it may be important to seek therapy from someone with two qualities: (1) It’s someone with whom you feel safe and secure. (2) It’s someone with the competence and confidence to help you. The right trusted advocates can be a medical professional, a coach, or even a family member. 

Q: What if COVID stress is affecting my health, and even some of my relationships? 

Dr. Levy: I want to emphasize, not all stress is bad. Positive stress can strengthen you, like a business owner improving at their high-stake decisions. Neutral stress is just life’s undercurrent. Then there’s bad, toxic stress that erodes your health.  

So first, we want to know which type of stress it is. Toxic stress is traumatic and feels insurmountable; you can’t get to the other side of it. Nobody enjoys being in that state, so the assumption is we must quickly fix it. But actually, sitting with it can help you process it; understand its effects; and ultimately, metabolize it. Without going into too much detail, the body is built to have stress peaks and then to calm down. Star athletes do this remarkably well. They pick their high-stress, high-performance moments, and then they shut it off. The goal is to condition your body to metabolize stress, as described in this Stress Metabolism reference sheet we’ve created.  

Q: We both espouse an evidence-based approach to our respective professions. What are your thoughts about current medical research? 

Dr. Levy: We try to anchor everything we do in the data, to avoid emotive decisions. Naturally, there is a lot of medical research available, and some of it is fascinating. That said, I also think the latest findings can become sensationalized: “I have to do this test, wear that device, or use this app because my friend did.” You can’t optimize all this latest, greatest stuff, unless you’re also practicing the basics. 

We want our members to be empowered and engaged. We want them to have an opinion. But we also want it to be a partnership. As such, we may question their questions. What are your thoughts? What are you really seeking? What are your sources? Is the information based in meritorious fact, or popular science? 

Q: What should individuals look for from their healthcare providers?  

Dr. Levy: First, you want somebody with clinical acumen. Then seek someone who is board certified by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, or at least thoroughly trained in health habits, such as optimizing sleep, diet, and exercise. They don’t necessarily train us for these skillsets in medical school. Third, they should have a clinical team offering the right support and advocacy to help you embed meaningful changes to your health habits.  You can “willpower it” all you want, but it’s hard to get there alone.  

To learn more about SHIFT, we encourage you to view our webinar with Dr. Levy. We’re also happy to make introductions to Dr. Levy and his team, if that’s of interest. 

If you could use help with your financial health, sit down with us today for a Cogent Conversation. We’ll listen to what success looks like for you, explore any challenges your family faces, build a plan tailored to you, and help you execute that plan every step of the way. 

Don’t manage your family’s financial future all on your own. Book your Cogent Conversation today!


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