Dr. Lauren Castle shares tips for staying healthy and energetic no matter what the day throws your way.
Like many of us, Dr. Lauren Castle, a market health and wellness director at Walmart, has a lot on her plate but doesn’t want to sacrifice her health to get it all done. Whether she’s overseeing a community wellness event or working with pharmacists as they administer the COVID-19 vaccine, she’s developed simple strategies for balancing her wellbeing and her responsibilities. Below, Dr. Castle describes her regular routine and the supplements she takes along the way.
KCM: What’s your morning routine like, and how do you make sure to start your day on the right foot?
Dr. Lauren Castle: Starting the day right begins the night before, and I’ve always been a night owl so getting at least eight hours of sleep is still a challenge for me. I love using the Sleep Cycle app or the Phillips Wake-Up Light for my alarm clock, because it allows for a more gradual, 30-minute wake up than a traditional snooze button.
I also like to keep things simple and slow in the morning. Before I get out of bed, I place my hands on my heart and my belly and take five deep breaths. Then, I get up, brush my teeth, wash my face, and do a little bit of morning movement. I used to go to the gym in the mornings and lift weights or take a spin class, but I’ve dialed things back during the pandemic. I’ll do some yoga stretches like sun salutations and body weight exercises like squats, push ups, and sit ups. Now that it’s getting warmer, I’m taking walks around the block and enjoying the morning sun.
After that, I sit down to enjoy a warm cup of chicory, which is an herb that is used as a coffee alternative. I’ve had a caffeine addiction my whole life and feel so much better after finally breaking up with my coffee pot this year. I also eat breakfast, which is usually coconut milk chia seed pudding with fresh berries or a smoothie.
Can you describe a typical day at the Walmart Pharmacy? What are some of the biggest challenges you face, as well as the triumphs that keep you looking forward to going to work?
At the Walmart pharmacy, we do so much more than just dispense medications. In the community pharmacy setting, pharmacists are engaged in immunizations, medication adherence, and point of care testing for blood pressure, blood glucose, and even COVID-19. We also host Walmart Wellness health fairs, where we teach patients about ways to improve their overall wellness while saving money and living better, eating healthier foods, or picking up a new exercise activity.
The biggest challenge is always leading through change. When I started with Walmart, we weren’t even giving immunizations, but now pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are playing a crucial role in administering COVID-19 vaccines. The triumphs that keep me coming back to work are providing what we call “moments of care.” It’s those opportunities when you realize that you truly made a difference in someone’s life.
How do you balance all of your responsibilities at work with maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen?
In order to perform your best at work or in any endeavor, you must put your health first. Whenever I start to notice that I’m feeling overworked or stressed, I do a few things. First, I eat something nourishing. It’s easy and convenient to reach for junk food, but snacking on candy and chips only leads to a blood sugar crash and sluggishness later. My favorite snacks are apples and celery with almond butter. Second, I remind myself to simply do my best. My best might look different from one day to the next, but negative self-talk will not improve the situation. Meditation, even for a few minutes, can really help with this. Third, I seek out accountability so I can keep my priorities in perspective. One great resource is Thrive ZP, an online program that helps with building sustainable habits and checking in with a community of people on the same journey toward making better choices.
As an essential worker during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve had to work long hours under challenging circumstances. What dietary supplements do you take to make sure you stay healthy and energized so you can give your patients the care they need?
Pharmacists and technicians often work 10-13 hour shifts in a fast-paced community setting. There’s no single pill that will provide a quick fix, and you can’t “out supplement” a poor diet. But there are a variety of nutrients and supplements that can help support health. In addition to a nutrient dense, whole foods diet, my go-tos are a quality multivitamin, omega 3s and a probiotic.
Why do you like these products and what makes them effective?
- Multivitamin – a quality multivitamin is like insurance for your health. It can fill in nutrient gaps, since we don’t always get everything we need from food each day.
- Omega 3s – these healthy fats are critical for so many functions in the body, from heart health to immune health, but most people don’t eat enough fish in a week to keep their levels up. A fish oil or a vegan algae supplement can help.
- Probiotics – health begins in the gut, and a multistrain probiotic can make up for the fact that we don’t always eat enough fermented foods to keep our good bacteria levels up.
How do you recommend people find the vitamins and supplements that work best for them?
Your pharmacist is your medication expert and your supplement expert! It’s very important to ask your pharmacist or doctor about drug-supplement interactions and drug-nutrient depletions. They can help you evaluate your medication list and find out which prescriptions may be causing “nutrient depletions.” Even if you don’t take any medications, your pharmacist can help you choose the best supplements based on your individual needs.