Holistic Family Medicine • Primary Care • Eugene

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In 2022,To Be or To Do, that is the Question

January 1, 2022

In a heavenly court, three legendary men are debating the greatest question of all: What is the meaning of life?

Jean-Paul Sartre, the great French existential philosopher says, “To be is to do!” All in attendance applauded the intellectual acumen.

Socrates condescending smirks at Sartre and says, “To do is to be!” and the crowd claps in admiration of the profundity.

Frank Sinatra comes to the podium, offers a serene smile, and with his rich baritone sings, do-be-do-be-do”  Mr. Sinatra gave the proverbial mic drop and all in attendance erupted in adulation of the wisdom.

Seriously, when did it become a badge of honor to be busy?

I don’t know when it happened or why, but I have definitely been guilty of getting caught on the hamster wheel. And I’ve noticed more and more people getting caught on it, too.

It seems that especially here in the U.S., people are often focused on what I call the “endless to do list.” We run from one activity to the next, commuting to work, carpooling kids, shopping, and weekend warrior-ing. Even during a pandemic, we are consumed with how to mix things up, even more so perhaps because so many of our “go to” activities are unavailable or taking place in altered environments and formats. And not surprisingly, this way of living, in which we are constantly on the go, either in reality or metaphorically, creates tremendous stress.

The Science of Stress

The fact that stress can have a negative impact on our health is certainly not new. But being able to identify when this is happening and intervene on our own behalf is something that many, if not most of us, still struggle with.

In addition to the more commonly known effects of stress, like cardiovascular disease and depression, chronic mental stress actually creates premature aging by shortening DNA telomeres. This can ultimately lead to a shortened life span. As reported in Psychology Today, many of the circumstances people are dealing with this year, like untreated depression, social isolation, long-term unemployment, and high levels of anxiety, make the outlook bleak for our telomeres.

Living in a constant flurry of activity also affects our physiology by activating the sympathetic nervous system and causing the release of cortisol and adrenaline. Similar to other states of chronic stress, the body is put in a state of flight or fight and is unable to turn it off. The body remains in this upregulated state which may lead to undesirable physiological and psychological effects. This may be especially true for survivors of trauma who may already suffer from mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD.

However, thanks to epigenetics, there are ways to mitigate the harm done by states of chronic stress and prevent further damage to mind and body. Lucky for us, epigenetic studies have shown that lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise, stress management, and social support can have an impact in a very short time and may ultimately lead to a lengthening of telomeres. Good news, indeed.

One Remedy - Just Be

So how to counteract the compulsion toward business? 

The direct antidote I’d like to offer is that instead of the daily “to do” list, or at least in addition to it, create a daily “to be” list. 

Schedule daily activities that allow you to be in the present moment, ones that give you access to stillness (if that’s your jam) or mindful movement, to joy, wonder, and awe.

Items on your daily “to be” list could be scheduling time for things you love. Another idea could be to learn something new. Or to simply stop planning, thinking about, and preparing for what’s next for a moment. Tips on being in the present moment can be found here. Other ideas for how to simply be are here.

And if you’re still in need of inspiration, read this writer’s hilarious, self-deprecating rant on the busy badge and his personal journey to a life of more “being.” In this Medium article, innovator and entrepreneur, Pete Sena describes busyness as “a cloak worn to navigate a world filled with FOMO” (translation for non-millennials and the pop-culture avoidant: Fear Of Missing Out)

In a similar vein, Carl Richards challenges New York Times readers to “try doing nothing for a while.” Richards' rails against the assumption that busy equals better by arguing for the necessity of “being” time, especially for those engaged in work that is primarily cerebral. He wrote, “For knowledge workers, large chunks of unstructured time are not rewards for doing good work — they’re prerequisites for it.”

So my prescription for busyness is beingness. If busyness is a theme in your life, try taking something off of your “to do” list and make time “to be.” Even a few minutes a day of being can have a profound impact on body, mind, and spirit.


The Secret To Happiness: Discover Your Treasure

January 28, 2021

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Moe R.I.P. 2012 to 2021, The Greatest Dog Ever & My Greatest Teacher.

Moe passed away last week and my family is still grieving. There is a game I loved to play with Moe, and the nature of the game is surprising. As a blue heeler, it was in his nature to always attach to your hip, no matter what. The moment he heard the beep of my watch or saw me getting dressed, he would start “herding” me to go outside. He never, ever, wanted to “stay”, when I was leaving. So, we created the “stay...

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My Health Scare & The ClusterF*** of 2020

December 20, 2020

I recently suffered a serious health scare. The stress from this malady clouded my cognition. There was sharp pain and burning that came in waves. It interrupted my sleep and affected my quality of life. Upon sharing my tragic condition with my wife she said, “Stop being such a baby”, as she laughed at my predicament that afflicts women routinely.

The urgency was of a urologic nature, and thankfully I have made a complete recovery and will not suffer from any adverse sequelae. As many of y...

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Health and Healthcare Disparities in the United States

August 12, 2020

Over 162,000 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 in the United States within the past six months. And in its wake, the inequities of our nation have risen to the surface, revealed by the light of day with an undeniable starkness. Our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities have been dealt the biggest blow in the times of coronavirus.

Before his brutal murder sparked protests and social justice uprisings in cities around the world, George Floyd had COVID-19. And more of...

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Movement for Optimum Health

June 18, 2020

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is a coveted time of year. As the days get longer and the sun shines more and brighter, the urge to get outside and move becomes greater, too. Who can question why? Festivals abound, there are countless natural wonders to explore, the weather is warm and dry, and it’s light until 10 o’clock at night. The massive influx of vitamin D into the system doesn’t hurt either.

Even before COVID-19 caused so many of us to start climbing the walls of our enclosed spa...

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Life in the Balance - Part 3

June 7, 2020

Steeped in the belief of food as medicine, an Ayurvedic or Vedic diet is based on the philosophy that the foods we eat impact both our bodily health and mental states. Yep that’s right. Our eating habits not only dictate our physical health, but directly affect our cognition, including thoughts and emotions, and the ability to learn, make decisions, and problem-solve, among other brain functions.

So what does it mean to eat in a balanced way in Ayurveda?

Traditionally, this meant following a ...

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Life in Balance - Part 2

May 26, 2020

Are you the kind of person that likes to go-go-go like the energizer bunny? 


Is it hard for you to get motivated? Follow-through on commitments?


Are you more interested in exploring the inner world than the outer, more at home on your meditation cushion than anywhere else?

Perhaps the truth is that you vacillate between different modes of activity. Or find yourself somewhere in between. Sometimes quiet and contemplative, other times with the urge take charge, rock out, jump-off, plunge in.


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Life in the Balance - Part 1

May 11, 2020

Feel like you’re on a runaway train, going full-speed ahead, and the brakes have suddenly gone out? 


Like your battery is dead, you need a jump start to get moving, but wish you could just stay on the couch?

Don’t worry. If either scenario fits your current state - you’re not alone.

These are crazy times. And it’s normal to feel a little off kilter...or A LOT.

Ayurveda! Take me away...

Meaning “science of life” in Sanskrit, Ayurveda is an ancient healing tradition with roots in the...

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Staying in Control When You Feel Anything BUT That

April 18, 2020

At a time like this, during a global pandemic, our thoughts are naturally consumed with survival. How to stay physically and emotionally well amidst this unprecedented time in our lives. Although there are people on the planet that survived the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, for 99.9 percent of us, the COVID-19 Pandemic is something we could not have imagined would befall us during our lifetime - or at least in this lifetime if you believe that this is not our only turn on the merry-go-round.

So, co...

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The Yoga You Can Do

April 17, 2020

Ever wish you could escape your thoughts? 

I have, especially on days when my mind was fixated on my failures and uncertainty of the future. On all the things I wanted to be - but wasn’t. Wanted to do - but couldn’t. Wanted to have - but didn’t.

Mired in my negativity bias, or “pity committee”, my thoughts used to be like a playlist of songs written by my own worst enemy (me) looping endlessly. It felt like there was a war waging inside my mind. Like I was living on a battleground. 


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About Me

Orestes Gutierrez, D.O. Board Certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Holistic Medicine. Author and All American Masters Runner.