Hello everyone and welcome to this podcast entitled How Expanding One’s Awareness Can Lead to Positive Choices! I’m Dr. Trish – physician, author and Health Catalyst speaker. I am so honored today to have Retired Colonel Jill Chambers from the U.S. Army here to talk about awareness with us today.
Jill, it’s so nice to have you on the show!
Oh, thank you so much. I’m so delighted to be here!
It’s going to be great!
I’m looking forward to it.
Yeah! I’m going to read Jill’s bio which is just amazing. Check this out! Retired Colonel Jill W. Chambers, CEO of This Able Vet, LLC., is widely recognized as the first person in the history of the U.S. Military to develop a successful, sustainable strategy designed to reduce the crippling stigma associated with mental health challenges in a warrior culture. Her deep understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) changed the military culture, equipping those likely to face adversity with tools to help them positively process those experiences. Jill was inducted into the Army’s Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015 for her contributions in this area. In recognition for her rare gifts as a leader and her many groundbreaking accomplishments over 30 years of service, Colonel (R) Jill Chambers was most recently selected, as a “Next Maker” by AOL and PBS honoring trailblazing women whose physical, intellectual and emotional strength have opened doors, opened minds, and inspired change.
She was also selected as the Senior Professional Women’s Association Department of Defense Woman of the Year in recognition for her contributions that have positively impacted the community specifically with her work in her organization, This Able Vet, LLC., a Woman Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. With a master’s degree in Public Administration and Human Resources and another Master of Science in Natural Resource Strategy, Jill utilized her post-9/11 GI bill to further her education and earn two additional degrees: a master’s in Health and Wellness with a concentration in aromatherapy and a master’s in Complementary Alternative Medicine both from the American College of Healthcare Sciences in 2019.
Jill is married to country superstar Michael Peterson, known for his #1 hits, “From Here to Eternity,” “Drink, Swear, Steal and Lie,” and “Too Good To Be True.”
I met both Michael and Jill at a CEO Space conference about a year and a half ago I think it is.
We just hit it off so I’m so glad you’re here with us today on our podcast.
Oh, thank you. That was very sweet of you!
Well, every bit of it is just an honor. Your background is just absolutely amazing.
Thank you, Trish.
To start with some questions, the first question I love to ask all my guests is: how did you get to where you are today as far as the type of service you’re providing to the world today? Help us understand what led you down this path.
That’s a great question. I never thought I would be down this path, but what really started this was actually being in the Pentagon on 9/11. That was obviously a very momentous day in pretty much everybody’s life. Being there in the Pentagon and witnessing first-hand the trauma that’s happening there. Subsequently over the next several years while still working in the Pentagon, I ended up working for Admiral Mullen, who was then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I served for him as his special assistant for returning warrior issues. I wasn’t really even qualified to do that. I was an Adjutant General Corps Officer. That was personnel and you take care of people’s problems and solve issues. I was thrust into this particular position and thought, okay well I’m going to go after this just like I would any other job.
So not really being of a medical background, but just a regular person, my job was to go out because Admiral Mullen tasked me to find out what was going on with our service members coming back. Because of the concern of all the mental health challenges that were happening and these service members coming back with something that nobody was really willing to talk about. Over the course of a little over 18 months, I traveled all over the United States speaking to soldiers who were returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and really beginning to understand that there’s this thing called post-traumatic stress. Of course, throwing the word “Disorder” on there wasn’t helping at all. One of my first tasks was “okay sir, we need to talk about post-traumatic stress. This is a real thing. It’s not just military. Everybody can experience post-traumatic stress.” And he thought, okay if this is really important to you. I was neck deep into this by now after listening to so many service members and their stories.
The fact that we weren’t talking about it and not doing any treatment about it led me to meeting Dr. Marty Seligman who was a past American Psychological Association President out of the University of Pennsylvania. I connected with him and another gentleman by the name of Dr. Larry Dewey out of the Boise Idaho V.A. and Dr. Richard Carmona, the past president of the American Psychological Association. And I pulled this group of men together because they knew about post-traumatic stress and again for me I was just the kid coming in learning. I didn’t have any predisposition about anything that was supposed to be, so I was just like a sponge taking all this in. It was very short-ordered. Out of this group of men we were able to go then to General Casey, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and present him with the evidence that’s saying we need to really start talking about post-traumatic stress and there’s really light at the end of the tunnel.There’s things that you can do to overcome adversity, to build resilience, and to help our service members so that they don’t fall into these cracksClick To Tweet and people don’t know how to take care of them.
I was able to bring all that together. I was thrilled about that, General Casey listened to these gentlemen and that very day after that very first meeting he put out a General Officer sends so it went all across the Army that says: #1 we’re going to start talking about post-traumatic stress, #2 we’re dropping the word “disorder” because it’s not a disorder this is a natural human reaction to unlikely events, and #3 we’ve got ways to create a program that can start to get our service members prepared, more resilient, and being to talk about mental health not you’ve got some kind of weird psychological problem – it’s mental health.
I delighted to be on the ground work of all of that and when all was said and done in 2009 when I’m getting ready to retire, I was happy. Everything was launching, and I went and had my physical to leave and it was determined that I had post-traumatic stress. Little did I know! You know, I thought it was normal to sleep two hours a night, and I thought having nightmares about burning aircraft for 8-9 years was just normal and I’m not going to talk about it. Wait a minute, I need to get myself healthy because this isn’t normal.
That was really the path that encouraged me. I knew I needed to take care of myself #1 before I could do anything, and I knew that pharmaceuticals, for me, it wasn’t the way. I’d seen what happened to a lot of our service members and it was pill after pill after…some of them were taking 20-25 medications at a time! Its affects are devastating. And a lot of those affects led to a lot of suicides. I went down the road of guided imagery, neurofeedback, and biofeedback. I had some really remarkable friends with guided imagery and led me to some biofeedback and neurofeedback. I retired in April of 2009 and I was diligent! I listened to my guided imagery every day. I did my neurofeedback and biofeedback every day and honestly since August of 2009 I haven’t had a nightmare since!
It’s been just remarkable. Now that isn’t a cure-all for everybody. That is what helped me and my brain and my physiology. That led me to then think, wait a minute…I bet there are a lot of non-pharmaceutical things out there that can really help our service members. That’s when I started to get myself educated. That’s why I went back for those two other master’s degrees. That’s how I learned about tapping and HeartMath and just a variety of non-pharmaceuticals that can work individually-based on whatever our service member that I’m working with at the time feels most comfortable with to include aromatherapy too. That’s really been my journey. And there’s still more education to learn, I’m certainly not an expert in all of that, but I have such a deep understanding now of these kinds of things that can help. I’ve seen it work on myself, I’ve used this on my friends, I’ve used it to help our veterans, and I’ve helped my husband. The fun part is in reading your book. Out of all the people that I had the opportunity to meet that time at CEO Space, there was just something about your energy and I didn’t really know what it was. Of course, we parted ways. I read your book in probably less than two hours and was like, oh now I know why! I know exactly why. Your book is just so on target and it’s such an easy read and it’s fun!
Well thank you, Jill! That’s awesome. The title of the book is Make a D.E.N.T. in Chronic Disease. And yes, when I met Jill I gave her my book as a gift because we talked about her background and that she had done her training in alternative medicine and innovative medicine things and I was just so honored to give you the book to see what you thought of it! You ended up finding out my email, so you could email me what you thought of the book. I loved that! That was so special.
Yeah, as you were speaking it reminded me of the fact that I used to use, quite often in my talks publicly, an excerpt from a documentary called Escape Fire. Escape Fire is a documentary about where is our medical system today and they did use the military in pieces of it as sort of an example of basically in some ways how the medical system’s not working well in that the one person that is sort of in that piece he pours out of a plastic bag all of the bottles of pills he was on. He was like, “I’ve been on all of these pills.” And he poured out and entire plastic bag full of bottles! The documentary shows that instead of that, he tried some acupuncture, neurofeedback, guided imagery – what you were talking about, and he got better!
My message to everyone, Jill, and you fit in perfectly, is the fact that whether you’re talking about traditional medicine and innovative medicine, it’s exactly that – it’s integrative. What does the research show is a benefit and don’t only look at one way. There’s always other options out there.
Exactly. Exactly, you’re right on target.
Yeah! With the theme of awareness today and again how expanding one’s awareness can lead to positive choices, how has awareness in your life’s journey making a positive healthy difference for you now?
I love that question. We all know we can make choices. I can make a choice to get up and go to the refrigerator and get a drink of water. And I can make a choice to go out and just go for a walk. What has helped me, and again this is probably because of this last three years of education and getting these masters, is thinking about if you look at your choice right here but also the awareness of why am I doing that? has made such a difference. So instead of I’m going to the refrigerator to get a drink of water (and I don’t do this in a deliberate, step-by-step) in the back of the mind as I’m going to the refrigerator to get that water my awareness is saying, good for you, Jill, drink that water. It’s great for your brain. And I reinforce it. I give myself my positive reinforcement. Hey, I’m going to go for a walk. That’s a choice, I’m choosing to go for a walk. Yeah because you know what, it’s really good for my muscles and my bones. Today is going to be a day where I’m going to walk through the park and scoop up some of this good energy from the trees. I can feel it, so my awareness of the why – why am I going to choose to go do that has made it fun. It’s made it a fun, healthy journey for me. It’s reinforced why I want to do these things and it’s easy and it’s fun.
One of the things you mentioned in your book is how important it is to have a companion or something that’s doing things like this with you. Michael’s just totally on board with me. Just before we started this, he headed to the gym to go swimming. And I said to him, “Why are you swimming?” And he then came back and said, “Well, I’m working on some hip joint issues and this has really been beneficial for me instead of walking.” Good! But it just put in his head, this is why I’m going. So, I hope that helps answer that question, but it’s just been this awareness that you can apply to anything in your life.
Absolutely. Just the idea of so many of us just do habitual things in our lives day in and day out, all day long. The idea is well, why? Just stop a second and ask, why do I choose to do this? Why am I doing that? And if you really don’t have an answer then maybe it’s time to reassess!
I can share with folks that about a year ago, as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine I work with my hands a lot as my job is quite physical treating people’s pain, I had a couple injuries up and around my neck in what’s called the thoracic inlet in my shoulder. I was making the choice not to really work out with my upper body because I felt I had to protect it or care for it and rest it. That went on and on and it started to keep going on and on to the point where things were not getting better. I said to myself about a year ago, Trish you’ve got to start lifting or doing something to improve. I was always stretching but I wasn’t really working on the strength. Then I realized well okay I can’t get to the gym because of my schedule and I said well wait a minute, I own my own business! I’ve changed my schedule so that Tuesday mornings for the last year I am always at the gym.
And now my pain is gone up around my neck at the thoracic inlet where the clavicle comes into the sternum. The pain is gone and I’m stronger. My energy is better because I made a focused decision of needing to get strong and, I’ve always done yoga every day, I chose to get my strength back and now we do a yoga class every Friday at my office’s group visits and we do self-myofascial release. I participate as a participant in those things – not always the instructor!
Oh, I love that story! See I love that because the awareness after sitting and thinking I’m resting well okay that’s not working. You found another path. I love that, that’s perfect. For a month now I’ve had a ringing in my right ear and it’s kind of a high pitched thing and it kind of comes and goes and it’s a little irritating but it hasn’t really messed up my sleep. Then I start to read on the internet…blah blah blah…tinnitus…blah blah blah. Mostly, usually, always everything you read is too bad you’re sad, you’re stuck with this, it’s just going to get worse so suffer. And I don’t take that lightly. No, no, no – there’s got to be a way! Seriously in the last week it was not going away, I’ve been using some essential oils and when I do that especially with peppermint right around my ear because it has everting to do with blood flow and peppermint oil is one of the good ones to get blood flowing and that seemed to work. And I thought I’m going to have to use peppermint oil the rest of my life? There’s something else. Let me think, let me think. And then I thought, wait a minute I wonder if my sinuses are…I don’t have cold but your sinuses can get gummed up and sometimes you don’t even know it. So, for the last four days I’ve been using this sinus rinse – ringing is gone! All gone!
It’s gone. Like, oh that was easy. And no, I’m not going to have to live with it. You know you justget that awareness to go further. What’s the root? What is it that I can do?Click To Tweet
And that’s the other thing about the “why” that you made me think of. The idea of functional medicine, of course. It’s the idea of not just here’s your uniform, you have rheumatoid arthritis, or you have migraine headaches, here’s your uniform. But, why? Why do I have them and what is the root cause for me? The root cause may not be the same for everyone.
And you, because you were thinking about why, and the awareness of it, was like well wait a minute why have I developed tinnitus – the ringing in the ear. What are the possible things? And you were able to figure it out.
Exactly. And that comes from education and of course a lot of it boils down to, I call it the “you got to want to” factor. You’ve got to want to get better. And I want to feel good. Michael and I have a plan, we’re going to live to be 120.
There you go!
There are things we need to do. We’re halfway there! We’ve got things to do! Not let silly stuff bog us down. Obviously, I can’t perform surgery on myself and there are some very serious things that could happen that need medical attention I get that.
Another example is for about a week my right foot just felt super tight, like I wish someone could come along and just pull it a little bit, I needed a crack something. It was just stuck. I thought well why is this? Well, I walk a ton and it was the same thing. I realize my good pair of walking shoes are kind of wearing out. This was just yesterday. This had been about a week and now I’m starting to walk kind of funny and it’s like okay don’t screw up your hip and mess up your gait by walking funny. Let’s figure this out. So, again I got online the first thing I came up with was it’s tendonitis because so many people were talking about the same kind of place where it was on their foot. I thought, oh tendonitis, well I wrote a few papers on that in my master’s class. I pull these out. I actually went upstairs to my little aromatherapy room, I made myself a blend. I did that and thought well okay it’s been about a week and it’s kind of past the time of doing of ice, but I did it anyway. I didn’t really walk on long walks at all yesterday. I woke up this morning and it was as if someone gave me a brand-new foot! It’s gone! It’s just gone.
You know, the more you engross yourself in other options, other possibilities and the more tools you have to try and be proactive for yourself. If you catch things early enough, many times, it’s going to get better!
Exactly! Exactly so that came all from awareness because yesterday it was like oh let’s go for a walk. No, not going for a walk. Today’s not walk day, let’s just be good day. So that again it was like always a choice to go but wait a second, have some awareness let’s clean things up and just like you said, “things can get better.”
Absolutely. We have so much power to be in control of our injuries or issues many times. Again, if we catch it early enough and we’re proactive.
So, are there specific tools you use to stay in alignment or to foster your awareness and balance in your life?
Thank you for that question. Yes, indeed. I’m a HeartMath mentor from the HeartMath Institute, so that’s really working coherence with your heart and your brain. I use my inner balance tool probably 4-5x a week. And I try not to do everything every single day. I like to jazz it up a little bit. I’ll work with my inner balance several times a week. I’m happy that Michael and I both do Lumosity so we work on our brains and keep that alive. We’ve got our Fitbit tools so we’re always making sure we get steps or at least we’re moving. And I have an aromatherapy room with a biofeedback/neurofeedback computer tool. We use that about once a week, each of us. You know, after you use it so often it’s very, very easy to get your numbers where it’s very healthy for you. Then you can start to feel it in your own body and at that point there are many times, like when I go out and speak I know what I need to do for my breathing and my thought process before I just get up and speak. I know exactly what that feeling is. I know it takes me about four minutes to get there. I don’t have to have my inner balance tool with me, I know what to do to make that feeling come over me. Like now I’m ready! Everything just feels in alignment.
Yeah, inner balance, neurofeedback, biofeedback, and guided imagery for sure.
These are practices, these are tools. I always recommend to all my patients that I truly believe that every single one of us should have a practice we do (it might only be for five or ten minutes) but the bottom line is you do some practice every day. Whether it’s deep breathing (and that doesn’t cost anything!) or whether it’s one of the tools you’ve mentioned. I recommend to a lot of people something called Active Minds Global that has to do with brain entrainment, kind of like neurofeedback. These terms all sort of overlap each other. Another biofeedback modality of HeartMath, where instead of biofeedback for the brain we’re using it to bring our heath into coherence.
All of it has to do with quieting our sympathetic nervous system and bringing our systems into balance. If you spend five or ten minutes a day doing that you become so much more aware of how to get to that place on a regular basis.
Exactly! And then it’s just fun and it’s healthy. You and I both know what stress can do and that’s just a mess and it’s everywhere, it’s all around us. Michael and I run into so many people who are running in 100 different directions, they’re stressed, and talk a mile a minute. When I get around that I find myself getting even more relaxed now. It’s very easy to get caught up in it. They get your wheels spinning and it’s like, nope, I’m not playing.
You fall back into your practice.
Exactly, exactly. That’s just become a habit now. Just like no, I’m not going to go there.
That’s awesome. How has gratitude played a role in keeping you healthy both mentally and physically? Awareness is one thing, but what about gratitude?
Yeah, gratitude. Thank you for asking that. It’s so important, and it’s a word that people can throw around and maybe not really understand it. “Oh, I’m grateful.” I encompass that because when Michael and I every morning and this is a habit of ours, we talk about the three things that we feel gratitude for, looking forward to in the day. This morning it was knowing that I was going to have the opportunity to speak with you. It almost feels like I’m giving back, and nothing’s even happened yet. It’s such a great feeling! It’s just a beautiful, beautiful way to figure out how to not only appreciate what’s in front of you, what you could be looking forward to, and what’s around you but when you can then be able to give that back and just shine the light on a stranger.
When I’m out walking, I do that sometimes when I’m taking a walk, I can hardly wait for the first stranger to come by because I’m going to smile and I’m going to wish them a really nice day and see what comes back. I have never not had it come back. Even people whose heads are down I’ll make it a point to kind of get in their way. Las Vegas is beautiful almost all the time and it’s a beautiful day! I always say, “make it a great day.” Instead of “have a great day,” “make it,” that’s your job, you’ve got to go make it a great day. And you get the smiles and the heads turn.
You know, that for me is just all that gratitude is just endorphins everywhere and I know how important that is. So that’s how I see that.
Yeah, and I’m sure that through your practice with HeartMath for example and others in the meditation world, they talk about the universal emotions. Positive emotion, gratitude, thankfulness, compassion, empathy, joy, love…
All those! The universal positive emotions and if we promote those in our lives and during our practice sort of bring those up and learn what those feel like in ourselves then you can bring them up at any moment and you can share them as you see fit.
You are exactly right. And it keeps you from flying off the handle. We all have challenges. Pretty much you’re going to have them every day, but it keeps you from getting into arguments or saying something that you probably didn’t mean to say. Now,I feel like I have just so much more control over taking care of myself and my environment and exercising my boundaries on things that want to creep in or energy that I don’t want.Click To Tweet
Yeah, one thing everyone needs to realize is we are emotional beings first and rational beings second. We all seem to think we are rational beings first but we’re not!
Our brain is actually wired with more from the emotional centers first.
Right, right. I’d forgotten that. You’re right.
And so, when we’re faced with an emotional situation (like a stressful situation) our emotions come up. Like you just said the idea of “I didn’t mean to say that” or “I didn’t mean to do that,” many times it’s because our emotions are just reacting and our rational being isn’t present at that second or that moment. But when we walk away from that and our rational mind is able to come up because the emotion is over, it’s like…oh I didn’t really mean to say that. I wouldn’t have said that if I thought about it first. And then if you have a daily practice of quieting your emotions, quieting your mind, bringing yourself back to the gratitude, the thankfulness, compassion, these places, sometimes you’ll find that your quickness to react in emotional situation that might not be so positive is slower or quieter and you’re not as fly off the handle if you will.
Oh, I love how you said all that. Absolutely, absolutely! Well, that feels good!
Absolutely. Jill, if you had one wish relating to everything you have learned and now practice, related to awareness and your health – what would that be?
That’s really easy! I wish I would have known this so much younger!
I really do. But of course, even ten years ago people weren’t talking about a lot of the things that you and I are talking about. It just wasn’t there. I can’t go back in time and relive all the things that I would have done differently with all my new tools. What I really wish now is that at least what I’m doing, and certainly what you’re doing, is for people that have an understanding about this and this gentleness to get this information out and to be present with people to share this. That’s what I wish going forward is to be able to share. For some people it’s just not what they want to do and that’s okay. They either will, or they won’t. Butthose who are very interested and want to lead a healthy life, I want to be there for that. That’s just what I do, show up and when they’re ready I’m there.Click To Tweet
That’s awesome. And we’re so glad you show up, that’s for sure!
That’s sweet, and you too!
Well thank you. That’s the reason we do this! The reason you’re willing to come on and do an interview and I just keep doing my podcast and doing my thing because the more we put it out there to the universe then the more the universe is going to hear it and feel it and the more things are going to shift.
Great! Jill, this has been great! My final question I always love to ask my clients that come on this as interviewees is – if you were to share with us your one secret for living a healthy life, what would you tell us that is?
I feel certain my secret has been Michael in my life, without a doubt. What you talk about in your book about companionship. I have a couple of super great friends too that they’re on this journey with me, some girlfriends. But having Michael day-to-day, from morning to night, to reinforce the things that we’re doing to keep ourselves healthy to 120.
There you go!
It’s just, he’s it. I’m also it for him. And if one of us sees the other sliding, the other one just comes and pulls us right back.
A perfect example is this morning I had a person who was supposed to be over here at 9:00 and I don’t know if it’s military background or it just feels good to me when people are on time when they say they’re going to be on time. I’m like that. 9:00 came and went, 9:30 came and went. I texted this woman said, “I thought we had an appointment at 9 but if something’s come up, no worries.” I was very careful. Back in the day, I would have been, “Hey, where are you? We had an appointment at 9.” But just very gentle about that. I went upstairs, and I shared with Michael that she was supposed to be here at 9. And he kind of looked at me and cocked his head and he said, “And…?” Now you could go and have this automatic negative thought well I’m just not going to deal with her at all and be frustrated. He tilted his head and smiled, and I looked at him. I announced, “I’m sure something came up and we’ll hear from her but it’s just fine.” Instead of getting wound up. He with the little head cocked was like don’t go there. Because he knows me. Sure enough she texted back, “Oh my gosh. It did not show on my calendar today. I’ll be there in five minutes. I’m so sorry.” And she came over and was completely delightful. I could’ve ruined that whole thing by taking that automatic negative thought, but Michael said, “don’t do that.” He’s it.
That’s awesome. How long have you and Michael been together, Jill?
We just celebrated our seventh anniversary. We’ve known each other fifteen years but we got married seven years ago.
Nice, that’s awesome. That’s great! Jill, thank you so much for being on with us. We all appreciate every little point you’ve made.
We just resonate together as far as these different ideas so I’m so glad to reconnect with you.
Well thank you. You certainly fulfilled my day and I feel a lot of gratitude for you! So, I’m going to enjoy my day!
So cool. Thank you! Thanks for listening everyone, and we hope to see you on our next episode of Discover Health podcast. Take care everyone!
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