Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Key to Unlocking an Enriching Life

By Marjorie Catone, BSN, RN, CCRN-CSC
Integrative Nurse Health Coach

I always thought my purpose in life was to be a mother. What could bring more joy to one’s life other than nurturing, raising and protecting your babies in a healthy and happy home? To carry an unborn child, to feel the tiny, miraculous movements from inside that nobody else in the world could feel. To connect with the spirit of a child who was about to uncover a world of their own. My life was complete with the birth of my second child. I had a fulfilling job where I was fortunate to work part-time in order to be home primarily to raise my children. My husband owned a thriving gym which was constantly expanding in space and popularity. I had a happy, loving marriage. What else more could I want?

Until, one day, something happened that changed my life forever. My only son, 20 months old, had passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly. I can remember the feelings that followed in the days and months that passed. Feelings of emptiness, loneliness, depression, confusion and the yearning to just hold him once again. The simplest things like getting out of bed in the morning, preparing meals, completing household tasks, attending friends and relatives parties all seemed unsatisfying, difficult and unbearable. However, I had my four-year-old daughter that needed me so I had a choice to make. I could continue to live with my head hanging low in the shadows of the days or use this crisis to thrive and live a more fulfilling and purposeful life.

Sometimes we find our life purpose when we are under a crisis such as an illness, death, divorce, retirement, or job loss. However, this crisis can become a catalyst for a purpose we never envisioned possible. Most of us tend to take life for granted and get lost in the busy and stressful days of the everyday hustle and bustle of life until a crisis wakes us up and forces us to ask some big questions. “Why am I here?”, “What is my purpose in life?”, “What do I want to achieve while I am here?” We end up letting go of petty concerns, conflicts and the need for control and begin to truly realize that life is short and every moment is precious. At our lowest moments and times of suffering, our heartbreaking situations that arise cause us to revisit our stories which ultimately reawaken us and help us see life a little more clearly. Previous importance’s fade in significance. As the dust settles and the fog lifts, we begin to see the true importance of life.  

Research has shown that having an authentic purpose in life creates better health outcomes. It can be important to overall brain health and well-being and make you less prone to illness and disease and ultimately help you live a longer, happier, more fulfilling life. But, how do we find our purpose? We all want to leave an impact on the world, to leave our footprints behind, to contribute to the greater good, to what speaks to our soul. We all seek growth, knowledge, compassion, love and joy. However, we must ask ourselves, “What is our unique purpose in this world?” A great place to start is by searching our childhood and seeing the gifts that were instilled in us, our passions and values, and asking ourselves, “What gives our life meaning?” For many people, purpose can be as simple as having a family and children or it can be a fulfilling career that rewards us with its gratification. We also must be aware that purpose can change, as life changes and unfolds. As we grow, learn and mature, we become wiser. As challenges arise, we find that our purpose sees us through and sometimes during this challenge, purpose finds us and we must answer. The truth comes from within, buried deep within our souls.

Through unimaginable pain, struggle and hardship, I found a new meaning and purpose in my life. Not only do we grow physically, but we grow spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and socially. I have chosen to live a more simple life and have found joy in nature and in all those that I meet. I try and find the good in all humanity, even at times when I have lost all hope. I have learned to love more deeply and be present in each moment, especially with my family. I have become an advocate for my son Nicholas, who no longer has a voice in a world that is so large. Through tragedy, I found transformation and every day I fight to turn my unimaginable loss into a legacy. Sometimes, as our true-life purpose unfolds, our story connects with others and encourages them to find their higher meaning in life and to motivate them to be a better person. We all want to become the best we can be. Through self-awareness and reflection, our purpose unfolds. You already have it in you. However, you are the only one that possesses the key to an enriching life. So, I challenge you to unlock your story, your gifts and your curiosity and find your life’s purpose. Therefore, I leave you with some questions to ponder and perhaps write down in a journal.

1.) What is your reason for getting up in the morning?
2.) How do you contribute to the world?
3.) What special characteristics make you unique?
4.) How do others see you?
5.) Why are you here?

Visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org/IntegrativeMedicine or call 732-263-7999 to learn more.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Summer Check-Up

By Pamela Jansky, RN-BC, CDE, HWC
Integrative Nurse Health Coach

Summer is upon us! I hope you are all enjoying the energy of this season! In the spring we talked about spring Renewal and the preparation that takes place as we begin our spring clean-up and plant our summer gardens. We talked about internal cleansing as well, and the importance of setting personalized, realistic and sustainable goals that can become new healthy habits so that you, like your garden, may remain vibrant and fruitful. As we said, “Motivation gets you started but habit keeps you going!” So let’s give ourselves a summer check-up!

If we started some new habits a few months ago, we should begin to see some growth and change in the same way we see our gardens grow and change. Perhaps you started moving more and doing some resistance training with the fruit of your labor being weight loss and muscle toning. You are eating cleaner and nourishing your body with more fruits and vegetables. You are feeling stronger and more energetic! How good does it feel to fit into your favorite summer clothes, or enjoy the new ones you are wearing? How satisfying is it to see more muscle tone in your arms with that sleeveless shirt? How much more are you enjoying summer activities with your increased strength and endurance? Best of all, how has this increased sense of well-being and vitality improved your life and relationships? Even better, you may feel motivated to set some new goals to build on your success and move to the next level. After all, in the rhythm of the seasons, it won’t be long before we start planning our fall planting beds so that we can enjoy the fruits of that season. Let’s keep the momentum going!
On the other hand, what if things did not go as planned? You set some awesome goals and had high expectations, but for one reason or another, you are not where you hoped you would be. Perhaps you started strong and your commitment fell off. Well, you are not alone. Many of us find it challenging to navigate through the business and seasons of life. Sometimes we have significant life altering events that get us off track. Often times it is simply a matter of re-learning self-care or perhaps our goals were not realistic and attainable. We are all unique and we may find there are any number of situations that present challenges to making sustainable change. Sometimes, it may seem too overwhelming to start, or we simply need some help in clarifying and setting our goals. Whatever the case may be, it’s never too late to change direction and move toward increasing wellness!

At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we offer a variety of services that support people in their journey to maximum health and well-being. As a Nurse Health Coach, we can partner with you and support you in personally identifying and addressing areas in which you may feel blocked or in need of change. A Nurse Health Coach can assist you in identifying your readiness to change and supporting you in setting personalized SMART Goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound. It is more important to set specific realistic goals that are achievable, that you can build upon, rather than goals that are so big you can’t even get started. Those goals must be client driven and have personal value.

Integrative health & medicine focuses on the whole person: mind, body, and spirit, while addressing our Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being. Whether it be Sleep, Activity, Purpose, Nutrition or Resilience, we have a team of practitioners that specialize in each area. We are here to support you in your health and wellness journey. Summer is a time to be more active and creative. A time to grow and flourish. A time to feel alive! Let’s keep up the momentum and live our best lives!

Visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org/IntegrativeMedicine or call 732-263-7999 to learn more. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Essential Oils for Seasonal Allergies

By Grace Orosz RN-BC, CCAP
Integrative Registered Nurse

When I was growing up in Chicago, I can vividly remember how I looked forward to the change of seasons -- ALL FOUR OF THEM! The mid-west was an open, clean, fresh place to live.  I spent most of my free time outdoors. We almost never played inside.  We had many wonderful forest preserves, lakes and hiking paths.  I loved being in nature.

At the time, I was unaware of how pollen and grasses affected people.  I never had a problem with any seasonal allergies.  However, I knew several people that did.  I would privately make fun of them, in my mind.  I just could not believe that people could be suffering so miserably with allergies, hay fever, sinusitis etc.  It seemed almost “too dramatic” for me.  However, I tried to understand how maybe it affected them and make an effort to be sympathetic.   They were always going for Sinus X-rays, CT Scans and using a plethora of antihistamines, decongestants and steroidal sprays and inhalers.

Then, about 27 years ago, I moved to the East Coast. Initially the seasons were pretty much the same, but not for long. Everything started to change.  Perhaps the unhealthy climate changes, our polluted environment and dramatic fluctuations in the barometric pressure contributed to my newly developing allergy symptoms: sinus pressure, headaches, congestion, sneezing, phlegm and an annoying cough. OH BROTHER, NOT ME, I thought!

I found myself in the same position as I mentioned above – blame KARMA!  There I was with a cabinet full of all the over the counter (OTC) allergy medications you could imagine, and pretty much addicted to Sudafed.  Then I just could not stand taking those chemicals anymore. They made me feel so crummy! Can anybody relate?

It was about that time that I had a personal and spiritual awakening, about my health and my life...  I knew I needed to be more mindful of looking for a natural and holistic approach to treating this condition, as well as in my life in general.

This is when I started using Essential Oils to treat my sinus and upper respiratory symptoms.  I use them religiously and have to say that I cannot remember the last time I took an OTC allergy medication.

Allergens trigger symptoms in the nose, throat, lungs, ears and sinuses.  Therefore, I thought perhaps you might like to try something a little different if you suffer with these symptoms. I diffuse essential oils in my home almost constantly.  I switch up my essential oil choices depending on the time of year and the symptoms I have. Here a few tips that might help you too!

First, find yourself a moderately priced diffuser with an ultrasonic cool mist humidifier. They hold anywhere from 150 ml – 500 ml of water. Be sure to get one that has a timer and an automatic shutoff.

§  Lavender Essential Oil works as a natural antihistamine and possesses strong anti-inflammatory properties that will treat and relieve most allergic reactions.
§  Peppermint Essential Oil is strong, fresh and minty and opens clogged sinuses almost immediately. It also has anti-inflammatory, pain relieving and decongestant relieving abilities. It opens airways and relieves a scratchy throat.
§  Holy Basil Essential Oil reduces the inflammatory response of allergens, and supports our immune system overall. It has antimicrobial abilities and can remove toxins from our system, as well as clear airways.
§  Eucalyptus Essential Oil opens up the sinus and lungs, therefore improving circulation, which reduces the symptoms of allergies. It works as an expectorant, but also has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
§  Lemon Essential Oil works as a natural antihistamine relieving excess mucous and cools down inflammatory reaction. It also helps with respiratory conditions. Lemon is also known for its anti-bacterial properties.  Its best used in a blend with Lavender and Peppermint.

Depending on the capacity of your diffuser, use 2-5 drops of any of these oils mentioned, in whatever combination you like. You could also use 1 drop of each of these oils on a tissue and just directly inhale deeply. Experiment to find the combination that gives you the most relief.


As a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist, this affirms for me that this is the best treatment for so many ailments.  Here’s hoping that this information brings you some healthier options for relief this allergy season.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Summer Solstice: A Time to Mind our Skin

By Sara Scheller BSN, RN, CCRN, NBC-HWC
Integrative Nurse Health Coach

The first day of summer! I must admit, it is my favorite day of the year. It is a day when the sun is shining the longest than any other day and the New Jersey air is warm. All around, we see people getting outside and connecting with nature-gardening, walking the boardwalks, biking, hiking and boating. Warm weather and high humidity probably means we are wearing less clothing, leading to more exposure of our skin to the elements and potentially to toxic chemicals.

Did you know your skin is your largest organ weighing about eight pounds and covering some 20 square feet? When we expose our skin to that delicious summer sunlight, we are soaking up all of that Vitamin D which promotes healthy bones, can regulate blood pressure and the immune system, and can be beneficial in preventing certain types of cancer. In New Jersey, in winter months, we cannot rely on the sun for vitamin D, instead we must take in vitamin D through food, or with supplements. In summer months, it is recommended that about 5-10 minutes of skin exposure to your hands, legs and arms a few times per week is enough to put your vitamin D levels in the right range. Any longer time spent in the sun, be sure to put on a sunscreen with a rating of at least SPF 15, as this will reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. But before you apply, you will want to make sure that lotion you slather on is going to do more help than harm.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “The average woman uses 12 personal products daily and is exposed to hundreds of chemicals - none of which are required to be tested for safety.” The chemicals that you apply get absorbed through your skin (as with sun lotion) or inhaled into your lungs (as with aerosol sun protection products). MADE SAFE is a great online resource for finding certified, non-toxic products from personal products to household products to cosmetics. In addition, each year, the EWG releases a safe guide to sunscreens, but they state “sunscreen should be your last resort.” You can reduce your risk of sun exposure by wearing protective clothing and eyewear, spending time in the shade, checking the UV index, and avoiding the sun during peak hours. 

Another thing to consider when spending time outdoors is the exposure of our skin to chemicals that can be found in bug repellant, pesticides and herbicides. This EWG guide to bug repellent can help inform you about the safest products to use so you can avoid viruses that can be carried by bugs like mosquitos and ticks but also minimize the amount of toxic chemicals placed on your skin. If you enjoy gardening, consider the chemicals you apply as pesticides and herbicides. These can be absorbed through your skin on contact or through inhalation. Some simple ways to prevent these from entering your body include wearing gardening gloves, wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants, wearing masks when applying airborne materials, washing hands thoroughly, and removing clothing and shoes when your return into your home. Be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables, even if home grown, before consuming. You can even find ways to practice more natural, organic gardening like using beneficial insects and native plants around your home. Look to a resource that can be trusted, like the Planet Natural Research Center or your local county park education programs.

As we transition through seasons, our health needs may change. Our team of clinicians can guide you to find optimal health and well-being, to minimize your disease risk and help you feel your best all throughout the year!

Please join us at Raritan Bay Medical Center – Perth Amboy campus at our Learning Gardens to understand the basics of gardening, through hands-on and interactive education. Come with your gardening questions and/or photos or samples of plants for discussion. Sessions led by Master Gardener Constance Elek. https://classfindweb.beryl.net/Search.aspx?ClientID=10413&ClassID=94394

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tea and Your Health

By Emma Stafford, RN, APN-C, ACHPN, APHN
Integrative Nurse Practitioner

I was admiring my tea cup collection this week and offering gratitude for all the wonderful and healing cups of tea that they have given me. I would like to share with you some of the known health benefits of some of my favorite teas.

All tea, in general, is refreshing and contains no sodium, fat, carbonation or calories. More than that, it adds to your daily hydration requirement (half your body weight in ounces of water daily). In addition, tea contains flavonoids, naturally occurring compounds that have antioxidant powers that may provide important health benefits. Typically, caffeine levels for tea are less than half of those for coffee, ranging from 20-90 mg per eight ounces compared to 50-120 mg in coffee.

Studies have shown decreased incidence of heart attack  in those drinking black tea, whereas green tea was associated with lowering total cholesterol, LDL (the lousy cholesterol), triglycerides and increasing HDL levels (the healthy cholesterol). This benefit is due to the antioxidant effects in tea.

A study published in the February 2015 issue of the Journal of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that the main antioxidant in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), helps kill cancer cells through the destruction of the cells’ mitochondria.

According to research presented at the 2007 Scientific Symposium on Tea and Health, theanine, an amino acid that is for the most part uniquely found in tea (green and black), may help prevent age-related memory decline.

Besides black and green teas, I also enjoy herbal teas, although the studies on these teas have not been as robust. A study on Hibiscus tea showed that three cups daily lowered blood pressure in people with slightly elevated levels. Chamomile tea acts as an anti-spasmodic and can help those with irritable bowel and ginger tea benefits those with nausea (and much healthier than ginger-ale).

Consider the quality, savoring every sip, and mindfully enjoying the taste, the smell, as well as sharing the company of those you are drinking it with. I l use high quality, loose leaf, organic tea that is brewed at just the right temperature for the type of tea I am drinking. Boiling water can damage the delicate leaves of green and white teas. Tea in front of the fire in winter or on the porch on a summer’s night conjures up all kinds of warm memories. I enjoy drinking from different cups from bone china cups to my favorite ‘gratitude’ mug. But perhaps my favorite tea time is with my grandchildren using a tiny porcelain tea set that sits in my china cabinet and is reserved just for our tea parties! They delight in smelling the different flavors, picking their favorite one, and watching it brew in the clear glass teapot. Ahhh, so healing!

Learn more about at Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine and call 732-994-7855 to make an appointment!