Showing posts with label Sara Scheller. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sara Scheller. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Health Tech Savvy at any Age

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

Can you easily be health tech savvy, no matter your age? If you are one of the estimated more than 237 million Americans with a smartphone, you already are and you may not even know it! While many tech developers are racing to create apps which are potentially habit-forming and may actually modify your brain in negative ways, there are others who are finding new, creative ways of building technology to help your health. More than likely here in the U.S., your phone operating system is an Android (now owned and developed by Google) or an iOs (owned and operated by Apple). Much of the technology today is intuitive and just by playing around for a few minutes, you may surprise yourself with what you can find. Now let’s explore how you can become health tech savvy. 

If you are using the iOs operating platform such as an Apple iPhone, you are already storing health data without even knowing it. All Apple iPhones with a current operating software have a Health app that looks like this:

When you click on the app, you have 4 options: Today, Health Data, Sources, and Medical ID. As a nurse, I would highly recommend you taking a few minutes to complete your medical ID (that is the option on the bottom of your screen, all the way to the right). Here you can input your name, birthdate, medical conditions, medical notes, allergies & reactions, medications, blood type, weight, height, emergency contacts and your organ donation status. This reference can be used at a visit with a healthcare provider, where you can keep your past medical history and a current, up to date medication list. This is also highly beneficial in case of an emergency as this information from your medical ID can be accessed by a first responder even if you have a passcode set on your phone. Additionally, if you enable and use the Emergency SOS function on your phone, your emergency contacts will be notified and sent to your current location. When you access the “today” function, you can see how many steps you have taken and flights you have climbed. As long as your phone is on your person, it is measuring these things and you probably do not even know! Or, if you have an apple iWatch or other wearable device that syncs with your smart phone, it is measuring these things even more accurately. Take some time to explore the “health data” function, where you can learn more about and track your activity, mindfulness, nutrition and sleep. Many health related apps you may have downloaded automatically sync to these and have additional features where you can manually enter your body measurements, health records, heart, reproductive health, results and vitals. The “sources” function aligns with our Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine care model: The Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being. We believe these pillars -- sleep, activity, purpose, nutrition and resilience -- are essential components to living a life in which you can thrive.

If you are an Android user, you can download the Medical ID (free) ICE Contacts app from the app store. Here you can enter in your medical history and emergency contacts. Also, you phone is probably already tracking your steps and the flights of stairs you climb. Do you have goals to increase your level of activity? If not and you are ready to do so, you can begin to set some.

Most of us know what to do, but we aren’t actually doing it. We have access to plenty of health information but actually using it or practicing it in our lives may be overwhelming. Gaining the support of our integrative health providers, especially through health coaching, can help you find a partner in your health to make changes so you can live your best life. We use an integrative health approach that can support your whole health-body, mind and spirit.

Call us at 732-263-7999 or visit our website at to find out more.

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.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Understanding the Science of Health

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

All natural. Organic. Cage free. Grass fed. Free range. Pure. Real ingredients. What does it all mean? For many people it can mean confusion. How can you make good choices on food products, bath and body products, and other things you may put on or in your body? How can you be sure that if you value your health, you are making the best choices to care for your body and mind? The key is to become an educated, empowered consumer. 

The truth is that globally, health & wellness is a trillion dollar industry. Marketing and advertising agencies have found ways to trick us with fancy labels and clever taglines. How do you know if the choices you are making are scientifically the best or healthiest? How do you know what to believe, or even where to start with making healthy choices? A great place I can recommend to visit to educate yourself is the The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) website, a branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH). This webpage, “Know the Science” is a beginner’s resource to helping you understand health research so you can make the best decisions regarding your health. It includes interactive modules, videos and articles about clinical research, complementary and integrative health, and understanding medical words. The main website also serves as a great resource for health information from A to Z, and includes tips on how to find a complementary health practitioner with proper licensing, education and credentialing. 

Another great resource to visit is the Environmental Working Group website. The Environmental Working Group is a, “non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.” Their mission is to “empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.” The website includes research and education around key issues including consumer products, cosmetics, energy, farming, food, water, toxins, the Midwest and children’s health. If you are visiting this website for the first time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed or even feel paralyzed with the wealth of information you can find here. When you partner up with a complementary practitioner, they can help you make sense of all of this information and serve as a guide to help you optimize your health and well-being. 

As a health coach, I find a person may know what to do or the best thing to do, but they are not actually doing it. Or, someone may hear from a healthcare provider, family member, or even their own inner voice that they need to make a change but ultimately it is up to the individual to do it. A health coach can help you to find ways to make small changes and reduce your overwhelm. What we often find is when we can build confidence around making small changes it begins to create momentum to even greater possibilities of health and well-being. A health coach can serve as an accountability partner so that you can take action on making choices that are aligned with your values and strengths so you can lead your best life. Click here to learn more about health coaching or call 732-994-7855 to make an appointment with someone on our team. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Minding your Spirit

By Sara Scheller, BSN, RN, CPN, CCRN
Integrative Health Coach

What part does our spirit play into how we move through our life? Spirit is the essence of our being. It is what lights us up and makes us feel alive. We cannot see it, but we know it is there. Spirituality is not the same as religion but it is in religion; it is the connection to something bigger than us. One formal definition from a group of experts defines spirituality as, “…a dynamic and intrinsic aspect of humanity through which persons seek ultimate meaning, purpose and transcendence, and experience relationship to self, family, others, community, society, nature, and the significant or sacred. Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions and practices.” (Puchalski et al., 2014). In an environment overrun by technology and constant stimulation, it is important now more than ever to have a connection to our human spirit because it can keep us grounded, motivated and living our lives on purpose. It can help us feel peace when we cannot answer some of the big why questions we have in our lives. It can help us heal when we are faced with challenges in our lives. So how do we build or improve our connection with our human spirit? Here are four ways to get started:
  1. Practice presence. We are human beings not human doings. Are you taking time to just be?When we are present, we are paying attention to what is happening in the here and now. We aren’t rehashing the past and we aren’t anticipating the future. It is estimated the average person only spends about 10% of their time in the present moment. If you find yourself in this category, start with the simple action of awareness. Are you aware of how often your mind is wandering in conversations with others, while driving in the car, or while taking a shower?When we take time to simply be present, we calm and balance our nervous system which can build our resilience and allow our mind and body to do what it knows how to do best. In doing so, we can tune into our body, mind and spirit, and what we truly need in order to live our best life.
  2. Live life on purpose. Do you know your purpose? Why are you here? Purpose is fundamental; it’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. It’s what keeps us going when times get tough. It may change throughout our lives and even one simple moment can split our path and send us in an entirely new and different direction. When we know our purpose and we make choices in our lives that are aligned with that, we can develop a deeper sense of meaning that can keep our spirit alive.
  3. Get out in nature. Most of us probably spend the majority of our days inside. We are working, the weather isn’t ideal, or we are just too busy to get out. Did you know that exercising in nature can release hormones that make you happier and improve your overall well-being? Fresh air has more oxygen which can help our brains think more clearly. When we can appreciate the beauty in nature, we activate primal regions in our brain. Can you feel the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin and appreciate the unlimited view of the sky? Spending time in nature helps us connect with our spirit.
  4. Find support. Maybe you get in touch with your spirit in your community -- church, synagogue, ashram, or other religious structure or organization. Or maybe you feel more at one with your spirit in conversation with a friend or loved one. Caring for our spirit in this way is fulfilling one of our core human needs -- social connections. While alone time to reflect is also important, we were placed on this earth as social beings. Experiment to find a balance of alone time and together time with people who can support your spiritual needs.

  5. Studies show that spiritual distress often can have a negative impact on health. When we improve our spiritual well-being, it gives us an additional coping strategy to build our resilience and live a purposeful life. Spirituality can be found along the entire illness to wellness continuum; we can use it in times of illness and death, in times of great joy and thriving, or anywhere in between. At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health and Medicine, we believe in caring for a whole person--body, mind and spirit. We follow a patient-centered, team approach to caring for our patients. Our five pillars of health and well-being include sleep, activity, purpose, nutrition and resilience. Call us for more information at 732-763-7999 or visit our website at       

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Power of Independence

By Sara Scheller, BSN, RN, CPN, CCRN
Integrative Health Coach

“I am free to choose with awareness how I participate in challenges I intend to create.” - Elizabeth Barrett

How free do you feel to do what you want to do? What do you want? Independence Day is a time to reflect on not only our freedom as a country, but also on our individual freedom, independence and power to take control of our own lives. When it comes to your health and well-being, are you an active participant in your own life?

According to the 2016 Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index® which looks at Americans’ perception of their well-being in the five dimensions of sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, relationship to community, and physical health, New Jersey ranked 25/50. On the whole, we have historically low smoking rates, historically high exercise rates, and the highest scores recorded for Americans who have access to healthcare. Yet, chronic disease rates such as obesity, diabetes, and depression continue to rise since measurement began by Gallup-Healthways in 2008. In order to live our healthiest lives as New Jersey residents and members of our greater United States nation, we must look at how we are living as individuals and get to the underlying root causes of poor health.

Do you recognize that you have the power to control your destiny? The word “power” may trigger initial judgments of control, dominance, hierarchy, force, or influence. Dr. Elizabeth Barrett defines power as, “the capacity to participate knowingly in the nature of change characterizing the continuous mutual process of people and their world” (2009). According to the nurse Martha Rogers’ Science of Unitary Human Beings Theory, humans cannot not participate in change. In health coaching, we look at power as knowing participation in change through awareness, choices, freedom to act intentionally, and involvement in creating change; it is an “experiential process” that can manifest in two ways: power-as-control and power-as-freedom (Barrett, 2009). When we look at power-as-control, we recognize our ability to have control of our health and well-being. The science of epigenetics is proving that we have an opportunity and ability to control how our genes are expressed. We may be at risk for chronic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease based on our family history, but the lifestyle choices we make have influence on those genes turning on or off. When we look at power-as-freedom, we see how a person is free to make choices regarding health promoting changes and their life situation. We can recognize the power of the amount of sleep we prioritize, the amount we exercise, the food we put in our body, the strategies we use to self-regulate our stress and how we live with a sense of purpose and meaning.

Dr. Elizabeth Barrett calls attention to the healthcare revolution going on in our country where we are looking more at “healing” versus "cure." Just as the United States of America is not just a sum of its parts, but is more than and different from the sum of each individual state, in this healthcare paradigm, “the whole person is not a sum of parts, but rather is more than and different from the sum of the parts” (2009). At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we look at health from a whole person perspective; mind, body, and spirit. Our five pillars of health include sleep, activity, purpose, nutrition, and resilience. We are on a mission to partner with the people we serve, and to empower them to access their full potential of well-being. By owning individual power as both control and freedom, we can all be the creators of our future.


Barrett, E. A. M. (2009). Living Powerfully Through Health Patterning. Retrieved from:

Dossey, B. M., Luck, S., Schaub, B. G. (2015). Nursing Coaching: Integrative Approaches for Health and Wellbeing. NY: International Nurse Coach Association, pp.303-306.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

PREP: Pre-Hospital Empowerment Program

By Sara Scheller, BSN, RN, CPN, CCRN
Integrative Health Coach

If you knew you were going to the hospital for a planned surgery or procedure, how would you feel? Would you feel stressed, worried, and anxious or would you feel confident and empowered to be the driver of your healthcare experience? The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all hospital admission. This is a highly individualized, unique process. According to EMPATHie (empowering patients in the management of chronic diseases), “An empowered patient has control over the management of their condition in daily life. They take action to improve the quality of their life and have the necessary knowledge, skills, attitudes and self-awareness to adjust their behavior and to work in partnership with others where necessary, to achieve optimal well-being.” One benefit of having an expected hospital admission (for surgery or other procedure) is that you can plan for it! You may not know exactly what to expect, but you can create and build practices to help you self-regulate this process.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back after adversity. Here are three ways to build more resilience with any challenge in your life:

1. Change your perspective, or how you look at things. You can shift to look at your experience as an opportunity to heal, learn, grow, and/or rest. We are born with a “negativity bias” or fear, vulnerability, and worry as a natural response to negative stimuli. But, you can leverage your ability to re-wire your brain through conscious efforts to find the good. According to Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness, “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.” With support and practice, finding the good can become automatic, leading to more resiliency following tough times.

2. Find what activities or practices create balance or joy in your life. Lissa Rankin, M.D. in her book Mind Over Medicine encourages, “if you’re exposed to stressors you either can’t change or aren’t ready to change, you must prioritize activities that induce the relaxation response as a way to counterbalance the stresses in your life…creative expression, sexual release, being with people you love, spending time with your spiritual community, doing work that feeds your soul, and other relaxing activities such as laughter, playing with pets, journaling, prayer, napping, yoga, getting a massage, reading, singing, playing a musical instrument, gardening, cooking, Tai Chi, going for a walk, taking a hot bath, and enjoying nature.” If you aren’t sure which of these works to induce your relaxation response, try experimenting! Find what works for you.

3. Learn tools which you can practice on your own and/or with support, prior to your admission that you can use both during your hospitalization and in other challenging times of your life. These include mindfulness, 4-7-8 breathing, guided meditation, and other techniques where you can learn to become aware of how you are triggered and respond to stress. Once you become aware of this, you can use these tools to shift your body out of fight or flight. Allowing your body to shift into the relaxation response, you can rest and digest, reduce inflammation, and allow your body to heal naturally.

When you partner up with a health coach or other health care professional for support, you can become empowered to co-manage your health and well-being. You can be responsible for your own health, and tap into the resources of an expert creating a balance between self-management and shared decision-making. Through education and a holistic approach (mind, body and spirit), you can create a plan to optimize your body’s natural response to stress, allowing your body to work for you instead of against you.

PREP (Pre-Hospital Empowerment Program) assists you in preparing for a planned hospital admission for your surgery or procedure. To learn more, please email me at

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Can Stress Be Beneficial?

By Sara Scheller, BSN, RN, CPN, CCRN
Integrative Health Coach

Does the word “stress” alone make you feel...stressed? Do you know that not all stress is bad? What if I were to tell you that how you view stress may have a greater impact on your health than the stress alone?

Stress serves an important purpose in humans. When a person experiences a real or perceived threat, the body prepares to act. Our heart rate increases, our blood vessels constrict, our mouth may feel dry, our muscles may feel tense and our pupils dilate. This stress response called “fight or flight” happens rather quickly - we may not be aware it even occurs - and takes time for our body to return to a normal resting state. When the fight or flight switch is turned on and stays on for long periods of time, inflammation occurs, our immune system response is decreased, and we may experience digestive issues which may lead to preventable chronic diseases like heart disease and obesity. So, should we try to avoid stress all together? Not necessarily!

Research has found that how we think about stress actually matters, as Kelly McGonigal has noted in her book, The Upside of Stress (2015). In fact, one study found a 43% increased risk of dying not from stress, but the, “belief that stress is actually bad for you.” The good news is that we have a built in mechanism for stress resilience called human connection. As our body secretes cortisol, it also secretes another stress hormone called oxytocin, known as the “cuddle hormone.” Ever notice that if something gets you fired up, you start talking about it? That is because the oxytocin motivates us to seek support. This hormone naturally protects us from the harmful effects of cortisol and helps us to recover faster.

As a health coach, we work together to develop tools to improve your relationship with stress. In our sessions, we practice these to initiate a relaxation response so that you can recover from the harmful effects of stress. If we can find ways to see your stress as something that is helpful, giving you a greater sense of purpose, or setting you up with better ways to handle difficult situations, we can actually change how your body reacts to stress and improve your stress resilience. We can improve your ability to bounce back so that you can handle challenges in a new found, healthy way.