Showing posts with label resilience. Show all posts
Showing posts with label resilience. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Please Pass the Deep Breaths

By Lisa Sussman, Psy.D.
Health Psychologist

We are in the midst of another busy holiday season.  Stop. Check in with yourself. 

Are you feeling….content? Excited with anticipation? Stressed? Pulled in too many directions? Out of control with your eating or drinking? Tired and run down? Not connected to your loved ones? Reactive?

It’s ok to be experiencing a few of these feelings and others that aren’t listed.  Acknowledge whatever it is you’re feeling with curious observation and without judgement. 

Now, take 10-15 seconds to take a deep breath.  Start inhaling through your nose, allowing the air to fill your belly like a balloon, pause at the top, then slowly exhale through pursed lips, until the “balloon” is deflated.  Take another slow breath, tuning in to either how your nostrils and mouth feel while the air is entering and exiting, or what your belly feels like as the air is entering and exiting.

Take one or two more breaths like this, then allow yourself to return to a natural pace of breathing.

Check in with yourself again.  Notice your body, your thoughts, and your feelings.  Has anything shifted?  You may find a change in body temperature, feelings of warmth or a light tingle in your limbs.  Maybe there was a release, of tension in your shoulders, or jaw, or a slowing down of the thoughts in your head, or a lightening up in the intensity of your feelings.

Don’t underestimate the power of your breath to help turn on your body’s Relaxation Response, even under times of great stress and pressure.  You can become mindful of it at any moment, no matter where you are or what you are doing.  It’s free, always accessible, and by just intentionally focusing on it for a few rounds, you are breaking the negative cycle of stress, tension, and intense emotions.  The more you practice it, the more easily your body will respond, and you will feel less reactive and more in control.

Tip: You can set your watch or phone alarm to go off every hour to signal that it’s time to take a mindful check-in and do a few rounds of deep breathing. 

Best wishes for a joyful holiday season!

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Affirmations to Create a Happier, Healthier You

By Sharon Yeskel, BA
Integrative Health Associate

Affirmations are phrases you repeat to yourself to help bring about positive changes in your life. They can also help you stop negative self-talk by choosing to state the opposite of what you believe is true. To create an affirmation out of a negative belief, change the thought:
  • I’m not lovable becomes I deserve to love and be loved 
  • I’ll never find an apartment I like becomes I trust that I will find the perfect place to live 
  • I’m always sick and tired becomes I am healthy and filled with energy to do the things I love
Affirmations should create positive images in your mind. Using words like scared, pain, or anxious make you think of those conditions. Make sure to use words like comfortable, safe, supported, and peaceful when writing your phrases:
  • I have no pain becomes I feel comfortable. 
  • I am not scared becomes I feel safe and supported. 
  • I’m not anxious becomes I choose peace in this moment.
Be sure you never start your affirmations with “I hope.” When you say “I hope this happens,” there is an underlying vibration of doubt. Say to yourself, “I hope I get the job and my boss respects me.” Now say, “I have a job that I love. My boss respects me and values my work.” Which phrase makes you feel better? Which phrase makes you feel that having that job is possible? Always chose statements that make you light up inside.

Have you ever thought about what would bring you joy and give you a reason to get up every morning? If you don’t know the answer, try using affirmations to lead you to your life’s purpose. Try these statements and see what shows up for you:

·         I am aligned with my life’s purpose.
·         My life’s purpose is being revealed to me now. I open myself to all possibilities.

When you first start saying affirmations, they may not be true or you may not believe they are true. As you continue to say them once or several times a day, they can change the way you think about yourself and the world. Make a commitment to repeat your affirmations every day for a minimum of 21 days. Keep a list of your affirmations on your night table and read them before you go to sleep at night and when you wake up in the morning.

Overtime, you may find those statements that were once just wishful thinking, are true. Drop some and add others as the statements become a reality. Affirmations can be a powerful tool to help you let go of limiting beliefs and help you create the happier, healthier life you desire.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Beat the Heat 5 Pillar Style!

By Lisa Sussman, Psy.D.
Health Psychologist

Here we are in the dog days of summer. Typically, July and August are the warmest times of year in the U.S. While it’s great to have warmth and longer days, by now we may be itching to cool down a bit, or at least regulate our bodies amidst relentless heat. At times, we may find ourselves overheated, both physically and mentally. At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we view health from our Five Pillar model: Sleep, Activity, Purpose, Nutrition, and Resilience. Let’s take a look together at how we can beat the heat through the perspective of the Five Pillars of Health and Well-Being.

Sleep: The ideal room temperature for sleep is between 60 – 67 degrees Fahrenheit.  Studies have shown that temps above 75 degrees can disrupt sleep.  To stay cool through the night and foster a good night’s sleep, use air conditioning, fans, cotton sheets, a light blanket, and light cotton pajamas. Pack up that winter quilt! There are also mattress pads and gel mats that can be purchased which provide a layer of coolness on the mattress.  Another point to consider about sleeping in summer is that our eating, exercising and overall activation time may happen later in the evening due to vacations, longer days, and increased socializing.   Try to put at least 3 hours between eating a meal and exercising before going to bed to optimize your sleep.  Alcoholic drinks also impact quality of sleep and tend to disrupt sleep.  When socializing, we can be mindful about what we are consuming, when, and how that may affect our sleep that night.  Carve out a wind-down period of 30-60 minutes between the evening activity and going to bed to relax the body and mind and initiate our melatonin production for sleep.

Activity: Current guidelines (American Heart Association and others) recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both. How can we get this in during summer while minimizing our risk of getting overheated or having heatstroke? Exercising outdoors and participating in social or team sports gives an extra boost to our mood, releasing endorphins and even oxytocin, so plan to get out there either early in the morning, or after dinner, when the weather is cooler. Summer is also a great time to change our exercise routine, so try things such as biking and swimming. On stormy days or when it doesn’t work to be out in the cooler parts of the day, hit the gym with a fun class, yoga, or strength workout, or break out a fitness DVD in the house.

Purpose: While managing the dog days of summer, it’s important to infuse sparks of joy and meaning into the hot and sometimes energy-draining days.  What can we do in the summer that we can’t do as easily the rest of the year?  There may be more time for meaningful volunteer work and giving back, and enjoying more gatherings with family and friends.  Take that vacation or stay-cation!  Go watch the sunrise and take a walk on the beach (my personal favorite thing to do in the summer) before heading to work. When it’s too hot to be outdoors, stay in the cool house and enjoy that book we’ve been meaning to read or tackle the home improvement or craft project that’s been on our list.

Nutrition: Summer = more sweat = drink more water! Every day we should be drinking water equal to at leaset half of our body weight in ounces. Here in August, we need to make sure we are staying hydrated, and cool water does that best. Keep it fresh and appealing by adding slices of fruit or cucumber. Drink or make sparkling water for a change up, flavoring it yourself to stay away from chemicals and sugar. Ayurvedic teachings point us in the direction of consuming cooling foods in summer while staying away from spicing it up too much. Naturally sweet, bitter, and astringent foods are good choices. Go for ripe fruits such as cherries, peaches, pineapples, avocados and mangos, as well as green leafy veggies, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and green beans. Spices like mint and cilantro will help keep us cool.

Resilience:  Prolonged heat not only affects us physically, but can impact our mood as well.  The term “hot and bothered” comes to mind.  Emotionally, we may feel drained and irritable when it seems like there’s no escape from the heat, or when the events we attend are overly crowded.  To get balanced, incorporate daily activities that increase joy, and spend some quiet time in thought, meditation, or listening to music.  Whatever it takes to “cool down”!  Try some activities such as taking a cool bath with lavender essential oil, riding the waves in the ocean, digging your feet in the sand, walking in a shady park, or chilling on a raft or kayak.  Take a few minutes to breathe slowly and deeply, then imagine with all of your senses being at the beach, in the water, or somewhere cool.  The brain will get the “cooling” message and the body will physiologically start to respond, providing a respite and balance.  

We can use the Five Pillars of Health and Well-being to make the most out of the last few weeks of summer, keeping cool, healthy, and happy.   Enjoy!

For further information about the Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being and taking care of your mind, body, and spirit, visit our website at or call 732-263-7999 to make an appointment! 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How Resilient Are You?

By Sharon Yeskel, BA
Integrative Health Associate

The late Dr. Wayne Dyer left a legacy of spiritual and practical wisdom through his many books and lectures. He always shared great stories. In his book “Inspiration, Your Ultimate Calling” he shares one about resiliency. Dr. Dyer notes that it’s not what happens to us, but how we respond that will ultimately define who we are and what kind of lives we will create. He calls this story “Carrots, Eggs and Coffee” and it goes like this….

A young woman is complaining to her mother how hard her life is. She says she feels like giving up. The mother takes her to the kitchen. She fills three pots with water and puts them on the stove to boil. In the first one she puts carrots, in the second she puts an egg, and in the third she puts coffee grounds. After 20 minutes, the carrots are soft, the egg is hard-boiled, and the coffee is ready to drink.

So what does that have to do with overcoming difficulties? The mother explains that each of the objects faced the same adversity: the boiling water. The carrots went in strong, hard and unrelenting. After boiling, they became soft and weak. The egg started out fragile, but after boiling, it became hard. The coffee grounds mixed with the water and actually changed the water itself.

We all get thrown for a loop sometimes. We can’t control what happens to us. What we can do is choose how we will respond. Adversity can weaken us and harden our hearts or it can propel us forward. New possibilities await if we open our hearts to change. It is a key to becoming resilient.

Resilience is one of the Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being (Sleep, Activity, Purpose, Resilience and Nutrition). Learn more about Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine’s Five Pillar approach to optimize your health by calling 732-263-7999, visiting our website at or following us on social media on Facebook: Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine or Twitter: @HMIntegrativeHM.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Spring Renewal

By Pamela Jansky, RN-BC, CDE, AAACN

Spring is just around the corner! Signs of life are blooming all around us as the crocuses begin to emerge from the snow. Days are getting longer, temperatures are rising and the air is fresh and clean. Our excitement begins to build as we anticipate the annual renewal of life, symbolizing new beginnings and growth. We begin to think about the areas in our personal lives that may need a breath of fresh air. Our homes await their spring cleaning and our yards need to be tidied and prepared for spring planting. All in preparation for the summer when we will enjoy the fruits of our labor.

So too, we think of our internal housekeeping and renewal. Many of us wholeheartedly committed to our New Year’s Resolutions as we began the annual celebration of a new year, full of promise. We start off with great zeal but as the coldest days of winter descend upon us, we may fall back into hibernation mode. Such are the cycles of life. But what is the key to sustained change that brings about the results that we can enjoy in our renewed health and vitality?

What are the areas that you are looking to take to the next level or even find yourself struggling in? At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we are committed to supporting people in their quest for health and wellness through many different modalities such as acupuncture, nutritional counseling, health coaching, health psychology, massage therapy and more. Integrative health and medicine focuses on the health and well-being of the whole person—mind, body and spirit. Our approach is based on the Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being which are Sleep, Activity, Purpose, Nutrition and Resilience. Every person is a unique individual with needs that change throughout the different seasons of life.

Our diversified team offers the support we all need to strengthen these five pillars that help us to form the habits needed for sustained health and vitality. This of course is what we all desire. Motivation gets you started, but habit keeps you going. Our summer gardens continue to need our time and attention if they are to continue to be vibrant and fruitful. An Integrative Nurse Health Coach can partner with you to help you identify the areas where you are blocked and strategies to overcome any obstacles or barriers you may face. They will work alongside you in setting personalized, realistic, sustainable goals that can become new healthy habits so that you too may remain vibrant and fruitful. Click here to learn more about health coaching or call 732-994-7855 to make an appointment with someone on our team.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Living Purposefully in the New Year

By Kathleen Welshman, RN-BC, BA, NBC-HWC
Integrative Nurse Health Coach

As we enter another new year, we often think of a new year’s resolution. What will I resolve to do this year? “New year, new you” is often a thought. This is a common time of year for people to join a gym, vow to lose weight and eat healthier. These are all great ideas and important to consider in terms of making healthier changes in our lives. BUT, have you ever stopped and thought about the reason behind these resolutions? What is the reason you want to lose weight or exercise more? Why do you want to be healthy? What is the driving force behind these ideas of change? Think about what is important in your life, your values and beliefs. Think about why you get out of bed in the morning!

At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we explore the Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being: sleep, activity, purpose, nutrition and resilience. Perhaps try a different approach to your new year’s resolution this year by exploring your purpose first. Purpose is what gives your life meaning, your reason for being. Purpose is the essence of who we are and what makes us unique. It is a source of direction and energy. By tapping into a clear sense of purpose, often everything else follows naturally.

Christine Whelan, Ph.D., author of The Big Picture: A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life, suggests you ask these questions:
  • What are my values? 
  • What are my strengths? 
  • Who do I want to impact? 
Then fill in the blanks: Because I value ___, I want to use my strengths for ___ to impact ___.

It is important to re-evaluate our purpose as we journey through life, as it may change at different phases of our lives and with changing life circumstances. As we change, our priorities and values shift; our confidence grows, may dissolve into doubt and return once again. When we make choices that are in line with our purpose or our values, it gives greater meaning to the reason we are doing something.

An integrative health coach can partner with you as you set small, achievable goals. With your purpose in mind, those goals are more likely to be sustainable. So as we journey into another new year, learn to embrace the “why” of purpose before selecting the “what” of your goals. Live intentionally – live ON PURPOSE. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to answer the question “Why do I get out of bed in the morning?”

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       

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 4, 2017

Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Medicine Be Thy Food

By Lori Knutson, RN, BSN, HNB-BC
Administrative Director
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” - Hippocrates

Food is the body’s information. You could think of it this way, if your car is fueled by unleaded gas, you would not dream of putting leaded gas in the tank and expect your car to run. Well, that’s essentially true of how food sustains our body and mind. Food provides the chemical basis, the fuel, for our physical body to run properly. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Could you imagine your physician giving you a prescription to be filled at the ‘FARMacy’ where you would be given the required fresh vegetables and fruits to address your current health situation?

Physicians, unfortunately, receive little to no education and training in food science and its relationship to health, illness, and disease. But that is beginning to change. Harvard’s T.S. Chan School of Public Health and The Culinary Institute of America have partnered to create a program for healthcare professionals with an emphasis on training physicians. This program is titled Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives.

Recently, Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, through the generosity of the Women’s Heart Fund, sponsored 12 healthcare professional to attend the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives training at The Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, California. Included were eight physicians representing cardiology, oncology, surgery, primary care, psychiatry, physical medicine & rehabilitation, internal medicine, and integrative medicine. The training provided lectures on the science of food by some of the leading scientists in the field such as Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr. P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Attendees also participated in hands-on cooking skills with The Culinary Institute of America’s award winning chefs. 

As one of the physician attendee’s exclaimed, “This changes everything about my practice!” Maybe we will see a new specialty sprout, Culinary Medicine! Bon App├ętit!

The Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine team and several Hackensack Meridian Health physicians had a great time at the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives Conference in Napa Valley last month.
Pictured here: David Eisenberg, M.D., Director of Culinary Nutrition and Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Lori Knutson, RN, BSN, HNB-BC, Administrative Director; Aviad Haramati, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University, who spoke about #mindfulness and #mindful #nutrition at the conference; Jennifer DiNapoli; Nicole Cerillo, RD, LDN; David Leopold, M.D.; Vivian Kominos, M.D.; Elizabeth Maiorana; Ronald Matteotti, M.D.; Sylvia Takvorian, M.D. and Jorge Corzo, M.D. (Not pictured - Mark Krasna, M.D. and Nina Regevick, M.D.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Do You Know Your Own Strength?

By Suzannah Sabin, RN, BSN, NC-BC
Integrative Health Coach

If you are like most people who come to a health coach, your primary thought is on what you would like to change about your health. Naturally, this is most often the case, because the role of the health coach is to facilitate and partner with you to create positive change.

But it is important to take some time to uncover the strengths that you already possess, and find out how to apply them to the achievement of your health goal. 

I have found over and over, that many people don’t know their own strengths. When asked, many clients have a difficult time identifying their innate strengths, capacities and positive qualities. Finding these is important because these developed traits can be an important key to creating change.

Being in touch with what we do well underpins the readiness to change,” says David Cooperrider, the co-founder of Appreciative Inquiry. This means that focusing on our already developed character strengths can be empowering and transformative. We can learn to apply the strengths that have served us well, to the new area to be developed.

Here are some ways to begin to identify your strengths:

1. Take stock of your past successes and make a list of your personal attributes that contributed to the success. Some examples may be: Persistence, Courage, Detail-oriented.

2. Ask friends or family members to share the ‘stand-out’ traits that they see in you.

3. Explore the VIA Institute:, an organization dedicated to helping you find your character strengths.

When we proceed from what we already have, our specific strengths, and align our actions with the deliberate changes we want to make, the results are sure to follow!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Heart Disease in Women

By Vivian A. Kominos, M.D., FACC
Integrative Medicine Physician
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

The number one killer of women is heart disease. Yet when I talk to women, many cite breast cancer as their chief health concern. Here are the statistics: breast cancer kills 1 out of 36 women; heart disease kills 1 in 3. In fact, heart disease kills more women than all cancers put together. We need to increase awareness of heart disease as a major threat and promote research specifically for women’s heart disease.

When it comes to the heart, women are not just small men. Our hearts are different than men’s hearts in many ways. Men’s heart disease often presents with the “classic” heart attack: grabbing or severe pain in the center of the chest. Women also often feel chest discomfort if they are having a heart attack; however, they often get other symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or palpitations. In addition, a woman’s arteries may look different than a man’s. Women, more often than men, have a diffuse or mild blockage in the heart’s arteries. Therefore, on angiograms, a woman’s arteries may look normal. Yet, the arteries may still be diseased and not dilate properly to allow oxygen-rich blood to enter the healthy muscle cells.

Many women with chest discomfort are told that their symptoms are not from heart disease. Yet, studies researching women’s hearts from the Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation reveal that when a woman has chest pain and mild or no blockage, her chance of dying from heart disease doubles and quadruples compared to a woman with no chest pain.

So what is the good news? We know from research that MOST HEART DISEASE CAN BE PREVENTED with a healthy lifestyle!

If you smoke, stop! A woman who smokes has six times the risk, twice that of a male smoker, of dying from heart disease compared to a non-smoker. You can get help to quit: check out NJ QUITS or try the app “Craving to Quit.”
Eat mostly a plant-based diet. Stop all soda, decrease added sugar and processed foods. Attend one of our nutrition lectures that are given throughout the year.
Increase your exercise. Sitting time is dangerous. A recent study of at least one million people found that those who sit more than three hours a day have a higher chance of dying from heart disease. The connections between the mind and heart are very powerful.
Reduce your stress. Be optimistic, surround yourself with good people, go out in nature, and learn to meditate. Find what brings you joy.
Get adequate sleep. Insomnia increases your risk for heart disease, obesity, arthritis.

Check out our website ( for more information on how you can get help with improving your health. And most importantly, know your body. If you think that something feels wrong, get help.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cultivating a New Response

By Suzannah Sabin RN, BSN, NC-BC
Integrative Health Coach

When I ask people the first question of health coaching, What change would you like to make?, most people have some ideas of what they are hoping to create as their new health outcome, but they often  don’t know how to get there. In order to create new behaviors that will help you reach your health goals, it is important to come up with a new plan for dealing with the triggers that activate the old, unwanted behavior. This is an important step, because, as Marshall Goldsmith states in his book, Triggers, “our environment is a nonstop triggering mechanism whose impact on our behavior is too significant to be ignored.”

Triggers can be found in a person’s internal and external environment either as emotional responses to situations or as triggers in the environment. Since one’s daily life is often full of triggers, there are two helpful ways to cultivate change.

Our first step in a coaching session is to raise awareness and begin to notice the specific triggers that start the behavior. For example, we will work together to understand what it is that creates the behaviors and choices you are now engaging in.

Another key to behavior change is to develop flexible thinking for how to respond to the triggers that you have identified. This is how you cultivate a new response and gain mastery over your triggers.

Through conversations with the health coach, it becomes easier to identify and understand the impact of the various triggers in one’s life. Together, we can come up with new ways to approach the trigger so that you are able to have mastery in your response. Some of these approaches may include mindfulness, self-regulation, self-compassion, creativity and problem solving.

Over time, and through the process of cultivating new responses to triggers, sustainable behavior change is possible.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Finding the Answers Within Us

By Suzannah Sabin R.N., BSN, NC-BC
Integrative Health Coach

I became a health coach because I care deeply about helping others navigate the process of personal growth and change. Many times, we know we need a change, or we know we want to change, but the process is hard, so we let it go and fall back into familiar habits and patterns.

What I have learned over many years of working to create change is that oftentimes the answer to the question, “What is my next step?” lies within us. A key part of growth is learning to ask the questions and to listen deeply to the intuition and guidance from our deepest wisest center. We can learn how to do this. We can practice asking questions and finding answers.

This is not a process that our modern culture necessarily supports or facilitates. It is not a process that many of us know how to even begin to approach. It is a process that takes space, time and often periods of silence. I have learned personally that developing a ‘listening attitude’ is key.

When I work with individuals on creating change, an important part of the work is to find what they deeply value. We create change from this place. When we are aligned with our deepest values, we become energized, motivated, and activated for change. Then we can work to explore and practice new behaviors and cultivate new attitudes to support the desired changes.
Another key discovery in my own process of making personal change was learning to embrace my feelings of ambivalence. In every effective behavior change that I have made, there has been a part of me that has wanted to make a change AND a part of me that has not wanted to change. As I learned to identify this part of me that didn’t want to change, and the reasons that the behavior served this part of me, it became easier to create the desired changes. I had a new ability to work with that aspect, instead of trying to use willpower or might to push through. I have often found that when I allow this part of me to ‘be there’ and I listen to the messages it is sending, it changes effortlessly.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Yoga and the Heart

By Vivian A. Kominos, M.D., FACC
Integrative Medicine Physician
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

I started practicing yoga over 20 years ago while training for my first long distance race, a half marathon. I noticed that I was becoming stiff after my runs. I thought that yoga would help me regain flexibility. I quickly realized that yoga’s benefits exceeded the physical: yoga made me calmer and less anxious. My muscles became stronger and my mind became tranquil. Soon I was craving my yoga practice as much as my runs. 

Yoga originated in ancient India for physical and spiritual fitness. Yoga incorporates movement poses known as asanas, breathing exercises or pranayama and meditation or dhyana. Recent studies found that yoga reduces many of the risk factors for heart disease: it improves glucose, reduces blood pressure, decreases weight and even increases lung capacity. Even more important may be the relaxation that results: yoga reduces stress, one of the most potent risk factors for heart disease. 

Yoga has become very popular in the United States and the number and types of classes available can be confusing. The important thing to remember is that yoga is not a competition and that you do not have to twist like a pretzel for it to be effective. Anyone can practice yoga regardless of fitness or flexibility. Look for a class suited to you. This may be a therapeutic class where you may be sitting on a chair or it may be an energetic power flow with advanced poses. All good yoga classes begin with the teacher asking if there are any injuries or problems. The class starts with breath work and meditation followed by poses and movements that gently stretch and strengthen the muscles. The ending incorporates a closing meditation called savasana

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is a good resource to learn more about the benefits of yoga: And remember, anything that is good for the heart is good for the entire body, mind and spirit. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By Lisa Sussman, Psy.D.  
Health Psychologist 
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

We start seeing and hearing it after Halloween. The holidays are coming! And according to the songs we hear, what we see in stores, on television and social media, we are supposed to embrace the holiday season with open arms. We think there’s something wrong if we feel overwhelmed, stressed, sad or anxious around the holidays. Things are supposed to be perfect: happy people, happy families, and happy holiday celebrations. Let’s face it…while the holidays can be fun and uplifting, there is also a big element of stress and pressure involved. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2015 Stress in America™ study, stress levels have risen, with more than 1/3 of adults surveyed reporting that their stress has increased over the last year. And the top 3 sources of stress are money, work, and family responsibilities. We struggle with financial stress, work stress, and relationship stress throughout the entire year. If we are not adequately practicing stress-management, or even if we are, adding the pressure of upcoming holidays to the mix can exacerbate all this stress, or at least topple our balance. As the holidays approach, we need to be aware that we are vulnerable to feeling "less than jolly," and then we can be proactive to increase our stress-busting lifestyle and self-care practices. 

Let’s briefly look at the 5 Pillars of Health and what we can do to strengthen each one during the holiday season.

Sleep: Feeling that we don’t have enough time to get everything done, we may skimp on sleep during the holiday season. Sleep deprivation can make us sluggish, irritable, lead to poor decision making, as well as increase our risk of getting sick. That’s the last thing we want for our holiday. Practice good sleep hygiene such as moving away from activating things like the nightly news and social media, the blue light from our phones, and eating food with sugar and caffeine a few hours before lights out. Also, adding calming activities as part of the bedtime ritual can help us wind down and prepare us for a restful sleep. Some examples include chamomile tea, lavender essential oil, a guided meditation, slowing down & counting your breaths, and reviewing what went well in the day.

Activity: With less daylight and being crunched on time with holiday related activities, we may let go of our precious exercise time. Please reconsider doing this! Physical activity helps to boost metabolism and mood, decrease anxiety, increase brain power, and improve sleep. This self-care practice is so important in maintaining our balance around the holidays. We can get creative with how we get this activity: accumulate it with shorter periods of physical activity or stretching throughout the day, combine socializing with a friend during a walk (bundle up!), try a new class at the gym, or get on your treadmill with some great music or follow an exercise/yoga DVD. You will feel energized, your mind and body will thank you, and you’ll be better equipped to handle the increased holiday stress.

Purpose: Sometimes we think, "Why am I getting caught up in all of this? The meaning of my holiday is buried under shopping and extra obligations." As we approach the holidays, we can take a few minutes to quiet down and reconnect with what is important to us about the holidays. We can ask, how can I make the holidays more meaningful and special this year? Listen carefully to the answer, and then cultivate that activity or mindset. It may be spending time connecting with others, volunteering or making that special DIY gift for someone. Whatever it is will fuel the soul and provide that extra feel-good energy to manage it all.

Nutrition: While we all know how important it is to eat healthy and mindfully, the holiday season can be a double whammy because we may eat reactively due to stress, and there is an abundance of unhealthy food taunting us, and we find our willpower diminished. We can counteract this by being prepared and boosting our awareness around eating. Examples include: bringing healthy food to the party, using smaller plates, and being extra careful with what we eat before we go out, knowing that we may be indulging later. If we take the “food as medicine” perspective, being extra mindful of what we eat around the holiday season can help boost our energy levels, mood, and physical health.

Resilience: Resilience is the ability to actively manage everything that is on our plates throughout the holiday season. It’s an ongoing process which entails both being grounded and flexible. Think of a healthy tree that is strongly rooted in the ground, yet can withstand all kinds of weather and sway with the winds. To build up our resilience, we can do things like find humor in our situation, ask for help when needed, take breaks throughout the day, do mini-relaxations, say kind things to yourself as you would talk to a good friend, keep a gratitude journal and cultivate feelings of gratitude, joy, and love, and practice mindfulness. 

This holiday season, try focusing on a pillar or two, and see how we can expand our holiday spirit!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

An Attitude of Gratitude

By Emma Stafford, RN, APN-C, ACHPN, APHN-BC
Nurse Practitioner
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

“Gratitude can turn common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” -- William Arthur Ward

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to spend time with family and friends to offer gratitude for all the blessings we have received. Taking a day to pause and remember those who have touched us and whom we have touched is very powerful. Take a deep breath and breathe in gratitude for all the good in your life and radiate that joy out to all beings.

Gratitude is an attitude that feels good and has many health benefits. Research has shown that cultivating a habit of gratitude contributes to our overall sense of well-being. Benefits of a daily gratitude practice are well-documented and include lower blood pressure, improved sleep, improved overall mental health, and stronger interpersonal relationships.

Cultivating a daily gratitude practice is a way to open our hearts and recognize, appreciate, and feel thankful for our simple blessings.

Some suggestions for cultivating a daily gratitude practice:
  • Before you get out of bed in the morning, pause to reflect on 3 things you are thankful for. Perhaps you are thinking about the roof over your head, the bed you sleep in, the people you love.Vary them each day and besides just reciting a list, try to feel the emotion. For example, if you are thankful for the sunshine, feel the warmth of the sun on your face, or the joy its light brings you.
  • Keep a gratitude journal and record ordinary moments that bring you joy, such as things your children say that warm your heart or simple gestures your partner does that bring you happiness. It helps to read these on the 'not so good days.'
  • Find gratitude in negative events and be thankful for the personal growth of these challenging situations. You may say, "This too may shall pass." Let the gratitude flow through you with each breathe and with each beat of your heart.
  • Remember someone in your life, a parent, a relative, a teacher, a mentor, whose wisdom and guidance may have changed the trajectory of your life. Let them know how they made a difference in your life or write them a letter. Try to dig deep and find the meaning they brought to your life and how much you appreciate them.
  • Give back in a way that is meaningful, such as volunteering, saying thank you in a meaningful way, simple acts of kindness, and 'paying it forward.'
If we look around, we can find many things to be thankful for -- Things that we take for granted and blessings we don’t even regularly recognize. Whatever you decide to do, make it an ongoing habit and know for sure that that attitude of gratitude will bring you much happiness in your life.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Acupuncture and Relaxation

By Judson Chaney N.D., L.Ac.
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

In the busy world we live in, it can be a challenge to relax. When going from screen to screen, task to task, stress to stress, the juggling required to keep up with the demands of the modern world can overwhelm our bodies’ ability to adapt and perform optimally. Acupuncture can be a great benefit for anyone seeking assistance in relaxing, and moderating the effects of stress on our bodies. 

Acupuncture is rooted in an understanding and wisdom cultivated by over 2,000 continuous years of practice, but increasingly, modern research methods are beginning to illuminate some of the biological mechanisms for its actions and applications. Researchers are showing that acupuncture interacts with our bodies’ nervous and endocrine systems. This interplay of the nervous system and endocrine system is pivotal in our bodies’ response, and adaptation to life stressors. These systems can become overwhelmed, and dysregulated with chronic stress. Our ability to effectively respond to the challenges life provides can greatly influence our ability to perform, and avoid unwanted loss of function and illness.

By tapping into this deeper level of function inherent within our bodies, acupuncture can play a central role in helping to support our ability to restore, regulate, and respond to the challenges of living in the modern era. As a result, patients’ frequently report that an acupuncture session is relaxing and restorative, and many patients fall asleep during their treatment session. It may seem surprising to some that we could fall asleep during an acupuncture session, but as one of my mentors said, “acupuncture helps to connect the body and mind, and most of our bodies are very tired…”. So, if you are looking for a new way to help you relax that works with your body in a natural, gentle, and effective way, consider trying acupuncture.   

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

An Introduction to Integrative Health & Medicine

By Lori Knutson, RN, BSN, HNB-BC
Administrative Director
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

Over 30 years ago I became a nurse. Why? Because I believed in the power of medicine and healthcare when people are sick, injured, or living with a terminal illness and I wanted to play a part in this profound service to humanity. What I have come to learn over these many years of working in healthcare and experiencing my own episodes of health challenges is that conventional medicine alone may not have all the answers—especially when we are looking to maintain or increase a sense of health and well-being.

We have embraced the idea of bringing together all evidence-based care and treatments to optimize the health and well-being of those we serve. This year we launched Meridian Integrative Health and Medicine which brings together the science and technology of traditional medical care with a broad spectrum of integrative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, nutrition counseling, health coaching, health psychology, integrative medicine consultations with a physician or nurse practitioner; along with many workshops and classes that inform and empower people to be the boss of their health and well-being.

The integrative therapies and classes are some of what we do with individuals but it’s our care model that is uniquely different. Our Five Pillars of Health and Wellness are the foundation of everything we do: Purpose, Resilience, Nutrition, Activity, and Sleep. We know that if these five areas of life are optimal, then one’s mind, body, and spirit will thrive. We are so thrilled to be at this amazing juncture in healthcare and we hope you will be compelled to learn more.