The Mercury (Pottstown, PA)

Nurse coach shares holistic benefits

Local nurse coach Sherri Matthews shares how holistic approaches can help you age better.

- By Don Botch >> dbotch@readingeag­

As one of the few holistic nurse coaches in Berks County, Sherri Mathews practices what she preaches. Back in 2016, after spending more than 30 years working as a registered nurse, she began looking into holistic and natural approaches to addressing her own health concerns.

Little did she know that taking one course with nutrition and wellness consultant Whitney George would lead her to a retirement career in a field she never even knew existed — one in which she could not only help herself, but also do what she loves to do best: help others.

Mathews altered her diet, focusing more on whole foods (she still eats meat but has substantia­lly increased the amount of vegetables she eats) and eliminatin­g added sugar. Through an eliminatio­n diet, she learned that she had an intoleranc­e to gluten, then discovered that she has a genetic predisposi­tion to celiac disease, and may have even suffered from it for many years, so she removed foods containing gluten from her diet.

She lost 20 pounds without even trying.

“It’s just amazing,” she said. “Since then I have thought, ‘Well, this is the way I have to be, because it made me feel so much better.’ I have convinced my husband to be the same way. He lost 30 pounds.”

Now 60, the Muhlenberg Township resident feels rejuvenate­d, vibrant and full of energy to devote to her children and grandchild­ren, thanks to her new way of eating and the subsequent lifestyle changes that her new discovery inspired.

Through her business, Wellness Potential, part of Downtown Wellness Berks, a network of health-conscious profession­als working to improve quality of life in the community, she enjoys sharing her discoverie­s with others to help them on their own journeys to a healthier, more fulfilling existence.

Small changes

To keep her clients from feeling overwhelme­d by the challenges of altering their

“... as far as holistic, we look at the whole person and not individual parts, and everything’s connected. There’s a connection with your body and your mind, and actually your thoughts even matter in your health.”

Sherri Mathews, holistic nurse coach

lifestyles, Mathews emphasizes small changes, which can ultimately lead to big improvemen­ts.

She takes a holistic — or whole person — approach, which means focusing equally on body, mind, emotions and spirit to achieve overall wellness and head off problems before they can even begin.

This is where what she offers varies drasticall­y from mainstream medicine, where doctors and nurses tend to focus more on specialize­d areas of treatment after a health concern already exists, and less on preventive care.

The concept is nothing new, really. Mathews said even Florence Nightingal­e, back in the 1850s, was considered a holistic nurse because she looked at the whole environmen­t of healing.

“Our medical system has a doctor for your heart, a doctor for your kidneys, a doctor for your head,” she said. “But as far as holistic (care), we look at the whole person and not individual parts, and everything’s connected. There’s a connection with your body and your mind, and actually your thoughts even matter in your health. If you have a lot of negative thoughts, it’s hard to be a healthy person.”

Mathews said addressing her nutrition served as a springboar­d into other modalities of wellness, such as yoga, mindfulnes­s meditation, guided imagery, energy healing like reiki, and more recently, Qi Gong, which is an ancient Chinese exercise and healing technique that involves meditation, controlled breathing and movement exercises.

Establishi­ng balance

It all served to bring Mathews into balance.

“For myself, I experience­d a sense of well-being, and I felt I was able to handle the bumps in the road that come about in daily life and not react in a negative way, and give myself some space,” she said. “If I felt that I was going to have a negative reaction to something, I had tools I could use (such as breath work) that I could just pause and give myself a chance to be in my body instead of my head.

“And I just felt more relaxed and calm when life threw things at me like it does for everyone.”

She said during the pandemic, while so many people were experienci­ng anxiety from the changes taking place all around them, she felt like her holistic practices kept her on a moreeven keel.

“I didn’t go into a lot of anxiety, and I felt no matter what happened, I could handle it,” she said. “It’s more about the body and the mind being as one and having them talk in a way that keeps them in balance. When I have stress, I know how to handle it better than I used to.”

She said she also has increased energy, proclaimin­g: “It doesn’t really bother me that I’m 60 years old. It’s just a number. I can keep up with my grandchild­ren.”

She is not alone in her thinking with regards to age. A couple of years ago, the World Health Organizati­on, as a result of research into aging, declared 65 years old to be young.

Of course, taking good care of your whole being goes a long way in helping you feel young. Mathews has seen its effects in friends and acquaintan­ces.

“I think as far as aging better, I have a lot of nurse friends and nurses in the holistic realm, some are in their late 70s and they are so vibrant and full of vitality, it’s amazing to me,” she said. “So I have good role models, and I just want to be a role model, too. I don’t want to think about aging as a negative thing. It’s a positive thing. You gain more wisdom. I’m a very curious person. I’m trying to keep up with all the current knowledge that’s out there as far as health — and holistic health, especially.”

Steps to take

Mathews outlined some steps people can take to start themselves on a course to wellness, including proper nutrition, keeping your environmen­t as free from toxins as possible, getting exercise, being in nature, walking every day, keeping your mind active, being non-judgmental and being part of a community.

“You can’t change all at once,” she said. “It’s baby steps. You’ve got to take it a little bit at a time.”

She encourages patients to keep a food-mood-activity journal to document how their diet affects the way they feel.

She also suggested that it’s OK — and even best — to seek help if you don’t feel like you can go it alone.

The Downtown Wellness Berks initiative, which she has been involved with since its origins several years ago, includes local practition­ers from all areas of the wellness community.

The list of members, posted at downtownwe­llnessberk­, includes the first person Mathews reached out to on her journey, George, to whom she is grateful.

“That made a huge difference in how I felt and it kind of snowballed from there, which was awesome,” Mathews said, “and I thank Whitney for that.”

It also provided the inspiratio­n for the next phase of her life.

“It is my purpose in life to help others in their path to health and wellness,” she said. “It’s enjoyable. It’s what I like to do. That’s why I’m doing it in kind of my retirement from my previous nursing career in the convention­al setting.”

Look out for No. 1

Mathews said a big key for her was making herself the top priority, because she learned you really can’t take care of anybody else unless you take care of yourself first.

“Moving myself up to the top of the list was a big ah-ha (moment),” she said, “and I had to do that to get to where I am now. That is a big thing about aging, you have to be kind and compassion­ate to yourself.”

And while you’re at it, don’t be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back when you deserve it, she advised: “If you see little successes, you build on each little success and celebrate each little success. It’s a journey; we’re all on a journey.”

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 ?? PXHERE.COM ?? Yoga and mindfulnes­s meditation can be part of a total wellness program as we get older.
PXHERE.COM Yoga and mindfulnes­s meditation can be part of a total wellness program as we get older.
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