Carol Emrich felt her life spinning out of control. Already grappling with weight-loss issues, the 51-year-old cardiac technician had also taken on the monumental task of caring for her ailing parents. With nowhere else to turn, she sought out the services of Terri Clime, a holistic health coach based in Glenside. “The mindfulness techniques Terri and I did were able to bring me back to focusing on myself and the present moment,” says Emrich.
With Clime’s help, Emrich was able to take a step back and become more mindful of the many ways stress was affecting her mind and body. “Breathing and focusing on the sound of your heartbeat may sound simple, but how many people actually take the time to listen?” she poses.
Armed with a better grasp of the mind-body connection, countless people are more effectively coping with daily hardships, intense grief, chronic pain and short-term illness. Simply put, when we’re mindful, we’re aware of the moment. According to the American Psychological Association, more than 14 percent of us have meditated at least once. This past year, one online meditation session drew more than 33,000 people. It can help with chronic pain (especially in the lower back), stress, anxiety and insomnia.
At 51, Clime, has had her fair share of stress, anxiety and physical pain. She overcame papillary thyroid cancer, using mindfulness as a tool to help in her healing journey. After that medical scare and the death of her father from cancer, she transformed her lifestyle. Her focus: reducing stress, improving her nutrition and incorporating daily movement. The process stoked her passion for helping others.
Since COVID-19, Clime has successfully pivoted to online coaching and now has clients around the country. “Mindfulness is the opposite of anxiety,” says Clime. “It helps my clients slow down, focus on the present moment, and accept and experience life as it is without worrying about how things should be or what bad things might happen. It’s about helping others find the balance they crave and living their happiest and healthiest life.”
While those who practice meditation, yoga and other holistic methods have been touting such techniques for years, traditional medicine as been slower to embrace the mind-body connection. But that’s beginning to change.
One advocate is Dr. Saloni Sharma, medical director of the Orthopaedic Integrative Health Center at Rothman Orthopaedics in Bryn Mawr. Traditional orthopedic care focuses on a single joint or specific area of the body—and that hasn’t changed. Even so, Sharma’s holistic approach is a growing trend, her new center serving as a model for other orthopedic practices nationwide. “It’s about being present, having your mind present and not having it wander to the past or the future,” says Sharma, who’s practiced acupuncture on her patients for 10 years. “It affects all phases of healing. Even once you recover, it helps maintain a state of wellness and well-being. If you do something that’s good for your body—like taking a 20-minute walk—it’s also good for your mind. Similarly, if you’re under a great deal of mental or emotional stress, it manifests in your body.”
“If you do something that’s good for your body— like taking a 20-minute walk—it’s also good for your mind. Similarly, if you’re under a great deal of mental or emotional stress, it manifests in your body.”
—Dr. Saloni Sharma
Among the patients already seeing the benefits of Sharma’s holistic approach is 66-year-old Lydia Bass, a retired transportation engineer who first saw Rothman doctors in 2019 after injuring her hip in a fall. After a steroid shot gave her headaches, she declined further injections and made an appointment with Sharma. “I told her I wanted to improve my mental, physical and spiritual well-being, and she showed me some breathing techniques to help reduce my pain,” says Bass. “We talked about meditation, prayer, walking, reading, relaxing, staying calm and doing things that made me happy.”
Bass also met with registered dietician Phyllis LoDuca, who gave her a list of foods to eat and avoid. Now, she and her husband get separate shopping carts at the grocery store so she can focus on her new eating plan. “I’m doing a lot of sitting still, enjoying being in a quiet room without any noise and paying attention to my thoughts,” says Bass. “It’s absolutely making a difference.”
Mindfulness is not a miracle cure. Emrich still struggles to varying degrees. But the changes she’s made in her life with Clime’s help continue to reap major benefits. “I shut off the TV during meals and truly enjoy my food by smelling, tasting and looking at what’s on my plate,” says Emrich, who’s also into yoga. “I’m remembering to be more mindful of what I eat and how I eat it.”
And before she goes on doctor visits with her parents, Emrich pauses and takes a few deep breaths. “All of this makes those difficult situations more bearable,” she says. “A short pause can change those stressful moments and help make difficult situations have a better outcome.”