Breath for the Soul

Self-Care Steps to Wellness

Jan E. Patterson, MD, MS, and Phyllis Clark Nichols

When have you read a book where a recognized doctor and an award-winning inspirational writer team up to explore ways you can use your breath, movement, nutrition, and spirit to care for yourself? 

Breath for the Soul is that book.

Breath for the Soul offers a step-by-step approach and self-care plans integrating

  • Breath

  • Movement

  • Nutrition

  • Spirit

 

Empowering you with a path towards healing and wellness through stress, anxiety, depression, and grief.

Included is a toolkit of

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Dr. Jan Patterson

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Phyllis Clark Nichols

Dr. Jan Patterson is a cancer survivor, bereaved parent, an integrative medicine and infectious disease doctor who has practiced and taught medicine for thirty years. Phyllis Clark Nichols is no stranger to grief either and has been the caregiver to her husband for ten years through three battles with cancer. They team up in this book to inform and inspire you for self-care. No one is immune from stress, anxiety, depression, and grief. What if there are methods that empower you to help yourself? Learn to use breath, movement, nutrition, and spirit to enhance your health and wellness. Dr. Jan and Phyllis review these solutions.

Breath for the Soul, is a plan for self-care integrating ancient and modern practices that work, providing a practical, step-by-step approach that recognizes more than physical needs. You are a soul, a complex person, a total self, needing nurture and care.  Breath for the Soul is a full toolkit of evidence-based information, inspiring stories, trusted resources, healthy recipes, and a simple plan to give you control over your self-care. Empower yourself with these simple tools using an innovative approach. Put yourself on the path to health, wellness, and wholeness.

Harold G. Koenig, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences 
Duke ­­University Medical Center

“Combining modern science and ancient wisdom, Breath for the Soul offers evidence-based approaches to practicing self-care. Whether you need to heal or to stay well, this book offers reminders, and practical advice, encouraging inspiring thoughts that speak to your physical and spiritual nature. In Breath for the Soul, Patterson and Nichols offer ways that provide structure, flexibility, and inspiration for you as you practice self-care that becomes a lifestyle, not a checklist of things to do.”
Lavender Fields

Integrative medicine is an approach to medicine that involves the whole person, including the body, mind, and spirit — the soul.

Authors

Breath for the Soul

Jan E. Patterson, MD, MS, and Phyllis Clark Nichols

We live in an incredible time in human history. But even with all the advances in medicine, science, and technology, we humans are still dealing with some age-old problems—those of stress, anxiety, depression, and grief. Breath for the Soul addresses these issues and will provide you with steps for self-care—things you can do for yourself to help alleviate the symptoms and put you on the path to wellness.


You might be asking this question: how is it that a medical doctor and professor recognized in infectious diseases and a seminary-trained inspirational writer and novelist collaborated to write this book? The answer is that we have been good friends for over twenty-five years, we have dealt personally with the issues we address in this book, and we desire to help others with what we have learned from our perspectives and knowledge bases.

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Dr. Jan Patterson

I had been practicing medicine for about thirty years when I experienced a series of personal losses that I will elaborate on within this book. As I have already explained to many patients, I noted for myself that while conventional medicine can do many great things, it is challenging to treat stress, anxiety, depression, and grief with this approach alone. With conventional medicine, most health-care professionals are trained to offer a pill. This approach is often needed; it can improve health and be lifesaving. Yet, including the treatment of the whole person—what Phyllis and I refer to as the soul that includes mind and spirit as well as the body—is often overlooked. None of these self-care measures we discuss are intended to take the place of medication that your doctor prescribes. They are intended to be integrated with traditional medicine that you may need as determined by your doctor.

 

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Phyllis Clark Nichols

I grew up in a small southern town at a time in our nation’s history when most people’s views of health, medicine, and wellness were limited. If I became sick, I went to the doctor for a prescription and went home to follow the doctor’s orders without question and without any sense of giving self-care. I believed it was the doctor’s responsibility to cure me, and the prescription was the magic potion to make me well again. My only role was to follow the doctor’s orders.

Although I’d had much exposure to what was going on in the medical field through my job, when my husband, Bill, was diagnosed with his first life-threatening cancer in 2012, my need to learn became very personal and serious. That cancer was treated successfully with surgery. Then again, in 2018, Bill was diagnosed with another unrelated but life-threatening cancer. He was given weeks of chemotherapy followed by extensive surgery. We were determined to keep our lives as normal as possible. Cancer did not change who we were, it just changed what we did for a time.

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Table of Contents


5 steps in each chapter

1

Self-Care for Stress

  • Let’s Take a Breath

  • Moving Away from Stress 

  • Stress Eating 

  • Spirit Connections 

  • Putting Self-Care Steps to Peace into Practice

2

Self-Care for Anxiety

  • The Perfect Breath

  • Physical Activity Can Reduce Anxiety

  • Foods to Decrease Anxiety

  • Turning to Spirit

  • Putting Self-Care Steps to Calm into Practice

3

Self-Care for Depression

  • Depression

  • How Can I Move When I’m Depressed?

  • Are You What You Eat?

  • The Poor in Spirit

  • Putting Self-Care Steps to Hope into Practice

4

Self-Care for Grief

  • Take Some Deep Breaths

  • Running from Rumination

  • Comfort Food

  • They Are…Wherever We Are

  • Putting Self-Care Steps to Gratitude to Practice

5

Self-Care Support

  • A Personal Plan for Self-Care

  • Self-Care Resources

  • Acknowledgments

  • Recipes

Moving Away from Stress

“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the
woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what
is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.”

 

— George Washington Carver

 

Dr. Jan Patterson

Breath for the Soul, Introduction

I had been practicing medicine for about thirty years when I experienced a series of personal losses that I will elaborate on within this book. As I have already explained to many patients, I noted for myself that while conventional medicine can do many great things, it is challenging to treat stress, anxiety, depression, and grief with this approach alone. With conventional medicine, most health-care professionals are trained to offer a pill. This approach is often needed; it can improve health and be lifesaving. Yet, including the treatment of the whole person—what Phyllis and I refer to as the soul that includes mind and spirit as well as the body—is often overlooked. None of these self-care measures we discuss are intended to take the place of medication that your doctor prescribes. They are intended to be integrated with traditional medicine that you may need as determined by your doctor.

 

As Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, said, “It is not that we have a soul but that we are a soul.” Many times, the difficulties of life can distance us from our soul, from our true selves. There are ways that we can reawaken the sense of our soul. These are among the self-care strategies that we will discuss.

 

My journey into complementary therapies began when I was introduced to essential oils by my massage therapist. I found that I benefitted from essential-oil support for mood and emotions as well as a number of other complaints including allergies, insomnia, indigestion, and more. (Essential oils are not FDA-approved to treat, prevent, diagnose, or cure any diseases.) Having a scientific background, I wanted to understand more about how essential oils worked, and so I studied texts and took many hours of instruction to become registered as an aromatherapist. As I experienced the benefits of essential oils for myself and others, it occurred to me that there must be other complementary therapies that could help me and other people.

 

I researched additional therapies and discovered the field of integrative medicine. The field was pioneered by Andrew Weil, MD, and is an approach to medicine that involves the whole person, including body, mind, and spirit—the soul. Integrative medicine is informed by evidence and is so named for the integration of complementary and holistic therapies with conventional ones. I completed a fellowship in integrative medicine at the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at University of Arizona, where I learned about mind-body medicine, complementary and alternative practices, botanicals and dietary supplements, nutritional health, and integrative approaches to multiple medical conditions.

 

What I learned was helpful to me and others, and I began to apply integrative practices in my clinic, and also to work with our hospital system to establish an integrative medicine program. I began to see successes with this approach and the appreciation of patients and staff who were encouraged and supported by these modalities. Much of the integrative approach involves self-care. And as I sought to instruct others in self-care practices, I began to think in terms of recurring themes of four pillars of self-care:

• Breath

• Movement

• Nutrition

• Spirit

 

All of these benefit from mindfulness—the practice of being present in the moment and undistracted by ruminations of what happened yesterday or worries about what will happen later today or tomorrow.

 

Self-care strategies like intentional breathing, movement, nutrition, and spiritual connection can be extremely powerful and beneficial. Intentional breathing is an effective way to invoke our relaxation response. Likewise, there is increasing evidence that movement is beneficial for our moods as well as our physical health. In regard to nutrition, the Standard American Diet (SAD), high in inflammatory foods, processed foods, and sugar, is failing us. The Mediterranean Diet and the Anti- Inflammatory Diet offer lifestyles with healthier yet delicious foods that can make us feel better mentally, emotionally, and physically. And there is scientific evidence that people who embrace spirituality, as defined by a personal connection to a higher power, actually have a more activated brain—an awakened brain that offers more resilience and combats depression. Quieting practices such as mindfulness and time in nature prepare us for spiritual awareness.

 

I wanted to partner with my longtime friend Phyllis Clark Nichols for this project to enrich the spiritual component. Phyllis is a gifted inspirational author and an expert musician. She is also one of the kindest, most insightful, and spiritually attuned people I know. She and her husband, Dr. Bill Nichols (a brilliant artist, author, and retired minister), have been spiritual mentors to me and my family for many years.

 

We will discuss evidence for each of the pillars of breath, movement, nutrition, and spirit, as self-care strategies for stress, anxiety, depression, and grief— conditions we all encounter at times in our lives. Phyllis will have a spiritual illustration and interpretation for all of these to enrich our spiritual awareness.

 
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Phyllis Clark Nichols ​

Breath for the Soul, Introduction

As a former executive for a national cable television network featuring programming on health and disability, I developed a growing interest in wellness and self-care, and I had the opportunity to meet many influential people who shared my interest. During those thirteen years in the health television field, I witnessed firsthand some shifts in health and medicine.

 

I grew up in a small southern town at a time in our nation’s history when most people’s views of health, medicine, and wellness were limited. If I became sick, I went to the doctor for a prescription and went home to follow the doctor’s orders without question and without any sense of giving self-care. I believed it was the doctor’s responsibility to cure me, and the prescription was the magic potion to make me well again. My only role was to follow the doctor’s orders.

 

There was little sense of personal responsibility in caring for myself or for working toward wellness. The only mention of wellness I recall was the old adage, “An apple a day will keep the doctor away.” All I learned of good nutrition was the food chart from health class in elementary school—which now turns out wasn’t necessarily so healthy. And we were not told how important exercise was to our general health. Exercise was generally undertaken by athletes or someone trying to lose weight.

 

This was what I knew and experienced in my early life, but there were four factors that greatly influenced the change in my mindset: (1) personal illness, (2) relationships with many medical professionals who had a much larger view of health and medicine, (3) the explosion into the age of information and personal access via the internet to quality health-care data never before available to me, and (4) my belief that we humans are so much more than flesh and that there must be ways we can better care for our total selves.

 

Although I’d had much exposure to what was going on in the medical field through my job, when my husband, Bill, was diagnosed with his first life-threatening cancer in 2012, my need to learn became very personal and serious. That cancer was treated successfully with surgery. Then again, in 2018, Bill was diagnosed with another unrelated but life-threatening cancer. He was given weeks of chemotherapy followed by extensive surgery. We were determined to keep our lives as normal as possible. Cancer did not change who we were, it just changed what we did for a time.

 

During those months after his second surgery, we were grateful for excellent medical care, and I began reading and researching to learn what we could do to participate in his ongoing care. Our goal was to get him healthy and for both of us to stay healthy. We had always been disciplined with our eating and exercise, but with gratitude for Dr. Jan, I was learning more about food as medicine and fuel, exercise as healing, the effective use of essential oils, and the importance of proper breathing. We experienced the value of mindfulness and the use of guided imagery during Bill’s treatment and recovery.

 

At that same time, Dr. Jan was gaining knowledge and working toward establishing an integrative medicine practice. She introduced me to the use of essential oils, gave me books to read and study, and taught me how to make everything from aroma sticks to soothing balms and creams. I began to use them and see amazing results. My husband’s digestive issues and allergies improved. I began to rid our house of anything toxic—cleaning supplies, garden chemicals, skin-care products, and shampoos that had harmful ingredients. Dr. Jan taught us breathing techniques and suggested other forms of exercise and the importance of movement even in the healing and recovery process after treatment and surgery.

 

I fear I flooded Dr. Jan’s phone and email in-box at times with my excitement when we experienced good results from using these modalities. Since I wasn’t a medical professional, I was somewhat reluctant to share my experiences with others. But I wanted to. I longed for my family and friends to step onto the path to wellness and to realize that these practices do work. I wanted them to enjoy the benefits of these modalities. I didn’t want their children to grow up as I had, thinking that a prescription was magic and they had no responsibility in the care and health of their bodies. I wanted them to grow up to be healthier and to see that self-care is of great value.

 

Finally, within these pages, I have the opportunity to say these things and to share some of our experiences. That’s the reason I am so excited about this project. Breath for the Soul is the book I wish I could have pulled from my bookshelf years ago. I had the great blessing of having Dr. Jan, who taught me so much about wellness and self-care at a time when I was in desperate need of that information. I had access to many books informing me about ways to give care to my body through diet and exercise. Our bookshelves were filled devotional books, Bible commentaries, and self-help books in psychology that spoke to the needs of my spirit. But I found no one book that addressed the needs of my soul—the total person that I am. Breath for the Soul speaks to the needs of the total person—mind, body, and spirit, and it addresses specific ways that we can give care to our bodies and our spirits on our paths toward wholeness and wellness.

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Breath for the Soul

 

Self-Care Steps to Wellness

Jan E. Patterson, MD, MS, and Phyllis Clark Nichols

 

It is our hope that you will incorporate the aspects of intentional breathing, movement, nutrition, spirituality, and mindfulness that can work for you, and that you benefit from these steps to self-care in your journey through life. We pray that this book will encourage you to develop your own self-care plan on your way from stress to peace, from anxiety to calm, from depression to hope, and from grief to gratitude.