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Is a Wellness Coach Right for You?

Paula Payne of High Point, NC, has spent much of her life pursuing her passion for helping others live well and enjoy their lives. She now leads a LiveStrong program at the YMCA for all types of cancer survivors. She also provides personal health and wellness coaching for people who want to improve their health and quality of life.

A career in making a difference

Paula always knew she wanted to be a nurse. In nursing school, administrators encouraged her to apply to medical school, but she declined.

“I wanted the personal relationship that nurses can have,” she says. “You have more time and you’re with the people day after day. I had seen how the doctors come and go and they just had a few minutes.”

After completing the nursing program at the University of Connecticut, she worked a few years at Yale, then relocated to North Carolina, where she had family. Working in the cardiac unit of a regional hospital, time and again Paula saw that following a serious health crisis, discharged patients faced difficult challenges at home. They often returned to the cardiac unit.

“Since I had the experience with the cardiac unit, I became a visiting nurse. I absolutely loved that. I loved going into people’s homes and addressing what was really going on. I could teach the family members and try to make a difference that way.”

Paula’s passion for wellness

Paula met George, a doctor working at the same hospital, and they later married and started a family. With her husband’s demanding schedule, Paula stayed home with their children. After raising her two sons, she was ready to return to nursing. Since she had been away from nursing for several years, she needed to return to school first. She completed a program, then decided to pursue specialty training in wellness.

In the midst of her training, George was diagnosed with bile duct cancer. Paula put everything on hold to be a fulltime caregiver for her husband. He passed away after a four-year journey.

“He went through a lot,” she says. “After that, I gave myself time to grieve, but I also knew that I needed to get passionate about something. This is what I’m passionate about: Wellness. Making a difference in someone’s life, so they don’t have to go through that kind of a journey or so they have some support after they go through that kind of journey.”

Mindful awareness

After her husband’s death, Paula searched for the best program to pursue her passion. Paula entered Duke Integrative Medicine’s Health and Wellness Coach Program.

“It called to me,” she says. “They focus very much on mind-body connection. That is absolutely the foundation of all things related to health.

Mindful awareness helps mitigate stress. When you’re stressed, your body sends out all sorts of chemicals and hormones that have an effect on every organ of the body. Stress has a purpose. It’s a survival thing. But we tend to carry our stress daily. When you have chronic stress, you start to have problems.

The dangers of stress

“Stress overwhelms your system. When you’re stressed, your immune system is put on hold. Hormones do that. They can put reproduction on hold. They can put your immune system on hold. They can put digestion on hold. It can put cell repair on hold. The purpose of those hormones is to get you out of the dangerous situation. So, everything goes to your breathing, glucose for your muscles so you can run, that sort of thing. Everything else goes on hold. If you’re chronically stressed, and you’re chronically telling your body to put those things on hold, you can imagine the effect it’s having on your body.”

Read the continuation of Paula’s story in Is a Wellness Coach Right for You? Part II.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.