The value of Health and Wellness coaching

health and wellness coaching

What is Health and Wellness Coaching?

Health and wellness coaching is a structured partnership where coaches work closely with clients to enhance health and wellness through lasting behavior changes that are aligned with the client’s values.  A health and wellness coach holds a respectful, positive, and supportive space for their clients. A recent article from Harvard Medical School entitled “Health coaching is effective. Should you try it?” shares how a Harvard Physician, Dr. Grinspoon, found that health and wellness coaching has helped people attain health goals that had previously been out of their reach. Dr. Grinspoon listed Duke Integrative Medicine as one of top four most respected training programs in the country. I received my foundational and certification training from Duke Integrative Medicine, and I agree that is a top-notch program.


How does it work?

It all starts with you, the client. You’re probably reading this blog because you are interested in making a change in your life to improve your health and wellness. Has there been a behavior or part of your life that you have wanted to change, but you haven’t had the tools to be successful? Has a health concern has arisen that you need to address? A coach will help you develop and realize your optimal health vision. You are the expert on yourself and your life, and the coaching partnership focuses on making and supporting meaningful changes that will work specifically for you and your unique needs.


Why is it effective in helping people realize their optimal health and wellness?

The coaching partnership is based on respect, non-judgement, and accountability. The coaching methodology I learned through the coaching program at Duke Integrative Medicine is based on the neuroscience of behavior change. This is a very motivating and empowering process for creating lasting change.


  • Coaches work with you as a whole person. They listen to your concerns and ask powerful questions to help motivate you to make the changes you desire.
  • Coaches spend time exploring what is most important to you in your overall health and wellness and allow you to choose your course of action.
  • Coaches guide you through a process to maximize your success.
  • You and your coach work in partnership to identify obstacles to change and create strategies for achieving your goals.
  • Coaches support you in tracking your progress and hold you accountable for your commitments.
  • Coaches provide additional resources as needed for making healthy behavior changes.


What are appropriate topics for health and wellness coaching?

Health and wellness are affected by multiple interconnected dimensions. These dimensions include physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, as well as support from healthcare providers. Any concern that gets in the way of taking care of your optimal health and wellness is the perfect place to start. Therefore, any topic you want to bring up that you think will contribute to your optimal health and wellness is an appropriate topic for health and wellness Coaching.


Here are some examples of potential topics:

  • Managing stress and anxiety
  • Building healthy sleep habits
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Improving nutrition
  • Starting or adapting an exercise program
  • Making a career change
  • Pursuing an unachieved life goal or hobby
  • Creating a healthy and safe home or work environment
  • Navigating difficult relationships
  • Planning preventative and routine medical care
  • Quitting smoking
  • Working through a health concern like diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol


This is just a taste of some of the things that can be covered in health and wellness coaching. Whatever matters most to you is the best place to start.


Want to learn more about how Health and Wellness coaching can help you? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960.


About the Author

Ericca Burke is a Health and Wellness Coach trained by Duke Integrative Medicine. She is based in Wilmington, NC, and she is available to coach clients around the world virtually. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 



Learn the ancient Chinese art of yangsheng – nourishing life


Why yangsheng and the art of nourishing life is important

At the start of the Chinese New Year in February 2021, I listened to a webcast from one of my favorite teachers, Lillian Pearl Bridges. Lillian is an expert on Face Reading. She can tell what’s going on with a person’s health and wellness just by looking at their face. Lillian also has a broad knowledge of Chinese astrology and Feng Shui. I have taken a number of Lillian’s classes, and I look forward to the special Chinese New Year forecast that she presents to Chinese Medicine practitioners each year.


This year, when Lillian shared her thoughts about the year of the Ox, she stressed the importance of practicing yangsheng. The ox is a very respected animal, and it is valued for its ability to work hard and endure. This year will require patience and an emphasis on yangsheng. Simply put, yangsheng refers to the practice of nourishing life that has been in existence and documented for other two thousand years. “Yang” translates to nurture or nourish. “Sheng” translates to life or vitality. This is a practice of self-cultivation or self-care that is believed to be crucial to overall health and longevity.


How to practice yangsheng

Another favorite teacher of mine is Peter Deadman. He has written a number of books on Chinese Medicine and has delved deeply into yangsheng. He states that there are three main ways to practice yangsheng:


First, avoid behavior that causes harm. This includes consuming alcohol excessively, smoking, eating poor quality food, allowing emotions to damage our mental health, and not being physically active.


Second, engage in activities that promote health and well-being. This includes eating healthfully, exercising appropriately, fostering positive emotions and managing negative emotions, practicing good sleep hygiene, cultivating positive relationships, and spending time in nature. Follow this link to read my blog on how to improve your sleep. To help manage emotions, click this link to read a blog I wrote on how to manage stress and anxiety.


Third, practice exercises specifically designed to nourish life. This includes qigong, taiji (also known as tai chi), and yoga.  Other yangsheng-specific activities include meditation, mindful breathing, and practicing the relaxation response. Follow this link to read a blog I wrote on how you can practice the relaxation response.



Balance and moderation are key

In our American culture, we have a tendency to overdo things, and we can become unbalanced. To practice yangsheng we need to consider a balanced approach to life. For example, some of us may be great at exercising consistently but we don’t get enough sleep. Maybe we eat really well but we also worry constantly and experience stress and anxiety. In yangsheng, balancing exercise, diet, sleep, and mental health are essential. Everything in moderation. I deeply respect this approach. In fact, the name of the Chinese Medicine school I attended, Jung Tao, translates to “middle way”. Not too far one way or the other. The middle way is preferable.


Even though yangsheng concepts are quite simple, they can be very difficult to put into practice. Most people will want more of something that feels good to them. If a little is good, more must be better. This can give way to overeating, overexercising, even oversleeping.


Time can also be challenge with so many of us leading busy lives. It is often hard to find time to do all of the things we want to do. As I have been working on cultivating yangsheng for myself this year, I find that some weeks I am successful at including exercise, but I am not able to pay as much attention to healthy eating habits. Other weeks I eat really well and make time to meditate, but do not find time to exercise. Trying to squeeze everything in can create an imbalance of activity and can be counter to the principles of yangsheng.


Make time to rest

Balancing doing with non-doing, or rest, is key. Creating free spaces in your day are important to balance all of the activity. What I’ve discovered is most important for me is to be kind to myself and to be as present as I can with whatever activity I am engaged in. That in and of itself is a very important part of nourishing life.


Want to talk about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960.


About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 


About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

Acupuncture for migraines and headaches

acupuncture for migraines and headaches

Acupuncture for migraines and headaches

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be very effective in treating migraines and headaches. Western medicine conventionally treats headaches with pharmaceuticals and achieves varying results. Chinese medicine takes a different approach by identifying the root cause of the headache from an energetic perspective. Each person is unique, and two people can have the same kind of headache for very different reasons. So, rather than relying on headache medication, acupuncture and Chinese medicine prescribe a customized solution tailored to the individual needs of the patient.


Migraines and headaches can be debilitating, making even the simplest tasks feel overwhelming. They can range from a dull ache, a feeling of squeezing or pressure, to a stabbing pain. Headaches can also be so painful that the only option is to rest in a dark, quiet, cool room.  Migraines can be accompanied by visual disturbances, numbness in the body, and even nausea.


Underlying causes

During an acupuncture appointment, the practitioner will conduct a thorough intake and work on getting to the root cause of why the headache is occurring. I personally examine a variety of possible contributing factors. For example, these can include: allergies, anger, dehydration, diet, hormones, illness, injuries, jaw tension, posture, sleep issues, stress, weather, and other environmental triggers. It’s important to know how long the headache has been present, how often headaches occur, and how long they typically last. Other things to consider are what the pain feels like, what makes the headache feel worse, and what makes the headache feel better.


Location is important

It’s also important to know where on the head the headache is occurring. The main areas are:

  • Occipital and nape of the neck: At the back of the head where the head meets the neck
  • Frontal: On the front of the head, including the forehead, eyes, and cheeks
  • Temporal: At one or both temples and the sides of the head
  • Parietal or Vertex: On the top of the head


Chinese medicine diagnosis

Acupuncturists diagnose headaches from an energetic perspective. Headaches most often fall into one of three categories: an excess of energy, a deficiency of energy, or what is called an invasion of pathogenic wind into the body.


When the headache is caused by an excess of energy, this means that the energy from the body is rushing up to the head rather than circulating smoothly through the body. A person experiencing this kind of headache will feel irritable, have severe pain on one or both sides of the head, and may have eye pain or blurred vision.


A deficiency-type headache is one that can be lingering. This kind of headache usually feels better with warmth and worse with cold.


A headache caused by an invasion of pathogenic wind occurs after exposure to wind, usually on the back of the neck. It is typically first felt in the nape of the neck. This can later extend up the back of the head to the forehead. When this external pathogen enters the body, it obstructs the flow of energy in the body, causing pain. After the acupuncturist determines whether the headache is caused by excess, deficiency, or external pathogenic wind, they identify which acupuncture channels are affected based on the symptoms and location of the pain.



Often a combination of methods will restore the balance of energy in the body and relieve a headache or migraine. Usually, the primary treatment is acupuncture. The acupuncturist inserts fine needles into to acupuncture points in the body to balance the energy based on the diagnosis.


I usually include ear seeds to support the treatment. Ear seeds can also serve as a standalone treatment for headaches. Click here to read my blog about ear seeds. When I am treating a patient who has a headache, I will often palpate the areas on the ear that correspond to frontal, temporal, occipital, and vertex headaches. I place ear seeds on any tender areas as well as areas that correspond to the location of the headache. It’s not unusual for parts of the ear to be red, reflecting the energetic congestion experienced in the body.


Depending on what was uncovered during the intake, I also counsel patients on nutrition and lifestyle if it appears that anything in those areas may be contributing to the headache. Frequently, increasing hydration, reducing stress, and avoiding certain types of foods can be helpful. I often recommend qigong exercises and guided visualizations to help prevent future headaches.



When to see a Doctor

It’s important to see a doctor if you are experiencing headaches consistently, if your headaches are increasing in frequency or severity, or if you are unable to perform your usual activities. Doctors will often prescribe acupuncture for migraines and headaches once they have ruled out any serious conditions.


Seek medical attention immediately if you experience the worst headache you’ve ever had, vomit uncontrollably, or lose vision or consciousness.

Click this link for advice from WebMD on how to decide when to seek medical attention for your headache.


About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 


About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

All about ear seeds and auriculotherapy

ear seeds

What are ear seeds?

Usually when I mention ear seeds to my patients for the first time, I get a surprised, “What did you say?” type of response. They’re not sure if they heard me correctly. Did I really just suggest putting a seed in their ear? I explain that what I am referring to is a small sphere placed on an acupuncture point on the surface of the ear that is held in place with adhesive tape. It works by exerting a gentle pressure on an acupuncture point. Ear seeds come in a variety of styles that I’ll cover a bit later in this blog.


Auriculotherapy and the anatomy of the human ear

Auriculotherapy is the process of stimulating acupuncture points on the ear. This involves acupuncture needles, electrical stimulation, or acupressure from the fingers or ear seeds.


A French Doctor named Paul Nogier popularized auriculotherapy in the 1950’s. Dr. Nogier was able to show how the external ear contains a microsystem of the human body by mapping the anatomy of an inverted fetus to the ear. Acupuncture points on the ear can actually treat different parts of the body. For example, the baby’s head corresponds to the ear lobe, the baby’s back goes up the outside of the ear, and the baby’s feet are mapped to the top of the ear. There are hundreds of points on the ear that correspond to different points on the body. These points connect to nerve endings in the ear that send a signal to the brain. The brain sends a message to the area of the body in need of  treatment.


What do ear seeds treat?

Because the ear contains a microcosm of the body, virtually any issue someone is facing can be supported with ear seeds. This includes conditions like pain, stress, trauma, addiction, and emotional issues. They are safe for anyone over the age of three. I frequently use ear seeds to support acupuncture treatments in my office. For example, if a patient is experiencing back pain or sciatica, I will apply ear seeds that correspond to the lower back and the sciatic nerve. If the patient has a headache, I will apply them to the part of the ear that corresponds to the location of their headache.


Kits and styles

Most ear seeds use a vaccaria seed as the “seed”. This is how ear seeds got their name – an actual seed is applied to the ear.  The vaccaria seed is a small black seed from the vaccaria plant. According to Chinese medicine, this plant has healing properties. The vaccaria seed is the perfect size, shape, and texture to stimulate an acupuncture point on the ear. Adhesive tape holds the seed to an acupuncture point on the ear. The adhesive tape that looks like a small square band-aid. This type of ear seed is shown in the picture at the top of this blog.


If people are allergic to latex or prefer a different look, stainless steel balls on clear adhesive tape can be used as well as gold-plated balls on clear adhesive tape. The gold-plated balls are also available with different embellishments on the adhesive, like Swarovski crystals. They are a fun option for someone who likes some sparkle in their ear.


Ear seeds also come in condition-specific kits. Often, I have patients who want to continue treatment while traveling and they love having everything they need in a simple kit. The kit contains the ear seeds, pictures that show exactly where to place the seeds, instructions, and tweezers for precise placement.


The kits that are the most popular with my patients include: Acne, Back Pain / Sciatica, Depression, Focus and Memory, Headaches and Migraines, Insomnia, Menopause, Post-Trauma (PTSD), Stop Smoking, Stress and Anxiety, and Weight Loss.


Why I love auriculotherapy and ear seeds

I love ear seeds so much that I decided to become a certified ear seeds practitioner. What’s fascinating to me is that I can often tell what is going on with a person just by looking at their ears. Red marks or veins signify acute conditions or inflammation, and white bumps typically reveal more chronic conditions. Recently during a treatment, I noticed that a patient’s ear was quite red near the insomnia point. When I asked about sleep, the patient was very surprised and shared they had forgotten to mention that they were experiencing insomnia. The ear can even show what stage of the menstrual cycle a woman is experiencing.


Ear seeds can really enhance an in-office acupuncture treatment. The patient leaves the office with ear seeds in their ears, and this supplements the therapy in between office treatments. Patients can choose to leave the ear seeds alone or give them a gentle squeeze whenever needed to further activate the point. Ear seeds give patients something to do, especially when they are applied to help with stress and anxiety. Patients wear them for up to 5 days to continue the benefits of the treatment.


Ear seeds can also be applied by patients at home, and they are perfect for Telemedicine patients. Entire treatments can be accomplished through ear seeds alone. They are a great option for people who are afraid of needles. They are affordable, very easy to use, and extremely effective.


About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 


About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

Healing yourself with the relaxation response

relaxation response

Relaxation is key to reduce stress and improve immunity

The world is experiencing an unprecedented increase in stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since stress has been shown to weaken immunity, it is important now more than ever to find ways to manage stress. Because of the pandemic, I have temporarily stopped practicing acupuncture in my office as I transition to telemedicine. I am eager and excited to share ways that people can work on managing stress and building immunity from their own homes, like learning to practice the “relaxation response”.


The “relaxation response” is an amazing practice that can be done anywhere. I first heard about this term in a TedX talk given by Dr. Lissa Rankin called “Is there scientific proof we can heal ourselves?”. In her talk, Dr. Rankin gives numerous examples of the power of the mind and its ability to heal the body, including the relaxation response. Dr Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind / body medicine, created the relaxation response term and practice. The relaxation response counters the fight-or-flight stress response that is activated quite frequently in our modern lives.


The relaxation response works by slowing down the rate of breathing, reducing blood pressure, and relaxing muscles. And, there is no one right or perfect way to practice this. Rather, there are many possibilities that people can consider based on what works best for them. As I studied the relaxation response, I realized that this is one of the many benefits that an acupuncture treatment can bring to patients.


How to practice the relaxation response at home

Dr. Benson has created a simple, nine-minute Youtube video where he guides you through the relaxation response process. Click here to watch “Relaxation Response: Dr. Herbert Benson Teaches you the Basics” on Youtube. Dr. Benson states that only two things are necessary to practice the relaxation response:

  1. A repeated word (like “peace”, “love”, or “calm”), sound, prayer, phrase, or movement
  2. Disregard other thoughts when they enter your mind and come back to the repetition

You can sit or lie down in a comfortable position to practice. Close your eyes and breathe slowly. It’s helpful if you can focus your breathing in your lower abdomen, though this isn’t necessary. Repeatedly say your word, sound, prayer, or phrase on your exhalation. If other thoughts come into your mind, Dr. Benson advises you to tell yourself “oh well”. Then, bring yourself back to the repetition and continue. Dr. Benson recommends daily practice for 10-15 minutes. Finish your practice, and take your time getting up and returning to your day.


If you think that this sounds a lot like meditation, you’re right! This is a powerful form of meditation. If the recommended daily 10-15-minute practice feels too long for you, start slowly. Even as little as one minute can be beneficial. Take your time, and gradually build up to a longer practice. Ultimately, having a regular daily practice of at least 10 minutes will be very effective at building immunity and countering daily stress.


Additional ways to practice the relaxation response

One great option to practice the relaxation response is through guided visualization. This can bring the same benefits as the meditation described earlier, but it may feel more doable because all you have to do is sit or lie down in a quiet place and listen to someone else speak. One of my favorite creators of guided visualization tools is Belleruth Naparstek. She has made over one hundred recordings available on iTunes as well as in CD format. Topics range from Immunity to Insomnia & Restful Sleep, Stress, Grief, and Anger & Forgiveness as well as number of condition-specific titles like Headaches, Menopause, and Cancer.


Another favorite is the 21-day medication experience collections created by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. Many of these collections are offered for free. Each daily audio program starts out with an inspirational message from Oprah. Deepak follows Oprah with his own words of wisdom. Deepak then suggests a meditation phrase and guides the listener in a 10-minute meditation. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oprah and Deepak created a series called “Hope in Uncertain Times” which is available for free until May 15th, 2020. After that, it will be available for purchase. The programs last for 21 days because it has been shown that it can take 21 days to create a new habit. I have followed several of these 21-day meditation experiences, and I have purchased some of them. I will often restart a program from day one to start a new 21-day cycle of meditation.


Physical options

While I am a huge proponent of stillness, I also love to experience movement in a meditative form. As mentioned earlier, Dr. Benson states that movement can also elicit the relaxation response. What’s important is having a way to break the train of daily thoughts and stressors. This can be accomplished through repetitive exercise where you become immersed in the movement. Examples include yoga, tai chi, qigong, running, rowing, or even knitting or playing a musical instrument.


Overall, what’s most important is that you find what works for you and commit to a regular daily practice. I think you’ll be thrilled with the benefits you experience!


About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 


About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.