Dr. Scheller hopes the Graf Center serves as a resource for patients of Englewood Health, and the wider community, to tackle their stress after enduring this dumpster fire of a year.
A global pandemic, six months of unemployment and the complete decimation of my social life—these were the conditions necessary for me to finally download TikTok. The Vine-esque platform needs no introduction to Gen Z or aging millennials—like myself—who joined over the summer. But for those still unfamiliar: TikTok is a social media platform designed for sharing short videos.
The TikTok algorithm is strong. Linger too long on a particular video, or interact with it by liking or commenting, and you’ve ensured that 100 videos of the same genre queue-up instantaneously. Food-Tok, Dance-Tok and Bachelor-Tok are all sub-communities—groups of people with similar interests, being fed the same videos all day—developed by this algorithm.
A sub-community I belong to is called Med-Tok, where I see explainer videos made by industrious medical students and videos of people detailing their healing journeys with an illness or disease. One of the most common videos to be found on Med-Tok, is people using home remedies to cure their lingering COVID-19 symptoms.
A girl who had COVID in March and never regained her taste takes a huge bite into a raw onion. Swipe.
A man who lost his sense of smell roasts an orange on his stovetop until it’s blackened, mashes it up in a bowl and eats it. Swipe.
A woman with chronic brain fog takes a 60-second ice bath to “wake herself up.” Swipe.
The exact rate of people who experience persistent COVID symptoms after the virus has left their bodies is unknown. Many of them, especially on TikTok, refer to themselves as “long-haulers.”
“We’re still seeing a lot of fatigue, respiratory issues, sleep issues, mood issues—like anxiety and depression—in some patients who’ve had COVID,” Tracy Scheller, MD, said. Dr. Scheller is the medical director of the Graf Center for Integrative Medicine at Englewood Health. The Graf Center offers evidence-based, holistic treatments—like reiki, acupuncture, massage, meditation, and yoga—under the supervision of Englewood Health’s physicians.
“The frustration of wondering, ‘omigosh when is my smell going to come back?’ is going to lead to severe anxiety,” Dr. Scheller said. “This is why mindfulness is so important right now.”
Dr. Scheller—a board certified gynecologist with a masters in human nutrition—has seen how stress can exacerbate her patients’ symptoms. Migraines, ulcers, palpitations, hair loss, TMJ, insomnia, IBS—you’d be hard pressed to find one part of the human body that is not negatively impacted by chronic anxiety.
The Graf Center’s spa-like atmosphere—equipped with water features, soft lighting and calming music—is designed to promote relaxation. Their meditation and yoga classes teach patients how to remain in the present moment, rather than focusing on illness and daily stresses. The center offers aromatherapy and nutritional counseling, with a focus on an anti-inflammatory diet—both of which may be beneficial for former COVID patients. They even have chair yoga for people struggling with extreme fatigue or who are otherwise chair-bound.
“We’re not going to be able to control or change what’s happened with COVID, but we can control how we react. Learning to manage stress will go a long way, whether or not your symptoms disappear,” Dr. Scheller said.
Dr. Scheller believes there is a renewed importance of integrative medicine now that so many of us are feeling powerless in the face of the pandemic. “Integrative Medicine is about using these natural and non-invasive approaches to take control of your health, your immune system, and your lifestyle,” she said. “And these services can be beneficial even if you aren’t struggling with COVID symptoms. Who doesn’t have an elevated anxiety level right now that they’d like to get under control?”
For those who are interested in using the services at the Graf Center, but aren’t sure where to start: Dr. Scheller recommends scheduling a consultation with her or a Graf Center therapist to discuss your symptoms, your life, and your desired outcome for your health. They can then direct you to your best treatment option.