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Whole Health: Start Small

Dr. Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Michele Papakie
“Start small; you will be amazed at how one simple act of mindfulness can quickly lead to a healthier, productive, and balanced lifestyle.” —Michele Papakie, PA National Guard Veteran

What matters to you? That is the primary question associated with VA’s Whole Health program.

Whole Health centers around what matters to you, not what is the matter with you. This means your health team will get to know you as a person, before working with you to develop a personalized health plan based on your values, needs, and goals.

Dr. Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Michele Papakie was introduced to Whole Health at the Butler VA last year. She was both intrigued and skeptical. Michele agreed to meet with Whole Health coach Karen Justi, and together they discussed her ‘why’ (which was easy: her grandchildren). From there, she was given her first assignment: Complete a Personal Health Inventory

The Personal Health Inventory is a self-assessment tool to help you pinpoint areas to work on. Based on her answers, one of the areas Michele chose to work on was: Spirit and Soul

“I had told Nurse Justi I felt the most joy when I was with my grandchildren. We explored the idea of how being present contributes to much of our happiness,” said Michele. “She suggested we practice mindfulness. I told her I had tried this, and that I have monkey mind, and I am a terrible meditator.”

However, she then issued Michele a challenge: Choose a habit you already do but do it mindfully.

Michele chose to focus on making her morning protein smoothie. A simple task, but one she found herself doing distractedly that she sometimes forgot if she had even added her protein powder to it.

“I began to make my smoothie mindfully. This included engaging all my senses in the process—seeing each ingredient, smelling them all, feeling the cold sensations, listening to my NutriBullet blend them, and finally, tasting and feeling my smoothie flow down my throat to nourish my body.”

With the help of her Whole Health Coach, Michele has since expanded this simple task into a morning ritual that includes several other elements of wellness. It helps set the tone for her entire day.

Her advice to other Veterans: “Start small; you will be amazed at how one simple act of mindfulness can quickly lead to a healthier, productive, and balanced lifestyle.”

The Butler VA offers a variety of Whole Health courses, resources, workshops, and more for Veterans. From an introduction class for those just starting their whole health journey, to one-on-one support with a whole health coach, there are many options available for Veterans.

Talk to your health care team today or visit to get started.

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