Angel V. Shannon, MS, AGPCNP-BC, is a personal development keynote speaker, board certified nurse practitioner and founder of Seva Health and The Seva Institute. Her inspiring presentations are drawn from nearly three decades of clinical practice and lifetime study of integrative health and mind-body medicine. Through courses, coaching, community and radical self-compassion practice, Angel teaches overworked professionals how to break free from burnout and gain the clarity, courage and confidence they need to design the life they deserve. In 2014, she founded Seva Health, specializing in functional medicine and integrative health for adults and seniors.
Drawing upon nearly three decades of experience in chronic disease care and personal study of mind-body medicine, Angel takes a uniquely integrative approach to preventive health care. Using the tools of functional medicine and mindfulness based practices, Angel’s patients uncover root causes of their conditions, developing strategies that change their lives, not just their symptoms. In addition to managing her busy clinical and coaching practice, Angel is the host of Healthy House Calls With Angel, a podcast filled with tips, tools and strategies that help listeners live longer and live better with lifestyle medicine.
“This is not my life.” These words were all that I could say and all that I could feel, standing in the lobby of one of the busiest hospitals in Baltimore City in the midst of the worst blizzard on record in the Mid-Atlantic region, December, 2009. After 16 brutal hours, my shift was finally over—my head pounding from the piercing shrill of ICU heart monitor alarms all night long, my back sore from pushing a 150 lb hospital bed through long, dark, abandoned hallways, into and out of elevators, my fingers numb from lifting a nearly 300 lb comatose patient onto a CAT scan table, and my feet aching from running back and forth to ventilator alarms to keep half-sedated patients from yanking out their respirator tubes. I stood at the lobby window, snow quickly mounting on the other side of the window pane well above my knees and dialed home. After three short rings, I heard the worried voices of my children at home in one ear:“Mom, are you and Dad gonna make it home?”, and the earlier warning from my nursing administrator in the other: “You are mandatory personnel. We have cots upstairs to sleep on and if there’s nowhere to lie down, just sleep on a chair. If you don’t make it back tonight, you’ll be suspended without pay.”
“This is not my life” because this is not where I was supposed to be. I was not the little girl who fantasized about being a nurse, lining up baby dolls and teddy bears on her canopy bed, pretending to take their temperatures and bandaging their torn, stuffed arms.
I was the eager A-student anxious to study law, the student who took band lessons, studied French and graduated high school one year early. My path was sealed. Lying in bed in Long Island, New York in the 1980s with my Rubik’s cube in hand, my dreams carried me to Tokyo, dressed in double-breasted, pencil skirt suits and stilettos, fluent in multiple languages, and distinguished as an international corporate lawyer.
But I wasn’t in Tokyo and I wasn’t in stilettos. I was standing in the corner of a crowded hospital lobby in wrinkled scrubs and stained sneakers in the midst of a blizzard after a 16-hour shift and the looming threat of suspension. In my mind, I was the sum of my bad decisions, one after another—the bad decision to move in with my boyfriend the summer before my freshman college year at one of the best colleges in the nation, the decision to drop out of college and get married far too soon, and the decision to move to Virginia to try to save a marriage that was on life support before it had even begun.
“This is not my life,” I thought, the heaviness of the threat of suspension thick, dry and wedged in my throat like a lump of lead.
If I could just turn the clock back…
With dreams of law school and a career as an international corporate lawyer out of the picture, I pondered my best friend’s advice to consider nursing school. After all the business, accounting, marketing and law classes I had taken, I figured nursing school would be easy. Like my best friend, in two short years I could earn my Associate Degree in nursing, pivot, and get on with my life. “You’ll learn to love it”, she said, and I believed her because learning to love things was what I did best. I could learn to love healthcare in the same way that I could learn to love a loveless marriage. I took her advice; I attended classes and clinical rotations by day and worked as an aide and studied by night. I aimed for a perfect A in every class.
True to the promise I made myself I graduated two years to the date with honors and launched my career in critical care nursing – my first reinvention.
“Remember”, she’d whispered to me at my graduation as she straightened my white nursing cap and adjusted the collar of my starched white uniform, “You’ll learn to love it.” And she was right, but it would take the next 20 years of my life to get there.
Every journey to heal any part of ourselves holds the potential to stir our vulnerabilities and sharpen our awareness so that we can clearly see the universal and the connectedness of each step in our lives.
But when in a crisis while on that journey, we can only see the objective, the measurable facts. In the midst of what felt like my own internal blizzard, facing the threat of suspension at best and termination at worst, I could only see the facts; my Associates Degree in Nursing was not enough to make a real change in my career or my life. In a new marriage now, with two young children, a mortgage and bills to pay, my list of options was short. Whether I stayed and slept on the cots, or whether I was terminated, either way I was stuck at what felt like rock bottom.
I’d set out to change a broken system. Inside of me was a person who deeply wanted to give to others, not just what they needed but what I felt they deserved—a pathway towards true healing. But six months out of nursing school, working 12 hour shifts in one of the leading institutions in the country, I knew that something was terribly wrong with the way we cared for people. For all its magnificence, it seemed the health care system was designed backwards, with inordinate amounts of money to control diseases after they’ve set in, with very little attention, if any, to preventing those diseases in the first place. We weren’t healing people at all; In fact, we were making them sicker. And no matter how much I tried to love a broken health care system, the truth was that I didn’t.
As my husband’s car came into view, slipping and sliding in the hospital lobby driveway with a pile of snow on the roof, I collected my backpack and lunch pail, pulled on my snow boots and walked towards him, my face cold and wet from wind and hail. With every step forward, I realized this wasn’t just about the threat of suspension, after all I could get another job. There was a different decision that needed to be made.
Over the span of 20 years after my divorce, I had worked in intensive care units, emergency rooms and trauma units. Each passing shift revealed to me how life-changing an illness can be for an entire family. It bothered me that there was so little time to teach patients how to care for their disease, and no time to spend with families who desperately needed help finding resources to care for their loved ones.
Too often patients were discharged home only to come right back a few days later, through the Emergency Room, with the same problem (or worse), simply because they didn’t understand key information or didn’t have the resources they needed. I was thoroughly convinced that there had to be a better way.
And it wasn’t just the patients that we were failing. We were failing ourselves.
In the hospital, I worked 12 hour shifts that quickly turned into 14 hours by the time everything was done and accounted for. Like my nursing colleagues, I worked weekends, holidays and mandatory overtime through snowstorms, hurricanes, blizzards, floods and the kind of weather conditions that most other professionals don’t have to. We worked short-staffed, sacrificed lunch breaks and bathroom breaks, holding our bladders until we could barely hold them anymore. On many mornings I drove home blinded by the morning sunrise, my eyes burning and half open, drinking soda, eating candy or cookies, any shot of sugar to keep me awake long enough to not veer off the road, all in the name of taking care of others. We worked under the constant threat of suspension for clocking in a minute late, for a lunch break taken a minute too long, a document unsigned, a training unrenewed, or any other minor infraction. Like most healthcare professionals, my sacrifices were rewarded with an occasional pin or pizza lunch during the annual Nurse’s Week observance.This was the culture and this had become my norm.
“You will learn to love it”, my friend had whispered. But what she didn’t say was how.
For many of my colleagues coping came through alcohol consumption, cigarettes and antidepressants; for others, prescription painkillers and sleeping pills – all to numb the abuse we experienced and the pain of what we saw night after night in deserted hallways, long after the administration had gone home. Like actors on a stage, we wore the masks to hide our pain and carried the trauma of gunshot wounded patients, heroin overdoses, massive heart attacks and child victims of abandonment and abuse in our hearts, on our shoulders and behind our carefully crafted smiles.
I searched for a way out of my own pain, anger, disappointment and disgust and found it on a small square cushion on the first floor of a yoga and meditation center in the heart of Baltimore City, Maryland. Yoga, meditation and self-compassion practice saved me from a life of slowly simmering rage and created a vision of healthcare as I knew it could be. I immersed myself so deeply into the cradle of loving kindness in yoga and meditation that I earned a 200 hour teacher’s training certificate and launched my self-study of herbal medicine and nutrition that I’d begun to weave not only into my life but also my work.
As my meditation practice deepened so too did my understanding of a fundamental truth: it is only through the heart that we can move beyond the surface of our lives and begin our real journey into the perplexing landscape of the human experience.
Mindfulness and self compassion practice can lead us to the edge of our own beliefs and limitations while also sparking memory, expanding our capacity to become our deepest selves. On my meditation cushion I found my true calling into healthcare and realized that it, in fact, had not been by accident or haphazard decision at all but for a deeper and higher purpose and calling.
Through meditation practice I began to see that my journey had actually begun in my mother’s kitchen, long before that day of graduation. With four girls and two boys to care for, my mother lived by the creed that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Our school days began with nature’s best remedies: rose hips tea and elderberry and elixirs in winter to prevent the common cold, or anise seeds and ginger to soothe an occasional upset stomach.
Sustainability and living in harmony with nature were values we learned easily deep in the heart of rural Georgia on our grandparents’ five-acre farm every summer, in a small town that didn’t even have its own bus station. Caring for their small animals, collecting fresh brown eggs from the hen house, picking pecans from their trees, hauling watermelon and tender ears of corn, green peas, collards and plucking tomatoes from their vines kept me and my five siblings busy all summer long.
My grandfather was a natural storyteller; a farmer, fisherman, hunter and carpenter, who built the home that he and my grandmother lived in. My great-grandmother was a lay midwife and herbalist. Rarely, if ever, visiting the doctor, they each lived by the same principles that my mother taught at home–that good health really is the first wealth, that prevention of disease begins at the root not in the branches, that food is the first medicine and that one’s own kitchen cabinet can be filled with nature’s remedies. But most importantly, with little formal education and having overcome segregation and inequity, they taught us the importance of self-determination and self-reliance as tools for survival.
Given my childhood, it is not surprising that I would become a nurse and that my life’s work would center around health promotion and disease prevention. In my mind, I began reinventing my career and imagined my life as that of a little country doctor, a family midwife but more importantly, a healer. It made sense that this would be the end of my road in conventional medicine and the beginning of my life as a healer.
Secretly I’d been walking in two worlds. By night, I was in the ICU, but by day I began teaching yoga classes in my community, working part-time as a home care nurse, teaching nutrition, stroke prevention and designing my own vision of what I knew true healthcare should be. I shared my new knowledge with none of my colleagues. Dissent from the culture of medicine in a leading scientific institution with millions, if not billions, of dollars in endowments was not taken lightly. What wasn’t supported by research and clinical studies did not exist. Herbs, yoga, meditation, t’ai chi and vision boards were invalid science that I kept to myself.
On that blistery December night in our snow covered Ford Taurus sedan, my husband and I crept slowly around snow drifts through downtown Baltimore, pressing against hail and wind, occasionally fishtailing over invisible sheets of ice.
I realized I had one of two choices: I could buy into the world that fed me and kept the lights on and the bills paid, push my way into junior management, master the script and keep sacrificing my soul to the abuse. Or I could create a new world, the one that had begun to fascinate me, that kept me up late at night, the other world that I loved and imagined on my cushion. I could come out of the shadows of my healing work with the hope that the people who wanted the same would find me.
The very idea of stepping into the light of the life I desired inspired me. I knew how my body felt every time I stepped on the yoga mat. I knew how liberated my mind was after every session on my cushion, and it was knowledge I knew I needed to share.
“This is indeed my life”, I told myself as I walked slowly through our garage door, dripping snow and ice on the kitchen floor. Feeling disconnected and deficient for too long, it was time to stop living a life that felt like a lie. It was time to reinvent myself. I’d done it before and I could do it again.
As the skies darkened and the snow finally slowed, hope and optimism overcame me. I sat at our kitchen table that evening knowing that I’d made my decision about returning to work. Safe at home with my husband and our two children, I set in motion a mental picture of everything I needed in order to manifest the version of medicine and healing of my childhood. With my own clinic I could do the work I really loved at the pace and in the way that I could really love it without faking it. It would take four years – two to complete a bachelors in nursing in order to qualify for two more years in graduate school, if all went according to plan.
With the encouragement of my husband, I enrolled in a full time nursing Bachelor’s Degree completion program at Penn State. Again I graduated with honors, applied immediately to graduate school and was admitted. I earned a part-time teaching assistant position to offset the costs while still working full time in the ICU.
With the love and support of my children – our nights spent at the kitchen table studying together, them helping me load my books into our van on summer beach vacations while reminding me “Mom, you can do it”, I earned my master’s in nursing and launched and reinvented my career. Two years after graduation, my wind beneath my wings, I reinvented myself again, this time as a nurse practitioner in my own successful private practice.
Tara Brach, psychologist and author of Radical Self-Compassion writes, “Feeling deficient and disconnected…has been my most fertile ground for waking up. It has led me to a spiritual path and practices that I cherish. And when I get stuck in painful emotions, it brings me to a repeating realization, an insight that has profoundly changed my life: I have to love myself into healing. The only path that can carry me home is the path of self-compassion.”
Like Brach, radical self-compassion has carried me home. It has led me to a deeper understanding of the human condition of painful and difficult emotions, an understanding that every person’s experience of healing, whether healing of a chronic illness or healing of difficult emotions and life experiences, is unique and rarely straightforward.
Healing is not a cure but a transformation of view and perspective; it is a letting go of everything that is not you—all of the beliefs, all of the self-defeating narratives—to become more of who you already are and were equipped to become from the very beginning. Healing is every day work.
What I’ve learned is that rock bottom is not the end of the world. In fact, it is often the brightest beginning and the most fertile foundation for writing new stories and planting fresh seeds. Rock bottom is the one place that forces us to let go of who we thought we wanted to be in order to work through our many layers so that more of our true selves can be revealed.
I’ve learned that there are no bad decisions in life; there are simply choices we’ve outgrown and lessons that reveal the person we no longer wish to be. There are no failures in life, just roads that come to an end, so that new journeys can begin. Disappointment and sorrow are the price of being human; the gifts, however, are intuition, courage and the power of choice to reinvent ourselves – to shed old skin, carve a new path and lean further into the voice that lies within.
I have a new relationship to my career; a sense of congruence and harmony between rest and work, giving and receiving. I work when I work and I rest when I rest. Radical self-compassion practice has awakened in me a higher level of body-mind awareness and a stronger ability to relate to my own body as a source of wisdom with its own language and calling for renewal. I’ve learned to listen for and heed the call.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that I alone am responsible for my happiness. The greatest gift of the human experience is the power of choice. I am never stuck; I am simply one choice and one reinvention away from the life that I desire and deserve.
Today, in private practice I still walk between two worlds: the world of conventional medicine that gives us the finest technological tools to find, name and code disease with laser precision, and the world of ancient healing where those names and codes do not exist; a world where healing resides in the human senses and the embodied human experience. My tools are many, drawn from nearly three decades of clinical practice and a lifetime study of integrative health and mind-body medicine. Through courses, coaching, community and self-compassion practice, I teach others how to break free from burnout, overcome emotional roadblocks, strengthen their confidence and design the life they really deserve.
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At the heart of Angel’s work is the belief that access to whole person healthcare is a human right.
Seva is an ancient Sanskrit word for ‘selfless service.’ It is an expression of compassion for others and a genuine desire to uplift those around you. Through the spirit of compassion and selfless action, acts of Seva connects us to others and makes them a part of us. Seva dissolves the barriers that separate our health and happiness from the health and happiness of others.
Seva Health was born from over 20 years of clinical experience and Angel’s fundamental belief that good health is the first wealth. Our mission at Seva is simple: to offer exceptional, whole person healthcare, especially to those who need it most. Through compassionate service we aim to help people live healthier lives because healthier people build healthier communities. Healthier communities lead to stronger societies. And stronger societies lead to a better world for us all.
We invite you to experience the Seva difference.
My biggest issue has always been my weight and it scares me because everyone in my family is diabetic. After having my physical and figuring out that there was nothing really “wrong” with me, Angel helped me really get serious about it. It wasn’t my thyroid or any other kind of problem. It was just me. She asked me questions that no doctor had ever really asked me before. I learned how to pay attention to my body and I learned how to stop the negativity that I kept repeating to myself. I realized I could actually get control over my eating and my exercise. I still have a ways to go but when I look in the mirror now and see myself 30 pounds lighter and realize that I’m not prediabetic anymore? I still can’t believe this is me.
My coaching sessions with Angel aimed at helping me see my potential as I made a major career transition in my life which needed a transformation in my mindset. I was struggling with seeing my potential and that my misconceptions were holding me back from true change. Through several good suggestions, such as journalling and mindfulness, I was able to work past these obstacles and be more aware of myself and the gifts that I have to offer. What I appreciated the most about working with Angel is her patience, flexibility and wisdom, and her passion for helping people achieve their best and think creatively and outside the box. Through Angel's guidance and encouragement I have definitely become more action-oriented and feel more in charge of my destiny.
Seeing wellness as a wheel in the way that Angel has designed it instead of a list has made wellness more accessible to me. There is no first place where one must start and no order in which things must be achieved in order to be successful. I’m also intrigued with addressing financial and environmental wellness as key components of our well-being and sense of health. We truly cannot feel secure or be able to manifest other aspects of health without the financial piece in place. It has allowed me to engage with the concept of wellness in a creative fashion instead of feeling that there was something punitive about making time and space to care for myself.
For years I have struggled to lose weight and knew that something felt "off" in my body, but every year when I got my annual physical exam my doctor said I was healthy based on the standard tests. I even had some other tests done through specialists to explore possible reasons for the constant weight gain despite a healthy diet and lifestyle, but nothing done in the traditional medical model found any issues in my body. I decided to work with Angel to see if her holistic approach and her knowledge in functional medicine might finally find out what's going on with my body. All it took was one test that she ordered right from the get-go and we had our answers! Since that test a few months ago, I have been able to successfully lose weight with Angel's guidance and encouragement. She is empathetic, patient and wise. I highly recommend working with her to tackle your health goals!
Dear Angel, You don't know me - I just follow you online. I wanted to let you know, though, that I have found your take on wellness, parenting and (well, life I guess) to be wonderful and helpful to me. Sometimes we through help/information into the world and we can't always see who's picking it up. I wanted to let you know that what you do has been very helpful to me --- even from afar. Many thanks!
Angel, Thank you so much for your being so kind with my mom. You are a real Angel, not just by name. I wish you good luck with your journey and maybe one day I'm going to see you in my home, helping my people. Take care and God bless you! ~ Celina
"I've struggled for years to find a medication regimen that both worked for my anxiety and depression and didn't cause intolerable side effects. Angel Shannon is a creative problem-solver and attentive listener. She explored new options with me and we found something that works. I feel fortunate to be able to work with a provider that is knowledgeable, skilled, client-centered, and compassionate."
I've been supported by Angel Shannon at Seva Health for my mental health for about two months now and am extremely pleased with the service and the outcome of my visits! I felt an instant connection and trust when talking to Angel. She is very holistic and looked at so many aspects of my health before drafting a treatment plan along with me. In these few weeks my mental health has drastically improved already! 100% recommend Seva Health Group!
Angel Shannon has helped me tremendously, looking for the root cause of my symptoms and creating a plan of care around lifestyle changes instead of just handing out prescriptions.
I have been going to Seva Health for almost a year now. I love the comprehensive and in-depth support they provide. I have never had a healthcare professional be so invested in my own health journey --- not to mention actually spend time with you and ask questions/chat during appointments. I highly recommend Seva Health!!
Absolutely amazing results with our Memory care residents!! Would highly recommend!
I met Angel today and I had such an amazing experience. She is so knowledgeable, warm and helpful. She educated me on ALL of my options and I felt safe talking to her. I recommend her highly!
Danielle Dean was was our very first ‘cheerleader’ when we thought of a new way of delivering health good, primary healthcare through housecalls and telemedicine. She comes to Seva Health Group with over 15 years of medical experience and serves as our Practice Manager. Her background in critical care serves as the foundation of her depth of knowledge and of the excitement she brings to ensuring the health and well-being of others. Throughout her career, Danielle has been commended for her commitment to excellence and her attention to detail. She is loved by our patients for her caring demeanor and warm personality. A native of Maryland, Danielle enjoys travelling with her beautiful family and believes in living life to the fullest.
Madhupriya, known to us as Madhu, joined our practice with nearly a decade of experience in healthcare. Her career began in executive logistics management and over time has expanded to healthcare finance and healthcare administration. Madhupriya holds a Masters degree in Business Management in finance from TMU, Moradabad in 2011. She graduated from SRMCEM, University of Lucknow in 2009 with an excellent academic track record. She has a keen eye for finance and analytics and is the founder of Ekaparnika Healthcare Solutions. What makes Madhu so special is her passions which include singing and writing poems as well as a deep understanding of compassion and kindness. Madhu brings an exceptional level of calm and patience to our busy practice and we are deeply grateful to have her on board.
Robin G. Peace is our ‘Go-To Person’ for all things related to care coordination and patient advocacy. As a 29 year nursing veteran with diverse experiences in critical care, emergency preparedness, occupational health and ambulatory care, Robin is our liason to the help our patients need in the community.
Robin’s journey into healthcare began in high school as a volunteer “candy striper” at Baltimore’s highly respected University of Maryland Medical Center. Robin found immense joy in serving others and quickly identified nursing as her life calling. She earned her baccalaureate degree in nursing at University of Maryland School of Nursing and, during the time that she lived in Okinawa, Japan with her husband, she earned her Baccalaureate in Psychology at the University of Maryland Global Campus. Robin credits her time living in Japan as shaping many of her views on cultural competency and health equity. After moving back to the states, Robin continued in the path of health and human service as a nurse and patient advocate and is therefore a perfect addition to our practice. What our patients love most about Robin is that she understands the value of open communication and health education. Robin’s motto is “educated patients make educated decisions.” Her greatest skill, amongst many, is her expertise in teaching and guiding our patients through the maze of healthcare.
Richa Prakash joins Seva Health with more than 8 years of firm IT experience. Born and raised in Shimla, India she specializes in website development, web design, and website maintenance services to businesses of all sizes around the world. Richa provides high-quality solutions to technical business problems. Richa holds a Masters Degree in Information Technology from The University of Punjab and is the founder and principal of ‘NrichSystems.’ When it comes to business and life her philosophy is simple: ‘honesty is the best policy.’ When not providing IT consulting services to Seva Health and her many clients around the world, she enjoys traveling, listening to music and making new friends. Like all of us at Seva Health, she is a huge nature lover and enjoys capturing its splendor through her lens. Richa is a welcome addition to our practice.
Sydnee Shannon is the eyes and ears of all things related to the maze of technology in our practice. If it relates to technology, Sydnee’s got it covered and helps us get things back in order in the blink of an eye. As a Civil Engineering major and part time intern in our office, Sydnee is passionate about the built environment and infrastructure development. After travelling to Nicaragua for a study-abroad experience in January 2016, Sydnee quickly learned that not all communities are created equal. Sydnee aspires to more global travel and infrastructure development once she completes her civil engineering studies. We are proud to have such an intelligent young woman in our practice.