Category Archives: Well-being

EAP…One of the most misunderstood resources you might be missing out on

Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, have been around since the 1950s and to this day remain one of the most underutilized resources provided by employers.  EAPs began out of a need to address alcohol related issues in the workplace but today’s EAP programs are so much more.  Today, EAPs address not only substance use and abuse but also behavioral and mental health, wellness promotion, and life event management.  EAP services are delivered at no cost to employees and all household members by via phone, video-based counseling, online chatting, email or face-to-face.  Services are completely confidential which means that no one, not your supervisor, manager or human resources team will know that you have accessed the service.   

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Be here now

Have you ever felt distracted or found it difficult to stay focused on the task at hand?   Do you start a task and then find yourself starting something else halfway through?  Have you told yourself you’re going to do this or that and then forget what it was you were going to do?  I definitely have and this week those sort of behaviors and that mindlessness seem to be happening more often.   My brain has been hijacked by the monkey mind.  In Buddhism, the monkey mind describes a scattered state, a mind that jumps from one thing to the next just like a monkey jumping from tree to tree.  It’s a feeling of being unsettled and ill at ease and if you’ve been there, you know it’s not a pleasant place to be. 

While this has been happening I’ve also been getting messages from the universe about needing to slow down, to pause and to be present.  It’s funny how that happens.  The universe has a way of sending you the exact messages you need to hear.   Taming our monkey mind, like any other skill, is something we can get better at through regular practice.  In her book, “No Time to Lose”, author Pema Chodron says that “mindfulness tethers the mind to the present” (p.105) and that “all anxiety, fear and suffering disappear when we tame our mind” (p. 106).   Practicing mindfulness is the cure for the monkey mind.

There is a lot of misconception about how to practice mindfulness is and what it actually is.  Jon Kabat Zinn, professor of medicine and founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) describes mindfulness as paying attention on purpose without judgement.  That’s it….mindfulness just means paying attention and we can do it anywhere, anytime. We can practice mindful walking, mindful eating, mindful washing dishes, mindful teeth brushing and mindful breathing.  We don’t just have to sit on the floor with our legs crossed for hours on end to reap the benefits.   All we need to do when we find our mind wandering is to stop, take a pause and come back to the present moment.  The more our mind wanders, the more opportunity we have to practice coming back and it is this practice of coming back that enables us to be more present and focused.  Over time we find that we can sustain our focus for longer periods of time.  It is in this present state that we can truly experience and enjoy life.  The only time our lives are happening is in this moment.

To help myself practice coming back to the present moment I made a little sign as a reminder to “Be here now” and I’ve put it right next to my laptop.  When my mind starts to wander, I stop, take a breath, feel my feel on the floor and come back to the present moment.   If your mind has been hijacked by the monkey, try a gentle reminder like your own sign, set an alarm to remind you to pause and check in with yourself, try this mindful pause from Coach Cami, check out a meditation app like Headspace or Calm or enroll in an MBSR program online.  Training our mind to stay present doesn’t have to be a big deal or be time consuming and perhaps that’s why it seems so difficult.  Sometimes it’s easier to make a commitment to practice the big, hard things but it’s the little things that seem to make all the difference.

Grief and our mental well-being

Over the past week I’ve had many conversations with our faculty and staff.  Common throughout many of those conversations were people articulating feelings of overwhelm, worry, anxiety, a sense of hopelessness and a general sense of malaise.  Someone recently shared a comment made by her supervisor who said, “we are not all working from home, we are at home in a crisis, and having to continue to work.”  We are working in a way we’ve never had to work before, having to be teachers and caregivers, isolated from friends and family, unable to enjoy activities we once relied on as sources of energy and joy.  We are staring to refer to the days as blursday.  It’s no wonder we’re experiencing these feelings.   

As I was thinking about these conversations and surfing the internet for some insight, I came across an article in the Harvard Business Review (March 23, 2020) titled, “That discomfort you’re feeling is grief” and a lightbulb went off.  Yes!   Exactly…grief.  We are grieving the life we had.  We are grieving the loss of the future life we had imagined.  We are grieving for those that are suffering and who have lost loved ones.  We are grieving for our children who are not going to experience their graduations, sports season and time with their friends.  We are grieving the loss of our financial security.  We are grieving about how we will move forward in this new, unforeseen reality.  We are grieving our loss of our sense of safety. 

We are not alone in this grief and while for many of us the desire may be to retreat and withdraw within, the best way to move through grief is to reach out to others.  Friends and family want to help, to provide a shoulder to lean on, to listen, but they won’t know what we need unless we tell them. Our faith based communities are another resource for those that have that in their lives.  Finally, talking to a mental health professional may be the best course of action especially if our grief is complicated and/or we suspect we may be depressed. 

Cigna and your college have many wonderful resources to support you and your family through this complicated time.  I encourage you to reach out and to take advantage of these resources.  Taking action is the only way that each and every one of us will be able to bring our best selves to life and work every day.  Take care and stay well.

Employee Family Assistance Program: see listing in school specific resource guide under Career Well-being Resources

Cigna telehealth: Telephone and web based on demand care from medical and behavioral health professionals

Happify and iPrevail: These mental well-being apps are a new addition to the Cigna suite of benefits.  Happify brings you effective tools and programs to help you take control of your feelings and thoughts.  Complete a few activities on your smartphone, tablet or computer each week to start seeing meaningful improvement in your life satisfaction and your ability to fight back against negativity. iPrevail is a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) based program tailored to your specific needs. Every program provides you interactive lessons, behavioral tools, tracks your progress and enables you to connect with a coach and with community support.  

Need to see a health care professional?

We hear you and Cigna has you covered. The Cigna Telehealth benefit, offered through AmWell and MDLive, enables our Cigna members to see a medical professional right from your home or office. To access this amazing service, simply create a web account at either AmWell or MDLive or download one of the mobile apps available on the App store or at Google Play. Through MDLive you can also access behavioral health providers and get support with addictions, depression, grief and loss, parenting issues, PTSD and more. To learn more, check out the short video clips about AmWell and MDLive. Stay well and save time and money with Cigna telehealth.

The ergonomics of working from home

With so much to think about in our new reality of working from home, one thing that we often fail to consider until it’s too late is the ergonomics of our home work space.   Over time poor ergonomics can lead to musculoskeletal issues including carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, bursitis, back and neck pain as well as headache, fatigue and decreased productivity.  By using the simple acronym NEW we can get our ergonomics in check and stay healthy and productive when working from home. 

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The results are in….

The results are in and it’s time to announce our winners…

Week one of the four week GMHEC Quest to Connect wrapped up on Friday and we’re excited to announce our winners.  Kara Gennarelli Doner from Middlebury College, Hilary Delisle from Champlain College, Kelly Driscoll-Smith from Norwich University and Lauren Read from St. Michael’s college have each won a Garmin Forerunner 35 GPS watch and the Consortium’s own Cheryl Foster has won a $100 Amazon gift card.   Congratulations!

There is still plenty of time to join the Quest and get in on the action.  The theme this week is to “Connect with Others” and we have plenty of events to help you do just that including, art for kids, strength training, cardio class, cooking, couples massage, fitness fun for kids and more.  If you haven’t already joined the Quest, you can do so here.   To be eligible to win a weekly prize all you need to do is tell us about what you’re up to and how you are connecting with the weekly theme in the Quest newsfeed.  The newsfeed enables us to share and support each other and enhance our well-being.  From the comments we’re seeing, people are moving their bodies, nourishing their minds and spirits and having fun.  We’d love to have you join us.      

To stay in the know about our weekly events, join our Facebook page or subscribe to our All Things Well-being listserv.  To join the listserv, send an email to Rebecca.schubert@gmhec.org with the subject All Things Well-being listserv.

GMHEC launches first digital wellness collaboration with DIEMlife

Shelburne, VT – March 25, 2020 – The Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium (GMHEC) and DIEMlife today launched their Wellness Quest initiative, the first digital health technology collaboration for faculty and staff at Champlain, Middlebury, and St. Michael’s Colleges. Participants will establish wellness goals (or Quests), identify the steps necessary to achieve them, and pursue their aims with the support of program coordinators and others.

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Join the “Quest to Connect”

GMHEC is proud to announce our partnership with DIEMlife, the first digital health technology collaboration for faculty and staff at Champlain College, Middlebury College, St. Michael’s College and Norwich University.  The partnership kicks off with a “Quest to Connect” which opens on March 30th.  In this four week Quest, faculty and staff are encouraged to seek out creative ways to connect with themselves, with others and with their communities.  The Consortium will also be offering a number of events and activities to engage participants in the weekly themes.  Participants will be entered into weekly drawings to win prizes by engaging their fellow participants via newsfeed posts.  To learn more and join the Quest, click here.  To learn more about our partner, DIEMlife, click here

Coping with the anxiety “virus”

By now, you’ve heard about COVID-19 and its impact on world health. While the news media is filled with sensational stories designed to grab your attention, the coronavirus is real and you should take appropriate precautions based on the best data out there. Please visit the CDC website for the best, most up-to-date information. 

But there is another virus spreading.  The anxiety “virus” is also spreading quickly through a phenomenon known as social contagion.  We hear about worst case scenarios in the media, see the impact on the stock market, and discuss what could happen with family, friends, and coworkers. This extreme level of uncertainty gets passed from person to person at the speed of social media, driving up anxiety to panic levels.  

If you or a loved one is dealing with anxiety, here are three tools you can use today:

1. Understanding why our brains react this way to anxiety is an important part of controlling it.  Dr. Judson Brewer, psychiatrist, neuroscientist and author recorded a short video on three specific steps to combat anxiety. Watch it here.

2. The free “Breathe by Dr. Jud” app provides short, on-demand, anti-anxiety exercises that can help you deal with stress and uncertainty.  Download it for Apple devices or Android devices.

3. All of our member colleges provide free, confidential counseling and referral through their Employee Assistance Program. You can find out more about EAP on your schools’ human resources website or access the information here on your school’s Well-being Resource Guide under “Career well-being resources”. You can also access behavioral health support through Cigna at mycigna.com.

Stay safe, stay well.