Category Archives: News You Can Use

Fuel Your Life Nutrition Challenge

March is National Nutrition Monday and there is no better way to celebrate and have some fun than with a nutrition challenge.  The Fuel Your Life Challenge is a self-administered 4-week nutrition challenge designed to support participants to improve their eating habits.  It will run from Monday, March 7th through Friday, April 1st.  Each week of the challenge is focused on a different goal:

  • Week 1 – Making a small change to improve an eating habit
  • Week 2 – Upgrading lunch to be healthier
  • Week 3 – Cutting down consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Week 4 – Planning and preparing meals
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When it comes to heart health, keep it simple

Rarely do we think about our heart and the incredible job that it does to keep us alive.  Since February is American Heart Month there is no better time to think about our heart and consider what we might do to keep it strong and healthy.  The heart is the hardest working muscle in our body and is responsible for delivering oxygen to every cell in our body (except the cornea).  Our heart works tirelessly every second of every day of our lives and it never gets a break.   Consuming a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco and reducing stress are essential to keeping our heart in top shape and essential to helping our heart keep up with its tremendous demands.

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Six Ways to Stay Safe and Enjoy Yourself This Holiday Season

Turn on the radio or television or log in to your social media accounts and you’ll likely see messages about the holidays being “the most wonderful time of the year”.  While that may be the case for many of us, we may also find this time of year to be one of the most stressful.  We’re feeling the pinch of having to wrap up year-end projects at work.  We’re overwhelmed with our finances and the supply chain crisis and how this will impact our holiday shopping.  We’ve been indulging in holiday goodies and our waistbands are feeling a too tight for comfort.  On top of all of that we’ve got Covid and the worry about new variants and how this will impact us and our loved ones.  Despite these challenges, it is possible to enjoy the holidays and do it safely.  Here are five strategies to help you stay safe and well this holiday season.

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Breastfeeding…not only good for moms and babies but also good for communities

When it comes to infant feeding, many of us may have heard that “breast is best”.  The health benefits of breastfeeding to moms and babies include reducing the risk of maternal postpartum depression, supporting a faster return to pre-pregnancy weight, reducing infant mortality and reducing the risk of the infant developing chronic health conditions as adults.  While these benefits are certainly noteworthy, the benefits of breastfeeding extend beyond mom and baby.  

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Fire and the power of gratitude

5:30 am on a hot, hazy summer July morning.  I sit down on my favorite spot on the couch with a cup of coffee and look out the window.  I take a deep breath.  I love this time of day.  It always feels so peaceful…like the whole world is still asleep and I have it all to myself.  The clouds are low and I can almost see the humidity in the air.  It looks like the house in the clouds…like what you’d see if you were looking out the window on an airplane when you’re flying through the clouds.  I can see the clouds rolling over the roof of the breezeway.  I’ve never seen the clouds move like that before, move over the roof like that.  In that instant I’m thinking how beautiful it looks and at same time, how odd.  And then for some reason I get the sense that something isn’t right.  I put my coffee down on the coffee table and step outside….and I see it…and I smell it…smoke billowing out of the attic above our garage.  It wasn’t the clouds I was seeing rolling over the roof.  It was smoke.   I’m strangely calm as I step back into the house and yell to my husband, “The attic is on fire!” 

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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.  

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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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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