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.

Celebrate National Nutrition Month by investing in your health

March is National Nutrition Month and along with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics I invite you to focus on developing sound eating and physical activity habits.  A healthy diet and regular physical activity are essential to a healthy life and, despite what we may think, small habits done consistently can have a big impact on the quality and quantity of our lives. This year’s theme, “Eat right, bite by bite” highlights the benefits of small action.  Bite by bite and step by step we can achieve and maintain optimal health and well-being. Here are some of my top tips for making healthy eating and physical activity the easy choices .

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Take the critical first step

We’re five weeks into the new year and for many of us our aspirations for 2020 have already fallen by the wayside.  Life has a way of distracting us from what is most important and if we’re not careful, before we know it, time has slipped away.  There is a verse in a Pink Floyd song that resonates with me every time I hear it. “And then one day you find, ten years have gone behind you.  No one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun.” Life is short and we only have one chance to live the life we want. The time to act is now but how do we actually get ourselves to take action?  How do we “get motivated”? 

Here’s the secret about motivation…motivation comes after we start.  Yes, the best way to get motivated is to take action. Taking action is not always easy.  We put so much pressure on ourselves to do it all and to do it perfectly. We become too focused on the outcome.  Let’s forget about the outcome and focus instead on the process. Focusing on the process, especially on just the first step can significantly increase our likelihood of success.  Every habit that we have or that we want to have starts with a trigger, one small action that is like the first domino which sets the chain in motion. Once we do that first action, the rest of the steps fall into place with minimal effort.   All we have to concern ourselves with then is taking that first step.

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Simplify

Over the last month I’ve been talking with many of my health coaching clients about what they would like to see in their lives in 2020 and what they would like their theme of 2020 to be.  Many spoke of their desire to simplify, to connect more authentically to others and to themselves and a desire to slow down and to be more present in their lives. Many also spoke of the impact of media and technology on perpetuating the speed and frenetic energy of their lives and described feeling powerless around taking back their time, energy and attention.  

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Building resilience against holiday stress

Ahhh …the holidays …a time for friends, family, fun, parties, food, shopping and gifts.  A time to enjoy some much needed time off and, unfortunately, for many of us, a time of great stress.  The holidays can be a wonderful time of year but they can also bring plenty of stress. Unrealistic expectations, a perceived lack of time, worries about finances and family squabbles all contribute to one of the most stressful times of the year.  This is also a time when we are less likely to maintain our physical activity routines, a time when we are more likely to indulge in high fat, high carbohydrate foods and a time when we are more susceptible to sleep disturbances, all making us less resilient to stress.

Here are some tips to help you have a positive experience this holiday season.

  1. Manage your expectations.   Not feeling happy during the holidays is more common than we might think and pretending to be happy when we’re not can actually make us feel more sad.  By acknowledging our true feelings we can respond to them in a way which is productive and helpful. Tara Brach, psychologist and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC suggests practicing RAIN.  She describes RAIN as “an easy-to-remember tool for practicing mindfulness and compassion using the following four steps: Recognize what is going on; Allow the experience to be there, just as it is; Investigate with interest and care; Nurture with self-compassion” (Brach, 2013).  You can read more about the technique here or, if you prefer, you can listen to a guided meditation using the technique here.  
  2. Manage your time.  We all know that we cannot “make” time. We all have twenty-four hours in a day and that’s all we get.  What we can do is allocate our time. Consider what and who are most important to you this holiday season and allocate your time accordingly.  If you need to say no, here’s a great way to do it courtesy of Neghar Fonooni, Crossfit athlete and health coach.   “I appreciate the invitation, but I’m energetically depleted and I need to fill my cup. I hope you have a great time, and I’m thankful that you understand my need to decline”.  By saying yes when we really want to say no, all we do is build resentment and deplete our energy. 
  3. Practice self care.  Times of stress demand good self care but this is when many of our routines fall by the wayside.  Consider practicing the minimum effective dose (MED). The MED is the “smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome” (Ferriss,2010).  When life is easy your exercise routine might be sixty minutes five times per week and your diet might be whole, non-processed foods.  You prepare meals in advance. You get eight hours of sleep per night. You drink eight glasses of water a day. What is the MED you can do during the holidays to support consistency and prevent you from being on the “on/off” plan of self care? Perhaps it’s fifteen minutes of high intensity exercise or the seven minute workout.  Perhaps it’s choosing the salad over the burger at lunch.   The purpose of the MED is really just to support consistency and be a bridge to when you can get back to your regular routine.
  4. Take advantages of resources to help you cope.  During this holiday season, remember that it is okay to feel unhappy or overwhelmed.  If you or a family member need some support to manage the overwhelm, Cigna and our school’s EAP programs are here to help.  To find our more about EAP, go to your school’s human resources page. If you prefer the anonymity of virtual support check out iPrevail or Happify.  

The holidays can be a wonderful time and we’ve got to keep in mind that our experience depends largely on our attitude and our choices.  Remember what’s most important. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Take care of yourself and enjoy.