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.

Too Busy to Be Sick?

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 be entered into the drawing to win one of three $100 Amazon gift cards, simply create a web account at either AmWell or MDLive or download one of the mobile apps between November 18 and December 31, 2019. Let us know which app you chose by completing the google form. Mobile apps are available on the app store and on google play.

To learn more, check out the short video clips about AmWell and MDLive.

For our faculty and staff who are insured through a plan not affiliated with one of the GMHEC schools, check with your insurance provider to find out about their Telehealth program. Once you signed up for their Telehealth program, complete this google form and you will be entered into the drawing to win one of three $100 Amazon gift cards.

Stay well and save time and money with Cigna telehealth.

Results are in….

Champlain College took home the designation for “Most Active GMHEC College” in the annual fall GMHEC faculty staff physical activity challenge. During the four week challenge, 400 faculty, staff and family members ran, walked, biked and participated in a whole host of other physical activities to earn points for their teams. The challenge was a great way to encourage people to stay active throughout the fall, support their own physical well-being and support their coworkers to stay active and well. We hope you’ll join us for our next challenge which will coming mid-winter. Details to follow….

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 are widely publicized and include reducing the risk of maternal postpartum depression and supporting a faster return to prepregnancy weight, reducing infant mortality and reducing the risk of the infant developing chronic health conditions including obesity and diabetes as adults.  While these benefits are certainly noteworthy, the benefits of breastfeeding extend beyond mom and baby.  

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

Supporting a Culture of Well-being on Campus

What differentiates thriving organizations from organizations that languish are the people.  To support employees’ well-being and engagement, managers and supervisors must move away from focusing so much on how employees spend and manage their time, and instead support employees to manage their energy.  Energy, not time, is the most valuable of our human resources. It is “the fundamental currency of high performance” (Loehr, 2017). Check out our new resource, Employee well-being: A guide for managers and supervisors to find out more about how you can support your employees and sustain a culture of well-being on campus.

GMHEC and Your College…Partnering to Support Your Well-being

It’s no surprise that organizations who support their employees have happier, healthier, more engaged employees,  In the academic setting, one of the many benefits of high levels of faculty and staff engagement is a better student experience.   “Highly engaged faculty and staff members can make the difference between students who thrive and ones who fail to grow” (Gallup, n.d.).

While it is always essential to take action toward optimizing our personal well-being, during times of change and challenge it becomes even more essential.  We’ve all heard the saying about putting on our own oxygen mask first. To weather the curveballs that life throws at us, we’ve got to be at our best and firing on all cylinders.  Regular self-care enables us to be resilient and nimble. It ensures that we have the energy and mindset to tackle life’s challenges and have energy left for the things that are most important to us.   

One way to support our well-being is to take advantage of all of the amazing resources available at our fingertips.  Each of the GMHEC member colleges has an abundance of resources to support all five domains of well-being: physical, career, financial, social and community.  These resources include everything from financial coaching and retirement planning to physical activity classes and fitness centers to volunteer opportunities to community gardens to Consortium-wide benefits and programs.   To find out about what’s available at your school, check out the well-being resource guide for your college on the GMHEC Well-Being Resources page.  Take action today to be well and to optimize your well-being.  You can be the catalyst to transform the world around you into a world where everyone is thriving.

Well-being Resource Guides for faculty, staff and leaders

Each of the Consortium colleges offers a plethora of resources to support all five domains of well-being: career, financial, physical, social and community. We encourage you and your family to take advantage of these resources so that you can bring your best self to life and work everyday.

Health….it’s not just physical.

When we hear the word health, the first thing that often pops into our minds is physical health but mental health is just as critical to our overall well-being.  Mental health is “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” (WHO, 2014.).  According to a 2007 article published in American Psychologist (Keyes, 2007), mentally healthy adults reported the fewest missed days of work, low levels of helplessness, having clear goals in life, high resilience and high intimacy, the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease, the lowest number of chronic physical diseases, the fewest health limitations of activities of daily living and lower health care utilization.  

Continue reading Health….it’s not just physical.

Laughter really is the best medicine

Why couldn’t the pirate play cards? Because he was sitting on the deck! Bahahaha…..oh come on….go ahead and laugh.  April is National Humor Month so there is no better time to make a commitment to interject more laughter into our lives.  Laughing is one of the best things we can do to support our well-being and the best part is that we can actually fake it ‘till we make it when it comes to reaping the benefits of laughter.  Forced laughter is just as good for us as spontaneous laughter. So go ahead…laugh along with that sitcom, or to your favorite comedian, or those silly talking dog videos on you tube, or check out one of hundreds of free laughing yoga videos online.  It’s fun, feels good and is good for us.

Laughter, whether forced or spontaneous is good for every aspect of our well-being.  People who laugh on a regular basis have a lower standing blood pressure than does the average person. Laughter eases psychological stress, strengthens the immune system, promotes muscle relaxation, reduces pain, enhances learning, enhances oxygen flow throughout the body, relaxes blood vessels, enhances cardiac muscle conditioning, elevates mood, helps us connect with others and enhances our energy (1).  There isn’t much else that can benefit us like laughter can. Laughter is so good for us in fact, that a 2016 article in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine suggests that primary care clinicians start prescribing it to their patients (2). Can you imagine? You go to the doctor and you leave with a prescription for laughter. Now who wouldn’t want that?

To get you started on incorporating some laughter into your day, I’ll share a couple of my favorite videos….the ones that not only make me laugh out loud but that make my husband laugh at me because I’m laughing so hard. If talking dogs are up your alley you’ve got to check this video out.  It gets me every time.   Or, maybe you’ll find this video of Dennis Quaid on the Ellen Degeneres show funny.  I know I did. If you’ve got a favorite funny joke, video or meme I’d love to see it.  Send it my way at rebecca.schubert@gmhec.org.   

Let’s celebrate National Nutrition Month!

March is National Nutrition month so there is no better time to talk about healthy eating and to think about how we might be able to optimize our diet.   What we eat plays a significant role in how we feel both mentally and physically and on the quality and quantity of our life. People who consume a diet based on whole foods including plenty of fruits and vegetables are less likely to suffer with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression or with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

One of the best ways to optimize our diet is to eat plenty of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables.  Antioxidants, the pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors, protect our cells and body structures from free radical damage.  Free radicals are derived in the body during normal metabolic processes and also from environmental exposure to things such as environmental pollutants and industrial chemicals (Lobo, Patil, Phatak and Chandra, 2010).   Free radicals act as little scavengers in our body, snatching up electrons from our cells causing cell damage and death which leads to illness and disease. A diet rich in antioxidant-containing fruits and vegetables can reduce and/or prevent free radical damage and keep us looking and feeling our best.   

Not only do fruits and vegetables help keep us healthy in mind and body but they also add pizzazz to our meals, are a great way to add variety to our diet, and help to fill us up without adding significant calories, which is great for our waistlines.  Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Check out these tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and, if you’re feeling adventurous, try one of my favorite recipes….roasted root vegetables.  I like to use sweet potatoes (Japanese sweet potatoes if you can find them….they are AMAZING), beets (preferably golden beets or candy cane beets as they are more mild than red beets), parsnips, carrots and butternut squash.  I will warn you though – you might be tempted to eat the entire pan.

If you have a favorite produce-rich recipe I’d love to hear about it.  Drop me a note at rebecca.schubert@gmhec.org.  

Happy eating!