Archive - 2019

1
Summer Means Free Outdoor Music Concerts
2
Food as Medicine for Mental Health
3
Small Pleasures
4
Sweet Dreams
5
Milestones Matter
6
The Power of Positivity and Reflection
7
Fresh Air
8
Sleep!
9
Pillars for Mental Health
10
Stealth Health – Tales From the Toddler Dinner Table

Summer Means Free Outdoor Music Concerts

By: Leah Hollenberger

Listening to music while hanging out with friends in the park is one of the best things about summer. The fact that we can do this on three nights every single week – for free – is amazing!

I am so grateful to all of the volunteers, musicians, and local sponsors who make these fun events happen. So pack up a picnic dinner or bring some cash, as most have local food vendors providing refreshments, and enjoy!

Here are some of the free local music festivals in the area. Click on the link for their concert line-up and details.

Gazebo Concerts, Stowe Free Library, Tuesdays at 6pm-7pm, July 23 – Aug. 13
https://www.stoweperformingarts.com/concerts/gazebo-concerts/

Tuesday Night Live in Johnson, Legion Field by the elementary school, 6pm-8pm-ish, July 9 – Aug. 27
https://www.facebook.com/johnsonvt05656/.

Wednesday Night Live, Oxbow Park in Morrisville, 5:30pm-7:30pm-ish, June 12 – Aug. 21
http://www.morristownvt.org/images/oxbow_schedule_final.jpg

Thursday Nights on the Lawn at the Alchemist in Stowe, 4pm-8pm, May 31 – Aug. 29
https://alchemistbeer.com/#events

If you can travel, Catamount Arts presents a free late Sunday afternoon concert. The Levitt AMP St. Johnsbury Music Series at Dog Mountain, Sundays at 4pm, July 14 – Sept. 22
https://concerts.levittamp.org/stjohnsbury

Do you know of other free concerts this summer? Which free music series is your favorite?


Leah Hollenberger is the Development and External Relations Officer for Northern Vermont University. She helped create the Live Well Lamoille Blog while serving as Vice President of Marketing, Development, and Community Relations for Copley Hospital. A former award-winning TV and Radio producer, she is the mother of two and spends her free time volunteering, cooking, playing outdoors, and producing textile arts. Leah writes about community events, preventive care, and assorted ideas to help one make healthy choices.

Food as Medicine for Mental Health

By: Julie Bomengen

Around 400 BC, the Greek physician Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” While this quote is commonly used in reference to physical health (think about doctors prescribing heart-healthy diets to reduce rates of heart disease), in today’s blog post we will be extending the tenet of “Food As Medicine” to mental health as well. Indeed, recent research confirms what Hippocrates said so long ago: nutrition is a key pillar for supporting positive mental health outcomes. 

Simply put, our mood and food are intimately connected and bi-directional, each impacting the other. When we pay attention to the cues our bodies give us, we can often mitigate unwanted and unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms. For example, when I have clients tell me they are anxious, one of the first things I ask them about is their caffeine and sugar consumption. If you are experiencing a racing heart, pressured speech, or a cranked/on-edge nervous feeling, it may likely be that you have thrown your body chemistry out of balance by either over-consuming caffeine and/or eating too many-fast burning carbs which can lead to blood-sugar dysregulation or hypoglycemia, resulting in a yo-yo effect on your mood and energy levels. Perhaps an easy first step is to be curious about how you might feel differently if you were to reduce your caffeine use or eat a more nutrient-dense breakfast that stabilizes blood sugar levels and evens out your mood.

Did you know that our mental health is dependent on our body’s ability to make neurotransmitters, such as our “feel-good” chemicals, serotonin, dopamine, GABA, glutamate, and norepinephrine?  Did you know that we need amino acids to make the neurotransmitters and that amino acids come from the proteins we consume?  While the importance of eating good quality proteins cannot be overemphasized, it is equally as important that our bodies are digesting and breaking down these proteins into the amino acids that are the building blocks in the production of neurotransmitters. Approaching our consumption of food in a more intentional and slower manner and taking the time to awaken our senses as we eat is an important step in ensuring optimal digestion. With peak digestion comes prime production of the neurotransmitters that support positive mental health. 

Lastly, there is growing research on the link between gut permeability (a.k.a. leaky gut), inflammation in the body and depression. Doing whatever you can to reduce inflammation by watching your stress levels and eating the types of foods that soothe and heal your intestinal lining helps support positive mental health outcomes (more on this in a later blog post).

Specific steps that can support positive mental health:

  • Hydrate with water immediately upon waking. Drinking water supports cellular health and helps with mood, energy, mobility, and pain. Aim to consume 50% of your body weight in ounces of water every day. For example: If you weigh 150 pounds, shoot for 75 ounces of water per day. For every cup of caffeinated beverage you consume (these have a dehydrating effect on the body), compensate with an additional 2 cups of water.
  • Eat food before consuming your coffee in order to mitigate the impact of the caffeine on your body’s nervous system. 
  • Choose longer-lasting sources of foods in the morning to prevent the mood swings and irritability often associated with eating sugary, processed foods. For example, make a simple breakfast sandwich with bacon (cook a few pounds of bacon over the weekend and store it in your freezer for easy use throughout the week) or sausage, eggs and greens, or make a breakfast bowl with rice, quinoa, scrambled eggs, greens, and cheese. This website offers multiple ideas on how to start your day with superfoods that support your physical and mental health.
  • Eat your meals slowly, chewing each bite longer than you think you need to (or want to) to ensure the proper breakdown of nutrients in the body.
  • Consider consulting with some of our local nutritionists or working with a health coach who can help you follow-through on meal planning and support the changes that can sometimes be difficult to make initially.
  • Remember that even small changes will impact your mental health. Start to identify what foods make you feel poorly and what makes you feel best. Paying attention to how you feel helps. Keep a food/mood journal for 3-4 days, writing down everything you put into your mouth – solids and liquids. Notice your moods and digestive issues. Are you bloated and uncomfortable, is your heart racing, do you have energy, are you experiencing foggy brain, are you angry or irritable? Charting this information will help you remain objective and clear about what is and what is not supporting your mental and emotional health. Food is information, thereby, putting healthy ingredients into our bodies helps optimize both our physical and mental health and functioning.
  • Understand that Excitotoxins – aspartame, sugars, artificial sweeteners – all have an impact on our focus, energy, and mood. Consider exchanging them for stevia, raw honey, or maple syrup. Similarly, eliminating additives and preservatives from foods will reduce their damaging impact on your mood.
  • Eliminate harmful trans fats and oils, which lead to inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. As you work to decrease inflammatory processes by using healthy fats and oils like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, grass-fed butter, you will be supporting optimal mental health functioning and reducing the risk of depressive symptoms.

Additional Resources to Further your Education and Information:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201509/when-food-is-medicine

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/09/food-mental-health

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rhythms-recovery/201703/eat-right-feel-right-mental-health-nutrition

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/28/well/eat/food-mood-depression-anxiety-nutrition-psychiatry.html?utm_campaign=Chris%20Kresser&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=71957723&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_XeO7wHLYkxiu89irzH7xIryxnphpBSEiG-mBm2s66VwSbfQV4jPINyWWiq582Wj6EaACKW-vtinV-rd5ifqtjbpE2WQ&_hsmi=71957723


Julie Bomengen is a Vermont Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) with 22 years of experience in the field of mental health. Julie is also a Nutritional Therapy Consultant (NTC), a certification of the Nutritional Therapy Association. She lives, works and plays in Lamoille County.

Small Pleasures

By: Dan Regan

It’s undoubtedly true, as we all know, that “the best things in life are free”—love, truth, beauty, honor, among them. Material things, however, do play a part in the quality and enjoyment of our lives. Our experience of the material world can contribute to a sense of satisfaction and hence of wellbeing. If you are among the many for whom this is true, I suggest that you freely indulge in small pleasures.

This message applies to people of all ages, but it is especially intended as a manifesto for older readers not enticed by calls to create a dramatic bucket list, go on a lavish cruise or round-the-world trip, or purchase a fancy automobile. I have no quarrel with those who are so compelled, but the advice about aging and retirement has overwhelmingly spoken to the true luxury-seekers among the older population. 

But what about those of us for whom joy and certainly contentment in advancing age is not found sitting in airport waiting lounges, scrambling to change planes? Or who don’t find ourselves in situations able to “get away,” perhaps because of responsibilities to kids, grandchildren, or parents? How do we find our retirement pleasure?

Of course, the “big” answer resides in deep relationships, meaningful activities, close community. But a partial – though no less compelling – response may reside in the more regular consumption of what I am calling “small pleasures.”

When you go to the supermarket, indulge a little. Purchase—and savor—that expensive chocolate instead of the cheaper variety. Or do the same with coffee. Or go to a bath and beauty store for high-quality soap. Such examples could be multiplied many times. Find your own favorite areas for occasionally foregoing your usual economy in favor of indulging in small pleasures.

The Jaguar that most of us will never own costs a little less than twice what our Toyota or Subaru does. So how do “small pleasures” compare to their more economical counterparts?

“Economy” Brand“Pleasure” Brand% Greater
Car$25,450 $44,800 76% 
Chocolate$1.99 $3.99100%
Coffee$4.35 $12.99 199%
Soap$1.65$7.99384%

As you can see, in percentage terms it’s actually more extravagant to purchase the “small pleasures.” Feel like a millionaire and enjoy all of them! You’ll still only be out a total of 25 bucks, as compared to $45,000.

So, indulge yourself a little, if you are able to do so. You deserve it.

Finally: Please remember that 68,000 Vermonters, 11.3 percent of the state’s population, live in poverty. At least 8,000 among them are Vermont senior citizens. For those below the poverty line, our neighbors among them, subsistence is the currently reachable goal, not—sadly—these small pleasures.


Dan Regan, a sociologist, is the former dean of academic affairs at Johnson State College and continues to work part-time for Northern Vermont University. He writes for a variety of publications about whatever interests him, including—recently—climate change, living with arthritis, the NFL players’ protests, and higher education.

Sweet Dreams

By: Julie Bomengen

While most of us have an intuitive drive and love for sleep, many of us don’t understand how a good night’s rest impacts our mental and emotional well-being. Today’s blog is going to unpack Sleep as a Pillar/Foundation for Mental Health. A compromised sleep-wake cycle alters brain activity and the neurochemicals that directly affect our mood and executive functioning (ie: working memory, cognitive flexibility, and self-control), and undermines the processes intended to restore our minds and bodies to a normal, healthy baseline. Protecting the quality and quantity of our sleep is one of the most critical interventions we can do to improve overall mental, emotional, and physical functioning.

Our sleep-wake cycle is controlled by the HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal) Axis which controls cortisol production on a 24-hour Circadian Rhythm.  When our sleep-wake cycle is rhythmic, cortisol drops at night to help us fall asleep and increases in the early morning hours to help us wake up. Acute or chronic stress, unresolved trauma, drug and alcohol use, pain, blood-sugar dysregulation (hypoglycemia), misuse of caffeine, illness, and hormone imbalances, among other things, can all impact the level of cortisol in the body, affect our sleep patterns, and exacerbate symptoms of or lead to depression, anxiety, PTSD, PMS, ADHD, dementia, and Bipolar disorder. Ongoing disruption of this essential psychological-biological rhythm reinforces mental distress and becomes a vicious cycle of symptoms that disrupt sleep patterns and sleep disturbances that often develop into mental health disorders.

Research has shown that sleep, and REM sleep or dream sleep, in particular, plays a major role in mood regulation and that increasing our time in REM sleep reduces depression. When we are sleeping, our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) gets a chance to be in Parasympathetic Mode – time to put the brakes on and rest, digest, relax, restore, renew, detoxify, and integrate information and experiences from the day. All important reasons to safeguard sleep.

Our use of technology exerts a considerable impact on both the quality and quantity of our sleep. The blue-green wavelength that screens emit depresses melatonin, the sleep hormone that is released when the sun goes down. For this reason, blue light acts as a stimulant to the brain, making it hard to feel relaxed, settle down, and fall asleep. Easily accessed devices create an all-too-easy and convenient distraction for most people, often leading to a disconnect from real-time experiences and relationships, misuse of time, and a disruption of the circadian rhythm. Behavioral habits of checking and rechecking our devices can often set a negative or anxious tone for the day, and as stress hormones are released, feelings of anxiety increase. Often, even before people are getting out of their beds in the mornings, they are tired, stressed, and irritable from their dysregulated sleep. Beginning the day with a deficit is no fun for anyone!

Ways to protect and improve your sleep and mental and emotional wellbeing:

  • Discontinue use of all technology at least 1 hour prior to going to bed and ideally, leave your device charging outside of your bedroom in order to reduce distractions, increase intimacy (by the way, snuggling releases oxytocin – the human bonding/relational hormone!), and protect the quality and quantity of your sleep.  Use blue light blocking glasses at night and consider installing the f.lux program onto your devices which makes the color of your computer screen adapt to the time of day, thereby modulating its stimulating impact.
  • Develop a relaxing bedtime ritual (we create them for our children, why not for ourselves?) which might include reading, showering, a magnesium-rich (the relaxing mineral) epsom salts bath 30 minutes before bed, gentle stretching, listening to music, drinking herbal tea, aromatherapy, massage, herbs such as valerian root tincture, hops, passionflower, or with the support of an experienced practitioner use supplements that support circadian rhythm which include melatonin, B12, and lithium orotate.
  • Establish a regular sleep-wake cycle 7 days a week, choosing your be-in-bed-by-time and your lights-out time. Doing your best to stick with this cycle every night will better support the 24-hour rhythm that will ensure healthy sleep patterns and improved mental, emotional and physical health. One of the reasons why it’s often difficult to get going on Monday mornings is because people change up their bedtime routines over the weekend which throws off the sleep-wake cycle and makes for a sluggish start to the week.
  • Consider pairing your dessert or alcohol (a.k.a. “liquid sugar” – more on this in a future blog) with food earlier in the evening or omit them altogether to help in eliminating the impact of blood-sugar dysregulation on your sleep patterns. When we consume sugars before bed, our blood sugar levels spike and then come down 2-4 hours later in the middle of the night, waking the individual up as a result of our body’s alarm sensing what it perceives as concerning or dangerously low blood sugar levels. Eliminating sugars and alcohol several hours before going to bed and/ or enjoying a protein or healthy fat snack before bed (ie: avocado, nuts, cheese, egg, turkey and other high tryptophan foods) will help individuals fall asleep and stay asleep more successfully.
  • Limit your use of caffeine to earlier in the day, remembering that caffeine (including energy drinks) that is consumed in the late afternoon for that pick-me-up boost often contributes to insomnia.
  • Because elevated stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine) can lead to memory and attention problems, irritability, and sleep disorders, work diligently to manage stressors by engaging in some form of relaxation, meditation, breath work, or progressive muscle relaxation exercises. Apps like Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace can be helpful aids for meditation and stress management. Another tip is to write down your worries or to-do’s on a piece of paper that you leave outside of your bedroom, creating a boundary between your “doing” self and your “being or sleeping” self.
  • Keep your bedroom dark (consider an eye mask and room darkening shades) and cool (60-67 degrees F, adjusted to personal preferences) to ensure a restful night’s sleep.
  • Limit the bedroom to sleeping or intimacy.  Your bedroom is not your office!
  • Daily, regular exercise, particularly high-intensity workouts, but ideally before 4 p.m. Physical activity helps relieve stress, reduces cortisol production and helps normalize sleep patterns.
  • Exposure to bright natural light or use of a full-spectrum lamp on a daily basis is helpful in supporting quality sleep patterns, particularly for people who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Getting outside every day helps – even when it’s cloudy, which Lamoille County often is!
  • Use habit-forming sleep medications as a last resort as they will further interfere with your body’s ability to restore a natural Circadian Rhythm.

Resources to Further your Education and Information:


Julie Bomengen is a Vermont Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) with 22 years of experience in the field of mental health. Julie is also a Nutritional Therapy Consultant (NTC), a certification of the Nutritional Therapy Association. She lives, works and plays in Lamoille County.

Milestones Matter

By: Wendy S. Hubbard, RN, MCHC

Children grow so fast and as parents, we want to make sure they are developing well.

Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye bye” are called developmental milestones. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, act, and move (crawling, walking, etc.).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the Milestone Tracker, a free mobile app for children from birth to 5. The app provides information, photos, and videos on each milestone your child should reach in how he or she plays, learns, speaks, acts, and moves. The app helps you track your child’s development and will help you to act early if you have a question or concern.

Click on the age of your child to see the milestones they should meet:

CDC’s Milestone Tracker app offers:

  • Interactive milestone checklists for children ages 2 months through 5 years, illustrated with photos and videos.
  • Tips and activities to help children learn and grow.
  • Information on when to act early and talk with a doctor about developmental delays.
  • A personalized milestone summary that can be easily shared with care providers.
  • Reminders for appointments and developmental screenings.
  • The ability to enter personalized information about your child(ren).
  • Milestone checklists for a child’s age.

Healthcare providers can also use the app to help with developmental surveillance as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and early care and education providers, home visitors, and others can use it to better understand children’s skills and abilities and to engage families in monitoring developmental progress.

To learn more about developmental milestones and access helpful resources, visit https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/index.html.

 

The use of this app is not a substitute for the use of validated, standardized developmental screening tools as recommended by the AAP. This app was developed by the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program with contribution from Dr. Rosa Arriaga and students from the Computing for Good program at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA.

CDC does not collect or share any personal information that can be used to identify you or your child.

The Power of Positivity and Reflection

By: Leah Hollenberger

Northern Vermont University recently held its “Dinner with the Boss,” an event that welcomes students and alumni to give students experience in networking. Alumni were asked to share one “gem” they felt would be most helpful to students just beginning their journey in pursuing their chosen career. The advice was excellent, thought-provoking, and inspirational.

Common to each piece of advice was the importance of being authentic to yourself, using reflection to determine what is truly meaningful to you, and the strength of community. In short, embracing your heart as well as your mind and nurturing connectivity.

It reminded me of an exercise I did years ago as a participant in the ALIGN pilot program at Marlboro College. Through self-examination, careful observation, and reflection, I was able to develop a short specific list of what I need to have in my life on a monthly basis to stay healthy, positive, and engaged – what I would define as a successful life. I keep this list, typed out, in my desk drawer and I refer to it when I am frustrated, overwhelmed or stressed out. Typically, I quickly determine that I’ve neglected one of those items and refocus my actions. The exercise effectively improved my ability to reframe challenges in a positive, nurturing perspective instead of from an unhealthy, negative framework. Change is constant and I continue to use these tools that embrace heart and mind, my “attitude of gratitude,”  to guide me in meaningful action.

There are many programs, books, blogs, and Instagram accounts available today that embrace this authenticity and provide tools to individuals and communities.

  • Marlboro College continues to offer a similar leadership program to the pilot in which I participated.
  • The Positive Education movement, based on the work of Martin Seligman’s work in positive psychology, embraces heart and mind via curriculum and in-school programming.
  • Resiliency efforts, including the Resilience Beyond Incarceration program with the Lamoille Restorative Center and programs at the Lamoille Family Center that address Adverse Childhood Experiences, utilize this work.
  • Whole Heart, Inc. has a wellness model, similar to the exercise I did, that gives you a way to personally define your successful life.
  • Ted Talks has several presentations regarding positive psychology.   

My favorite piece of advice from “Dinner with the Boss” was a spur-of-the-moment adlib from an experienced educator. It demonstrated heart and mind by showing how a simple action can guarantee inclusivity without making a person declare a need while at the same time increasing the odds that her key message would be heard. What was the advice? “Always use the microphone.”

What tools do you use to encourage authenticity? What advice would you give a young person starting to pursue their career? 


Leah Hollenberger is the Development and External Relations Officer for Northern Vermont University. She helped create the Live Well Lamoille Blog while serving as Vice President of Marketing, Development, and Community Relations for Copley Hospital. A former award-winning TV and Radio producer, she is the mother of two and spends her free time volunteering, cooking, playing outdoors, and producing textile arts. Leah writes about community events, preventive care, and assorted ideas to help one make healthy choices.

Fresh Air

By: Caleb Magoon

benefit of fresh air

There is something beautiful and brilliant about- you guessed it: fresh air. No, not the radio program, the actual air you breathe in on a beautiful day where you are afforded the luxury of quite literally inhaling and exhaling clean air. But there is more to fresh air than just that.

This past week, spring suddenly sprung. This past weekend I spent some time watching, chasing, and playing with my 15-month-old son as he experienced the joy of a warm sunny day after a long Vermont winter. I can’t effectively describe the youthful joy of exploring a world you have only had a taste of, and doing so with the mobility that you have only realized in recent months. His response was purely instinctual and a clear reaction to his circumstances. What a joy to watch him!

Whether it was the fresh air, the sun, or the youthful exploration of the great outdoors, it was infectious. My wife and I had more fun because of it. But there is more to those things that meet the eye. Study after study has shown that kids need to get outside, see the sun, and breathe fresh air.

It doesn’t stop with kids. Just as we know well about “seasonal depression” for folks who need more light throughout the winter, adults too need recess. I see it in every smiling face, grins ear to ear, in the first few beautiful days of the spring. That’s because we can’t help it – our bodies instinctively respond to the rush of air and warmth and sun and we can only smile.

So if I give you any advice for the spring, it’s this: take recess. It doesn’t matter if you simply go for a five-minute walk on your lunch or coffee break, a loop around the block from your car to the building, or whatever! Put those inside cleaning projects on hold and weed the garden. It almost doesn’t matter what you do, just do it outside. If you are lucky enough to have the joy of a little physical recreation, all the better. Your physical and mental help will be the beneficiaries and your neighbors, friends and family will thank you for your sunny disposition.

Enjoy your spring!

Sleep!

By: Emily Neilsen

Sleep has always been important to me.  I grew up in a house where everyone’s first question in the morning was, “How’d you sleep?” In our home, naps were regularly taken and rest was often prioritized over other needs or wants. As an adult, not much has changed for me. So I was not just a little surprised to learn that the sleep habits I had developed as an adult were to blame for my less-than-perfect sleep patterns through the night.

This all came to a head about 2 years ago, when I was six months into parenthood. I was exhausted. There was a depth to my tiredness that felt almost irreversible. Well-intentioned friends and family noticed and provided assurance and advice: Buy an espresso maker! Rest when the baby rests! Don’t worry: the baby will start sleeping much more soundly soon! But the truth was that the baby was a great sleeper, who was often down for 8- to 11-hour stretches. It was me who was tossing and turning.

Around this time, a friend suggested I start following a sleep hygiene routine. I had never heard the term before, but I quickly learned that if sleep was my goal, I had to do some research and face the problem intentionally. Along the way, I came across a book that provided a paradigm shift for me: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, Ph.D.

Walker covers a host of topics related to sleep, but most powerfully for me, he speaks to the health consequences and risks of failing to sleep enough. In short, sleep impacts virtually every measurable health outcome. Failing to sleep enough (defined as 7 or more hours a night) doubles an individual’s risk of developing cancer, increases the incidence of Alzheimer’s, shortens one’s lifespan, increases the likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes, and increases all psychiatric illnesses, including anxiety and depression. Additionally, in recent years, drivers impaired by lack of sleep caused more vehicle accidents than those impaired by drugs and alcohol combined. For these reasons, along with others, the World Health Organization has declared a sleep loss epidemic in developed nations.

While I had known that sleep was important, I had never known that my survival was so dependent on getting so much sleep, consistently. Sleep, it was becoming clear to me, is incredibly serious business. So, how can we best ensure a good night’s rest? Experts recommend developing strong “sleep hygiene”, or habits that are conducive to regularly sleeping well.  Below is a list of behaviors that promote good sleep:

1. Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, and other substances that interfere with sleep. Some resources recommend avoiding caffeine after noon and giving your body plenty of time to digest alcohol before going to sleep.

2. Establish a consistent bedtime routine and head to bed around the same time every night (even on weekends).

3. Set boundaries around screen time and limit blue light exposure in the hours leading up to bedtime.

4. Make your bedroom a place of rest – keep the bedroom dark and the temperature comfortable. Avoid doing work or watching TV in the bedroom.

5. Get outside and move during the day. Regular exposure to sunlight (even on cloudy days) and as little as 10 minutes a day of exercise positively impacts sleep cycles.

6. If you are a nighttime clock watcher or phone checker, take both out of the room.

7. Stay calm when you can’t sleep. Limit your awake time in bed to 10-20 minutes. If you can’t fall asleep (or back to sleep), do something else relaxing somewhere else in your house.

8. Experiment and be patient. Different approaches work for different people and finding the right mix of behavioral changes may take some time.  

Tips adapted from:


Emily Neilsen is a mother and educator, who loves asking big questions, digging in the soil, swimming in natural bodies of water, and playing outdoors. She is a 500-hour and Prenatal certified yoga instructor. Emily currently plans arts & cultural events and reading initiatives, and works with first-year students at Northern Vermont University-Johnson. She cares deeply about health and believes mental health, movement, and diet play essential roles in wellness. Emily lives with her husband and 2-year-old, as well as a husky and a calico cat in Hyde Park, VT.

Pillars for Mental Health

By: Julie Bomengen

Hello! I’m excited to offer you my first Live Well Lamoille blog post.  I will be covering topics related to Mental Health and hope that what I share will be interesting, educational, and applicable to you in your lives. I will be speaking about mental health from a Mind-Body approach which will include biological, psychological, and social perspectives. This style is inclusive, holistic, and integrated, and will allow for an exploration of mental health that is educational and functional.

The work I do as an outpatient mental health therapist includes discussion of “Pillars of Health.” These Pillars serve as the foundation for health and wellness and are paramount to any discussion about mental and emotional well-being. Pillars include:

  • Attention to Quality of Sleep and understanding the influence of our body’s Circadian Rhythms
  • Regular Physical Movement and Activities that are engaging and fun
  • Nutrient-Dense Foods that support optimal health for the individual
  • Involvement in a Supportive and Caring Community
  • Positive Personal and Intimate Relationships that are enduring, loving, and reliable
  • Meaningful Engagement in Work (paid or voluntary)
  • and lastly, a Robust Toolbox of Skills and Resources to Manage Current Stressors and/or Past Traumas.

I would argue that when we pay attention and subscribe to these Pillars of Health, the majority of disturbances in our health and wellbeing can and will be mitigated, if not eliminated. While it will always remain true that we cannot control for every variable that impacts our health and wellbeing, there is a hopefulness that comes with knowing that we have more agency and ability to manage and shape our health than we might have believed. Of course, if optimal health was achieved simply by knowing about these “Pillars,” we’d all be in good shape.

The truth is we benefit from a supportive environment in which to address our health goals. It can be hard to make and sustain changes, and due to bioindividuality (the fact that each of us has very specific needs for his or her own health according to age, constitution, gender, size, lifestyle, and ancestry), there is no “one size fits all” formula. Still, there are common themes and clear ways to feel better from the inside out. 

My goal is to help you understand and feel confident about how to take charge of your Mental Health. I look forward to teasing apart the “Pillars” and discussing other important and pressing themes such as addiction, depression, anxiety, and suicide, as well as the impact of a sedentary lifestyle and excessive screen time, and how a deficiency of time spent in nature all contribute to poor behavioral health outcomes.

For now, start paying attention to each of your own Pillars of Health and complete a self-inventory to determine which ones might need support and reinforcing. For example, ask yourself:

  • How is the quality of my sleep? Do I feel rested in the morning?
  • Am I moving my body in some way every day?  What impact does movement have on my mood?
  • Am I feeding my body and brain the nutrients it needs to function well? How are my moods impacted by what I eat or when I eat? 
  • Am I involved in some type of supportive community? If not, why? 
  • Are my relationships strong and reliable? How do these relationships impact my attitude or mood?
  • Am I doing work that I enjoy and find meaningful? Do I have effective outlets for managing stress?

Take some notes and stay tuned for how to optimize your mental and emotional health!

Best,  Julie


Julie Bomengen is a Vermont Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) with 22 years of experience in the field of mental health. Julie is also a Nutritional Therapy Consultant (NTC), a certification of the Nutritional Therapy Association. She lives, works and plays in Lamoille County.

Stealth Health – Tales From the Toddler Dinner Table

By: Julie Swank

If he had his own way, my son would subsist entirely on pancakes. In his words, “with syrup AND jam.” As a garden nutrition educator, I’m embarrassed to admit this, since I work hard to convince kids they love kale and beets over more sugar-laden food options. And here’s my own son double fisting pancakes drenched in syrup. 

I have to remember that I, as the well meaning adult in this picture, am in charge of helping my young one develop his palate to enjoy many different tastes and flavors. But a child’s love for all things carbohydrate and sugar can leave even the most determined parent feeling defeated from time to time at the dinner table. 

This is a good place to introduce the idea of stealth health, from the “if you can’t beat them, join ‘em” category of parenting advice. While it’s still important to introduce foods raw or solo for young kids to get a taste for them, sometimes you need to get creative to get all the nutrition you can into their growing bodies. I’m taking a page from my mom on this one, who had many vegetable pancake variations, most of which were not well received by my younger self. Corn, zucchini, and carrots all made appearances at the breakfast table, met with many a complaint from me to “just have normal pancakes.”

Well, here I am as an adult who loves many different kinds of veggies, so my mom’s persistence paid off. We’re in for the long haul teaching food habits to kids – food preferences are MUCH easier to shape at a young age.  However, this might not always look perfect. For example, my son tasting a bite of spinach and spitting it out onto my plate…but his excited “I tried it!” is a step in the right direction. We’ll work more on manners, but exposure to many different tastes in the toddler years will help our young ones become adventurous eaters as adults. 

Here are some fun ideas from the stealth health kitchen:

  • Pasta and pizza are often easy “wins” with kids – who doesn’t love them? Purée steamed kale or broccoli, roasted beets, or other veggies into the tomato sauce for extra nutrients. This also works for meatloaf or meatballs – add 1 cup of puréed veggies to your regular recipe. 
  • Take it from brussels sprouts, they got a lot more popular once they met bacon. Use small amounts of cheese or bacon to make a previously unpopular vegetables shine. 
  • If you’re desperate, you can always hide veggies! I often slip the kale and spinach under the cheese in a pizza. Also, grated or sliced veggies (raw or cooked) can easily be tucked into sandwiches and wraps without too much of a fuss.
  • Give in a little bit to a toddler’s love of sugar by roasting root vegetables like parsnips, carrots, and beets to bring out their natural sugars. Cut them in wedges and have “rainbow french fries”!

This pancake recipe is popular in our house and a great way to sneak some extra nutrients into breakfast without your picky eaters noticing. Enjoy! 

Carrot Apple Pancakes

  • 2 large carrots, grated
  • 1 large apple, grated
  • 1 cup plain yogurt + ½ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½  tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ginger (dried or fresh)
  • ½ cup raisins (optional)

Mix flour, baking soda, sugar, raisins, and spices together in a bowl.  Separately, whisk eggs, milk, and yogurt together and then stir in the grated carrot and apple. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients, being careful to not overmix (this makes pancakes tough). Fry on a pancake griddle, or in a little oil on a skillet until crispy and risen a bit. 


Julie Swank is a farmer, a school garden and nutrition educator, and most recently a mom, which has put all of her skills to the test to keep her busy two-year-old healthy and fed. She loves to connect people to their food by sharing advice from the kitchen and getting hands in the soil on the farm.  You can find her in the kitchen cooking meals for her son’s preschool, Four Seasons of Early Learning, and tending gardens in Greensboro, VT.