Category - Health Tips

1
Busting Stress for Mental Health
2
Volunteer!
3
Proactive Self Care
4
We Are Sweet Enough
5
Five Easy Minutes
6
Making Connections for Mental Health
7
Healthy Summer Habits
8
Stop The Bleed
9
Stretch It Out!
10
Food as Medicine for Mental Health

Busting Stress for Mental Health

By: Julie Bomengen

Much of my work as a mental health counselor has focused on how to help my clients identify the root sources of their distress and to learn adaptive and effective means for managing these stressors in their lives. According to a 2017 report issued by the American Psychological Association (APA), “nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) say the future of the nation is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, slightly more than perennial stressors like money (62 percent) and work (61 percent).” Since I don’t have a magic wand to wave to make these and many other of my clients’ stressors disappear altogether, I focus instead on how to help them understand the detrimental impact of stress on their overall health and wellness and look at small, yet meaningful steps they can take every day to help mitigate its impact on their lives. Because stress management is such a critical component of mental health, it is one of the Pillars that I will be discussing in today’s post.

As humans, we have evolved to manage short-term bursts of stress (ie: public speaking, taking an exam, competing in an event, etc.). What we are less-equipped to deal with is the longer-term nature of elevated stress that is now a common occurrence in our modern societies. When stress levels are high or chronic, the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, increase which can interfere with memory and learning, compromise immune function, increase blood pressure, and lead to an infinite number of physical health issues, as well as contribute to mood swings, depression, and anxiety disorders. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can occur with both short-term and long-term exposure to traumatic or stressful events and can alter neurotransmitters, hormones, and brain structures such as the amygdala, which processes our fear response. Please note there will be a more extensive post in the future related to the treatment of trauma.

Regardless of its origin, it is always important to help empower people to know how to identify and effectively respond to how they are experiencing stress in their lives. Here are some points that I work with my clients on:

● Make a list of stressors in your life and prioritize the top 3 you’d like to address first. Taking actionable steps towards root cause resolution is an integral part of your work as all other stress management strategies will otherwise remain band aid solutions. For example: if you know that you are stressed about test-taking, seek out help in how to feel more comfortable with this task; if you are stressed in social situations or public settings, consider contacting a local counselor to learn about social anxiety and how to better understand its origin and how to work through it.

● Learn about how useful taking slow, deep and intentional breaths can be. We hear it all the time, “Take a breath – Just relax!” As annoying as it may be to hear this from others in the moment of our distress, there truly is something to this idea. When we take longer, slower breaths from our bellies (diaphragmatic breathing), we are taking in more oxygen than when we breath in a more shallow way from our chests. Physiologically speaking, this increase in oxygen sends a message of safety and relaxation to the brain and body, allowing a feeling of ease to occur as the stressful feelings decrease. This 15-minute audio recording offers a wonderful educational overview on how breath can be a mediator to help us manage stress and learn to relax.

mental health tips to combat stress

● Learning about meditation or mindfulness techniques will help you pay attention to the moment, increase feelings of calm and focus, reduce jumbled anxious thoughts, as well as symptoms of depression and pain, and increase mental clarity and memory. Meditation extends the space between stimulus and response, helping us choose to respond versus react in any given situation (think about how helpful this will be with kids, partners, parents, colleagues, neighbors, the person in traffic, friends, etc.). I recommend “bookending” your day with a 10-minute meditation in the morning to set the stage for your day and 10 minutes at night to help you decompress and unwind for the day, setting yourself up for a truly restful, restorative night of sleeping – another essential component for reducing stress!

● Research various Meditation Apps that can be used easily from your phone or computer: Insight Timer, Breathe, Calm, and Headspace are a few I often recommend. They are easy to use and many of them are free. I have one client who sets a chime on her phone to go off every 30 minutes at which time she does a 2-minute mini-breathwork meditation. She finds this regular practice an essential component of how she remains calm and responsive (versus reactive) throughout her day. Also, check out this 15-minute segment on meditation.

● For more in-depth mindfulness training, check out Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). MBSR was developed by clinical psychologist Jon-Kabat Zinn to cultivate greater awareness of the ways unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can undermine emotional, physical, and spiritual health. It has been studied extensively at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center for over 30 years, and is clinically proven to relieve chronic pain and illness.

● Consider trying yoga or tai chi, getting regular therapeutic massages, body-centered psychotherapy, enjoying daily walks in nature, connecting with people you enjoy and can relax with on a regular basis, laughing more, and working to find joy in simple pleasures and moments throughout each day.

● Remember that nutrient deficiencies and imbalances put a physiological strain on the body which adversely affects the way we think and feel. These physiological stressors can manifest as anxiety, nervousness, depression and anger. Remembering the connections between Food and Mood is a core component of stress management as research has proven that you cannot separate mental health from physical health. When the body is stressed, our emotional and mental wellbeing may be compromised. Eat and drink in ways that nourish the body and brain and produce endorphins and neurotransmitters that help us better cope with the stressors of daily life.

● Be aware of the mindset you bring to each day, remembering that this world doesn’t owe you happiness and peace. Become more conscious of your contribution to the stress you are experiencing and learn to tease apart what is worth being worried about and what has become habituated. Remembering that there is an impermanence with everything helps us understand that even our difficulties are passing through. This perspective can help us with cultivating contentment and feeling gratitude for what is instead of focusing on what is not. This, in turn, will help reduce some degree of stress. Consider this from poet Mary Oliver, “Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. And gave it up. And took my old body out into the morning and sang.”

● Cultivate contentment and gratitude as a way to gain perspective on your stress. From The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, the 8 Pillars of Joy are discussed: 4 Qualities of the Mind (Perspective, Humility, Humor and Acceptance) and 4 Qualities of the Heart (Forgiveness, Gratitude, Compassion and Generosity). I’ve chosen a few quotes from the book, which I highly recommend:

“Grateful people report more positive emotions, more vitality and optimism and greater life satisfaction as well as lower levels of stress and depression.”

“Scientists have long known that our brains have evolved with a negative bias. It was no doubt advantageous for our survival to focus on what was wrong or dangerous. Gratitude cuts across this default mode of the mind. It allows us to see what is good and right and not just what is bad and wrong.”

“There is always the choice available to us and an ability (if we choose it) to reframe any given situation more positively — With our Mind we create our World.”

By virtue of being human, some degree of stress is inevitable but chronic stress that undermines your mental health is not. Pick one bullet point from the list above and get started on your way to reducing the impact of stress on your emotional and mental well-being. Lastly, consider the following short mindful meditation from Nobel Prize winner, monk, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn’s book, Being Peace:

“Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.”

Additional resources to further your education and information:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967

https://www.nami.org/find-support/living-with-a-mental-health-condition/managing-stress

https://www.mqmentalhealth.org/posts/stress-and-mental-health

https://chriskresser.com/your-gut-microbiome-and-anxiety-whats-the-connection

http://www.buddhanet.net/audio-meditation.htm

https://www.soundersleep.com/


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.

Volunteer!

By: Dan Regan

To volunteer is to do something willingly, without compulsion or generally without compensation, for someone or something. In volunteering, the focus, rightly, is beyond oneself. The goal is to serve others, helping them accomplish their desired ends. Volunteers serve on fire crews and rescue squads, mentor youth, serve on non-profit boards in the arts and family services, build Habitat houses, deliver meals to seniors, help govern our towns and schools, and deliver meals to seniors. These forms of volunteerism, and countless others, contribute to the health of our communities and help make the world a better place. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service’s 2015 report, a third of Vermont’s residents volunteer, contributing over 20 million hours of service annually, ranking the state eighth among the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

The interesting thing I want to focus on, for purposes of this Live Well Lamoille blog post, is that volunteering also benefits the volunteer and may contribute significantly to his or her own wellbeing. Research affirms the positive connection between volunteering and the physical and emotional health of those who participate. But the connections are sometimes hard to tease out. After all it’s possible that healthier people may volunteer, without their volunteer activities exerting a real impact upon their wellbeing. With that in mind, here I will present only a few findings that come from studies (most from the early 2000s) that can truly claim the effect of volunteerism on volunteers:

  • Older adults who gave social support to others had lower rates of mortality than those who did not, even when controlling for socioeconomic status, education, marital status, age, gender, and ethnicity, according to a large survey.
  • An over-time study of older married adults found that those individuals who reported providing support to friends, relatives, and neighbors had lower rates of mortality five years later than those who had not reported providing support.
  • Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose, especially for those who experience a major change of identity, such as retiring or becoming an empty-nest parent.
  • Volunteering leads to lower rates of depression for older adults, even when controlling for other forms of social interaction.
  • Individuals suffering from chronic pain experienced declines in their pain intensity and decreased levels of disability and depression when they began to serve as peer volunteers for other chronic pain sufferers.
  • According to a Carnegie-Mellon University study (2013), “many people [found] volunteer work to be helpful with respect to stress reduction,” and of course stress is very strongly linked to health outcomes. The same study also posited a connection between volunteering and lowered blood pressure, and thus a reduced risk of hypertension.

Thankfully, our friends and neighbors offer their services voluntarily, with others—not themselves—uppermost in mind, and our communities are the better for it. But the connection—between volunteer service and the wellbeing of volunteers—may be perceived without being articulated. In fact that connection may help make sense of the seeming paradox in the way the US has historically been described: as both an intensely altruistic as well as individualistic nation.

To give is, truly, to receive. So do yourself a good deed and volunteer to help others!


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.

Proactive Self Care

By: Emily Neilsen

The term “self care” is everywhere, yet its definition is squishy, at best.  The term often conjures images of stressed out moms taking group trips to the spa, getting massages, and going on yoga retreats. Certainly, these things can be self care. But, self care can be much simpler and is often most effective when it is integrated into everyday life. It also does not need to cost anything.

At its most basic, self-care is simply taking care of oneself and one’s needs.  It stems from the idea that we cannot give endlessly (to our loved ones, our careers, those in need, etc.) without also taking care of ourselves. In fact, self care is much more effective if we approach it proactively, instead of reactively, by incorporating simple routines into our lives, and maintaining them even when we feel good. These habits can also be renewing and energy conserving, allowing us to move through the world more calmly and peacefully.

What is proactive self-care? Truly, anything you do that supports your mental, physical, and spiritual health before you feel burnt out or exhausted.

A few examples:

  1. Doing something ahead of time to increase calm and decrease chaos during busy moments: Making your bed in the morning, laying out clothes for next day, meal planning for the week, or doing anything that will help you feel calm, organized, and centered in the future.
  2. Creating a short bedtime routine that allows you to feel relaxed and grounded before heading to sleep: e.g. journaling, meditating, taking a bath, or reading.
  3. Getting extra sleep before you feel over tired or scheduling time in your calendar that is reserved for relaxing, not accomplishing.
  4. Addressing your physical and emotional health before symptoms arise. This could mean changing your diet, incorporating more or different forms of exercise, sleeping more, or seeking counseling, among many other possibilities.  
  5. Self care can also be about asking for help or saying “no” to invitations and requests that are draining or don’t easily fit into your schedule.

As with any new habit or goal, you may find that integrating proactive self-care can be challenging. Start small, by identifying and incorporating one or two small changes that fit well into your life. Be patient with, and kind to, yourself (that’s self-care, too!)

Here are a few articles for additional information: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201810/7-tips-good-self-care

https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/5-tested-tips-battle-burnout-better-self-care


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. 

We Are Sweet Enough

By: Cole Pearson

healthy drinks for kids

As children return to school, nutrition can be an important contributor to them enjoying a successful, healthy school year. Many children enjoy sugar-sweetened beverages, but aren’t our children already sweet enough?

Are we talking about soda?

Yes, but soda is not the only type of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed by kids and adults. Sugar-sweetened beverages are any liquids that are sweetened with various forms of added sugars like brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, and more. Liquid sugar, found in sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks, is the leading source of added sugar in the American diet, representing 36% of the added sugar we consume. We know from the research that 6 in 10 youth and 5 in 10 adults drink a sugar-sweetened beverage on a given day, far exceeding their daily recommended maximum added sugar consumption (6 teaspoons max for kids and women and 9 teaspoons for men).

What is the concern about sugar-sweetened beverage consumption?

We know that drinking just one 12-oz. can of soda per day can increase your risk of dying from heart disease by nearly one-third. Additionally, people who drink one to two sugar-sweetened beverages per day have a 26% higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, compared to people who drink less than one per month. Sugary drinks give the body a blast of sugar and produce triglycerides (aka fat globules). Some of those fat globules get stored in the liver, while others will go into the blood stream, lining the arteries and putting you at risk for heart attack.

Why focus on sugar-sweetened beverages instead of sugary foods?

Although too much sugar in any form is not recommended, sugar-sweetened beverages have particular concerns. An important issue regarding sugar-sweetened beverages is the fact that it is very easy to consume way too much. Studies also show that when we drink sugar-sweetened beverages, we don’t feel as full as we would if we had eaten the same number of calories. So it’s easy to down nine teaspoons (38 grams) of sugar in a single soda – about twice as many as in an apple – and hardly notice.

Fruit juice is good for kids, right?

Although fruit juice is often perceived as healthy, it really is not a good substitute for fresh fruit. That’s because fruit juice often contains more sugar and calories than the fruit itself. In recent years, healthcare professionals have begun to advise against juice for children under age one because of its connection to rising obesity rates and concerns about dental health. We now know that fruit juice offers no nutritional benefit to children under age one and should not be included in their diet.

There are lots of swap ideas that can help reduce sugar in your beverages and RiseVT will be launching the “Sweet Enough” campaign in September to give you lots of swap ideas!  For example, it can make a big difference to swap your kid’s sports drinks for water in a cool water bottle they like, or serve seltzer with a splash of juice as a soda substitute. With six teaspoons as the max added sugar your kid should have in one day, it’s easy to max that out in one beverage—so these swap ideas can add up to make big impacts in health and wellbeing.

So remember, for a healthier, happier life, try limiting sugar-sweetened beverages. After all, our families are already sweet enough!


Five Easy Minutes

By: Daniel Regan

I have a simple suggestion that could enhance the quality of your life. It may give you a sense of inner peace and could even, in the long run, prolong your life.

Give yourself the gift of five extra minutes. I don’t mean extra minutes to stay in bed or on your phone; rather, a five-minute cushion (10-15 is even better) before your next appointment, commitment, or task.

Try it. It might lower your blood pressure and change your life. 

Did anyone watch the NBA playoffs in June? Those who did, commentators and casual fans alike, could not help but note series MVP Kawhi Leonard’s unhurried style of play and approach to the game. He seemed always to anticipate and be prepared for what came next. In the midst of a highly stressful activity and setting, he nevertheless appeared—well—at peace.

It doesn’t take his extraordinary skills and preparation to glean an important message for the rest of us, as we live our everyday lives: try to move through life quickly and purposefully, but not frantically. Doing so will enhance tranquility and heighten your ability to focus.

I am realistic. Some will scoff at this simple suggestion, reject it, conclude their lives are too complicated for five extra minutes. (And if truth be told, some don’t care about making good, time wise, on their commitments; but that’s another story.) Why are some of us addicted to stress? It’s more than just an individual refusal to deprive ourselves of anything—even a proven danger like stress to our health and wellbeing.

Ours is a nation developed upon stress. It’s not just the current demands of our fast paced technological era. Much earlier in our nation’s history, the industrial era kept workers on edge so they would work hard and produce. That philosophy may have helped grow the economy, but it did not necessarily contribute to our psychological health. Stress may produce sweat, but not necessarily the best work, much less satisfaction or happiness.

So give yourself five extra minutes—to complete that required task, meet that person, show up at an appointment, pick someone up, etc. Not permitting yourself that cushion can have negative consequences. One morning I tested and verified that assertion: Had I backed out of my driveway in a rush, and skimped on looking behind me, I might have struck the little girl from next door or crashed into the car that suddenly made a U-turn and came up the road behind me. Or I might have turned left too soon, onto a busy thoroughfare, which would have added to the long list of accidents by impatient motorists. And that was only in the first five minutes after my departure from home.

So save your reaction to stress for those situations that truly require it. Meanwhile, do yourself a favor and take a few extra minutes. Doing so might even prolong your life, which would make a whole lot of time cushions very worthwhile.


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.

Making Connections for Mental Health

By: Julie Bomengen

A client reported to me in session recently that something “just felt different” over her weekend. What she was ultimately able to identify is that she felt like she and her kids were becoming a part of her community. We spent time in session discussing what community means and why it matters. According to Sorab Asora, community means “empathy, inclusion and belonging, a sense of purpose, cultural understanding and exchange of ideas.” This sense of connection or belonging is what helps people thrive physically, mentally, and emotionally, which is why it is another critical Pillar for Mental Health.

According to Martin Seligman – a leading psychologist and founder of “Positive Psychology” – regardless of where you find your community, becoming a part of one is a major factor in being happy and balanced. Seligman asserts that community helps to foster the characteristics (positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishments) that produce healthy and happy members of society.

Indeed, involvement in a supportive and caring community and having positive personal and intimate relationships that are enduring, loving, and reliable is essential to experiencing true connection – something that humans desire and arguably need on the deepest of levels. While my personal bias is to encourage these connections to be in real-time and in-person, I have learned that quality connections that are being made online have similar positive impacts. Still, my hope is that those individuals who are spending a significant amount of time connecting online also have opportunities for meaningful, face-to-face interactions on a regular basis. There is much being written stating that online relationships are not a direct substitute for the human contact that we all benefit from. Regardless of where the connections occur, the kindness and care that comes from another human being — someone to witness our suffering, validate our stories and experiences, and to simply matter to someone despite our imperfections — can make all the difference in terms of an individual’s mental and emotional well-being.

From a Psychology Today article entitled, “On Belonging”:

“recent neuroscience studies have revealed that the brain uses similar circuits to deal with our social pleasures and pains as with our more tangible delights and woes. For instance, the brain’s reward system has been shown to respond as strongly to social rewards (e.g. social recognition) as it does to money. On the other hand, when social ties come undone and connections are severed, the resulting social injuries may not only become sources of copious ill-effects, but may also affect our brains in similar ways as physical injuries would. Thus, as some neuroscientists have suggested, human beings could be wired to feel pain when we are bereft of social connection, just as evolution has wired us to feel pain when we are deprived of our basic needs (e.g. food, water, and shelter).”

What you can do today!

  • Make a goal to do something with another person in your life at least one time/week. Enjoy a walk and talk or peddle your bike, meet at a cafe for food and drink, visit an art gallery together, see some local community theater, go for a drive, wade in a river, or go for a swim in a lake. Anything goes, as long as it’s done on a regular basis, with another person you feel you can trust and be yourself with.
  • Take a chance and reach out to someone you like, but haven’t spent much time with. Extend yourself and approach the idea of connection, working to deepen the relationship, knowing how it can feed your spirit and boost your mood.
  • Look for ways to become involved in your community, thinking about ways to match your interests with the needs of your specific community. There are an infinite number of areas for engagement. For example, if you’d like to help out with seniors, think about serving on the board of “Meals on Wheels” or volunteering at the Senior Center. If that’s not your preferred population, talk with your local school’s volunteer coordinator to find out whether you can help with their mentoring, after school, or school garden programs. There are opportunities at the North Central Vermont Recovery Center, libraries, second hand clothing stores, your local food cooperative (MOCO), local farms, community food shelf, and more!
  • Think about taking a class in your community. There are endless opportunities to get involved and learn something new – no matter your age! Check out events and activities being offered at such places as Morrisville’s River Arts, Community College of Vermont, Green Mountain Technology Center, Northern Vermont University, UVM’s Adult Learning, music classes with local musicians and educators, pottery, art, or photography classes with some of Lamoille County’s amazing artists.
  • If you are certain that the relationships in your life aren’t serving you and you need to change them up or possibly end them, think about reaching out to a local counselor for support. Talking with someone can truly make the difference between remaining in and suffering in dysfunctional relationships and finding the will and agency to make the changes that can support your overall health (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) and happiness.

The experiences that come with direct, face-to-face relationships are meaningful in ways that can’t always be quantified. The research is there, no doubt, but more importantly, is the intuitive sense we all have that when we are in a flow with and connected with others, we feel better. We feel we belong and that we matter. In all of my work, with everyone I’ve ever worked with, this is a universal desire and one that is indeed worth pursuing.

References:

Sorab Asora – No Stigmas “Community Engagement and Positive Mental Health” May 2017

Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Sydney: Random House.

Pogosyan, Marianna, Psychology Today, “On Belonging” April 2017.

Resources to Further your Education and Information:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-cultures/201704/belonging

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rethinking-mental-health/201603/gregg-levoy-meaningful-work

https://choosework.ssa.gov/blog/2016-05-27-mental-illness-on-meaningful-work-and-recovery

https://nostigmas.org/learn/community-engagement-and-positive-mental-health

Raz, G. (Producer). (June 10, 2016) Becoming Wise (Audio Podcast) https://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/481290551/becoming-wise

Healthy Summer Habits

By: Caleb Magoon

This year, it seems like we went straight from winter to summer in Vermont with only the briefest stop in spring. Now that we have a little nice weather it’s time to go out and enjoy it. That said, let’s all remember that we are pasty white Vermonters built to last a long winter and need to take necessary precautions when venturing out into the bright, beautiful sun.

One thing we do exceptionally well here is to adapt to the weather. 50 degrees in the spring feels tropical and we break out the shorts. But in October, it feels quite cool comparatively. This is essential for our survival, but when we seem to skip spring like we did this year, it’s essential we allow ourselves time to adapt to the hot weather.

Many of us don’t drink enough water and stay hydrated. I am guilty of it myself. We should always be well hydrated, but when the sun comes out the consequences of not keeping up with it become dire. We don’t have air conditioning in many places so adapting to the heat and humidity and the need to up our water intake can be tough. But it’s important to be proactive about drinking much more water right now than you think necessary. Remember, coffee, soda, and alcohol won’t cut it! If you’re thirsty, you have already gone too long without drinking water.

As I mentioned before, we are as pasty as just about anyone this time of year. I am continually reminded of that every time I look at my 17-month-old boy. We call him ‘Casper the friendly baby’ and it’s not far from the truth. Sadly, Vermont is near the top of the list for skin cancer in America. That’s not something to be proud of. Making sure we throw on some sunscreen, a hat, and stay in the shade when we can is essential to surviving that bright orb in the sky that comes around this time of year.

Lastly, monitor the weather and plan accordingly. Don’t overdo it. We simply don’t have the same stamina and ability to perform fitness functions in the heat. When it gets hot, dial back your plans a bit.

The key message here is to let your body adapt to the weather. This time of year, we need to work a little harder and be a little more vigilant to remember those simple, yet important, habits.

Stay after it! You don’t want to miss a second of the sun.


Caleb Magoon is a Hyde Park native who grew up hiking, hunting, biking and exploring Vermont’s Green Mountains. His passions for sports and recreation have fueled his career as the owner of Power Play Sports and Waterbury Sports. Caleb encourages outdoor activity and believes it is an essential element to a healthy lifestyle and the Vermont way of life. Caleb serves the Lamoille Valley by volunteering on numerous community boards such as the Lamoille County Planning Commission, The Morrisville Alliance for Commerce and Culture, Mellow Velo, and the state chapter of The Main Street Alliance. He lives, plays and works in Hyde Park with his wife Kerrie.

Stop The Bleed

By: Valerie Valcour

Have you heard the phrase “Stop the Bleed” before? You may have heard it during the month of May as it was National Trauma Awareness Month. Did you know that the person sitting or standing next to you could save your life? One of the most preventable deaths after injury is uncontrolled bleeding. Everyone should be able to recognize life-threatening bleeding, and everyone should be able to take appropriate steps to control bleeding until help arrives. The greater the number of people who know how to control bleeding in an injured person, the greater the chances of survival from that injury.

Stop the Bleed trainings are intended to help people learn how to respond to life-threatening bleeding and ways to stop the bleeding.

Once a month, Copley Hospital Wellness Center, the Morristown Emergency Medical Services (MEMS), and the Lamoille Valley Medical Reserve Corp offer FREE Stop the Bleed classes. Classes and registration are posted on the MEMS Facebook page. They are planned for the first Thursday of each month, one class from 1-2 PM and one from 6-7 PM. Due to the holiday, the July class is scheduled for Wednesday July 10th, at the same times.

The Stop the Bleed classes are located at 539 Washington Highway (Morristown Rescue). Please let us know you will attend by emailing cboisvert@morristownvt.org or phone (802) 888-5628.


Valerie Valcour is a Public Health Nurse and specializes in chronic disease prevention and emergency preparedness at the community level for the Department of Health in Morrisville. Valerie has lived in Lamoille County most of her life. She graduated from People’s Academy in 1983 and worked as a nurse at Copley Hospital for several years. In addition to her work, she volunteers as a board member of both Community Health Services of Lamoille Valley and the Lamoille County Planning Commission.

Stretch It Out!

By: Emily Neilsen

For as long as I’ve exercised, I’ve had some inkling that stretching played a role in physical fitness. Flexibility was measured in the Presidential Fitness Tests administered every year in elementary school and gym teachers and coaches diligently included a few stretches during warm-ups. But the message I always took away was that stretching was an afterthought – good to do, but much less important (and more boring!) then cardiovascular and strength-building exercise.

Photo of the author practicing yoga in her third trimester.

I took this perspective with me into the yoga studio when I first began attending classes. I loved the challenging flows and strengthening poses instructors guided us through. But as things wound down toward the end of class and slower stretches were introduced, I returned to my old thinking. “This is boring and not all that important.” It’s a bit surprising, I suppose, that I would later become a yoga instructor with a deep appreciation for the benefits of stretching. In fact, I now truly enjoy doing them.

Why the change? Adopting a regular yoga practice provided me an experiential understanding of the benefits. Quite simply, I felt markedly better in my body whether I was in motion or at rest. I came to appreciate the feeling of slowing down, focusing on my breath, and noticing my body becoming more flexible. Beyond these positive feelings, the benefits of stretching are wide-ranging. Stretching improves range of motion, enables muscles to work more effectively, decreases the risk of injury, and can greatly improve athletic performance. And, as we age, flexibility becomes essential as it improves mobility and independence. In fact, stretching is now considered as important as cardiovascular and strength-building exercise.

The good news is, you don’t have to devote your life to becoming a yoga instructor to enjoy the benefits of stretching. If time is a concern, try 10-15 minutes of stretching a few times a week or pick a couple of days a week to practice a form of exercise, such as yoga or pilates, that incorporates stretching.

If you’re stretching on your own, there are a few things to remember:

  1. Stretching is not a warm-up: Stretching cold muscles can cause injury.  Stretch after at least 10 minutes of light to moderate exercise.
  2. Be aware of pain: stretching can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful. Stop stretching or take a less intense stretch if you notice pain, especially in your joints.
  3. Get some guidance: It’s worth knowing which muscles to stretch and how. Take a class, borrow a book, or do some research online.
  4. Be patient: The benefits of stretching are cumulative and you may not notice a huge shift right away. Over time though, your muscles will become more flexible, efficient and healthy, and you will likely notice an improvement in your joints.

For more information, visit https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/stretching/art-20047931.


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.

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.