Tag - Pillars for Mental Health

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Busting Stress for Mental Health
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Making Connections for Mental Health
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Movement for Mental Health
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Sweet Dreams
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Pillars 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.

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

Movement for Mental Health

By: Julie Bomengen

“Get some exercise!” — I know you hear it all the time, but bear with me because while most people understand that exercise is good for the body, fewer of us think about the connections between movement and mental health. We are going to dive into why movement is a pillar for mental health and how being active on a daily basis supports optimal brain health, as well as emotional and mental well-being.

As hunters and gatherers, our ancestors moved to survive. Every day for the majority of each day, they sprinted, jogged, climbed, carried, and jumped intermittently, walking an average of 6 miles and running ½ to 1 mile each day. Needless to say, our human bodies were designed to move! Fast forward to today and research reveals that the typical U.S. adult is sedentary for 60% of their life and sits for six to seven hours per day.  Clearly, there is a mismatch between what we are designed to do and what we are doing, and this disconnect is having major implications for our physical health as well as our emotional and mental wellbeing.

So why does movement help mental health?

  • Moving our bodies is the simplest way to improve mood due to the endorphins and mood-boosting chemicals, serotonin and dopamine, that are released when we are active and engaged in something that is pleasurable. When we engage in regular, consistent activity, our brain’s dopamine receptors are sensitized which enhances the reward and pleasure experience. Movement becomes more and more rewarding and beneficial over time. Keep at it!
  • Symptoms of anxiety and depression have been found to decline when these same mood-boosting chemicals are released.
  • Stress can be reduced when we are active due to the increase in concentration of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that can modulate the brain’s response to stress.
  • Improved brainpower and memory enhancement results when we move our bodies because new brain cells are created through a process called neurogenesis. Workouts increase a brain protein called Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which promotes the survival of neurons, thereby facilitating such things as decision-making, higher levels of thinking. and learning processes.
  • There’s something to be said for the feeling of confidence that comes with and after participating in something physical that challenges us.  Even when it’s hard or doesn’t yield the desired effect right off, there is the opportunity to feel strong, capable, motivated, and proud of what you did or what you are in the process of doing. By moving your body in any way, you are saying that you matter and have value — that is something that translates into self-love and confidence. Keep at it!! Today, tomorrow, and the day after that — just keep moving.
  • While you’re moving, move on out to the great outdoors! Research tells us that the extra Vitamin D that comes from the sunshine (even when it’s cloudy, we are getting some degree of Vitamin D), fresh air, and being among the healing elements of nature add to the overall mental health benefits of moving our bodies outside. Pick one outside activity to try out this week. How about a walk on the Rail-Trail?  Also, much has been written about the idea of “nature deficit disorder” in our population, particularly among children. Get your kids outside moving with you – you’ll be shaping lifelong behaviors that will serve you in profound and deeply meaningful ways.
  • Moving our bodies helps us relax more which, in turn, can support a healthy circadian rhythm which improves sleep, which in turn, makes us feel better, mentally and emotionally. See how all of this is inter-connected?! Check out my earlier post if you need a reminder of why sleep is also a pillar of mental health.
  • Engaging in some form of physical movement on a regular basis helps improve productivity and creativity.  Research is revealing that working for 45 minutes and then taking a 15 minute break and getting up and moving our bodies provides us with a burst of energy that improves productivity and brain functioning while also improving mood.
  • Moving our bodies can be even more beneficial when we move with others as we often feel more inspired and supported, and less alone when we are engaging in an activity with a friend or joining a group of people who are working towards a common goal. As one idea, how about contacting the Green Mountain Club and joining in one of their scheduled walks/hikes? Bring a friend along or make a new friend in the process.
  • People who are struggling with addictions of any kind benefit from having positive, healthy substitute behaviors to engage in. Our brains release dopamine – the reward chemical – when we are engaging in things that are pleasurable. Exercise can produce this pleasurable state, thereby offering the potential of being that substitute behavior for people who struggle with addiction. Also, movement reduces depressive symptoms and stress, which improves mood and has been shown to help diminish cravings for drugs and alcohol.

As you can see, physical movement is essential for positive mental health outcomes. Think about the activities you enjoyed as a kid – roller skating, swimming, dancing, hula hooping, playing basketball, rowing a boat, jumping rope, hiking through the woods, or walking along a stream. Find something you love and do it. Do it slowly at first, with a friend at times, alone with your thoughts at other times. Pick up the pace next time and feel your breath move through your body. Look around while you’re moving outside and find gratitude for the beauty of this community we live in. Breathe fully and deeply and find love and compassion for yourself, knowing that any movement or activity you engage in supports your body, your mind, and your emotional well-being. 

Resources to further your education and information:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-simply-moving-benefits-your-mental-health-201603289350

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/people-in-nature/200901/no-more-nature-deficit-disorder


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.

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.

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.