Flipping the Mental Switch

Happy Friday! Here’s a success story to start your weekend with. Today’s story is shared by Katherine Swan, from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at the University of Montana. As we focus on mental health this year, Katherine’s story is an awesome reminder of the power of perception, and how a small change of thought and attitude can have a tremendous impact on how approach daily challenges. In this story, it’s the difference between “I can’t do that” and “I can’t do that yet.” Norman Vincent Peale famously said, “Change your thoughts and you change your world”, and Katherine’s story is an excellent example of this concept. Thanks for sharing Katherine!

Growing up, I was always the chubby girl, the last girl picked in gym class, the girl who failed miserably at every test of fitness. Fast forward to adulthood and I am now pretty fit, working out 5 to 6 days per week. I am in great shape, but the mindset of the chubby, non-athletic girl has stuck with me. The result was that I would look at a workout and think “Yeah right. I can’t do that.” The result is that I would end up failing because I didn’t really try. I would still get a good workout, and still be generally fit, but would leave workouts feeling discouraged and like I would never make progress.
 
Finally about a year ago, I decided that I needed to actively work on changing my mindset. Instead of looking at a pull up and thinking
“I can’t do that,” I look at a pull up and think, “I can’t do that yet.”  I had to up-talk myself through some of the tougher workouts, but that has become more and more natural. And as it became more natural, I started trying to make better progress. I would pick one movement in the workout to really challenge myself and focus on that one thing. So if the workout had thrusters, pull ups, and pushups, maybe I would worry less about getting a heavy weight on the thruster and worry a little more about getting stronger at my pushups (or vice versa). This made the workout approachable, and I could leave feeling proud about pushing myself. I also started staying after class and working on pull ups, pushups, and double unders (three particular weaknesses).  Over the course of the last year, I have gone from zero to 15 linked double unders, zero to 3-4 linked pull ups, zero to several rope climbs, and zero to 1:00 min+ hand stand hold (against a wall). Better than all that is that fact that I now look at my workouts (and myself) with a  better lens. So a workout is challenging? Okay, it gives me something to work on. And as long as I go in and give what I can on that day, then I can leave the workout feeling like I am not the unfit girl from elementary school, but like I am a strong woman who can tackle the day.

Katherine Swan, University of Montana

Improving Mindfulness & Performance with Whil

We’re only a few days into our 2019 MUS Wellness Incentive program, and we hope you’re off to a good start! As mentioned before, our 2019 program is placing a special emphasis on mental health, and to that end we’ve introduced Whil, a new tool to help you practice mindfulness, reduce stress, and boost your performance!

If you are an MUS active employee and Benefit Plan member, you can access Whil through our Incentive site, and then through your mobile phone if you’d like (the video at the end of this post shows you how).

Our Whil practices for 2019 are broken into three categories: Basic Training, Stress, and Performance. Here are some examples of programs and sessions within each.

Basic Training/Mindfullness 101

  • Focus you Attention
  • Sense the Body
  • Relax the Nervous System

Stress

  • Reduce Daily Stress
  • Focus and Be Calm
  • Overcome Conflict

Performance

  • Thrive in the Workplace
  • Develop Healthy Habits
  • Build Concentration

If you’re new to practicing mindfulness and meditation, that’s great! That’s exactly what this tool is for. I’m new as well, and have been enjoying the sessions. For me, these practices are a welcome antidote for what can be the noise, clutter, and frenetic pace of our day to day lives. One of the early Mindfulness 101 sessions invites you to Set an Intention for your mindfulness practice, and one of my early intentions has been to be able to stay calm even when I feel like there’s a storm raging all around me. With six and three-year-old boys at home, there is always a veritable hurricane of energy to manage. Not to mention lots of laundry and dirty dishes.

Following one of these early sessions, a daily tip popped up that I wanted to share:

“The point of mindfulness is making it part of what you already do, not making it an extra task. You can do short practices throughout your day. Many can even be done when you are focusing on things as basic as brushing your teeth, driving to work, lifting weights, or just listening to a colleague. You can train your attention on anything happening in the present moment. Then benefit, as you get better at the skill of focusing you attention.” 

If you haven’t started already, we hope you will soon. Research has shown that about five minutes of practice a day can do wonders for your concentration, stress resilience, and mental outlook. Enjoy!

Neal

Getting started with Whil for MUS

Initiate Countdown!

We’re hours away from the launch of our 6th year of the MUS Wellness Incentive Program, and to be honest, we can’t wait to get started! It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be challenging. It’s going to be fresh. Here are some new things to look forward to!

All your favorite things, plus a focus on Mental Health

All your favorites will return—challenges and educational videos from Neal & Cristin. Team step challenges and other physical challenges throughout the year. Plus, this year, we’re adding a focus on mental health. To facilitate this we have a new partner called Whil, which provides training directly through our Incentive site or on your smartphone, in the areas of mindfulness, stress resilience, and productivity. The Whil micro-learning sessions can be done in 1 to 5 minutes, whenever and wherever you need them. We hope you will join us in making 2019 a year of personal growth and achievement by doing some new training with your most amazing possession—your brain.

Other New Features

Our Incentive Program will have a personal feel this year through a feature called My Choice. Personalized challenge recommendations will be pushed to you based on your ongoing challenge selections and your Well Being Assessment results. You will be able to earn up to a quarter of your incentive points by choosing these personalized challenges.

Fitbit is Back!

We’re pleased to offer an array of Fitbit Health trackers at no cost or a significant discount for our first incentive. When you reach Scout level, you’ll be directed to a Fitbit webcart offering the lastest Fitbit trackers, including some brand new products that have just been introduced!

Staying in the incentive lineup are Amazon Gift Cards, plus an opportunity to receive a special Expedition Leader hat at our top level!

Tune in Wednesday for the whole scoop!

Wednesday, January 16th, we’ll host our 2019 MUS Wellness Overview webinar to talk about our entire Wellness program, including details regarding all the information we just announced. We hope you’ll join us as you discover great health with MUS Wellness and blaze a trail to your best life! 

Happy New Year!

Happy 2019! Although I’m not one to make strict resolutions, I do find that the start of a new year is a good time for self-reflection and a setting of intentions for the coming year. For me, the subtle language shift from resolution to intention allows more flexibility, and when it comes to making behavior changes that stick, flexibility is key. Few of us are able to make drastic changes overnight.

According to a YouGov poll from 2018, “eat healthier” was tied with “getting more exercise” and “saving more money “ as the most popular new year’s resolutions. If you are one of the millions who’s resolved to eat healthier in 2019, first, please read Neal’s past blog post about setting SMART goals, and second, I wanted to remind you that MUS Wellness is here to help. Our next round of the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade kicks off Monday, February 4th! This program provides a simple way to reshape your eating habits and boost your nutrition.

Unlike the diet plans that abound on the internet, this program is not a diet or a detox. In fact, a previous participant said this about the Nutrition Upgrade in her 2018 Success Story, “I have been tracking my calories in – calories out for years after learning at a young age from my mother. This year, I was able to participate in the Nutrition Upgrade program offered last spring and that gave me a different perspective on tracking my food intake and nutrition.”

Another participant said, “I’ve been looking for a food plan that fits me and my busy life for years. It feels so balanced and realistic. I can still really enjoy eating and cooking. Thanks for sharing it.”

If you’ve attempted to eat healthier in the past, but were not successful, I encourage you to try the Nutrition Upgrade. It provides a refreshing way to view nutrition that doesn’t involve counting calories or strict rules. By participating, you’ll receive access to a live one-hour online kickoff, the Nutrition GPA app for iOS or Android, downloadable handouts, two live check-ins midway through the program, and a private Facebook group for MUS participants. Plus, new for this round: participants will receive a email every day from Monica and me with a helpful tip or tasty recipe!

Even better, program creator Monica Reinagel will be here in Montana for a live kick-off at MSU Bozeman, followed by presentations and meet-ups at UM, Montana Tech, and MSU Billings! Monica is a board certified, licensed nutritionist and professionally trained chef. She’s the author of six books about nutrition including Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet and Inflammation Free Diet Plan. She writes the blog at http://www.nutritionovereasy.com, and she’s the host of the popular Nutrition Diva podcast. She’s an incredible nutrition resource, and participants in select locations will have the unique opportunity to meet her and ask nutrition questions in person!

To sign up for the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade, go to https://nutritionovereasy.com/mus. Email me at cristin.stokes@montana.edu for the discount code to receive $30 off (you pay $10).

Perhaps it’s not healthy eating that you want to focus on this year, but instead you want to get in better shape, become more financially savvy, or start a daily meditation practice. Or maybe you didn’t make any resolutions at all, but are still interested in improving your health and well-being in 2109. MUS Wellness is here to help you too! Our online Limeade Incentive Program kicks off Tuesday, January 15th with daily, weekly, and monthly challenges designed to set you on the path towards better health, and a new tool to help you focus on improving your mental health. Plus, participants can earn a free Fitbit health tracking device, and up to $80 in Amazon gift cards!

To learn more about what MUS Wellness is offering in 2019, please join us for the 2019 MUS Wellness Program Overview Webinar on Wednesday, January 16th at 12PM. We will be focusing on what’s new with the Incentive Program, but we’ll touch on all of the programs available through MUS Wellness. If you are unable to watch at that time, we encourage you to still register for the webinar, and the recording will be sent to you as soon as it’s available.

We hope 2019 is your best year yet, and we at MUS Wellness are here to support you along the way!

Cristin

End of Year/New Year News

Our MUS Wellness Incentive Program is winding down this week, so we wanted to share some important end-of-year dates for our participants, plus share some news to get you excited for our next round!

2019 Program News

The MUS Wellness Incentive Program will be returning January 15th, 2019, for our 6th year of programming! Here are some quick highlights we’d like to share with you to get you excited!

  • Fitbit is back on the incentive table in 2019! Look forward to some awesome new products and choices from Fitbit!
  • Introducing Whil. In 2019, our program will have a special focus on mental health and mindfulness. As a tool to help, we’re adding a resource called Whil to our program platform. Whil offers short practices on mindfullness, meditation, stress resilience, and productivity. Take your mental game to the next level in 2019 with Whil, Limeade, and MUS Wellness!
  • We’ll kick things off with our MUS Wellness Overview Webinar on January 16th. Click the link to register! 
Introducing Whil mindfulness and stress resilience training in 2019!

Hitting 10,000. Every Day.

Today’s success story comes from Trudy Carey. Trudy is the director of Disability Support Services at MSU Billings, and has been a Wellness Champion on that campus for several years. Trudy has also been a very active and competitive participant in all our wellness challenges. She especially loves a good step challenge, as her story will attest to. Thanks for sharing Trudy! Keep up the awesome work!

I love the Limeade program, especially the step/mile challenges.  I have walked 10,000+ steps every day since the 10,000 step-a-day challenge a couple of years ago.  Thanks to that, and the fact that I can see how many calories I burn on my Fitbit, I lost 35 pounds and have kept it off for more than two years.  I never thought of myself as a competitive person, but I discovered that I am very competitive about staying on the leader board for walking challenges.  In fact, the most recent team challenge in which I participated named the team “We follow Trudy”! 

Trudy Carey, MSUB

Here’s some good news for Trudy—we’re thinking about bringing back that 10,000-step-a-day challenge [Million Step Club] in 2019. Who’s up for starting your own streak?

Wellchat Episode XXI: Life Hacks

Episode 21: Neal and Cristin discuss and comment on the recent MUS employee crowd source question regarding favorite Life Hacks. Tune in to learn your peers’ secrets to making life easier, more manageable, and creating healthy habits that stick.

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

Very Healthy Competition

Kudos to our Bozeman and Missoula communities, who set more records this year in their annual Can the Griz/Can the Cats Food drive competition.  Over 850,000 lbs of food and funds were collected this year between the two communities, with each receiving record donations to their local food banks. Amazing!

MUS Wellness was able to contribute a small portion, as Montana State put together a team for the annual Huffing for Stuffing Thanksgiving Day run. We had 102 members on our team, which turned out to be the largest team in Huffing for Stuffing history! MUS Wellness donated $500 to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank on behalf of our Wellness team. 

Members of the MSU Huffing for Stuffing Wellness team, ready to smoke the turkey!

This is another reminder of how outstanding our Montana communities are! It feels great to live in a place where everyone pulls together to make where we live and work healthier and happier!

Thanks to all who gave, ran, and volunteered!

MUS Wellness

Feeling Thankful.

For the past six years, our end-of-year tradition at MUS Wellness has been to collect success stories from our awesome MUS employees, and share some of the highlights. We’ve just begun reading your stories, which are always inspiring and a great reminder of why we do what we do here at MUS Wellness.

I thought I’d get our Wellness success story season kicked off with a tale of thanks as we go into the Thanksgiving holiday. This one is from me, and it turns out to be a very different success story than any I would’ve envisioned at the beginning of the year.

On August 24th, I was riding bikes with a group of guys from MSU. We do a regular lunchtime road ride on Mondays and Fridays throughout the summer, and it’s always a highlight of my week. It was a beautiful, sunny Friday, and I remember feeling really good—the weekend was coming up, I was feeling fit, and I was excited about the transition to fall. Everything was great. Until it wasn’t.

I was going down a modest hill at around 20 mph, and I had a routine left-hand turn to negotiate. As I leaned my bike into the turn I felt and heard an awful skidding sound as the tire suddenly lost grip, and I was down in an instant. I landed hard on the back of my left shoulder. If I were in a cartoon, there would’ve been a big, colorful flash…

…and then I was aware of my head skidding along the pavement. Luckily for me there was a very effective Giro helmet between my skull and the ground. I had broken one of my cycling rules: “Always wear your helmet, but try not to use it.” Well, I used it, and I sure am glad I was wearing it. I sustained no head or neck injury whatsoever.

My left clavicle, however, was not so lucky. It was in pieces. As I lay on the pavement staring up at the beautiful big Montana sky, I didn’t know I had broken my clavicle, but I did have the sense that my shoulder was injured pretty badly. I knew my head was okay because I asked if my bike was alright. Turns out it mostly was, but later I would learn that I had a small puncture in my front tube, which caused my front tire to gradually lose air until it failed. Normally, you notice things like this during a ride without something so dramatic happening. It was just an unlucky thing. But I was fortunate to be riding with a group, and also fortunate that I didn’t take out any of them in my fall. They took care of me on the scene, called for help, and got me to the Emergency Room quickly.

I elected to have surgery to put the pieces of my clavicle back together, and I’m glad I did. My surgeon, who did a marvelous job, said most of the time these surgeries take 30 to 40 minutes. Mine took him 90. Yikes. Here’s the before and after:

For many of you who know me, you may know that I am goal oriented, and I write out my yearly athletic goals and post them at home and in my office. When I had this accident, I realized immediately that most of my goals for the second half of 2018 were going to be put on hold. But almost immediately, as in, while sitting in the bed in ER, I was formulating a new goal—be fully recovered and fully functional by ski season. I quickly added a second goal after that first weekend at home and realizing how annoyed my very physically active 6-year-old was with my new condition, and that goal was to be able to play with my kids normally again as quickly as possible. I had suddenly become a considerably less-fun, fragile, one-armed dad, and that was motivation enough. 

One of my 6-year-old’s favorite things, especially this time of year, is tossing the football with me. I did the best I could one-handed, but a couple of weeks post-surgery I got in trouble with my wife after Dax zipped a football over my head that I reflexively reached for with both hands and let out a yelp. My wife advised us to stick to soccer.

Fast-forward to today, and I’m feeling very thankful to say that my impromptu recovery goals are largely being achieved. For that I give credit to an amazing job by my orthopedic surgeon and staff, a lot of care from my wife and family while I was pretty helpless, and diligent rehabbing throughout the fall. Now I’m feeling strong and ready for Bridger’s opening day this Friday! And this morning, before he went to school, Dax had some extra time and we spend it pitching the football around, and I thought about how nice it was to not be limited, and what a gift movement is, even for such a simple thing as tossing and catching a ball in your living room.

As we go into the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m sure you have many things to count as blessings. If you can name health and freedom of movement as part of your list, please do so! They are one of the most common things we take for granted until we lose them, and they are truly wonderful gifts.  

For those of you running 5k’s on Turkey Day, hitting the slopes on opening weekend, heading to your favorite trail, hunting, or just walking around the block with a family member, be mindful of how wonderful it is that we get to do it!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Be well!

Neal

P.S. To share your MUS Wellness 2018 Success Story, write us at mtchallenge@montana.edu