Evelyn Sikorski is Manager of EFAP and Health Management at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Evelyn Sikorski is the manager of Employee and Family Assistance and Employee Wellness at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

Everyday life events can get in the way of personal wellbeing and alter our best intentions to make lifestyle changes. No one is immune to the stress of daily living, including me, the person who manages the UVM Medical Center employee wellness program. I realized last December that I needed to make some changes.

Stating My Intention for 2015. I noticed that I was not I fully charged. I had gained some weight, as a result of not sleeping well, and I was experiencing work-life imbalance. I set my intention for 2015 to learn more about how my stress, my biochemistry, and my nervous system interacted together and how they were holding me back. I wanted to get some coaching to move from overweight to normal weight. I was committed to revitalize and renew myself by finding more of a balance within myself.

Establish my baseline for lifestyle change and set a goal. I scheduled and completed a biometric screening, took the on-line health assessment, and shared my results at my annual physical with my primary care physician. I met with a nutritionist from the Community Health Team and started to keep a food journal. I talked with a health coach through Employee Wellness about setting a SMART goal to increase my activity. My health coach was instrumental in helping me start small and to be very clear. I realized that lack of exercise was fueling my stress, and I was not experiencing true hunger, but emotional hunger, which was the source of my weight gain, sleep difficulties, and feeling drained.

I informed myself and took action steps. Now that I had a better understanding of the barriers, I set a goal, made a commitment, and I took action January 2015. I realized I would benefit from a peer-to-peer group for support. I formed a goals group with four other women at work, and we met for 16 weeks. Within the group I learned what others were doing to manage stress, be active, and improve work-life balance. We realized that we are much better at helping ourselves when helping each other! I bought a Fitbit. I heard about a 21-day free online meditation series. I learned ways to quiet my mind before sleep. I read the book Fully Charged by Tom Rath and incorporated simple ways to keep my mind sharp and my body strong. Positive results began to appear in my sleep, weight, and energy level.

Try new things and tame the inner critic. In looking over this past year’s journey, I appreciated my progress every day, along with my efforts to de-stress by moving more, eating differently and valuing the importance of sleep.

Changing the mindset. As I begin 2016, I realize that lifestyle change takes time and requires an open mind to new ways of tackling any changes you want to make. Building in small choices every day makes for lasting healthy habit patterns. By following these health principles, I am more resilient both physically and mentally. Overall, these daily actions prevent stress from accumulating. That result alone is the best investment in personal and professional wellbeing.

Evelyn Sikorski is the manager of Employee and Family Assistance and Employee Wellness at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

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