Q: What is the weekly email newsletter “All Health Breaks Loose”? What is its purpose?


All Health Breaks Loose is the College of William and Mary’s award-winning, Monday morning healthful news blast for over 5,000 faculty members, staff, students, alumni and guests. Some of those readers claim AHBL helped them with homesickness or that it brightens their morning. Lee DePue might say it earned him a $25 gift card for winning a Healthy Selfie contest. Though it’s all about the College now, AHBL has its roots in Manhattan.

From my desk at The New School in 2005, I took a call from our Chair of Fashion Design, Tim Gunn, who called me up to Parsons — our unbelievable fashion school — to enjoy a cup of coffee and hear his concerns about the declining health of our many overachieving, stress-glorifying, to-nowhere-racing, insomnia-suffering, vending-machine-grazing, Chicken-Little-thinking, face-to-face-avoiding, often-languishing, yet always awesome fashion students. On reflection, I suggested a series of chats around the opulent Tresemmé runway and then a newsletter as a counterpoint to the students’ weekends. I printed a few weekly AHBL for the lounges at our schools and eventually hooked everyone on an email copy. In fall 2009, when I chose to come back to Virginia and care for my father, AHBL was one of several ideas I brought here with me. The current version, along with my German fluency, served as a key factor in my selection last year as the closing keynote speaker at a European conference on the Okanagan Charter, a statement that fosters health-promoting universities worldwide.

In my mind, two factors make every issue important. The first is timeliness. Not only do I scour our Events Calendars, but colleagues — such as Sarah Balascio, Jenny Dunfee, Jen Floor, Becca Marcus and Rich Thompson — forward me announcements about their wonderful happenings, and I can dose those in a way that nudges the entire university in healthy directions and at a good pace. The second relates to an overarching philosophy rooted in the positive psychology work of Martin Seligman, namely his Positive, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment Model, and Student Affairs added Vitality to his framework a while back. Around that same time, just as one of my Positivi-Teas was wrapping up, students and I added some Green and Gold to Seligman’s model, and…huzzah…PERMA became Triumphs, Relationships, Importance, Boldness, Engagement — TRIBE. So, I stress TRIBE Vitality in every issue, particularly the “I” — the value of Importance. At the top of every AHBL, readers learn that, should time be pressing, they can find that third section of TRIBE Vitality and read the rest later.

When it comes to inspiration, conversations with our football team, a listening session with College President Katherine Rowe, an impromptu office chat with a student, a BBC broadcast, a request from T Davis or Lindsey Mosvick, a VIMS visit, the Let’s Get Consensual campaign or an article from The New York Times might all move me in the weeks to come, and something else rouses me as well.

As much as I trust Strunk and White or William Zinsser to guide my form, I also rely on a higher power for my content … the Eight Dimensions of Wellness. Our hard work at the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center and Campus Recreation encourages faculty, staff, students and alumni to attend to all Eight Dimensions, including emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual dimensions.

Relatedly, AHBL honors those Great Eight, perchance not in one post but over several. Additionally, two shadow dimensions exist that we can apply to those original Great Eight: Creativity and Social Justice. AHBL encourages me to highlight the intersectionality of social and racial justice topics, and just like cooking and teaching, AHBL offers me a gratifyingly imaginative outlet as well — a far more amusing way to use a computer than as a device for running analysis of variances —ANOVAs — and multivariate analysis of variances — MANOVAs — for epidemiology, as these hands once did decades ago.

As a closing note, readers often ask about my use of “Possums” in the weekly newsletter. It was a gender-inclusive term of endearment from my youth. On our awakening, e.g., after a car nap, my grandmother would hail my brother and me with that word plus some great revelation. “Get up, Possums! We’re almost at our picnic spot!”

So, should you wish to subscribe to this weekly email blast, Possums, please write me.

Eric Garrison is the Assistant Director of the College’s Office of Health Promotion. Email Eric at emgarrison@wm.edu. If you have a question you’d like to see answered, please email it to fhopinions@gmail.com.


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