Back to School Tips - From A Teacher’s Perspective

Written By: Melissa Dillard at Dr. Hempel & Associates

August 1st, 2023

The start of a new school year offers new potential for students and parents. I would like to offer a few tips to help make that transition easier for everyone. These top 7 tips are geared to help parents and students have a great year!

1. Attend meet the teacher, open house, and curriculum night events: Attending all of these events allows you and your child the chance to meet the teacher, have an understanding of where their classroom is located, ask questions about the policies/procedures of the classroom, and simply put a face with a name.

2. Keep open positive communication with the teacher: It’s important that you let the teacher know any imperative information about your child that will help aid in their success in the classroom. If your school uses an online platform or agenda, check it regularly.

3. Sending in school supplies on time: During the first week of school, teachers help children organize their supplies. It is essential that children have their supplies ready to go and are able to participate during this time. For families that are having financial difficulties, reach out to a local church or contact the school directly. There are many organizations that have resources and school supplies for families in need.

4. Never skip meals and hydrate: Fueling your body with food and water not only gives your child energy and the proper nutrients needed to be successful, but there is also evidence that eating healthy helps with brain function, especially memory and focus.

5. Establish a routine: Children generally fall into a more relaxed routine throughout summer break. Start enforcing appropriate bedtime routines a couple of weeks before school starts to get your child acclimated to a regular schedule.

6. Connect with your child: Your family will function better if you are taking the time to connect. Make sure you communicate with your child and love on your child throughout the day. Research has shown that this has physical benefits and mental benefits that will translate into success.

7. Self-care: Taking better care of yourself will translate into taking better care of everything else. Build this into your daily routine and make it a your paragraph here.

Mental & Physical Health Benefits in the Blue Zones

Written By: Andrea Hempel, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist

September 8th, 2023

The blue zones are areas of the world where people live the longest and have exceptionally healthy lifestyles. These populations typically live well into their 90s and some individuals exceed the age of 100. We currently have five blue zones in the world. These blue zones are located in Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California. The wealth of this population can be measured in their great health - mentally and physically. 
Although these blue zones are scattered across the world, there are similar lifestyle themes found in each location. These themes include their diet, exercise, spirituality, social connectedness, and stress management. Their diets are mostly vegetarian with very small amounts of animal products consumed in some of the blue zones. They exercise on a regular basis while they work, visit, socialize, and shop. They place a large emphasis on spirituality. These individuals tend to stay socially connected with neighbors, friends, and family. Stress management naturally occurs through their routines, daily activities, and effective coping techniques. These themes tend to be culturally based and environmentally based. 

How can we incorporate the blue zone phenomenon into our lives? We can start by educating ourselves about healthy nutrition, good exercise, social connectedness, spirituality, and stress management. It is also important to evaluate our lifestyles and assess how often we incorporate these themes. The next step is to make gradual improvements in these areas. If you make these changes, you will likely start noticing improvements in your life. Let’s make health our new wealth. 

Building Confidence in Teens Approaching Adulthood

Written by: Laura Angley, LMSW

July 4, 2023

As a social worker, I have the privilege of working alongside teens in therapy and preparing them for adulthood. I especially enjoy helping teens prepare for high school graduation and college. Some teens will share that turning eighteen is a personal marker for finally becoming an adult. These milestones typically result in a variety of emotions as they start to understand the reality of becoming an adult. Assisting teens throughout these transitions and implementing coping strategies is one of my greatest joys.

When asked “What does becoming an adult mean to you?”, many teens will express they will soon have to start thinking about taking on more responsibilities. These responsibilities may include: paying rent, obtaining medical insurance, and decreasing time spent with friends. I have found it helpful for teens to implement a gradual process of taking on new responsibilities. Teens facing these increased responsibilities will benefit from extra support from professionals, including therapists and educators, as well as extended family members. The good news is that confidence can be built when teenagers can talk with a trusted adult who can provide advice regarding these new responsibilities.

How can parents help teens to build confidence related to taking on these tasks? One way to build confidence is by partnering with teens on small tasks when they express uncertainty. In the book, “Untangled Guiding Teenage Girls Through The Seven Transitions Into Adulthood”, author Lisa Damour, PhD discusses her experiences on supporting teens with taking on adult tasks.  Dr. Damour shares that  dealing with adults outside the family can be challenging for teens (Damour 2016).  For example, some girls become paralyzed when they are expected to manage a payment at a salon or making a call to reschedule an appointment (Damour 2016).  Other girls freeze up if they need to confront or disappoint an adult and will turn themselves inside out to avoid talking to a teacher about a grading mistake or telling the neighbors that they’re not available to babysit” (Damour 2016).  Dr. Damour recommends the following strategies for supporting your teen with unfamiliar tasks (i.e., applying to colleges, interviewing, making appointments, meal planning, paying bills, etc):

- Model the task for the teen (parent completes the task)

- Complete the task with your teen (partner with her/him)

- Stand by and admire her/him completing the task

- Allow her/him to complete the task independently

In my experience, teens build confidence and self-esteem when they take on new smaller tasks with parental support. This confidence serves them in communicating their needs more effectively with peers and adults. It is extremely important for teens to advocate for their selves. These are skills that teens will use for the rest of their lives. Building this type of confidence results in enthusiasm and joy as teens move forward in their next phase of life.

Damour, L., Ph.D (2016). Untangled Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood (1st ed., pp. 25-26). Ballantine Books.

The Food and Mood Correlation

Written By: Andrea Hempel, Ph.D., Psychologist

May 20th, 2023

As a psychologist, I have continually witnessed the food and mood correlation. Our mind and body reap the benefits of clean eating. There is a growing body of research that supports the saying that we are what we eat physically and psychologically. Proper nutrition along with self-care and exercise is extremely important in order to live a healthy life mentally and physically. This article will focus on the correlation between our nutrition and our moods.

Our nutrition impacts our gastrointestinal (GI) tract which is involved in the production of important neurochemicals that help us function. A large percentage of our neurochemicals are produced in our GI tract including gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, acetylcholine, and melatonin. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on food as it relates to serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and acetylcholine. These neurochemicals regulate our mood, learning abilities, memory, and so much more. These important neurochemicals help us function physically, mentally, socially, and professionally.

Research has demonstrated that foods are natural sources of substances that may affect the nervous system (Briguglio, Dell’Osso, Panzica, Malgaroli, Banfi, Dina, Galentinoe, & Porta, 2018). Briguglio et al., (2018) searched literature related to the impact of food sources on neurochemicals. Their findings indicate that certain foods can impact the production of serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and acetylcholine. Corresponding research has shown that those who include a good number of fruits and vegetables in their diets show improvements in mood, memory, depression, and overall quality of life (Gehlich, Beller, Lange-Asschenfeldt, Köcher, Meinke, & Lademann, 2020). Examples of these foods are listed below, although there are many more.

- Foods that impact serotonin include: kiwi, strawberries, potatoes, paprika, plums, & pineapples.

- Foods that influence dopamine include: avocados, bananas, plantains, peas, apples, and oranges.

- Foods that effect GABA include: spinach, cruciferous vegetables, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, beans, and rice.

- Foods that impact acetylcholine include: peas, radishes, strawberries, squash, mung beans, and spinach. 

It is important to evaluate the correlation between your foods and your moods. When your nutritional intake is optimal you may notice an increase in positive moods. On the contrary, when your nutritional needs are compromised you may notice more negative moods. A variety of theories exist regarding how food affects mood. These theories include the role of micronutrients, microorganisms in the gut, and changes in behavior when consuming a healthy diet (Eaton, Firth, & Sarris, 2020). Lachance & Ramsey (2015) emphasis the link between diet and mental health as it relates to the microbiome in our GI tract. Our mood may also be impacted by self-care and additional nutritional factors such as caloric intake, protein intake, inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, omegas, food sensitivities, and food allergies. It is important to discuss these factors with your doctor. Overall, it is vital to prioritize your self care and unique nutritional needs in order to feel happier and healthier.


Briguglio, M., Dell’Osso, B., Panzica, G., Malgaroli, A., Banfi, G., Dina, C.,  Galentino, R., & Porta, M. (2018). Dietary Neurotransmitters: A Narrative Review on Current Knowledge. Nutrients. 10(5), 591.

Eaton, M., Firth, J., & Sarris, J. (2020, September 11). Nutrition and Mental Health – How the Food We Eat Can Affect Our Mood. Frontiers.

Gehlich, K., Beller, J., Lange-Asschenfeldt, B., Köcher, W., Meinke, M., & Lademann, J.  (2020). Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables: Improved Physical Health, Mental Health, Physical Functioning and Cognitive Health in Older Adults from 11 European Countries.
Aging Mental Health. 24(4), 634-641.

Lachance, L. & Ramsey, D. (2015). Food, Mood, and Brain Health: Implications for the Modern Clinician. Mo Med. 112(2), 111–115.Type your paragraph here.