Boredom: Maintaining Health and Wealth

Imagine this: you’re self-quarantined at home, watching “The Office” for the 25th time (one of Matt’s favorites). The characters and their jokes don’t make you laugh as hard, so you get up and decide to:

a. Find some comfort foods to snack on.
b. Indulge in your favorite alcoholic beverage.
c. Find your vape/light a cigarette and smoke.
d. Go to bed and sleep.

Regardless of your choice, there is a high chance you’ve run into your old friend boredom again.

Like it or not, our lives been placed on an indefinite time-out with no signs of ending anytime soon. Unfortunately, that means: no dates, sports, social gatherings with family and friends, springtime festivals and events – nothing. There are those who are fortunate to work remotely from home, attend to either online class work or household chores, but after that’s done, what’s left?

Boredom is a common response that’s experienced when we’re feeling restless. It makes us feel sluggish, tired, and puts us into this mindset where we need to do something to change our moods and become focused or satisfied. However, it’s also when we attempt turning to ineffective habits to cure ourselves of those experiences; namely, sleep, food and substances like alcohol, smoking or illicit drugs.

While seemingly harmless, it only takes a few instances before it starts to affect your health. Your e-cigarette, drink, or snack, while fun and/or tasty, exposes your lungs, digestive system, kidneys, etc. to harm due to consistent usage and lowered moderation because of boredom. You gain a few pounds, lose muscle tone and strength, your immune system becomes compromised – leading you to possible risk of contracting COVID-19, and who wants that?

Here are some tips to help with curving boredom:

1. Implement time management skills!

Schedule your boredom breaks; how long they’ll be, what you’ll do, and try balancing it with tasks you have to complete.

2. Start new hobbies!

Whether it be learning the basic of a new language, how to cook, new workouts, or how to even practice time management (future entry about this subject coming soon), find something to invest in and commit!

3. Monitor distractions!

There’s nothing wrong with indulging in your favorite vices, but they are vices for a reason – check in with yourself about why you may be indulging in certain distractions; initially, the answer is “Because, I’m bored…” but there may be something underlying that’s not being acknowledged as well.

Effective Health Practices Concerning Nutrition

Ineffective health practices during the COVID-19 quarantine is something many are struggling with at this time. Below are some resources that offer tips and information about why these trends (overeating, alcohol/tobacco/marijuana consumption) occurs, and how to prevent major risks from occurring. 

This article and news clip discuss the importance of staying healthy and avoiding overeating while staying home with the ability to snack all day. A clinical dietician was interviewed suggested that setting up a routine or structure to the day, even while at home, can be really beneficial for healthy eating patterns. Giving yourself a moment to breathe and ask if you are really hungry, or just bored or stressed before reaching for something to eat can also be helpful. 

This article discusses how stress can affect our eating habits and offers five tips for curbing emotional eating. People often tend to crave foods higher in fat and sugar when stressed, which is why it may be more tempting to reach for a bag of chips than a piece of fruit. 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website is a useful resource for staying aware of healthy practices through the Coronavirus pandemic. It has links for nutrition, health, fitness, recipes, and information for staying healthy with kids and general tips in a few different categories. It also has links for social media resources. There is a short article called “How to a Keep Your Immune System Healthy” that points out a few important things to think about, like keeping good hygiene and getting enough nutrients, and lists out nutrients and the foods where we can get those. 

Here’s some information linking mental health and nutrition. This site also has some helpful tips when buying food and what people can look for again. It also has some helpful alternatives and information if people want to make easy changes to their diet that will help nutrition. 

This article provides information on how unregulated marijuana consumption can affect our immune system. While it is difficult to link marijuana usage to the concerns regarding our body’s ability to maintain its strength and healing, studies have found that both marijuana and tobacco smoke are similar; demonstrating an impairment with respiratory function.

This article shares concerns from health care experts regarding the act of self-medication to ease loneliness, stress and boredom during this pandemic. A must-read to stay informed!

Content provided by:

Matthew N. Caston, Jr., M.A., LPC
Mary Johnson, Counseling Intern
Brooke Kochevar, Counseling Intern

USF to Offer Evening/Online M.Ed. Program Designed for Advancing Teachers and Career Changers

Joliet, Ill. – How many times has someone suggested to you, “You should be a teacher!” If people see you as a natural leader with the special ability to understand, communicate and work with young people, an M.Ed. with Illinois Professional Educator Licensure from the University of St. Francis (USF) will give you true fulfillment. All you need is a bachelor’s degree in any field and the desire to pursue a teaching career in one of the following areas:

  • Elementary Education (1-6);
  • Middle Grades Education: General Science, Language Arts, Mathematics or Social Science (5-8);
  • Secondary Education: Biology/Science, English/Language Arts, History/Social Sciences or Mathematics (9-12);
  • Special Education (K-Age 21), and;
  • Visual Arts Education (K-12).

“Starting in fall of 2020, the M.Ed. program will be delivered through convenient evening hybrid classes (which blends online and face-to-face learning) and fully online classes, which means you can work during the day and study at night. With continuous enrollment, you can complete the program in just under two years. Also, because USF is committed to placing talented people like you in classrooms, a discounted rate of $475 per credit hour is being offered—that’s more than 35% off USF’s regular graduate student tuition rate,” said Maggie Stevenson, graduate admissions counselor at USF.

WHY USF?

  • The University of St. Francis is accredited by both the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org) and the Illinois Board of Higher Education (ibhe.org). College of Education programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (ncate.org) and approved by the Illinois State Board of Education (isbe.net).
  • USF’s College of Education (COE) provides one of the best teacher education programs in the state.
  • Due to newly revised state requirements, COE is eliminating its basic skills test requirement, making the application process easier.
  • Small classes provide a student-centered learning environment, led by faculty with extensive experience who integrate leading-edge technology and model best practices.
  • Each student is guided by a full-time advisor and gets field experience through the duration of the program with support and supervision from COE.
  • 100% of COE students in Elementary, Secondary, Special and Visual Arts Education were hired to teach in the academic year immediately following their graduation.

For more information, visit stfrancis.edu/education and contact Maggie Stevenson, graduate admissions counselor, at 815-740-3389 or mstevenson@stfrancis.edu.

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Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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CARES Act Facts – USF and Joliet Chamber Partner to Help Local Businesses

Joliet, Ill. – In light of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the economy, many Joliet area businesses are wondering how they can acquire funds from the CARES Act to help the local business and local employees. While the government has not released full details yet, local Joliet area resources are already springing to action to help local businesses. Professors at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, in cooperation with the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce, quickly prepared a fact sheet to explain these new programs.  As a result, local bankers are already gearing up to help their customers acquire their share of CARES Act dollars.

Last Friday, United States President Donald Trump signed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which includes $350 billion in loans through the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) to support businesses with under 500 employees.  The intent of the plan is to help keep these important employers afloat so they can keep local residents employed.

“The amount of money available is tied to the size of the company’s payroll.  The hope is that the funds will cover about 2 to 3 months of payroll so that employers can avoid layoffs,” explained Steve Morrissette, a professor at University of St. Francis and a former Joliet bank president.

The government-mandated shutdown of most businesses, done in an effort to reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, cut off almost all revenue for effected businesses. As a result, business owners and managers were left scrambling to figure out how to pay the bills even though no money was coming in and without any advance notice of such a change.  These business “lay-offs” quickly turned into employee layoffs. 

In an effort to provide much needed assistance, the CARES Act was created to include $560 billion in programs to support impacted individuals and families, including increased unemployment benefits and a direct cash payment of $1,200 per eligible taxpayer (and is expected to be paid in early April).  The CARES Act also created a $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program to provide assistance to businesses to help reduce layoffs and ensure businesses survive this crisis.

“The majority of our members are businesses with less than 20 employees and are run by local families,” explained Mike Paone, Vice President of the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce. “They are concerned about their families like the rest of us – and they are also worried about the ‘second’ family at their business.”

Paone indicated this program could be a big help, but that it is imperative that business owners act quickly before financial damage is too severe.

“These loans are coming through the Federal Small Business Association (SBA), so it is key that the SBA get the program started and loans processed quickly,” Paone said.

Local bankers are already gearing up for the numerous requests expected next week.

“We haven’t received details from the SBA yet,” explained Mike Nolan, Joliet Market President for Busey Bank, “but we have already been working with our customers to help them through this – now we’ll go to bat for them to get them the SBA money they need.”  

Jim Roolf, Joliet Banking Center President for First Midwest Bank, indicated that his bank is also working on behalf of local businesses.

“We’ve been helping businesses in our community for 86 years and we are committed to working with them through this turbulence. We are in communication with the SBA so we can understand the program parameters so we can move quickly to help our Joliet and Will County clients,” Roolf said. 

Shane Green, Executive Vice President of Old Plank Trail Bank, added that local banks are primed and ready to help local businesses.

“The SBA mostly works through banks. As part of the Wintrust banking group, we have direct access to make SBA loans so we are ready to help local businesses get the money they need. It looks like the SBA wants to streamline the process so we can get the money to business quickly,” Green said.

Some of the key provisions of the PPP loan program include:

  • Businesses with fewer than 500 employees are eligible; eligibility also extends to 501(c)(3) non-profits, sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals
  • The size of the loan can be up to 2.5 times the borrower’s average monthly payroll costs incurred in January and February 2020
  • Maximum loan amount is $10 million; loans under $1 million may be eligible for SBA Express Loan
  • There is no collateral requirement; loans are non-recourse meaning the business owners are not personally liable for the loan
  • Loans can be for as long as 10 years; maximum interest rate will be 4%.
  • More details can be found on a special CARES Act Key Information for Business Owners information document accessible here.

“Given that the law was just created last week, many of the details haven’t been finalized,” explained Paone. “A key benefit is that some of the loan to the business may be forgiven and will not need to be repaid if the business avoids layoffs and/or recalls previously laid-off employees.”

Experts also recommend that businesses talk to their bank and other key vendors about their plans to handle this temporary shutdown.

“Don’t leave your landlord and bank in the dark. If you can’t make your loan payments, talk to your bank. They want to work with you, if possible.  Just last week, the banking regulators made it easier for banks to modify business loans to help business that might not be able to make their payments right now,” Morrissette emphasized.

Also impacting small businesses, the Care Act modified the previously enacted FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act) which mandates 10 weeks of paid Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and 80 hours of paid sick leave. Businesses could receive a tax credit/rebate for the amount spent on FMLA and paid sick leave.

“These are important benefits for employees of small businesses. The tax credit will help small business afford these new expenses,” explained Bonnie Covelli, associate professor at the University of St. Francis. Covelli also leads the USF Business Incubator, which provides assistance and services for local start-up businesses.

There are also important tax changes for small businesses in the CARES Act and the FFCRA that allow for delay paying certain federal payroll taxes and may provide for tax credits or rebates for the cost of providing paid FMLA and sick leave.

Most of the government’s efforts and money are aimed at fighting the COVID-19 virus.  Next, they started working on how to help families weather this storm.  Now, a portion of the government’s efforts is focused on working to help businesses stay afloat, while being mostly shut down, and with the goal of avoiding even more layoffs.

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Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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USF’s Micole Johnson Chosen as NACC Music Director of the Month

Joliet, Ill. – It didn’t take long for WCSF 88.7 FM music director Micole Johnson to get noticed. It took approximately one year, to be exact, and now the University of St. Francis (USF) digital audio recording arts major with a music entrepreneurship concentration can add to her resume that she has been named the North American College and Community (NACC) Music Director of the Month for March.

Johnson, who started her radio career last year as the station’s production director, credits former WCSF music director Jess Stevens with developing her initial interest in working at the radio station.

“Jess always told me all about the things she was doing in her role with WCSF, and I found it interesting. She’s the person who actually got me involved with it,” Johnson said.

When Stevens left the station, Johnson was promoted and has been enjoying the new role ever since.

“I enjoy listening to and choosing songs for the Hip Hop, Chill, and Electronic categories the most. Those are the main genres I listen to, so I have an ear for them. Also, I like talking to some of the promoters,” she said.

WCSF station manager and USF adjunct instructor Anthony Musiala sees that Johnson is already able to successfully apply the skills she is learning her classes to her role at the radio station.

“Micole brings many skills she acquired at USF to WCSF FM. In addition to reviewing and programming music for the radio station, Micole uses her audio production skills that she learned in USF’s DARA program and applies those skills to create the fantastic radio liners you hear on our station.  Micole has a great work ethic; you can usually find her in the radio station’s production studio either tutoring radio students with their on air productions, reviewing music, or creating on air audio productions of her own,” he said.

Johnson, who is humbled by the recognition, plans to continue working at WCSF throughout her college career and aspires to continue working in the music industry after earning her degree.

“Earning this type of national recognition means a lot to me. I am happy that I have been doing my job well enough, and I hope this opens more opportunities up for me in the future. I want to be involved with the music industry on some level. Mostly, I would like to be someone who works directly with artists, like a producer or something background wise,” she said.

The North American College and Community Radio Chart is a weekly Top 200 radio chart that  receives weekly airplay reports from over 200 college and non-commercial radio stations across North America. NACC has become a primary source for the publication of college radio airplay.  As a result, the NACC Top 200 Chart was cited in several major news publications such as Billboard and The Economist.

Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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Living Wise and Well: Monitoring Stress

The USF Wellness Center shares information and tips to get through this unprecedented time.

In our current state of affairs with COVID-19, stress will be a large contributing factor with how we adapt to the global predicament moving forward. Stress is how our body attempts to become accustomed to recent changes in our lives! However, not many people are aware of the two different types of stress we face in our daily lives: eustress and distress.

Eustress can be defined as a positive form of stress having a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional well-being. It’s when we utilize problem-solving skills to address quality of life issues like the decision to find a part-time job to make more money, or calling up a friend when we’re feeling sad.

Distress may be defined as an external and usually temporary cause of great physical or mental strain and stress. The more distress we find ourselves taking on in attempt to make sense of the problem, the more strain it causes on the mind, contributing to symptoms of depression and anxiety (feelings of hopelessness, sadness, agitation; avoidance of responsibilities; changes in appetite/sleep patterns).

If you, or your loved ones, find yourselves struggling with any of these complications, here are some healthy tips to remember:

1. Validate your feelings!

It’s okay to not be okay right now – you don’t need to have the answers just yet to the problems you’re currently facing. Provide yourself with some patience and understanding, and practice implementing positive affirmations (this is only temporary; it’s okay to be worried; I am focused on my well-being and health) to remind yourself that you are doing the best you can.

2. Get active!

Just because you are stuck at home does not mean there are not errands or tasks you can’t complete! Jot down a list of small chores to take on for the time being and after accomplishing those, create a list of larger, long-term goals to work on. The more our minds are active and focused, the more we can accomplish and feel good about!

3. Be flexible!

Presently, there is a lot of information being shared that is either credible and from a trustworthy source, or outright inaccurate. Take a break from your research and do something lighthearted: play a game, read a book, talk to family members and friends, look up funny memes and videos. When we make life stressful, our lives become stressful. Take time to brighten your day as well!

4. Extend kindness!

If you are reading this, you must be experiencing a lot of certainty and worry right now. Imagine how your loved ones are feeling as well; think of their well-being and make sure to check in on them when you can. Even our strongest friends or family members have vulnerable moments, so make sure to let them know they are loved and appreciated.

Resources for Monitoring Stress

The #LivingWiseAndWell team are happy to continue providing more assistance regarding stress management in the midst of COVID-19! Here are some articles and resources with tips and tricks to help manage symptoms of distress. Remember that not all stress is bad, but learning these tips and implementing them when distress does happen is key to coping in a healthy way and living well:

This resource is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The article discusses ways to manage anxiety and stress during stressful events, such as the emergence of COVID-19, as well as what stress can look like for different people.

  • Stress can include changes in eating or sleeping habits, fear and worry about your health and the health of loved ones, or increased use of alcohol or drug use. It is important to remember that stress does not look the same for everyone, and each person is going to have a different stress response.
  • Some of the tips for managing stress include taking breaks from the constant news updates on television and social media, making time to unwind and do an activity that you enjoy, and trying to eat healthy well-balanced meals to take care of your body!

This article focuses on tips for managing COVID-19 anxiety based on population. There are sections in this article for everyone: parents, caregivers, mental health providers, and individuals receiving mental health services. This article stresses the importance of not only taking care of your physical well-being, but also your psychological well-being.

  • Some tips for everyone from this article include: choosing reliable sources and establishing boundaries when checking for news updates. It is important to stay well informed, but it is equally important to be getting that information from trusted and reliable sources so that the information is accurate.
  • Another tip for everyone is to find or create spaces that are not focused on COVID-19, so that your mind has time to focus on other things. This can include calling a friend and discussing a different topic, watching a comforting show or movie, or reading a favorite book.

This article from NBC News discusses populations of people who may respond more strongly to the stress of an event. These groups include people who are at higher risk for COVID-19, children and teens, health care providers or first responders, or people who have mental health conditions. This article also breaks down how to best manage stress and anxiety based on the population, which can be very helpful when searching for tips for a specific person. There are tips for adults, children and teens, as well as people who have been released from quarantine.

Make sure to look out for another post from the Counseling Department’s #LivingWiseAndWell team with specific resources for managing stress!

Content provided by:

 Matthew N. Caston, Jr., M.A., LPC
Mary Johnson, Counseling Intern
Brooke Kochevar, Counseling Intern

Canceled – Special Decade-by-Decade Look at the History of USF

This event has been canceled as a preventative measure in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Questions about this cancellation can be directed to mmurphy@stfrancis.edu.

Joliet, Ill. – As part of Women’s History Month, join the University of St. Francis (USF) on Tuesday, Mar. 24, at 2:30 p.m. for Mother Moes and the Founding of the University of St. Francis, with a special decade-by-decade recap at the school’s past. This complimentary event, one of many celebrations hosted by the university throughout 2020 in celebration of its centennial, is open to the public and will take place in San Damiano Hall, which is located in Donovan Hall/Motherhouse (520 Plainfield Road in Joliet).

The event will begin with a brief presentation about Mother Alfred Moes by USF College of Education professor Madonna Murphy, Ph.D., followed by ten different speakers who will each highlight one decade of USF history, with a special emphasis on the important women at the school during each decade. The event will close with a special performance by USF’s Schola Cantorum and a slice of centennial celebration cake.

For more information, please contact Madonna Murphy at mmurphy@stfrancis.edu.

Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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Mother Alfred Moes