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IN THIS ISSUE OF THE WELLNESS CONNECTION

INSPIRE TO MOVE - Healthy Lung Month
NOURISHING YOU - Stuffed Pepper Casserole
HEALTHY HARMONY - Know When to Get Help for Stress
GOOD DECISIONS - Improving Emotional Intelligence
EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Wellness Lessons Learned During the Pandemic Survey Report 

Feedback - SOWellness@uillinois.edu
The System Office Wellness Committee strives to cite relevant information from reputable sources. Employees should always consult with their health care provider before making any kind of health decision or change.

 
     
 

Remember to visit the refreshed System Office Wellness web page for on-demand activities that you may incorporate into your dayTake a few minutes to focus on your breathing or stretch your body and return to your to-do list with renewed energy. 

 
     
 

INSPIRE TO MOVE - Healthy Lung Month

 
 
Photo Cridit: Robina Weermeijer of Unsplash - lungs image  
 

By Colleen Crawford
October is recognized as Healthy Lung Month by the American Lung Association. Many factors contribute to lung health including air quality, infectious and chronic disease, and physical fitness. Take some time this month to learn about actions you can take to protect or improve your lung health.

Air Quality
For optimal lung health, avoid indoor and outdoor air pollutants as much as you can. This includes not smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke, as well as being aware of outdoor air quality, which can change from day to day. If your home or workplace does not have adequate airflow and ventilation, you might consider using an air purifier. On days when outdoor air pollution is high, planning indoor activities will help minimize your exposure to pollutants.

Protect Your Lungs from Disease
Prevent infections such as colds, flu, pneumonia, and others by using good hand hygiene, avoiding crowds during cold and flu season, and getting vaccinated against flu, pneumonia, and other viruses, as recommended by your healthcare provider. If you do get sick, stay home to rest and keep your distance from others to help minimize spreading germs. It is also important to maintain a regular schedule of check-ups with your healthcare professional, even if you are feeling well, so that any signs of disease may be detected before developing into a more serious issue. For those living with a chronic lung disease, such as asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, breathing exercises can help maintain lung function and allow you to breathe easier.  

Exercise for Lung Health
Heart health and physical strength are often at the forefront when considering the benefits of exercise, but the lungs also become stronger when regularly challenged with exercise. Not only will your lungs be more efficient in supplying oxygen to your body, but the muscles that support your breathing, such as your diaphragm, the muscles between your ribs, and your neck and chest muscles will also grow stronger with exercise. Regardless of your age, size, or health status, including both aerobic and strength-building physical activity in your routine will reap benefits for your lung health. Whether you embark on a structured fitness plan or simply incorporate more walking, vigorous housework, or gardening into your days, your lungs will thank you with each breath. It is important to ensure the type of exercise you are engaging in is appropriate for your current health status, so be sure to check in with your healthcare provider before starting something new.   

 
     
 

NOURISHING YOU - Stuffed Pepper Casserole

 
 
  Photo Credit: Baking Beauty.net - Stuffed pepper casserole
 

Recipe by Ben Taylor
Serves 6

Less than an hour until you need to have dinner on the table? Give this recipe a try. This hearty dish will definitely make it into your family’s rotation of favorites like it has in my home! 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (can substitute ground turkey) 
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced 
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced 
  • 1 small onion, diced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning 
  • ¼ cup tomato paste 
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked 
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes, drained 
  • 1 cup shredded Italian or mozzarella cheese  

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13” casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.  

Cook rice according to package directions. 

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown lean ground beef and onion. Drain excess fat. 

Add diced peppers and cook for approximately 4 minutes until softened, then add garlic and cook one more minute.  

Stir in tomato paste, tomatoes, and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil. Stir in rice. 

Transfer mixture to casserole dish and cover it evenly with cheese. 

Bake casserole for 25-30 minutes until heated through and cheese is melted. 

Nutrition information (serving size 1 cup): Calories 286 | Carbs 26 g | Fat 11 g | Protein 24 g 

 
     
 

HEALTHY HARMONY - Know When to Get Help for Stress

 
 
Photo Credit: Storyblocks - chewed on pencils  
 

By Jackie Billhymer
You have likely heard the phrase, “change is inevitable". Assuming this is true, then stress is also inevitable because it is our body’s natural reaction to change. Experiencing stress during change can be both positive and negative. Positive stress can occur when you start a new job, go on a first date, or buy a home. These types of situations are not risk-free – some stress is involved, but they also include excitement. Negative stress can have an effect on your mental and physical health in ways that can have serious long-term effects. It is beneficial to be able to deal with both positive and negative stress. There are a wide range of resources available to manage stress and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a great resource for managing stress.  

Recognizing the signs of stress is one of the most important steps in managing it. Signs of mental stress include feeling anxious, angry, depressed, withdrawn, or unable to focus. Physical signs of stress include headaches, muscle tension, or sleeping too much or too little. Mental Health America has a 16-question Stress Screener to help you understand how stress may be putting you at risk of having health issues.  

If you have signs of stress, there are ways to manage it. Being intentional about planning and preparation can help mitigate those feelings of angst and anxiety. Providing your body with healthy food by including a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins are an excellent way to combat stress. Creating to-do lists or preparing for a difficult conversation (e.g., rehearsing it aloud to yourself, writing it down on paper) will also reduce levels of stress. Getting plenty of exercise – walking, running, gardening, yoga, stretching – are all ways to get your body moving and take your mind off of the stress you may be feeling.   

Maybe you are more interested in relaxing with deep breathing or meditation as a way to manage stress. Check out the System Office Wellness On Demand section of our website for Box Breathing, Body Relaxation Meditation, and both desk and standing stretches.   

Stress WILL happen and it affects every one of us. When you are struggling with managing stress, it is important that you get help. Depression, anxiety, or a feeling of hopelessness are more serious signs of stress. Talk to a family member, friend, pastor, HR person, or health care provider and let them know you are struggling. Free and confidential employee assistance resources are also available through your university benefits.  

 
     
 

GOOD DECISIONS - Improving Emotional Intelligence

 
 
 
 

By Christina A. Worthington
Emotional Intelligence Awareness Month rolls around every October. This serves as an excellent mental check to determine how well we perceive our own emotions and the emotions of those around us. If you are unfamiliar with the idea of emotional intelligence, keep reading for a deeper understanding. If you feel your understanding of emotional intelligence is high, browse some of the resources included in this article to see if you can improve it even further!

What is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence, sometimes known as emotional quotient, is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions while considering the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence can generally be broken down into three categories:

  1. Emotional awareness – identifying emotions in one’s self or others
  2. Emotional redirection – harnessing and applying emotions to tasks such as critical thinking
  3. Emotional regulation – ability to change emotion in one’s self or others

How can I understand my emotional intelligence? Though there are a number of tests and factors that can help identify your emotional intelligence, the Harvard Business Review has developed a short quiz to learn where your emotional intelligence levels lie. The quiz, Do You Lead with Emotional Intelligence?, evaluates you on five different emotional intelligence competency scales. Each scale then provides suggestions on how to strengthen the skill.

How can I improve my emotional intelligence? Glad you asked! Even if your emotional intelligence level is high, there is always room for improvement. LinkedIn Learning provides a variety of courses, including Developing Your Emotional Intelligence, Communicating with Emotional Intelligence, and Improving Emotional Intelligence with Mindfulness. If video courses are not your preferred method of learning, there are plenty of other ways to improve. Try journaling to reflect on your emotions and how you process them or plan to do a 360-degree assessment with a trusted manager, colleagues, and/or peers to discover your strengths and areas for improvement.

 
     
 

EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Wellness Lessons Learned During the Pandemic Survey Report

 
 
Photo Credit: Lukas Blazek of Unsplash - Computer showing data  
 

This month the employee spotlight is a report on the Wellness Lessons Learned During the Pandemic survey we conducted in July. We are excited to be able to share this information with you and continue this conversation in the weeks and months to come. We want to thank everyone who participated in the survey and look forward to using your feedback as we make future decisions on staff wellness initiatives.   

By Seth Yoder
Over the summer the System Office Wellness Committee conducted “lessons learned during the pandemic” survey in an effort to develop a better understanding around the potential impact the pandemic may have had on the overall wellness of System Office staff. The survey was designed to collect information on two topics: work/life balance and overall wellness. The questions primarily focused on comparing and contrasting these topics pre- and post-pandemic. In this report the survey team would like to share some key findings and how the System Office Wellness Committee intends to act upon this information.

System Office Wellness Survey Team

Seth Yoder, Jackie Billhymer, Regina Harrington, Andrew Helregel, Colleen Crawford, Lydia Schillinger, Christina Worthington, and Lorraine Graham

Methodology

After developing a draft of the survey, it was reviewed by the entire System Office Wellness Committee and members of System HR. Upon approval, the survey was distributed to all System Office staff via email. The survey was open for two weeks from July 7th through July 21st, 2021 and received 215 responses out of 909 potential participants for a response rate of 23.6%. With the breakdown of survey participants predominantly working from home, the results focus on the remote work environment. Below is a list of the key findings from the survey results.

Key Findings

  • 202 of 215 survey respondents (93.9%), indicated their workplace during the pandemic was “home”.
  • 159 of 215 survey respondents (73.9%), indicated that their work/life balance either improved or significantly improved during the pandemic, with “enjoying no commute” most frequently indicated (30) as the primary factor contributing to the improvement of work/life balance.
  • 126 of 215 survey respondents (58.6%), indicated that their overall wellness either improved or significantly improved during the pandemic. “Increased physical activity”(18) and “improved mental wellness/mindfulness” (13) were the primary factors indicated as contributing to the improvement of overall wellness. Conversely, while 40 respondents indicated no change, 49 (22.7%) reported overall wellness either reduced or significantly reduced. “Decreased physical activity” (14) and “poor mental health/anxiety/depression/stress/overwhelmed” (10) were the primary factors indicated in the reduction of overall wellness.
  • The top three benefits related to health and wellness experienced during the pandemic were:
    • Better health choices: eating, meditation, exercise, sleep (143)
    • More time for things that matter: friends, family, pets, other (112)
    • Improved mental health: reduced stress/anxiety (77)
  • The top three challenges related to health and wellness experienced during the pandemic were:
    • Finding balance; working more and not knowing when to turn work off (88)
    • Decreased social interaction/isolation (83)
    • Poor health choices (79)

Next Steps

The System Office Wellness Committee recognizes that while University of Illinois System Office staff either work remote, hybrid, or in-person, it is important to acknowledge the feedback provided in this survey. One way the Wellness Committee can deliver on that mission is to provide education, resources, and support around how to make better health choices regardless of work environment. This will be accomplished by drawing upon the positive experiences and successes reported in order to address the identified challenges. The Wellness Committee will continue to offer wellness campaigns that strive to get more staff physically active and in tune with their mental wellbeing, while offering online and on-demand resources. The Wellness Committee values all of the feedback from this survey and will use it to plan for health and wellness activities in the coming year. 

 
 
Save the Date
 
 

On October 26 from 12:30-1:30pm we invite you to join us for the next installment of the System Office Wellness Lecture Series. The upcoming lecture will be delivered by Bethany Bilyeu, the Executive Director of the UIS Counseling Center and Health Services. In her lecture she will cover some of the topics that emerged from the Wellness Lessons Learned During the Pandemic Survey as well as other topics staff should pay attention to as we continue to navigating work and life during the pandemic. Keep your eye out for an invitation to this informative lecture in the coming days.