Gift shopping, party going, seasonal decorating, card sending, turkey stuffing-it can all add up to a tense and stressful month as we head into the holiday season.
But in recognition of "National Stress-Free Family Holidays Month"-a December awareness event sponsored by the Florida-based Parenting Without Pressure organization- SIUE faculty and staff are offering some tips to keep everything merry and bright.
"Above all," said Andrew Pomerantz, assistant professor of Psychology, "schedule some personal relaxation time into the daily schedule. Don't allow the rush and the bustle of the holidays to overwhelm you to the point of not having time to find a relaxing activity or just sit and rest."
Pomerantz recommends mapping out the holiday season ahead of time to allow for organization of responsibilities. And with that, he suggests maintaining realistic expectations about what can be accomplished each day. Trying to accomplish too much in a 24-hour period only adds to the tension. "Also maintain realistic expectations for interpersonal interactions," he said.
"Some people try to see too many people or expect too much from friends and family. People don't change who they are just because it is the holidays." Another important consideration to keep in mind, Pomerantz advises, is to maintain healthy eating habits, a thought echoed by Mary Baya, coordinator of SIUE's Wellness Center. "It's so easy to over indulge because it's the holidays and there are so many special treats," she said.
"Enjoy them but do it with moderation. Take time in making choices about eating." In an effort to moderate eating and avoid those overindulgences, Baya suggests using the palm of the hand as an indicator. "The amount of food you could hold in your palm is a reliable measure of what is a healthy serving of most foods. And, vary the selection, mixing in fruits and vegetables along with the holiday sweets and goodies."
Both Baya and Pomerantz recommend thinking ahead and planning for exercise to ward off stress and extra pounds during the holidays. "If you've had a large sit-down meal, get the friends and family up from the table and go for a walk," Baya said. "Make exercise a priority during the holidays, but don't let it add to stress. That's counterproductive. But, doing something in the form of exercise is better than doing nothing at all."
One other reminder Baya has for holiday revelers: "Drink responsibly. Remember, there's absolutely no nutritional value to alcohol, and excessive drinking can pack on the pounds just as easily as overeating." Even with these precautions, the holidays can still become overwhelming. If that happens, Pomerantz recommends trying to "reframe" stressful situations, emphasizing the positives rather than the negatives.
If the problem becomes too hard to manage alone, he recommends talking with a licensed mental health professional. "Keep a sense of perspective as much as possible throughout the holidays," he said.
"Keep in mind, the holidays are to be enjoyed, not become a source of stress and unhappiness. Plan ahead to manage the pressure for a happy, healthy holiday season."
Beginning later this month, sending and receiving e-mail, in most instances, will increase in speed ninefold. Sounds Biblical, doesn't it?
In late December, SIUENet becomes part of the Illinois Century Network, an internet provider operated by the state Board of Higher Education. What this means for e-mail and web surfers on campus is a faster connection to the outside world.
According to Jay Starratt, dean of Library Information Services and associate vice chancellor for Information Technology, SIUENet had been operating since October with three T-1 connections, but next month the new DS-3 connection will equal the speed of 28 T-1 connections. "In addition to speed, joining the ICN will mean a considerable savings, especially when we move our interactive video network and video classrooms on to the system," Starratt said.
ICN was developed by upgrading and joining existing networks through the efforts of the Higher Education Technology Task Force, a committee of educators including Starratt. The task force was established by the IBHE, with support from the state's Board of Education, the Community College Board, and the Department of Central Management Services. Funding for the ICN came from the General Assembly to the tune of $25 million.
"With this new connection, e-mail correspondence or access to the web will no longer be slowed by our connection," Starratt said. "Downloading large files from off campus will be faster for the most part, and using video and audio academic sources on the web also will improve for on-campus users.
"We're constantly looking for ways to improve SIUENet by upgrading and reconfiguring it, but we're particularly pleased with this move to the ICN."
"Cementing" their claim to first place, three School of Engineering students won the American Concrete Institute's (ACI) International Concrete Cube Competition, on Oct. 31 at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
With 30 percent more strength than the second place finisher, the SIUE team's concrete cube proved to be nearly invincible, withstanding a remarkable 28,500 pounds per square inch of pressure.
Joining forces to create this "super-block" of concrete, seniors Timothy Vaughan and Christopher Freeman and junior Matthew Breeze spent much of the summer producing and testing 2-inch cubes that each weighed less than two-thirds of a pound, met the extensive rules of the competition, and could withstand high levels of compression.
Ultimately it took 80 attempts before the winning formula was finalized. "It takes some time to find the right combination of ingredients, changing one thing at a time in each attempt," said Vaughan. "You have to baby the cubes along and pamper them by curing them in water. Just finding out what curing process works best takes time," said Freeman.
The most reliable method of curing, the team found, involved the use of a refrigerator and a crock pot. Asked just what made their cube so strong, the three exchange glances before Vaughan states, "It's a top secret formula." Vaughan concedes that the formula is impractical for general concrete manufacturing-it would be prohibitively expensive in mass quantities.
"We can tell you this much," he said. "It was the use of steel fibers in the mix that helped hold the cube intact under pressure. While a team from Mexico took second place, their cube lasted only through 19,000psi. As the pressure mounted on both the SIUE team and its cube, it took an additional 9,500psi to crack it-the cube, that is, not the team.
"It was a total blow out," said Vaughan. "Our cube was even 20 percent stronger than last year's first place winner." In fact, though it lasted through 28,500psi, the SIUE cube never did explode and crumble as all the other entries eventually did. While regular concrete resists between 3,000psi and 4,000psi, the average resistance of the competition entries was 10,000psi to 12,000psi.
With 20 college and university teams from four different countries competing, Vaughan noted that the judging process is long and involved. The ACI began the competition in 1980 in an effort to teach students the mechanics of concrete and help them learn the fundamentals. A team from SIUE won that first competition, but it's been eight years since the last time an SIUE team has captured the first place prize.
"One of the things that keeps it challenging is every three years ACI changes the rules on how the cubes can be manufactured," said Luke Snell, the team's faculty advisor, School of Engineering professor, and chair of the school's Department of Construction.
For their efforts, the first place team received a $300 award and a copy of "seeMIX," a computer software program on concrete mix design, from Shilstone and Associates, a concrete consulting firm. SIUE team members also received a certificate of recognition, a one year ACI student membership, and a five-volume set of the ACI Manual of Concrete Practice for the School of Engineering's library. Breeze, Freeman, Vaughan and their cube will be featured in Concrete International magazine.
If people considering psychotherapy were aware of the negative views most psychologists have regarding managed care, would they still seek help, use their managed care benefits to pay, or expect to benefit from the therapy?
Andrew Pomerantz, assistant professor of Psychology, has found through a research study that survey participants were much less likely to enter therapy or use managed care benefits to pay for it when informed about the role managed care would play in their treatment.
Pomerantz presented his study, What If Prospective Clients Knew How Managed Care Impacts Psychologists' Practice and Ethics?-An Exploratory Study, at the American Mental Health Association (AMHA) national conference in Portland, Ore., Nov. 6. The paper is to be published in the journal, Ethics & Behavior, next summer.
Pomerantz's interest in the issue began when he read a study by three Indiana State University researchers questioning the role of managed care cost-containment measures in psychotherapy. The findings of Impact of Managed Care on Independent Practice and Professional Ethics-by Michael J. Murphy, Caren R. DeBernardo, and Wendy E. Shoemaker-were based on a survey of more than 400 private practitioners in the American Psychological Association.
The study concluded that the typical psychologist in private practice believes managed care has a very negative influence on psychotherapy. Among the negative effects psychologists cite are loss of control over clinical decisions, harm to patients due to managed care companies not maintaining confidentiality, inappropriate or insufficient treatment, pressure to alter diagnoses to ensure payment, and rejection of patients with certain diagnoses.
"What if prospective clients knew this?" asked Pomerantz. "Although therapists are aware of these problems, many clients have no idea that managed care can have such negative effects. Some mental health professionals have argued that clients should be told up front. I was interested in finding out how they would respond if they were informed."
With these concerns in mind, Pomerantz developed a survey he presented to participants drawn from the undergraduate Psychology courses at SIUE. His findings were disconcerting. "Participants in the survey were asked to consider seeing a hypothetical therapist both before and after being informed of the responses to the Indiana managed care survey," he said. "The results showed that when a participant was told of the practitioner's views toward managed care, their own attitudes toward therapy changed significantly.
"The majority of participants in the study said they were less likely to seek psychotherapy once they learned how their insurance benefits impact treatment," he said. "People tend to waver on the issue of seeking treatment in the first place. The study suggests that knowing these issues can negatively tip the balance for someone seeking therapy."
The statistical analysis demonstrated that informed participants were less inclined to expect benefits from treatment. Likewise, they were less likely to expect to form a strong working relationship or trust that the therapist would consistently work in their best interest. "Given these results, should psychologists provide their perceptions of managed care to prospective clients?" asks Pomerantz. "On the one hand, it can be argued that psychologists should not provide this type of information for a variety of reasons, including their concerns about its negative impact on the client or the therapy relationship.
"On the other, it may indeed constitute the 'significant information regarding the procedure' that is inherent in informed consent. At the very least, it seems that prospective clients should be allowed to ask questions about it.
"The results of this study suggest that when a person considers or enters therapy, the therapist may need to present information about the ways in which managed care may affect treatment in order to obtain truly informed consent," Pomerantz said. "Prospective clients, as represented in this study, feel overwhelmingly entitled to this information."
Holiday Musicales. The Department of Music is offering the 12th Annual Three Holiday Musicales house tour from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12. Participants will visit three Edwardsville homes, decorated for the holidays, where they will hear jazz, classical, and vocal music performed by SIUE music students and faculty. In addition, holiday refreshments will be served. Tickets for the event are $10; proceeds support music scholarships. For more information or to obtain tickets, call the SIUE Fine Arts box office, (618) 650-2774. Tickets also are available at TheBANK of Edwardsville or from Friends of Music members.
Holiday Presentation: The SIUE Opera Workshop will present Amahl and the Night Visitors at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, and at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, both in Lovejoy Library auditorium. Composed especially for television, Gian Carlo Menotti's one-act opera was first seen by a national audience on Christmas Eve 1951. Admission is $3. For more information, call the SIUE Department of Music, (618) 650-3900.
Holiday Theater. Season for the Child, a series featuring theater for the entire family, will present its holiday show, The Little Fir Tree, at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, in the Katherine Dunham Hall theater. The series is sponsored by the Friends of Theater and Dance and TheBANK of Edwardsville. Presented by The Imaginary Theatre Company, the professional touring ensemble of The St. Louis Repertory Theatre, The Little Fir Tree is a musical treat for children and a special holiday event to share with the entire family. Tickets for the performance are $5; proceeds benefit scholarships for SIUE theater and dance students. To order tickets, call Ext. 2774.