A holiday survival guide

UBC expert tips on making it through the merrymaking

Stay grounded in nature

Maxine Crawford is a PhD student at UBC’s Okanagan campus who researches how nature impacts our wellbeing.

“The holidays are a busy time of the year. We already have hectic lives, so holiday parties, gift-giving, travel, and family expectations add a lot of stress.

“Exposure to nature recharges your battery in a way that other things don’t. Ideally get outside. But even if you only have 20 minutes, look out a window.  Exposure to nature reduces blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol levels—all of which are linked to stress. Even little pieces of nature—like putting a poinsettia on your desk—can make a difference.”

Shopping 101: stick to the plan

Darren Dahl is a Senior Associate Dean and the Fred H. Siller Professor in Applied Marketing Research at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

“It’s important to have a plan when we go into a store. Often at Christmas we just want to buy things. It’s better to know who you’re shopping for and what you have in mind for them so that you’re not vulnerable to a store that is going to try and get you to impulse buy.

“When you go shopping, you don’t want to be too tired or hungry, and you don’t want to be having a bad day. Those feelings are going to make you more prone to spending too much money.

You want to make good decisions so that on your way home, you’re going to be happy with your purchases and you’re not going to have what we call cognitive dissonance—that sinking feeling of ‘I’ve made the wrong choice.’”

Food, food and more food

Gwen Chapman is the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems and professor of Food, Nutrition and Health.

“Food has many roles in our social lives—it is not just about nourishing our bodies, but it helps us define who we are socially and culturally. Food is important!

“To help balance the social and cultural roles with health concerns, one of the main things to watch for is how much we eat. Keep portion sizes small, and fill up on the healthier foods like fruit and vegetables.

“Many of us also think about food in relation to the well-being of our community and planet. Fortunately, many of the  ‘feast’ foods that we make and eat over the holidays are local, seasonal products—look for B.C. turkey, potatoes, carrots, cranberries, squash, turnip, and pumpkin. And remember that choosing more vegetables and fruits and cutting back a bit on animal products helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Oh Christmas Tree

Steve Mitchell is an associate professor in UBC’s Faculty of Forestry. He likes the smell of a real tree and grows his own.

“There are four types of Christmas trees to choose from: an artificial tree, a wild tree, a farmed cut tree or a farmed living tree. The most sustainable Christmas trees are wild trees harvested (with a permit) from under power lines or next to roadways. About 75 per cent of the trees produced commercially in B.C. are cut from natural stands.

“Growing trees in Christmas tree farms requires fertilizer, weed control, shearing and shipping. Transport of farmed trees accounts for 50 per cent of the carbon emissions so buy from local producers. After Christmas, cut trees are typically chipped and composted or used as biofuel; farmed living trees can be replanted if they are a native tree species that can grow in our local climate.

“Artificial trees need to be kept for 20 years for the carbon emissions to be equivalent to using natural trees, according to a life cycle analysis. The average life expectancy of an artificial tree is six years and most end up in landfills.”

Make the most out of your holiday party

Karl Aquino is the Richard Poon Professor of Organizations and Society at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

“The holidays are a good time to reflect on how you might try to reconcile relationships with co-workers with whom you might have had conflicts in the past, or where hostilities are impairing your ability to work well together. Research shows that being able to forgive past wrongs can reduce the emotional distress that people often feel when they ruminate on the harms they might have experienced from their co-workers.

“In the midst of the stresses of the holiday season, it might be helpful to take a step back and contemplate forgiveness and its capacity to promote healing and restoration.”

When a cold catches you off guard

James McCormack is a professor in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“Caught a cold but planning to entertain? Unfortunately there are no quick fixes. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) can help with pain and fever. But if you’re really sick, cancel your dinner party.

“When it is cold outside we tend to spend more time indoors and therefore we get exposed more to viruses that other people have. Avoid contact with people who are ill—wash your hands regularly. Eat well and stay active.”