On Mental Health During the Holidays

December 4, 2019

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“There must be a way to express oneself while also ensuring that others aren’t silenced, oppressed, and forgotten.” — Ryu Spaeth, on the backlash to "woke culture".
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THE STORY

While social media may suggest otherwise, mental health experts call the expectation to constantly be in the holiday spirit “unrealistic.” At this time of year, many of us face stressors like “crowds, dwindling bank accounts, and tundra-like weather,” as well as less sunlight. It’s also common to feel lonely and sad as a result of atypical family structures or the loss of family members.

Experts offer several strategies to cope with mental health struggles during the holiday season. Consider “tactfully declining” activities that feel inauthentic or draining—and if you can’t get out of them, try to leave early. It can also help to break free of tradition. For instance, decide “whether it feels more comforting to honor [a person who has died] with a tradition you once shared,” or to let go of that tradition. Other coping mechanisms include performing acts of generosity, sharing feelings of loneliness on social media, and seeking in-person or online therapy.

Our Take

We love this article because it offers a nuanced view of an often emotionally and financially stressful season. As the article mentions, putting on a false front of holiday cheer can actually make us feel worse—and acknowledging our feelings can make us feel better.

How It Affects You

If you struggle during the holiday season, consider trying some of the suggestions above and sharing them with your loved ones. If you’re trying to spread holiday cheer, think about how you can make activities and events more inclusive. For example, if you host a party, you can set aside a quiet area for your guests to wind down. And if you know someone who will be away from family during the holidays, consider inviting them to an event they might enjoy.

THE STORY

New research shows that working in college can translate into higher earnings later in life, but those benefits may depend on a student’s income level when they enter college. Low-income students—who tend to be Black or Latinx, older, and female—usually work longer hours than high-income students. While students who work fewer than 15 hours a week are likely to have higher GPAs, those who work more than that are likely to have lower ones.

On Mental Health During the Holidays

High-income students tend to get jobs that relate to their professional and academic goals. Meanwhile, low-income students “need to be able to put food on the table before they can focus on loftier ideas.” Lindsay Ahlman sums up the issue: “The type of privileges you enter college with tend to compound in college.”

OUR TAKE

Income level is an often overlooked aspect of diversity. It’s good to see that this study links income to academic performance and future earnings, along with highlighting the intersectional nature of the issue. If schools are committed to racial, gender, and age diversity, they must also consider income-level diversity to reach their goals.

How It Affects You

Nicole Smith, a co-author of the report, suggests that students should have access to financial literacy education in middle school. That way, come college, those with less “social capital” don’t shy away from loans and end up working full-time. Think of ways to optimize how your school addresses and supports students from diverse income levels. For example, you could make financial literacy resources easily available. Communicating openly about resources will also make low-income students feel more included on campus.

On Mental Health During the Holidays

THE STORY

More organizations are acknowledging that algorithms can perpetuate biases and lead to systematic discrimination. The New York City Mayor’s Office, for example, just established a senior-level position to manage its algorithms. The new officer will check for and attempt to eliminate both implicit and explicit biases in the algorithm. Mayor de Blasio says that he looks forward to welcoming an officer who will “ensure the tools we use to make decisions are fair and transparent.”

OUR TAKE

As Mayor de Blasio says, “with every new technology comes added responsibility.” We’re glad to see the city of New York taking the risks of algorithmic bias seriously. We’re also curious to know how the new officer will go about identifying biases, and how effective the position will be. Will we see a noticeable decrease in discriminatory decisions across city agencies?

How It Affects You

How might you identify and eliminate biases introduced by work tools? The Mayor’s Office plans to involve members of the public in their assessment. We think that’s a great place to start. Consider using an anonymous survey to ask employees and students about experiences of bias as a result of organizational decision-making.

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