Experts: 2021 Holiday Season

Published: 20 December 2021

The McGill Media Relations Office suggests the following sources for your holiday stories:

Exercise and staying active | Giving back | Mental health |  New Year's resolutions and goals | Safer holidays |Sustainable tree shoppingTraveling during the Holidays |

Exercise and staying active

Steven Grover, Full Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Internal Medicine

“There is increasing evidence that the social isolation surrounding the pandemic has led to more stress, anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality, weight gain, and sedentary behaviour. Regular exercise has been consistently proven to be a highly effective therapy to both prevent and treat these health conditions. Accordingly, exercising daily is arguably among the most important treatments available to improve our physical and mental health during the pandemic, and all year long.”

Steven Grover is a Full Professor in the Department of Medicine and the Director of the Comprehensive Health Improvement Program. His research focuses on the importance of exercise, healthy eating, and other lifestyle interventions to improve health, as well as on digital, e-health interventions using web-based platforms.

steven.grover [at] (English, French)

Giving back

Hillary Kaell, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and School of Religious Studies

"The holiday season is characterized by a major yearly spike in North American giving. It's a key time to reflect on the history of how and why we give to charity and what kinds of organizations we often support. The holidays are also the most obvious time when North America's majority religion – Christianity – shapes our public culture. Christianity has a deep influence on our society's norms, perspectives, and laws, though it often goes unrecognized or labelled as 'secular'. Understanding this history, including the history of many public holidays, can help us better know our culture and potentially address inequities."

Hillary Kaell is an Associate Professor cross-appointed to the Department of Anthropology and the School of Religious Studies, where she specializes in the history and practice of Christianity in North America. Much of her work uses material and sensory studies to examine aspects of capitalism, consumption, and monetization, for example in tourism, heritage creation, or charitable corporations. She also has an abiding interest in how U.S. Christians foster real and imagined connections with symbolically resonant sites faraway, such as the Holy Land or the Global Church.

hillary.kaell [at] (English, French)

Eric Latimer, Full Professor, Department of Psychiatry

The rising cost of housing is also a cause of homelessness. The supply of apartments at the bottom end of the quality spectrum needs to be increased – developers have been mainly focusing instead on higher-end condos because that’s where they can make the most money. The government’s recently announced plan to end the Accès-Logis program and instead subsidize the construction of so-called affordable housing in the private sector is good in one respect, in that it has the potential to increase the supply of lower-cost apartments, which in turn will help to keep rents down. But people with low incomes are likely to need additional help to be able to live in these apartments.

Eric Latimer is a Full Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Director of the Mental Health and Society Research Program at the Douglas Research Centre. A health economist, his research interests focus on community-based supports for people with severe mental illness, particularly their economic aspects.

eric.latimer [at] (English, French)

Daiva Nielsen, Assistant Professor, School of Human Nutrition

Food insecurity is a complex issue characterized by an inability to access a sufficient quantity or variety of food due to financial constraints. During the holiday season, households that experience food insecurity may face heightened challenges and anxiety around obtaining food. It may be more difficult for these households to use food to uphold traditions and share meals with loved ones. Making donations to or volunteering with local organizations that aim to support the less fortunate may help to make the holiday period less difficult and more enjoyable for those who face food insecurity.”

Daiva Nielsen is an Assistant Professor in the School of Human Nutrition. She is currently leading a study to compare household food procurement experiences across different regions in Quebec, including those more affected by COVID-19.

daiva.nielsen [at] (English)

Mental health

Tina Montreuil, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational & Counselling Psychology

“Over the holidays, chronic and persistent uncertainty can drain our cognitive resources which can lead to more generalized physical exhaustion and eventual mental breakdown. Omicron has the potential to further challenge our ability to tolerate uncertainty, which is a critical factor in a resilient mindset and general sense of well-being. As a way of responding to ongoing adversity, it is important to continue relying on key coping strategies such as acceptance, tolerance, and self-care.”

Tina Montreuil is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational & Counselling Psychology and an Associate Member of the Department of Psychiatry. Her research focuses on investigating the role of emotion regulation, attitudes, and beliefs on the development and intergenerational transmission of psychopathology and how symptoms of mental health problems might interfere with self-regulated learning in a group context and ultimately, educational achievement.

tina.montreuil [at] (English, French)

New Year's resolutions and goals

Richard Koestner, Full Professor, Department of Psychology

We are nearing the 2nd year anniversary of the onset COVID-19 pandemic and most of us are anxious about the continued uncertainty regarding when we will be able to return to our previous lives. Given this uncertainty (and a high level of fatigue), many of us will struggle to use the holiday period to make goals for the new year. Although difficult in the present context, it is important for us to make new goals because this is how we give direction, meaning and hope to our lives. I recommend two kinds of goals this year – ones that provide order and structure to our daily routines (e.g., re-establishing boundaries between work and leisure) and ones that focus on making sure we satisfy our fundamental human needs. What we really need right now are social goals that enhance our connections to other individuals, groups, and communities.

Richard Koestner is a Full Professor in the Department of Psychology and the head of the McGill Human Motivation Lab. For more than 30 years, he has been conducting research on goal-setting, self-regulation and internalization processes.

richard.koestner [at] (English)

Safer holidays

Matthew Oughton, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases

"Widespread use of approved vaccines for COVID-19 have made gatherings this Christmas safer than a year ago. However, risks of disease transmission remain, particularly for the unvaccinated and incompletely vaccinated. Fewer gatherings, smaller gatherings, outdoor settings, and limiting gatherings to those who are fully vaccinated are all ways of making holiday get-togethers safer and more relaxing for all."

Matthew Oughton is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine and a specialist in infectious diseases and medical microbiology. He is based at the Jewish General Hospital, where he supervises the bacteriology and molecular microbiology laboratories. His research interests are focused on the use of molecular techniques to improve clinical diagnostic assays, with relevant publications on C. difficile, MRSA, influenza, and other pathogens.

matthew.oughton [at] (English)

Sustainable tree shopping

David Wees, Faculty Lecturer, Department of Plant Science

Real Christmas trees look nicer, smell nicer and can be ‘greener’ than artificial trees (which are often made from fossil fuels). However, if the thought of killing a tree for a few weeks of indoor decoration makes one squeamish, consider using just branches of spruce or fir instead of a whole tree. Alternatively, you could take a more radical approach and decorate a potted green plant like a jade plant or a Norfolk pine: they last much longer than cut trees and are just as green.”

David Wees is Faculty Lecturer in the Department of Plant Science and the Associate Director of the Farm Management and Technology Program. He teaches courses in all aspects of horticulture: vegetable production, fruit production, greenhouses, urban horticulture and landscaping.

david.wees [at] (English, French)

Traveling during the Holidays

John Gradek, Faculty Lecturer, School of Continuing Studies

The 2021 holiday season will be remembered as one that started off with great promise for family get-togethers, gatherings with friends and the potential for long-delayed travel, with airlines offering both capacity and services to accommodate this pent-up demand. With the Omicron variant spreading world-wide and the return of severe health restrictions in many jurisdictions, anxiety and concern has dampened the travel spirit. As the world adjusts to dealing with the COVID-19 endemic, Canadian aviation will need to adjust both its holiday operating plans and beyond to limit financial risk yet be ready to deal with renewed demand.”

John Gradek is lecturing in the Diploma program in Integrated Aviation Management as well as in both the certificate and diploma programs of Supply Chain Management, Logistics and Operations Management. He has held senior roles at Air Canada in operations, marketing and planning and has worked in the development and the delivery of commercial airline management programs for the International Aviation Management Training Institute.

john.gradek [at] (English, French)

Back to top