Tag Archives: holiday season

UT Colleges As Pie Flavors

We all know the holiday season is right around the corner, which practically means it’s the season for pie. Whether you’re staying in Austin or going home for the holiday season, find out which pie you are based on the college you’re in at UT!

Cockrell School of Engineering – Apple Pie

Photo Courtesy Mary Nikitina

What is more classic than apple pie? You love tradition and familiarity. You see the value in what works — like math.

Moody College of Communication – Pecan Pie

Photo Courtesy Roman Odinstov

You’re a classic. Like the pies that drip with sugar, you are sweet to everyone you come across. Your smile and persona can be quite infectious. You’re that one person that people love to see walk into a room.

School of Architecture – Sweet Potato Pie

This pie is characterized by strength. Its constant comparison in looks to pumpkin pie shows that you are different and have something to offer.

College of Liberal Arts – Cherry Pie

Cherries can be sweet or tart. You definitely have a little bit of an attitude but in a good way. You stand up for what you believe in and don’t let other people push you around.

Photo Courtesy Mister Mister

College of Natural Sciences – Lemon Meringue Pie

Photo Courtesy Geraud Pfeiffer

Just like this pie, you’re ambitious. When you set your mind to something you never give up no matter how many times you fail.

College of Fine Arts – Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Photo Courtesy Valeria Boltneva

This pie has bold qualities and its popularity is prided on its uniqueness. You definitely think outside the box and embrace change from modern conformity.

McCombs School of Business – Chocolate Silk

Photo Courtesy Marta Dzedyshko

Chocolate silk is rich and smooth at the same time. You have a knack for looking like a million bucks. You demand nothing but the best, and your friends always look to you as the leader in the group because of your bold nature.

Steve Hicks School of Social WorkBanana Cream Pie

This pie is almost as genuine as you! You always look for the positives in life. And you constantly find yourself putting others’ needs before yours.

College of Education – Key Lime Pie

This pie is full of personality. You’re a natural leader and trust your gut. You love staying busy and keeping yourself on your toes like the bold flavor of this pie.

School of Information – Blackberry Pie

Photo Courtesy Nataliya Vaitkevich

You don’t necessarily stand out in a crowd even though you have so much to offer. You’re a great friend but most people don’t appreciate you the way you should be appreciated.

College of Pharmacy – Sugar Cream Pie

You are constantly slept on. Just like this pie you are filled with sweetness, but are sometimes dismissed for what people see as a lack of creativity.

School of Nursing – Pot Pie

Are you even a pie? Yes, apparently. You’re used to being called a STEM imposter, but you deserve some credit. So own up to the fact you are still considered a pie.

Jackson School of Geosciences – Pumpkin Pie

Photo Courtesy of Karolina Grabowska

You’re a classic..but sometimes considered a homebody. Fall is probably your favorite season and you love sitting at home comfied up in your favorite blanket watching TV.

Regardless of what pie is associated with your major, make sure you treat yourself this holiday season with something sweet because you deserve it!

Christmas Without Santa

Everyone’s favorite time of the year has finally arrived! Christmas, a time with beautiful lights, cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies, and Mariah Carey reclaiming her “Queen of Christmas” crown once again. Yet, especially for children, it’s also a time of approaching the day of the 25th, where the magical Santa Claus enters your home, eats a questionable amount of sweets, and brings toys for all the little children across the world. Many can agree that the big man with the beard is iconic, yet many can also concur that this fictional figure and the holiday itself is highly commercialized. With every passing year, this jolly holiday has unfortunately become a profitable frenzy.  From getting your lights and decorations out as soon as possible to any store business taking the opportunity to establish “Crazy Sales”, Christmas has transformed Santa Claus simply into a logo who carries a coke bottle as well as merely an encouragement to buy what you desire. This leads to an intriguing question; Can one have Christmas without Santa Claus?

Well, certainly yes, it’s indeed possible and I should know that because as a child, I was told that he didn’t exist. To elaborate, no, I was not deprived of a childhood and banned from believing, but due to financial troubles, we couldn’t afford to have that many gifts. In my household, my single mother was balancing between two jobs and taking care of 5 children, leading to not being able to have the joy of waking up to many toys. Yet, I always have been thankful to never have had that privilege as not only has it humbled me but it as well as allowed my family to develop our own merry little Christmas. As my siblings and I began to grow up, we started to give each other little gifts that focused on sentimental value. Before being able to get jobs and make money, we would give one another handmade gifts (i.e. My sister loved making jewelry and I loved writing poetry or drawing pictures) or offer to do each other chores for a week or so by giving little “home coupons.” Although gifts weren’t as extravagant in my household growing up, we would take advantage of having our mother not working by having our own little Christmas party. We would drink hot chocolate and eat food in our pajamas, spending the whole holiday watching “A Christmas Story” on its’ 24 hour marathon, seeing who can last the longest (I usually win). These small traditions continued on till this day, allowing me to truly see that Christmas is a time of family, and appreciating all you have.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This holiday has also allowed me to see that the value of gratitude is important. Growing up, I started to help out in my community to those have also been unfortunate in the holiday season. Doing so has enabled me to truly focus on the real meaning of Christmas, which is to bring goodwill to all people, especially those in need. So, how can one be able to give a little holiday spirit? Well, one can donate toys and other gifts to organizations such as Orange Santa (A UT based tradition), Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, or any toy drive at a local market/shopping mall. Rather than gift giving, one can also go into their local nursing home or women’s shelter and simply spend your time making their day a little special by caroling, giving food, and other good deeds.

Amanda Landa, author, Christmas 2002.

Overall, although Christmas has been about gift giving, it’s also about giving your time and grace to others. Have a Happy Holidays!

Want to help out this holiday season? Here’s more information on the following;

Orange Santa: https://orangesanta.utexas.edu/

Toys For Tots: https://www.toysfortots.org/

St. Jude’s: https://www.stjude.org/give

Salvation Army :https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/ways-to-give/

Featured image courtesy of Jill Wellington from Pixabay

New Traditions to Richen Your Holiday Season

As the sun stirs into another cold morning, the holiday season can be felt in the air. Business’ fill their stores with red wreaths and lace green garland along their tables. Tiny lights are wrapped around trees and the charming ring of a bell excites the hearts of people young and old. Carols, cookies and community fill you with warmth and gratitude. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year spent with family, friends and full stomachs. But before you know it trees that were once trimmed are taken down, and the warm crackling of a fire turns to ashes. In the blink of an eye, the holiday magic disappears.

For many people, traditions make the holiday season richer and slower. Whether it is baking grandma’s famous cookies the night before Christmas, or buying a new ornament to decorate the tree traditions add to all the enchantment. If you are looking to delve deep into the holiday cheer this winter, here are some traditions to begin with family, friends and loved ones. 

Make Festive Food, Ciders and Desserts

Cooking is a great way to have fun with your loved ones and start a new tradition or family recipe. Cooking is also a great way to incorporate your family’s individual culture into the holidays.

Deck the Halls and Decorate 

Decorations enhance the Christmas magic more than anything. Make decorating an event in your household. Invite over friends, play Christmas carols and make your home festive. Also consider homemade decor options to spend more time creating with loved ones. 

Give Back 

The holiday season is also a time of reflection. Many families chose this time of the year to express gratitude for one another through gifts and service. Make it a tradition in you family to buy toys for children in hospitals, donate to the homeless or give gifts to your neighbors. 

Have Cozy Nights In

Make a festive Christmas cider, like wassail, and host your loved ones at your house. Put on your favorite Hallmark Christmas movie and start a fire. Share laughs, hugs and quality time with your family.

Go See Christmas Lights

Christmas lights and Christmas decor can be elaborate and impressive. Go see a light show local Christmas light show and take pictures of all the beauty.

Holiday traditions are unique and special ways to make this season full of  joy, gratitude and love. Be creative with your traditions and celebrate with people you love because it isn’t about what you do, it’s about who you do it with.

Featured image courtesy of : Creative Commons; “Christmas Tale” by Alexandr Ignatiev

What To Do About Holiday Blues

Ah, Christmas; the most wonderful (chaotic) time of the year. We blast carols the whole month of December as the days grow shorter, consumerism skyrockets, and the pressure of social gatherings thickens. On top of that, for students, finals loom over the horizon. Term papers, group projects, and that honors thesis are all due in less than a week. By the time Christmas rolls around, most of us haven’t even caught our breath in time to appreciate the holiday. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This time of year can also pain us for a variety of other reasons. Perhaps we just lost someone dear to us, or we struggle with a mental illness. Some of us may be international students separated from our families for the holidays, or we might be dealing with a tough financial situation. Whatever the case may be, although we’re dreaming of white Christmas, we may be experiencing a blue one. 

So, what do we do?

Maybe we should practice some self care; take a small break from all the commotion, a quick pause from the endless rush of life. But this time around, a cup of tea and a hot bath don’t seem like they’re going to cut it.

Kathryn Redd, an associate director at the University of Texas at Austin’s Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC), has a different perspective on self care. She debunks the generalization of self care as a cure-all and offers an alternate perspective.

“There’s times when going to the gym and eating enough fruits and vegetables is not going to help if I get the flu; it’s not going to help if I break a bone,” Redd said. “I think the same is true for mental health. Putting in place a practice to keep ourselves mentally well is fantastic. And then there are times when that’s not enough or it’s not the right thing in that moment. So like taking a bath is not going to cure depression.”

If self care is just a supplementary practice, then what should we do if our situation becomes more severe? Redd suggests visiting a therapist or a psychiatrist, but the solution isn’t the same for everyone. Sometimes, it’s enough to simply be mindful of what changes we may need to make in our lives. 

“Not everyone needs to see a therapist… it’s not the cure for everything,” Redd said. “Reflect on yourself and your life experience and recognize when you need to switch routes.”

Maybe we need to have an honest conversation with ourselves before we gear up for the holidays. The pressure to plaster on a smile can make it difficult to face the truth of our situation; we want to put on a happy face for the benefit of those around us. The expectation that Christmas has to be a happy time, however, is extremely toxic.

“The holidays can be really hard for people because I think there’s this pressure to be happy and jolly and jovial but that’s not always the reality,” Redd said.

It’s important to accept other emotions that may arise during the holidays, whether they be grief, sadness, frustration, anger, etc. By giving ourselves permission to feel these emotions, rather than suppressing them, we have the opportunity to find closure, experience catharsis, or simply gain self acceptance. After all, there’s nothing wrong with feeling these emotions.

“It’s not the emotions that are bad, in themselves they are neutral, it’s what we do with those emotions,” Redd explains. 

So what if we channel these emotions in a more constructive way?

“I tend to think one of the things that embodies the Christmas spirit is giving, like sharing time with others and giving of yourself,” Redd said. “One of the things we know that is actually also beneficial for mental health is volunteering. You don’t have to feel it- Maybe the goal isn’t to get into the holiday spirit; maybe the goal is to use yourself in a way that benefits others.”

Zoe Sugg, one of my favorite YouTubers, encompasses this giving spirit through her annual VlogMas series. Unlike previous years, on December 1st, Zoe did not put out a video to kickstart her daily vlogs in December leading up to Christmas Day. On December 2nd, she decided to record a precursor to her Vlogmas series explaining why.

“Recently I’ve just not been feeling great mental health wise, and what’s annoying is that I didn’t really want to say that,” Sugg explained.

As a YouTuber who so passionately represents holiday cheer as an integrated part of her brand, Sugg felt ashamed of her struggle during the holidays.

“Everyone knows how much I love Christmas; I can’t start a Vlogmas crying into the abyss,” she said.

However, instead of shoving these emotions under the rug, she took the opportunity to advocate for mental health and express some truths that are consistent with Redd’s advice.

“It’s far more common than you think; 1 in 4 people have mental health issues. Vlogmas isn’t always going to be twinkly lights and smiley, happy faces. It might be, sometimes… but this is my real life and I didn’t start Vlogmas yesterday because I just had a really awful day. I needed that day to do nothing and cry a bit,” Sugg said.

As Redd suggested, what helped Sugg feel better is to give some of her time for others.

“I know how much Vlogmas means to a lot of people, and I know for the people that are having a crappy day, whatever I upload is what makes you feel better. I think filming will make me feel better… sometimes filming makes me feel better.”

For some people, the theme of giving is an effective way to navigate the holiday blues. But the solution is different for everyone.

“What helps me cut through the chaos is to say what’s important about this time? For me it’s important to spend time with my family and it’s important to have experiences together,” Redd said. “What is the theme for you of the holiday season? What’s the word or the theme that you can really rally around? That’s what you hold on to; just let all the other stuff fade away.”

If you are feeling stressed this holiday season, here are a few resources:

UT Counseling & Mental Health Center: https://cmhc.utexas.edu/

24/7 Crisis Hotline (UT Students Only): 512-471-2255

Navigating the Holidays and Mental Health (our article & guide): http://www.burntx.com/2019/12/06/navigating-the-holidays-and-mental-health/

Image by Annie Spratt from Pixabay

Navigating the Holidays and Mental Health

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, family, friends, and giving. Although everyone has their own unique traditions, one common theme in most all celebrations involves food. Food is essential to nourishing our bodies- something we all know- but it is easier said than done to pick and enjoy foods for those who struggle with body image, eating disorders, exercise compulsions, anxiety, depression, and other mental health diagnoses. The following guide is designed to help those who personally struggle with the things listed above or for their loved ones seeking to support them.

First, Debunking the Myths

There is an abundance of myths that are associated with food and/or mental illness. These misunderstandings are often highlighted by our culture. Winter break barely begins before gyms are advertising their New Year’s resolution discounted plans and new diets are springing up on social media. Myths surrounding food, exercise, body image, and mental health are not always commonly known and can be detrimental to your or your loved one’s health when navigating the holidays. The following are a few common myths and the truth behind them.

#1: Carbohydrates are Bad

Each macronutrient does something important for our bodies. This includes carbs! Carbohydrates are converted to glucose in our bodies. Glucose is the main fuel! Without carbs, you aren’t fueling your brain. Carbs are often depicted as the enemy, whether it’s a Keto diet ad on Pinterest or a weight loss video on Youtube. Low-carb diets are even changing our restaurants, with most now being able to swap out buns for either low-carb or carb-free options. As an individual ages and/or with certain medical conditions, the body may need more/less carbs for optimal function. That being said, for the average young adult carbs are not the bad guy and are no different on Christmas or Hanukkah than any other day of the year.

#2: Exercising Should be Everyone’s New Year’s Resolution

This myth comes in many forms. Whether you personally jump on the diet train every year only to “fail” or “give up” a few weeks in, notice the constant gym advertisements during the holidays, or believe that everyone would be better off if they started working out- it’s important for you to hear this. Exercising when done in a balanced way isn’t an issue, but not everyone needs to be picking up a membership come January. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 90-95% of college students that are diagnosed with an eating disorder have a gym facility they belong to. Additionally, there is a major link between exercise compulsion and various forms of eating disorders. The fact is, exercising is not helpful for all people to do at all points in their life. Even if you are someone who does not have an eating disorder, if the gym is not mentally helpful for you, seek help and pair down the workout sessions. No weight goal is worth being mentally unfit. 

#3: The Holidays are Joyous to All

While I hope everyone who reads this loves the holidays and has an amazing time celebrating, the fact is that the holidays simply aren’t amazing for everyone. Individuals who have anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and other mental health diagnoses can struggle during this time. Also, the holidays can bring up memories and loss for those who have lost loved ones. It’s important to spread kindness and empathy during this time. If someone seems more bummed out, stressed, or just not themselves- reach out or lend an ear without judgement. It can go a long way to be understanding. 

#4: People Should Always be Able to Help Themselves

In an ideal world, we would all be perfectly healthy and happy. This isn’t an ideal world! Helping others is a part of being human and, although you may not know everything about what someone is going through, trying to be empathetic and helpful goes a long way. If you are struggling and feel guilty for not being able to do it on your own, here is your sign that you don’t have to. Therapists, friends, family, doctors, and even online resources all are here to help you. Feelings of sadness, guilt, pain, and anxiety shouldn’t be dealt with alone just as joy is rarely celebrated solo. We don’t get to choose every experience or emotion that comes our way. People cannot always “sleep it off” or “just go get help” because our minds and feelings are much more complex. Knowing that you deserve help and/or people can’t always fly solo will help you help others and yourself.

Coping Skills & Advice

Set Boundaries Ahead of Time

No matter what or who you’re worried about, setting boundaries ahead of time can help you speak up without feeling awkward or guilty in the moment. Know that you have the right to be treated with respect and the right to not feel guilty for asking for it. If you need to set a boundary with someone you’re close to, ask to talk in person and make sure to have an idea of what to say beforehand so you can keep the communication open and not one sided. If the person on the receiving end feels attacked or off guard, they may not be as receptive. Here’s an example of what you can do if you were setting a boundary about body comments with a family member:

“Hey (insert name), I wanted to talk to you about something. I’m excited to be off of school and home with you for the holidays and wanted to let you know that I’d rather not hear any comments regarding by body the next few weeks. They just aren’t helpful to me and, even when they’re well intended, I get anxious because of them. I just want to enjoy the break and spend quality time with everyone without worrying about my appearance or what others are thinking. Thank you for being understanding.”

The example above is a simple example that can be altered and/or used as a guide for setting a boundary with someone close to you. Keeping it focused on “I” statements allows the other person to not feel as though you’re attacking them but also clearly expresses how you feel. Mentioning the good things you’re excited for, happy about, and okay with are all ways to bring positivity into the conversation. Maybe a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or grandparent has a history of saying and bringing up things that aren’t helpful to your mental health. Whether it is about a past event, food, appearance, or even a huge exam right around the corner- it is okay to set a boundary ahead of time. If it is someone you do not know as well, even creating some distance (i.e. not sitting next to them at holiday dinner) is a less involved way to set a boundary, Chances are you’ll feel better for doing it. 

Have a Plan

Depending on the severity of the trigger or thing that is bothering you, it is a good idea to have a plan written down before you anticipate exposure to the unpleasant experience. While a handwritten plan is helpful because it gives you something tangible in that moment, it is also okay to use your phone notes. Include things that are specific to you such as what emotions and events usually lead to your needing of a plan (warning signs), list of five things that make you happy or are enjoyable that you can either do or think about, a place you can go to (if applicable, ex: Lucky Lab) that makes you relaxed, two to three people you can talk to, and one thing that is worth living for or your greatest value. Having a plan in advance to look back on during a troubling time can be helpful in pulling yourself out of it. It can also be a good tool to share with family/support system if you are comfortable. If you have a therapist, dietitian, psychiatrist, or other professional you can ring, write their number down as well.

Self-Care Before, During, and After

Self-care should be a part of your daily life, even if it is in small ways! Especially if the holidays are a challenging time for you, try and incorporate self-care before, during, and after a hard days or events. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be extravagant- listening to your favorite song, petting your dog, calling a long-distance friend, taking a bath, and even taking a nap are all examples of self-care. Find things that work for you and do them regularly. If you need something a little more or want to break your self-care cycle, invite your mom to get mani-pedis or go see a movie by yourself or with your closest friend. Write down a few of your go-to ideas so they can be easily remembered if you’re having a rough day.

For Support Systems: Being Understanding

Support systems for those with mental illness or going through a particularly hard time are extremely important, but it isn’t always easy to know what to do or say. Slipping up can be embarrassing and do more harm than good, but saying nothing at all can also be hurtful. As a supporter you may also feel some of their pain, too. Here is some advice.

Not Sure? Ask.

You can’t help if you don’t know how to help. Asking your loved one ahead of time what best supports them, what they need from you, or what does not help are all topics to get you started. Talking about it ahead of time is the easiest way and chances are anxiety/tension will not be as high, but asking in the moment is also okay. Don’t expect yourself to know everything or do everything perfectly, but also be sure to ask. Here’s an example:

“Hey (insert name), I wanted to ask you what I can do to help your anxiety this week. Let me know if there are things I can do or say ahead of time or in the moment to support you.”

Depending on your relationship, you might be doing better or know more than you think you do.

Get Educated

If your loved one has a mental illness, get educated about it! If your only exposure and education has been by them or pop culture, chances are you still have a ways to go. Movies, fictional books, and television often sensationalize issues and miss out on key details and if you only know about things through your loved one, chances are you’re still missing out on valuable information. Look up trustworthy websites, articles, books, and podcasts. Learning about someone’s mental illness not only shows that you care but it can also help you just by learning more about it. Here are a few resources to get you started:

Eating Disorders: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org, Life Without Ed and/or Goodbye Ed, Hello Me by Jenni Schaeffer, and @laurathomasphd on Instagram.

Anxiety: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtmlAnxiety Happens by John P. Forsyth, PhD and Georg H. Eifert, PhD, and @anxiety_wellbeing on Instagram.

Depression: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtmlhttps://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/helping-someone-with-depression.htm

PTSD: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtmlhttps://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/helping-someone-with-ptsd.htm

Listen Without Judgement

Although it can be hard to not have your own opinions and judgements, it is a critical part of being in someone’s support system. You may want to practically shake someone who is insistent that their body isn’t beautiful or who doesn’t want to get out of bed, but they are having their own experiences in their own life/body. Listening without judgement does not mean you cannot offer them help or advice- and you should always intervene when you think they may harm themselves- but being empathetic is an important skill to being a good listener. Instead of “Just get out of bed! You can’t be that miserable,” try something like, “Is there anything I can do or anything you would like to talk about? If you would like to be alone, maybe you could help me make cookies/run an errand/etc. later. I’d love to have you.” If they aren’t in the mood to talk you can always sit next to them and read a book or bring them their favorite beverage and exit the room. Showing you care is usually not forcing your opinions and judgements onto someone else- even when it is difficult. When talking to them about how they are feeling, ask questions and show support. Ask for clarification, what they need from you, and if your responses are helpful to them. Don’t be offended if they aren’t! It is a learning process and some days are different than others. Being a good listener is a key to being a good supporter, but even this skill may take time. 

Final Thoughts

The holidays can be the best of times and the worst of times. Understanding and having plans, boundaries, and empathy for yourself is vital to ensuring that your time off goes as smooth as possible. For loved ones, non-judgmental communication and education are essential to making sure you are the best supporter you can be. Still, no matter who you are in the relationship at any given time, self-care should be a part of your life so you can keep taking care of yourself. These tips are by no means a comprehensive list but should be a step in the right direction. Here’s to taking care of ourselves and those we love this holiday season.

Featured Image Art Courtesy of Courtney Smith.