Emory Report
December 10, 2007
Volume 60, Number 14

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December 10, 2007
How to make the season healthy, merry and bright

By elizabeth elkins

December can quickly become one of the busiest, most stressful times of the year. Here are a few ways to successfully navigate the season, keeping heart, health and the world around you intact.

Remember the environment
Atlanta and much of the Southeast is in the throes of an exceptional drought. While that may mean you’ll be paying more for a Christmas tree, it more importantly should be a constant reminder of the need to honor our environment and live each day with sustainability in mind. Georgia’s power plants are ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the nation for greenhouse gas pollution, and have remarkably high outputs of ozone and mercury that have a measurable local public health impact.

“This is very sobering in light of the holidays. But you can make a difference in a very simple way: reduce, reuse, recycle,” explains Ciannat Howett, director of the Office of Sustainability Initiatives.

Howett offers these pointers to make your holidays eco-friendly:

• Avoid purchasing petroleum-based products (plastics).

• Make purchases from local sources, such as farmer’s markets.
• Take your own tote bag when you’re holiday shopping.

• Give “experiences” as gifts — things that don’t require consumption, such as tickets to the theater or movie passes.

• Shop at vintage and antique stores.

• Recycle your Christmas tree (visit www.earth911.org for a recycler near you).

• Purchase LED holiday lights, which are 90 percent more energy efficient. If you’re not using LED lights, minimize the time your lights are on.

• If you purchase electronics, consider how much that product increases your power consumption. Consider offsetting that consumption in another way (begin carpooling to work, turn your thermostat down another degree).

Keep the spirit of the season intact
It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of the season and forget exactly why we celebrate. It’s important to find time to take a deep breath and remember what this time of the year is about: joy, peace and love.

“It’s important to decouple the holidays from consumerism,” says John Blevins, visiting assistant professor of pastoral care at Candler School of Theology. “Don’t fall into the trap that the holidays are about stuff.”

Blevins is also careful about what activities he participates in during the holidays. He suggests choosing activities that reflect what you want out of the season. “It’s okay to say ‘no’ to events that add stress. Say ‘yes’ to the ones that affirm your beliefs,” he advises.

This should be a time to experience joy and delight, and focus on peace. Blevins encourages you to ask yourself what holiday practices make you focus on peace. “So many things over the holidays can keep us from that. We find ourselves exhausted and frazzled by the demand to celebrate. We must find the balance and make sure the stress level doesn’t outweigh the happiness.”

Stay healthy through the holidays
Washing your hands regularly is the most important thing you can do to prevent getting a cold or the flu, says Shirley Banks, Health Educator in the Health Education and Promotions area of Student Health and Counseling Services. Wash them anytime you’ve touched your face, mouth or nose, as well as before eating and after handling things that get handled by a lot of people (such as money and serving spoons at potlucks). According to Banks, hand sanitizer is a good thing, but it’s not a substitute for old-fashioned soap and water.

“When I say wash your hands, I mean really lather up, get in between your fingers, and use a fresh towel or paper towel to dry,” she advises. This remains doubly true if you have or work with children. Children’s immune systems are not as developed as adults, causing germs to congregate.

Unlike the common cold, the flu is much more serious. Contracting the flu can lead to hospitalization. Banks strongly recommends getting a flu shot. “The shot is very safe, and there is no shortage this year,” she says.
Other ways to stay healthy include eating right. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best source of vitamins — the chemicals our bodies must have for cell repair and operations,” Banks says.

Make time to exercise. “This lowers your stress level, which can get high this time of year,” she says.
Banks also suggests getting fresh air whenever possible when travelling via plane or car, and avoid exposure to cigarette smoke, which can exacerbate symptoms if you’ve already been exposed to a cold.
If all else fails and you do get sick, there’s a golden rule, Banks says: Stay home. “No work, no parties, no family gatherings,” she says. “Avoiding contact with a sick person is a pretty straight-forward way to avoid getting sick.”

Nurturing your body, spirit and the natural world are easy ways to make the holidays less stressful. Taking time out to reflect on what’s important to you and how you celebrate with sustainability in mind can reduce stress and keep you happy and healthy throughout the season.

‘Tis the season for giving
Open your heart and empty your closet. There are many ways to give this holiday season that don’t require boxes or bows. Here is a sampling of holiday giving opportunities around campus.

Atlanta Children’s Shelter Charity Drive: The Office of Communications & Marketing is holding a holiday charity drive Dec. 3-14. Bring children’s items, bed and bath supplies such as sheets and towels, and kitchen items as well as general household items to 1762 Clifton Drive, Plaza 1000. Contact Monica Partlow at 404-727-0334 or visit www.AtlantaChildrensShelter.com for more information.

Books for Africa Collection Drive: Volunteer Emory, in conjunction with Alpha Phi Omega and others, are collecting used books to benefit literacy efforts in Africa. Collection boxes are located at the Dobbs Center, Cox Hall, Eagle Row and other areas of campus until Dec. 21.

Campus Life Pet Supply Collection: Campus Life is collecting donations for PAWS Atlanta at its annual holiday luncheon Thursday, Dec. 13 from noon to 2 p.m. in the Cox Hall ballroom. Requested items include dog and cat food, newspapers, cat litter, bleach, dog leashes and dog and cat toys. Non-Campus Life employees are welcome to drop off donations at Cox Hall from 11 a.m. to noon.

Emory College Food Drive: In conjunction with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the College will continue its food drive through Dec. 19. Collection barrels are located on the second floor of White Hall, first floor of the Rich Building and first floor of the Candler Library.

All contributions of canned goods or other packaged staples are being accepted. The Food Bank is particularly in need of peanut butter, canned tuna, canned beans, canned soups, stews, pastas, 100 percent fruit juice, canned fruits and vegetables, macaroni and cheese, and whole grain, low sugar cereals.

‘Think Pink’ by giving Emory Eagles merchandise: The Emory Eagles and the Emory Breast Health Center have teamed up to sell “Think Pink” merchandise to benefit breast cancer research at Emory. Just in time for the holidays, the special edition merchandise is now available at a new online store. Visit www.ezpromostore.com/emory_eagles_think_pink to buy.