Experts: 2022 Holiday Season | Newsroom

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

Exercise and staying activeGiving back | Holiday shopping | Mental healthParenting and relationships | Staying safe and health | Traveling during the Holidays | Tree shopping

Exercise and staying active

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

“For many Canadians, the holiday season will be associated with physical and mental health challenges, particularly as we recover from the pandemic. Given the proven benefits of regular exercise to improve the management of chronic pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia, there is no better lifestyle strategy to help Canadians optimize their health and happiness during the next few months.”

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] mcgill.ca (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 though it often goes unrecognized. Understanding this history 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 examines aspects of capitalism, consumption, and monetization, for example in tourism, heritage creation, or charitable corporations.

hillary.kaell [at] mcgill.ca (English, French)

Eric Latimer, Full Professor, Department of Psychiatry

The number of people experiencing homelessness been rising throughout the province of Québec. Increasing rents and likely high inflation are an important cause of that. Housing First, in which rent subsidies are combined with psychosocial supports, is a key part of the solution. Every day we use taxpayer dollars to fund our health and social services system, often for benefits that are not as impactful as helping people regain housing and dignity.”

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. As a health economist, his research interests focus on community-based supports for people with severe mental illness, particularly their economic aspects.

eric.latimer [at] mcgill.ca (English, French)

Holiday shopping

Charles de Brabant, Executive Director, Bensadoun School of Retail Management

With sagging consumer sentiment and higher inflation, it was expected that the holiday sales period would see a minimal increase, if not a decrease compared to 2021. So far, holiday sales, especially Black Friday and Cyber Monday, have overperformed expectations and now, the consensus seems to be that we will have a good, if not strong overall sales period, both in the US and Canada. In both countries, holiday sales are now set to increase more than 5% compared to 2021 and well above pre-pandemic levels. This will be more due to a return to in-store purchasing, than an increase in e-commerce sales.”

Charles de Brabant joined McGill University in 2017 to co-lead the creation and the development of the Bensadoun School of Retail Management in the Desautels Faculty of Management. With over 25 years of experience, his passions and expertise sit at the crossroads of people development, executive education and consulting in strongly branded and fast-growing retail environments.

charles.debrabant [at] mcgill.ca (English, French)

Elizabeth Han, Assistant Professor, Desautels Faculty of Management

While several pre-pandemic trends have been returning, online shopping is likely to remain. Retailers, facing countless service requests from customers, especially during holiday shopping season, can scale up their online service by deploying AI-driven assistants. To enhance customer-AI interactions, retailers may be tempted to equip AI assistants with emotional capabilities, such as expressing positive emotions. However, according to my recently published research, retailers should be cautious with the idea of emotion-expressing AIs because of potential negative reactions from customers..”

Elizabeth Han is an Assistant Professor of Information Systems at the Desautels Faculty of Management. Her areas of research include behavioural science, emotions, human-AI interaction, online behaviour and social media.

elizabeth.han [at] mcgill.ca (English, Korean)

Mental health

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

“How we react to stress depends largely on how we perceive a given situation. Hence, anything can become a stressor. In managing stress and preventing a stressful situation from becoming a source of anxiety, we must realize that though the holiday season can be stressful, it can become manageable if we focus on the ‘silver lining.’ This means mindfully identifying what makes us most happy during the holidays, what is most meaningful to us about this special time of year and choosing not to dwell on the things outside of our control. We may not control whether family gatherings are stressful, nor whether our loved ones will appreciate the gift we offered. We do, however, control how we let these situations affect how we think and feel. Routine is key during the holiday season. Good sleep hygiene, moderate food and alcohol intake and exercise all play a key role in optimizing our ability to regulate our mood and better manage potential sources of anxiety.”

Tina Montreuil is an Associate 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] mcgill.ca (English, French)

Parenting and relationships

Rachel Langevin, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Counselling Psychology

“Child maltreatment can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional maltreatment, neglect, and exposure to domestic violence. My recent research examined how different forms of child maltreatment were related to specific facets of emotion regulation and to the recognition of specific emotions in young adults, while considering the co-occurrence of different forms of child maltreatment. We found that when all forms of child maltreatment are considered together, emotional maltreatment in childhood appears particularly associated with difficulties understanding our own emotions, managing impulsivity, accessing strategies to regulate our emotions, and achieving our goals in emotionally charged situations, which can often arise around the holidays. Our results are important because they not only provide a fine-grained understanding of the associations between child maltreatment and emotional competence, but also underscore the importance of paying more attention to historically understudied forms of maltreatment such as emotional maltreatment in trying to understand how child maltreatment relates to adulthood difficulties. Survivors of child maltreatment, and more specifically emotional maltreatment, may be able to recognize that this form of child maltreatment is not a minor one and should not be minimized. Showing self-compassion if they struggle when coping with their emotions may be a first step toward healing.”

Rachel Langevin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology. Her main research interests are in family dynamics and understanding mechanisms involved in the intergenerational continuity of trauma and violence.

rachel.langevin [at] mcgill.ca (English)

Victoria Talwar, Full Professor and Chair, Department of Educational & Counselling Psychology

“The holidays are a magical time, but they can also be a time when we have to negotiate family relationships and feelings and have difficult conversations. Children may need help with how to be polite and honest in these situations. Children also may have questions for parents like ‘Is Santa real?’ and parents may have to navigate the path between keeping the magic alive and being honest with children. Parents should think about what values they wish to promote in their children and use these opportunities to have conversations with their children.”

Victoria Talwar is a Full Professor and the Chair of the Department of Educational & Counselling Psychology. Her research interests include children’s verbal deception, children’s moral development, theory-of-mind understanding and behaviour, children’s expressive display rule knowledge and behaviour.

victoria.talwar [at] mcgill.ca (English)

Staying safe and healthy

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

For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our population faces risk of infection not only from SARS-CoV-2 but also the more familiar respiratory viruses like influenza A, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and others. These infections pose additional burdens to the health of vulnerable populations as well as to our already-burdened healthcare system. Prevention by vaccination as well as non-pharmacologic interventions is crucial to protect our ability to continue providing timely and high-quality healthcare for everyone who needs it.

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.

matthew.oughton [at] mcgill.ca (English)

Traveling during the Holidays

John Gradek, Faculty Lecturer, School of Continuing Studies

Many Canadians recall the chaos and disarray of travelling in the Summer of 2022, and those planning travel during the coming weeks are concerned, and even anxious, on the state of commercial aviation. Will their air travel plans be disrupted by flight cancellations or flight delays, will their checked baggage arrive with them at their destination, and will they have to wait on board arriving aircraft while other flights’ passengers are being processed through customs and immigration processes? Much has been said, and measures having been taken, to reassure air travelers during this holiday period, whether it’s from the Minister of Transport or from the airport CEOs. Caution, however, remains the operative advice for holiday travel: minimize checked baggage, arrive early at departure airport, buy all-perils travel insurance, and give some thought to a Plan B or even a Plan C in the event of a disruption. “

John Gradek is a Faculty Lecturer in the School of Continuing Studies, where he coordinates the Supply Chain and Operations Management and Integrated Aviation Management programs. 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. He is currently an adjudicator with the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada.

john.gradek [at] mcgill.ca (English, French)

Tree shopping

Pierre Dutilleul, Full Professor, Department of Plant Science

“On a wintry walk in the woods, have you ever wondered why branches of Christmas trees and other conifers grow the way they do? Some of these trees are chubby and short, and others are tall and skinny. By using a CT scanner like those used in hospitals and a new statistical model, my team of researchers was able to explain why younger tree branches grew in a certain way based on the growth patterns of older branches. In all seasons of the year, our eyes cannot see the stem and directly connected branches of a Christmas tree – a CT scanner gives us access to this hidden world. CT scanning data and images also allow digital measurements that would be practically impossible to make otherwise. For example, the distance between offspring branches on the same parent branch, or the angle made by an offspring branch relative to its parent. Interestingly, we found that branches at the fourth level followed a growth pattern determined in good part by the branching patterns of the second level branches, and not, as we expected, the third.”

Pierre Dutilleul is a Full Professor in the Department of Plant Science. He is a statistician who studies trees and his latest research examines how branching patterns affect light-gathering efficiency in plants can improve our understanding of photosynthesis, and by extension, food production and the environment.

pierre.dutilleul [at] mcgill.ca (English, French)

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 you 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] mcgill.ca (English, French)

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