Psyching the Zietgeist:
Current Culture Through a Mental Health Lens

Smoky Summer Affecting Mental Health Around Pacific Northwest

We’ve had two summers now with significant smoky air from west coast wildfires. We northwesterners look forward to and treasure our short, perfect summers, so it’s disheartening to have to stay inside during our precious warm weather. There are health impacts as well as significant environmental degradations from these increasingly frequent and intense fires, but we’re affected also on a personal level, as our brief summer slams to a close.

Local shop owner/herbalist, Karyn Schwartz wisely observed about our smoky skies on her Instagram feed:

Remember that your physical well being and your emotional well being are not two separate things…. [I]f you have been agitated or anxious or just overwhelmed with feelings – you are not alone. This is part of the sickness we are all enveloped in. The smoke is exacerbating struggles we already have, and making it impossible to ignore a lot of things we all wish were not true. Part of our collective medicine is to be kind and gentle with ourselves and each other.

A recent story on the CBC website focused on these personal impacts on our mental health. For many people, they feel isolated and depressed, having to stay inside during the one time of the year when we normally can savor warm sunny days, dine al fresco, swim, and enjoy long, light-filled evenings. For others more drastically and directly affected by wildfire, they struggle with loss of home and livelihood.

These long-term significant disruptions to one’s place in the world can have profound effects on your mental health. If your feelings of despondency don’t fade when the air improves, it’s a good idea to seek out mental health assistance.

by Judy Koven

What to do When the Holidays Aren’t Happy

It’s a common expectation that the holidays are cheerful and that you should be too.  In reality, the holidays can be anything but cheerful for many people.  Here are three situations that can be especially challenging:


Psychologist Guy Winch, Ph.D addresses the negative health outcomes that accrue from chronic loneliness and suggests that people anticipating loneliness during the holidays take actions that involve scary risks. No, not skydiving or BASE jumping, but asking acquaintances or even distant relatives what they are planning to do on the holidays, thereby creating an opening to ask for an invitation. He writes that lonely people often underestimate the love and welcome available to them. Scary? Yes. Like many endeavors that lead to positive change, letting someone know that you’d like to be included in their holiday plans takes courage and determination.

Grief and Loss

A set of articles in the online “Grief Toolbox” contains a list of things to do during the holidays, most of them familiar and practical—be compassionate with yourself, try to find enjoyable things to do with people, let others do things that will lessen your stress and anxiety—but the most important step to take is to find ways to remember and talk about the person who died. The worst thing you can do to yourself is to try to be relentlessly cheerful when you are with others. Though it is commendable to put some effort into being good company, it is equally important to acknowledge your loved one and share stories about when he or she was part of the celebration. Sharing memories of the person you lost and acknowledging the grief you are suffering allows others to support you and to share their own memories of the person you’ve lost.


If you’re simply feeling stressed about the holidays, here is a resource that can help:

The Coping With Holiday Stress Worksheet: Creating My Own Plan for A Happy And Healthy Holiday Season.

by Peggy Shafer

Posted on November 17, 2017
Posted in Self-careTagged , ,


The opinions expressed in this post are the views of the author(s) and don't necessarily reflect those of other members of the Women's Therapy Referral Service.