Dealing with holiday depression

The six weeks encompassing Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s—collectively called “the holidays”—are for most a magically unique time of year. But for many, the holidays bring hurt. Caused by factors including the weather, separation, death, stress, unrealistic expectations, hyper-sentimentality, guilt, or overspending, holiday depression—also called the “holiday blues”—can zap the merriment out of even the most wonderful time of the year.

Holiday depression affects one million people every year. Men and women, young and old, all fall victim to feelings of sadness, loneliness, anxiety, guilt, and fatigue during this emotionally charged season. Men’s Health Network offers the following 10 suggestions to help you identify and ward off— or at least better cope with—potential sources of holiday depression.

  1. Acknowledge that you’re hurting— Others may expect certain attitudes and behaviors from you that you may not feel. The retail industry’s “holiday hype” presents an overly sentimental, nostalgic, and even imaginary notion of the holidays (usually to try to sell you something). Still, feelings of sadness, loneliness, or depression don’t automatically vanish just because it’s the holidays. Acknowledge your pain, be open and honest with others, refuse to feel guilty, and get help if necessary. It’s ok to laugh! Don’t be afraid, you won’t be struck by a bolt of lightning for laughing!
  2. Have a plan to deal with your feelings— Try to surround yourself with people who care about and support you— family, friends, or church members. Invest yourself in an exercise program (aerobic activities such as walking, running, cycling, etc., are recommended because of their mood-elevating ability). Take time to write your thoughts down, sort of a journal of your feelings. Sometimes, just the act of putting your thoughts on paper helps to “get it out of you”. If necessary, see your doctor or therapist. And learn to say “no.” Others’ expectations are not a reason for your own mental health to suffer.
  3. Set realistic expectations— Keep your expectations realistic rather than perfectionistic. Prioritize and reduce self-imposed holiday preparations. Delegate responsibilities. Realistically plan your budget, spending, and shopping. Do less and enjoy more. Obsessing over endless details is bound to change this long-awaited, once-a-year season from a time of exuberance to one of exhaustion. Make it a point to be honest with yourself, and if necessary and possible, limit the time and situations/people you want to be around. When you’ve had enough of either, make sure that you have a way to leave or step away. If possible, let someone you trust know in advance, so that you aren’t put in an even more stressful position of having to explain yourself when you “unplug”.
  4. Take time for yourself— Why is it called holiday depression? Because for most people, these feelings don’t occur at other times of the year. Remind yourself of what you enjoyed during the previous months, then continue them during the holidays. Make yourself a priority! Instead of a “Discount Double Check,” give yourself an “Emotional Double Check.” Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Just don’t stay there too long! Getting enough rest, eating and drinking in moderation, exercising, and continuing other favorite activities can maintain normalcy, routine, control, and predictability.
  5. Consider that your depression may actually be caused by this time of year— Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, occurs because of reduced exposure to sunlight, which is just what happens during the holiday season when daylight hours are shorter. Check with your doctor to see if light therapy might be beneficial for you.
  6. Help others— Soup kitchens, homeless shelters, nursing homes, churches, and scores of other organizations can always use volunteers, especially at critical times of the year. Additionally, you’ll benefit from the company of other people around you rather than being alone. And, help others help you! Tell those who care about you what you do or don’t need from them. They often don’t know how to help, or what to say, but want to.
  7. Bury the hatchet— Perfect families don’t magically appear during the holidays, but family conflicts can. “Letting go” and forgiving can help heal past wounds. Additionally, family feuds can even be deliberately set aside until after the high-tension holidays in order to facilitate the peace and enjoyment of everyone at this special time.
  8. Start your own traditions— Both families and traditions change with time. (Every tradition had to start somewhere!) Rather than reminiscing over the “good old days,” accept the fact that change may be necessary, grasp the season as it is now, look forward to the future, and create your own family traditions that can be enjoyed and even preserved for future generations.
  9. Keep your alcohol intake low— Don’t pour gasoline on a fire. Remember, alcohol has a depressive effect on your nervous system, so if you’re experiencing the holiday blues, drinking too much alcohol will only worsen your depression.
  10. Rededicate yourself to your spirituality— The “reason for the season” is often swallowed up by maddening materialism that can distract from the history, meaning, and significance of holiday celebrations. Step back, slow down, and refocus on transcendent, eternal matters. Rededicate yourself to spiritual pursuits, such as church attendance, church work, prayer life, and other disciplines. Regain the focus originally intended by this time of year.

Alphonso Gibbs is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with significant experience in corporate settings prior to working in the human service field for over 15 years. He has Masters Degrees in Industrial Technology and Social Work.

Friends of Blackwater holds Christmas Open House & Craft Show

The Friends of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) invite everyone to the Blackwater NWR Visitor Center to enjoy a day of wildlife viewing, artisan exhibits, the music of Blackwater and seasonal instrumental sounds of Cindy Bech & Mary Beth Goll, and holiday shopping, heralded by the arrival of “Eagle Claus.” on Saturday December 6, 10:00 – 4:00.

Wildlife painters Marcia Poling with her beautiful hand painted autographed ornaments and crafts, the hand painted jewelry and clothing Donna Valleix, Grover Cantwell displaying his exquisite images of the Eastern Shore in watercolor and oil paintings, and award winner Bob Tolley with his paintings will all be on hand, displaying and offering their wonderful wildlife art work for purchase. Photographers Mary Konchar, Frank Severence and Bob Quinn will exhibit their photography for sale and be available to answer questions. In addition to displaying their works for sale, carving demonstrations by Wayne Wheeler, Don Briddle and chainsaw carver Tommy Winn entertain Open House visitors.

Teena Gorrow & Craig Koppie, authors of Inside a Bald Eagle’s Nest, along with Cindy Freland, author of the Chesapeake Adventure series of children’s books will be present to discuss and autograph copies of their books.

Free activities, including crafts, storytelling, children’s gift certificate drawings and photos taken with “Eagle Claus” will entertain children of all ages. All this, and free entry to the Blackwater Refuge Wildlife Drive to enjoy the eagles and returning migratory waterfowl make this year’s Friends Open House & Craft show an event not to be missed! For more information call 410-228-2677 or check our website at


8:00 – Bird walk with Terry Allen

10:00-2:30 Children’s Crafts

10:00 Film: “Blackwater: Challenges Met, Promises Kept”

10:30-3:30 Complimentary gift-wrapping

10:30 Eagle Claus arrives

10:45 Children’s photos with Eagle Claus

11:00 Blackwater band performance

11:00 Storytelling “Curtis the Crab” with author, Cindy Freland

11:00 Film: “Blackwater: Challenges Met, Promises Kept”

11:30 Driftwood carving demonstration with Tommy Winn (outdoor tent)

11:45 Children’s drawing for gift certificates

12:00 “What a River Says: Exploring the Blackwater River and Refuge” author presentation

12:00 Holiday Music

12:00 Storytelling “Santa Claws” with Frannie Malley

12:30 Storytelling “Heather the Honeybee” with author, Cindy Freland

12:30 Children’s photos with Eagle Claus

1:00 Blackwater band performance

1:00 Storytelling “Tea with Lady Sapphire” with Mary Beth Goll

1:00 Driftwood carving demonstration with Tommy Winn (outdoor tent – bring the children!)

1:30 Storytelling “Jordan the Jellyfish” with author, Cindy Freland

1:30 “What a River Says: Exploring the Blackwater River and Refuge” author presentation

1:30 Children’s photos with Eagle Claus

2:00 Holiday Music

2:15 Children’s drawing for gift certificates

2:30 Children’s photos with Eagle Claus (observation area)

2:30 Film: “Blackwater: Challenges Met, Promises Kept”

3:30 Film: “Blackwater: Challenges Met, Promises Kept”

‘Running Amuck’ on stage to music

The Anne Arundel Community College Dance Company will present an eclectic evening of dance when it performs “Running Amuck,” at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 4-6, in the Robert E. Kauffman Theater in the Pascal Center for Performing Arts on the Arnold campus, 101 College Parkway.

Artistic director Lynda P. Fitzgerald brings back one of her favorite pieces, “Perspectives,” which she has reset for the current company. Originally conceived in 1993, and set to the great music of “Outback,” the dance will close the show.

“Running Amuck,” Fitzgerald’s new work, makes its premiere in this performance to the music of Cajmere. Student works complete the bulk of the concert. To reserve tickets or get the latest information, visit

Area youth receive HIV/AIDS education in recognition of World AIDS Day

— Dr. Craig Coates, senior pastor of Fresh Start Church in Glen Burnie, Maryland, and chair of Anne Arundel County’s HIV/AIDS Commission, got a head start by helping youth obtain factual information about HIV and AIDS. On Saturday, November 22, 2014, the auditorium at Solley Elementary School in Glen Burnie was full of youth and adults wearing red shirts in preparation of the important discussion.

December 1, 2014, officially marks worldwide AIDS observance day. Individuals around the world are encouraged to learn facts about HIV, show support for individuals who are living with HIV and remember those who have died from it.

Approximately 70 youth between the ages of 12-18 gathered to participate in an interactive workshop that was hosted by Coates’ Fresh Start Church and the Anne Arundel County World AIDS Day Committee. Members of Empowering Believers Church of the Apostolic Faith and Kingdom Celebration Center also participated. Other partners and advocates offered support, during the event, such as Jo Ann Scipio. Scipio, co-chairwoman of the Anne Arundel County World AIDS Day Committee, remarked that this is the second year that the local World AIDS Day event has been youth-focused.

“I started getting really active, when my sorority (Delta Sigma Theta) got involved close to ten years ago. One of our national initiatives was focusing on HIV/AIDS,” the Annapolitan said. “It’s important to reach out to youth, because we’re seeing more youth getting the disease, as well as there’s the feeling that they can do whatever they want and they will not be affected. We just want to inform them of their risks.”

Progressive religious leaders like Coates, along with participating ministers, encouraged youth in their congregations to discuss HIV and AIDS facts, while representatives from Anne Arundel County’s Health Department supplied life-saving information and helped to guide factual replies during Q&A segments. The multi-layered experience combined poetry, drama, music, dialogue and art with HIV and AIDS education.

The Knights of the Light, a step team created and led by David Bullock, captured the attention of their peers as they stomped and shouted faith-filled messages. Several performances set the tone for messages of self-awareness and HIV prevention that followed.

Khilia Chantal, a seventh grade teacher, poet, songwriter and singer, recited a poem about HIV. Before she left the front of the room, youth were given an opportunity to ask questions about how HIV is transmitted.

“It is very preventable,” Chantal, who once worked for Anne Arundel County’s Health Department reminded. She later said that teachers encounter students on a regular basis who are sexually active, and that HIV education is also important for adults to know how to deal with individuals who may be HIV-positive.

“To be educated about it is very important. If you find out a student has HIV, you want to be educated enough not to treat them any differently than any other student.”

Coping with peer pressure was a prominent theme during the youth engagement workshop. Skits reminded teenagers to be prepared for sexual temptation that can arise at parties, which they may attend. Theodore Thomas and Tara Dawson performed.

“I learned more about HIV and AIDS. People usually know it’s an STD, but they don’t know how deadly it is. Today, we really tried to get the message out about how dangerous it can be, and get rid of the myths that people are saying about it, and make sure everyone knows how to prevent it,” 16-year-old Theodore said.

Tara Dawson, a ninth grader who attends Old Mill High School, agreed that making sound decisions early in life is important.

“It’s helpful for people to know this information. It was really awesome just being here and getting the word out to other people. People go around saying myths and don’t have the right information. They really need this information, so this event was really helpful,” Dawson said.

The public is invited to attend Fresh Start Church’s upcoming World AIDS day event on Monday, December 1, 2014 at 7 p.m. The church is located at 506 Lincoln Drive in Glen Burnie. For more information, call 410-360-4207.

Indie Soul: Bryan Robinson – The Black Genius Art Show

“ I just want to able to make art, films, anything dealing with the arts, something that people can connect with”— Bryan Robinson

Bryan Robinson has a passion for the arts. His talent takes many forms including photography, film and drawing. As an educator in the Baltimore City school system he enjoys sharing his time and talent with others.

“I get excited about sharing my art with others. To be able to teach them while they are young and let them just create is fun. I am blessed to have God in life because he makes this all possible” says Robinson.

Robinson is an artist to keep your eye on. The ultra talented artist has some incredible work on the horizon including a cartoon series and a clothing line. He says he has another goal as well. “I have opened my door to work with other artists. There is so much we can do as a collective. We can’t worry about someone stealing someone else’s idea when we have a much greater message to share. So if you are open to making a difference and want to help bring our works to the masses, call me” says Robinson.

Checkout: for works by Bryan Robinson, purchase items, or network. He can also be reached at .

Michele Roberts takes over NBA union

Michele A. Roberts has started her new job as the executive director of the National Basketball Players’ Association. The former D.C. public defender immediately set the tone for what is sure to be contentious collective bargaining with NBA owners.

“There would be no money if not for the players. Let’s call it what it is. There would be no money,” said Roberts, who was once referred to as “the finest pure trial lawyer in Washington.” “Thirty more owners can come in and nothing will change. These guys, the players go? The game will change, so let’s stop pretending.”

Roberts told ESPN the Magazine that she is adamantly opposed to a salary cap, which has been in place in the NBA since 1984.

She says that she is preparing the league’s players for what could either be a lockout imposed by the owners or a strike by LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the players when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2017.

Roberts 58, who is the first woman to ever lead a North American sports union, grew up in the Bronx, New York. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from Wesleyan University in Connecticut and a juris doctorate from the University of California Berkeley in 1980 before landing a job as a public defender.

Known throughout the legal world as an outstanding trial attorney, the Washingtonian named Roberts the finest pure trial lawyer in Washington and also praised her for ability to connect with jurors.

“It’s not hard if you start with respecting the jury,” she told the Washingtonian in 2011. “You become a juror. They’re reasonable and they’re smart and they’re honest. Don’t ‘BS’ them. Don’t think you can avoid answering. You can’t ignore bad evidence. You can’t talk down to them. You can’t impress them with fancy language. You have to speak to them honestly and simply.”

Her mentor, Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree Jr., told USA Today that Roberts, a Wizards season ticket holder, likes to express her opinion.

“Her background is in negotiation, it’s in changing minds and it’s in listening ability and all of those skills will be very important to the union,” said Ogletree, 61. “People will have a chance to see a woman who is well-prepared, willing to push for what’s right and has the ability to understand what it means for the long haul.”

In gearing up for her battle with Commissioner Adam Silver and the league’s 30 owners, Roberts has made it clear that the NBA-imposed salary cap, which precludes team owners from spending above a certain amount on player salaries, must be done away with.

The current cap limits each team to about $58.6 million in salaries and that’s expected to rise to $87 million after the 2016 season. The league and its players also evenly split basketball related income and the NBA, already coming off a $930 million television deal, recently inked a new deal that will fill its coffers to the tune of $24 billion over the next nine years. It’s those numbers that have fueled Roberts’ desire to rid the league of a salary cap.

“I don’t know of any space other than the world of sports where there’s this notion that we will artificially deflate what someone’s able to make, just because,” she said. “It’s incredibly un-American. My DNA is offended by it.”

Silver countered that the salary cap does not violate U.S. law because, rather than teams competing with each other, the league finds itself competing with other forms of entertainment.

“We couldn’t disagree more with [Roberts’] statements,” Silver said in a statement.

“The NBA’s success is based on the collective efforts and investments of all of the team owners, the thousands of employees at our teams and arenas, and our extraordinarily talented players,” he said. Silver “No single group could accomplish this on its own. Nor is there anything unusual or un-American in a unionized industry to have a collective system for paying employees. In fact, that’s the norm.”

Still, everyone from New York to Washington has been put on notice that, in Roberts, there is a new sheriff in town and she has arrived with guns a blazing.

“No one wants to say it out loud, but it’s a monopoly,” Roberts said. “And were there alternatives, they wouldn’t get away with it. I’ll give the league credit— they have done a great job controlling the narrative.”

‘Star Wars Episode VII’ actor John Boyega takes aim at ‘black Stormtrooper’ racism

Actor John Boyega has four words for anyone who’s upset he’s playing what appears to be a black Stormtrooper in the latest “Star Wars” film: “Get used to it.”

The 22-year-old British actor posted the message on Instagram yesterday after his appearance in the new trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” aroused feverish discussion on social media. On YouTube, some questioned whether a black Stormtrooper made sense, while others reacted with racist remarks.

Supporters responded on Twitter with the hashtag #BlackStormtrooper.

“They’ll accept an alien-filled galaxy powered by ‘force’ but they’re not having a black man in uniform?” tweeted writer Iain Macintosh.

“Love how there’s “controversy” over a #BlackStormtrooper. Even in a galaxy far far away black people exist and can be dynamic characters too,” tweeted Joseph Oteng.

“#BlackStormTrooper better not die first, or I am going to be pissed,” quipped USC professor Robert Hernandez.

Race in the ‘Star Wars’ universe

Despite the diversity of human and nonhuman characters mingling together in the fictional Star Wars universe, there have been just a handful of prominent black characters. Samuel L. Jackson played Jedi Master Mace Windu in three films, while Billy Dee Williams played Cloud City administrator turned Rebel General Lando Calrissian in two films.

James Earl Jones also provided the legendary voice for Darth Vader, but the actor under the mask was white.

In the “Star Wars” series Stormtroopers were originally clones of Jango Fett, an ethnic “Mandalorian” played by New Zealand-born actor Temuera Derek Morrison, of partial Maori descent. Later in the storyline, when Boyega’s “black Stormtrooper” character would’ve lived, Stormtroopers were recruited from general populations — making a Stormtrooper of any race certainly feasible.

As fans continue to dissect the trailer, many have also pointed out Boyega may not even be a Stormtrooper — he could be a rebel in a Stormtrooper uniform, like Hans Solo and Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.” Fans will have to wait a bit longer to find out more about Boyega’s character.

The movie, the seventh in the Star Wars film series, is scheduled for release on December 18, 2015.

Boyega’s message also contained a note of gratitude to his fans.

“Isn’t it crazy that Star Wars is actually happening? I’m in the movie but as a Star Wars fan I am very excited.

“A year is long time to wait but it will be worth the wait.”