Afternoon InquisitionRandom Asides

AI: Holiday Stress and a Daily Dose of Name Calling. How to Deal Thread.

Bug Girl can’t come to the the AI right now because she is training an army of what you see in the featured image there.

Bonus points if you can name that there bug in the comments. It is about 2.5″ long and a whole bunch of them live in my neighborhood. I call that one, Chomper.

This here AI is about pests, including the holiday bug known as, The Blues.

AND I am glad I get to jump in here and ask you all a question since I am usually the one who gives the advice on this site. And I do sort-of actually know the answer to today’s AI but I’d really like to get your take on it my too, my oh-so-wise-readers. The question has to do with holiday stress and the obsessive, constant hate some of us get on ye ol’ intertubes. These two things combined today in my morning twitter feed.

*Trigger warning for naughty words intended to insult me.

So this morning I woke up to this litany of name calling:

For the record: I have never made a fake account or pseudonym on twitter so I am not mocking anyone. But who needs facts or proof when the goal is to call me names!

And I have to say, that the twitter harassment from this group has gotten so regular and so over-the-top that I rarely get upset by it and I hardly ever see it but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t annoying and sad. I only noticed this little thread because someone had an account I hadn’t blocked yet and so these little fellas got through my filter.

But enough about me.

This time of year is hard for a lot of people.

Maybe you don’t have enough money to buy gifts. Maybe your family is not your friends. Maybe you have lost a loved one who meant a lot to you and this season reminds you of them. Maybe you just went through a break-up. Maybe you have to work extra hard this time of year but get paid the same. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe the holidays have been attached to a religion that you no longer hold dear and so you don’t know how to celebrate anymore. Maybe everyone on the television and in advertisements are displaying a fake joy and ‘holiday spirit’ with the shop-shop-shop mentality that you just can’t relate to or ever hope to keep up with. Maybe everyday you get called a fat, stupid, cunt. There are a lot of reasons why this time of year is hard on people.

So here are your questions: Do you have any advice on how to deal with the added stress of the holidays? Do you run an extra mile on the treadmill? Do you donate your precious time to a charity? How can we help each other and help our community get through this time of year? And how should I deal with these incessant internet bugs? Does anyone have a huge can of cyber-strength Raid I can borrow? 


The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. I’m definitely in the “go out for a run” camp. My dogs love it when I’m stressed.

    I used to joke that I should have sent one of my professors a thank you card — he used to get me so riled up that I’d have to go run for a hour after his class. I lowered my mile time by 4 minutes and lost 15 pounds that semester, thanks to him. :)

  2. This is a big one, isn’t it? I don’t have a lot of the problems you mentioned, but I still feel the blues at this time of year. I can’t imagine also dealing with verbal abuse on a daily basis! From the small amount I can see from the internet, you’re already doing many of the right things. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Enjoy beauty and art and laughter and friends and booze and food and your sweet, little dog. Help somebody else. Laugh when you can. When things are going well, slow down and stay in the moment. When things are shitty, don’t dwell on it. That’s what I’m going to do. For what it’s worth, I think you are a fantastic person and you deserve to be happy this season.

  3. I mostly just sleep late and relax, something I don’t normally get to do. And try to catch up on yard work. I have very little interest in most holidays other than a day off from work.

    Side note, whenever I see exchanges like that I wonder if it isn’t actually one person having a circle jerk with themselves.

    I’m not sure if I should ID the bug as I do environmental work myself and it might be cheating; but it’s a Jerusalem cricket, though they’re often called sow bugs and children-of-the-earth as well. Side note, they’re not venomous as is commonly believed.

  4. That’s a Jerusalem cricket, no? Ack! this time of year! One of the reasons I ‘dropped out’ in the ’60’s was the increasing commercialism and greediness that I saw in our culture. didn’t drop back in for 10 years, and then became a nurse, figuring I’d at least be helping people. Anyway, the commercialism, greed and weirdness has increased, along with a tendency for people to be just plain mean. Fundamental religious folk of any stripe seem to be more judgmental than ever, and then there’s the whole anonymous internet crowd who seem to delight in mocking or tearing down folks. How do I cope? Well, now that I’m over 60, I somehow find it a whole lot easier to just ignore most of it. If I watch too much TV or read too many comments on blogs I get disgusted, so I try to minimize those activities. The ideas you have for stress reduction are all great ones, and I’d working with your hands as a great way to get into that zen spot where the ugly doesn’t matter as much.
    Hugs to you, young padawan.

  5. About five of the items you list apply to me this year, including the death of someone close (my sister) financial issues, etc. etc.

    But I don’t have any stress related to the holidays at all. I haven’t had holiday stress in years. I’m not sure why. Maybe it is because I stopped thinking, a long time ago, that it is “the thought that counts” and instead focus on the presents.

    The first thing about presents is that I don’t want any, or at least not many, because I already have too much junk, so I’m trying to get those who would give me presents to give me things I can eat or drink. As it is, two of my best friends have added to their own holiday traditions Giving Greg Cookies. They are amazing cooking, and not only that, they are utterly different cookies; these two people have entirely different cookie paradigms, which points out among other things that there is such a thing as a cookie paradigm.

    I’m hoping that my inlaws chip in and mainly give me pods that go in the amazing espresso maker my M-I-L gave me for my birthday 2.5 years ago. If they give me enough of them that will make me happy for two or three months.

    I have a special gift thingie going on this year as well. A very dear friend of mine makes stuff, and this year she has made a thing that is a perfect gift for one of my family members. I used a secret method to manipulate the “secret santa” random draw so I got that person’s name. I will therefore be able to buy a thing I could never possibly use myself from one person I love and give it to another person I love. How cool is that?

    There is always something that Amanda needs that she will never either a) buy for herself or b) let someone else buy for her. She is so non-materialistic that it is often hard to figure out what that might be, but Julia and I are working on that now. We will figure it out and giving that to Amanda will be a great thing. Plus, of course the 144 number 2 pencils one must give any teachers you know.

    Same with Julia: In her case it will have to do with her travel plans. She lives to travel.

    We are told over and over again that the holidays are too commercialized and that it is the holiday spirit that counts. Fuck the holiday spirit. The holiday spirit is what ruins the holidays, tying these troubling times to aspects of culture that did in fact emerge to challenge us, tying these troubling times to religion which is more than a little annoying, and most importantly, tying these troubling times to how you are supposed to feel, demanding that you feel a certain way that may not even exist, perhaps at a time when you just don’t feel like being told how to feel about anything.

    Frankly, Amy, I find it astonishing that you of all people are having a hard time with the holidays, because you are one of those rare and amazing people, like my aforementioned friend, who actually MAKES THE STUFF THAT IS THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS (and Hanukah). You are what Santa’s Elves pretend to be, but can’t, because they don’t exist! You actually exist and you make stuff that people can give as presents, which are the true meaning of christmas.

    Indeed, Amy, since so many of the things you make have meaning that integrates, sometimes very negatively, which is good, with the Holiday Seasons, you play a special role in making many of us happier than we would otherwise be. Thank you very much for that.

    Hey, do you have a War on Christmas pendant or coaster?

  6. Looks like a Jerusalem cricket.

    This worked for me and your mileage may vary, but during my couple years in your neighborhood I found going for impromptu hikes in Runyon Canyon a good remedy for emotional blergh. Moving, sky, and puppies every few yards: a winning combo.

  7. Four years ago my husband and I spent the week before Chrismas in Ethiopia, to bring our son home. The poverty we saw, and the warm and kind attitude of everyone we met, was truly humbling. Coming back to Canada, the thought of what we had considered a “traditional Christmas” made us feel ill. We approached our family and proposed that we do small gifts for the adults (stocking stuffers) and donated what we would have spent on gifts to a couple of charities that work specifically in Ethiopia. We searched out secular, non religious charities and gave them as options. It has worked really well. I have less “stuff” that I don’t need and my money is going to people who really need it. One of the charities works with villages and groups that put up some of the money for their projects as well, so they feel an ownership of things like safe wells and school buildings that they build. I also donate to the local food bank and to toy drives for local families who are having a hard time with Christmas. Our family is very lucky, and I try to remember that all year, but especially during the holidays.

  8. I don’t tend to get blue around this time of the year as I really have grown to love the holiday season (used to hate it — family issues). I no longer speak to my family and honestly it’s the best decision I ever made. I get to spend the holiday with people I love. And there’s presents! :-)

    Sorry about the troll bastards though. You’d think they’d have better things to do. :-/

  9. Your insect looks like somebody took a weta ( and tried to make it more cute. It turns out that looks are, in this case, not deceiving. Prior to 1997, weta (other than cave weta) and the ‘Jerusalem cricket’ ( would have been considered part of the same family.

    Weta are a group of insects found in New Zealand, which gave their name to Weta Workshops, Peter Jackson’s movie outfit. The insects called ‘weta’ actually contains two different barely related groups. The cave weta (with which I am not familiar) are a quite different family, members of which are often called ‘cave crickets’ elsewhere. So we have two non-cricket families of insects with members called ‘crickets’. I suppose it all goes to show that common names for insects don’t bear much relationship to their actual taxonomy.

    (Other than knowing what a weta looks like, the above is the result of very hasty wikipedia research, so may be unreliable.)

      1. Thanks. I think it’s cute.

        I’ve seen the giant weta in a paperweight. I’ve only met the common/garden weta in the flesh. Once I was watching a late night TV movie in my sleeping bag and picked one up crawling on the outside of my sleeping bag and didn’t know what it was until I turned on the light. I was about 8 at the time, and took it very calmly. I’m not sure I’d be so calm now, for all that intellectually I know it is harmless.

        1. I have grown fond of the Cara de Niño (Jerusalem Cricket). At first it scared the crap out of me but now that I know they are not poisonous, I kinda like running into them. They are nocturnal and so I often find them near the door late at night, hanging out with their little baby faces and huge legs and fangs. Sounds creepier than it is. Sorta.

  10. Wish I could provide an answer to your questions, but those are things I’m still looking for an answer to myself.

    Well, aside from the internet bug.
    In that particular case, I think all you can do is block them.
    Oh yes, and please, please, PLEASE never give up the fight, because those assholes can’t be allowed to win!

    I pretty much go through five of the items you listed.
    Well, technically four, since my “break-up” was just a stupid celebrity crush (which I think I finally recovered from).

    It’s especially tough being a closet atheist in a family of conservatives.
    Has anybody else been through such a situation?

  11. I take it real easy in the runup to Xmas which starts full on around mid Nov here in Oz. If people think I’m a “Bah Humbug!” that’s tough titties cos it just ruins the day itself, which I quite enjoy as a family do hosted by US on our terms with the people WE want.

    My wife loves to cook and put on a scrumptious feast for our folks and our kids and our grandchildren (not forgetting dogs!). We all get on fine so its something to be thankful for and there’s 4 generations together now which is a bit special in itself.

    If that all sounds a bit too perfect well, I guess some things do work out but a whole shitload of other stuff doesn’t.

    Amy, if those troll bastards are still on about you, you know you are still getting right up their collective noses and that’s a good thing!

    Remember there’s a bazillion of us others that like and respect you and we are firmly on YOUR side!

  12. Besides getting more exercise, puppies etc, I try and avoid things that depress me, shops, especially large malls, advertising, getting into arguments with annoying family members etc etc etc.

    My whole family relaxing Xmas also helped, now I do little gift buying, more cooking and relaxing. It is so much easier and more fun to deal with it when it is just one weekend, rather than a whole season.

  13. Meditate. It’s a really great way to set yourself at ease. Not so well known in the atheist community, but for me it was one of best things i ever learned.

  14. Firing a couple of hundred rounds of .45 lead downrange can be very stress relieving.

    My carport is rotting and becoming dangerous. Whaling away at it with a large hammer can be de-stressing. Destruction can be very therapeutic. So can a long soak in a hot bath afterwards.

    Internet trolls are not worth my time. They are not worth yours either, Amy.

  15. I try to handle my bouts of anger, frustration, house-hunting anxiety, and self-doubt by tackling something really useful, especially something I can take pride in. And kitty cuddles don’t hurt, either. Do you have any mending/fixups to do? Spring cleaning type periodic tasks?

    For me, there’s nothing like a few hours of sieving worm compost and transplanting seedlings into deep, rich soil to feel like I’m producing an atmospheric carbon sink that will feed me tasty fruit or berries in a few years, while those other folks are just whining, name-calling, or trying to co-opt some bizarre alternate version of me!

    I’ve also been doing some closet and drawer culling, preparing for one last Goodwill drop for this tax year’s deductions, others’ use of the clothes, and having less to move later.

    Good luck with “the season”. I also have a hard time with how much pressure there is to feel a certain way, the built-up frustration with years of “just give in to whatever we want; it’s Christmas” pressure from certain family members, or to ignore all the fakiness and nasty user-iness of the Christmas behaviors.

    Yes, I have several years of seasonal retail experience. How did you know? ;)

  16. I’m sorry to say it, but these vile trolls, and the occasional approving retweet from a well-established personality, have more or less driven me out of the “skeptical community,” whatever that is. And i don’t even have to deal with them personally.

    It’s not the reaction I *should* have, which is to come out stronger and harder in support of a better community. But I’ve been so disheartened at this awfulness that I kind of just threw my hands up and walked away — hopefully not for good.

    I really don’t understand devoting so much time and energy into the obsessive, hateful bile these people spill out, day after day, directed at you, Rebecca, and others.

    Every time I say to myself “okay, this shitstorm has has subsided. Now I have something to say about it,” something even more awful happens.

    So I guess that’s my answer on how I deal with internet bugs: Not very well.

  17. I have depression so I’ve been learning tips from my counselor on how to manage it.

    -Take time out to be kind to yourself. Look I know that this might sound impossible but it’s really really important! Just taking time to do your nails (while really focusing on doing your nails- not allowed to worry about stuff while you do it) counts. I’ve discovered that when I catch myself thinking that I don’t have time to have fun or can’t think of something fun to do that’s the very first stage of my suicidal thinking. So seriously remember that that taking time for yourself is really important.

    – eat healthy. It’s easier to feel happy when your healthy

    – exercise. This totally improves my mood, but do something you like so it’s not a total chore to do. I’m doing Zombies, Run! at the moment. 1 <3 it soooo much!

    – hang out with positive people. Self explanatory. I suppose this includes minimizing the internet comments you read. But comments on craft websites are mostly friendly and positive, good for a mood lift.

    -remind yourself of how awesome you are. List your awesome traits for yourself. Do it NOW!!! STOP NOT DOING IT!

    These are good skills for everyone to have but if you think you might be depressed you should get help from professionals, takes what they're there for. And don't be scared to take anti-depressents, they've made this whole year possible for me. I <3 serotonin (wow I totally need a T-shirt of that).

    hope everyone has a good holiday season

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