Am I Doing it Right? A Discussion on Grief: Part One



It is an unavoidable human experience.

In the wake of the September 11th attacks in 2001, Queen Elizabeth II famously stated that “grief is the price we pay for love.”

We grieve many things: the death of a person, the end of a season of life, or a relationship that we yearned for that never came to fruition.

The smell of a childhood home.

A face without wrinkles, or pain-free joints.

Some things like infertility seem to bring waves of grief unending.

Grief often bursts through unexpectedly in the face of unmet expectations.


It can come upon a person all at once, or creep up little by little over time. It changes shape and intensity and manifests itself through various other emotions, as well.

Sometimes a person may not even identify that the heaviness they carry is grief. Sometimes grief is all a person can think about.

As a therapist, I have been asked fervently by clients,

How do I get over it? What do I do? Just tell me what to do and I will do it.

It is common for clients to ask for a set of guidelines to overcome emotional or psychological pain; this is not unusual. But with grief in particular, individuals seem to pressure themselves with timelines and ideas of “correctness.”

Many people mistakenly assume that there is a “right way” to grieve. They have heard that there are stages involved, and they arrive to counseling with an agenda to grieve in a way that earns them a straight “A” report card from their therapist.

But just like all of my other clients who expect me to write them a guidebook for their healing journeys, these individuals are often disappointed that there is no perfect formula to grieving.

You see, the “Stages of Grief” are not linear, and each stage is not even always necessary. Instead, the grief journey is deeply personal.

The personal aspect of grief does not mean a person must grieve alone. But it does mean that they will likely have unique responses and experiences, potentially vastly different from even their closest friends and family members.

Most of us have at least heard of the stages of grief, popularized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying.

And though Kübler-Ross herself admitted that the stages of grief are not necessarily linear, cultural understanding of them has led many of us to believe that they are. [5, 6].

Most professionals have alternatively come to describe this model as the “states of grief” that can overlap, run out of order, or even run amok [6]. Despite common misconceptions, it is not even necessary to “complete” one stage before moving on to the other.

Point being, grief is messy and frustrating and weighty. It is different for everyone, yet shares some common themes. And it can impact a person in countless ways.

The brain’s response to grief

Mary-Frances O’Connor, author of The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss, actually differentiates between “grief” and “grieving,” masterfully stating that “grief is the wave that knocks you off your feet and surprises you with both its ferocity and its strangeness.”

She describes “grieving” as “how the feeling of grief changes over time without ever going away” [12].

But where does the brain come in? Without getting too technical about it, let’s just say that professionals agree that grief “rewires the brain” [9, 14, 13).

For example, if a person’s spouse dies, the brain experiences emotional trauma. Every mental and physical activity that was once a second-nature habit now must change. And with it, the brain’s response.

A grieving wife may not need to make a double batch of coffee in the morning anymore. Or maybe she picks up her phone to call her husband when a tire goes flat on the highway, only remembering he died a month ago.

Our brains must adjust to an entire life being removed from us.

When my Mawmaw died earlier this year, I did not feel the finality of her loss until I saw her empty chair in her living room—the place she has greeted me from my entire life. That chair made it feel as if she had simply walked to the kitchen to find something and would wander back in a few minutes. In a way, that experience felt like I was losing her all over again.

When a good friend of mine died by suicide when I was in college, I would sometimes still think I saw him on campus. It would take a few beats before remembering it could not possibly be him. And the grief that had subsided for a while would again come in waves.

Our brains are kind of like a system of country dirt roads. Neurons make pathways over time, and the ruts run deeper and deeper the more we use these same pathways. Rerouting those pathways can sometimes require great effort and discomfort.

Grief, even when expected, is a complete shock to this pathway system.

Grieving, at least as O’Connor describes, is the process of your brain making those changes over time. And while our brains adjust to new routines and patterns of thought (also known as neuroplasticity), we still remember the reality that once was.

Neuroplasticity allows our brains to adjust as needed. One day the grieving wife no longer grabs two coffee mugs, and she becomes used to calling her son for car trouble. But that does not mean she does not remember her husband. She has simply calibrated her neuron paths to no longer attend to the daily activities or thought processes of him being an active part of her life.

Mary-Frances O’Connor beautifully says, “For the brain, your loved one is simultaneously gone and also everlasting” [11].

The body’s response to grief

While the brain is creating new neuron pathways in the grieving process, our bodies may respond in a variety of ways during this transitional time.

Studies of recently-bereaved elderly spouses suggest that these individuals have an almost doubly-higher likelihood of mortality than their peers. Such studies identify that the immune system, cardiovascular health, and mental capacities are greatly impacted in this demographic [2, 3, 4, 14].

There has also been links to sleep disturbances, chronic stress, worsening symptoms of diabetes and other pre-existing conditions, and high levels of stress hormones in people of all ages who are grieving [6, 7, 9, 14].

And of course, chronic grief is directly related to mental concerns such as the increase or onset of depression and/or anxiety.

As mentioned above, grief is a shock to the brain’s neuron system. Our body is made up of many systems that are in constant communication with one another, and each is subsequently affected by drastic traumatic changes such as the loss of a loved one.

For individuals in the grieving process, it is important to not only focus on these physiological symptoms that are present in our bodies, but to also seek professional mental and emotional support as means of providing ourselves the appropriate space to heal in all areas of life.

But really, am I doing it right?

I know, I know. Some of you still have this question. I get it. So let me shout it from the rooftops:

There is no proper or perfect way to grieve.

You may even grieve differently in different seasons of life or for different kinds of relationships or in different kinds of scenarios.

What I do ask of you is that you do not do it alone.

Reach out.

Reach out to ChristianWorks, or to a friend, or to one of the resources below.

Reach out to someone and be honest about how you are doing. The human experience was not meant to be lived out in a vacuum. If it were, grief wouldn’t exist to begin with.

Reach out.

Dallas/ Fort-Worth Resources

*Compiled by GriefWorks Coordinator Nataliya Rutherford

Adult support groups/resources:

– GriefShare – multiple locations throughout the metroplex:

– TAPS (Texas Assistance Program for Survivors)– grief support for survivors of military loss:

– Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation (suicide post-vention services):

– The Grief & Loss Center of North Texas:

– Actively Moving Forward – online support for young adults, app available:

– M.E.N.D. (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death):

Children’s support groups/resources:

– ChristianWorks’ GriefWorks program (both FW & Dallas):

– The Grief & Loss Center of North Texas:

– Journey of Hope (Plano):

– The Warm Place (FW):

– Broken Halos Haven (a retreat for widows & children, Lewisville):

– Jenny’s Hope (Decatur):

Grief Resources & Education:

– Coalition to Support Grieving Students (for educators):

– Dougy Center’s Pathways Program for families who have a member with advanced serious illness:

– National Alliance for Children’s Grief; resources, trainings, & toolkits:


Stay tuned for part 2 of this series:

That Doesn’t look like grief: Talking to my friends about their loss

1. Clarke, J. (2022, July 26). The five stages of grief. Verywell Mind. Retrieved November 6, 2022, from

2. Fagundes, C. P., Brown, R. L., Chen, M. A., Murdock, K. W., Saucedo, L., LeRoy, A., Wu, E. L., Garcini, L. M., Shahane, A. D., Baameur, F., & Heijnen, C. (2018). Grief, depressive symptoms, and inflammation in the spousally bereaved. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 100, 190–197.

3. Fagundes, C. P., Murdock, K. W., LeRoy, A., Baameur, F., Thayer, J. F., & Heijnen, C. (2018). Spousal bereavement is associated with more pronounced ex vivo cytokine production and lower heart rate variability: Mechanisms underlying cardiovascular risk? Psychoneuroendocrinology, 93, 65–71.

4. Finkbeiner, A. (2021, April 22). The Biology of Grief. The New York Times. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from

5. Haslam, N. (2018, October 21). The five stages of grief don’t come in fixed steps – everyone feels differently. The Conversation. Retrieved November 6, 2022, from

6. Holland, J. M., & Neimeyer, R. A. (2010). An examination of stage theory of grief among individuals bereaved by natural and violent causes: A meaning-oriented contribution. OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying, 61(2), 103–120.

7. Hopf, D., Eckstein, M., Aguilar‐Raab, C., Warth, M., & Ditzen, B. (2020). Neuroendocrine mechanisms of grief and bereavement: A systematic review and implications for future interventions. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 32(8).

8. How coping with grief can affect your brain. Henry Ford Health. (2018, June 4). Retrieved November 10, 2022, from

9. McCoy, B. (2021, December 20). How your brain copes with grief, and why it takes time to heal. NPR. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from

10. Moberly, N. (2022, January 28). 12 types of grief you may not know about. BetterUp. Retrieved November 6, 2022, from

11. O’Connor, M.-F. (2022). The Grieving Brain: New discoveries about love, loss, and learning. HarperOne.

12. O’Connor, M.-F. (2022, February 1). Mary-Frances O’Connor recommends readings for the grieving brain. Literary Hub. Retrieved November 5, 2022, from

13. O’Connor, M.-F. (2019). Grief: A brief history of research on how body, mind, and brain adapt. Psychosomatic Medicine, 81(8), 731–738.

14. Paturel, A. (2020, August 7). The traumatic loss of a loved one is like experiencing a brain injury. Discover Magazine. Retrieved November 5, 2022, from

15. Prigerson, H. G., & Maciejewski, P. K. (2008). Grief and acceptance as opposite sides of the same coin: Setting a research agenda to study peaceful acceptance of loss to study peaceful acceptance of loss. British Journal of Psychiatry, 193(6), 435–437.

Why the Changing of the Seasons is Cathartic

One thing that the drudging-on of the pandemic taught me was an appreciation for the changing of the seasons. In the early full-lockdown days I was able to enjoy the full spectrum of Spring erupt outside my guest-bedroom-turned-counseling-office window. I could take breaks to walk around outside between client sessions, and I finally took on some of our household plant caretaking duties that usually belonged fully to my husband and his genetically-acquired green thumb.

It occurred to me that seeing the daily progression of my surroundings change was an unintended quick course on the importance of practicing presence and patience.

This experience, combined with the entrance into my 30’s and the compulsory nostalgia that accompanies such an event, created an awareness in me of how important the changes in our natural world are for my overall wellness.

In reflecting on this phenomenon lately, the best word I could conjure for it is cathartic.

My ever-faithful friend Google Dictionary shared with me that cathartic means that something provides psychological relief.

And dear goodness, if you have ever experienced a Texas summer then you can agree wholeheartedly that Autumn brings relief from every side.

The whole state finally takes a true, deep breath sometime in mid-October that we have been holding in since May.

But what it is it that gives us such a relief each time the seasons change? I have been thinking about this a lot, and I think it comes down to four main concepts.

1. Changing of the seasons provides rhythm to life.

Rhythms of life provide structure, context, and comfortable predictability. When it comes to the changing of the seasons, the Lord could have easily left us in a bland and unchanging state of being, with little variation in our environment. But I believe He provided gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) changes to the natural world throughout the year to remind us of His consistency, promises to provide, and ultimate power.

Though we are no longer as connected to our food sources as previous generations once were, it is important to consider how the predictable times for planting, harvesting, storing, and feasting continue to play a large role in the human experience.

Many of our cultural traditions still follow this pattern. Regardless of your role or occupation, there are times of new projects and hard work, times of growth, times to celebrate, and times of reflection—all which seem to point to similar seasonal themes of our agricultural ancestors.

2. The changing of the seasons offers much-needed connection to the physical world.

My lockdown-era experience highlighted this in a stark way.

If we regularly roam about from indoor activity to another, we miss out on the emotional and biological regulatory benefits of witnessing the changing of the seasons

(To learn more about these benefits, visit our previous blog on Wilderness Therapy here).

In the therapy world, we often preach to clients the importance of practicing presence to offset a host of mental disorder symptoms and general stress.

Practicing presence is done by activating all 5 senses, which is honestly easiest to do when one is outdoors where the senses can be best utilized. The idea is that if a person is actively focused on what he or she can smell, taste, see, feel, and hear in their present environment, then it is much more difficult to dwell on anxieties outside of that present environment. The more one practices presence, the easier it becomes to ward off unnecessary stress.

Finding moments of such presence in the modern world is a difficult feat. Being alone with our thoughts can terrify us, so we reach for our screens or for any distractions to remove us from the present moment.

The changing of the seasons challenges the rat race mentality and calls us to slow down, to breathe, and to participate in a natural display of balance and beauty.

3. Our brains and bodies are wired to respond to the changing of the seasons.

I will be honest, this is a scientific rabbit hole that I spent way too much time delving into today. To sum up my findings, it seems that researchers agree that our bodies and brains naturally respond to our seasonal environments in a variety of ways, but there remains much to be discovered about how each body system is impacted.

Several studies have concluded that different parts of our brains seasonally grow and shrink to meet necessary demands, though scientists are still unsure as to why each of these brain functions shift exactly when they do [1, 3]

There has also been new evidence to suggest trends of seasonal variation of symptoms for people with multiple sclerosis, chronic headaches, depression, dementia, psychosis, and schizophrenia [1, 3, 4, 6, 11]. The findings about these seasonal trends can help those who suffer with symptoms of these different diagnoses make a personal wellness plan and be prepared to garner extra resources and support during more difficult months of the year.

And of course, there is the well-known example of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a kind of depression that emerges each year in the fall and persists through the winter months [7].

Seasonal changes also appear to biologically impact generally healthy individuals. It is normal for metabolism to change during the winter months due to natural insulin resistance [5, 10], and for barometric pressure to increase the prevalence of headaches, especially for women, during autumn [1].

So what do we do with all of this seemingly unrelated information? Why does it even matter? For myself, I think it tends to point toward the idea that we were meant to be an active presence in our natural environment, instead of completely closed off in comfortably regulated buildings for the majority of our lives. While we may not know all the “ins and outs” of the environmental connections to our bodies and brains that the seasons bring, these scientific conclusions remind us the importance of being present where we are, and listening to our body’s rhythmic cues to better take care of ourselves and others.

Proponents of “seasonal living” such as Dr. Myle Spar [10], suggest that anyone can practice elements of living in conjunction with the seasonal shifts. Some components of this lifestyle may include intentionally eating foods that are seasonal in your area, shifting exercise regimens to include outdoor activities when the weather is pleasant, and practicing mindfulness during times that SAD or other concerns are more likely to impact you [8, 10]. It honestly appears to be a quite simple practice that promotes small changes in your lifestyle that shift with the seasons to achieve overall balance.

4. Last, but certainly not least, the seasons activate nostalgia.

I am certain all of us could provide our own vivid example of nostalgia, otherwise defined as a “sentimentality for the past” [2]. We have all caught a familiar smell or seen an old photo that sends us hurtling into another time and place altogether. Sometimes these little moments surprise us, and the nostalgia can feel all-consuming.

The changing of the seasons does exactly this on a large scale, using all our senses. It is ironic, actually, that the same 5 senses that help us practice presence are also the very things that summon nostalgia, with its countless memories and resulting emotions in tow.

For the most part, nostalgia is a harmless part of the human experience that brings comfort and sweet, affectionate yearning for times long gone. And usually, “the hauntings of times gone by, and the imaginings of times to come, strengthen us in lesser times” [2].

We welcome each new season because it is both new and familiar at the same time: a fresh opportunity for growth within the safe and cozy space of an old friendship.

In a way, the changing of the seasons are simply tangible mile markers to the passage of time; they mark our personal connection to the tiny blip of human history in which we participate. And each time that mile marker reappears, it drags with it the memories of highs and lows of the times we have been here before.

The changing of the seasons: They are happening constantly, and yet we rarely stop to notice. What lessons could we learn from these little, daily shifts in our world that lead to grand transformations?

Sounds like a fantastic counseling metaphor if you ask me.


1. Book, G. A., Meda, S. A., Janssen, R., Dager, A. D., Poppe, A., Stevens, M. C., Assaf, M., Glahn, D., & Pearlson, G. D. (2021, March 24). Effects of weather and season on human brain volume. PLOS ONE. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from

2. Burton, N. (2020, March 24). The meaning of nostalgia. Psychology Today. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from

3. Clark, K. (2021, October 1). The seasons are changing and so is your brain. Discover Magazine. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from

4. Hallam, K. T., Berk, M., Kader, L. F., Conus, P., Lucas, N. C., Hasty, M., Macneil, C. M., & McGorry, P. D. (2014, June 24). Seasonal influences on first-episode admission in affective and non-affective psychosis: Acta Neuropsychiatrica. Cambridge Core. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from

5. How seasonal changes can affect your body’s metabolism. Hunimed. (2017, May 5). Retrieved October 7, 2022, from,fat%20to%20prepare%20for%20winter.&text=The%20brain%20also%20maintains%20the,usage%20and%20raise%20fat%20levels

6. Lim, A. S. P., Gaiteri, C., Yu, L., Sohail, S., Swardfager, W., Tasaki, S., Schneider, J. A., Paquet, C., Stuss, D. T., Masellis, M., Black, S. E., Hugon, J., Buchman, A. S., Barnes, L. L., Bennett, D. A., & De Jager, P. L. (2018, September 4). Seasonal plasticity of cognition and related biological measures in adults with and without alzheimer disease: Analysis of multiple cohorts. PLOS Medicine. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from

7. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, December 14). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from

8. Millard, E. (2022, June 30). The case for seasonal eating. Experience Life. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from

9. Parry, W. (2010, September 21). How change of seasons affects animals and humans. LiveScience. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from

10. Spar, M. (2020, August 28). The benefits of seasonal living. Vault. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from

11. Spelman, T., Fletcher, S., Fernandez Bolanos , R., Van Pesch,, V., Lechner-Scott, J., Edite Rio, M., Grand’Maison, F., Barnett, M., Oreja-Guevara, C., Verheul, F., Boz, C., Giuliani, G., Grammond, P., Duquette, P., Bergamaschi, R., Hupperts, R., Lugaresi, A., Izquierdo, G., Trojano, M., … Butzkueven, H. (2014, October 20). Seasonal variation of relapse rate in multiple sclerosis is latitude dependent. Annals of neurology. Retrieved October 1, 2022, from

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Managing Anticipatory Anxiety about the Holidays

We live in a society in which the holidays seem to begin promptly after Labor Day. They arrive with the entrance of pumpkin spice lattes and then barrel forward until January, often leaving us tired, spent, and a little weary. Though there is a magical sheen overlaying ordinary life during this time, there is also a unique version of anxiety that presents itself alongside the merriment and wonder.

A friend recently invited me to an event on a Thursday evening in early December, and I immediately, with stomach in knots, wondered if the date was available.

Why on earth should a 30-something, suburban stay-at-home mother to an infant feel as if a Thursday evening months away is potentially already booked? Further, why does the mere thought of it put my stomach in knots?

I think it is because the world seems to be screaming at us, BE PREPARED.

For me, experiences of holiday seasons past create a sense of uneasiness when I think about December on the calendar. Each year I try to keep it simpler than before, to pare down the events and find the peace and calm reflected in the carols that are stuck in my head.

But without fail, the dates fill up quickly, we run a little wild, and suddenly there are few evenings left to be home and gaze at the lights we so diligently hung.

It is a strange phenomenon to both eagerly cherish the holiday season and also feel apprehension about it approaching.

The first twinkly lights,

The first Hallmark movie preview

The first day of sweater weather

They all bring an emotional high quite like any other.

Such eagerness for these picturesque holiday experiences can easily fuel my “yeses” to every event that crosses my path. But then when the time actually comes, I can end up feeling quite overwhelmed.

This is something I have been working on for a few years and I can honestly say that the more I simplify, the more I enjoy the holidays.

But simplification is not without effort, itself. So I find myself in early September weighing my holiday priorities already.

Simplifying the holidays takes fortitude and brutal honesty with myself about my future capacity for activities and tasks. I desperately desire to hold precious the limited time that seems to exist at the end of the year.

I have decided to share with you a few of the little lessons and tricks I have learned in this endeavor.

But first, let’s talk about the general unhealth that runs rampant during the holiday season.

I have worked in a variety of mental health service locations over the past seven years, including residential substance abuse treatment, pediatric inpatient services, and a variety of outpatient counseling centers. At each of these locations, the busiest time for new and returning clients is the month of January. Hands down. I have heard several working theories regarding this phenomenon, but my own opinion is that people tend to put many things off until after the holidays, including the management of their mental health. As well, the holiday season tends to exacerbate concerns that were already present. Increased time with extended family also can cause usually-hidden emotions and interpersonal conflict to rise to the surface.

The end of year also sees an increase in what medical professionals call “holiday heart,” a cardiac event considered to be caused by the excess of alcohol, stress levels / blood pressure, and salty foods during the holiday seasons [1].

Refusing to take care of ourselves during the holidays can have implications that impact both mind and body.

Many people who struggle during the holidays may not necessarily suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder, but could still benefit from either professional help or a re-assessment of priorities and general lifestyle changes. My encouragement to you is to allow yourself to seek these services when you need them, instead of waiting until you are weary and burnt out.



Level your expectations. Life is not a Hallmark movie, friends. It can be easy to think that we are “missing out” on holiday experiences that are not realistic to begin with.

If your home decorations look Pinterest-perfect, you are probably spending too much money updating them each year to maintain trends. Don’t forget that you see online is only a snapshot of the whole picture of someone’s house/ life/ family.

It is okay if you are not hopping from fancy party to fancy party. Media and marketing kind of have us fooled into believing that there are glam events aplenty and it is commonplace to attend several throughout December, all with new shiny outfits. In reality, most of us are not doing that.

Your family is still your family, even at the holidays. Remember that you can only control yourself. For all their flaws and successes, accepting that it is not your job to change your family members can help you avoid falling prey to grand imaginations of a perfect holiday gathering in which everyone suddenly behaves exactly how you would want them to. Your own growth is the only thing in your control. Accepting that people will still arrive as themselves will help you avoid bickering with people you already know disagree with you on hot topics.

Agree to a family plan of action. What are the 3 things that are most important for you and your family this holiday season? Focus on those, and agree that anything else is just extra.

Make sure to get your kids in on the conversation about this! What do they love most about the holidays? Their answers may surprise you and maybe even bring a sense of relief.

Keep it simple. Just because something is a tradition does not mean that it has to happen every single year. Not every decoration has to always come out of the attic.

Consider what holiday experiences “make sense” for your family. Where is there potential unwarranted wastefulness? What things are you doing that are not even really enjoyed for the person that receives them?

Consider this your ample permission to change what isn’t working. Make it make sense for your family without feeling like you have to do things a certain way or spend a certain amount of money just for the sake of a single photo or because you have always done it a certain way in the past.

Create space before you have the chance to feel cornered by your calendar

One year shortly after my husband and I were married, I decided that we would be holding the weekend after Thanksgiving as a “sacred weekend.” Neither of us was allowed to make plans for that entire weekend. We used it to decorate for Christmas, resettle, and take a deep breath for the rest of the year. We spent the weekend choosing what we wanted to do in the moment together instead of feeling enslaved to a schedule of events. It is still one of my favorite things to do when one of us is feeling a little suffocated by our calendars.

Maintain healthy rhythms when possible.

We will all inevitably be participating in some indulgences of various kinds throughout the holidays. Enjoying celebrations is nothing to shame yourself about! However, maintaining day-to-day rhythms can help you still feel balanced come January. It is easy to have an “all or nothing” approach and tell ourselves that we will return to baseline after the new year. But it doesn’t have to be this way! There is space on the continuum between wild abandon and self-deprivation. Consider how you want to find that space for yourself and your family.

For example, do not throw your family budget out the window for the sake of merriment.

Do not allow yourself to take on extra stress that you know is too much for you for the sake of “getting through the holidays.”

Continue to move your body in a way that feels good and energizing.

Drink water. Eat a vegetable when you can. Most importantly, pause to reflect on how you feel. What does your body need today? Use your biological intuitions to help you fuel yourself while you’re also enjoying richer food than usual.

Be honest about your emotional state with trusted friends and family; seek professional help if needed

It is important to note that there is a difference between experiencing occasional anxiousness and struggling with clinical anxiety. Talk to a professional if you feel that your anxious thinking is negatively impacting your ability to function in work, relationships, or daily life activities.

The same goes for concerns such as depression or other mental disorders. The “holiday blues” are vastly different than clinical depression [4]. However, both are worthy of bringing to a counseling session to

work through these feelings. You do not have to just survive the holidays. You can enjoy them again with support.

Remember that your identity as a good person/friend/parent/spouse/child does not rest on your application of holiday tasks

This will be my first time as a mother of a child who can really experience the holiday season, and this pressure to succeed in creating a well-rounded experience for my child is already so strong. It is easy to get stuck in the mindset of trying to out-task yourself for the sake of your family or friends.

That is absolutely not what this season is about. Take a step back. Take a breath.

And for all that is merry and bright, protect that December calendar with everything you’ve got!


1. Brown, K. N., Yelamanchil, V. S., & Goel, A. (2022, February 16). Holiday heart syndrome. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved September 16, 2022, from

2. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, December 11). Tips for coping with holiday stress. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from

3. Nowak, L. (2018, November 30). 9 signs that holiday anxiety poses real mental health risks. BrightQuest Treatment Centers. Retrieved September 24, 2022, from

4. Raising mental health awareness during the holiday season. Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program. (2019, July 31). Retrieved September 19, 2022, from

5. Rhue, H. (2021, December 1). The psychology of anticipation: Why the holidays never live up to our expectations. Byrdie. Retrieved September 24, 2022, from

6. Rosenthal, L. (2018, May 30). Holiday heart syndrome. Medscape. Retrieved September 24, 2022, from