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Intersectionality in the LGBTQIA+ Community with Laura O’Neal

Laura O’Neal is a clinician here at Carolina Psychological Associates and has experience working with individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community as well as those struggling with anxiety, depression, chronic stress, disordered eating, trauma, and other varying topics. She is dedicated to cultural humility and incorporates this into her work with clients. Throughout her career she has noticed the importance of understanding intersectionality and its impact on the individuals she serves.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “intersectionality” as, “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.”

Simply, intersectionality is an attempt to conceptualize the varying levels of discrimination individuals experience. This term validates that two individuals can experience very different levels of discrimination based on their differing race, class, sexuality, ability, religion, age, etc. It sheds light on the complex dynamics of identity and the impact of those dynamics on the individual.

For example, an African American, elderly female may experience racism, sexism, and ageism simultaneously.  Intersectionality acknowledges the compounding affect that her race, sex, and age have on her lived experiences.

Below, Laura discusses the impact of intersectionality within the LGBTQIA+ community.


  1. How does “intersectionality” impact the LGBTAIQ+ population differently than other minority groups? Or just impact them in general?

The Theory of Intersectionality was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to describe how individual characteristics influence interaction with and treatment by the dominant culture here in the US. It was originally developed in a legal context, but over the last 30 years, its relevance has transcended domains. In brief, it is a helpful tool in the exploration of how structural and systemic factors impact all of us.

An understanding of intersectionality is incredibly important when working with any marginalized group, LGBTQIA+ folks included. People who identify as LGBTQIA+ routinely experience various forms of systemic discrimination, overt and covert forms of oppression and dismissal, and the stress of these experiences is compounded by other individual characteristics- such as race, class, ability, religion, education, and age. What Intersectionality helps to demystify is not just the fact that humans experience the world differently depending on factors like these, but how those differences inform justice, chronic stress, policy, and treatment.


  1. How, in your practice, have you seen the intersection of race and LGBTQIA+ identity impact your clients?

Repeated experiences of invalidation, dismissal, and injustice have a cumulative effect on wellbeing. This is also known as allostatic load- chronic stress accumulates over the lifespan when environmental challenges exceed an individual’s capacity to cope or succeed. This does not mean the individual “can’t hack it” or “just needs to learn new skills” – it is more a way of acknowledging that due to pervasive stressors in our culture (such as homophobia, transphobia, white supremacy, antisemitism) folks will experience stress, pain, and a desire for belonging via community or counsel.

In my practice, I have worked alongside many folks for whom the way society responds to their race, gender, sexuality, age, and religion results in, at times, tremendous distress. I have also witnessed clients manage that in a variety of ways. Sometimes, a nonjudgmental outlet is enough for now. Other times, validation and trying on different coping strategies is requested. Other times still, folks are considering or already directly involved in work to change these systems which indeed comes with stress, but also unique opportunities for profound joy and growth. 


  1. What about the intersection of social class/status and LGBTQIA+ identity?

The intersection of social class and LGBTQIA+ identity can certainly influence wellbeing. LGBTQIA+ folks frequently encounter discriminatory policies in education and the workplace which directly influences SES. Furthermore, folks may already have negative experiences with healthcare providers which can result in obstacles to care. Stigma plus the associated financial and emotional costs of seeking help contribute to well-documented health disparities.


  1. What do you do as a counselor/therapist to incorporate the concept of intersectionality in your practice?

As a therapist, I seek out opportunities to learn more about affirming intersectional counseling theory and practice. The Code of Ethics that applies to all practicing clinical social workers stipulates we have a shared commitment to promoting affirming, supportive, culturally-responsive services and I take this seriously! That means doing my research, staying informed, and being aware of potential stressors for clients.

Most importantly, though, it means honoring the principle that each person is the expert in their own life. My duty as a therapist is to be aware of how my own intersections and lens influence my conduct, being aware of my blind-spots and the power dynamic present in therapy, and to always listen to my clients. To assume these trainings or direct practice experiences directly equate to an intimate understanding of what someone lives or “needs” with is unreasonable. In my practice, I work to demonstrate a culture of respect with clients by working to enhance understanding of various dynamics in their lives and believing them when they share how something does or does not affect them.

The Art of Looking Back: The Pandemic

It has been an entire year since the beginning of the COVID Pandemic. How can it be???

What were you doing exactly a year ago? Do you remember?

There was a ‘stay at home’ order in place, toilet paper was flying of the shelves, and you probably did not leave the house without hand sanitizer. Oh, and we were all wearing masks for the first time.

So often, it is easy to move through life and rarely reflect on the events that have taken place. Even when these events shape and impact our worldview, personal life, and relationships. Think of the ways COVID alone has shaped each of those: your worldview, personal life, and relationships.

What is the number one reason you don’t look back and reflect? Regrets? Negative experiences? Or do you simply just forget?

For some reason, the ritual of reflection has become clouded and often given a bad name. But I would argue that reflection is important, for many reasons.

Reflecting on the time that has passed during this pandemic gives us the opportunity to notice changes. Changes in ourselves, others, and life as we ‘knew’ it.

The COVID pandemic has changed so many things about the world. There’s no more shaking hands when we meet new people, no more blowing out candles on a birthday cake, and wearing masks has become the new normal. The phrase ‘smile with your eyes’ has a whole new meaning these days as we try to show facial expressions with a mask on. But it has also changed if, and when, we can see family and friends, something that might have been the hardest change of all. The pandemic may have caused some loss as well. You may have lost a job, a friend, a family member, or an opportunity. These are all things that are incredibly difficult to deal with.

While there are some changes that are weird and hard, there are also other changes that are beneficial. Like the fact that it’s socially acceptable to order groceries online and have them delivered to your front door. Or that you can order food curbside. What about the fact that you can see your doctor from the comfort of your own home? These are all things that are generally seen as better, right? They make things like grocery shopping, getting meals, and visiting the doctor more convenient.

Reflecting also allows us to notice the things we have learned. Every challenging experience teaches us new things, things that we can carry forward into the next challenge.

This pandemic might have allowed you the time and space to learn more about yourself, how you deal or don’t deal with stress and uncertainty. You might have discovered a new coping skill for your anxiety, or even picked up a new hobby along the way. Being quarantined with family members might have allowed you to learn new things about them or make you realize how much you took alone time for granted. Maybe you learned how difficult a teacher’s job is as you were suddenly responsible for your child’s learning.

Have you reflected on the COVID pandemic yet? If not, here is your invitation. While reflecting, it is so easy to focus on the bad things, but it is just as, if not more, important to remember and reflect on the good things, even if there aren’t that many. So, below you will find several prompts that will guide you in this practice of reflection. Take a few minutes to slowly work through these questions; grab a friend or loved one to join you.


How did you feel at the beginning of the pandemic?

What was most disappointing part of the pandemic? Why?

What brought you the most joy during the pandemic? Why?

What did you learn about yourself throughout the pandemic?

What did you learn about others?

Who and what did or do you miss most from pre-COVID times?

What/who have you been most grateful for during the pandemic?

Is there anything about the pandemic you enjoyed? If so, what is it?

How has your life changed since the beginning of the pandemic?


The practice of reflection is difficult. It is something that takes intentional practice. I hope you were able to sit still and gather some thoughts about this past year that you may had not realized before.

Why Pronouns Matter

This is the beginning of a Spring Series to provide education and create awareness for the LGBTQIA+ community. For this specific blog post Blake Herd, MA, LPA has given some great insight into his work with individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community and the importance around the use of pronouns. Blake is a therapist here at Carolina Psychological Associates who has been working in a therapeutic setting with members of the LGBTQIA+ community for 4 years. 

Blake Herd, MA, LPA

Pronouns are used when referring to a person without having to use their name repetitively in conversation. Historically, pronouns are gender specific, therefore individuals are generally referred to as he or she. This can be problematic for individuals who do not identify as cisgender and heterosexual. The use of preferred pronouns for individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community is incredibly important, and Blake offers some great insight and advice below.

From your experience, why is the use of preferred pronouns so important?

“Many members of the LGBTQIA+ community deal with stressors that most heterosexual cisgender individuals do not.  Using the correct pronouns is important because it helps to alleviate some of the day-to-day stressors that people of the LGBTQIA+ community deal with on a regular basis. The simple use of preferred pronouns helps to make them feel seen and accepted.  Although using the correct pronoun may seem like a small thing, pronouns are used to refer to us even more than our names, so being called the wrong pronoun day in and day out can really add up and impact someone’s self-esteem, perceived value, and mental health. Using a person’s preferred pronoun is a simple way to alleviate some of these daily stressors.”

What is the best way for parents to start the conversation around preferred pronoun use?

“I often find that a great way for parents to start a discussion about pronouns is by identifying what pronouns they prefer themselves.  This creates an opportunity for a conversation and lets their children know that they are open to discussing the topic now and in the future.”

What do you normally tell parents who have reservations about using their child’s preferred pronouns?

“I usually tell parents that one of the strongest protective factors against mental health and other related issues in members of the LGBTQIA+ community is family acceptance and support. Using your child’s preferred pronoun is a way to show them that you accept them and support them even if you don’t completely understand what they are going through.”

What is the best way for friends to start the conversation about preferred pronoun use?

“As with parents, I usually tell friends that one of the best ways to start a conversation about pronouns is to open up about how they identify and creating an environment where others feel able more comfortable to talk about their own preferred pronouns.  For both friends and parents, it is important not to force someone else to talk about how they identify or to “come out.”  Even if you try to start a conversation about pronouns with someone, they may not yet feel comfortable talking about their gender identity and that is okay.”

What are some helpful resources for the topic of pronoun use?

“One website that can be helpful when working with parents of LGBTQIA+ children is: It provides videos from varying perspectives to help parents and friends of LGBTQIA+ people to be more accepting and affirming.”

Your child, friend, or loved one might not be ready to have a conversation about their preferred pronouns yet, and that’s okay. Don’t pressure them. Simply offer your support by expressing which pronouns you prefer for yourself. This may seem like a simple step, but it shows your child, friend, or loved one that you are available to have that conversation when they are ready. Stating preferred pronouns is also a great thing to include in your name on a Zoom call or on the signature line of your email.

Always remember, if you are not sure which pronouns to use, just ask! This prevents you from assuming and potentially using the wrong pronouns.

To learn more about Blake Herd you can head over to “Our Providers” and read the biographies!

Getting to the finish line!

Do you wonder how you and your kids are going to make it to the end of the school year? This year probably feels like it will never end. But, I’m here to tell you that the end is in sight!

Maybe your kids are still going to school virtually. Or maybe they have transitioned back into the classroom. Either way, school has looked very different for the 2020-2021 school year. Staying focused for the remaining weeks will be difficult, but here are a few things that might help!

1. Keep a separate study space, or two!

It is so easy to do schoolwork in bed or on the couch, but having a separate study space is important. While at school your kids would be sitting at their desk, so why does it need to be any different at home? This separate space will help them stay focused and know the difference between time for schoolwork and time to play. This separate study space should have good lighting with a good hard surface and comfortable chair. No need to make an elaborate space, the kitchen table might even work!

2. Take breaks frequently.

With the warm weather rolling in it will be tempting to go outside and play. So, let them! Allowing kids to take several breaks throughout the day to run around, play basketball, play tag, or just sit in the sun is a good thing. These breaks will help them shorten their work time into smaller, more productive chunks. If it helps to schedule these breaks in ahead of time, do it! Making breaks a part of the school day might help the day go faster and help them stay focused when they are working. It might also help to incorporate snacks into these breaks. Often times we forget that our brain is an organ and needs to be fueled well to function at its best!

3. Write assignments down.

It can be very confusing to know what assignments are due and when they are due. Writing assignments down will help both you and your child keep track of all the different assignments and when they need to be completed. There are so many different ways to keep track of assignments these days! At the beginning of each week write down in a planner or on a white board when assignments are due. This will allow both you and your child to plan out the week ahead. And who doesn’t like writing on a white board and checking off a list?

4. Ask for help!

Encourage your kids to ask their teachers for help when they are struggling. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but an attempt to learn more and improve! And, more times than not, someone in class is going to have that same question. As parents it is important to model this behavior, so don’t be afraid to tell your child when you don’t know the answer and work together to ask questions!

You have made it this far in the year and I have no doubt you will be able to make it to the finish line! Keep encouraging your kids and keep encouraging yourself, you’re working hard too.

Is “Pandemic Fatigue” just a buzzword?

We are nearing the one-year mark from the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Maybe this year feels like it has flown by, or maybe it feels like it would never end. How would you sum up the past year?  









This list could probably go on forever. Each person has experienced this pandemic differently. Some may have lost family members, friends, jobs, money, or housing. Some may have been crippled with the fear of getting sick or having a loved one get sick. Some may have been frustrated as their work continued on as “normal” but they felt anything but normal at work.  

It is important to reflect on all these things and the ways life has been drastically impacted by COVID-19. It has changed our “life as we know it” and created new ways of doing things.  

I wish I could tell you that COVID-19 is in the past and that we can finally look back on that time and be thankful that it is over. But unfortunately, that is not the case. It seems that it will be here for a little while longer.  

Are you just tired of it? Are you experiencing what some are calling Pandemic Fatigue? 


You’ve been homeschooling your kids for far longer than you thought, the winter months are dragging on and bringing worse weather with them, and you’re still having to be a productive employee, parent, or significant other. Being tired and frustrated are completely valid feelings.  

Your sympathetic nervous system, better known as the fight or flight response, has been in overdrive throughout the duration of this pandemic. You’re essentially burning the candle at both ends, and now your candle is completely gone.  

Adrenaline is a good thing for a short period of time. It causes your heart to beat faster, increases blood flow to the brain, and stimulates your body to make sugar for fuel. The combination of all these things can get you out of a sticky situation quickly! This fight or flight reaction keeps us alive. 



Usually, this response would stop after the stimulus is removed. For example, if you saw a snake while out for a walk in the woods you would see the snake, experience a rush of adrenaline, and quickly jump and run far away from that snake. When you finally reach a safe distance from the snake, your heart would stop racing and you would begin to catch your breath.  

While this is the normal response, it has likely not been your experience during the pandemic. There have been so many stressful events occurring one after another that your body has not had the time to take a break. Factor in the political climate, the daily news, the winter months, and you might discover that you have not had a chance to even catch your breath. Not to mention, your body has been running off adrenaline for far too long.  

I am here to tell you, that feeling you’re feeling is Pandemic Fatigue and it’s 100% real.  

Okay, now that you understand Pandemic Fatigue, what the heck do you do about it.?  The following are three simple steps to help you begin to address it. 

Be gentle with yourself.

The first thing might not sound like a lot, but it is one of the most important. Give yourself some SLACK. Know that you are doing the best with what you have been given and show yourself some compassion. Maybe you need to put less things on your to-do list and be okay if the dishes don’t get washed tonight.  

Affirm yourself.

Secondly, write down positive affirmations. 



Create a few statements that resonate the most with you and tape them on your mirror or write them in a journal. Affirming yourself daily is important and is a great habit to form.  

Validate your emotions.

Finally, validate your emotions. Emotions are automatic, physiological responses to something around you. You can acknowledge what your body is telling you by validating these emotions as they come up throughout the day. This might look like telling yourself:  

“I am tired, and that’s okay.”  

“I feel lonely right now because……” 

“I am overwhelmed by…”

“I’m so excited for….”

This might seem silly at first, but keep doing it and you’ll find that it actually helps!  

There doesn’t seem to be an “end date” to this pandemic, but there are a few things you can do to help relieve the stress of living through it. Continue to remind yourself that these are indeed unprecedented time; you’re allowed to learn as you go! Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional if you feel you need additional support, we’re here for you.  

Do you wish you could “keep calm and carry on?”

Many people say, “keep calm and carry on,” but that can be incredibly difficult for someone experiencing anxiety. Anxiety looks and feels different for each person because our bodies respond differently to the things surrounding us. Do you think you experience anxiety, but you’re just not sure? Or maybe you’ve struggled with it for as long as you can remember? 

Oftentimes, anxiety can look like an elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, flushed skin, difficulty falling asleep, and tense muscles.  

Classic examples of when you might notice higher levels of anxiety are while public speaking, going on a first date, or walking into an event where you only know a few people. These situations are understandable for someone to experience anxiety, right? 

But anxiety doesn’t always happen in one of those settings. Sometimes it feels random, like while you’re driving in the car, sitting in class, at work, or even while lying in bed trying to go to sleep. Often, anxiety catches us completely off guard, as these feelings seem to come out of nowhere!  

What do you do when this happens?  

Anxiety is a way for our bodies to be prepared to act, whether that be freeze and hide or run away as fast as possible. However, when we’re simply trying to fall asleep neither of these options are realistic or helpful.  

There are a vast number of coping skills that can help reduce anxiety. The main priority in all of them is to convey to our brains and bodies that we indeed are okay and are not in harm’s way.   

Below are a few of the many options that can help reduce anxiety: 


You might be asking, “I am currently breathing…to stay alive….how in the world can this help me with anxiety??”  

Well, believe it or not breathing can greatly reduce anxiety and has been shown to do this time and time again through research. Paying attention to your breath brings you into the present moment and slowing down your breath can even slow your heart rate down! 

Box breathing is a simple breathing technique that you can do anywhere!  

Wherever you are, spend a moment focusing on your breath. Then, whenever you are ready, slowly inhale to the count of four. Hold your breath for four seconds. Then, slowly exhale to the count of four. And finally, hold your breath again for a count of four before starting again. Repeat this a couple of times.  

Feel free to do this exercise multiple times a day! 


No, you don’t have to be a yoga extraordinaire to be able to practice mindfulness! For many people, mindfulness can seem very daunting and intimidating at first. Being alone with your thoughts might even seem terrifying. But, keep in mind that mindfulness is a skill, it’s something that needs to be practiced regularly to gain experience. However, you don’t even need to be an expert to at mindfulness to gain the benefits! 

We tend to walk through the day focusing on what has already happened or preparing for what is going to happen in the future. Mindfulness simply brings your mind to the present moment, away from the past or the future. There are a couple ways to do this:  

  1. Focus Meditations: Find an object where you are and spend some time focusing on that object. What color is it? What does it feel like? Smell like? Pay attention to the lines of this object. Spend time memorizing that object and every single detail about it.  
  2. Mindful Walking:  During a walk, notice all the things around you. Are there leaves on the trees? Is the wind blowing? Are there any noises around you? What does it sound like when your feet hit the ground? How does the sun feel on your skin? Take note throughout your walk of all your surroundings.  

You might find these difficult at first. Your mind might start to wander, causing your thoughts to go off on tangents. Remember that mindfulness takes practice and patience. When you find your mind wandering, simply bring your thoughts back to what you were focusing on previously. Be kind to yourself, this is a skill and will take time!  


When anxiety takes over it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts. You might even feel like you’re starting to float away. Grounding can counteract that feeling and bring you back to the present moment, again.  

A very simple way to ground yourself is to take your shoes off. Take a minute to feel the ground underneath you. It might even help to go outside and stand barefoot on the grass. I know this seems like such a simple thing, but it can really help bring your thoughts back to the present moment by including your sense of touch.  

Doing a daily body scan is another great grounding exercise. Spend some time, wherever you are, focusing on your body. What feels tense? What is sore or maybe even hurts? Can you feel your heartbeat? Are your legs crossed or are both feet on the floor? Take enough time that you can spend an equal amount of time on each part of your body: head, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, stomach, legs, ankles, and feet.  

Remember, there is no quick fix. But the first step in alleviating anxiety is recognizing and acknowledging it. After you recognize your anxiety increasing, practice one of these exercises. Your anxiety won’t disappear completely, but you might be more relaxed and even find that your concentration and attention improve! Living with anxiety can be difficult, but hopefully these exercises will give you a few tools to help cope with it.  

What are Singles Supposed to do for Valentine’s Day?

February 14th is such an odd day. You have couples wandering around starry-eyed, planning large romantic dinners while single individuals move about their day pretending everything is normalI’m here to tell you that if you’re single, Valentine’s Day is for you too!  

So often Valentine’s Day gets simplified to romantic love, but its actually just a day for love, whether that’s yourself, your friends, or your partner. While it can be VERY discouraging for singles, it doesn’t have to be that way. Needing some help to brighten up your single Valentine’s Day? You’re in the right place!!

Get a group of your friends together to celebrate each other. Maybe you can share a socially distanced meal outside or hop on a zoom call for Cocktails and Compliments. Designate some time with those you care about to lift up one another and share encouragements. This might seem simple, but it can make a huge difference.  

Spend the evening prioritizing yourself. This can be as simple as watching your favorite movie or playing your favorite video game with a good snack. Or you could do some self-care activities like meditating, going to get a massage, ordering your favorite meal…the options are limitless! Having trouble thinking of good self-care activities? That’s okay! Just brainstorm things that make you happy, bring you joy, or make you feel relaxed, these can be big or small!  

Gather a couple friends and write letters to each other. Validation and encouragement are important, and letters are a great way to express both of those! Who doesn’t like getting a handwritten letter in the mail? You could meet to exchange them in person, or send them by mail to be COVID friendly.  

Valentine’s day doesn’t have to be discouraging for singles, instead it can be a day full of love for yourself and those around you. You might find that these activities are something you want to make a more regular occurrence


Two Clinicians Offer Some Insight on Relationships

Are you experiencing a few hiccups in your relationship? Maybe feeling disconnected from your partner? Or maybe you’re just looking to continue growing with your loved one?  

Relationships can be difficult and it is easy to get discouraged at times. There are so many different opinions out there about how to make a relationship last, but do they actually work? Thankfully there are some very talented clinicians in the office who have worked with many couples throughout their careers.  Michelle Kane, PsyD. and Dortch Mann, LCMHC have happily shared some topics they have noticed during their work with couples.  

Have you noticed problems in communication or connection?  

Most couples Michelle meets with come in wanting to work on “communication.”  However, what she typically finds as the cause of their poor communication is actually a lack of connection. We, as humans, generally lack all the necessary information needed to fully understand what a person means when they are communicating, often causing it to be imperfect. If our connection is lacking with our significant other when this poor communication occurs, we will likely fill in the blanks with something negative. However, when we are well connected with our significant other, we are much more likely to fill in the blanks with something positive, assuming they have the best intentions.  

For example, when well connected with our partner, we may decide that “Are you cooking dinner tonight?” is a genuine, curious question. However, when lacking connection we might see it as a demand to hit the kitchen or an indictment of not cooking enough. 

You might be thinking, “Well how do I deepen my connection to improve communication?”

Connecting on a deeper level takes time and often times effort. Perhaps more simply, be mindful of small opportunities to connect on a more regular basis. This might look like checking in with each other regularly or finding small amounts of time to be present with each other during otherwise chaotic days. 

For more information on this, check out John Gottman’s work on bids for connection. He has a blog and many difference resources available on his website.  

Dortch Mann mentioned that the reason couples come to him is most often due to unmet expectations. These unmet expectations are usually viewed by couple as a “problem to be solved.” They come in thinking that something, from their perspective, needs to be “fixed” and they’re hoping he can help. 

Dortch loves to help couples see that, in many cases, they don’t need to “solve” a problem. Instead, they need to “outgrow” it. Many times, he finds that couples can simply outgrow the problem by focusing on this: 

What do we hope we will create (or nurture)?  

Through his experience he has found that hope is more motivating, more resilient, and much more sustainable than expectations. Hope grows. He finds that moving couple closer to “hope” and further from their “fix it” mindset fosters more fruitful and enjoyable relationships.  

Maybe this month, you prioritize sitting down with your significant other and looking at problems that you as a couple can “outgrow” instead of focusing on the need to “fix” them.  Ask them what they are hoping to create or nurture in the relationship. Then ask yourself what you’re hoping to create or nurture in the relationship.  

Michelle Kayne, PsyD  
Dortch Mann, LCMHC

You can find more about both these clinicians and others on our website!

Maintaining Goals in the New Year

1. Have a maximum of THREE goals. It can be very tempting to set too many goals, but that can actually hurt you in the long run. Stay focused on a couple and realize that you can always set new goals when the previous ones are accomplished.

2. Know your why. Why is this goal important for you? Why have you chosen this goal specifically? If you can figure out why, you will feel much more motivated to complete your goal. If you can’t figure out why you have that goal, it might be helpful to reevaluate. Here is a great post on how to set SMART goals.  


3. Write them down. Have your goal written in a place that you can see it regularly, either every day or multiple times a day. You could write in on a mirror where you get ready in the morning or somewhere in your car so you can see it often. You might even want to make a vision board to put somewhere special. This is a creative way to display your goal!

4. Tell others about your goal. Accountability is incredibly important and can sometimes make or break your ability to meet a difficult goal. If others know about your goal, they can help encourage you along the way and point out times that you may be slacking.  


5. Visualize yourself accomplishing your goal. Visualization is an important tool to use. This can help give you the confidence to keep pushing when times get hard. If your goal is to run a 5k, visualize yourself running through the finish line on a regular basis. This may seem silly, but this small practice can make a huge difference.    

What exactly is Seasonal Depression?

Have you noticed a difference in yourself or someone you know during the winter months? The days are shorter, weather is colder, and it is dark outside far more than it is light. All these changes can impact people differently. Some may refer to this as seasonal depression, otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This can result in a loss of energy, changes in appetite, feelings of sadness, depressed mood, and changes in sleep.  

Some of these changes can feel scary, but they are actually normal. Your body responds to the time change, colder temperatures, and less sunlight making seasonal depression common. Your circadian rhythm, or internal clock, can be thrown off by the longer nights, leaving you feeling groggy and tired. Changes in circadian rhythm can also impact melatonin, which is usually secreted at night. The longer nights during the winter can impact this secretion, leaving you feeling tired and fatigued during the day.  While all these changes can be uncomfortable and unsettling, keep in mind that as the days get longer and the temperatures increase this will fade away.  

Wondering what you can do to help in the meantime? Great question! There are plenty of things you can implement to help improve your mood during these long winter months.

Get outside  

This is simple right? Can this really make a difference? 

Absolutely. It’s simple and can have a HUGE impact. Your body needs vitamin D (sunlight) and exercise. So why not do both at the same time??  

Taking a quick 10 minute walk around the neighborhood can greatly impact your mood and help your body get the vitamin D it needs. It’s best to do this a couple times a week, and even better if you can find time to do it daily. 


Leaning on those around you (figuratively, thanks to COVID) can help during the winter months. This will help to reduce feelings of isolation and sadness.  

There aren’t many gatherings due to current restrictions, but Facetime and Zoom are great alternatives. If there are small, socially distanced gift exchanges or dinners, make an effort to go. You might not want to because you’re tired or don’t feel like socializing, but these are some of the most important times to make sure that you go.  

This could also look like grabbing coffee with a friend or coworker, volunteering at a local non-profit, or joining a support group. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or reach out to a therapist to help you get through this season.  


With all the changes going on in our bodies during the winter months, it’s important to fuel our bodies with nutrient dense foods. This can be especially hard during the holidays because there are so many good sweets and treats around. Enjoy your holiday meals and make sure to incorporate some healthier options during the week.  

Some foods that might have the best impact on your brain and body health are cruciferous veggies, foods high in Omega-3s, nuts and beans. Some examples of good veggies are arugula, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. You can eat salmon, chia seeds, and flax seed for those great Omega-3 fats. And finally, walnuts, cashews, and beans. Incorporating these into your diet will help your body get all the needed vitamins and minerals. 

Get Cozy 

Find a funny movie, a comfortable sofa, and a warm blanket. Maybe even brew some coffee, tea, or hot chocolate to sip on. Embracing the season won’t fix it, but it might help you enjoy some parts of it. Maybe even splurge on a warm new hoodie to wear on your outside walks!