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Breathing Deep and Holding on to Hope

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Breathing Deep and Holding on to Hope

By Andrea Gurney, Deer Run alumna, camp mom, and clinical psychologist

Winter is in full force (even for those of us in Southern California!) and as we enjoy the colder days we also yearn for warmer weather so we can gather safely with loved ones. As the pandemic continues to surge, we are yearning for so much more, of course, than sunshine. We yearn for widespread vaccination distribution, long hugs with our grandparents, indoor dinner parties with neighbors and friends, political peace and stability, and racial equality. These, I know, are just some of our collective yearnings and hopes. They are big and many. And at times, feel unattainable and out of our control. Yet as believers in Christ, we know that God remains on His throne and HE is in control.  What a gift we have in Jesus.

If you’re anything like me (or the rest of humanity!) feeling like things are out of control is unsettling and anxiety producing. So—what can we do to take care of ourselves during this season of waiting and hoping, yearning and longing…

  1. Acknowledge all emotions as real. These are hard times and sadness, anxiety, stress, and frustration are incredibly normal responses. Accept those feelings as they are; don’t try and deny or repress them. Psychologist Carl Jung said it well when he wrote, “What you resist will not only persist, but will grow in size.”  When we name the emotion for what it is, though, we take back some of the control and put ourselves — and not the feeling — in the driver’s seat.
  2. Let go of  your “should.”   Whether it’s “I should be feeling merry and bright…”, “I should do this or that, make this or that…”, give yourself permission to let go of them.  Should’s often imply judgment and can be subtly blaming and self-deprecating. Reflect on what you want to do, as opposed to what you should do.
  3. Accept what you cannot change. Worrying over what we cannot control is often our natural, go-to response in difficult situations. But, it does not help us; as a matter of fact, it increases our stress. Take control of what you can, and let go of what you cannot control and accept it as is.
  4. Practice self-care. Make time for rest, exercise, and eating (yes- it’s obvious but many of us forget about this when we are stressed!). Self-care also includes interpersonal and intrapersonal time — so time spent connecting with others and time spent reflecting on yourself, whether it be through writing, artwork, in nature, etc. You can control how you treat yourself!
  5. Look for the good. Research shows that when we can find some sort of silver lining amidst a hard situation, we fare better. Finding something specific to be grateful for when we are in an unpredictable and difficult time helps us keep our head up and keep going. We all need that now.

Let’s all take small steps, day by day, towards wellness this holiday season. Small things, over time, make a big difference! Click below for more practical tips.

Andrea Gurney, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at Westmont College, and author of Reimagining Your Love Story: Biblical and Psychological Practices for Healthy Relationships. An East Coast camp girl at heart, and Camp Deer Run staff alumna, she currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband, two daughters, and playful goldendoodle. Connect with her at or Instagram  for practical tips and insights on life!





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