Grief Series: Grieving Together

spinsight Counseling, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology ,
One of the most common ways to grieve is to practice self-compassion

Most Common Ways to Grieve

Grieve. It is a simple word packed with a complex and highly volatile set of emotions, behaviors and even cultural tendencies. There is no #1 or best way to grieve. As we've already discussed in this series on Grief Support, people grieve in very, very different ways and vastly individualized timetables. This is a list of twenty of the most common ways that I have seen and discussed with clients in my practice when dealing with grief. Since there isn't a single right way to grieve or cadence to follow, I've listed these alphabetically and it certainly doesn't constitute a complete list of ways to grieve.

Accept Your Emotions

Acknowledging and accepting your emotions is a vital step in the grieving process. Research by the American Psychological Association (APA) highlights that embracing emotions contributes to long-term psychological well-being. The study showed, "acceptance helps keep individuals from reacting to – and thus exacerbating – their negative mental experiences. Over time, experiencing lower negative emotion should promote psychological health." Authentically grieving involves allowing the full spectrum of emotions and emphasizes the importance of expressing grief openly, contributing to adaptive coping mechanisms. This is another reason why sending and receiving texts, messages and cards from friends and loved ones dealing with grief is so important.

Be Kind to Yourself

Self-compassion is key during grief. Research from the Journal of Positive Psychology indicates that individuals who practice self-kindness experience lower levels of stress and depression during the grieving process. This is so important - give yourself the space and freedom to grieve. Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the study of self-compassion defines this practice as "being open to and moved by one’s own suffering, experiencing feelings of caring and kindness toward oneself, taking an understanding, non-judgmental attitude toward one’s inadequacies and failures, and recognizing that one’s experience is part of the common human experience."

Be Patient

Grief doesn't follow a timetable or a consistent path to healing, and being patient with the process is crucial. The British Journal of Psychiatry notes that patience with oneself correlates with a more positive long-term adjustment to loss.

Eat Well

This might sound obvious, but maintaining a healthy diet supports physical and emotional health during grief. When we grieve, sometimes the most basic of habits and needs are put on the back burner while we focus on our grief. Research in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine suggests a correlation between nutrition and improved mood, helping individuals navigate the grieving process. For those providing grief support, this is another benefit for offering to prepare meals for families dealing with grief.


Regular exercise has been linked to reduced symptoms of grief-related depression. The British Journal of Sports Medicine reports that physical activity positively influences mental health, promoting resilience in the face of loss. The 2019 study showed that physical activity reduced feelings of depression, anxiety and the experience of PTSD. Exercise also created a sense of freedom, enabling the expression of emotions, providing a distraction, and an escape from grief.


Putting pen to paper can aid in processing emotions. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs cites studies showing that "writing about emotionally difficult events or feelings for just 20 minutes at a time over four consecutive days was associated with both short-term increases in physiological arousal and long-term decreases in health problems." Journaling is hugely popular in many avenues of therapy and counseling, but the related positive health affects during grieving are undeniable.

Reach Out to Others

Seeking support from friends and family is vital. The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology reports that strong social connections are associated with better mental health outcomes in the face of grief and bereavement.

Sleep Well

Quality sleep is crucial for emotional regulation during grief. The journal Sleep emphasizes the bi-directional relationship between sleep quality and mental health, highlighting the importance of prioritizing rest. This works in the reverse too, according to a University of Arizona study. Those who have persistent trouble sleeping before grief, may have an especially difficult grieving process after the death of a loved one. Either way it underscores the need to focus on quality sleep as you grieve.

Understand Grief Affects Everybody Differently

Recognizing the universality of grief fosters empathy and connection. The Harvard Review of Psychiatry emphasizes that understanding the shared nature of grief reduces feelings of isolation and facilitates healthy coping. It's also about understanding the stages of grief and their interconnected impacts across everyone that is affected by a loss. But remember, the stages of grief aren’t linear and may not happen in the same order as the textbook indicates. Those stages are not a map but they provide some scaffolding for how the overall process happens.

Navigating grief is a unique journey for each individual. By incorporating these evidence-based strategies, individuals can find meaningful ways to cope, fostering resilience and promoting a healthier adaptation to loss. Remember, seeking professional guidance and connecting with supportive communities are integral aspects of the healing process.

Final Thoughts from Dr. Pam Wright

As mentioned in the post about "What You Should Look For in a Grief Therapist" I talk with clients about the stages of grief. Helping a client to identify which stage of grief they are currently in, and working toward acceptance is important.  Those dealing with significant grief can find it hard to get out of bed, much less think about eating and exercise. However, taking a walk outside, eating with a friend, and focusing on your own physical health can be just as important as your mental health. For those supporting someone in grief, sometimes just sitting with them and saying, “I don’t know what to say, but I care about you and wanted to be here to support you” can be helpful. Asking for help can be particularly difficult for individuals, so it is best to let them know we are there to love and support them.

#GriefCounseling #GriefTherapyWorks #CopingWithLoss #GriefSupport

Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. She is the founder and owner of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga.Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.

Grief Series: Messages of Support

spinsight Counseling, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology ,
grief support can be in person, with a hand-written card or a text message, DM or snap. Grief therapy at The Life Change Group.

Messages to Send for Grief Support

Grief Support from a Distance

Grief support is a tricky subject because every instance is different and there really isn't a guidebook on how to grieve or even how to be a friend to someone who is grieving. Lisa Pahl, a Los Angeles-based hospice and end-of-life social worker, agrees. "Grief is very individualized, and many people don't necessarily go through stages and graduate out of it". Many times, we are supporting those who don't live near us or are difficult to meet face-to-face. In those instances, there are several ways to be supportive. With our increasingly digital world, one of those is messaging. Some people text, others DM or Snap. Whatever your platform of choice, messaging doesn't have to be impersonal. With the fluidity of instant messaging these days, it can be a very effective way to stay in touch and support friends and family dealing with grief. If you can't be there in person, I still think a personal, hand-written card is always the better option, if possible.

Grieving Fluctuations

Depending on the specific situation - the death of a family member, sickness, job loss, financial hardship or whatever - the key message to a grieving friend is not only what you say, but how often you say it. People dealing with grief are very rarely ever on a straight line to recovery. George Bonanno, a psychologist at Columbia University, notes that it's natural to switch between moments of sadness and grieving, and moments of acceptance and joy. “People who cope well with loss usually move in and out of those states. It’s OK to allow yourself to be distracted and entertained, and even to laugh.”

How to Create a Good Grief Support Message

There are a few do's and don'ts when messaging to support a friend or loved one dealing with grief. Given that, we're going to approach this using a "not this…but that" framework so we can understand the better ways to handling texting in these difficult situations. The idea came to me when reading this wonderful article on the same topic from the "Homesteaders Blog".

"Let Me Know if I Can Help"

This is another popular response that can be perceived as a kind of throw-away line. The better response would be to offer help with a specific task or just assume that it's alright to do something and confirm which day would be best to help. Something like "I'm making you dinner one day this week, would Tuesday or Wednesday be better?" This takes the guilt away from the person accepting help. It politely enforces that you're going to do something without a hollow promise that might happen. It also allows the person grieving to focus on dealing with his or her grief while you just take care of that proposed task. Following up with a simple "I'm coming by" can be a massive gesture.

"Everything Happens for a Reason"

Ugh. I'm not a fan of this one for a number of reasons. Depending on the specific situation, this could be downright insensitive. At best this text is more about making the sender feel better than the person dealing with the grief. I love the suggestion from the Homesteaders blog - "Sometimes we don’t know why things happen the way they do, but rest assured that the right people are brought into your life at the right time, and I’m here for you when you need me.” This is a more friendly way to reassure the person that you're going to be there. Its also shows empathy in that you too are unsure about the why of the circumstances, but you're there whenever he or she is ready.

"Just Give it Time"

While this generally holds to be true eventually, this a very sympathetic response that doesn't provide a lot of solace, empathy or compassion. It could open you up to making matters worse if you don't have the complete details about the grief. The authors at have a great alternative if the situation involves a death or losing a loved one. "I feel honored to have known ______." In this instance, this is a great text especially when followed up with a quick story about the impact that the person made on your life. Ask for a good time to come by and talk about stories or share memories of that person or the situation everyone is dealing with. Show compassion and empathize with the grieving person and their family.

Grief is a difficult period of life that everyone faces. The key is to lean in and be very intentional in your messages, follow up calls and other ways you connect. The important part is to reach out and show support instead of just the lip service or quick post comment.

Final Thoughts from Dr. Pam Wright

There are a lot similar text messages that we can send our friends and family when they are grieving. The key is to demonstrate empathy and caring in whatever you say.  I had a friend that used do a lot of hospital visits for sick and ailing community members. I asked him, "you see dozens of families every week - how to know the right thing to say?" This was before texting became so commonplace, but I think the advice still holds true today. He said the key is to "show up and shut up". You don't need to necessarily say anything. Just the act of reaching out and reassuring them that you're there will mean more that whatever eloquent message - text, snap, DM or otherwise - you could deliver.

#GriefSupport #BestTextMessages #ShowUpAndShutUp

Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. She is the founder and owner of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga.Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.

Grief Series: Grief Therapists

spinsight Counseling, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology ,
A good grief therapist uses specialized techniques that help people with abnormal and/or complicated and prolonged grief reactions

What to Look For in a Grief Therapist

Grief Counselor or Therapist?

Grief Therapist or Grief Counselor - for some people there is a big difference. Famed psychological clinician and research William J. Worden wrote an entire essay in 1991 on the difference. Basically he believes that grief counselors help people work through uncomplicated and more typical grief processes within a reasonable time frame. However, grief therapy uses specialized techniques that help people with abnormal and/or complicated and prolonged grief reactions. For the purposes of this discussion, we're going to use them more interchangeably.

How Grief Therapy Works

The semantic differences withstanding, both titles indicate that your counselor or therapist has specific training in helping clients process the loss of a loved one, as well as leading clients through emotions such as sadness, anger, stress, and a sense of despair. Grief is a unique and personal journey, and seeking support is a courageous step towards healing. As a licensed psychologist, I want to shed light on how this process works and offer insights into finding the right path to healing.

How does a Grief Therapist help someone deal with grief?

The most important aspect of selecting a grief counselor or a grief therapist (again, I'll use those terms interchangeably) is that he or she has requisite experience to work through your particular grief as a therapist or counselor first. A skilled therapist provides a safe space for expression, using evidence-based techniques to guide individuals through the grieving process. From active listening to tailored coping strategies, therapists play a crucial role in fostering emotional well-being.

What kind of therapy is better for grief?

Research suggests that approaches like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) are effective. Interpersonal Therapy, Traumatic Grief Therapy and Complicated Grief Therapy are also used. These therapies focus on thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, providing a holistic approach to healing. It is important to remember that there is no one or best therapeutic approach.

What is the antidote to grief?

While there's no magic cure, the antidote often lies in compassionate support, self-care, and the passage of time. A skilled therapist can guide you towards resilience and a renewed sense of purpose. Counselors at Bradley University put it best, "Grief can be present in a range of situations and can produce a wide variety of behaviors and emotions. For instance, while often typified by intense sadness, expressions of grief may also come in the form of guilt, rage, or confused relief."

What makes a good grief therapist?

Empathy, experience, and a deep understanding of the grieving process are key. A good grief therapist provides a non-judgmental space, helping clients navigate their unique journey at their own pace. The primary goal is not to erase the pain, but rather to support individuals in finding ways to integrate their loss into their lives, fostering adaptation and growth.

When should you seek out a grief counselor?

Consider seeking help if the pain of loss feels overwhelming, affecting your daily life and well-being. Grief counseling is beneficial at any stage of the grieving process. According to WebMD, grief symptoms can include:

  • Intense sadness and emotional pain
  • Feeling empty and hopeless
  • Yearning to be reunited with your loved one
  • Constantly thinking about the deceased person or how they died
  • Difficulty engaging in happy memories of the lost person
  • Avoiding anything that reminds you of the loved one
  • A reduced sense of identity
  • Detachment and isolation from friends and family
  • Lack of desire to make plans or have interests

Grief is a journey, not a destination. If you or someone you know is navigating loss, my team and I are here to offer support.

Final Thoughts from Dr. Pam Wright

Grief is typically a portion of all types of therapy.  There are so many types of grief and loss. Not being able to do certain things, not having the relationship you desire, and not having support from others are all examples of grief. However, losing a friend or loved one can be a more difficult grief to process.  I often talk with clients about the original five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) which were developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. These were modified and expanded to add two additional stages: shock and testing. These stages are not linear, and can be cycled through in different orders. In my experience, helping clients identify and understand these various stages of grief, and using the counseling technique which helps them to process their emotions while providing coping has been most effective. 

#GriefCounseling #GriefTherapyWorks #MentalHealthMatters #CopingWithLoss #GriefSupport #YouAreNotAlone

Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. She is the founder and owner of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga.Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.

Why Do Couples Yell?

spinsight Counseling, Couples Therapy, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology
Marriage Counseling Series at The Life Change Group, written by Dr. Pam Wright, mental health expert. Why do couple yell at each other?

In the Beginning...

Yelling is rarely the first scene. In fact, most relationships usually start with loving words and optimistic promises (they don't call it the "honeymoon period" for nothing), but it's not uncommon for situations and relationships to ebb, flow and spiral. Some studies indicate that as little as 3% of married couples say they never argue so there is a lot of arguing going in America's household. Yelling, however is a step above the average argument. It is a behavior that can surface in the heat of the moment, escalate rapidly and has the potential to inflict traumatic consequences on everyone involved. Knowing all of that, why do we still decide to yell at our partners?

yelling as a married couple is very common and it happens more often than you think

How Often Do Couples Yell?

Studies show that yelling is very, very common - that doesn't necessarily make it right or OK, but the statistics show that it happens a lot. This chart from YouGov indicates that approximately 30% of U.S. couples have heated arguments at least once a week, and nearly 60%  at least once a month.

What's all the Fussing About?couples argue about different topics depending on their ages

Even more intriguing than how often, is why we yell. If this were an episode of Family Feud, the top answers should be fairly intuitive - money, attitude, chores, and in-laws are typically the four most common reasons. But the other top reasons might surprise you.

The interesting points to note from this YouGov chart is how the different argument topics vary by age group. Older American couples argue about tone of voice, communication styles and health more than younger Americans. Politics is the same across all demographics - none of us can agree on that subject (my advice - just steer clear of it altogether). Another interesting note is how older couples mellow over time on certain topics - attitude, friends, sex and jealousy all cause fewer fights as we age.

Steps that Partners Should Take to Disagree Properly 

There are probably an infinite reasons why partners yell at each other, but there are a few key steps that couples can take to prevent the escalations of simple disagreements to the potential trauma of verbal abuse and yelling.

  1. Stay calm or suggesting to talk later. This is WAY easier said than done, but it is the foundation to centering emotions and not fueling fiery discussions. When either partner is yelling, the natural, primal instinct to fight or flight will prevent either person from thinking rationally and grounding conversations in honest communication. If neither of you can regain composure, then it is often best to suggest pausing and walk way until things cool down.
  2. Establish ground rules for arguments. Talk when you are both calm to set ground rules, like no profanity, threats, or insults. Explain you will walk away if boundaries are crossed. Follow through consistently.
  3. Address feelings with feelings. Many times there are complex subtexts to why either partner is yelling, and it may not even really be about what both of you are actually yelling about. Typically there might be something that has triggered an irritation, and thus the yelling. The key is determining the trigger and then re-focusing the conversation to openly discuss the real, underlying issue(s).

Final Thoughts from Dr. Pam Wright

92,100+ Time Out Hand Signal Stock Photos, Pictures ...I always teach my couples to determine who is the “distancer” and who is the “pursuer” in the relationship. The distancer needs time and space, often during or after a conflict, while the pursuer wants to figure out a solution immediately. I think of it as the distancer needs to take time to think or sleep on it, the pursuer can’t think about sleeping until things are settled. These couples have to learn to meet in the middle. I like for them to find a safe keyword or motion (like a football time out hand signal) when things get heated. But they MUST set a time to return and resolve the conflict. It doesn’t ever go away on its own!

Couples need to always come back to the relationship with each other and remember the "golden rule". Ideally you are the other's best friend, trusted partner and closest ally. With that comes a great responsibility to treat the other as you'd like to be treated - with respect - even if you're saying it loudly at the time.

Mindful Eating in a Sometimes Mindless World

Mindful eating is not only about what you eat, but also about how you eat.

Is Mindful Eating a Healthy Habit?

Mindful eating might be the goal, but most of us are making mostly mindless food decisions. Did you know that the average person makes over 200 food-related decisions every day? Talk about a mind-boggling buffet of choices! 🤯 In fact, there is an entire industry designed to make all of these decisions even more complicated with attention-inducing packaging, promotions, advertising, and even the layout of grocery stores and websites. All of these unconscious choices add up to a lot of decisioning about food, but very little focus.

That's why so many people are talking these days about Mindful Eating. It's related to mindfulness, but while mindfulness is a broader practice of being present, mindful eating is the conscious act of nourishing your body and paying extra attention on the actual eating experience.

But First...a Disclaimer

And before we continue, I can already hear all the busy moms and dads saying "we don't have time to experience food…we just need to eat and move on to everything else". Mindful Eating doesn't require a complete re-imagining of eating, and it doesn't have to happen for every meal. Honestly, what I think you'll find is that it's a game-changer for stress reduction and cultivating a more positive relationship with food.

Let's dig into the some more of the details first.

What is Mindful Eating, Really?

Mindful eating is not just about what you eat, but how you eat it. It's about being fully present. Focus on the colors, textures, and flavors of your food. Turn off distractions, tune in, and lean in to each bite. Let me give you an example. Have you ever found yourself inhaling a bag of chips while binge-watching your favorite show? Me too (although my go-to is pretzels and humus). Now, imagine savoring each chip or pretzel, appreciating its crispiness, and truly enjoying the taste. That's mindful eating – turning a mindless snack into a mindful delight.

How Does it Work?mindful eating is the practice of exploring the feelings associated with eating healthy food

There are several different types of frameworks including the 3-4-4 Eating Method, and a variety of stepped processes. Harvard's School of Public Health outlined 7 steps but Dr. Susan Albers with USC's Arcadia Hospital synthesized it in just 4 easy steps. Try these at your next family meal:

  1. Sit Down: Give your meal the attention it deserves. The brain's responsibility is to tell you that it's hungry and seek out food. Instead of being critical with your food thoughts, thank your brain for trying to save you.
  2. Savor: Relish the flavors and textures.
  3. Sip Water: Stay hydrated; it enhances the mindful experience.
  4. Slow Down: Let the pace of your meal match the rhythm of your breath.

Final Thoughts, From Dr. Pam Wright

I will do an entire segment on mindful eating vs emotional eating in a future post. The takeaway here is that I truly believe being mindful, not just about HOW we eat, but WHAT we eat is important. There are a lot of tools and ways to listen to your body and determine your level of hunger-fullness.  Mindless and often times emotional eating is super problematic since we are not aware of what we eat. Have you ever watched an interesting movie or show and realized you ate way more than you intended? Being mindful helps to control this phenomena.  Be on the lookout for more mindfulness and body awareness tips coming soon!

#MindfulEating #NourishYourSoul #HealthyHabits 🌿💖

Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. She is the founder and owner of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga.Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.

How Should Couples Argue?

spinsight Counseling, Couples Therapy, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology
Marriage Counseling Series at The Life Change Group, written by Dr. Pam Wright, mental health expert. How should couples argue properly

Is there a Right Way to Argue with Your Spouse?

Couples argue all the time, but how should couples argue properly? Is there a right and a wrong way for couples to fight. Studies suggest that fewer than 3% of couples don't argue, so it is a very common occurrence in American marriages. What are the ground rules for arguments, disagreements and shouting matches (is the latter even allowed)?

It Depends on Your Type

John and Julie Gottman are renowned marriage counselors and have created a proven method to help couples regain their connection. Their method allows them to help predict with significant accuracy if a couple will make it long-term. A key to their marriage counseling philosophy is learning how to communicate better, and this involves how to argue the right way. The Gottman's posit that there are 5 types of couples:

  1. Conflict Avoiders: As the name implies, these couples steer clear of conflict and focus on areas of common ground while celebrating their relationship for generally being happy. Yelling is typically out of character for them.
  2. Volatile Couples: Conversely, this intensely emotional couple type loves to debate and argue, but they can yell at each other constructively. These types of couples have the rare ability to emphasize connection and honesty while they argue, and still lead a passionate love life.
  3. Validating couples: This couple type is somewhat in the middle of Avoiders and Volatile. They do emphasize supporting and understanding their partner's points of view, and are often empathetic. Still, they can be competitive on some issues which can lead to power struggles.
  4. Hostile couples: This couple type demonstrates a lot of criticism, defensiveness, and contempt by using absolute statements in their arguments - "you always" and "you never" are common in their vocabulary. Each partner strives to reiterate their perspective and not understand or empathize.
  5. Hostile-Detached Couples: This couple type is often focused on winning the argument but often just end up in a frustrating and lonely standoff. Yelling may often feel like second-nature for them. These couples rarely regulate their negativity so it just festers and rots the relationship from the inside out.

Love is saying "I feel differently" instead of "you're wrong"

Mismatched Types

What happens when you're both not in the same couple type? Are you doomed from "I do"? Not at all. The idea that matched styles would be superior to mismatched styles showed mixed validity in testing of this method. However, it is interesting to note that recent studies have shown that the "Validating" couples type is key. When individuals rate at least one person as validating this may insulate these couples from lower relationship quality.

Final Thoughts From Dr. Pam Wright

The Gottman Method is just one of a myriad of frameworks to help couples and marriage counselors guide partners on re-igniting relationships and becoming stronger couples. Every couple is different in their unique ways of relating, emoting and being together. The key to any of these models and stepped processes is being willing to do the work and focus on building the relationship. There has to be an openness and willingness to change, and more importantly to doing it together. That's the type of couple that we should all aspire to become.

Why Seasonal Affective Disorder Literally Makes You SAD

SAD is an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a cause of depression for many in the winter months

Why Seasonal Affective Disorder Makes People Sad

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recurrent type of clinical depression that affects about 5% of the population according the American Psychiatric Association, mostly in the winter months when the days are shorter, and mostly among women (about four times as much, actually). Symptoms include:

  • Low energy
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Poor concentration
  • Sadness
  • Changes in sleep and appetite
  • Irritability
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Feelings of worthlessness

People with SAD tend to be tired all the time, and some report craving carbohydrates and weight gain. Treatments include light therapy, anti-depressants, Vitamin D, and counseling.

SAD Explained

But what is really happening with our minds and bodies to cause all of these symptoms? The cause seems to stem from two hormones - serotonin and melatonin. People with SAD have trouble regulating the neurotransmitter serotonin—which is responsible for balancing mood. People have a protein that assists with serotonin transport called SERT. When SERT is high, that means serotonin activity is low—leading to depression. Sunlight typically keeps SERT low, but as sunlight decreases, a decrease in serotonin activity also occurs. Based on a Johns Hopkins article describing SAD, people with this disorder also overproduce melatonin, which most people know is used to help sleep. Thus, people with SAD feel lethargic and sleepy. Decreased Serotonin and increased Melatonin impact circadian rhythms. Additionally, Vitamin D is often deficient—and low Vitamin D is associated with clinically depressive Symptoms.

Treatment Options

light therapy products can help fight the effects of SAD (seasonal affective disorder)We mentioned a few treatment options like anti-depressants, vitamin D and counseling. But one of the most commonly used treatments is called Light Therapy, or Bright Light Therapy. These products, which you can find online, emit full spectrum light similar to sunlight-but without UV rays. Whichever one you select should provide exposure of 10,000 lux of light. This makes these light boxes approximately 20 times stronger than indoor lighting. Light therapy is typically used first thing in the morning for anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. The Mayo Clinic has a wonderful light therapy product buying guide.


Be sure to follow the manufacture’s guidelines when using. People should not use light therapy if they have retinal disease such as macular degeneration. It is also not recommended for those on certain medications, such as Lithium, Acutane, Melatonin, and certain anti-biotics. Light therapy is not recommended for those with BiPolar Disorder unless recommended by a professional. Light therapy should be monitored by a health professional. Taking Vitamin D can also help SAD. Low Vitamin D is associated with depression due to insufficient dietary intake or little outdoor exposure to sunshine.

Other Options

The Johns Hopkins research also indicates that you can mitigate SAD symptoms by doing the following:

  • Set attainable goals, consider breaking down tasks and make reasonable priorities. Feeling better will take time, so set that expectation with yourself
  • Accept help and support from friends and family
  • Get regular exercise and eat healthy, well-balanced meals
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs since these can make depression worse

Final Thoughts, From Dr. Pam Wright

Clients often ask me how to know the difference between major depressive disorder and SAD. I tell them to think of SAD as a recurrent depression. So if you typically have depressive symptoms at the same time each year (starting during the winter months), you most likely have SAD. I highly recommend light therapy for those with SAD. I use a light myself during the winter months. It’s best to use the light first thing in the morning for 20 to 60 minutes. This helps to reduce melatonin and increase serotonin.

Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. She is the founder and owner of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga.Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.

Stress and Anxiety Secret Weapon – Breathe!

spinsight Counseling, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology, Stress ,
Breathing is the secret weapon to reducing stress and anxiety. Learn the techniques from Dr. Pam Wright and the therapists and counselors at The Life Change Group

The Secret Weapon

Do you know the stress and anxiety secret weapon? There are a lot of strategies and suggestions for how to reduce stress and overcome anxiety (the Anxiety & Depression Association of America has a great list), but one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated things you can do is breathe. The problem is that many people don't know how or take the time to breathe properly. 🌬️💆‍♂️💆‍♀️

There is a great scene in the movie "Everafter" (shout out to Drew Barrymore and her portrayal of Cinderella) where the main character walks into a giant ballroom filled with glaring and judging attendees. All eyes turn to look as she enters the room. She takes a moment, calms herself and says "breathe, just breathe". The scene didn't lock up any Oscars for Barrymore, but the concept is exactly on point. Intentional and mindful breathing are scientifically proven to have a profound impact on reducing stress and anxiety levels. Here's how breathing can be your secret weapon too.

How to breathe 🧘‍♂️

There's actually a specific way to breathe when you want to calm yourself. By focusing on your breath, you engage your body's relaxation response, calming the nervous system and promoting a sense of well-being. One of the most popular ways to do this is the use the 4-7-8 breathing technique, popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil. It's a simple yet effective method that anyone can follow using these simple steps:

  • First, let your lips part. Make a whooshing sound, exhaling completely through your mouth.
  • Next, close your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.
  • Then, for seven seconds, hold your breath.
  • Make another whooshing exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.
  • Repeat as necessary (you'll usually recognize a difference in your mental state after 5-7 breaths, but do what feels right for you)

Box breathing, where you inhale, hold, exhale, and pause for equal counts, is another popular technique. The key for both is purposefully taking measured beats to inhale, hold and exhale. Take a minute and try it. Or watch this breathing video for a quick example.

Why do the 4-7-8 and box breathing techniques work? 🤷‍♀️

According to the Harvard Business Review, "When we are in a highly stressed state, our prefrontal cortex — the part of our brain responsible for rational thinking — is impaired, so logic seldom helps to regain control. This can make it hard to think straight with your team. But with breathing techniques, it is possible to gain some mastery over your mind." Proper breathing helps regulate the autonomic nervous system, balancing the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) responses. This balance promotes relaxation, reduces stress hormones, and fosters a sense of calm. Studies have suggested that slow, deep breathing can lower cortisol levels. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, can be effectively managed by incorporating techniques that engage the diaphragm and promote relaxation.

How do I get started?Diaphragmatic breathing is a secret weapon against stress and anxiety

Here are a few steps to get started:

  • Pay attention to your breath. It sounds weird at first, but notice how it feels. Recognize what your body is doing - how your lungs fill with air, how your chest raises and then lowers when the air is exhaled.
  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing—inhaling deeply into your abdomen.
  • Really practice. Good breathing techniques don't come natural to us, so take the time figure out what works for you
  • Recognize when you're shallow breathing. Shallow breathing is when you inhale

What other secret weapons are there?

In addition to these breathing techniques, progressive muscle relaxation can be added to release tension. Either way, consistency is paramount to training your body to respond to stress. So be intentional with your breathing and practice. Our clients have found a lot of success by taking time each day - just a few minutes - to remove all distractions and focus on practicing their breathing. While deep breathing is beneficial for relaxation, it's not necessary to do it constantly. Incorporate deep breathing exercises into your routine, especially during stressful moments, to enjoy the calming effects.

Final Thoughts

With all the ways that you can reduce stress - and there are a ton of products, processes and ideas - one of the easiest and free ways is proper breathing. Remember, the journey to stress relief begins with each intentional breath. Experiment with different techniques to discover what works best for you, and embrace the power of mindful breathing on your path to a calmer, more centered life. 💙 #BreatheWell #StressReliefJourney


Teen Stress at an All-Time High

spinsight Counseling, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology, Group Therapy, Stress , ,
teen stress is at an all-time high. Dr. Pam Wright from The Life Change Group provide statistics and ways to help teens deal with stress more effectively

Teen Stress is at an All-Time High

Gen Z teens today are 30% more stressed out than millennials were at the same age. According a recent Gallup poll, "Gen Z members note 'thriving' at a 41% rate compared to a 60% rate from millennials. APA CEO, Arthur Evans thinks today's teens may just be more tuned into their mental health. That may be a part of it, but stats from a Zogby poll last year indicate that youth face a lot more stressors too.

The PYD (Positive Youth Development) framework illustrates that to achieve the vision of healthy, productive and engaged youth, kids must better use their assets, contribution, agency and enabling environments

  • 54% are “aware of someone who has been bullied because of their race, sexual orientation, or income level”
  • 58% “personally know someone who has considered self-harm or suicide
  • 40% of Gen Z students said they worried a lot or some about gun violence at their school

Even parents are seeing the spike. A RethinkFirst survey noted three-quarters of polled parents observed one or more of these emotions in their child during the last school year." This rate is more than double what was previously reported. Whatever the reason, teens are escalating their problems and letting it be known that stress and anxiety, and overall mental health, is a big concern. So what can be done?

There are several existing models - the 5A's and 5C's are good places to start from a broad level, but many psychologists and therapists gravitate towards variations of the PYD (Positive Youth Development) framework. Here's how it works:

  • Assets - help kids build stronger interpersonal skills (get them off their phones)
  • Contribution - encourage play and interaction with other teens
  • Enabling Environment - actively listen to your teen and create bonding opportunities
  • Agency - encourage them and give them a chance to use their voice (figuratively and literally)

We were all teens once. It's a confusing, chaotic and just a weird time of everyone's life. It can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be over-whelming and there are actions that we as friends, parents, teachers and community leaders can take to make a difference.

Life After Diagnosis Coping Group

Life After Diagnosis breast cancer support group at The Life Change Group

Life After Diagnosis Coping Group

Life after diagnosis is a reality. But it doesn't soften the words "you have cancer" - they can hit harder than you can possibly imagine. For patients they are as real and scary as you can imagine. Time seems to stop as you try and process what this means. For friends and family those carry a different but still difficult burden. It's still the same question - what will this mean. But there is life after diagnosis and we want to be a part of your journey.

At The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, we are starting a support group focused on Life After Breast Cancer Diagnosis. This will be an eight-week group starting on Tuesday, January 16 and running once a week (on Tuesdays) through March 5, 2024.

Key Details

  • Group Guide: Dr. Danyella Greene (Psychologist, Ph.D.)
  • When: Tuesdays from 4-5pm ET
  • Dates: COMING SOON
  • Location: 302 Stevens Entry, Peachtree City, GA 30269
  • Contact: 770-486-4887 (ask for Dr. Greene)

Our Guide

Danyella will also be our guide on this journey as we tackle the common fears post-diagnosis, discuss the prospect of altered femininity, and the seismic shift in life’s trajectory. In the safety of the private group's shared experiences, we will find that we are not alone in our journeys.

What to Expect

The atmosphere for these sessions is non-judgmental, fostering trust and vulnerability. Bonds formed in previous support groups have often proven to be some of the strongest. The support group will typically transcend its role as a coping mechanism; it usually becomes a lifeline, connecting women with an unspoken understanding that only those who have faced similar battles can comprehend.

We hope that you can join us at Life After Diagnosis for Breast Cancer survivors at The Life Change Group with Dr. Danyella Greene.