This year, for most, if not all of us, has been a challenge financially, emotionally and spiritually. With new regulations set by the state and a holiday season coming up when most will not be able to see their family and friends as usual, it doesn’t look like our stress levels will be leveling off any time soon. So, what should we do? One Louisville marriage and family therapist and a local spiritual and grief coach suggest journaling to work through our feelings.

During the pandemic, many people feel less connected to loved ones and isolated from the rest of the world. With the holiday season coming up-- formerly the only time people would see family-- it’s a reminder of how alone some can feel. “I always see it around the holidays,” Lauren Virant, MSSW LMFT, says about increased anxiety. “A lot of people feel pressure in a condensed amount of time for planning and executing events and incorporating into their roles with family and friends. It can cause a lot of anxiety this time of year.”

It’s fight, flight or freeze for all of us during this time of Covid and a polarized political climate, according to Jacqueline Hope Derby, spiritual and grief coach. “We can’t flee in the ways we normally have, which raises anxiety further,” she says of those who are already suffering with anxiety. “(We developed) a freeze response. We are never flowing with life and ease; there’s a heightened somatic response. Life is requiring so much more of us spiritually and emotionally, and it’s stretched us to our limit. It’s exhausting.”

Now that many options for self-care have been limited or canceled, like fitness classes and dinner reservations, communities are fracturing, connections aren’t as deep and angst is being felt by all. “We are disconnected from purpose and meaning,” Jacqueline says. “Stack all of those things on top and every human being is going to break. We aren’t supposed to carry this much load. We are collectively going through grief, and there’s fear that comes with those losses.”

So, the experts say, find a container, or outlet, for those feelings of anxiety and grief. Studies show that the physical action of handwriting can make a connection from mind to body. “If we don’t have a container to place our longing and grief, it’s spinning like a hamster wheel in our brain,” Jacqueline says. “We are going over it again and again.” Some can have a difficult time sorting through intrusive, racing thoughts, so journaling can create a “safe” space. “Journaling is the best way to map (the thoughts) out and sort through (them),” Lauren says.

Once your thoughts are on paper, you can see them in a different light, according to Jacqueline. “We begin to see that it’s not as bad as you thought,” she says. “Writing is such a precious and sacred exercise … you push yourself on the page and see yourself differently.” The goal, she says isn’t to have the good thoughts outweigh the bad. “Think of the thoughts as the east and west; they both exist,” Jacqueline says.


  1. Jot down thoughts during the week on your phone or a posted note, so they’re not forgotten or ignored. Go back to those thoughts later to process or find clarity through journaling, says Lauren.
  2. Start with a prompt: You can begin with “Today, I’m afraid about...,” “Today I miss…,” or “Today I long for…” to identify the difficult feelings in the body, says Jacqueline.
  3. Write the good and the bad. “Gratitude is an important prompt,” Jacqueline says, but scribbling down the negative thoughts can be therapeutic, too. Attend to your thoughts, says Lauren, and give each thought an endpoint.
  4. Bless the bad. “Thank it, and invite it to teach you something. Not everything has a meaning, but if it does, give it a meaning,” says Jacqueline.

Lauren Virant, MSSW LMFT can be reached at Jacqueline Hope Derby can be reached

Posted on 2020-12-03 by By Taylor Riley