The Holidays and Expectations

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only a week away. In our home, the Christmas tree has already been set up and twinkling since early November. Tis the season for crazy schedules, holiday activities, travel, and lots of holiday functions. Most families have their list of traditions, and if your family is like ours, have already began filling the calendar with various events and gatherings. In both families at large, and in our individual hearts, there are typically many expectations surrounding this time. These expectations can include a list of traditions that will be celebrated, how they will be celebrated, when they will be celebrated, and who will be there. Sometimes the expectations of others align with our individual desires and sometimes they do not. How do we navigate managing the expectations of our own heart during the holidays? How do we honor the expectations of others while also maintaining congruence with our own bandwidth and ability to show up? 

 As I ponder my own expectations for the next few months, I wonder how to make my time align with my desires. A helpful tool may be to sit down and determine personal values surrounding the holiday season. What seems the most important? What are your spoken or unspoken expectations? What is your heart longing for this season? In this process of seeking understanding, you may discover a strong value to spend extra time with extended family or out of town friends. On the contrary, you may determine a value of carving out more time for immediate family and advocating for slowness in your household. Some may discover a longing to be more intentionally focused on the meaning of the season and engage in more church centered activities. We are all unique in our desires and could be holding many expectations at one time. It could be helpful to check in with yourself and determine these expectations ahead of time. 

A meaningful element to consider and make space for, is the presence of sadness related to the holidays. The feelings of sadness, loss, loneliness, can be prevalent around the holiday season. Gathering with family can be complex. Not gathering with family can be complex. For many, family can bring an array of feelings and pain. Grief and loss can come up around the holidays, as many of us are missing loved ones. Maybe children aren’t coming home this year, and “empty nesters” are feeling extra empty. Maybe times are changing and things aren’t quite how they used to be. Nostalgia can bring warm feelings of joy, as well as a ping of longing for the past. Holidays can highlight estranged relationships, or relationships that once occurred and have since ended. Many families are deeply saddened by missing those who have passed away. The reality is, most of us have pain points that get rubbed around the holidays. 

Is it okay to feel this pain? Is there a way to hold both sadness and joy in the same hands? It is possible to acknowledge pain and longing, along with gratitude and hope? Grappling with our broken places and hurting parts require bravery. It can feel hard to address these places in our heart, especially during the holidays when many want to feel “merry and bright.” Isn’t this supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year”? 

As the holidays are complicated, so is the pain that’s etched into every story. The human experience isn’t limited to one feeling. The holidays can be more than happy. Maybe a piece of the “wonderfulness” of this time of year lies in the opportunity to acknowledge all of the parts and experiences that make up our lives. Maybe we can celebrate our resilience. We can give permission to bring all of ourselves to the table, including all of our mess and hurts. The holidays can represent an opportunity to acknowledge the whole story of our heart. We can choose to make space for all of our emotion, even if those emotions are sad or lonely. 

We may be surprised at what happens with the permission to acknowledge pain. This release could actually provide more opportunity for joy. Allowing ourselves to be fully seen, could cast out shame. Sharing pain with others could allow for connection and combat isolation.

And if you ever discover that you want the compassionate support of a trained therapist, the Refuge Center would love to serve you. To schedule an intake appointment, call 615-591-5262 or email To see what sort of services we provide, head to

Written by Master’s Level Intern Gray Hernandez

Living BIG

“Do you think people are doing the best they can?”

This is a question Dr. Brene Brown approaches her husband with in her book Rising Strong, which turns into a research question she goes on to ask hundreds of other people. 

If you were to answer this question truthfully what do you think your response would be? For the most compassionate people in the world, I would assume their answer would be a definite “yes.” People are always doing the best they can with the tools they have. However, for the “realists” of the world, it may be exceedingly difficult to come to the understanding that people are always doing the best they can. 

For example, let’s say you are standing in line at the grocery store. The woman in front of you finishes her order and the cashier is ready to take the payment and announces the total. The woman becomes confused and frustrated, stating she does not see the discounts on some items she was expecting there to be. The cashier apologies, but says there is nothing he can do. The woman in front of you becomes more angry, demands to see a manager and says she will wait all day if she has to in order to get the discount. And there you are, in a rush to get home, waiting in the only open cashier line on a woman who wants a discount. 

If you were the one patiently, or not so patiently waiting in line, you might become frustrated. Thoughts of, “Why can’t she just move on?” or “Seriously? You’re making a big deal out of nothing,” may come to mind. After all, you’re in a rush and she is holding up the line, causing a scene and inhibiting you from getting home. You might view her as selfish and entitled. After all, you wouldn’t make such a big deal about a discount, so why should she?

Now, try imagining that this woman is doing the best she can. Let’s say her husband just got laid off from his job. Maybe she has had a family crisis and is now fully responsible for the livelihood of her grandchildren. She may be a single mom struggling to put her children through college. In any of these instances, every single penny saved matters and makes a difference. When the cashier tells her the total of her order, in which she already cut down to make sure she could afford, it is so understandable why she might have such an emotional reaction. She is trying her best to provide for her family with the tools she has. The fear of being unable to pay for groceries sets in, she becomes scared and reacts negatively.

After going through similar experiences of being frustrated by those around her and taking a long time to reflect, Dr. Brene Brown writes, “I really do believe that most of us are doing the very best we can with the tools we have. I believe we can grow and get better, but I also believe that most of us are really doing our best.” 

Dr. Brene Brown writes in her book that one of the reasons why it is difficult to believe others are doing the best they can is due to the fact she has a hard time believing that for herself. Many people who identify as people pleasers and perfectionists find it difficult to believe they are always living up to their fullest potential. When we don’t believe we are doing the best we can ourselves, we can lead ourselves towards self-judgment, self-criticism, and striving toward an impossible standard of perfection. Many times we can tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on others. Therefore, the only way we can begin learning how to be more compassionate toward others is by first being compassionate toward ourselves. In Rising Strong, Dr. Brown writes, “Sometimes when we are beating ourselves up, we need to stop and say to that harassing voice inside, ‘Man, I’m doing the very best I can right now.’” 

While it may seem counterintuitive, Dr. Brene Brown has found that the most compassionate people are also the most boundaried. One cannot assume others are doing their best and give compassion toward others if they are not taking care of themselves by setting their own boundaries. Without boundaries in relationships, you can easily become resentful of others for not showing you the same grace you may have shown them. In order to obtain healthy boundaries alongside compassion, Dr. Brown encourages readers toward a lifestyle of “Living BIG.” BIG stands for boundaries, integrity and generosity. 

Living out boundaries in Living BIG requires us to become clear on what behaviors are acceptable and which are not. You know when your boundaries have been crossed by others when you start feeling resentful or angry. Boundaries are to be put in place so you are able to protect your own well being. 

Integrity requires a sort of self respect to hold yourself accountable to the boundaries you set in place. Living in integrity means being honest with yourself and others about what boundaries are important to you. 

Finally, we exemplify generosity when we are generous about our assumptions of others. It requires us to believe that others truly are doing the best they can with the tools they have. Looking back at the woman in the grocery store, we can assume she was having a bad day or difficulty providing for her family, rather than viewing her as selfish and entitled. This helps us stay living in compassion toward others. Dr. Brene Brown puts it perfectly in regard to explaining the concept of generosity in Living BIG: “I am going to be generous in my assumptions and intentions while standing in my integrity and being very clear about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.”

If you are struggling with showing others and yourself compassion, or recognize that you may need more boundaries in your relationships, please reach out to The Refuge Center. We would love nothing more than to support you in your journey to self compassion through living BIG.

Written by Master’s Level Intern Lindsay Walker


Brown, B. (2017). Rising strong: How the ability to reset transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Random House Publishing Group.

The Value of Support in Times of Change

Throughout our journey, we encounter moments where we need the support of others. During these times, we rely on those around us to help us navigate difficult situations and celebrate the good times. The power of community is profound and can tremendously impact our lives – every act of support, whether a word of encouragement or a helping hand, leaves a lasting impression on our lives.

Often, when we face that proverbial rough patch in the road and feel lost and overwhelmed, our support system becomes crucial. These fellow travelers remind us of our strength, encourage us when we feel like giving up, and provide us with the unwavering belief that we can overcome anything. And in moments of celebration, when we achieve significant milestones in our lives, our support network amplifies our happiness in meaningful ways. They cheer us on, share in our triumphs, and help us create memories we will cherish forever.

Support comes in many forms – from family members who offer unconditional love – to friends who lend a listening ear and offer wise advice. Sometimes, support comes from a treasured mentor, a spiritual guide, or a therapist who encourages us through the dark night of the soul. Even strangers can extend a helping hand without expecting anything in return. Every contribution matters, and every act of support makes a difference.

Having a support network is a powerful tool that can help us overcome our personal struggles and find inner peace in those seasons of life that are difficult to walk alone. One of the key benefits of the therapeutic journey is the opportunity to gain insight into one’s own patterns of behavior and thought. Often, we are so caught up in our day-to-day lives that we fail to recognize the underlying factors contributing to our struggles. Therapy encourages us to slow down and reflect on our experiences, helping us identify negative patterns or beliefs that hold us back.

By seeking therapy, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the issues we face, allowing us to make positive changes in our lives. The therapeutic process provides a safe space to explore our emotions, thoughts, and experiences in a non-judgmental environment. Through various therapeutic interventions, it is possible to learn new skills that assist in developing healthier ways of relating to ourselves and others. Therapy offers a unique opportunity for personal growth and self-discovery; it allows us to explore our values, desires, and aspirations more deeply by examining our core beliefs and understanding how these beliefs shape our actions and decisions. This work can help us realign with what truly matters and help us make better informed, intentional choices that lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying life.

In addition, therapy provides an invaluable support system during difficult times. A therapist serves as an unbiased confidant who listens without judgment or agenda. This kind of empathetic presence can be transformative when faced with challenges such as grief, trauma, or relationship issues. Having someone by your side who offers guidance and validation can make all the difference in navigating through life’s ups and downs. Ultimately, therapy offers hope for those who may feel stuck or overwhelmed by their circumstances. It is a reminder that we have the power within ourselves to heal and grow. By taking the courageous step towards seeking therapy, individuals embark on a journey of self-discovery, personal growth, and the possibility of a life filled with purpose and fulfillment.

Change can be daunting, but it is also an opportunity for growth and personal development. When faced with significant changes in our lives, having a solid support system can make all the difference. Your support system is like a safety net that catches you when you feel like falling, providing comfort and encouragement along the way. They are the cheerleaders on your journey, reminding you of your resilience and strength. Whether it’s family, friends, or even mentors, these individuals play a crucial role in helping you navigate through life’s twists and turns.

In times of change, it’s important to lean on those who uplift and inspire you. Surround yourself with people who believe in your potential and encourage you to pursue your dreams. These individuals will not only offer practical advice but also provide emotional support when things get tough. They will remind you of how far you’ve come and help you envision the possibilities that lie ahead. Your support system can offer different perspectives and insights, broadening your horizons as you navigate through change. They may challenge your assumptions or introduce new ideas that spark creativity and innovation. Their diverse experiences can shed light on paths you may have never considered before. During times of change, it’s essential to communicate openly with your support system. Share your fears, hopes, and aspirations with them. They can better understand your needs and provide guidance tailored to your unique circumstances through open dialogue. 

Remember that change is not meant to be faced alone; it is meant to be embraced together with those who care about us most. So reach out to your support system when facing uncertainty or embarking on new endeavors – their presence will illuminate the path ahead and empower you to embrace change with confidence. Change is inevitable in life, but having a strong support system empowers us to face it head-on. With an unwavering support system, we can courageously overcome challenges and embrace new opportunities. Let your support system be the wind beneath your wings as you soar to new heights and realize your true potential.

Written by Masters Level Intern Leila Borders

The Gift of Self-Care

As fall comes into focus and colder weather starts peeking through, we enter into a new season. For many, the fall season brings a familiar sense of busyness with school in full swing, football back on the field, fall activities on our to-do list, and the beginning of our descent into the holiday season. In many ways, October can feel like the kick-off into the season of hustle and bustle. With holiday busyness on the horizon, October holds an opportunity for grounding and intentional thoughtfulness around how to show up in this season. For me, two desires come to mind: slowness and presence. I want to instill slowness to savor the moments to come, and presence to be fully connected and available for myself and my family. 

When thinking about how to cultivate a life of presence and intentionality, one simple yet life-changing practice comes to mind; self-care. Providing space in our lives to participate in self-care allows us to show up as the best versions of ourselves and love others from a place of fullness. It can have massive positive impacts on our mental health, emotional regulation skills, sense of self, ability to feel grounded, and relational health. When considering how implement meaningful life change, self-care is a wonderful skill to establish. 

What is self-care? 

According to Oxford Languages, self-care is “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.” 

This definition addresses that our health is our responsibility. From the lens of physical health, this idea seems familiar to us. Generally, we understand that how we treat our bodies can have positive or negative effects on our weight, mood, cognition, and a variety of other aspects of our health. When it comes to our mental health, however, we seem to be uncomfortable acknowledging the importance of caring for our emotional selves. As with our physical health, there are consequences to leaving our emotions unattended. The longer we go without providing support to our needs, the more tired, burnout, overwhelmed, and disconnected we become. 

Self-care, from a mental health perspective, is an invitation to engage with our emotions on a regular basis. It is a time set aside to connect with our feeling and become more aware of our needs. It’s a consistent place for internal check-ins, to enable us to approach our lives in a more centered and connected way. In this practice, we can learn to fill our emotional cup and interact with the world around us from a position of fullness, understanding, and rest. Self-care involves participating in the regular practice of intentionally understanding and caring for the needs of your heart. It encourages us to create margin in our lives to breath, connect with ourselves, and engage in the kinds of leisure activities that are life giving. 

How to engage in self-care 

The starting point of implementing self-care practices into our lives, begins with an exploration phase. This journey begins with discovering the ways in which you enjoying connecting with yourself and deciding the types of practices that fit into your lifestyle. The practical application of self-care can look differently for everyone. We are unique creatures with different thoughts, feelings, and desires to explore and meet. For some, renewal and reflection can be best promoted through interaction with nature. This could include walks outside, hiking, biking, camping and spending time outside. For others self-care could look like tapping into creative outlets such as cooking, creating music, writing, journaling, or painting. There are endless ways we can care for ourselves; the idea is to discover the uniqueness of an environment to best promote personal self-connection. 

Self-care activities can vary in length – some might be a 15-minute bath, a 20-minute journal session, or a 25-minute run. Others activities could take several hours such as a lengthy hike or picnic in the park. If implementing self-care into your daily routine feels daunting, try starting small. Begin to notice the moments of your day that you enjoy, and build on those places. Self-care can be as simple as enjoying a cup of coffee.

What self-care is not 

When beginning to understand self-care principles, we might run into the thought process that taking care of yourself is selfish. We are often driven to be attuned to the needs of others and have a desire to meet those needs. We want to address the needs of our clients or loved ones, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, it would be beneficial to debunk the myth that taking care of ourselves inhibits us from meeting the needs of someone else. Self-care is not denying the needs of another in order to serve ourselves. It is not self-seeking, prideful, or harmful to anyone else. It is taking care of ourselves in order to benefit ourselves and those around us. If we begin to prioritize our emotional wellbeing, we might find a renewed patience, tolerance, understanding, and empathy for those around us. If we have an understanding of the emotions inside of us, we are less likely to project those emotions onto others. If we take ownership of our emotional world, we are less likely to look to others to fill our cup. If we participate in regular check-ins with ourselves and provide nurture to the hurting parts, we are able to be more fully present with those we love. Our emotions are our responsibility, and when we take ownership of them our relationships can thrive. Self-care is a way we can sacrificially serve our families, friends, children, and close relationships.  


Self-care is a practice to encourage connection with one’s inner self and tend for the needs of the heart. This practice involves creating an awareness of emotions, identifying inner needs, and learning to provide care for those needs. The idea is to cultivate an understanding and tenderness to one’s inner self. Journaling, praying, meditating, and reflecting are all common ways for individuals to connect with their heart. The key to self-care is to create and maintain a relationship with one’s own heart and unveil the complexities that are within. The more one can uncover deep emotions, name them, and interact with them, the more centered and aware they become. Self-nurture is a sacred invitation to explore the deep places of the human heart and live fully from a place of emotional awareness and abundance. 

If you would like assistance in your journey toward living a connected, intentional, and present life, The Refuge Center would love to walk alongside you. We exist to serve the mental health needs of our community and offer care for a multitude of presenting issues. No matter where you are on your journey towards health, we are here to serve your individual and unique needs. 

By Gray Hernandez, Master’s Level Intern

Breaking the Silence: Understanding and Supporting Suicide Prevention and Awareness

Suicide is a word that many of us don’t want to say out loud, much less read about or say out loud. In certain circles, suicide can be seen as the “easy way out.” We’ve judged it. We’ve judged the people who’ve chosen to do it. And we have judged the people closest to the person who took his own life. 

Suicide is hard. Suicide is awful and gutwrenchingly painful. Many of us don’t understand it because we don’t know what it feels like to be in the headspace of a person who genuinely believes the pain of living just needs to end. 

But we need to talk about it. We need to learn, we need to grow, and we need to have more compassion and understanding for our brothers, sisters, neighbors, parents, and children who are contemplating suicide.

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month—a month devoted to raising awareness about suicide and gaining an understanding of how to talk to those we love about it. Suicide seems daunting, but there is so much beauty found in having authentic conversations with people in vulnerable places. It’s not that people who experience suicidal thoughts actually want their life to end, but rather, for the all-consuming pain they feel to just be over.

Over the years, the number of people seeking therapy has seemed to grow, yet many still feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness, that it’s unacceptable, and that their problems really aren’t that big a deal. As friends and community members, we have an important role to pay attention when our friends are hurting. 

Look for these warning signs to help you recognize when someone around you is experiencing suicidal thoughts:

  1. Feeling hopeless, extremely sad, and experiencing unbearable emotional or physical pain 
  2. Talking about wanting to die and being a burden to others 
  3. Withdrawing from friends, eating or sleeping more or less, displaying extreme mood swings

As we grapple with how to support those in crisis, it can feel difficult to know how to address those warning signs we see in others. Below are 5 tips to keep in mind while having conversations with those in crisis, as outlined by The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline:

  1. Ask. The idea that asking someone directly about suicide will increase their likelihood of following through with it is a myth. In fact, asking direct questions may reduce suicidal ideation. Here is a way you can ask directly: “I’m worried because I noticed (insert symptoms you have noticed). Have you had thoughts about suicide?”
  1. Help Keep Them Safe. If you are able, reduce the suicidal person’s access to any means of harming themself. Store firearms and/or medication in a safe and give the key to a trusted friend. 
  1. Be There. Allowing your friend in need to strengthen connections and limit their time in isolation is proven to protect them against suicide. 
  1. Help Them Connect. Encourage them to reach out for help. Individuals who called the 988 Lifeline were less depressed, suicidal, and overwhelmed and felt more hopeful by the end of the phone call. 
  1. Follow Up. After connecting someone experiencing suicidality to immediate support, reaching out to check in on them can increase their feelings of connectedness and support. Even a simple text has the power to help someone in need. 

While we do play an important role in the lives of others, it’s also important to note that no one should feel ultimately responsible for the life of another. This isn’t a time to place blame. The best thing you can do is sit with someone in their struggle and refer them to the proper resources.

You don’t have to be a professional to step in and help, you just need to care enough to show compassion. You can reach out your hand to the weak while simultaneously extending your other hand to grab onto resources with the experience and guidance to help pull your person back from the ledge.

Here at The Refuge Center, we desire to walk alongside you. We exist to hold a safe place for you and all that your life has to offer. If you or someone you know is struggling, please call The Refuge Center to set up an appointment. If you are currently experiencing suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to reach out to the Suicide and Crisis Hotline by dialing 988 to receive immediate support. 

You are not alone. Your life matters.

Written by Master’s Level Intern Lindsay Walker

Additional Resources: 

  • Crisis Help Line: 615.244.7444 
  • Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: dial 988 
  • Mobile Crisis for Minors: 866.791.9222 
  • 911 or Local Emergency Room


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, August 10). Provisional suicide deaths in the United States, 2022. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.