Dr. Kate Truitt & Associates

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For the Holidays in Difficult Times

The Hug Hack: Simulating Neurological Connection in Times of Social Distancing

Being apart from our loved ones in time of stress and fear directly conflicts with the way humanity is biologically designed. This quick brain hack helps you experience a physiological sense of connection when you are connecting remotely. Now you can enjoy your zoom dates, virtual holiday connections, virtual happy hours and WhatsApp/FaceTime calls with the people you love and share the experience of a physically distanced hug! Double bonus? A delightful dose of Serotonin and GABA. Physically Distanced doesn’t mean Socially Disconnected. Let’s hug each other—virtually!

Navigating Family Pressures During the 2020 Holidays with Success

Join Dr. Kate Truitt in this video for some quick tips on how to set healthy boundaries, make choices that feel comfortable for you, while actually creating connection with your family members.

Dr. Kate will discuss such tips as:

  • Communicating boundaries from a place of love
  • Creating connection within the distance
  • New opportunities for family reminiscing
  • Showing up in the small ways to show your love
  • and more…

Holidays are traditionally a time of family connection and the unique experiences of 2020 add new layers of stress and pressure. With the variety of different points of view regarding how to stay safe during these holidays—feeling comfortable setting boundaries and doing these differently this year may feel hard (if not impossible). Connection, love, and support possible.

Guided Meditation for Calming Anxiety about Family During the 2020 Holidays

Boundary-setting conversations can be anxiety producing. As the Holidays approach and the CDC, WHO, and health experts are continuing to reinforce the necessity for us find connection through safe distance—our amygdala may be kicking up some feelings about wanting to see loved ones or upsetting someone because we’re choosing to stay away in order to protect everyone. Did you know that Amy, our Amygdala, spins stories that we will be abandoned or rejected if we set boundaries? This can make difficult conversations even more painful to have. Through welcoming the self-havening touch, CPR for the Amygdala, and the Creating Possibilities Protocol we can harness the opportunities of neuroplasticity to soothe the fear and empower us live our best lives.

Leaning into Grief and Loss to Create Healing

This is a time of deep grief and loss. From the felt sense of lost freedoms to the very real loss of those we know and love passing on from this world. Grief is an experience of both mourning and honoring. It’s important to take space to be conscientious and kind to ourselves about our feelings and truths as we navigate the darkness of pain and loss. The experience of loss of 2020 in specifically unique as we are isolated from our communities and our loved ones. Learn some key takeaways in this video.

A Guided Meditation for Finding your Resilience in Difficult Times with Dr. Kate Truitt

Difficult moments pass and they carry wonderful opportunities for growth. It is only through leaning in with curiosity about these darker moments of our life while holding space for the stories that we tell ourselves that we become empowered to utilize the lessons of our past through the wisdom of our present to design the opportunities of our future.

Hugs and Home for the Holidays During Challenging Times

By Dr. Kate Truitt

The “holiday blues” are a real thing, even in less complicated times. The weather turns colder, the nights are longer, people ruminate over what has happened in their lives over the past year, some are without loved ones that were with them during the previous holidays, and many people are left out of all of the celebration and excitement they see going on around them.

With everything that has befallen all of us in 2020, I must assume the holiday blues may be more widespread than usual this year. The danger with the holiday blues is that if they linger on past the season, that can be a sign that depression is trying to take hold. One of the biggest predictors of depression is social isolation. Being in a state of enforced social isolation, as we are now, only makes that situation worse.


That old song title, “(There’s no Place Like) Home for the Holidays,” has taken on a different connotation this year, since home has become the place for just about everything in 2020, including work and school, and now for a limited version of the celebrations we hold and connections we make at this time. A piece of advice that is one of the bullet points on nearly every “beating the holiday blues” list is “creating new traditions.” I look at that as an opportunity we have in these times, because we pretty much have no choice but to create a new paradigm around how we celebrate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has strongly recommended that in-person holiday gatherings only include people who live in and share a given house or apartment, especially if they are held indoors. The CDC also recommends that if people insist on holding in-person gatherings that they be held outdoors with a small, socially distanced and masked group, and for a limited amount of time. Not easy to accomplish in the rain or snow.

This means we must get creative when it comes to getting together. Most of us have had our creativity stretched to new dimensions over the past eight months since COVID restrictions have been in place, so we should be able to do this. First, let’s look at what the holidays mean to us, whatever and however we celebrate so we can understand more about the holiday blues.


I have always thought of the holidays as not so much a couple of important days around the end of the year, but as a part of a year-long process, because they are often a time when we review how things have, or have not, progressed throughout the year. Which of our goals for the year have we achieved, and which have fallen by the wayside? There may be joy in some of that, but there also may also be a sense of failure for not living up to the expectations that we or others have for us.

The holidays create this interesting experience of who am I in the world I’m living in now—what’s missing, what am I grateful for, what is abundant?

The personal pressures during these unique holiday times may also be intense, especially after you have navigated new challenges and difficulties in your personal and professional life. The holidays create a whole new level of stress, and some may still be facing pressure to get together and celebrate, given the fractiousness and weariness around safety precautions.


We all like to portray that we’re having a great experience during the holidays, sharing pictures on social media with everyone filled with joy. But what if for some of us, that is not the reality at this time of year?

One thing that may be difficult to do, but can be very empowering, is to be a little more vulnerable in our social media circles. If you feel it is appropriate, you might put out a call to your friends and say, “Hey, I am having a bit of a hard time—could you guys reach out to me this season and show me a little love?” I have long shared that advice with people around the holidays and it is more relevant this year than ever before.

This may seem like a scary thing to do, and each person has to examine their own social media group to evaluate whether that is appropriate, but it does create an opportunity for other people to recognize that, “Wow, I’m not alone in having a hard time; my friend is having difficulties, too, and maybe we should connect for coffee.” Well, the “coffee” thing is a little more challenging in these times, but you might connect one-on-one through Zoom, or on a masked, socially distanced hike, just to talk about the challenges you’re facing and build that deeper level of two-way support.

One of the hardest things to do is confide in people that you’re having a hard time. As Brené Brown consistently highlights, my example above with social media is a big way to do that, but it can also be done in smaller ways; just picking up the phone and reaching out to a friend is a big step.

With my patients I have always expressed the importance of scheduling phone dates throughout the holidays. Again, with everything we’re going through now, this may be even more crucial—not just for you, but perhaps for someone you know who is not willing to take that first scary step of creating a holiday connection. When you schedule these virtual dates, you know that wherever you are on Thursday at 5:30 p.m., you’re going to pick up the phone and either call or FaceTime/WhatsApp or Zoom that person. Just knowing that is on the schedule, and that you and the other person are committed to it, can alleviate the pressure of going through your difficulties alone and deepen your connectedness.

Celebrating in the New Virtual Space

Did you know that for Thanksgiving, Zoom has lifted its usual 40-minute time limit on larger virtual chats to encourage people to hold family get-togethers online? We can still enjoy holiday dinners and celebrations together virtually, and it can be fun!

A little tinkering with the associated gizmos involved can help heighten the experience. For example, if you have a big screen TV in the house, try hooking it up to your computer when zooming with friends and family to make the experience “bigger” and have them consider doing the same. Figure out in advance whether you have a cable that can hook up your computer to the big screen. This can also come in handy when playing games, such as virtual scavenger hunts and trivia contests.


I realize that being together virtually is far from the experience of truly being together with friends or family during the holidays. Because of social distancing, many of us are suffering from skin hunger from the lack of touch. The holidays are one of the “huggiest” times of the year, and I know I will miss that. I have a small hack that you can do to bring some of that touch back in and also help you regulate your system.

The self-havening touch provides a powerful opportunity to engage a technique that I’ve created called the “Hug Hack.” You can see a demonstration of the hug hack in the first video in the sidebar of this article. Here is how it works:

Simply cross your arms across your chest and rest your hands at the top of your shoulders and then move your hands down your arms and repeat that motion as though you’re giving yourself a nice gentle hug. When joining a video call with a loved one, you can begin each meeting with this action. We all have little neurons in our brain called mirror neurons that will help our system translate the observation of someone giving themselves a hug into a felt sense of being hugged by that person. Moving the hands down the arms releases feel-good chemicals such as serotonin, GABA, as well as oxytocin.

In times of stress and fear, being apart from our loved ones directly conflicts with the way we humans are biologically designed. This quick brain hack tricks the brain into experiencing a physiological sense of connection through remote connection. Now you can enjoy your zoom dates, house party connections, virtual happy hours, and WhatsApp/FaceTime calls with the people you love and share the experience of a physically distanced, virtual hug for the holidays.