A Raleigh Therapist's Blog

Thoughts on counseling, healing, and creating the life you want

Ho Ho Holiday Happiness

It’s that time of year again when all therapists, self-help gurus and health and wellness sites publish the obligatory note about how to weather the stress of the holiday season. We all know that article is creeping up on us, waiting to be written yet again just as soon as the weather starts to change. Usually, I dread trotting out the same handful of clichéd bits of advice that every other Tom, Debra and Harriet will be spinning. But this year, I have a few ideas of my own. Forge ahead faithful reader to discover my top tips:

1) Go to the family gathering and hang out with the kids: I’m not joking. Great Aunt Edna might want to discuss your lifestyle choices with you in great detail over a cup of spiked egg nog. And, ordinarily your refusal to get into it with her yet again might be taken as evidence of your grinch-like leanings. But who can argue with a guy/gal who is so filled with the holiday spirit that she/he wants to spend it paling around with the people who understand the holidays best–children? Besides getting you a reprieve from heavy conversations that can only lead to trouble, have you played with some of these new video games? Seriously, I really want Santa to bring me a Wii for Christmas.

2) Make presents rather than buying them: I really believe that there are some upsides to an economy that seems to forever spiral downwards. One of those upsides is that people seem to be feeling a bit more sentimental and less materialistic. Take advantage of this by using whatever skills you have to craft homemade presents. For instance, each year my brother makes me a CD of music he thinks I will like. My mother, a fabulous artist, has painted everyone’s gifts this year. You can make soap, cookies, poems, or toilet bowl covers. Whatever you do, don’t create a stress you’ll regret the rest of the year by overspending beyond your means. This is certainly a year in which people will understand.

3) Decide to have fun: Whether you’re at a family dinner or an office party, there may be a certain amount of performance anxiety involved. But, you can alleviate a good bit of this by simply deciding to enjoy yourself. It’s like deciding to run a mile and arriving huffing and puffing, but victorious. As I have pointed out before, your happiness is largely in your own hands. If you know your father is passive aggressive, decide now to let him own his behavior as you will own yours. There is freedom in removing yourself from emotional record keeping for other people. If you need help figuring out how, why not stop by my office for a pre-holiday chat?

I hope everyone has a very merry, happy holiday season indeed!

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

www.lotustherapycenter.com

twitter ID: HollyCoxLMFT

If you would like a FREE 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION to see how I can help you have your best year yet, please call me at 407.913.4988 or email holly@lotustherapycenter.com

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Detoxing your Emotional System

I’m sitting here writing this post with a piece of celery in one hand, and a glass of water in the other. This is a big accomplishment, since I would fully rather be hanging out with one of Starbuck’s finest soy lattes and a giant croissant. In fact, I should probably stop writing about the giant croissant (yum) and the delicious, frothy, sweet… Ok, really–I have to stop.

You see, I have realized that I want to continue to improve my overall wellness, and to do so I have contracted the services of a very nice, though disciplined personal trainer. I wanted to increase accountability in an area of my life in which I enjoy some guidance and support. And, to help maximize my efforts (or to relentlessly torture me) my trainer, Roland, has suggested a 3-day juice fast. I would have argued with him about that, but my legs hurt too much to chase him down and complain.

I find that mental health is like physical health. We develop habits and compulsions that are sometimes not good for us. That delicious croissant provides a measure of security and comfort as I eat it…and then immediately takes it away again when I put on my jeans and feel self conscious about how they fit. Similarly, many emotional habits can provide the same sort of one step forward, two back kinds of results. There are some things you need to start the detox process with right away. Here are my top three:

1) Drugs and Alcohol: Substances are fantastic. If you want to feel different, they can provide an immediate gateway to do so. But, they insidiously steal your power by getting you to believe that the only avenue towards feeling better is by quick, mainline methods. The truth is, you can deal with emotional overwhelm, shyness, depression, and anxiety in a number of different and more satisfying ways. But, this requires figuring out how to maximize your self-evaluation so you feel capable of doing it. It’s true that vodka and cocaine will always produce the desired “difference” if you take enough. But it leaves you like superman looking for a phone booth. You rely on an outside prop to effect the transformation. Let’s work on having that transformation come from within so that you can access it anytime, even if Leroy’s Liquor Store is closed for the evening.

2) Self-Injuring Behaviors: Self-injuring behaviors are absolutely addictive. Just like taking drugs, the act of self harm can release a chemical cascade within the body that makes you feel better and keeps you coming back for more. Most clinicians define self-injurious behaviors mainly as cutting or burning and excessive hair pulling or plucking. I include severe overeating, bulimia, and anorexia in with the group. Again, it is an attempt to change your inner landscape by working on the terrain of your body. Addictive behaviors like these are so harmful because of a real sense of shame perpetuates them. I think they are interesting though, in that the attempt to feel worse or better is a holistic one, involving both the mind and the body. In a perverse sense this is right track thinking done in a very negative way. Let’s keep the holistic mentality that both mind and body should be involved and turn it on its head. How can your therapy detox help you face the emotional toxins that are haunting you so that you can get mind and body on a track to wellness?

3) Poor Relationships: Clients often come to see me to break their addiction to people who treat them poorly. This could take many forms. Often, clients are baffled about why they fail to set boundaries with their families, accept friends who never offer reciprocal support, and choose partners who serially cheat, abuse, and lie. These folks are often living in a fog of misplaced control issues, guilt, and fear. If you don’t know how you participate in relationships, then how can you ever get clear about choosing people who will participate in a complimentary way?

So, why not come in for a preliminary appointment and see  how you can get the new year started off on the right foot?  You’ll start anew, detoxed from your negative emotions and ready to fill your life with truly good, nutritious emotional energy!

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

www.lotustherapycenter.com

TwitterID: HollyCoxLMFT

If you would like a FREE 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION to see how I can fit into your plans for a more balanced, joyful life please give me a call at (407) 913-4988 or email holly@lotustherapycenter.com.

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How Family Therapists Read Minds

It is mostly true that professionals from all different types of clinical backgrounds including psychologists, mental health counselors, and social workers are qualified to do about the same sort of counseling work with you. For instance, as a group we are a pretty empathetic lot, prone to be the sort with a tissue in hand and a word of encouragement on our lips. Despite differences in our clinical orientation, each discipline is trained to work with a variety of presenting concerns, troubles, and mental health disorders.

But, I am almost always delighted that my actual background is in Family Therapy. The reason for this is that I within a few minutes of meeting someone I can usually do a brief mind-reading trick that is directly related to my background as a systemic therapist who is trained to place clients within the context of not just who they are now, but where they come from. I do this by knowing an awful lot about sibling order.

You see, despite our accomplishments or failings, the  individual quirks and tics that make up the tapestry of who we are every day, where we came about in the progression of our brothers and sisters often determines quite a bit about how we make sense of the world. I, for instance, am a classic oldest daughter. Strong, nurturing and a caretaker, I devoted myself to a career in which I could take care of the lives of people for a profession. And, true to form, I married a youngest child who would compliment my more assertive traits with his ability to accomodate a certain amount of bossiness and shall we say(charitably), confidence in the way things should go.

Clients often express the traits that come along with their sibling order in the way they manifest anxieties about their relationships. Do they help too much and get themselves hooked up with individuals they will be forever rescuing? How about those folks who are forever choosing partners who dominate them and never permit them to have a voice? These traits are expressed everywhere we interact with others including our jobs, friendships, and romantic partners. And, imagine how your emotional worldview is further impacted by the degree to which you were excluded from or triangulated into your parents’ relationship. My training as a family therapist has allowed me to see people not just as solo stars burning away in their own dark sky, but as vibrant parts of a constellation of people who have directly impacted their hopes, dreams, and beliefs about who they are.

Why not contact me today to see how you can use the strengths of your sibling order to improve your life?

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

www.lotustherapycenter.com

Follow me on twitter! My twitter ID is HollycoxLMFT

If you would like a FREE 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION contact me at 407-913-4988 or holly@lotustherapycenter.com to see if I how I can meet your needs.

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A New Year's Resolution for your Brain

Add this tidbit to the ‘news you can use’ column I know you all have percolating in that grey matter of yours. It may require shifting a bit of the info you’re hanging onto about fantasy football or how to make the perfect pot of beef stew. But, I think you’ll be glad to add this to your roster of go-to factoids.

I often tell both clients and myself that the day to be happy is now. Don’t wait until you’ve won the lottery of lost 50 pounds. Don’t even wait until your relationship is better or you feel more inner peace. As I secretly always thought, this advice is more than philosophical feel-goodism. Turns out the folks in the white coats are discovering concrete evidence that living this way does more than make you feel better–it may physiologically increase your capacity for happiness.

Science is now telling us that we have a sort of biological set point for the levels of happiness we feel. By that I mean that no matter how poor or great your circumstances, we all have a pretty consistent emotional range that we motor through on a daily basis–and it’s different for everyone. Imagine your emotional range as the speedometer on your car. No matter what may be chasing you, that car is only going to do what’s on that dial to do. This explains in part why it’s possible for a guy who wins the lottery to still be sort of ‘ho-hum’ about it and another guy who is suddenly a quadriplegic to demonstrate amazing resiliency. It’s literally genetic and hardwired.

But here’s the clincher to that rather sobering bit of news: you can change it.

That’s right, you can take what mama nature and the circumstances of your early life gave to you and mold it into something different. This is due to a fancy concept called brain plasticity. In the vernacular, that means that your brain can continue to change, and that by extension, you can change the direction in which it changes. In fact, the adult brain continues to make about 5,000 new cells a day. Whoa.

Though the research is still preliminary stuff, scientists are studying the brains of trained meditators to get a glimpse into how they are able to regulate their emotions and develop the parts of their brains responsible for happiness and compassion. And, combining this research with studies on identical twins who were raised in different households (but would have the same genetic capacity for happiness) they have found that a full 40 percent of how happy we are is fully in our control. Buddhist monks who spend hours meditating on love and kindness–literally forcing love and kindness into their brain–shape their brain and therefore their outlook in a very literal way.

This is lovely news, right? I think it is. But, it means that just as we must work out our bodies to get them to a position of optimum health, we must also exercise our minds regularly to promote happiness, kindness, and contentment. Good therapy can serve as a personal trainer for your mental and emotional systems. So why not give yourself the gift of a fit brain this new year? Give me a call and let’s make it happen!

Your Partner in Wellness,

Holly

www.lotustherapycenter.com

For a FREE 30-minute consultation and to see if I might be a good fit for your goals and needs, call (407) 913-4988 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com

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