Tales of Anxiety and Advertising

anxietyIn general, I don’t expect people to come through my door and tell me stories of happiness and satisfaction. (At least in the early stages of therapy anyway.) But lately I have noticed a trend in my clients that is more than a little disturbing. They come to counseling rife with complaints that must be completely annihilated before happiness can ensue. Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for a big ol’ dose of the smiles. But, I don’t believe that we should all wait until our lives are tidy piles of organized bliss to take ownership of contentment or satisfaction. I’m reminded of a song lyric that goes something like,”life’s a journey, not a destination.”

For most of us to feel better we must get away from the idea that we must be anxiety-free. There is no such thing, and whoever told you there is needs to have his or her hands spanked. We are wired to be alert to our surroundings and to respond appropriately when in danger. That requires the tightening of muscles and cascade of bodily chemicals we all try to meditate, exercise, and generally voodoo ourselves out of feeling. This begs the question of how we moderate our stress and balance our lives without expectations of perfection that make us crazy. I am not suggesting that we all sit tight and bite the bullet when we feel anxious. But, I am curious how we can start to view mental health as integrative rather than an all-or-nothing affair.

Of course, everything in moderation, right? That’s right–even feeling crumby sometimes. Authors John Forsyth and Georg Eifert point out that we live in a “culture of feel-goodism” that robs us of our ability to take anything in stride. Media outlets everywhere keen to market their products tell us that we should feel, look, and be better and better all the time. Why, if we aren’t totally satisfied at any given moment we must seize that moment and dress it up with food, stuff, or experiences.  Poppycock! ( And boy, do I know of what I speak. I’m fighting off a commercial-induced Dairy Queen craving right now.)

I encourage you to take a look at what thoughts prevent you from living right here, right now. If you have a commitment to some far off goal of delirious joy that must be achieved before you can savor the moment, please slow down a bit. The way anxiety (and depression and a host of other maladies) rob us of our joy is by making us believe that where and who we are are not good enough. Isn’t it funny how popular advertising mimics mental illness?

The individuals that I know who are truly happy are not problem-free. Rather, they are free from the burdens of believing that they must never feel overwhelmed again to be happy. That is the perfectionistic demon of anxiety talking, and it has a loud voice.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-minute consultation, please contact me at 407.913.4988 or holly@nova.edu.

www.lotustherapycenter.com

Lessons from a Long Weekend

fireworksI hope everyone had a nice 4th of July! We spent ours eating too many hot dogs and frying ourselves in the sun. What better way is there to commemorate any holiday?

I don’t know about y’all, but that long weekend couldn’t come too soon. Though I used to be a total workaholic, I can’t hang like I used to years ago. Now, I am reasonably selective about the hours that I keep at my practice. I love what I do and I want to keep it that way. However, last week I decided to pinch hit for a friend and facilitate challenging, court-madated groups in his practice. Of course, that was along with managing my regular clients at Lotus. Whew,  was I tired by the end!

That experience got me thinking about self-care and how we integrate it into our lives.  Finding an oasis for ‘me time” as you run after dogs, kids, coworkers, and partners can seem nearly impossible. But, research from a variety of different disciplines points out that we are unable to function at out best if we don’t recharge and refuel. I don’t need to go to the lives of my clients to find out that many of us don’t do that–I struggle with it myself. I have discovered  that those of us in caring professions are the absolute worst at taking time for ourselves. I have had the pleasure to work with a good number of other helpers in my practice and have noticed that counselors and nurses seem to be the worst at saying ‘yes’ to themselves. There appears to be something about self-nurturing  that feels like self-indulgence for them. They are usually the clients that I worry most about when they leave because they burn the candle at both ends at home and at work.

So, as the summer continues to march along, let’s remember to fill up our own tanks so that we can continue to interact with others in the caring manner to which we are accostomed.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-minute consultation, please feel free to contact me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com or 407.913.4988

www.lotustherapycenter.com

FREE Pet Loss Support Group Time Change

pet loss pic 2The FREE Pet Loss Support Group is now going to be on the second Tuesday of every month. There is no cost for this session, and the group lasts for 50 minutes. If it will be your first time with us, please shoot me an email at holly@lotustherapycenter or call me at 407-913-4988 so that I can get a head count.  Also, there because I am attempting to make this a community of pet lovers who support one another, there is a group set up for these meetings on www.meetup.com. You can look up Central Florida Pet Loss Group and find our group page once you get to that site. A few of the veteran group members are members on the meetup site. There is a message board set up so that we can share information including articles or other resources that might be helpful.

I would be delighted if you could bring a photo of the pet you lost, but it is not a requirement. We love to see who we’re talking about. Please pass this information around!

Your Partner in Healing,  Holly

I'm going cheap!

money12It’s a new year, and what could be more exciting than my new prices? (Well, maybe a trip to Fiji; I hear it’s nice there.) The economy is terrible right now, and affordable services are more important than ever. To that end, I am offering a FREE 30 MINUTE CONSULTATION, lower prices for individual sessions, and package deals that make coming for a course of therapy more managable. As always, I offer deep discounts for college students with appropriate identification, and FREE groups for individuals who have lost a pet. In the coming months I plan to start a low-cost group for women experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety. If you would like to be put on the waiting list for that group, please let me know.

Your partner in healing,

Holly

For a FREE consultation or to schedule an appointment, please contact me at 407.913.4988, or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com.

I'm Baaaaack!

baby-rattleThose folks who read this blog with any regularity noticed that I dropped off the map sometime in July. No, I didn’t decide to race sled dogs in Alaska instead. Though, that does sound fun and I’m adding it to my life wish list. Nope, I had a wonderful baby boy, and have been away from my practice enjoying him immensely.

Now, however, I am slowly starting to accept clients into my practice again in the evenings and on Saturdays. Those folks who contacted me while I was out on leave are more than welcome to try me again now that I am back in the office.

Baby, You Can Drive My Car: Making Couples and Family Therapy Work

Are you humming that Beatles song yet?

 

See, here’s the important thing to remember about the state of your union: the relationship between the two partners is the vehicle for change, not the interventions the therapist provides. The therapist is sort of like the gas station attendant who comes out to clean off your windshield so that you can see more clearly. Only, we don’t get to wear the cool shirts with our names on them. Can someone fix that? I need a therapy uniform.

 

That is both the good and the bad news of couples and family therapy. When you contract with me for this kind of work, you are asking me to be on the side of the relationship—not on either partner’s individual team. That means you must be up to meeting the challenge of working through some scary stuff out loud, even when it doesn’t feel all that great. Therapy should help you sort out the issues that need clarification and help you devise tools together that address those needs. Rather than one-size-fits-all techniques, you will do the hard work of learning to communicate differently about the things that trouble you.  I believe that all of my clients are intelligent individuals who have already tried some common-sense stuff to get the relationship back on track. Unfortunately, there is almost nothing I can give you on a list of ‘to-do’s’ that will make a difference without working intensely on the interaction between the two of you. If it were true that there were certain prescriptions I could simply print out and hand to you, than everyone would be so remarkably fixed by self help books that nobody would need to come to counseling. Somehow, despite the excellent library of do-it-yourself information out there, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

 

So, it’s the interactional piece—the part where you actually become vulnerable and share the process of your emotional system with others that makes a difference. Wonderfully enough, what most people learn is that they have skills and resiliency they have forgotten to use when the problem is at its worst.

 

Your Partner in Healing,    Holly

 

If you would like to schedule an appointment or a free 15-minute phone consultation please feel free to call me at 407.913.4988 or email holly@lotustherapycenter.com

I think I can, I think I can

I was thinking today about the power of language, and that old adage about “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” Someone wise should add an amendment to it that says, “Unless I think them about myself.” 

 

Clients come to therapy in part, yes, because of the intentional (or non-intentional) evil stuff other people have said to them. But those things morphed into the boogie man under your emotional bed when some part of you not just believed them, but began to repeat them to yourself as truths. After all, who has more keys to your storehouse of self-esteem than you? When did you start allowing your thoughts to make you a secret agent for the other side?

 

When we’re trying to make ourselves sound smart, we mental health folks explain that we will help you stop shooting yourself in the butt by doing CBT, SFBT, or any other number of acronym-rich techniques on you. But, what we’re actually doing (please do try this at home) is having a conversation with you about how your thoughts inform your feelings, and your feelings inform your worldview about yourself and others. My favorite question to ask clients about their self-defeating thoughts is, “What would it mean about you if that were true?”  Go ahead and give it a try. Then, give some thought to what you would prefer to be thinking about instead. When those negative thoughts are no longer allowed to be automatic, you start to have wiggle room.

 

Your Partner in Healing,    Holly

 

If you would like to schedule an appointment or a free 15-minute phone conversation call 407.913.4988 or email holly@lotustherapycenter.com.

 

 

A Quick Note about Brief Therapy

If I thought something was going to take a long time, I would put it off until I was sure I had racked up enough hours on my schedule to do it the right way. I am, in fact, really familiar with this idea. It sort of permeates my long-term struggle to develop a strong taste for fitness and healthy eating. “Well,” I logic to myself, “I might as well get started out on the right foot—right after the New Year’s.” Has the New Year ever become July or October for you too?

In my experience, folks struggling with some sort of emotional or spiritual distress run up against this same dilemma when thinking about coming to therapy. It does make sense, if you think about it. Why start counseling when you are too stressed, frazzled, or over-committed to “really” take advantage of it? Why open up old wounds when you’re already spread thin and your resources are committed to just hanging in there? These are good questions; I have a few answers.

There is a mythology out there that therapy must be long, intense, and full of soggy Kleenex in order to be effective. While there are many instances in which it is helpful to get at the architecture of the bad stuff (the experiential and emotional blue prints informing the hurts so to speak) there is also something to be said for starting from the here and now. Therapy is not just about pathologies of individuals and relationships. It is also about figuring out what is already working, developing a plan to do more of that, and charting a course for the future based on the strengths you have right now, this very moment. That, you can start today. You don’t have to switch into your marathon gear. You don’t have to plan your next three years around it. Get started recognizing that nobody ever changes because he or she is too comfortable. You already have some knowing about what it will take to get back on track If you allow yourself to get in touch with it. Besides, some research shows that therapists are far more enraptured with long-term work than clients ever are.

Good luck giving yourself permission to accept that this moment is a good enough time to start.

Your Partner in Healing,   Holly

If you would like to schedule an appointment or a free 15-minute phone consultation call 407.913.4988 or email holly@lotustherapycenter.com.