Organization 911

All the rain we have had lately has given me a few days to stay indoors and take a look around at the things in my home and office that need my attention. I have been taking the time to do this in a purposeful way so that I can clear out the old clutter (literally and metaphorically) and invite new blessings and opportunities in my life. Though this may be more difficult for some of us than others since the process of letting go can bring up feelings of anxiety or compulsion, even a small step towards organizing your space can have a big impact on your outlook, business, and emotional state.

Here are a few tips for getting started:

1) Find your moment of Zen: Getting organized is not about simply finding a measure of simplicity. It’s about finding a balance and harmony to your life that leaves you free to think about the things on which you would like to focus. These things may be your next novel, spending more quality time with your family, or taking your business to the next level. Before you start, take a moment to visualize how your space will look and feel when you have completed your organizational journey. What will be different? What will be the same? How will you know that you have done enough work for now?

2)Multitasking is your enemy: These days, the ability to do many things at one time is praised as a virtue and a path to greater efficiency. However, it can also reduce the amount of pure, clean energy you have to devote to a task. There are some things in life we should give ourselves permission to do methodically and with focused intention. If you want your newly-organized life to reflect a more single-minded  devotion to harmony, take the time to focus on just that.

3) Learn to Let Go: I have written in my posts before about the pervasive influence that marketers and big companies have on our ideas about consumption and hoarding. What can you delete, repurpose, donate to charity, or give away as a gift. If your cup is already full, how can you hope to receive more?

If you have your own ideas about organizing your life and clearing a path towards the future, I would love to hear them!

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION to see if I might be a good fit for your concerns and goals, please contact me at 407-913-4988 or holly@lotustherapycenter.com

www.lotustherapycenter.com

Study This: College Students and Good Mental Health

When I first went to undergrad, I had the world’s greatest roommate. Her name was Valerie, and she had more than a few quirks. The strangest of which was her deep belief that my appearance and social comportment would reflect on her as well. Now, Valerie and I hadn’t chosen one another. We were simply assigned by the good people down at student housing. But nonetheless, she did her best to make sure that I passed muster on campus. This included ironing my clothes and teaching me how to dance. If you have ever seen me attempt to dance (attempt being the operative word), you’ll know that Valerie had her work cut out for her.

Anyway, the point of the matter is that attending college is a big deal. Even if you attend school in your hometown and stay right in your parents’ home, you’re still in for some big life changes. That’s OK–this is a really interesting time in your social, intellecutal, and spiritual development. How can you be prepared when it’s time to grab your books and hit the door?

1) Expect the unexpected: Things will inevitably be different then you thought they would both at home and away at school. Classes may be more challenging than high school, and you might need to be prepared to take advantage of those lab tutors. Or, mom and dad could turn your room into their billiard parlor. Whatever the case, it’s OK to feel overwhelmed by all the shiny newness. Just make sure you utilize your support network and blow off steam in constructive ways like exercise, art, or music.

2) Stick to a schedule: Despite common wisdom these days, staying up for three nights straight on a mixture of Red Bull and Twinkies does not mean that you are becoming more flexible in your time utilization. Rather, it is a recipe for social and academic disaster. You owe it to yourself to take calculus on a fresh brain that has been riding around in a body that is well-rested, fed, and exercised.

3) Get Yourself Connected: Everyone knows college is more fun if you have someone with whom to complain about last night’s chemistry lab. If there isn’t anyone in your classes or dorm who strikes your fancy, get out there and join a club or apply for a job on campus. Isolation leads to anxiety and unhappiness.

Got any other tips that have worked for you? I would love to hear them. Remember I offer HALF OFF TO COLLEGE STUDENTS. Happy new school year!

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION to see if I might be a fit for your goals and concerns, please contact me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com or 407-913-4988

www.lotustherapycenter.com

Follow Me on Twitter!

twitter logoThose of you who know me in any regard will remember that I have been fervently against capitulating to twitter juggernaut. Oh sure, everybody and their mamas are letting the world have a blow-by-blow of each and every waking moment. But I haven’t been sure that I want to participate in something like this simply because of the fact that I think producing a “tweet” sounds undignified. For some reason, it strikes me as a noise I would have been forbidden to make at the dinner table growing up.

But, after much pressure from friends and clients alike I am finally making the leap. If you would like to follow me, my twitter ID is HollyCoxLMFT. I’ll do my best to create some original content that will lead legions of followers to know more about good mental health, life balance, and healthy relationships. That, or you’ll know what I had for breakfast.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-minute consultation to discuss how I can be helpful to you, please call me at (407) 913-4988 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com

www.lotustherapycenter.com

Infidelity Wired: A Counselor's Perspective on Online Affairs

onlinepicThis morning a reporter from Channel 6 called to ask me my opinion about a website that has gotten quite a bit of press lately, www.ashleymadison.com. I almost hesitate to even put the link here because I would be loathe to think that I actually helped anyone find this site and consider using it. However, after a busy morning, I might have been too late  in returning that reporter’s message to make it on the air.  Just in case they run the story without me, here are my thoughts on the topic.

For the uninitiated, this website is the newest form of online matchmaker. Think eHarmony or match.com fueled by a liberal dose of predatory immorality. The sole purpose of this  site to help married people hook up with others (married or not) for  affairs. Think I’m exaggerating? The catchphrase is “Life is short. Have an affair.”

Now, I’m no prude. I’ve worked with clients who have a variety of sexual lifestyles, and it’s not ordinarily my place to judge them. But this is not about lifestyle choices between consenting adults. It’s designed to keep one partner in the dark about the sexual activities of the other, and apparently helps thousands of people abandon all notion of working out differences in an explicit way. Furthermore, the maker of the site, Noel Biderman, uses the negative press generated by the discussion of his website to exemplify the old adage about any publicity being good publicity. I’ve seen interviews with this guy and I think he’s absolutely ghoulish–dancing on the graves of destroyed families for personal profit. Biderman seems blissfully unclear why  broken homes and children who must suffer through the divorces of their parents should be any deterrent to making some quick cash. If there is such a thing as karma, we all better stand back. This guy is in for a real whammy!

The internet has changed the face of marriage because it allows for emotional affairs via email, chat, and webcam that can quickly become real-life encounters with people that you might never meet in your everyday experiences. The Ashely Madison site is a sterling example of how someone recognized this new frontier and decided to make money off of it. Going online brings up issues that didn’t exist in the past when there was simply one family phone in the house and written mail came to the door. How do we negotiate the amount of privacy we want for our email inboxes, the sites we visit, or the content we view? To what degree do our spouses have “right” to know what we’re up to when that mouse is in our hands?

In the past, affairs were largely opportunistic, started with someone a person knew from work, circle of friends, or religious institution. But that also came with a certain amount of risk.  People might start to notice, and word might eventually get out to one’s partner. Now, sites like Ashley Madison inject another layer of privacy into the endeavor of infidelity and play to the consumerism  that Americans fall prey to so easily. It’s like a fast food affair: place your order, browse the menu on the site, and indulge in whatever flavors you think aren’t available at home.

The Ashely Madison commercials suggest that we have a  ‘right to be happy’ in a way that is individually determined,  and that happens in a vacuum from the people that we love. However, unless you grew up alone in the wilderness, you know this is not possible. We have to make choices in our lives between the types of happiness that we want. Some are mutually exclusive despite what marketers would have you believe.

My clients know that I believe in absolute transparency with online activities. I think that partners in established, commited relationships do have a right to know what the other person is looking at, with whom they are talking, and about what. That inevitably makes me unpopular with some people in my therapy room. No, I do not believe you have a sovereign right to have your ex-girlfriend or boyfriend on your Facebook friends list if your husband or wife doesn’t like it. Nope, I don’t think that chatting online (or texting) with that cute guy from work after hours is OK. I think that at the bottom of it all, human beings are incredibly complex and gorgeously emotional. If we want to stay married (or committed) we have to respect that temptations exist not because we’re bad, but because we’re curious, sexual, vibrant beings. If we don’t create boundaries for ourselves and our families, problems will crop up quickly, and vultures  like Noel Biderman will be waiting to seduce us with the promise of a quick thrill.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-minute consultation to see if I might be a good fit for your concerns and goals please contact me at 407.913.4988 or holly@lotustherapycenter.com.

www.lotustherapycenter.com

Postpartum Counseling or Bust?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend this week. As we sat down to a delicious slice of cake at one of my favorite local haunts, The Dessert Lady, (no she’s not paying me in bread pudding for that plug) I mentioned to my buddy, a really amazing therapist, that I was thinking of seeking out some of the lactation consultants, pediatricians, and parenting class instructors in town to do some free outreach about perinatal mood disorders. After swallowing a delicious bite of cannoli cake, she said something akin to this: “Holly, I’m just so tired of everyone telling new mothers how horrible everything is going to be, and how they’ll mess up their children if they even look at them sideways. There’s just no point in scaring them to death with awful things that probably won’t happen to them.”

I have to admit, I was taken aback. As I sat there silently, nodding at her, my coffee seemed to turn sour on my tongue. Was I, as she seemed to imply, a fear monger who was going to make perfectly normal women doubt themselves in their new mama roles? Were my talks going to be less educational than catastrophic? And worst of all, was I really going to make otherwise emotionally healthy women believe that they were defective? As you can imagine, these are thoughts that strike terror in the hearts of those of us who feel called to be professional healers. I came into this field to help people see that they are mostly better, stronger, and more resilient than they think they are, not make them doubt themselves.

I do have to agree with my girl about one thing though—early parenthood is a dense wilderness of competing advice about how to care for these new creatures we have brought into the world. I’m just worried that we don’t get enough solid guidance on how to care for ourselves. Supporting mothers is a delicate balancing act between normalizing the fears and tears we all have as fledgling parents, and offering more structured interventions when more intensive help may be needed. Mostly, it’s about offering information early enough so that women will seek help when they need it, and realize that having a rough go of it is not always their fault.

So, let’s make Central Florida a place where women and their families have access to relevant information about perinatal mental health. Feel free to email or call me with any questions you may have. If I don’t have the answer I will attempt to connect you with a resource that does know. You can also check out www.postpartum.net, the home of the most up-to-date perinatal adjustment information on the web.

As always, you’re welcome to contact me for a free consultation by phone (407) 913.4988 or by email at holly@lotustherapycenter.com.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Postpartum Depression

Parenthood teaches you many things. For instance, this morning my son taught me that one can reach a certain level of exhaustion at which she will wear a shirt covered in baby vomit to her hair appointment. Then, he taught me that when babies with wet hands grab a hand full of said expensively coifed hair, it does indeed lose its curl. As the saying goes, “Yay, memories!” All joking aside, the post partum period is hard ladies– and not just on your freshly-done blowout.

 

Pregnancy and the first year postpartum are without question two of the most vulnerable times of a woman’s life. We are different physically, emotionally, and spiritually in ways that are difficult to explain to our family and friends. In fact, it is one of the few times in our lives (except perhaps puberty) when our worlds are rocked to their very foundations by such far-reaching changes. This is compounded by the fact that we are responsible for a new life at a time when we may still be experiencing pain and discomfort associated with the pregnancy or delivery. Experts report that symptoms of anxiety or depression occur in 10-20 percent of new mothers. Unfortunately, these symptoms may go largely untreated because of shame or self-blaming. Though women with a personal or family history of depression or abuse are most at risk, postpartum depression is a physical response to the cascade of biochemical and hormonal changes that take place in every pregnant woman’s body. Lack of support and other social and emotional factors can complicate the picture further. Even women who have no history of anxiety or depression can develop sadness and anxiety that is more than just the baby blues. These feelings are treatable with therapy and/or medication, and you can get help. You can speak to your OBGYN, psychiatrist, or therapist about how to get started. Here are a few tips in the meantime.

 

1)      Examine your Mothering Myths: There is an idea out there (or perhaps just an ideal) that all new mothers immediately greet their infant bundles of joy with fresh-faced glee and joy. Mothers who are ambivalent or scared about their new responsibilities often feel inadequate, different, or ashamed. Women can be pressured to express disinterest in things they used to value like work, social activities, or alone time. In truth, many women report that they did not bond instantaneously with their infants, but rather built a loving relationship as they got to know one another. And, there is no more perfect recipe for a good mom than one is engaged with her world in a variety of ways.

2)      Make time for Yourself: The superwoman our culture holds up spends all day working or caring for her children and never needs time to recharge. One of the fastest routes to feeling very overwhelmed is constant immersion with no reprieve. Even if your “me” time is walking the dog, ask for other adults in your life to help you carve out time to nurture your health, individuality and personal growth.

3)      Make room for Daddy: If he or she is available, let the baby’s other parent take an active role in the child’s life. You’re not the only parent who can change a diaper, quiet a fretting baby, or wipe a stuffy nose. In fact, do your relationship the favor of creating the expectation for balanced childrearing responsibilities from the start.

Counseling for your teen

teen1One of the things I love most about being a therapist is working with teenagers. Most of my colleagues think I’m crazy for feeling that way, but go ahead and call me nuts.

Once upon a time, I used to work exclusively with teens because they’re fun, hold you accountable for the stuff you say, and usually need a therapist with a thick skin. I have good reason to respect the teen client, because I have been one myself. When I was about 15, my family went to faimly therapy, and in my anger at being subjected to the experience at all, I made my graduate student therapist cry in session. The point of telling you that story and making myself sound like a young ogre (Laura, I’m sorry wherever you are) is to point out that the developmental job of teenagers is to test boundaries and develop emotional independence. This often manifests as the sulky, mean-tempered behavior I directed towards Laura. So, if your teen is driving you crazy with temper tantrums, slamming doors, and sassy back talk congratulations! He or she is mostly right on track! Your job is to remain consistent, firm, and sane.

You might be in need of a more intensive intervention if the annoying behaviors start to develop into dangerous ones like self-harming, drug abuse, promiscuity or running away. Let’s talk some about what might help.

1) Family Therapy: Many of the parents with whom I have spoken would prefer to drop their teen off for individual therapy, have me “fix” their child, and come back an hour later. Oh, if only that would work. When families are sailing on a sinking ship together, it’s very important that everyone help bail out the boat too. If parents and kids learn collaboratively how to work together in a different way the therapy is shorter, more effective, and (yeah, I said it) cheaper. Working on one part of a family system in isolation almost never works as well as intervening in the whole. When I work with teens I do mixture of individual and family sessions.

2) Embrace the Force you Must:The force of the influence you have over your child, that is. Parents (me included) know that there are some factors about your child’s temperment that appear to simply be God-given and part of who he or she was upon arrival. Others have developed due to events within the family and the kind of social rules that govern each unit. Children who have been triangulated into their parents marriage emotionally, or those who have been parented in a “friend” rather than firm manner will expect to have an equal say, and will rebel when that doesn’t extend to driving the family car to Daytona on Friday night. Therapy can help both you and your teen figure out how you will negotiate which issues you will take a stand about, and support the family through this change in structure.

3) Self-Esteem Adjustments: There is no time more perilous for the fragile human ego than high school. It’s a melting pot of hormones, developing personalities, and stress. Therapy can help teens sort out how they will maintain a sense of self while balancing academics, dating, and family life.

If you think your teen may benefit from individual, family, or group therapy feel free to contact me for more information and appointment times.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

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.

Free, Free, and Costs You a Little

My mama tells me I didn’t go to a really expensive graduate school to give free services. And, while she’s right, (my husband and son would probably like to continue to live under a roof) I do sometimes give away my therapy and life coaching services. I do this in the form of gift certificate donations to community events that I support. If you are in business for yourself, I really encourage you to do the same. It’s a fantastic way to be charitable that doesn’t require Oprah-type money in your bank account ready to be mailed. Whatever you’re doing, I promise that someone would love to win that for free. I’m especially talking to you house painters, dog walkers, and massage therapists. I need a legion of all three these days! If you need some suggestions about what kind of organizations could use your help, please feel free to contact me and I’ll tell you a few of my favorites. Alternatively, if you would like me to donate a gift certificate to your event, please do let me know that as well.

But, gift certificate raffles are not the only way you can get a good deal here at Lotus Therapy Center. Below are a few ways you can get free or lower-cost services at this practice.

1) “Wine for Whiskers”:The next worthy cause you can support for a chance to win 2 free sessions with me is the SPCA “Wine for Whiskers” event on July 24th, at the Orlando Marriott Downtown. You can check out the details here: http://www.ohs-spca.org/. Our local SPCA works overtime to help some of Orange County’s finest furry citizens find new homes. Please turn out and show that Central Florida has the biggest collective heart anywhere in the state.

2) Free Pet Loss Support Group: I am in the process of organizing a FREE group for individuals who have suffered the loss of a pet. If you know anyone who may be interested in this, please contact me for further details.

3) Reduced Rates for College Students: I particularly enjoy working with college students of any age. So, I cut my rate in half with proof of current enrollment in any of our fine institutions of higher learning. If you believe that you could use some help with depression, anxiety, or any number of concerns, please don’t hesitate to give me a ring or send me an email.

Your Partner in Healing,    Holly

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

Therapy and MacGyver

I know I’m dating myself here, but does anyone but me remember MacGyver? For those of you who are uninitiated in TV of the late 80’s and early 90’s, he was the dude you called in if your butt was in the biggest of slings. MacGyver wasn’t just a hard-core, beat-‘em-up super hero. He was also a scientist, a thinker and an ingeniously creative problem solver. Now that I have given you that introduction, get someone somewhere to help you find the classics for goodness sakes!

 

The reason that I bring him up (other than to shame you into admitting you remember him) is to point out that we therapists are hired to be the big guns of the psychological world. Clients, in essence, ask us to wave our magic wands, use our greater preponderance of knowledge, and MacGyver out the particularly persnickety problems in their lives. Though this is helpful for our career longevity, I’m sorry to say that it is not entirely practical. Asking someone else to get rid of the parts of yourself that you experience as “other” will not work. Rather, ask him or her how to help you integrate those symptoms into your life in a holistic way. This is not a cue to put up with unpleasant symptoms. Rather, it is an invitation to situate them into a context that demonstrates them to be what they more appropriately are: important communications from inside you that want to be examined, not simply excised.

 

 Here are a few tips to make the point:

 

  1. I see dead people: Symptoms (particularly somatic ones like panic attacks) can seem like persistent ghosts intent on jumping out to say “boo” when we least want to see them. Eventually, the ghost doesn’t need to jump out at all; you’re so afraid of being afraid or out of control that you set the necessary physiological context for feeling terrified and panicky all on your own. Bummer. However, the panic attacks most likely started to address a situation in which your body felt you needed to pay extra attention. This may have been because some part of your body or your emotional personhood was, at some point under attack. This can happen through car crashes, rapes or other personal attacks, or even simply through repeated emotional trauma. Though this is a blog for another day, individuals in our society are consistently encouraged to cut off from their bodies and ‘manage’ its weight, looks, health, and sexuality from a one-off stance. This is exacerbated by the tendency for well-meaning health professionals (including we psychotherapists) to prescribe pills in isolation to whip the body-mind connection back into working order. Now doesn’t that sound silly? While psychiatric drugs can be very helpful or even essential to some individuals’ well-being, it must be a dual-pronged approach. The only way to find a way back from the boogie monsters of panic and anxiety is to reintegrate the felt experience with the mind-spirit.
  2. Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean: Let’s talk for a moment about how we get our way in relationships. Usually it’s one of these ways: power, dependency, or sexuality. Of course, there are other creative means to drive your relationships, but this tends to be the triumvirate of favorite methods. Here’s a secret though. You probably don’t see yours. And, most people don’t really want to confront the internal dialog that helps them reduce anxiety by engaging in their favorite method. This is because you’re running on a blueprint that got loaded onto your hard drive a long time ago. It’s auto-pilot and you and I both go looking for folks who have a measure of fit to our own style. This goes awry in therapy when folks want to fix the problems without examining the emotional infrastructures that support their choices. They would prefer to do the work without getting dirty. But, in order to clean up the biggest messes one must sometimes get a hand in the dust. It’s normal, and very brave. When you can not only change the behaviors, but regard yourself with forgiveness and love for doing the best you can with the tools you had at the time, you’re ready for a change. You’re integrating the thoughts and the behavioral responses.
  3. Something’s Always Wrong: What if change in and of itself is not something you feel ready to do? Often, it makes sense to avoid changing behaviors or circumstances if some part of you really believes that this equates to failure or giving up too soon. Many of the battered women with whom I work are not gluttons for punishment. Sometimes, they don’t hate themselves, or even have terribly low self-esteem. Rather, they have a commitment to the principles of marriage or loyalty, and they would rather stay in a relationship that hurts than view themselves as someone who quits when the going gets tough. Far from the stance of helplessness with which most people regard battered women, this is a rather interesting way to represent bravery and commitment. The work in therapy comes from allowing the construction of new definitions of success, loyalty to self, and loving boundaries. What problems in your own life do you complain about and wrestle with but are secretly ambivalent about changing?

 

 

Your partner in healing,    Holly

 

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