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

Success in Family Counseling

If there are two groups of people that don’t want to be in the same room at the same time when the same argument is happening for the 5,009th time, it’s parents and teens. Young adults manage to conjure up rather remarkable dark, withering stares that leave me chilly from across the room. And, they often continue that voodoo side eye the entire first session. However,  I can hardly blame them–I wouldn’t trust me at first either. Why would it make sense to make yourself vulnerable to someone you can only assume is aligned with your parents?

The job of a good family counselor is to find a way to communicate with everyone in the family, surly teens included. So how can parents help family therapy meet with success?

1) Do your research–Participating in family counseling requires you to trust the therapist enough to allow that person to speak with your kids alone, and to keep some things confidential about those conversations. Of course, if I hear anything that leads me to believe your child is in danger or may be hurting him or herself, you will be advised of the situation. Otherwise, sessions between counselors and kids are somewhat private. Knowing this, you should interview several therapists and choose one you believe shares your goals and values.

2) Do your homework–Therapy is like a rest stop on the road of family life. It’s a place to get a cool drink, gather your thoughts, and stretch for a moment. But, the real stuff is happening outside of my therapy room. If I assign homework, it’s because I want to bridge the learning between sessions and encourage consistent change throughout the week. When you participate outside of therapy as well as inside the meetings, you will teach your children that family is important and that growth is everyone’s responsibility.

3) Ask Questions–Now is the time to ask your kids how they’re feeling and what they make out of challenges facing the family. Families who succed in therapy do so because they have learned to break out of old ruts and speak to one another in a process-oriented way. When you enlist your kids to help solve problems (including the ones they create) they will feel valued and give you a taste of their love and creativity.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-minute consultation to see how I can help you achieve your goals, please call me at (407) 913.4988 or email holly@lotustherapycenter.com

www.lotustherapycenter.com

Follow Me on Twitter!

Those 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

This 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

Educated parents are strong parents: Hear us Roar!

In my last post, I mentioned that I am invested in making our area one that fosters a sense of hope and support for new moms and dads. to that end, I would like to use this blog as a place to post articles, websites, and resources that can help us make sense of our lives as the big cheese in our children’s eyes. Here are three of the best ones:

  • Postpartum Support International:  www.postpartum.net  This is the absolute best source of current into for new moms and dads–I am a card-carrying member of PSI. There is an array of information about a host of issues related to pregnancy and the postpartum period.
  • Postpartum Progress: http://postpartumprogress.typepad.com/weblog/  This is the most-read postpartum information blog on the internet. It is written by a mom who has coped with postpartum issues herself, and offers a ton of links to first person accounts of perinatal mood disorders and the latest research in the field.
  • The Center for Postpartum Adjustment : http://www.postpartumsupport.com/ This is the site fis run by my friend, Ilyene Barsky. She runs a center for postpartum support in South Florida, and her website is a wealth of well-written articles.

If you need access to a specific kind of resource, let me know. We’ll find it together and post it here for other moms and dads to access.

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 goals and concerns, please feel free to call me at 407.913.4988 or email me at 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

Pulling it back together Postpartum Style

When I rule the world, all the hospitals in the land will include a module about postpartum anxiety and depression in their classes for new parents. This would prevent new mothers (and their partners) from being blindsided, and spell out where to go for help. In this amazing land of mine, all OBGYNs will screen their clients for a history of depression and anxiety before or while they’re pregnant, and everyone that encounters a new mom from lactation consultants to pediatricians will band together to support her transition into parenthood. Don’t you want to come live in my kingdom? We also have free chocoalte cake there on Tuesdays.

The great news about postpartum depression and anxiety is that they are highly treatable. The bad news is that the stigma many women feel when admitting that new motherhood is not what they expected, combined with the fact that relatively few psychiatrists and therapists are highly trained in this area can make accessing services difficult. Highly publicized cases like the Andrea Yates tragedy, can lead new mothers to worry that they are going “crazy” or might hurt their babies. The truth is, that postpartum psychosis is a relatively rare phenomenon, occuring in only .1%  (1 in 1,000) women. More common are postpartum OCD symptoms which can lead a woman to be compulsively afraid that she will accidentally hurt her child. This is quite different than delusions and hallucinations that accompany postpartum psychosis.

Usually, the most disturbing thing about feeling bad after having your baby is that these symptoms come relentlessly at a point when energy and resources are at their most scarce. You may know you need help, but can’t imagine having the time or energy to make it to an appointment. It’s downright confusing when what you may have thought would be the happiest time of your life turns out to be the most difficult. Sometimes, even one appointment with a knowledgable clinician can pave the way feeling better. Here are a few tips:

1) Recognize your feelings and honor them: The feelings of anxiety, sadness, or detachment don’t make you mean, crazy, or a bad mother. Pregnancy and the postpartum period are a melting pot of new sensations, emotions, and situations. Even the most well-adjusted woman can experience intense, contradictory thoughts and feelings. These can be caused by the physical challenges of breast feeding, healing from labor and delivery, and lack of sleep, and exacerbated by all of the psychosocial changes that are occuring at the same time.

2) Consider all the Options: It is possible that your symptoms may be best helped by a combination of both therapy and medication. This is a difficult choice to make for many mothers who are concerned about the presence of medications in their breast milk. Most doctors agree that the small amount excreted will not harm the baby. There is no perfect solution in this regard, however I do have a bias about it. I am very pro-breastfeeding, and do so myself. However, I believe that if a mother needs to formula feed in order to maintain a happy balance, or to take needed medications that is what she should do. I have treated plenty of sad children with behavioral nightmares, with whom I could tell immediately that something in the parental system was not right (for instance, depression, OCD, anxiety). I have never met a child who was trying to kill his friends with the nearest Tonka truck because he had formula as an infant.

3) Get Yourself Connected: Parenthood is challenging enough without doing it in a bubble. These days, there are a variety of ways to get hooked in with other mothers. While support from your spouse, parents, and friends are important, they can’t replace the play-by-play experience of other women who are doing this new journey at the same time. You can find groups of moms by going to lactation meetings at our local hospitals, visiting message boards, attending functions at your religious institution, and going to www.meetup.com. In addition, there are mommy-and-me yoga groups available, and the Orange County library system hosts infant and toddler story time. 

As a new mom myself, I love hearing other moms’ stories. Please drop me a line and let me know how your experience is shaping up!

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like  a FREEE 30 minute consultation please drop me a line at holly@lotustherapycenter.com or call me at 407.913.4988.

www.lotustherapycenter.com

Happy New Year!

I’ve been in the holiday mood lately. Nothing puts one in the spirit like a nice trip back home to NC where it’s frosty and cold, and where one can get decent country ham biscuits. Maybe ham biscuits don’t spell seasonal cheer to you, but Bojangles (go look it up if you’re uninitiated) sure does put a jingle in my step.

 

Now that I’ve returned from all that pork goodness, I need to get back on track with my goals for spiritual, mental, and physical health and wellness. I’m really excited to finish a writing project I’m working on, and to tackle some of those late-night-pregnancy-cheeseburger pounds I’m carting around with me. Guess I’ll be having carrots while I’m burning the midnight oil, but after so many months of gastronomic debauchery, I’m actually looking forward to it!

 

If you too have put down the biscuits and are heading fresh into the New Year, here are a few tips to get you on the right track:

 

1)      Be just a face in the crowd—One of the most overlooked and terrible factors in both clinical depression and the more garden variety blues, is a sense of social isolation. I spend a lot of my time in the therapy room attempting to get my wonderful clients to take their show on the road and form meaningful connections. One of my favorite websites is www.meetup.com. On this site, you can find local groups for whatever you’re into. Really, I’m not kidding. There are groups for everything from people who like to play Scrabble to pug dog enthusiasts. Most of the meetups happen in public places. So, if you get there and think the rest of the folks look like total dorks, you can pretend you were just there for coffee and slink away unnoticed. But meetup.com isn’t the only place to look for new chums. You can try local religious organizations, your gym, or even volunteering.

2)      Tell it to me straight Doc—I am always advising clients to get a routine physical. This is especially important for women, because our physical well being and mental health are so closely linked. Depression and anxiety may be due to life circumstances or an organic mental illness. But, sometimes they can be linked to your method of birth control, thyroid problems, abrupt weaning of your infant, postpartum mood changes, or menopause. Don’t suffer in silence—let your health care professionals help you chart a course to feeling better.

3)       Rev the engine—You deserve a partnership that is firing on all cylinders. Schedule a session of couples therapy that is designed to reinvigorate your union rather than get mired down in problems. Let your therapist know that you would like to examine what works and get some tips on how to make it even better. I am amazed that couples wait until their relationship is sounding its death knell before coming in to see me. If you will do preventative maintenance on your car, why not on your love life?

 

 

Happy New Year friends! Let’s make it one filled with satisfaction, contentment, and an improved sense of self-worth.

 

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.