Happy Third Birthday to HHT: What Has Helped My Clients and Me Succeed

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This month marks the third anniversary of Hope and Humor Therapy! Happy birthday to this badass counseling business! Wehew! ***So much happy-dancing and jazz-hand shaking***

I don’t know if you’ve ever started a business, but it is an epic journey of WTF?! I thought that I knew what I was signing up for, this entrepreneur thing. I read all of the books, talked to all of the people and listened to all of the podcasts; I was prepared! (Aw!)

However, I could not have grasped the magnitude of what it would take to launch Hope and Humor and to navigate the major ebbs and flows of the business. I had no concept of what it would truly be like to be the vision holder, marketing navigator, website creator, interior decorator, library curator, art wrangler, bookkeeper, social media manager, email answerer, blog writer, billing manager, network builder, presentation giver, knowledge seeker, colleague cheerer, and paperwork wrangler, in addition to being the therapy offerer. I spent many sleepless nights and waking hours learning, trying different things to help my practice grow.  

But now I get it, and I can’t believe that I’ve been doing it for three years. I have worn all the hats and gone through all the highs and lows to this point, and I am so proud of what I’ve built - a thriving therapy practice where women feel accepted and respected.

Since I practice what I preach, I’m taking a moment to reflect on the journey. A question that I often ask my clients is what brought them to this point, so I asked myself just that: what kept me going and helped me get through every obstacle? How did I get here?

The truth is that I overcame every hurdle because I care about my clients and I believe in this work. I know how powerful therapy is. Every single day, I cheer and guide and support and challenge and empower my clients to live with more authenticity and less anxiety. All that website navigating bullshit and dips in my business? Fucking worth it, because I get to help women build trust, take risks, try new things, challenge themselves, take on lifelong battles and SUCCEED. Their ability to strive for a better life is truly awe-inspiring.

As the business has grown and I’ve helped my badass clients thrive, I’ve noticed a few themes that have been foundational to my client’s progress:   

  • You can change. It’s not easy, but it is attainable.

  • You may have society to thank for (at least) a few of your struggles. Some of your issues are socialized, and it’s important to name them and challenge them.     

  • You can make space for logic and emotion; finding a middle ground between is handy.

  • You can create and hold boundaries. They are powerful and painful and useful and difficult and life-giving.

  • Your perception may be affected by PMS, because that shit is real. (#sorrynotsorry)

  • You can become comfortable with the uncomfortable… eventually.   

  • You can tame anxiety. You can face your worst-imagined scenarios and live through them.  

  • You can quiet perfectionism, and your inner critic can be quieted.

  • You can share your life’s joy and jokes and happy dances in therapy.

I am so glad that I’ve created a space where women feel safe enough to explore these themes, and I am so proud to continue this life-changing work. I am astounded by each of my clients and her ability to tackle tough stuff. Living differently is not easy, but they’re doing it!

Yay! *Jazz hands*

- Lauren, Boss business owner and life changer


Empowerment Through the Holidays

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This year, I’ve been creating EmPOWering playlists to help you get through tough times. (Click here and here for the others!) For some, their tough time is the spring. (Hello anxiety-inducing expectations of frolicking through fields of joy!) For others, the December/January holidays bring a sense of dread. There are SO MANY reasons why this might ring true for you - parties (all of them), family pressures, expectations of cheer (and more frolicking), life changes, winter blahs, gift giving blech, resolution pressures. It can be a whole lot of UCH. U C H !!!

This is my way of offering an extra outlet of support, because I believe that therapy can come in the form of a well-chosen song.

So if the holidays are a tough time of year for you, then this playlist is for you!

If Spring is Not Your Season, This Playlist is for You!

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It's May and things are feeling relatively Spring-tastic around here, so I'm back with the second installment in the series of EmPOWerment Playlists. Designed to help you kick butt throughout the year! 

As a therapist, I've noticed that each season can bring its own set of bleh-inducing moments. The colloquial idea of, "The winter blahs," comes to mind. (On a related note, click here for a link to my upbeat, booty shaking winter playlist.) Spring brings along images of flowers blooming, birds chirping, and people frolicking. While it can be a glorious time for some, for others it can be a season of heightened anxiety, pressures to create change, pollen-induced brain fog, and overwhelming moments of AHHH!!!! (Think: upcoming graduations, half the year is over, what am I doing with my life?) 

If Spring is not your favorite time of year (or this particular spring is sucking), this playlist is for you. 

Let's do this!

An Ode to Not Knowing It All

Everyday, I have clients who come into my office, and they are UPSET. They throw their arms into the air and cry, "I don't know it all. I don't have it all figured out. Everyone else knows what they are doing, and I don't. This makes me feel crappy, and I hate it." I imagine that you might feel that way too. 

I have news for you: NONE OF US HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT!

Everyone has their issues (E V E R Y O N E), and none of us know what the heck we are doing all of the time. It's true that some of us are better at faking it than others. It is also true that some people are more plan-oriented than others. However, you are not a bad person if you haven't figured out which life path you want to take, what life goals you want to achieve, and when exactly you want to accomplish them. This is a highly perpetuated myth that social pressures (see also: social media) and our anxious/perfectionist brains have brought upon us, and it's bullshit.  

In fact, I hear these exasperated feelings from so many people, so often that I wrote an ode to not-knowing-it-all. I figure that this concept could use a spotlight in order to fight this shame-inducing hell spiral. 

An Ode to Not Knowing It All

We feel like we must know it all
We must have our lives planned from birth
If we don't, we've dropped the ball
Our selves no longer having worth
People will know
We're frauds, fakes, and fiends
Everyone will run away, leaving us alone
We will toil through life with nothing to show
Never having reached our dreams
Our life never really being our own

Believing everyone else has it figured out
Our friends, family, and neighbors constantly thriving
They have everything, you scream and shout
They always know for what they are striving
Their social media is full of joy
Their lives are so easy
They never question their options or choices
Their lack of a plan will never annoy
They will never know what it is to wake up feeling queasy
Their constant response to life is to say YES with their voices

Take heart, one and all
None of us really know what we are doing
We're all meandering down the life path feeling finite and small
Our fingers are crossed and our feet constantly moving
We're hoping to minimize our pain and strife
All the while recognizing that we know very little
And we can control even less
Take solace in knowing that you are making the best decisions for your life
Instead of feeling like you must know it all now, your path consistently whittled
Celebrate not knowing by inhaling a deep breath and giving yourself some peace from the must-know-it-all stress
Remember that you are doing what you can
You are evolving at your own pace through YOUR lifespan

If you want help breathing deeply as you grow at your own pace, check out my offerings for individual therapy by clicking here

- Lauren, HHT

My Most Helpful, Advice-giving, Navigation-supporting Work of Last Year

I am a lucky therapist. Last year, I was invited to do quite a few amazing things, including co-host a body positivity workshop with Path Nutrition and contribute to a re-imagined, anxiety-themed, Candy Land game for Almost Real Things. I facilitated a workshop for Moms to help break the silence around parenting perfectionism. With Launch Wellness, I created an opportunity for other therapists to acknowledge how freaking hard it is to be a business person and a clinician simultaneously. I also interviewed several bad ass Austin women, including journalist Jessica Luther and comedian Maggie Maye

If I had to pick my most helpful, advice-giving, navigation-supporting piece of last year's work, I would choose guesting on the Help Wanted podcast to discuss vulnerability (i.e. the stuff that makes us go AH! ICK! UGH!) It was great to talk about such a blech-inspiring topic with smart, honest, funny women! They asked me insightful questions and challenged my therapist brain. I shared a bit of my experience with the icky parts of vulnerability, as well as helpful tips and tricks for how to deal with the blech. If you have ever thought, "Oh hell no, I am not sharing _______________ with anyone ever. Just the thought of it makes me want to run and hide and never leave my apartment," then this podcast is for you! Check it out here

- Lauren, HHT

(Metaphorically) Set Your To-do List on Fire

I have a recurring dream. In it, we all set our to-do lists on fire and frolic in the Zilker Park grass instead. We talk about all of the wonderful life experiences we have had thus far. We slowly drink iced tea and ponder how the wildflowers became so persistent in their growth. We give ourselves permission to swim in Barton Springs and to hug puppies. We hike the Greenbelt and revel in the fall weather. Later, we eat at one of the new Austin restaurants that are always popping up. We do not talk about what we accomplished that day, and we do not hive five one another for completing more tasks than we thought mortally possible. Instead, we talk about our deep, soulful wishes. We close the evening by playing music and dancing under the stars, reveling in our freedom. Our to-do lists have gone up in smoke, and there is no turning back.

Okay, how many of you completely missed the beautiful imagery of frolicking and dancing, because you were hyperventilating at the thought of your to-do list crumbling to ashes?

Take heart. Having worked with perfectionists for a few years, I recognize the beauty and the curse of the to-do list. The beauty is that it keeps you organized. It is a way to prioritize and manage your workload. It is a concrete way to measure your productivity. You get to triumphantly mark off your accomplishments. Getting through it can be a slight (major?) adrenaline rush. People high five you for completing your to-do list. All of those things are great. (Yay!)  

The challenge is when your to-do list becomes an overwhelming, life-squashing, fun-killing mechanism for your inner perfectionist critic to beat you down with. If you consistently think, "I can't go to ____________, or I can't do ___________. I stall have things on my to-do list. I always complete the day's list. I must complete the day's list. It's what I do. I FINISH MY TO-DO LIST NO MATTER WHAT," then you might want to rethink your relationship with your to-do list. It could be tipping into unhelpful territory. (Boo!) 

If and when you are ready, here are some helpful questions to ask yourself in order to help you tame your to-do list (or set it on fire, whichever you prefer). Use your responses as a guide to shift your relationship with your daily tasks:

  • Can a human realistically complete everything on your list and take care of themselves at the same time? Is there anything on this list that could wait until tomorrow? Next week?
  • Where is the pressure coming from to complete everything on your list NOW? What would you like to change about that? What feels possible to change?
  • What will happen to you physically, emotionally, socially, financially, and spiritually if you do not finish everything on your list today? Is this picture accurate?
  • What is one joyful thing that you could do with your day if you re-prioritized your tasks?
  • Have you ever had a day when you abandoned your to-do list and chose to frolic instead? What did you need in order to get into that head space? How could you get back there?
  • What meaning have you associated with completing the items on your list? Do you want to keep feeding that story? What is one thing that you could do in order to step away from that myth?
  • What do you need to start doing in order to make it possible to tame your to-do list? What do you need to stop doing? What is necessary for those to happen?
  • What can you tell yourself in order to soothe the to-do list monster when it raises its ugly head?
  • If you feel comfortable involving others in the process, how could the people in your life help you? How could you ask them for support?
  • What sorts of reminders could you keep around in order to support yourself in this change? A quote? A song? A drawing? A scent?

I will close with a therapisty piece of advice if you choose to accept this quest: Remember that changing your relationship with your to-do list is a process. Some days are going to go more smoothly than others. Some tools will be more helpful than others. The important thing is that you recognize the issue and are trying to live differently. 

If you want extra support around this, set up a therapy consultation session with me

Lauren

 

An Interview with Jessica Luther, freelance writer, author, and social justice spotlighter

Photo taken by Janelle Renee Matous

Photo taken by Janelle Renee Matous

This month, I was fortunate enough to interview Jessica Luther, freelance writer and social justice spotlighter. She is doing truly powerful, transformative work around sports and violence, a topic that many sports professionals and fans would like to ignore but shouldn't. Luckily, Jessica won't let us. 

Tell me about yourself and what you do: 

I am a freelance writer and journalist who most often covers the intersection of sport and violence. I have a book coming out in September titled, Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape. I'm perhaps most known for co-reporting with Dan Solomon about Baylor almost a year ago and breaking that story wide open. 

I am also a mother to a nearly eight year old. I've been with my partner for over seventeen years and married to him for thirteen. I bench press, I make good biscuits, and I read a lot of romance novels. 

What motivates you to do what you do?

It feels cliche to say it but a sense of justice (or, maybe, the feeling of constant injustice) motivates me. I want the world to be a better place and I believe it can be. I believe each of us, in small actions in our everyday lives, can do that. The work I do is an extensions of this, perhaps on a larger scale. I demand care and empathy and precision in my work so I expect it of my peers, as well, which is why I find myself not just reporting but also doing media criticism. That all stems from this motivation to correct injustice as much as I can, given the limits of this world, society, and my own abilities and time. 

Tell me about a moment when you felt truly awesome:

Every single time my son, on his own without prompting, extends empathy to a friend or even just someone he has heard about, I feel like I have succeeded in life. Whenever he recognizes other people's right to bodily autonomy and expresses the importance of consent, especially in regards to other children his own age, I feel truly awesome. 

Professionally, seeing the results of our work on the Baylor story, the consequences that are still unfolding from our initial reporting, is intensely gratifying. 

How do you get through periods of self-doubt?

I have intense self-doubt that is often layered with extreme anxiety; the two feed each other. I find that the best way for e to deal with these moments is to withdraw from the work for a bit, let it simmer, and wait until I am feeling more confident. Sometimes this can take an hour, sometimes three days. And more than anything, I have to give myself permission to do this. I can't get angry that this is the best way for me to handle it or I only feed the anxiety, which then continues to fuel the self doubt. 

What do you want other women to know about self-acceptance and self-celebration?

That it's necessary and more than okay to have self-acceptance and to practice self-celebration. This doesn't make you selfish or egotistical. In a world where women so rarely are awarded those feelings and actions, providing them for yourself is critical. 

I love that Jessica points out the importance of taking time to grow in confidence. In a fast-paced, immediate-gratification society, it can be easy to forget that we need time to simmer. This is especially true in social justice work that can leave us feeling vulnerable and raw. That permission to simmer and self-compassion around the process is key. If you would like to learn more about Jessica's work, you can check out her website here. You can also pre-order her upcoming book, Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape, by clicking here

 If you would like to learn how to grow in your self-acceptance, check out my offerings for individual therapy and therapy boot camp.