The Lovely Allison Lloyds
Allison and I connecting is a social media success story. A couple months ago, I discovered this inspiring woman and her growing NYC based therapy practice via twitter. I was immediately drawn to her blog by the beautiful pictures, clean layout and relevant topics– mindfulness, happiness and compassion (just to name a few). Over the past couple of months, I’ve had the pleasure of following Allison’s practice and getting to know her and her mission a little better. With love, compassion and understanding, she helps her clients and readers overcome the limiting beliefs holding them back and as a result, helps them and their relationships be the best they can be. In this interview, the thirty-one year old, Columbia graduate shares her journey to her dream career, gives loves advice to twenty-somethings and talks about her upcoming radio show with Gabrielle Bernstein (Uhhh….could she be any cooler??)
Katie Hoffman: I absolutely love what you are doing Allison! Your writing is so compelling and I love your message of mindfulness. Have you always known you wanted to be a therapist and writer?
Allison Lloyds: Thank you, Katie! That is so kind of you. When I was a little girl, I actually dreamed of being a writer. I feel very lucky that I now have the chance to write short articles on my blog to help my clients and others out there in the world looking for support. I am hoping to focus more on writing over the summer months; it’s a passion of mine, so it’s something I want to make more time to pursue.
I have always loved helping others but was unsure of how to channel those feelings into a “real” career. As a result, when I graduated from Columbia in 2002, I put on my suit and set out to work in the corporate world, because that’s what I thought was best at the time. Looking back, working in a big corporation in both New York and London was a wonderful experience, I learned so much and met amazing people along the way…but I knew it ultimately wasn’t the right fit in the long run.
I think it’s important to remember that we can truly do anything we set our minds to. We can change our minds. We can start over fresh and blaze a new trail to find what really makes us feel fulfilled. Having this sense of true possibility is what encouraged me to take the leap and change my career track. It’s something I feel very proud of.
KH: I completely agree! Being able to reinvent ourselves is one of the funnest parts of being human! How would you sum up the deeper mission behind what you do? What made you decide to go into the psychology field?
AL: My mission is to support my clients in finding and creating more happiness, peace, and cultivating healthy relationships.
When I took some time (in my late-20’s) to think about what would make my life happier and more meaningful, I found myself responding with an answer that was a bit convoluted. I initially thought that working in a corporate setting was the only way to go – that this was the only way to “be a success”. But, alas…this was ultimately not what brought me any sense of joy or meaning. It was all about earning money and feeling some sense of “this is what I should be doing, right?!”
I believe that I was suffering from some inner-conflict at that time. I felt that spending time with family and friends was important, yet my long hours kept me at my desk and away from those I loved. I felt really disconnected and overwhelmed. When I did finally set aside time with those close to me, I noticed that I was extremely stressed and tired, which made it hard to connect and truly be present in my life. I felt like my sense of direction was failing me and I was going around in circles. I was showing up to work and doing my best, but I felt like a hamster on a wheel – running and running…but getting nowhere fast. I had to make a change.
I took some time to explore what would make things more meaningful and positive in my life. After much thought (and support from those around me) this meant helping others and building a career I was truly passionate about which was psychology and becoming a licensed therapist.
Allison is the founder of the NYC based therapy practice Synergetic Psychotherapy.
KH: That is so awesome! I know that so many of my readers and myself will really relate to that journey. On your blog you talk a lot about mindfulness, but you are also very driven and goal oriented. Is there a trick to finding balance? How does someone create and pursue the vision they have for themselves while still remaining present and content in the moment?
AL: This is a great question, Katie! Thank you for bringing this up.
Mindfulness is becoming increasingly common in the world of psychology and therapy. Increasing amounts of research continues to demonstrate the effectiveness of mindfulness in helping individuals to deal with a wide range issues including stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder and chronic pain. Mindfulness is something which I have become much more interested in – and it’s something that I use in my work with clients.
Just a bit of quick background - mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to whatever you’re experiencing, as it’s happening in the present. It’s about being wholly in the moment. Being mindful means becoming more aware of your thoughts, your feelings and emotions as well as your behaviors, simply recognizing them as they are, without judging them in any shape or form.
When you’re being mindful, you’re not being overwhelmed by thoughts, memories, emotions, worries, fears, plans, daydreams and other distractions (there are so many distractions these days!) You’re mind isn’t dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. You are focusing your attention on what you’re doing and experiencing right now, in the present, as it’s happening before you.
On a personal level, I have found that mindfulness has helped me to experience what is going on in my life without becoming overwhelmed. Instead of struggling to escape, avoid or bury painful thoughts you feel able to experience and move through these feelings and situations with awareness, understanding and a dose of self-compassion.
Being mindful and focused on the present moment does not mean that you are floating aimlessly, without future goals or a sense of direction. In my opinion, it’s all about balance. It’s about having those future goals but also stepping back and being able to focus on what is going on in your life in the here and now. When life becomes routine and automatic, it’s easy to miss out on all of the exciting possibilities which are all around us.
KH: I think I’m kind of getting the hang of this mindfulness stuff in my everyday life, but romantic relationships are a whole different story! What advice would you have for twenty-somethings currently in the dating world? How do we keep from going crazy?
AL: Let me just say, I have been there and completely understand how difficult the dating world can be! But, I think that putting yourself out there and meeting new people is a great way to grow and have some wonderful experiences.
Mindfulness can help you change the way you think and break out of the trap of old beliefs and mental programming which isn’t doing you any favors. When we are not aware of what is going on around us, we are more likely to feel disconnected and engage in unhealthy patterns which aren’t serving us well. It’s important to try to step back and pay attention to what truly matters in your life and what you want out of a romantic relationship. What are your needs? It’s important to really get to know yourself. Being aware of your values can help you live in a more mindful way and hopefully connect with another person who is the right fit. When we are living our lives on autopilot, we have no idea who or what is really influencing our decisions and actions. I work with my clients to help them get to a place where they are making healthy choices for themselves, separate from the pressures of society, parents and friends.
I also like to remind myself (and my clients) that being *too* serious and focused on certain areas of our life (like your relationship status) can prevent us from being happy and moving forward in a healthy way…it can actually get *in* the way!
There is a saying which I like to use in my work with clients: “What we resist persists.” Sometimes when we are busy trying to run from difficult feelings of stress, fear, anger, or loneliness, they seem to creep up on us and find us no matter how hard we try to get rid of them. Instead of resisting, try to focus on welcoming positive feelings into your life and becoming more accepting of what your life is in the here and now. Being single is not only okay – but it can be a fantastic opportunity to grow and learn about yourself and what you want out of life.
KH: This month the theme of your blog is compassion; from my experience and I’m sure many other twenty-something’s out there, the hardest person to give compassion to is ourselves. How can driven, goal-oriented, dreamers learn to not be so hard on themselves?
AL: Although some people view human nature as inherently cruel and selfish, we are capable of incredible acts of kindness and compassion. Unfortunately, for many of us, this type kindness does not extend to the self.
Compassion is feeling care and warmth for yourself and for others. With compassion we are in a state of acceptance, love, and care for another person. However, as many of us know, it is sometimes easier to have feelings of compassion for other people (even strangers) when sometimes we don’t feel this way for ourselves or those close to us.
In place of compassion for ourselves, we often have other common responses like self-criticism and self-isolation. We experience shame, disappointment, guilt and anger. We beat ourselves up and sometimes we distance ourselves from those who care about us. This can leave us feelings stuck and alone, making it difficult to move forward and experience positive emotions.
I work with my clients to help them cultivate self-compassion, which gives them some alternatives to these difficult feelings. It is important to try to be warm and understanding towards our own pain, rather than ignoring it or beating ourselves up and to recognize that our pain, imperfections, and mistakes are part of the universal experience of being a human being.
The good news is that almost everyone can instinctively feel compassion for others, and the trick is to apply it to ourselves. Next time you are in an upsetting situation and either feeling sad or beating yourself up, try and let yourself feel some compassion. See if you can say “It’s alright, I’m human, and we all make mistakes at different times.” Emotionally giving yourself a hug rather as opposed to beating yourself up is an integral part of cultivating compassion. This may seem a bit silly or out there, but give it a try!
You can think of compassion like a muscle; the more you work it and focus on it, the stronger it becomes.
I will be speaking about this very topic (compassion) on Gabrielle Bernstein’s Hay House Radio Show on June 27th, 2012 at 12:00pm EST.
KH: Summer is right around the corner, what’s on your bucket list for the summer of 2012?
AL: As I mentioned earlier, this summer I am hoping to set aside some more time to devote to writing…and fitting in a bit of relaxation. Taking care of yourself and setting aside time to relax is an important part of mental health.
I am a supporter of a wonderful organization by the name of Farm Sanctuary (http://www.farmsanctuary.org/), a nonprofit organizations based in upstate New York that operates the largest rescue and refuge network for farm animals in North America. One of my passions is animal rights advocacy, and I will be visiting Farm Sanctuary in July to learn more about the animals, many of which have been rescued and nursed back to health from slaughterhouses, stockyards and factory farms. It’s something I am very excited about.
I am also excited to be a special featured guest on my friend Gabrielle Bernstein’s Hay House Radio Show on June 27th at 12:00pm-1:00pm EST. The theme of the radio show will be “Let Compassion Be Your Compass”. On the radio show I will be speaking about my work with clients and the importance of compassion. I hope that you (and your readers) will tune in and participate!
KH: Oh I will be tuning in for sure! Tell us a little bit about being mindful in the busiest, most fast-paced city in the world. Do you think it is more difficult?
AL: I have spent most of my life in Manhattan and it’s such a special place, as I am sure you know from your time here! I do have to remind myself to practice mindfulness and compassion for myself and others as part of my daily routine.
In addition, I have found that in such a fast-paced environment it is important to let go of a degree of control. Sometimes things don’t go the way I would like – the subway gets stuck, the traffic is gridlocked – it helps to “go with the flow” as much as possible, instead of getting anxious and worked up. I like to call this “mental flexibility” and it’s something I discuss with my clients.
KH: What three books would you recommend to twenty-somethings?
AL: The Now Effect, by Elisha Goldstein PhD, Spirit Junkie, by Gabrielle Bernstein and Farm Sanctuary, Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, by Gene Baur
KH: Do you have any words of wisdom to share with other aspiring therapists and counselors? Anything you wish you would have known at the beginning of your journey.
AL: Making the choice to embark on a career as a therapist/counselor was the best thing I ever did! I enjoy working with all of my clients and am constantly inspired by their strength and resilience. My clients are constantly teaching me how to be a better person and a better therapist.
A little piece of inspiration from the Synergetic Psychotherapy Facebook Page.
KH: Last but not least: Favorite quote?
AL: “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” (-Karen Kaiser Clark)
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”―Joseph Campbell
To find out more about Allison, check out her website here. Show her some love by liking her page on facebook. And do yourself a favor, tune into her radio show with Gabrielle Bernstein June 27th, 2012 12:00 pm EST (more info here)
Love yall! <3