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The Personal Health Journey of An Online Life Coach - Discovering Balance

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

Logan Cohen - Professional Therapist & Online Life Coach

My Journey towards discovering Balance was not an easy or comfortable one. There were many early experiences and dynamics in my Life from a young age that actually created a lack of Balance and looking back, it took a lot of trial and error, tenacity, tears, and a bit of luck to have ended up mostly on the other side of all of it.

All too often, People in times of need who approach a healthcare professional want to assume that professional has always "had it together". In fact, the more we idealize the Expert in this role, the easier it is to refrain from asking questions initially and follow a suggested routine dogmatically. While this has shown to be quite effective in creating compliance, that is not the goal here because as an Online Life Coach, that would not respect your autonomy.

While I do want you to consider how you can set yourself and Relationships up for optimal Balance, the goal here is to shed some light on my own personal Journey towards Balance and give you as the reader a better idea of why I am in this professional role of supporting others in achieving Balance in their own Lives and Intimate Relationships as an Online Life Coach and otherwise.

The first area of instability I had to to figure out how to work through came in the form of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. These days, it seems to be the butt of a lot of jokes that minimize the issue, however I remember when this was identified in 4th grade and it made a WORLD of difference. I was plucked up from the principal’s office (always in trouble for talking and “horseplay” with peers) and tossed into a psychologist’s office (no online Life Coaches existed then lol), where I was able to start getting some much needed help with my executive functioning and resulting poor behavior and below average academic performance. I was/am really scattered with tasks and distracted by my immediate environment, so that help was essential in figuring out how to focus my mental energy. I still can’t have professional meetings in public places like restaurants or coffee shops because I’ll start making faces with a Kid or People watching before even realizing I’m doing it.

My Balance did not come from my Family growing up. One of my Parents has struggled with Addiction and Bipolar Disorder since I was at least 4 years old. Since then, the Family memories I have are of chaos, unpredictability, and HUGE anger outbursts that left my childhood feeling unsafe. For many years into my Adolescence and Adulthood, I literally feared becoming psychotic like that Parent; it was one of my WORST fears. Since I was always on edge about looking for signs of my own emerging Bipolar Disorder (that never happened thank G-d), I missed what became obvious to my own Medical Doctor in my late 20s while Founding New Leaf Counseling Group, LLC and even before considering becoming an Online Life Coach.

While describing the stresses of moving back to the North Carolina from Portland, Oregon, my Doctor let me know that the symptoms I described sounded a lot like Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The more I thought about it consciously, the more I realized it made sense and I decided to get some professional help for it. To have ended up with Anxiety and not a psychotic disorder like Bipolar Disorder, well I considered that a win in the grand scheme of things. At the same time, I do have a chemical imbalance in my brain that (if I’m not staying on top of it), will start convincing me that things are more threatening than they actually are (literal description of anxiety symptoms), at which point I am at risk of having Anxiety symptom flare-ups (NOT FUN). And yes, even this Online Life Coach has there own (very talented) personal Therapist for when times become particularly hard. Would you go to a Doctor that smelled like cigarettes or a dentist who has bad breath??

Alas I learned how to study in early adolescence after getting support for the attention issues that had previously been a barrier. I poured myself into academics that were of interest, and even developed an aptitude for my studies. For all of the wonky shortcomings in early Family Life, there were good parts as well. There was a general respect for academics and those were encouraged, as were athletics and music. I dabbled in a few of these areas and discovered a nice rhythm between extracurricular activities and academic life. I was rolling along quite well (outside of the Home at least) until the next area of chemical imbalance would throw me off course.

The last area of chemical imbalance that I have had to learn to navigate was with Addiction. Alas, I didn’t come out untouched from my genetic predispositions...When I realized as a teenager that a nice mixture of pot and alcohol created a “buzz” that I could cloak myself in and further “detach” to feel safe from the Chaos that was at Home, that was IT...I was inebriated for the better part of my Adolescence. Even Online Life Coaches are not immune from the trappings of Addiction...

I was able to keep this mostly private until Senior year of High School, where I managed to have a 75% absentee rate and get kicked off of the Varsity Swim Team as the CAPTAIN...yeah let that sink in for a minute...not one of my finer periods of life.

Looking back, I don’t know how I continued showing up for tests and turning in my projects on time. I actually finished with half the required course credits for my first year of undergraduate school with all of the AP credits from that same year I had a 75% absentee rate.

In the modern school system, I wouldn’t have lasted a week before my Parents would have been drug into truancy court to answer for my lack of attendance and in fact I have heard many Parents express very real FEAR about observing similar behavior as a Professional Therapist and Online Life Coach. But those were different times, for better and for worse, and I managed to graduate high school with Honors (while falling drunk across the finish line).

I learned from a young age to depend on my natural inclination for learning to propel my academic performance. I managed to get good enough grades for an academic scholarship and didn’t get kicked out of high school for my absenteeism, so was able to attend the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens for my undergraduate school with no tuition costs, as made possible with an academic scholarship.

If you are not familiar with the “party hard” mentality at UGA, I will just tell you that it is something to behold. Every year over the last few decades, UGA shows up on Top 10 Lists of “drugs, sex, and rock n roll” for American universities and my experience was no different. The culture at UGA was terrible for my Addictive behavior, as well as early introductions to romantic expectations (infused with drugs/alcohol and chaos like what I was familiar with at Home). For what it's worth, at least I can safely say I know what the other side of the coin is like as an Online Life Coach.

While it wasn’t pretty, I was able to make it through the relative boredom of my CORE classes to discover Psychology and Anthropology, and FELL IN LOVE with them. Between the study of Psychology (what makes people do what they do) and Anthropology (how Culture and People transform each other), I discovered specific academic areas that could hold my attention through all of the Anxiety and restlessness. I knew what I "wanted to be when I grew up" (while my foray into working as an online life coach has been recent, I have worked/studied in counseling psychology since I was 18 years old). It was great to be so certain about my course of academic studies between the internal appreciation for the subject matter and the external reinforcement I was getting from professors and peers, but I still wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to move forward professionally. I also knew that I was personally a bit "out of whack".

I knew that I was just getting started with academic training, but also knew that the addictive behavior was getting stronger. I didn’t think I could stay healthy, or even maintain my sanity (remember that worst fear described earlier?) if I were to go straight through into graduate school.

During my last semester at UGA, I was taking a required “Careers In Psychology” class. I remember I had no idea what I could do professionally quite yet, but knew I NEEDED to do something in the field away from the lack of structure associated with academic life. In this class, a presenter would come in from a different Psychology-related job site to share about their professional work and give us a better idea of what we might be able to expect in the real world. This was FAR before the day of online life coaches and I don’t remember ANY of those presenters except for a mere ONE (insert pot/alcohol and memory jokes here)...A man walked into our class with a big beard, wearing shorts, sandals, and a Hawaiian shirt, and proceeded to tell us about his work as a Counselor in a Wilderness Therapy setting with at-risk youth. He spent all of his time outdoors “off the grid”, and worked with these kids who were on a clear path to certain destruction.

These were kids who had significant psychiatric illness often compounded by multiple traumas, who were coming out of psychiatric residential inpatient placements and youth detention centers.

This professional’s role with the kids was to therapeutically support their learning how to live in a pro-social group of peers and authority figures in a wilderness setting with NO ELECTRICITY (yea, I said it). Once they could do this cooperatively and while meeting their therapeutic and behavioral goals, they were deemed ready for re-entry back into their natural homes. This all took anywhere between 10-18 months at a time of their young lives.

I’m not sure if the caliber of the kid he spoke about quite “clicked”. After all, this isn’t the freaked out teenager from a wealthy Family who had been kidnapped in the middle of the night by a contracted van and crew. These were mostly kids who had grown up “in The System” and were rough, but I very much felt there was still a disgruntled and pissed off teenager inside of me too, so I related to the idea of those Kids and this was something that actually excited me rather than freaked me out. I was really drawn to how at ease the Professional was who presented his work tasks, and how idyllic it sounded to go “off the grid living in The Woods” for a bit. I think a part of me also knew it was time for a forced detox and I couldn’t get ahold of drugs/alcohol in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains, so it would also provide some structure for my problematic substance use.

I was sure I wanted to be “on his team” and wasn’t bothered by not knowing why at the time (adolescent impulsiveness and addiction helps for avoiding a deep consideration of these matters), so I got back to my apartment after class and checked out this Wilderness Therapy organization, then applied. I got the job and after wrapping up my undergraduate degree at UGA that semester, I gave myself a week off before going to my orientation. Sure, I was on my high horse at the time, however looking back that job a high turnover rate because it was SO hard in EVERY way (remind me to tell you the story about the Counselor who worked their first standard shift of 5 days, then drove straight off the Mountain without saying a THING - only left a pair of muddy boots at the “time off house”).

Administrators just loved seeing an able bodied and well educated applicant, so there was minimal time lapse to begin working. Looking back, this was the best choice I could have possibly made for myself. There were many experiences that provided the beginning of what I would identify as My Journey to Towards Balance. Looking back, there is not one day that goes by without me referring to those years in my work as an Online Life Coach and Professional Therapist.

As a Counselor living in Appalachia with these at-risk Youth, I got to come of age in a setting where life could be so simple and peaceful, while at the same time literally take you OUT if you aren’t paying attention.

The sooner I learned these basic Balanced Life Skills, the sooner I was able to REALLY come into my own not only in this professional work, but also got to grow personally as well. Looking back after 10 more years in the field as a seasoned Marriage & Family Therapist, Supervisor, and now Founder of a group counseling practice in Charlotte, NC, I have learned the clinical foundations and theoretical orientations to explain these learning experiences concisely as an Online Life Coach, while also having the chance to integrate these lessons into my own Life.

Here Are 13 Lessons By An Online Life Coach From The Woods:

#1 Lesson from The Woods by an Online Life Coach - Boundaries are ESSENTIAL

Whether you are designing a hand-built cabin for shelter in the Appalachian Mountains (literally) or a network of personal relationships, it is wise to plan your load bearing walls and clarify them before even breaking ground. All too often groups of People, whether we’re talking about in the Workplace, with Family, in Romance, or with Friend Groups, greatly benefit from clarity in expectations. In fact, the more clarity around what everyone expects/needs/wants, the better. As an Online Life coach, I help People learn how to be transparent about what is OK with you and not OK with you as soon as possible and as many times as you need to, while still balancing this directness with the second aspect below.

#2 Lesson from The Woods by an Online Life Coach - Be Kind

This is just as much for “Them” as for You. When we are kind in delivering our expectations to others, it feels SO much better. First, we get to set a precedent for the type of interaction we expect from others through what we are modeling with them. Second, we leave other people no excuse to be combative towards us. When we make kindness a way of doing things (even setting boundaries), we can truly see where other people’s intentions lie. If you are being kind enough and non-threatening, while also being direct about something reasonable and the other person is being mean back to you, then you know that this Relationship is unsustainable in its current dynamic. As an Online Life Coach and Professional Therapist, I have learned that this is good to know if you want to sustain your integrity with it, because this WON’T WORK!

#3 Lesson from The Woods by an Online Life Coach - How to Live Without Mind Altering Substances

This one might seem obvious, but to someone who has dealt firsthand with Addiction, when someone is up against this Monster (addiction), it can convince you that very real consequences in your life are NOT HAPPENING, or NOT YOUR FAULT, OR AT LEAST NOT A CONSEQUENCE OF ADDICTION. This is unfortunate, because I have seen a lot of People struggling with Addiction as a Professional Therapist and Online Life Coach, and spend a lot of time trying to manage substance use that continues to be problematic in their lives.

By living in the Wilderness Therapy setting for 3 years (5 days on and 2 days off when not short staffed or taking month long river trips - at times I have been “in group” for a whole month at a time), I was able to force myself into a REALLY structured setting that was devoid of an ability to use substances. In doing so, I put a lot of sober time together for the first time in a LONG time, where I was able to begin sorting through the issues that made using that frequently seem like a reasonable option. In the meantime, that time was also spent surrounded by Adolescents behaving REALLY chaotically...then the more I learned to maneuver with Balance between the Adolescents and eventually my own life, the easier it all got with practice.

#4 Lesson from The Woods by an Online Life Coach - How to Develop Healthy Romance

While in Appalachia, I had the pleasure of meeting the Woman who became my Wife and general Partner in Crime for starting a Family. We saw each other date other People and developed a friendship that was maintained through it all. In fact, we were Friends for two whole years before beginning our Romantic involvement. There are LOTS of reasons that old-timers talk about the beauty of “being friends first” and an addition to my work as an Online Life Coach, I know from personal experience that the friendship underlying your romance is invaluable. While we don’t have time to get to that in this article, we certainly will in the future.

#5 Lesson from The Woods by an Online Life Coach - The Tribe is Essential

I am still close friends with the Young (most of us were then) Men and Women who I got to work In The Woods with. We have gotten each other through some tremendously hard times with very little access to the outside world - life events like divorce, suicide, and childbirth. In fact, several of the couples started very Happy & Balanced Families, which I believe is partially a testament to what we were all learning to integrate into our lives while living among each other. We call each other “Camp Family”.

#6 Lesson from The Woods by an Online Life Coach - When We Are at Our Angriest, We Are at Our Stupidest

I remember learning this one the hard way, both through personal experience and observation of other Counselors and Campers. While Anger is an important emotion, it is one of MANY and if leaned into too much, will cause issues for the Person wielding it and those around them. And in those moments where People are having an "anger outburst" (threatening behavior while angry often characterized as “seeing red” and/or “losing it”), those People are at their absolute stupidest. I have seen this repeatedly in my personal life, as well as in my work as a Professional Therapist and Online Life Coach. People just FLAT - OUT cannot access their rational thought ANYWHERE near the level at which they are capable. Yes, there is probably much more honesty, but it is likely to be presented in such a STUPID way that nobody around can hear what the tantruming Person wants or needs.

#7 Lesson from The Woods by an Online Life Coach - Trauma is as Trauma Does

Forest Gump’s Momma always said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Well,that is true for trauma as well. I have seen People so traumatized from life events they couldn’t even move (catatonic), while some have almost appeared to have so much energy that it looked like they could have been high on methamphetamine. At the same time, some of the most resilient and courageous People I have ever met have also survived trauma. Trauma does not define you. It is something that happens to you and YOU get to define it. This is another area I LOVE to work with as an Online Life Coach, however sometimes it can also be important to seek the support of a Professional Therapist if there are still unregulated symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

#8 Lesson from The Woods by an Online Life Coach - Make a Hobby Your Craft

I had always been the Person in my Friend Group who Others confided in, even before I began my studies as a Professional Therapist and Online Life Coach. I was always drawn to People who are a little bit eccentric, so “the cap fit”, as they say. If I didn’t LOVE my work as a professional helper, there is no way I could or would do it because it wouldn’t be self sustaining. However since it keeps me creative and I’m also able to provide for my Family...TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE!

#9 Lesson from The Woods by an Online Life Coach - Crisis = Danger + Opportunity

I think I felt this at some level as a young Person, but later it really clicked in an Anthropology class, then even MORE while working In The Woods. In an Anthropology class, I was exposed to this philosophical concept in Chinese culture that is even captured in one of the two dominant dialectics on the Chinese Mainland - “Mandarin”.

In Mandarin, words are represented by “characters” that resemble simple pictures and when you overlap both the characters for Danger and that of Opportunity over each other, they make the character for “Crisis”. Cool, right? When things are out of Balance, even dangerously, much can be learned and even gained in how things play out over time.

I discovered this truth in my Wilderness Work, as so much chaotic behavior often had to be worked through with these Teens before they were able to come to some of their own realizations.

This was again confirmed in my clinical training as a Professional Therapist, where the foundations of Marriage & Family are rooted in Systems Theory. I won’t bore you with going all SCIENCE on ya, but I will say that one of the basic tenets to this foundation of theoretical framework is that until The System (of interpersonal relationships) can topple over a bit (unBalance), lasting change cannot happen because it will be built upon the same old, problematic foundation.

#10 Lesson from The Woods by an Online Life Coach - Physical Fitness is Essential to Our General Well-Being

I have seen so many Young People (and Adults in my clinical practice) turn their lives around and I have never seen someone do this without maintaining a consistent regimen of physical exercise as on Online Life Coach or otherwise. Even if this wasn’t formal exercise, but just hiking around a mountain all day or even chopping wood (can be a double heat source in winter time), this really makes a big difference. We are bipedal mammals that were made to MOVE.

#11 Lesson from The Woods by an Online Life Coach - Nature is HEALING

I first thought this was more of a personal experience I had In The Woods, until I saw countless youth from urban areas “go Zen” in those Wilderness settings. I couldn’t count the number of kids on my fingers who I “caught” meditating next to the river, or daydreaming while watching the leaves rustle, or running their fingers through the dirt to just feel the sensations between their fingers...Nature itself is medicine. I have understood this for years as a Professional Therapist and Online Life Coach, and this is being backed by formal research more often with every passing year. An important part of finding Balance can be allowing yourself to sink into a much more natural rhythm - it’s a shame some of those Teens had to get virtually imprisoned to experience that.

#12 Lesson from The Woods by an Online Life Coach - Accountability Is Everything

Accountability is really important. In fact, this is an essential component of what you should expect from working with a Life Coach, whether than are an Online Life Coach or in person. If we cannot be accountable to Ourselves and Loved Ones, then we will not grow out of our comfort zones. Our comfort zones exist because we either:

1) haven’t experimented with leaving them yet OR,

2) have left them, but scary things happened, then we went back to familiar ways of doing things.

If we really want to push past comfort zones, we must first accept they are there for a reason and unless the reasons change, we will remain unchanged.

What makes you think it will be that easy to just do it (as NIKE would say)? It’s because of #5 and The Tribe being essential. When we can recruit trusted comrade(s) to go on a Journey of Self Growth and Improvement, we’ve got to have Folks on our Team that can hold us accountable and who we will LET do this. Remember, if it’s important to you and your not doing it yet, it’s because there hasn’t yet been enough accountability to stimulate your willingness to GROW.

#13 Lesson from The Woods by an Online Life Coach - Balance Makes It All Go Round

When all of these aspects of our Lives are working harmoniously together, it can be a BEAUTIFUL thing. Nothing here has to be perfect, or even above average. In fact, a common misconception is that everything must be JUST RIGHT to get results, but as an Online Life Coach, I see that kind of thinking hold People back from their potential every day. It just has to be Balanced enough to help you maintain the Integrity of Yourself and Your Loved Ones.

My name is Logan Cohen and I am a Professional Therapist & Life Coach with over 10 years in the field of Counseling Psychology. I am a Clinical Supervisor for the American Association of Marriage & Family Therapy, as well as the founder of New Leaf Counseling Group, LLC in Charlotte, NC. After spending tens of thousands of clinical hours with my own clients, starting a successful group practice, as well as a beautiful Family, I “picked my head up from the grindstone” to check in on childhood Friends & Loved Ones.

I painfully discovered that more than a few of my childhood Friends passed away at a young age from preventable health conditions and decided that as a Man, Husband, Father, and Friend, I could no longer stand by as People suffered in silence and self-destructed rather than ask for help. It doesn’t have to be like that and the holistic healing methods offered by the Balanced Man Plan is designed to help People “get unstuck” and break free from old patterns that are the barriers between Self & quality of Life.

The Balanced Man Plan is a therapeutic digital experience delivered through Self-Guided Coaching Plans created by a Male Therapist with the common barriers & strengths of Men in mind. The Balanced Man Plan has the goal of introducing a natural Balance back to Life so it is sustainable for the optimal Health & Well-Being of Self and Loved Ones - and ALL from the privacy and comfort of Home. If you have enjoyed what you see so far, check out our Self Guided Coaching Plans!

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