Creating Social Connections through Quarantine

Our need for human connection is so powerful that it is essential to our physical and mental well-being.

In Many Minneapolis Schools, the Therapist is Just Right Down the Hall

When Cathy Moen’s son, Elijah, was in first grade, he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She took him to the pediatrician, who put him on medication and suggested therapy.

The medication part was easy. But getting him therapy proved more difficult — not because Moen couldn’t find a therapist or didn’t have insurance, but because of logistics.

The appointments were always during the day, and between her work schedule and the traffic, it was nearly impossible for them to make it.

But she soon learned Elijah was able to see a therapist in his Bloomington school. More than 15 years ago, Minneapolis Public Schools helped pioneer a national model of bringing community mental health care directly to its students. Today, most of the public schools in Minneapolis — more than 50 of them — have a therapist on site, and many other districts, like Elijah’s, have followed suit.

These days, Elijah’s therapist simply walks down the hall and pulls him from class.

“This is like a godsend,” said Moen.

The family’s health insurance pays for the care the same way it would if the student were being seen in the clinic. The school program was designed so that no student in need will be turned away for lack of insurance.

The Minneapolis program has also provided a road map for schools across the country as more administrators realize that mental health is as important to students’ future success as academics. Studies have shown that students are more likely to show up for appointments when the therapists are on-site.

More and more states are making mental health care in schools a priority. At least two states have recently passed laws that require schools to teach mental health. And more are considering it.

But the benefit of having a therapist on-site goes beyond just getting students to see a therapist. In Minneapolis, it’s also helped make mental health a school-wide priority — and helped get counselors, teachers and others more involved, said Mark Sander, who helped start the district program.

A man wearing a button down shirt.
Mark Sander is the director of school mental health at Hennepin County and Minneapolis Public Schools.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

“Those teachers start learning more and more [about mental health],” said Sander, who directs school mental health for the district and the county.

He said as they learn more about mental health, teachers are feeling like, “‘OK, I get it. And now, you know, I’ve got this other student who’s not diagnosed with anxiety but has some of those anxiety features. And now I know how to better support them.”

At South High School in Minneapolis, the therapists sit in the school clinic, the same one where students go if they feel sick during the day or to get a physical so they can play sports.

The issues the students bring to the therapist run the gamut from stress about grades and colleges to anxiety related to a bad situation at home.

Farah Hussein is a therapist at South. She said it’s hard being a teenager, and she tries to help.

“There’s a lot of conversations about, ‘Who am I? Where do I fit in the world? Where do I belong?’ and just a lot of distress in exploring that,” she said.

All of this has important implications for the students’ well-being beyond just their mental health.

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A group of people sit around a conference table in a school.
Collaborative mental health meetings at South include the school’s social workers, counselors, nurses, psychologists, school-based clinic therapists and occasionally administrators.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News
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A sign reads "Mental Health" on a wooden shelf with books.

 

Sharon Hoover, who co-directs the National Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said more schools are collecting data on outcomes of in-school mental health programs, and the results are clear.

“They are more likely to have good attendance and to graduate and to get improved grades. We even have documentation of having better standardized test scores when you put universal systems in place like classroom-wide social emotional learning,” she said, all of which makes for happier, better adjusted students.

Cathy Moen, the mother whose son, Elijah, is in therapy in school, said she doesn’t know if it’s the medicine, or the therapy, or just that he’s growing up, but she — and his teachers — are already seeing a difference.

Source

How to Address Your Teen’s Issues with Poor Motivation

Getting your teen to improve his or her focus.

“If the eye is patient enough, it will get a clear view of the nose.” – Anonymous

When people think about issues related to poor concentration, they immediately think about distractions. This is even more the case when it concerns teens. Things that come to the mind of the casual observer, are smart phones, social media and troubled peers.

A quick Google search for how to improve your teen’s lack of focus, will bring up issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD), depressionnutrition and strategies for developing a more efficient schedule. These topics and recommended strategies are appropriate and effective for helping your teen improve his or her issues with focus, but they cannot be effectively applied until one important issue is addressed.

Motivation.

That’s right. The primary reason young people struggle with poor focus and concentration is a general lack of motivation to do anything meaningful. The teen who lacks motivation will often gravitate towards activities which greatly stimulate neuro-chemicals associated with the brain’s reward system.

Activities such as video games, food, mind altering substances, alcohol and sex. These are things bored teens are likely to engage in habitually, in order to feel alive. This is because, in the absence of motivation to succeed, the teen is faced with a difficult reality consisting of a monotonous chore and a daily schedule. Even things like daily showers can seem time consuming and tiring to a teen who struggles with low motivation. It is also important to note that these issues are also symptoms of depression with a teen.

Before we begin processing on how to get teens more motivated, it is important to come to an understanding on what motivation is. According to Wikipedia, the term motivation is derived from motive. Motive means a need that desires satisfaction. So, for a teen to be motivated, he or she must be actively pursuing a need which desires satisfaction.

Saul McLeod/Simple Psychology
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Chart
Source: Saul McLeod/Simple Psychology

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Typically, we understand needs to be intrinsic materials necessary to keep us alive, such as food, water and shelter. However, an expanded discussion on the issue of needs would be based on the famous work of Abraham Maslow, regarding his hierarchy of emotional needs.

According to Dr. Maslow’s theory, there are two types of needs people strive for. They are deficiency needs and growth needs. Deficiency needs are comprised of basic needs and psychological needs. These are physiological needs, which have to do with food, water and shelter. Followed by the need for safety and security. The physiological needs and the safety needs are known as basic needs.

Next are the psychological needs, which have to do with the needs for a sense of belonging and feeling accepted. This is also followed by the need for esteem, which has to do with prestige and status in society. According to Dr. Maslow, people are only motivated to get these needs met, when these needs are deficient in their lives. Once these needs are met, people are no longer motivated in getting them met, which opens the door for addressing growth needs.

Then there are the self-fulfillment needs, which Dr. Maslow describes as self-actualization coming from having achieved one’s full potential. He also describes this as growth needs. Unlike deficiency needs, people become more motivated as their growth needs are met.

So, a teen who practices the courage to do his best in understanding calculus, becomes more motivated the more he succeeds and subsequently more focused. Further, teens who are experiencing success in achieving their potential, are also very disciplined in their home life. For example, they are disciplined in following through consistently with their assigned chores and personal hygiene.

It has been theorized that teens who struggle with depression, have experienced very little success in effectively getting their psychological needs met. This topic will be addressed in another post.

Often Motivated.

Upon examining Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is easy to conclude that most teens don’t have low motivation. Rather, most teens are preoccupied to getting their deficiency needs (acceptance and recognition) met, rather than their growth needs (success in academia) met.

Such a phenomenon is easy to witness with teens from low socio-economic backgrounds, such as an obsession in getting their physiological and safety needs met. However, with teens from middle class backgrounds and up, their focus is often on their psychological needs. For example, relationship with friends, close friendships and status among peers.

When teens are focused on getting their deficiency needs met, they are not going to be focused on issues regarding self-discipline and mastery. For a parent to help his or her teen become more focused on growth needs, he or she will have to teach his or her teen how to effectively get their deficiency needs met.

Conflict of Beliefs and Values.

This may be easier said than done, as today’s teenager is often exposed to new values and beliefs through social media. Meaning, that these values and beliefs are often in conflict with the teaching of the parents.

So, efforts to help the teen address his or her deficiency needs may result in a stalemate between parent and teen. Which then leads to a recurring problem with a lack of focus due to poor motivation with issues like school work, personal hygiene and chores.

The solution for a situation like this will be for parents to seek therapeutic services to assist their teen in effectively getting their deficiency needs met, in order to focus on his or her growth needs.

SOURCE

This Is When to See a Mental Health Professional About Your Anxiety

It seems everyone is talking about anxiety these days, and that’s not a bad thing. Shining a light on mental health helps reduce the stigma that keeps many people from seeking support.

At the same time, it can be hard to know if the worries and racing heart you experience at the thought of, say, meeting new people, is run-of-the-mill stress, or if you’re actually experiencing some level of anxiety and could benefit from seeing a professional.

“I can’t tell you how many people I see who say, ‘I don’t know if I should be coming in here,’” clinical psychologist Robert Duff, Ph.D., author of Hardcore Self Help: F**k Anxiety., tells SELF. “On a broad scale, [talking about anxiety] is positive, but I don’t blame anyone for the confusion.”

Figuring out how serious your anxiety is can be tough because anxiety is a normal and essential part of being a human.

“Anxiety is a reaction to a situation we perceive as stressful or dangerous,” Monique Reynolds, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist at the Center for Anxiety & Behavioral Change in Rockville, Maryland, tells SELF. This produces a stress response in your body—specifically, your brain’s hypothalamus triggers your sympathetic nervous system to release norepinephrine (aka adrenaline) and cortisol (a stress hormone) to get you out of harm’s way.

This is actually a good thing when there is a real threat of danger present. “A major part of our brain’s job is to keep us alive, and fear and anxiety are a big part of that,” Reynolds says. For example, the anxiety you would feel at seeing a truck hurtling towards you would make you move from its way more quickly.

But if you have anxiety, that stress response can kick in when it shouldn’t. “You feel very much the way you do when in a dangerous situation…[but] there’s no real danger there,” Duff says. Instead of being helpful, this misfiring of your fight or flight reaction can hinder you.

While a little anxiety can also help you to perform at an optimal level under stress, giving you a burst of adrenaline and hyper-focus to finish a business proposal before deadline or nail that dance number at a performance, living in a constant heightened state of anxiety can be distracting at best and debilitating at worst. When anxious thoughts are interfering with your life and causing you significant distress, that isn’t something you should just chalk up to nerves and push through. That’s something you can get help with.

Anxiety is the most prevalent mental illness in the United States, and it comes in various forms.

Anxiety affects about 40 million American adults each year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). But it’s not as cut-and-dry as saying that anxiety is simply when you feel nervous all the time. This mental health condition comes in many forms.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by having excessive worries and fears for months, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Per the ADAA, GAD affects 6.8 million U.S. adults each year. Panic disorder involves spontaneous bouts of debilitating fear known as panic attacks, along with intense worry about when the next attack will come, according to the NIMH. Per the ADAA, it affects 6 million American adults each year. Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) happens when you have a marked fear of social situations in which you might be judged or rejected, as well as avoiding these situations or experiencing symptoms like nausea, trembling, or sweating as a result.

Then there are other issues that are closely related to anxiety, like obsessive-compulsive disorder, which involves intrusive thoughts and urges, and posttraumatic stress disorder, which happens when people have a prolonged stress response to harrowing situations.

These are just some of the various anxiety and anxiety-adjacent disorders out there. That these issues can present in myriad ways can make it even harder to know if what you’re experiencing is anxiety that could benefit from outside help.

“Some people feel they can control their anxiety, some feel it’s something they ‘should’ be able to manage, some feel shame, some fear they might be ‘crazy,’ and others downplay how much their anxiety is impacting them,” Reynolds says.

If anxiety interferes with your daily life—whatever that might look like to you—that’s reason enough to see a mental health professional.

“When your world starts to become limited because of anxiety, that is a good signal that it’s time to seek treatment,” Reynolds says. “What is it doing to your life, your relationships, your sleep, health, work, and ability to learn and pursue things that are important to you?”

This “functional impairment,” as Reynolds calls it, can show up in different ways in different people. Is anxiety making you avoid doing things with loved ones because you’re too nervous to go outside? Do you skip school or work out of fear of what people may think of you? Can you not get enough sleep because you’re up all night worrying about the next day? Is your anxiety over certain tasks, like paying bills, leading to procrastination so extreme it comes with consequences, like getting your lights turned off?

Keep tabs on whether you’re blowing up at people, too. Anger and irritability can sometimes be a sign of anxiety. “We often forget that fight or flight includes ‘fight,’” Reynolds says. “If you have a shorter fuse or are always on edge for triggers, it could be related to anxiety.”

So, too, could physical issues. “We think of ourselves as these disembodied heads floating around,” Reynolds says. “We forget that there is a big feedback loop between the nervous system and the body.” Every part of you, from your head to your stomach to your feet, has nerves to regulate important processes, which is why your sympathetic nervous system’s stress response can be so far-reaching. You even have an entire nervous system reserved for gastrointestinal function, known as your enteric nervous system, which may help explain why there’s such a strong link between issues like irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety.

Constant fatigue can also kick in if your anxiety is in overdrive. “The physical reaction to anxiety, by nature, is supposed to be short-term. The body is supposed to come back down to baseline,” Duff says. “But a prolonged period of anxiety depletes your resources and exhausts you.”

“If your anxiety is bothering you and you are suffering, you deserve to get help,” Duff says. That’s true whether or not you think your anxiety is serious, whether or not you think you meet diagnostic criteria you read online, and whether or not your friends and family treat your anxiety with the weight it deserves. And if your anxiety is getting to the point where you’re worried for your safety, call 9-1-1 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (it’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-8255), or go to the emergency room, Reynolds says.

Seeing a therapist can be anxiety-inducing on its own, but it’s worth it. Here are a few ways to make it easier.

Knowing what to expect at your first therapy session may make the experience less scary. Although every professional is different, you’re likely to get a lot of questions at the first visit. Ultimately, your psychologist or therapist’s goal is to learn what troubles you’re having so that they can create a plan to help you build the skills you need to address your anxiety.

They’ll also want to figure out which kind of therapy best matches your needs. Different forms, like cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to help people change negative thought patterns, work for different people.

Since the cost of therapy can be prohibitive, know that there are resources to help you find affordable treatment, like the National Alliance on Mental Health’s HelpLine at 1-800-950-6264. The HelpLine is available Monday through Friday, from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M., and you can explain your specific situation to the staffer or volunteer who answers. They may be able to refer you to local organizations that offer more affordable treatment. You can also try the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) treatment locator tool, which can help you find mental health providers who take various forms of insurance, offer payment assistance, or use a sliding scale. Resources like GoodTherapy also allow you to limit search results to therapists who use sliding scales.

And don’t stress about meeting some arbitrary threshold of anxiety for your appointment to be worth the effort. “Somebody with anxiety [may] think there is a risk to seeing someone. ‘If I go and don’t have an anxiety disorder, there’s something bad about that,’” Duff says. “That’s not true. If you are suffering and seeing some of these signs, that’s enough.”

It may be that all you need is a few sessions, or you may meet weekly for months or years based on your goals. Your psychologist or therapist might decide medication would help you live your healthiest, happiest life, or just having someone to talk to might work for you. Also, if you decide you’re not really into the person you’re seeing but you still want help, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying someone else, Duff says.

Ask yourself what kind of life you want to live and what’s holding you back from achieving it, Reynolds says, adding, “If there’s anything related to fear and anxiety, it’s a great sign that maybe you need support around those things.”

SOURCE

3 Major Ways to Tackle Stress in Your Life

Everyone agrees: Stress is terrible. It’s the thing that keeps you awake at night and unable to enjoy your day. Sometimes stress helps us prioritize the things that need doing now, but more often than not, it’s a terrible feeling that sucks the life out of you. At its worst, stress can increase your chances of heart attack, harm your immune system, decrease sexual function, and wreck your digestive system. Stress can come from your work, your personal life, or your environment, and it can manifest in a multitude of (not great) ways.

Battling stress is a part of caring for yourself and your body.  How do you get out from under the crushing weight of stress and get your life back on track?

The Art of Self-Care

The best way to combat stress is to practice the art of self-care. Self-care can be hard for a lot of people, especially those with busy lives who are used to putting work and the needs of others ahead of their own needs. Moms are especially prone to struggling with putting themselves first. Self-care is as much a part of thriving as eating and sleeping. It’s caring for yourself mentally, replenishing that spring of mental wellness and energy so that you’re able to do the things you need to do. When you’re busy, schedule time for self-care the way you would a doctor’s appointment.

So what counts as self-care? Anything that leaves you happy, satisfied, and rejuvenated: massages, time spent with a friend or romantic partner, watching a movie you enjoy, or anything that makes you laugh. Examine the things that make you genuinely happy and fulfilled, and when you find yourself lagging, indulge.

Practice Changing the Way You Think

Getting out of a funk is hard to do. When you’re super stressed, it’s easy to fall into a black hole of negative thinking. Practice changing the way you think. If you’re plagued by negative thoughts, flip them around into something positive. It’s hard to do, especially when you feel buried by worry. The more you practice, the more you’ll lean towards positive thinking naturally. You’ll be happier in the long run.

Kick Social Media

There’s a ton of evidence that social media is bad for us. Deleting Facebook from your phone, or drastically reducing your time on Facebook, can lower your cortisol levels (that’s the hormone associated with stress). Increased cortisol can lower your immune system, encourage obesity, and impair memory. Excessive social media use has been linked with anxiety and depression. That’s a lot to put up with just to see what your cousin had for lunch.

Take a 24-hour break from all the noise and pressure from social media. If your hands are still twitching to use your phone, replace Insta with an app designed to help you reduce stress and anxiety. Some apps walk you through mindfulness or meditation. Others help you breathe, or they play soothing sounds.

Take Care of Your Body

There’s definitely a connection between mind and body — just ask anyone who has experienced being hangry. When you’re stressed, taking care of your body can absolutely help get you back to balanced. If you’re working under a deadline, you might be tempted to forgo eating healthy for something quick, like vending machine food. Sugar bursts and crashes can exacerbate stress. Take some time to eat food that will give you energy without burning out quickly, like protein.

Physical activity can help you work through feelings of stress. It’s as simple as taking a quick walk to clear your head. A walk can help you calm down, catch your breath, and head back into a stressful job or project with a much clearer head.

Sleep is a powerful tool to relax and unwind. Follow practices that lead to a good night’s rest:

  • Don’t eat before bed
  • Give yourself time to settle
  • Prime your bed for comfortable sleep
  • Keep distractions or stimulating objects (like your cell phone) far away from your bed.

Like a lot of the other suggestions in this article, they’re small changes. Those small changes can lead to a big difference in your life — one that will leave you more relaxed, fulfilled, and able to take on your goals with increased gusto.

 

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7 Ways You Can Improve Your Concentration

Concentration and memory are the two key focus points for every individual. When you are concentrated, your memory automatically improves as you are able to retain the information for a longer period of time.

Having a sharp memory and good concentration power is useful to people of all ages and all professional domains, whether a student or a CEO. Do you not wish that you could have the memory of an elephant who never forgets anything? So, in this article, we are going to discuss some similar tricks and methods that you can use in your daily life to improve your concentration power and in turn, memory.

1. Play Mind Games

Before you plan to beat me up, listen. Mind games are an amazing method to improve your concentration.

Moreover, it is more effective when you are playing these games offline rather than opening a new tab and searching for the best mind games to improve concentration.

2. Creating a To-Do List

A to-do list is probably the simplest thing that you can do. With the availability of almost everything over the internet, we are now the people who take out the phone and ask Google everything right then and there. But, what about after that?

Also, have you ever noticed that once you ask your Google assistant what’s the weather like tomorrow, you are browsing through your Instagram feed before you realise it?

So, create a to-do list that you can paste right in front of you. Keep it in your view and you will be saved from getting distracted.

3. Meditate

You don’t need to be a sage almighty or you don’t need the peace of nature with a waterfall and chirping birds so that you can meditate peacefully.

Meditation can be done right at your home, at your desk! You just need to calm and focus. Play relaxation music, but take care to not fall asleep. Close your eyes and focus on the one thing that motivates you to go on about your day.

It can be anything, some fictional character, your girlfriend, your parents, money or any other thing. You don’t need to pack your bags and depart for the Himalayas but work here and now.

4. Exercise

A lazy body is the devil’s abode. You should not even cry that you have such a poor concentration when all you do the entire day is eat pizza, drink beer, watch tv and sleep.

The first step to a healthy mind is a healthy body. Dust off the shoes in the shelf, put ‘em on and go jogging. Watch yoga tutorials on YouTube and learn the techniques that will open up the jammed parts of your body.

When you start exercising, you will not restrict your energy to your body but channelise it and allow it to flow. Hence, it will improve your concentration and your memory significantly.

5. Avoid Multitasking

I know it hurts but this is actually a way you can improve your concentration power and your focus.  It is natural that the person want feels the need to juggle so many tasks at once and try to complete them all at once. Though the capabilities of the human brain are not fully known, we do not know very well that how can multitasking become more efficient.

Hence, for the time being, avoid multitasking and focus on one thing at a time. Rather than trying to complete 5 different works with your 20% efficiency, allow your 100% efficiency on one single task.

6. Reduce Dependency on Gadgets

There is a phrase I am fond of – phones are getting smart and humans dumb. This is really true. If you ever look around yourself, you will see that everyone is busy with their necks down and thumbs moving.

These smartphones and other gadgets affect our brain directly and hamper with our decision making capability, our judgment and our concentration.

Whatever be the thing, we simply ask Google assistant to save a reminder. We ask Alexa to create our to-do list for the day. We need to set birthday reminders for the people who are close to us! Such dependency on technology should be reduced and the brain should be made to function more and more.

Trust me, your concentration will improve significantly after a couple of weeks when you start remembering everything and not your phone.

7. Identify Your Learning Style

Every human has a preferred learning style with which they learn everything. Whether you remember better and focus more during a video or by hearing something. Once you identify this, your concentration will improve.

What happens is that you will be able to identify which style of learning suits you more. As a result, you will automatically strive to focus more when your preferred learning style is available. See, your concentration improved.

These 7 tips are easy to incorporate in your daily lives as a way to improve your concentration.

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Rules Of The Road For Succeeding In College With A Mood Disorder

By Sharon Carnahan, Ph.D.

 

You’ve done it! High school is over and it’s time for college. Everyone is just so proud… and you’re alternating between wildly optimistic and sure of certain failure. As a person with a diagnosed mood disorder, you just barely survived high school—and that’s no exaggeration.

Maybe you’ve accumulated a list of experiences that don’t exactly enhance your resume—frequent absences, medication trials, psychiatrist visits (outpatient or in), special schools, therapists, suicide attempts and drinking sprees. But you’ve gotten good enough grades, and you’re off to college away from home. Maybe you’re hoping the geographic and lifestyle change will help you (You can confess! It’s what your Aunt Mildred thinks, too).

You are one of a new and mighty generation, with access to early diagnosis and treatment for your mood disorder. In generations past, a “nervous breakdown” in youth meant years of seclusion, sedatives and broken dreams. Today, though, higher education has never been more accessible for those living with mental illness.

With support from NAMI and resources like “The Mighty” and social media, you certainly won’t be living with mental illness all alone, and you’re about to join an exciting, new college community where stigma is reduced. But only about 56% of students earn degrees within six years—it isn’t easy.

Your success depends partly on how quickly you can get into the driver’s seat of managing your illness. So, here are a few practical tips for the road ahead:

Prepare For Your Trip

Make a mental health plan with your parents and hometown mental health professionals. Assume the year won’t be perfect and set up your supports before you go. NAMI actually has an awesome guide that can help you plan and start all necessary conversations—including what you decide to disclose to college officials about your mental health condition. Planning will help you succeed.

Avoid The Potholes

Sleep! You know you have to. Lack of sleep is both a trigger and a symptom. Even if you’re behind on studying—it’s better to get a C on a quiz than deal with a trip to the ER. Limit your late nights to 1-2 per week, max. If your sleep gets disrupted in a dorm, make a change. Speaking of lost sleep: please party wisely. Your medications probably don’t mix well with alcohol and ignoring this warning will be at your peril.

Put On The Gas

Practice self-care. This is likely to be easier than in high school, because many of your new friends will be going for walks or runs, working out in the campus athletic center, taking classes in dance or fencing, practicing meditation and joining clubs full of likeminded students. College is a great time to develop healthy habits, and exercise and self-care are so important for mental health.

Choose Your Passengers

At home, most people probably knew a lot about you. Be honest and open at college, but be wary. Once you’ve shared your story, you cannot un-share it. The world is not always a fair place. If you tell others you have a mental health condition, you may be known by your personality and your diagnosis. Some will see you through a veil of their own ignorance. If this happens, you can take on the task of educating others. You may choose to become a mental health advocate, but wait until you are ready.

As you head off to college, be happy! And be prepared. You have a disorder that you wouldn’t wish on anyone, but it is part of who you are. You’re already accomplished: You made it to college and that’s a great achievement. Your preparations will help you be even more successful and every class will bring you closer to having an educated mind.

Many of the people you will be reading about in school—Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, J.K. Rowling, William Styron, Annie Lamott, Kay Redfield Jameson—were once in your shoes. These role models were once young adults facing the adversity of living with a mood disorder, but not letting it define them. When their works are discussed in class, you will have powerful insights about their lives. Mood disorders don’t go away, but with medication, support, lifestyle care and a little luck, they can be managed. You can succeed on your journey.

 

Sharon Carnahan, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychology at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL and Executive Director of Hume House Child Development & Student Research Center. She has taught first-year college students since 1990 and is an advocate for students with special health care needs. www.rollins.edu/cdc.

 

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/August-2017/Rules-of-the-Road-for-Succeeding-in-College-with-a

Strategies For Living And Working Well With ADHD

By Alexis Anderson

 

More than three-fourths of adults who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as children, still experience symptoms—and no matter the setting, it’s a challenge every day.

Starting from childhood, it’s critical for school counselors to use evidence-based interventions to help students with ADHD stay organized and manage their time. And those skills can translate into the workplace as adults. According to Counseling@NYU, which offers an online master’s in school counseling from NYU Steinhardt, small steps to manage a child’s time in the classroom efficiently and minimize distractions can make a big difference in the long run.

As an adult, you can use similar practical tactics that school counselors would use to manage your ADHD. You might not struggle with all these issues, and all these solutions may not work for you, but these tips may help boost your productivity at work.

Minimize Distractions

  • Start work earlier or stay later when it’s quieter.
  • Keep your desk clear of clutter.
  • Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your office. If you don’t have an office, find an empty office or a conference room.
  • Position your desk away from office traffic.
  • Ask if you can work from home on certain days.
  • Use noise-canceling headphones or listen to music (this can help the brain concentrate).

Track Time

ADHD means you may take longer to finish projects. So, it’s important to get help staying on track.

  • Bundle tasks. If you can, answer your phone, check your email and scan Twitter only at set times of the day. Otherwise, let your calls go to voicemail and stay off the Internet.
  • Clock yourself. Use an alarm or your phone to keep from veering off to another task. prematurely. A beeper also can be handy if you’re prone to hyper-focus and lose track of time.
  • Enlist your supervisor. Your boss may be able to help you stay on top of your deadlines with reminders and regular feedback.

Get Moving

If you’re prone to hyperactivity, you already know that moving any part of your body can bring relief. Turns out even tapping your fingers can help raise levels of dopamine and norepinephrine brain chemicals that help sharpen focus and attention, so:

  • Move around. If you’re restless, find an appropriate excuse to get up and walk. Grab a coffee from the cafe. Go to the bathroom. Take the stairs. Chat with a coworker down the hall.
  • Fidget. If you’re trapped at your desk or at a meeting, look for unobtrusive ways to release physical tension. You can discreetly wiggle your toes, tap your pen on your thighs, doodle, take sips of a drink or squeeze a stress ball.
  • Work out. Exercise can be a powerful antidote for hyperactivity. Just pick something you enjoy—whether it’s yoga, walking, biking or team sports—and get moving.

Don’t Forget Self-Care

It’s a myth that you can treat ADHD only with medications or professional therapy. Self-help strategies can also help corral your attention and energies, so you can focus and be productive. Here are some ways to help yourself:

  • Get out. Being outdoors, especially when the sun’s out, can boost your mood.
  • Eat right. Fuel your body with lean proteins, whole grains and vegetables.
  • Sleep well. Make getting quality shut-eye a priority. Avoid caffeine in the evenings, put away the phone and stick to a restful bedtime routine.
  • Chill out. Destress your mind and body with meditation, yoga, tai chi or mindful walking.

ADHD may be a well-known condition, but it’s often misunderstood. You may help yourself if you educate your loved ones and coworkers about how it affects your life and job. Then make these productivity and self-help tips your habits, and you might just turn chaos into calm.

 

Alexis Anderson is a Digital PR Coordinator covering K-12 education at 2U, Inc. Alexis supports outreach for their school counseling, teaching, mental health and occupational therapy programs.

 

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2017/Strategies-for-Living-and-Working-Well-with-ADHD

The Pathway To Peace Of Mind

By Larry Shushansky, LICSW

 

To create the roadways of a city, it takes years of planning, developing and building. It’s a never-ending process as new ideas are constantly suggested on how to make everything more efficient and in tune with changing needs.

Peace of mind is developed the same way.

In the 1900’s, scientists believed that our brain was fully developed by age six. We could learn more, sure, but “who we were” was set. Additionally, it was believed that after our teenage years and early years of adulthood, our brain and bodies declined through aging, injury, disease and illness.

“And then,” stated Dr. Lara Boyd, a brain researcher from the University of British Columbia, “studies began to show remarkable amounts of reorganization in the adult brain. And the research has shown us that all of our behaviors change our brain. That these changes are not limited by age…in fact they’re taking place all the time.” Meaning we can reorganize, change and restructure the physical makeup of our brain no matter what age we are.

So, imagine your brain is a city composed of many roadways that have all been under construction since before you were even born. And just like cities, we can create new roadways that enable us to be happier.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the many ways to be happier and healthier, but true change relies on deciding on a new habit or practice and dedicating yourself to it. That’s when your roadways will begin to evolve for good. Here are some important things to keep in mind when you’re working on yourself.

Change

Whatever we decide to think or do, it has to be different than our norm. For example, if we decide to move towards having more peace of mind by going on walks three times a week, and we’re already walking three times a week, we are not going to change. But if we decide to also practice mindfulness while walking, this is different.

Belief

Whether it’s exercise, nutrition, meditation, yoga, tai chi, therapy, medication, religion, spirituality or any other strategies we might use to become happier, we need to believe in what we’re doing and believe we can succeed. Rather than going through the motions, we need to embrace the belief that we are changing our thoughts or behaviors to become happier.

Motivation

“The harder we try, the more we are motivated, the more alert we are, and the better (worse) the outcome, the bigger the brain change,” wrote Dr. Michael Merzenich in Soft WiredTo make a change, it takes commitment and effort. There are times when we just don’t want to get out of bed to do yoga or go for a brisk walk. That’s true for anyone. Occasionally missing an opportunity to practice what we’ve decided to do is okay. But if we allow ourselves to continually take breaks, then we are pausing our progress.

Intention

Our intention should be all-in. I once had a client who listened to guided meditation while he was driving and then later in the day when he was focusing on a project at work. He said he didn’t have time for anything more intensive, and he couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t feeling any better. It takes focus to make change for the better. It helps to set aside specific time so you can focus solely on one thing at that time.

Practice And Repeat

Most of us quit doing what we’re doing once we experience “success.” That’s pretty common. But when we practice beyond “success,” we convert short-term changes into long-term memory and that’s what sticks. It has been found that repetition is effective in helping children learn how to read (imagine if they just stopped after completing their first book?). The same is true when establishing an ever-growing peace of mind.

It’s best to look at creating happiness and peace of mind as an evolving process rather than an end goal. It’s important to keep in mind that we’ll always be moving towards happiness. The roadways to peace are never finished—we’re always under construction.

And we can either let our old pathways determine who we are or keep working on becoming who we want to be. Each step we take enables us to become happier with ourselves, our relationships and with the world. And we can achieve a greater sense of peace and calm as we continue to grow.

 

Larry Shushansky has seen thousands of individuals, couples and families over 35 years as a counselor. Through this and the process he used to get clean from his alcohol and drug addiction, Larry has developed the concept of Independent Enough. Follow him on Facebook here. You can also access his blog through his website at Independentenough.com

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2017/The-Pathway-to-Peace-of-Mind

Self-Help Techniques For Coping With Mental Illness

By Emmie Pombo

 

Living with mental illness is not easy. It’s a consistent problem without a clear solution. While treatments like medication and psychotherapy are incredibly helpful, sometimes people experiencing mental health conditions need to do more day-in and day-out to feel good or even just okay.

Some common self-help suggestions people receive are to exercise, meditate and be more present, which are helpful and work for many people. However, other proven methods aren’t mentioned as often. Many of them are quick and simple techniques that can easily be added to daily routines.

Finding the right coping mechanism takes time and patience, but it can enormously impact how you feel. If you haven’t had success with techniques you’ve tried, or you’re looking to add a few more to your toolkit, here are seven coping mechanisms recommended by mental health professionals worth trying out.

Radical Acceptance

Radical acceptance is “completely and totally accepting something from the depths of your soul, with your heart and your mind,” according to Marsha Linehan (creator of dialectal behavior therapy). Included in this definition is the idea that no matter what, you cannot change a situation. For example, imagine a tornado is coming your way. Obviously, you can’t do anything to stop the tornado; that’s not possible. But if you accept the fact that it’s coming, then you can act, prepare and keep yourself safe. If you sit around trying to will the tornado to stop or pretend that there is no tornado, you’re going to be in real trouble when it comes.

The same applies to mental illness. You cannot change the fact that you have a mental illness, so any time you spend trying to “get rid of it” or pretend it doesn’t exist is only draining you of valuable energy. Accept yourself. Accept your condition. Then take the necessary steps to take care of yourself.

Deep Breathing

Breathing is an annoying cliché at this point, but that’s because the best way to calm anxiety really is to breathe deeply. When battling my own anxiety, I turned to the concept of “5 3 7” breathing:

  • Breathe in for 5 seconds
  • Hold the breath for 3 seconds
  • Breathe out for 7 seconds

This gentle repetition sends a message to the brain that everything is okay (or it will be soon). Before long, your heart will slow its pace and you will begin to relax—sometimes without even realizing it.

Opposite-To-Emotion Thinking

Opposite-to-emotion thinking is how it sounds: You act in the opposite way your emotions tell you to act. Say you’re feeling upset and you have the urge to isolate. Opposite-to-emotion tells you to go out and be around people—the opposite action of isolation. When you feel anxious, combat that with something calming like meditation. When you feel manic, turn to something that stabilizes you. This technique is probably one of the hardest to put into play, but if you can manage it, the results are incredible.

The 5 Senses

Another effective way to use your physical space to ground you through a crisis is by employing a technique called “The 5 Senses.” Instead of focusing on a specific object, with “The 5 Senses” you run through what each of your senses is experiencing in that moment. As an example, imagine a PTSD flashback comes on in the middle of class. Stop! Look around you. See the movement of a clock’s hands. Feel the chair beneath you. Listen to your teacher’s voice. Smell the faint aroma of the chalkboard. Chew a piece of gum.

Running through your senses will take only a few seconds and will help keep you present and focused on what is real, on what is happening right now.

Mental Reframing

Mental reframing involves taking an emotion or stressor and thinking of it in a different way. Take, for example, getting stuck in traffic. Sure, you could think to yourself, “Wow, my life is horrible. I’m going to be late because of this traffic. Why does this always happen to me?”

Or you can reframe that thought, which might look something like, “This traffic is bad, but I’ll still get to where I’m going. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I’ll just listen to music or an audiobook to pass the time.” Perfecting this technique can literally change your perspective in tough situations. But as you might imagine, this skill takes time and practice.

Emotion Awareness

If you live in denial of your emotions, it will take far longer to take care of them, because once we recognize what we’re feeling, we can tackle it or whatever is causing it. So, if you’re feeling anxious, let yourself be anxious for a couple of minutes—then meditate. If you’re feeling angry, let yourself be angry—then listen to some calming music. Be in touch with your emotions. Accept that you are feeling a certain way, let yourself feel that way and then take action to diminish unhealthy feelings.

You can’t control that you have mental illness, but you can control how you respond to your symptoms. This is not simple or easy (like everything else with mental illness), but learning, practicing and perfecting coping techniques can help you feel better emotionally, spiritually and physically. I’ve tried all the above techniques, and they have transformed the way I cope with my mental health struggles.

It takes strength and persistence to recover from mental illness—to keep fighting symptoms in the hopes of feeling better. Even if you feel weak or powerless against the battles you face every day, you are incredibly strong for living through them. Practical and simple methods can help you in your fight. Take these techniques into consideration, and there will be a clear change in the way you feel and live your life.

 

Emmie Pombo is a student striving to crush mental illness and addiction stigma. She also advocates for the people who haven’t yet spoken honestly about their struggles. Rooted in Florida, Emmie hopes to eventually diminish any lies surrounding the treatable mental disorders that are becoming more and more prevalent throughout the world.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/March-2018/Self-Help-Techniques-for-Coping-with-Mental-Illnes