What Is a Schema in Psychology? Definition and Examples

I like this intro to Schemas/Lifetraps:

Rory

*****

https://www.thoughtco.com/schema-definition-4691768
Human Head with Computer Folders

A schema is a cognitive structure that serves as a framework for one’s knowledge about people, places, objects, and events. Schemas help people organize their knowledge of the world and understand new information. While these mental shortcuts are useful in helping us make sense of the large amount of information we encounter on a daily basis, they can also narrow our thinking and result in stereotypes.

Key Takeaways: Schema

  • A schema is a mental representation that enables us to organize our knowledge into categories.
  • Our schemas help us simplify our interactions with the world. They are mental shortcuts that can both help us and hurt us.
  • We use our schemas to learn and think more quickly. However, some of our schemas may also be stereotypes that cause us to misinterpret or incorrectly recall information.
  • There are many types of schemas, including object, person, social, event, role, and self schemas.
  • Schemas are modified as we gain more information. This process can occur through assimilation or accommodation.

Schema: Definition and Origins

The term schema was first introduced in 1923 by developmental psychologist Jean Piaget. Piaget proposed a stage theory of cognitive development that utilized schemas as one of its key components. Piaget defined schemas as basic units of knowledge that related to all aspects of the world. He suggested that different schemas are mentally applied in appropriate situations to help people both comprehend and interpret information. To Piaget, cognitive development hinges on an individual acquiring more schemas and increasing the nuance and complexity of existing schemas.

The concept of schema was later described by psychologist Frederic Bartlett in 1932. Bartlett conducted experiments that tested how schemas factored into people’s memory of events. He said that people organize concepts into mental constructs he dubbed schemas. He suggested that schemas help people process and remember information. So when an individual is confronted with information that fits their existing schema, they will interpret it based on that cognitive framework. However, information that doesn’t fit into an existing schema will be forgotten.

Examples of Schemas

For example, when a child is young, they may develop a schema for a dog. They know a dog walks on four legs, is hairy, and has a tail. When the child goes to the zoo for the first time and sees a tiger, they may initially think the tiger is a dog as well. From the child’s perspective, the tiger fits their schema for a dog.

The child’s parents may explain that this is a tiger, a wild animal. It is not a dog because it doesn’t bark, it doesn’t live in people’s houses, and it hunts for its food. After learning the differences between a tiger and a dog, the child will modify their existing dog schema and create a new tiger schema.

As the child grows older and learns more about animals, they will develop more animal schemas. At the same time, their existing schemas for animals like dogs, birds, and cats will be modified to accommodate any new information they learn about animals. This is a process that continues into adulthood for all kinds of knowledge.

Types of Schemas

There are many kinds of schemas that assist us in understanding the world around us, the people we interact with, and even ourselves. Types of schemas include:

    • Object schemas, which help us understand and interpret inanimate objects, including what different objects are and how they work. For example, we have a schema for what a door is and how to use it. Our door schema may also include subcategories like sliding doors, screen doors, and revolving doors.
    • Person schemas, which are created to help us understand specific people. For instance, one’s schema for their significant other will include the way the individual looks, the way they act, what they like and don’t like, and their personality traits.
    • Social schemas, which help us understand how to behave in different social situations. For example, if an individual plans to see a movie, their movie schema provides them with a general understanding of the type of social situation to expect when they go to the movie theater.
    • Event schemas, also called scripts, which encompass the sequence of actions and behaviors one expects during a given event. For example, when an individual goes to see a movie, they anticipate going to the theater, buying their ticket, selecting a seat, silencing their mobile phone, watching the movie, and then exiting the theater.
  • Self-schemas, which help us understand ourselves. They focus on what we know about who we are now, who we were in the past, and who we could be in the future.
  • Role schemas, which encompass our expectations of how a person in a specific social role will behave. For example, we expect a waiter to be warm and welcoming. While not all waiters will act that way, our schema sets our expectations of each waiter we interact with.

Modification of Schema

As our example of the child changing their dog schema after encountering a tiger illustrates, schemas can be modified. Piaget suggested that we grow intellectually by adjusting our schemas when new information comes from the world around us. Schemas can be adjusted through:

  • Assimilation, the process of applying the schemas we already possess to understand something new.
  • Accommodation, the process of changing an existing schema or creating a new one because new information doesn’t fit the schemas one already has.

Impact on Learning and Memory

Schemas help us interact with the world efficiently. They help us categorize incoming information so we can learn and think more quickly. As a result, if we encounter new information that fits an existing schema, we can efficiently understand and interpret it with minimal cognitive effort.

However, schemas can also impact what we pay attention to and how we interpret new information. New information that fits an existing schema is more likely to attract an individual’s attention. In fact, people will occasionally change or distort new information so it will more comfortably fit into their existing schemas.

In addition, our schemas impact what we remember. Scholars William F. Brewer and James C. Treyens demonstrated this in a 1981 study. They individually brought 30 participants into a room and told them that the space was the office of the principal investigator. They waited in the office and after 35 seconds were taken to a different room. There, they were instructed to list everything they remembered about the room they had just been waiting in. Participants’ recall of the room was much better for objects that fit into their schema of an office, but they were less successful at remembering objects that didn’t fit their schema. For example, most participants remembered that the office had a desk and a chair, but only eight recalled the skull or bulletin board in the room. In addition, nine participants claimed that they saw books in the office when in reality there weren’t any there.

How Our Schemas Get Us Into Trouble

The study by Brewer and Trevens demonstrates that we notice and remember things that fit into our schemas but overlook and forget things that don’t. In addition, when we recall a memory that activates a certain schema, we may adjust that memory to better fit that schema.

So while schemas can help us efficiently learn and understand new information, at times they may also derail that process. For instance, schemas can lead to prejudice. Some of our schemas will be stereotypes, generalized ideas about whole groups of people. Whenever we encounter an individual from a certain group that we have a stereotype about, we will expect their behavior to fit into our schema. This can cause us to misinterpret the actions and intentions of others.

For example, we may believe anyone who is elderly is mentally compromised. If we meet an older individual who is sharp and perceptive and engage in an intellectually stimulating conversation with them, that would challenge our stereotype. However, instead of changing our schema, we might simply believe the individual was having a good day. Or we might recall the one time during our conversation that the individual seemed to have trouble remembering a fact and forget about the rest of the discussion when they were able to recall information perfectly. Our dependence on our schemas to simplify our interactions with the world may cause us to maintain incorrect and damaging stereotypes.

Residential school survivor uses poetry, psychotherapy to heal – Saskatoon – CBC News

A poet and residential school survivor is releasing her latest collections of poems, and she says they have been instrumental in healing from the scars of residential schools.

Source: Residential school survivor uses poetry, psychotherapy to heal – Saskatoon – CBC News

Louise Bernice Halfe was was born in Two Hills, Alta., and completed programs at the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan. She attended the Blue Quills Residential School, near St. Paul, Alta., for six years.

While the recently finished Truth and Reconciliation Commission was intended to help survivors heal, Bernice Halfe said the process opened old wounds. This collection of poetry, Burning in this Midnight Dream, helped heal those wounds.

Traditional ceremonies, psychology needed to help others

“It’s been extremely challenging and frightening as well,” she said of the process of walking backward, and retracing her past through the poetry. “What scared me was the feeling of being exposed and vlunerable.”

She said she needed to press ahead as a process of “accepting responsibility of my own actions and behaviours,” but the poetry is “also for the people who don’t have the vocabulary to articulate the shame and the pain and the anger that goes within their own stories.”

Bernice Halfe has training in drug and alcohol counseling, and in social work. She also emphasized the importance of psychotherapy and talking as tools for healing.

‘How do you recover as quickly as the people in the Canadian public want us to recover? I don’t know; I hope it’s possible. It’s very very hard.’– Louise Bernice Halfe

When asked how she wants to contribute to conversations on the legacy around residential schools, she described a photograph that showed her parents’ wedding and all of her relatives connected to her parents.

“There’s been a generational impact on whole communities. How do you recover as quickly as the people in the Canadian public want us to recover? I don’t know. I hope it’s possible. It’s very, very hard,” she said.

Bernice Halfe said she wants to see more aboriginal therapists and psychologists. “Not the kind that just prescribe pills,” she said.

Part of that responsibility is shared by the government, which she said has been insufficient in providing deep healing for aboriginal communities to recover from the legacy of residential schools.

“I would like to see more people trained in psychotherapy, along with their [traditional] ceremonial practices,” she said. “We needing funding for education in our communities. We also need mental health services closer to the communities.

“I’m talking about talk therapy. I’m talking about psychologists,” she emphasized.

Louise Bernice Halfe launches her latest collection of poems on Thursday at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon at 7 p.m. CST.

Why Isn’t Psychotherapy Covered By Health Care? | Chris Curry

In terms of health care, we have it pretty good. If you are unfortunately diagnosed with cancer, most, if not all of your treatment will be paid for. If you break your leg, you can go to the ER and get a cast and leave without a bill. If you require surgery, the government will pay for that too. But what if your issue isn’t physical? What if what’s holding you back in life is a mental concern? Well, then you’re kind of out of luck.

Source: Why Isn’t Psychotherapy Covered By Health Care? | Chris Curry

 

There are indeed mental health services that are covered by provincial programs such as OHIP here in Ontario. We are all allowed free access to psychiatrists, which sounds great on the surface. But the real story is that most psychiatrists are incredibly overworked and many have waiting lists over a year long. For anyone who has ever experienced a mental health crisis, you know that waiting a year just isn’t an option.

And if you are mentally well enough to wait for that year (or more) there is only so much a psychiatrist can do for you with their limited time and vast client lists. Sure, they can prescribe and monitor your medication. But they typically don’t have time to sit down with you week after week and get to the real reasons why you are facing either depression, anxiety, addiction or any other mental health issue.

Psychotherapists specialize in that kind of ‘getting to the root of the problem’ type of therapy. And each year, countless lives are changed by the hundreds of excellent psychotherapists we have in this country. But for every life that is changed by psychotherapy, their lives are also changed by way of having to spend their hard-earned money and by prioritizing their mental health, sometimes at the expense of other important bills.

Whenever I am discussing treatment with a new client, their first question is inevitably ‘is this covered by the government?’

My answer has to unfortunately be ‘no, it’s not. But someday, I sure hope it will be.’

There are of course some private benefit packages that do cover psychotherapy but most of us are not lucky enough to have such in depth personal coverage from our employers. And that leaves many paying out of pocket for what can be a fairly costly expenditure.

If therapy was free for everyone in Canada, we would see an incredible reduction in the amount of sick days due to depression and anxiety. Productivity would go through the roof and our emergency rooms would be able to focus more of physical injuries instead of having to attend to mental health crises as well.

We are a progressive country and we lead in many areas. Unfortunately we are falling flat when it comes to mental health treatment. We’ve decided that only the rich and prosperous can have access to therapy.

And that just doesn’t sound very progressive to me.

26 Pieces of Advice That Have Actually Helped People With Mental Illness

With that expert’s list of ways to manage anxiety, the latest trendy mental health app and that “magical cure for depression” your aunt heard about on TV, it seems like everyone’s full of mental health advice these days.

Source: 26 Pieces of Advice That Have Actually Helped People With Mental Illness

 With that expert’s list of ways to manage anxiety, the latest trendy mental health app and that “magical cure for depression” your aunt heard about on TV, it seems like everyone’s full of mental health advice these days.

So, we asked our mental health community to share pieces of advice they’ve actually found helpful. These little nuggets of wisdom aren’t FDA-approved, but when used correctly side effects may include: self-care, acceptance and a little more patience with yourself.

Here’s some advice that’s actually helped people with mental illness:

1. “On a particularly difficult day, I was trying to fight through an anxiety attack and finish all the child-related tasks I needed to complete. My husband kept offering help, and I kept refusing. He pulled me aside in the laundry room as I was frantically folding another load and said, “Just let me help you.” It doesn’t immediately make the anxiety go away, but it’s helped me learn to let go.” — Maria Heldreth

2. “Don’t wait. See a doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be embarrassed. Chances are, someone knows exactly what you’re going through.” — Kristin Salber

3. “I have depression and anxiety (as well as other chronic medical conditions), and after the worst week I’ve had in a while, my doctor  said,“Find something you enjoy, and if you can’t find that, find the joy in something.” This really had an impact on me and still reminds me to look for a silver lining.” — Faith Merryn

Related: To the Husband With the Wife Who Has Depression

4. “I have generalized anxiety disorder, and I made friends with someone who’s extremely similar to me. She told me to always be myself and the people who truly care will stick around. It truly did help.” — Julia Ann Lange

5. “Words can hurt to say, but they need to come out. Write all those words down on paper.” — Melissa Cote

6. “A friend recently told me that no matter if I get a job one day or not,your life matters as long as you can make people smile. When I think of it that way, it’s easier to see my life as something of worth.” — Emma Wozny

7. “A great therapist I had told me to focus on ‘harm-reduction, not perfection.’ I felt like I was expected to magically ‘get better,’ and she helped me learn that starting with baby steps was totally OK.” — Jen Decker

8. “Someone said, ‘I’ve been here, I know a way out, I’m here to show you too.’ And, ‘It gets better, it may not leave, but it gets better. And it has.” — Tom Everman

9. “I have anxiety and major depressive disorder. This is going to sound ridiculous, but my best friend once told me, “When you’re sad, watch ‘The Simpsons.’” It actually works when I’m panicking, too. It gets my mind off whatever I’m obsessing about, and I usually end up laughing.” — Dawn Czarnecki Seshadri

10. “It wasn’t long after my diagnosis that I was told pretty bluntly: ‘This illness is has no cure. You’re going to carry this illness for the rest of your life. So you can either wallow in the weight of that, or you can fight for your only life and make it a good story.’” — Lyss Trayers

11. “My depression and anxiety stem from a traumatic childhood. Just hearing ‘it wasn’t your fault‘ from my psychologist was incredibly helpful.” — Kathrine Elise

12. “Don’t always believe what your brain is telling you.” — Kerri Lewis Brock

Related: 36 Things People With Anxiety Want Their Friends to Know

13. “It’s OK to feel sad. You don’t need to pretend.” — Allyson White

14. “The best advice: Treat yourself as if you were a good friend.”— Julie Jeatran

15. “Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small,instead of dwelling on all the things we perceive as failures.” — Jennifer Northrup

16. “I have post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. When I was in intensive outpatient therapy, the counselor looked at us and said,‘It’s over. That moment is over. It isn’t going to happen again.’For some reason, that resonated with me.” — Nicole Hanes

17. “They told me this: ‘You are not broken; you are a whole person. You are just human. A human who is living, learning and growing. And learning, living and growing comes with bumps in the road. Remember that this is just a bump.‘” — Kallie Kieffer

18. “Your worst days will only be 24 hours.“ — Arielle Smith

19. “You wouldn’t skip a dialysis or chemotherapy appointment. Your therapy appointments are just as important. No excuses.” — Jennifer Davis

20. “‘I think you need to give therapy a try.‘ Thanks to that, I started therapy and I’m now on the path to recovery.”  — Julianne Leow

21. “Your struggles are your accomplishments in disguise.” — Katherine J Palmer

Related: 14 Things I Didn’t Expect to Learn at a Psychiatric Hospital

22. “Remember: Depression lies. Don’t believe it.” — Beth Brogan

23. “Always ask for help. There is never any shame in asking for help.” — Meghan Shultz

24. “Take life 5 minutes at a time.” — Stephanie Lynn

25. “You can’t give everyone else everything you have. You absolutely have to save a little of yourself for yourself.” — Shawn Henfling

26. I am a human being. Not a human doing. I just have to be.” — Michelle Balck

Answers have been edited and shortened.

By Sarah Schuster

More from The Mighty:

What the Starbucks Barista Didn’t Know When She Wrote ‘Smile’ on My Coffee

31 Secrets of People Who Live With Anxiety

I Have OCD. This Is What It’s Like to Be in My Mind for 3 Minutes.

“Clara’s Big Ride”: Watch Online Full Episodes

Watch Online on CTV | Watch Full Episodes.

About “Clara’s Big Ride”

Part catalyst for change and part epic road movie, CLARA’S BIG RIDE is an inspiring new film that tackles the profound conversation about mental health and the stigma that surrounds it.

Latest Videos


  • Clara’s Big Ride

    S0:E | 2015-01-28

    Chronicles an unprecedented 11,000 km bicycle journey across Canada by Olympic medallist and Bell Let’s Talk spokesperson Clara Hughes.


  • Let’s Talk: A Marilyn Denis Special

    S0:E | 2015-01-15

    Joined by Dr. Marla Shapiro & Clara Hughes, Marilyn Denis uncovers the stories of 5 remarkable Canadians who struggle with mental illness.


  • Words Of Hope

    S0:E | 2015-01-15

    Nolan is a student at the University of Waterloo who wrote a column about his struggles with his own mental illness.


  • Coping With Anxiety

    S0:E | 2015-01-15

    Richie from Montreal discusses overcoming anxiety and gets to meet and interview Clara Hughes for his university’s radio show.

VIEW MORE ►

Psychotherapy Beats Medication for Social Anxiety Disorder | Psych Central News

Psychotherapy Beats Medication for Social Anxiety Disorder | Psych Central News.

By  Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on September 27, 2014

While antidepressants are the most commonly used treatment for social anxiety disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is more effective and — unlike medication — can have lasting effects long after treatment has stopped, according to a new study. CBT is one of the most common forms of talk therapy or psychotherapy.

According to researchers at John Hopkins University, social anxiety disorder, which is characterized by intense fear and avoidance of social situations, affects up to 13 percent of Americans and Europeans.

Most people never receive treatment. For those who do, medication is the more accessible treatment because there is a shortage of trained psychotherapists, according to the researchers.

“Social anxiety is more than just shyness,” said study leader Evan Mayo-Wilson, D.Phil., a research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“People with this disorder can experience severe impairment, from shunning friendships to turning down promotions at work that would require increased social interaction.

“The good news from our study is that social anxiety is treatable. Now that we know what works best, we need to improve access to psychotherapy for those who are suffering.”

The study, a network meta-analysis that collected and analyzed data from 101 clinical trials comparing multiple types of medication and talk therapy, was a collaboration between the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Oxford University and University College in London, where Mayo-Wilson formerly worked.

For the new study, the researchers analyzed data from 13,164 participants in 101 clinical trials. All had severe and longstanding social anxiety. Approximately 9,000 received medication or a placebo, while more than 4,000 received a psychological intervention.

Few of the trials looked at combining medication with talk therapy, and there was no evidence that combined therapy was better than talk therapy alone, the researchers noted.

After comparing several different types of talk therapy, the researchers found that individual CBT was the most effective. CBT, which focuses on relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviors, helps people challenge irrational fears and overcome their avoidance of social situations, according to Mayo-Wilson.

For people who don’t want talk therapy, or who lack access to CBT, the most commonly used antidepressants — selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — are effective, the researchers found. But they caution that medication can be associated with serious adverse events, that it doesn’t work at all for some people, and that improvements in symptoms do not last after patients stop taking the pills.

The researchers acknowledge that medication is important, but say it should be used as a second-line therapy for people who do not respond to or do not want psychological therapy.

According to Mayo-Wilson, the analysis has already led to new treatment guidelines in the U.K. and it could have a “significant impact on policymaking and the organization of care in the U.S.”

“Greater investment in psychological therapies would improve quality of life, increase workplace productivity, and reduce health care costs,” Mayo-Wilson said.

“The health care system does not treat mental health equitably, but meeting demand isn’t simply a matter of getting insurers to pay for psychological services. We need to improve infrastructure to treat mental health problems as the evidence shows they should be treated. We need more programs to train clinicians, more experienced supervisors who can work with new practitioners, more offices, and more support staff,” he said.

The study was published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Source: Johns Hopkins University

Adult Asperger’s: The Relief of A Diagnosis

Adult Asperger’s: The Relief of A Diagnosis | Psych Central.

Adult Asperger’s: The Relief of A Diagnosis

By MARIE HARTWELL-WALKER, ED.D.

 

The following are criteria for Aspergers that have been excerpted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV):

  1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
    • Marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction
    • Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
    • A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interest or achievements with other people, (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
    • lack of social or emotional reciprocity
  2. Restricted repetitive & stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities
  3. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  4. There is no clinically significant general delay in language
  5. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction) and curiosity about the environment inchildhood.

They are often physically awkward and socially tactless.

You’ve probably known quite a few. Maybe they are even in your family. There’s that brilliant professor you had in college who looked at his desk the entire time he was talking to you and whose office was so overflowing with stuff there was nowhere for a visitor to sit. How about your brother-in-law the mechanic, whose work is superb but who insists on describing in minute detail exactly what he did to fix your car — and doesn’t seem to notice all your hints that you’re trying to leave already! What about your uncle or cousin or the sister of your best friend who is so socially awkward that you squirm with discomfort whenever they show up at an event, wondering what they’ll do next to embarrass themselves?

They are often physically awkward and socially tactless. They seem to be perfectionists but often live in chaos. They know more about some obscure or highly technical subject than seems possible — and go on and on about it. They may seem to lack empathy, and are often accused of being stubborn, selfish, or even mean. They can also be extremely loyal, sometimes painfully honest, highly disciplined and productive in their chosen field, and expert at whatever they decide to be expert at. They are the Aspies, adults with Asperger’s Syndrome.

The number of adults with Aspergers is still difficult to determine. The syndrome wasn’t even officially acknowledged in the DSM until 1994, even though it was described by Hans Asperger in 1944. The result? Many older adults weren’t diagnosed — or helped — as children. Teachers found them exasperating because they were so disorganized and uneven in their academic performance despite often being clearly bright. Other kids considered them weird and either bullied them or ignored them. As adults, they are only now discovering that there is a reason they’ve had difficulties with relationships their entire lives.

For many, having a diagnosis is a relief.

“I never could figure out what other people want,” says Jerome, one of my Aspie clients. “People seem to have some kind of code for getting along that is a mystery to me.”

Jerome is a brilliant chemist. He has the respect of his colleagues but he knows that he’s not well-liked. The finely tuned intuition he uses to do research breaks down completely in relationships.

“I know I’m well-regarded in my work. As long as we’re talking about a research problem, everything is fine. But as soon as people start doing that small talk stuff, I’m lost. It’s good to have a name for it. At least I know there’s a reason.”

Jerome is now starting to put the same intelligence he uses in his lab to learning better social skills. For him, it’s an academic problem to solve. Like many other Aspies, he wants to get along and have friends. He’s highly motivated to learn the “rules” most people take for granted. He just never understood what those rules were. Having the diagnosis has given him new energy for the project.

The press coverage of the syndrome of the last several years has been very helpful as well.

“I was working on a highly technical engineering project with a new guy last week. In the middle the morning, he put down his pencil, looked at me and said, “You have Aspergers, don’t you.”

Ted was explaining a recent encounter to me. “I got real nervous, thinking he was going to leave.”

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Well. I know now that’s my problem so I just said he was right. And you know what he said? He said, ‘I thought so’ and told me I could relax because he works with another guy who has the same thing. We had a great morning solving the problem. That wouldn’t have happened even a few years ago. I would have upset him somehow without understanding why. He would have gone back to his company thinking I was some kind of jerk. Things are just better now that there’s some understanding out there.”

Having the diagnosis has also saved more than a few marriages. Now that the kids are grown, Judy was ready to separate from her husband of 27 years when she first came to therapy.

“If Al and Tipper Gore could do it after 40 years of marriage, I figured I could manage it too. I don’t know what their problems were but I was just exhausted. I felt like I’d been single-parentingour two kids forever. Actually, I felt like I had three kids. Most of my friends couldn’t figure out what I saw in a guy who could only talk about one thing and who would rudely disappear in the middle of a social evening. He never seemed to be able to understand any of our feelings. Our finances were always a mess because he would lose track of bills. Yes, he was really sweet to me in our private life and he’s always been great about doing things like building the kids a tree house — that was really, really cool. But it became harder and harder to see that as a fair exchange for all the times I had to smooth things over because of something he did or didn’t do that bothered someone.

Then my daughter emailed me an article about Aspergers. It changed everything. I realized he wasn’t deliberately making life so hard. He couldn’t help it. As soon as he took an Aspie quiz online, he saw it was true. He does love us. He didn’t want the family to fall apart. He went right out and found a therapist who works with adults with Aspergers. He’s far from perfect but he’s honestly trying. He’s even apologized to the kids for not being more involved while they were growing up. I can’t ask for more than that.”

A diagnosis is primarily used to drive treatment decisions and to make it easier for clinical people to communicate with each other. But in cases like these, it can also be an enormous comfort to the individual and their families. As long as someone with Aspergers feels like they are being blamed or criticized for something they don’t even understand, they can only be defensive or bewildered. When the people around them feel offended or disrespected, they can only get exasperated, argue, or write them off. But when the thing that makes a relationship difficult is named and understood, it becomes a problem that can be worked on together. That shift can change everything.

Our Time Is Up: Ending the Therapeutic Relationship

Our Time Is Up: Ending the Therapeutic Relationship.

You entered therapy feeling broken, lonely, anxious, dissatisfied with your relationships and your career. Now you feel whole and healthy; your relationships have improved, and you’ve made some professional changes that have led to a more fulfilling career. You feel good about yourself. Life isn’t perfect, but you have come to accept these imperfections, and you feel equipped to handle life’s challenges when they come your way. Congratulations! The time, effort, and willingness to openly and honestly explore the most complex and painful areas of yourself and your life have paid off. Therapy worked. Now what? You have a standing weekly appointment with your therapist, and you have probably developed a strong therapeutic alliance with him or her. But lately you have noticed that you don’t feel a need to go to therapy and you struggle to find ways to fill the hour. These are some strong indicators that you are ready to leave therapy.

For most people, therapy is not forever. Very few people have reason to be in therapy for life. In fact, many of the people who make therapy a way of life are therapists. They have a personal and professional responsibility to maintain high levels of self-awareness. They must take precautions to ensure that their issues are not getting in the way of helping their clients, and that they are not letting their clients’ issues prevent them from living their own lives. Weekly therapy sessions can create the time, space, and support for therapists to do just that.

Certainly, there are some people who are not therapists who also come to view therapy as a way of life. These people are often deeply dedicated to self-growth, and therapy may provide the support they need as they pursue constantly evolving personal goals. However, the vast majority of people who come to therapy do so with the intent of getting help with something specific. Whether it is something as broad as wanting to feel better or something as narrow as making a decision about a career move, people usually bring a specific goal to therapy. For some, these goals can be achieved in a few short months, while for others, it can take years. But ultimately there is a resolution and they feel ready to end therapy. Thequestion then is how to do it.

One of the things people find most useful about therapy is that there is nothing you can’t talk about in a session—including your relationship with your therapist. In fact, a growing body of research indicates that much of the positive change produced by therapy comes as a result of the therapeutic relationship. For example, if your relationships improved while you were in therapy, it is likely, in part, because you learned new ways of being in relationships by actively participating in your therapeutic relationship. So take the well-honed skill set that you developed in therapy and open a discussion with your therapist about ending the therapeutic relationship.

This will likely come as no surprise to your therapist. He or she knows what you came in to work on and knows that you have achieved your goal. Plus, this is a natural part of the process—all therapists in training learn about how to help clients work through this final stage, called termination. This is a prime opportunity to review the goals that brought you to therapy and to reflect on the growth that allowed you to accomplish them. This part of therapy is kind of like a graduation ceremony—it is an opportunity to step back, look at how far you have come, and revel in your success. And, as with graduations, it is an opportunity to ponder and plan for what comes next. Part of termination involves reinforcing the coping skills that evolve during therapy and reminding clients to continue to draw upon them in the future. Another important part of this process is to identify indicators that may signal the need to return to therapy in the future.

Finally, working through the process of termination with your therapist will allow you the opportunity to process the ending of a powerful and unique relationship. While this is a deeply genuine relationship, it is also one that exists within strictly prescribed boundaries—within the therapist’s office during appointment times. Of course, there may have been phone calls and additional meetings scheduled during times of crisis, but there isn’t a healthy way to continue the relationship you have formed with your therapist outside of therapy. Feelings of grief, loss, and anxiety about ending the therapeutic relationship often come up, and termination is designed to address these feelings. Like all aspects of therapy, this can be a difficult process, but seeing it through can be invaluable in helping you continue to develop and implement the kind of sophisticated relational skills that enable you to have deeper, more meaningful, and authentic relationships.

© Copyright 2012 by Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC, therapist in Brooklyn, NY. All Rights Reserved.

Listening Skills – The 10 Principles of Listening | SkillsYouNeed

Listening Skills – The 10 Principles of Listening | SkillsYouNeed.

A good listener will listen not only to what is being said, but also to what is left unsaid or only partially said. Effective listening involves observing body language and noticing inconsistencies between verbal and non-verbal messages.

For example, if someone tells you that they are happy with their life but through gritted teeth or with tears filling their eyes, you should consider that the verbal and non-verbal messages are in conflict, they maybe don’t mean what they say.

1. Stop Talking

If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Mark Twain.

Don’t talk, listen.  When somebody else is talking listen to what they are saying, do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them.  Stop, just listen.  When the other person has finished talking you may need to clarify to ensure you have received their message accurately.

2. Prepare Yourself to Listen

Relax.  Focus on the speaker.  Put other things out of mind.  The human mind is easily distracted by other thoughts – what’s for lunch, what time do I need to leave to catch my train, is it going to rain – try to put other thoughts out of mind and concentrate on the messages that are being communicated.

3. Put the Speaker at Ease

Help the speaker to feel free to speak.  Remember their needs and concerns.  Nod or use other gestures or words to encourage them to continue.  Maintain eye contact but don’t stare – show you are listening and understanding what is being said.

4. Remove Distractions

Focus on what is being said: don’t doodle, shuffle papers, look out the window, pick your fingernails or similar. Avoid unnecessary interruptions.  These behaviours disrupt the listening process and send messages to the speaker that you are bored or distracted.

5. Empathise

Try to understand the other person’s point of view.  Look at issues from their perspective.  Let go of preconceived ideas.  By having an open mind we can more fully empathise with the speaker.  If the speaker says something that you disagree with then wait and construct an argument to counter what is said but keep an open mind to the views and opinions of others.

See our page: What is Empathy?

6. Be Patient

A pause, even a long pause, does not necessarily mean that the speaker has finished.  Be patient and let the speaker continue in their own time, sometimes it takes time to formulate what to say and how to say it.  Never interrupt or finish a sentence for someone.

7. Avoid Personal Prejudice

Try to be impartial.  Don’t become irritated and don’t let the person’s habits or mannerisms distract you from what they are really saying.  Everybody has a different way of speaking – some people are for example more nervous or shy than others, some have regional accents or make excessive arm movements, some people like to pace whilst talking – others like to sit still.  Focus on what is being said and try to ignore styles of delivery.

8. Listen to the Tone

Volume and tone both add to what someone is saying.  A good speaker will use both volume and tone to their advantage to keep an audience attentive; everybody will use pitch, tone and volume of voice in certain situations – let these help you to understand the emphasis of what is being said.

See our page: Effective Speaking for more.

9. Listen for Ideas – Not Just Words

You need to get the whole picture, not just isolated bits and pieces.  Maybe one of the most difficult aspects of listening is the ability to link together pieces of information to reveal the ideas of others.   With proper concentration, letting go of distractions, and focus this becomes easier.

10. Wait and Watch for Non-Verbal Communication

Gestures, facial expressions, and eye-movements can all be important.  We don’t just listen with our ears but also with our eyes – watch and pick up the additional information being transmitted via non-verbal communication.

See our page: Non-verbal Communication.


Do not jump to conclusions about what you see and hear. You should always seek clarification to ensure that your understanding is correct.


See our pages: Clarification and Reflection for more information.

 

Find more at: http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/listening-skills.html#ixzz2if8JlXbH

What is Attachment and Why is it Important? | TVO Parents

What is Attachment and Why is it Important? | TVO Parents.

Young children need to have a secure relationship with at least one parent or caregiver in order to develop socially, emotionally, and cognitively. In a nutshell, that is the premise of attachment theory.

This should not be confused with attachment parenting. Attachment parenting is a philosophy born out of attachment theory but it is a parenting style, involving baby wearing and co-sleeping.

Instead, attachment theory focuses on child development and how good early experiences with caregivers help children learn, meet developmental milestones, and become secure, independent people. All parents need to do is give love, attention, and protection.

“We know from the newest science that in fact the early experiences that babies have and the quality of those experiences actually has the potential to change the architecture of the brain,” says Chaya Kulkarni, the director of Infant Mental Health Promotion at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. “This is groundbreaking for this field because it really means that those first two years in a child’s life can influence and impact their long-term development. It literally does influence who they become as an adult.”

What does a secure attachment relationship give to a child?

  • The ability to regulate their emotions, behaviour, and attention
  • A sense of self
  • Curiosity and exploration
  • Cognitive development and language development
  • Social skills
  • The ability to parent in the future

So what does a secure attachment relationship look like? According to child psychologist and attachment expert Sonya Vellett, from the Calgary Urban Project Society, a healthy attachment relationship involves:

  • The parent understanding and accurately interpreting what the child is trying to communicate through cues like crying, babbling, gesturing, or behaviour.
  • The parent providing what the child needs, whether that be safety, security, or supporting the child’s exploration.
  • The parent watching over the child, helping when necessary, and providing comfort and empathy when the child is upset.
  • The caregiver taking over when needed and setting appropriate limits.
  • The caregiver coming back later and fixing “ruptures” in the relationship. For instance, if you were rushed making dinner and didn’t allow your child to help, you should go back later on and acknowledge that maybe you didn’t handle the situation well and you will let them help next time.

A lot of what is listed above sounds pretty intuitive and many parents just do those things naturally. But sometimes it doesn’t come easily for parents. Some babies don’t give clear cues so parents don’t know what they want or misinterpret what they want.

“Temperament can play a role in this as well,” says Kulkarni. “If a parent and a child have different temperaments and can’t find a common or comfortable meeting place, that can play a role. And so in those situations, intuition doesn’t always work because you’re doing what you think is intuitively right and that baby is still crying.”

Things like mental illness, postpartum depression, and addiction can also interfere with the establishment of a good attachment relationship. For an example of how important the parent-baby bond is, and what happens when that connection is broken, watch the Still Face Experiment. This experiment, conducted by Dr. Edward Tronic ofHarvard University, is a dramatic example of how things like parental depression can impact a child’s well-being.

“[The purpose] of the Still Face Experiment is to give us information about what happens to children when they have a caregiver who is suffering from significant depression and is unavailable and unresponsive,” says Vellett. “And to see how quickly that is upsetting for the child, often to the point where the child starts to lose postural control and lose the ability to regulate their internal state. Kids will start hiccupping; spitting up… the impact on them is dramatic.”

Postpartum depression affects up to 20 percent of new moms, and severe depression can cause a rupture in the attachment relationship. But, a father or grandparent can fill in and have a nurturing and responsive relationship with the child.

And if a bond isn’t established at the beginning, it isn’t too late. “I know some parents worry if I don’t get it right in the first year or the first three years, it’s all over,” says Nancy Cohen, Director of Research at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre in Toronto. “In fact, that’s not the case. Children can benefit from their later experiences. But optimally it’s best for a child to have a good secure attachment relationship from the get-go.”

The following videos will give you more about attachment relationships and tips on bonding with baby

Read all of the tips from our partnership with Infant Mental Health Promotion at SickKids to educate parents about the importance of healthy brain development in the early years of a child’s life.

Boyhood Is Not a Mental Illness: The American Spectator :

The American Spectator : Boyhood Is Not a Mental Illness.

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THE MALE SPECTATOR

Boyhood Is Not a Mental Illness

Suspended for chewing a Pop-Tart into a gun?

All the employees of school districts on a witch hunt to expel and otherwise permanently punish young boys for shooting toy guns or forming their fists into the shape of a gun need to read Back to Normal.

The purpose of psychologist Enrico Gnaulati’s 2013 book is to argue how ordinary childhood behavior is often misdiagnosed as ADD, ADHD, depression and autism — frequently with life-long, disturbing consequences. But along the way he raises the taboo question of whether we “label boys as mentally unstable, behaviorally unmanageable, academically underachieving, in need of special-education services, or displaying behavior warranting school suspension just because their behavior deviates noticeably from that of the average girl?”

He adds, “In a sense, girl behavior has become the standard by which we judge all kids.”

He cites numerous studies showing that typical boy behavior – wrestling, rough games of tag, good guy/bad guy imaginative play that involves “shooting” — are condemned by preschool and elementary school teachers, the vast majority of whom are women,  without the behavior being redirected appropriately to release boys’ “natural aggression.” Boys who play in the way noted above are not on a path to mass murder, contrary to what zero tolerance school policies suggest. For the vast majority of them, they are simply on the path to manhood. I wonder how many of us who recognize that truth still stifle our boys’ rough play or cowboy shoot outs out of fear of the new rules – reinforcing the capriciousness of regulations in young minds who will one day asked to make them.

Without changes to rigid policies and attitudes about what constitutes good behavior, we will be on a path as a society to generating mass confusion and depression in boys whose natural tendencies are being relabeled as criminal traits or medical problems that need to be treated.

This is not just an existential threat. As unorthodox feminist Camille Paglia said recently in remarks at American University:

Extravaganzas of gender experimentation sometimes precede cultural collapse, as they certainly did in Weimar Germany.  Like late Rome, America too is an empire distracted by games and leisure pursuits.  Now as then, there are forces aligning outside the borders, scattered fanatical hordes where the cult of heroic masculinity still has tremendous force.  I close with this question:  is a nation whose elite education is increasingly predicated on the neutralization of gender prepared to defend itself against that growing challenge?

If that sounds crazy, is it wrong to worry how the massive increase in the number of children taking anti-depressants and other drugs as a result of skyrocketing diagnoses of ADHD, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder will impact their lives?

Many drugs used to treat the above disorders cause serious problems, including mood swings, sleeplessness, weight gain, weight loss and slower growth. And then there is the long-term impact of a mental health diagnosis, which can create a sense that the child is not in control of his actions because it is purely a chemical imbalance in the brain.

As Gnaulati writes, however, in many cases it’s “causes — plural, not singular — that explain why a child behaves the way he or she does.”

“On any number of occasions in my practice over the years,” he writes, “I have seen how a mildly depressed or ADHD-like kid can be transformed by a change of teacher, a change of school, signing up for a sport, a reduced homework load, a summer abroad, a front-of-the-class seating arrangement, a month living away from home with an even-tempered aunt, or any of a host of other everyday steps.”

Many forces conspire to push a mental health diagnosis, from rules on health insurance to schools achieving certain goals under federal No Child Left Behind law. Gnaulati’s book should give parents struggling with a difficult child hope that their child may not be permanently mentally ill, but going through a difficult stage that can be treated without medication. And it should give school administrators perspective on how best to handle unruly boys and channel their energy without condemning their nature. At the very least, we don’t need any more boys suspended for chewing a Pop-Tart into a gun.

Returning to work after mental health issues – Mental health – Live Well

Returning to work after mental health issues – Mental health – Live Well.

 

Returning to work after mental health issues

If you’ve had time away from work, or have been long term unemployed due to mental or emotional health problems, you’re not alone. Almost 50% of long-term absences from work are due to mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

People who have had a mental health problem and been out of work often worry about going back. Common concerns include facing discrimination or bullying, and going back too soon and feeling unwell again.

According to a recent report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists on mental health and work, “…many people with mental health problems fear that, no matter how good a recovery they have made, their symptoms will be made worse by going back to work.”

However, although work can cause stress to some people in some situations, recent research shows that for most people:

  • Work is beneficial to health and wellbeing.
  • Not being in work is detrimental to health and wellbeing.
  • Re-employment after a period of being out of work leads to an improvement in health and wellbeing.

The benefits of being in work can include:

  • a greater sense of identity and purpose
  • an opportunity to build new friendships
  • an improved financial situation and security
  • a feeling that you’re playing an active part in society

Going back to work after a period of ill health is usually a positive experience. This applies to people who have had severe mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder, as well as people coping with more common issues such as anxiety.

Returning to your job after taking sick leave

You don’t have to be 100% better or well to do your job, or at least some of it, and the benefits of returning to work generally outweigh the downsides.

If you already have a job that is still open for you, talk to your GP about going back to work. They can give you advice as part of your fit note. The fit note includes space for your GP to give you general advice about the impact of your illness, and to suggest ways in which your employer could support your return to work.

You may then like to arrange a meeting with your employer and/or your occupational health advisor. You can discuss anything that concerns you about returning to work, including your GP’s recommendations, and ask for some adjustments to make the transition back into work easier. Under the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) and the Equality Act (2010), your employer has a legal duty to make “reasonable adjustments” to your work. Depending on your particular circumstances, you might like to ask about:

  • Flexible hours, for instance you might like to return part-time, or start later in the day if you’re sleepy from medication in the mornings.
  • Support from a colleague, in the short or long term.
  • A place you can go to for a break when needed.

Access to Work

The Government provides support to help people with mental health problems continue to work, or find a new job.

You can find out more about the Access to Work scheme on the GOV.UK website. An Access to Work grant helps pay for practical support so that you can continue to do your job.

Looking for a new job

If you’re unemployed and want to get back into work, staff at your local Job Centre, your GP or your mental health worker can all give you advice about getting back into work.

If you have ongoing mental health issues, you can speak to the Disability Employment Advisor at your local Job Centre. They can tell you about the opportunities that are available to help people with mental health problems get back to work.

There are a number of different issues to consider and research when you’re thinking about getting back to work, including:

  • where you would like to work
  • what kind of work you’d like to do
  • what type of support you may need
  • your current financial situation, including any benefits you’re receiving related to your health

Full-time paid employment is not the only option available to you. There are a number of possibilities that may suit you, such as part-time work, or volunteering.

Volunteering

Volunteering is a popular way of getting back into working life. Helping other people in need is great for your self-esteem and can help take your mind off your own concerns. Plus, volunteer work can improve your chances of getting a paid job when you’re ready, and until then you can continue to claim your benefits. Find out more about how to volunteer.

Your rights and the law

Some people worry that when they apply for a job, they’ll be discriminated against if they admit that they have, or have had, mental or emotional health problems.

However, new provisions in the Equality Act 2010 make it illegal for employers to ask health or health-related questions before making a conditional offer of employment. Furthermore, it is illegal under the Equalities Act to discriminate against any kind of disability, including mental health issues.

Further information

You can also find information on GOV.UK about:

15 Things I Learned from My Nervous Breakdown…

very good list of things to meditate on . . .

Rory

 

15 Things I Learned from My Nervous Breakdown… and How They Can Help You Live Your Best Life – Calgary’s Child Magazine.

 

15 Things I Learned from My Nervous Breakdown… and How They Can Help You Live Your Best Life

I suffered a nervous breakdown at age 36 – and it turned out to be a breakthrough. Here are 15 important things about life and happiness that I have learned, and that I hope you will take to heart in the coming year.

I want you to do me a favor. Look to the upcoming year and ask yourself – realistically – what lies in store in 2012? If you’re like most people, a huge portion of your life will be spent anxiously plugging away at a job you may or may not enjoy with coworkers you may or may not like. Okay, yes, you work hard to build a better life for your family. But here’s the question: Will you have time to enjoy them? Will you be too exhausted to throw the ball with your son? And how many nights will you get home too late to tuck him in this year?

This pattern of stress and striving has to stop. We already live in uncertain and depressing times, and our lifestyles are driving us not toward new heights, but over the brink. And if you’re not careful, you may suffer the same fate I did.

When I was 36 years old, I was successfully leading my family’s auto parts business, I was well respected in my community, I had a wonderful wife and son… and I also suffered a nervous breakdown. Yes, at that point in my life, I enjoyed what I did and was truly proud of my successes, but I was also pushing myself too hard and prioritizing the wrong things, and eventually, it all caught up with me.

For months leading up to my breakdown, I suffered from a paralyzing depression and anxiety, and found it difficult to complete tasks as simple as deciding whether to order coleslaw or potato salad with my lunch. But I still consider myself to be very fortunate.

As horrific as it was, my breakdown was actually also my breakthrough. It was an in-your-face wake-up call that forced me to realize that I was driving myself too hard, and for the wrong reasons. I finally had to say, “Enough is enough! I am done destroying myself and ruining my life!” Admitting to myself that my former way of life wasn’t working was the beginning of my road to recovery and true happiness.

For the past decade, I have taken a closer look at what really makes people happy and unhappy, and I have seen most of my goals and priorities shift. In the same way, it’s in your best interests to shift your habits and focus in 2012. Call it a New Year’s resolution to simply be happy.

I have come to realize that how happy and fulfilled you are is largely under your control, and that it has less to do with success and accomplishments than you might think. I believe that most people are experiencing many – if not all – of the stressors that led to my breakdown, so please don’t wait until you, too, reach a breaking point to make changes in your life. I’m totally convinced now that true happiness is a possibility for everyone, so I’m asking you to take the lessons I have learned to heart.

If you’re ready to change the way you approach life before you drive yourself over the edge, read on for 15 life lessons that I have learned:

1. You have to choose and prioritize happiness – it doesn’t just happen. If you subscribe to the belief that your happiness is wholly dependent on what happens to you, you’ll always be dissatisfied. The truth is, your fulfillment largely depends on the choices you make: how you see the world, what you allow to influence you, what you focus on, and how you react to circumstances, regardless of whether they’re good or bad. In other words, it’s not what happens to you; it’s how you look at what happens to you.

If you want to make a dent in your stress levels, you have to make choosing happiness a priority every day. With all of the responsibilities on our plates, nothing is likely to happen unless we specifically focus on it. So make happiness one of the two or three priorities you absolutely must accomplish each day. To remind yourself, put a note where you can see it – maybe on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror. And if that sounds selfish, it’s not. If you’re extremely stressed or become depressed because of the way you’re living your life, you’re hurting many more people than just yourself. And what’s more important than teaching your kids to be happy? Always remember that children learn by example. If they see you living a harried, stressed life, that’s the pattern their lives will follow as well…and their children’s after them, and so on.

2. Striving for work/life balance is worth its weight in gold. Times are tough, and some of us are finding it necessary to work long hours to keep our jobs and livelihoods. Others have fallen into the trap of the work-ego addiction: over time, you become hooked on the “high” you feel when you accomplish something, get a promotion, etc., and you begin to spend more and more time at the office. Whatever the reason, if extremely long hours are becoming a habit for you, break it. No matter how good your intentions are, overloading on work will cause your relationships, mindset, and even health to suffer.

Prior to my breakdown, it was normal for me to work seventy- or eighty-hour weeks. In my personal dictionary, “rest” and “relaxation” were synonymous with “irresponsibility” and “slacking.” Boy, was I wrong. Working as much as I did is more than the human body is designed to take continuously. If you drive yourself that hard, you’ll eventually begin to run on fumes before you shut down entirely. Being firm about creating and maintaining a healthy work/life balance is no more selfish than prioritizing happiness – in this case, it’s about simple self-preservation! And if you’re still skeptical, remember this: no one looks back on their lives at age eighty and says, “Gee, I wish I’d spent less time with my family and friends and more time at the office.”

3. We are our own worst critics. If you’re like most people, you probably tend to focus a lot of your mental energy on the things you mess up rather than on the things you do well—even though most of us do a hundred things right for every one thing we do wrong. And although you may not realize it, focusing on that one wrong thing is very dangerous, because our thoughts are incredibly powerful. Until you give yourself permission to break free of the cycle of self-blame and negativity that causes you to be stuck demanding perfection from yourself in every situation, you’ll never have a chance to be a truly relaxed, content, and happy person.

It’s not easy to rewire your habitual thought processes, but you need to build yourself up more and beat yourself up less. I used to expect nothing less than perfection out of myself, which was delusional! We’re all human, which means that we’re going to make mistakes from time to time. That doesn’t mean that we’re in any way unworthy or undeserving of love. In fact, learning to love myself was at the core of my own happiness journey. If you aren’t satisfied with who you are, you’ll always be looking outside yourself for validation…and you’ll never be truly content. And like me, you might also push yourself beyond healthy limits in order to get accolades from other people.

4. It’s never too late to start living in the present. How often do your thoughts “live” in the present? More to the point, how often are they instead fixated on your “disappointing” or “disturbing” past or spent worrying about your future? If you are like most people, your percentage of time not spent in the present is way, way too high, and thus you’re missing out on life itself. If you’re letting what’s already happened eat away at you or fretting about what might come to pass, you’re not enjoying the blessings all around you. You’re exacerbating your anxiety and unhappiness by choosing to dwell on things you can’t change or control.

I used to spend a majority of my time rehashing my past mistakes and worrying about what might happen in the future, neither of which did anything for my peace of mind or self-esteem. In fact, these unhealthy and self-critical thoughts were a major contributor to my breakdown. Now that I’m making a conscious effort to live in the present, I’m actually enjoying all of the great things in my life instead of letting them pass me by unnoticed. Plus, I’m actually a lot more productive now that all of that mental space that used to be occupied with worries has been freed up!

5. Focusing on what you’re good at is best for everyone.
 If you aren’t good at something – especially if it’s work-related – chances are you’ll feel compelled to spend a lot of time and effort getting your skills up to par. It’s natural to want to shore up your weaknesses, but the fact is, this strategy tends to cause you a lot of stress for (most likely) mediocre results. Instead of trying to be good at everything, stay in your strengths as much as possible. When you’re doing what you’re good at, you’ll be happier and higher performing.

As I’ve said, I used to be a total perfectionist. I felt like I was a failure if I didn’t excel in absolutely everything I tried. It probably won’t be a surprise to hear that all I accomplished was making myself miserable when I failed to live up to my impossibly high standards. If that sounds familiar, I’d suggest focusing more time on a hobby or personal interest to start, even if you do it for only twenty minutes every other day. And if you determine that your career doesn’t utilize your strengths, start looking at online job postings or for local classes in your field of interest. It’s never too early—or too late—to start doing the things that make you happy.

6. Exercise is worth its weight in therapy.
 Yes, you’ve heard it (a million times) before, but exercise is one small change that yields really big, life-changing benefits. For starters, it will begin to make you feel more relaxed, stronger, and more capable of handling life’s challenges—also, it will improve your sleep, and it’s a natural anti-depressant that will help your attitude and outlook. In fact, exercise actually opens you up to future change by invigorating your mind and body.

I’m convinced that exercise is the single most important thing you can do to improve your life right now. Looking back, I believe that my breakdown occurred when it did because I had broken my feet and couldn’t work out. Before that point, exercise was essentially acting as a medication that helped to counteract the effects of the stressful lifestyle I was living, and after I recovered, it has continued to boost my energy and outlook. If working out is already a part of your life, great! If it isn’t, commit to walking just twenty minutes every other day to start out. You don’t have to join a gym, sign up for exhausting classes, and completely reorder your life to reap the benefits of this investment!

7. You need to feed your mind healthy ‘food.’ When was the last time you watched the nightly news and turned off the TV feeling positive and uplifted? If anything, hearing the headlines is more likely to be depressing and discouraging. Although many of us don’t want to admit it, the things we hear, read, and experience influence our own attitudes and outlooks, so it’s important to consciously “feed” your mind positive materials.

It may sound hokey, but over the years I’ve become a big proponent of motivational books, audio recordings, and DVDs. Whether we’re at work, talking with friends, or at home watching TV or surfing the web, most of us encounter a lot more bad news and predictions than we do good. No wonder we become negative and cynical! It’s important to seek out positive things that will counteract these influences and dispel unnecessary stress. Learn new, constructive things and expose yourself to fresh ways of thinking so that you don’t get stuck in a self-destructive rut.

8. Surround yourself with positive people. If you stop for a drink at the water cooler and find your colleagues griping about how much work they have to do and how unreasonable your boss is, you probably don’t think much of it. In fact, depending on how your own day is going, you might even join in. And although you may not realize it, your attitude will start to deteriorate. The fact is, if you spend a significant amount of time around other people who are negative, your own outlook will begin to mirror theirs.

It’s much easier for others to drag you down than it is for you to build them up. In terms of your attitude and happiness levels, you will be the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so you need to be around other people who share your commitment to happiness if you want to avoid unnecessary stress. I’m not suggesting that you completely sever relationships that aren’t entirely uplifting, but gradually, you need to gravitate more toward positive people and distance yourself from those who tend to bring you down. This might mean calling a positive friend and asking to meet up for coffee or a beer, or walking away from the water cooler when your coworkers begin to gripe and complain.

9. Invest in your relationships – especially your marriage.
 When we’re driving ourselves to the brink, personal relationships are usually one of the first things to suffer. After all, the more time you spend at work, the less time and energy you have to invest in friends and family. You don’t consciously realize it at first, but this gradual deterioration can leave you feeling unappreciated, angry, alone, and anxious. Remember, though, that loving, supportive relationships will majorly enhance your happiness levels, and that friends and family care about you and accept you in a way that your employer never will.

It’s never a waste of time to reach out to the people who are meaningful to you and tell them how important they are to you, or to try to address any unresolved grievances and apologize for the things you may regret. And there’s one relationship you need to focus on in particular: the one with your spouse or significant other. Put more work into this relationship than you do into anything else: your house, your car, or your job, etc. Celebrate your spouse every day. Tell her (or him!) all the time how beautiful she is and how lucky you are to have her in your life. Trust me: this can make such a great difference in your emotional health, your stress levels, and your overall happiness! I truly believe that I would not be as happy as I am today without the love of my wife, and I also believe that my breakdown would have been much worse without her support.

10. Take control of what you can. If you’re reading this, chances are your life isn’t exactly stress-free. It’s practically impossible to live in the modern world without a million worries ranging from work deadlines to bills to clogged gutters. While you aren’t omnipotent, you probably can influence at least a few of the things that are causing your anxiety. Try to eliminate or minimize situations that are stressors instead of constantly dealing with their effects. Often, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference when it comes to relieving stress.

Start by identifying the two or three things that cause you the most stress on a consistent basis – maybe having a messy house is one. Often, you’ll find that there are concrete things you can do to lessen or even eliminate the pressure. For example, you might have a frank discussion with your spouse and kids regarding chores. Or, you might finally hire a cleaning person to help you once or twice a month if you can now afford it. Also, if you can’t eliminate or change a stressor, such as a job you hate but can’t afford to quit, challenge yourself to handle it differently. Specifically, decide beforehand how you will react in a more enlightened way when certain stressful situations occur – actually visualize yourself handling them with poise instead of becoming outwardly or inwardly worked up. Having a game plan in place before the “beast” rears its ugly head really can reduce your negative reactions to stressors—big time.

11. Being friendly is a good investment.
 In our culture, it’s become a badge of honor to stride around with an air of importance and a stony face. After all, if you’re too busy to say hello, you must be important. Yes, it’s easy to become absorbed by your responsibilities – but you’re not doing yourself any favors by shutting out the rest of the world. Even if you don’t have time to answer all of your emails, you can still smile at people in the hall and say a friendly hello to the cashier in the grocery store. Making positive connections will bring more happiness to you and to others.

Have you noticed that although our society is more and more “connected” by technology, we interact less and less with other people on a meaningful, face-to-face level than ever before? Our plugged-in lifestyles aren’t doing us as many favors as we thought they would. Even when we’re not at work, we’re likely to be glued to our smartphones or laptops, which amps up our stress. Make a conscious effort to unplug and make a friendly connection with another human – even a simple smile or hello is great. The fact is, everyone on Earth is carrying some sort of burden. You can’t make their pain, stress, or grief just magically disappear…but you can be what I call a “lamp-lighter” – someone who makes others feel just a little bit lighter and happier on their journey, even if only for five seconds. When you make friendliness a habit, you’ll attract kindness and smiles in return…and you’ll feel great about yourself for making a positive difference in the world!

12. Helping others is the soul food of life. One of the (many) negative side effects of our busy lives is that we tend to think mostly about ourselves: how much work we have left on that big presentation, how we’re going to find time to take the kids to sports practice and pick up groceries, and much, much more. No matter how busy you are now, consider helping others to be an integral part of the healthy work/life balance that will help you to avoid unhappiness. This will give you perspective, make you feel good, and will prevent you from staying in the negative me-focused cycle that was making you unhappy in the first place.

Since my breakdown, I’ve become very involved in philanthropy. I’ve found that it really is better to give than to receive, and that reaching out a helping hand to someone who isn’t as fortunate as you tends to quash selfish impulses and highlight your own blessings. Giving of yourself doesn’t have to involve money, either – remember that your time, talents, and compassion are just as valuable as cash, if not more so. Consider visiting a disabled veteran at the VA, or simply rolling your neighbor’s trashcan up the driveway! And if you have kids, you’ll be setting a wonderful example for them. I promise you, whether you’re giving time, energy, money, or encouragement, being generous will build up your self-esteem, broaden your perspective, keep you anchored in reality, and connect you to your blessings – all components of a happy life.

13. It’s important to connect with something bigger than yourself. Yes, spirituality (much like politics) is a touchy subject. But believing in something bigger than yourself is essential to developing the kind of perspective you need to be happy. Whether you consider your Higher Power to be God, Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, the Universe, or even just Nature or another entity, being willing and able to see and feel His (or Her, if you prefer!) presence in your life will enable you to move away from self-centeredness and focus your energy and concerns on the greater community. It’ll also provide solace and give meaning to unfortunate events and troubling life circumstances.

Personally, I’ve been connected to the Jewish faith for my entire life. But it was only after my breakdown that I really allowed my faith to grow. My personal belief that God exists and cares about me has changed the way I view the world—but you don’t need to espouse my beliefs, or even join an organized religion and attend services regularly. What I do hope you’ll do is make an effort to clarify your thoughts about faith and also make an effort to connect to your Higher Power, whether it’s through prayer, meditation, writing in a journal, doing random acts of kindness, or just spending time in nature. Eventually, I hope you’ll begin to see your Higher Power as a source of inspiration, renewal, strength, guidance, and aid – as I do.

14. A grateful heart is a happy heart. It’s very easy to take things for granted: the information your coworker emailed you, the fact that your car is running, and even the food you’re eating for dinner. The fact is, most of us have gotten into the habit of ignoring all of the good things in our lives. Instead, we focus our mental energy on being upset about what’s wrong and what we don’t have. Yes, cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” might be a clichéd concept, but the humility that comes from knowing you owe so much to so many others will, in turn, spur you to give back more often to those less fortunate than yourself. Plus, studies have actually shown that thankful individuals are 25 percent healthier than their counterparts, too!

To start tapping into the power of gratitude, just say “thanks” to the people who help you out during your day. And beyond that, try to notice all of the blessings in your life. If you live in America, you have access to great education, healthcare, and the freedom to worship and work as you choose. Those are huge things to be thankful for right out of the gate! We take these “basics” and much more for granted, and we often have others—whether it’s an ancestor of ours, a veteran, or a coworker—to thank for them. It’s extremely important to be aware of all of your blessings, and to honor and thank those whom you owe.

15. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. All of the things I have learned from my breakdown will help you to cut your stress levels, and they’ll also aid you in cultivating a more balanced, happier life. But it’s also important to realize that feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed are all very serious, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to easily “fix” these issues on your own.

If you feel that you’re in over your head, or if your best efforts aren’t working, please reach out and ask for help. I might never have recovered after my breakdown without the help of my friends, family, and medical professionals. This is all big stuff. You shouldn’t—in fact, you can’t—make big changes in your life alone. At the very least, you’ll need the support of those who love you.

Ultimately, I’ve learned that the quality of your life is largely up to you. If you’re anything like me – and if you’re honest with yourself – you’ll have to confess that a striving, stressful lifestyle is not making you happy. I’ll admit that many of the changes I’m asking you to make in order to avoid more unhappiness (and perhaps even a breakdown) go against what society says you should do if you want to be successful. But I have found out the hard way that a “successful” yet stressed out and unhappy life is certainly not, in reality, a truly successful life at all.

Todd Patkin is the Author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and – Finally – Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-9658261-9-8, $19.95). The book is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and at www.findinghappinessthebook.com.

Videos about Depression and Mental Health

 

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Dancing with a hole in her stocking:Blog | One woman navigating life with ADHD

Dancing with a hole in her stocking | One woman navigating life with ADHD.

 

So, you have ADHD. Now what?

I received a message from a woman who was recently diagnosed with ADHD and found herself feeling pretty overwhelmed as she tries to come to terms with this new way of seeing herself. For her, and for anyone facing a recent ADHD diagnosis, here is the most important advice I can share:

Stop reading and start doing.

Look, you have your entire life ahead of you to learn about ADHD. I want you to do one thing today to combat your ADHD.

(If you’re not sure what one thing to do, choose one from the list below. Just one.)

Just having an ADHD brain is overwhelming enough. Then we get a diagnosis. And we try to figure out what that means. We read a book (or start to read it). And another book. And another book. We look for information online, and findCHADD, and ADDA. We read blogs. We start blogs. We go to support groups and meet-ups and conferences. We discover the New York Times’ sanctimonious crusade to keep ADHD stigma alive, and in our shock and hurt and anger we drive up pageviews until we realize we are the NYT’s most trollable audience. We sign up for list-serves and subscribe to podcasts and buy coaching materials and shiny smartphone apps and organization tools. And we work so hard tounderstand our ADHD that we are exhausted before we ever get around to doing something about it. Use this drive and curiosity and nervous excitement to start making real steps toward managing your ADHD in a way that will make you and your loved ones happier.

10 Things You Can Do TODAY to Better Manage Your ADHD:

(1) Go get some exercise. Walking counts.

(2) Look at your calendar.

(3) Eat some healthy protein.

(4) Have a conversation with the sole goal of listening to what the other person has to say.

(5) Set a timer and spend 15 minutes decluttering one piece of your life. When time is up, stop. Try your purse; your to-do list; unopened mail; a drawer; a space on your desk; the kitchen sink; your inbox; your unused smartphone apps.

(6) Write down something you want to remember. Now you won’t forget it.

(7) Strike one thing from your to-do list and put it on the back burner, so you can focus on what’s most important. Just because we rarely prioritize doesn’t mean we can’t. Start now.

(8) Thank someone. Your spouse for taking care of dinner when you worked late. Your kid for calling you out when you weren’t paying attention. Your colleague for reminding you of a task. Your friend who forgives you for interrupting.

(9) Turn devices off an hour before you want to fall asleep. Phone, TV, computer – anything with a screen. Let your brain wind down so you can fall asleep.

(10) Go to bed at 10:00 p.m. Even if you lie awake for a while – let your brain and body rest (and you might fall asleep sooner than you think).

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Let’s See Some Natitude: Why You Should Pay Attention to the Washington Nationals

The Nationals have no shortage of story-lines unrelated to ADHD, including a joyous All-Star ace who dominates in Chicken Mode with curveballs and slip-and-falls, the most talked-about pitcher who won’t pitch in the postseason, theleast talked-about pitcher who will pitch in the postseason, a rock at third base who’s savoring his first chance at a championship since Little League, a shark roaming center field, a Beast who needs neither bat nor ball to hit a grand slam, and bullpen readings of Fifty Shades of Grey. Heck, even the Nats’ broadcasters are compelling: Color commentator F.P. Santangelo visits Abner Doubleday’s grave, follows closer Drew Storen’s mom’s Twitter feed, and can still barehand a foul popup from the press box.

Amidst this fabulously entertaining season, the Washington Nationals are quiet but compelling evidence of a fundamental sea-change in how people talk about, think about, and manage adult ADHD.

The Accidental Poster-Child of ADHD

The Nationals sparked interest on the ADHD front heading into the 2011 season when they signed Adam “Cool” LaRoche, the veteran first baseman with thesweet swingsnappy glove, and the most publicly diagnosed brain in the major leagues. Around the same time, the Nationals signed Tom Gorzelanny, a left-handed pitcher who is also open about having ADHD but whose diagnosis received far less public scrutiny than LaRoche.

Then again, perhaps no one’s ADHD diagnosis has received as much publicity as LaRoche, the son and brother of professional ballplayers who made his own major league debut with the Atlanta Braves in 2004.

Before Andres Torres became Gigante, before Shane Victorino and the “Own It”project, Adam LaRoche was a talented young Atlanta Brave who ”unlocked” on a routine defensive play in May 2006, leading to 4 unearned runs and anointing LaRoche the accidental poster-child of ADHD in professional sports.

Take nothing away from the courage of Scott Eyre, who in 2001 became the first major league ballplayer to publicly admit having ADHD (Eyre, a left-handed reliever, played 13 years in the majors with the Giants, Cubs, White Sox, Blue Jays, and Phillies). But Eyre’s announcement some 5 years prior did not prevent the popular derision that rained down on LaRoche when his diagnosis became public in 2006.

LaRoche has handled the public examination of his personal challenge withgrace and courage, urging people – especially children – not to be ashamed about asking for help. He’s brought the same poise to the ballpark in 2012, providing consistently excellent offense and defense that has carried the Nationals through a remarkable spate of injuries that threatened to derail their season. Tomorrow, October 7, 2012, after years of bad teams, bad luck, and bad injuries, LaRoche will be back in the playoffs for the first time since that fateful mental mistake in 2006, batting cleanup for the top-seeded team in the National League.

The Rookie Who’s No Accident

As if LaRoche’s tale of quiet vindication wasn’t enough, I started playing around with a post on the Washington Nationals in mid-June, when teen phenom Bryce Harper matter-of-factly explained how he’d felt sitting on the bench for the first time in his brief major-league career, then scoring the winning run as a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth inning:

“I don’t like sitting. I have really bad ADD, so I’m always off the wall, and just crazy when I sit . . . . [In] spring training this past year, sitting down and really trying to learn the game while . . . sitting really helped me out here.”

– Bryce Harper, MASN post-game interview, Fenway Park, June 10, 2012

That wasn’t the first time the rookie had publicly described having ADHD, and  it probably won’t be the last. Sure, he’s only 19, but Harper has spent plenty of time in the spotlight, simultaneously heralded as the next Ruth / Mays / Mantle / Junior / insert-all-time-great-ballplayer-here while somehowexceeding all expectations. He’s an attention magnet with a flair for the dramaticand un/intentionally hilarious.

But for all the attention paid to Harper’s every word and deed, his occasional mentions of having ADHD seem to prompt, at most, a shrug.

It’s no big deal.

Harper, like any ballplayer, makes the occasional mistake – not often, but occasionally – and when he does, it’s not blamed on ADHD; reporters don’t call up experts who’ve never met him to opine on how ADHD is affecting his batting average or his personal life; no one speculates on whether he’s taking medication or gaining some unfair advantage; there aren’t insinuations that he might not “really” have ADHD.

Instead, as the rookie leads the Washington Nationals’ first-ever charge into the postseason, we wait with breathless anticipation to see what Harper will do next.

It Is a Big Deal

Compare today’s collective blink to the scorn LaRoche faced 6 years ago. For Harper’s ADHD to be no big deal is, in itself, a very big deal.

It’s a big deal to hear ADHD treated as simply a challenge to be addressed, rather than a shameful secret or a punchline.

It’s a big deal to learn that having ADHD doesn’t give the world a free pass to delve into the most personal quirks of your brain.

It’s a big deal to see people with ADHD excel on the same playing field as everyone else by cultivating other abilities to overcome this disability.

It’s a big deal to know that people with ADHD can reap the benefits of well-directed hard work.

So, to Adam LaRoche, and Bryce Harper, and Tom Gorzelanny, and everyone else who wakes up every day facing ADHD along with life’s other challenges – thank you for the inspiration, keep up the good work, and LET’S GO NATS.

You mean I can get credit for this?!

So many of us have accepted that the effort we put in is unrelated to our result. For people with unmanaged (or under-managed) ADHD, that’s frequently true. But it doesn’t have to be.

It’s a hard mental path to break. For starters, if effort is related to result, we have to take responsibility for poor outcomes – and we usually have buckets of ‘em.

But the benefit of shouldering responsibility for the bad results is that we actually get – and deserve – credit for the good ones.

Example: I’d been thinking about changing my dental insurance from my super-primo plan to a basic coverage level that would take a smaller chunk out of my salary every month. Then last week at my routine exam, my dentist identified some dental issues and referred me to a specialist, who confirmed that I need some relatively minor but important dental work done that will probably run a couple thousand dollars. My initial reaction: Man, I’m lucky this happened before I gave up the high-level dental coverage.

But I realized that luck had nothing to do with it.

  • I scheduled my routine dental checkup before switching my insurance coverage.
  • I took the time to prepare for my dentist appointment ahead of time, writing down all my questions ahead of time (This tooth feels funny / Is my gum supposed to look like that? / Is this normal?).
  • I double-checked my list when my dentist asked if I had any questions.
  • I asked my dentist for a referral before I left his office, and scheduled my appointment with the specialist right away.

I did everything right – so I get to take credit for saving myself a couple thousand dollars. Luck had nothing to do with it.

Procrastination = love

This about sums it up:

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Why we don’t get the benefit of the doubt with ADHD

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We all tend to cut ourselves breaks that we won’t or don’t extend to others. See LifeHacker’s Why You Think You’re Unlucky When Others Think You’re Careless and the BBC’s rundown of fundamental attribution error.

But this general human unfairness can be especially harsh for people with ADHD, because with poorly managed ADHD we use up our “free passes” more quickly than others do. Ari Tuckman explains the impact on friendships and other relationships:

Although we all make the occasional social blunder, most people are pretty forgiving if it doesn’t happen too often. However, those with ADHD tend to use up their free passes too quickly, causing others to make deeper assumptions about their character. As a result, people with ADHD can be seen as irresponsible, self-centered, or rude, even though they’re really not (or at least not any more than anyone else!).

So, yes, life isn’t fair. But it’s not that people with ADHD get fewer chances than others – we just tend to blow through them. I like Tuckman’s podcast response, to earn more free passes. I sometimes need the reminder to nudge myself from bemoaning the unfairness to actually taking steps to overcome it. One reason many of us with ADHD get stuck on the unfairness is our frequent lack of insight into how our actions (rather than out intentions) affect others, coupled with our notoriously short, or unreliable, memories.

A tool I use to combat this is a chart- or calendar-style checklist that lets me seemy recent track record on a few key ADHD-defeating, personal-contentment-boosting habits, such as exercising 4 days a week, checking my calendar every day, and dedicating 15 minutes a day to overcoming my ADHD. There are many apps that do this sort of habit- or goal-tracking, of course – I use Track N Sharemyself (test the free trial version first), and also like previously mentioned HomeRoutines for ticking off daily or weekly routine items. But I find pen and paper helpful for keeping my basic priorities on the front burner, mentally speaking, because I can’t snooze paper, turn it off, or do it only halfway, and even when it’s done, I can still see its importance (unlike a digital to-do that disappears once completed). There’s something satisfyingly absolute about a big blue check or a big red X. Writing the basics out by hand each week also forces me to prioritize in a way that a feature-rich tracking app doesn’t – I only have so much room on the page.

There are also some elements of Seinfeld’s productivity secret, not wanting to break the chain. If that motivation factor works for you, great. Most valuable to me, though, is the reliable, unignorable snapshot of how well I’m actually keeping some of the key promises I’ve made to myself. I am generally convinced I’m not a slacker (just unlucky, of course) – but this comfortable assumption can lead me to not recognize those times, or days, or weeks, when I do slack off. A tracking chart replaces my assumptions with actual information; and with a more accurate self-assessment, I can actually make meaningful choices instead of winging it.

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ASIDE

The New York Times published a lovely profile of Bubba Watson, whosees connections other people don’t:

“In the beginning, [Bubba Watson] said, ‘I just want to let you know that I have A.D.H.D.,’ ” [Andrew] Fischer said. “I told him, ‘No, you have a hyper-observant ability. You can look at a ton of things and process information like a Mac computer.’ When people call Bubba childish, I correct them and say he’s childlike. He has an unbelievable ability to tap into his imagination, an ability most of us lose as we grow older and try to conform.”

It’s a poignant sketch of a very human man and unparalleled golfer who happens to have ADHD. Worth a read.

Make it fun (with apologies to Tim Gunn)

I love bright colors – always have, judging from parents’ good-old-fashioned photo albums. A particularly eye-popping outfit of my choosing was a ROYGBIVrainbow striped shirt paired with a pastel blue, pink and green plaid skirt, captured in a Polaroid when I was about 5 years old. Small wonder, then, that I was so drawn to Barbara Kingsolver’s heroine in The Bean Trees, Taylor Greer, who like her mother

…went in for bright colors. It was a family trait. At school it was a piece of cake to pick me out of a lineup of town girls in their beige or pink Bobbie Brooks matching sweater-and-skirt outfits. Medgar Biddle, who was once my boyfriend for three weeks including the homecoming dance, used to say that I dressed like an eye test. I suppose he meant the type they give you when you go into the army, to see if you’re color blind, not the type that starts with the big E. He said it when we were breaking up, but I was actually kind of flattered. I had decided early on that if I couldn’t dress elegant, I’d dress memorable.

While my penchant for splashy clothing may be…noteworthy, I’m not alone among people with ADHD in responding well to bright colors. Consider:

Color code everything that you can….You want bright colors that really stand out so you can still seem them when you shut your eyes to remember….

from Additude magazine, and

Use beautiful things. Plain things may feel invisible to you….I use ones with designs on them — birds, patterns, funny sayings — because the designs help me to remember what is inside them…. If it’s not pretty, I’ll lose it or forget it. If I like looking at it, chances are I won’t forget about it.

from Unclutterer.

Anyway, I decided to put my bright-eyed obsession to use when I had to replace my running shoes: I opted for some neon-safety-orange sneakers that are bright enough to stop traffic (which I suppose would be helpful, if the need arises). They are AMAZING. I don’t actually see them when I’m running, but I set them next to my dresser every evening, so each morning when I lurch out of bed to turn off my alarm that’s strategically just out of reach from the bed, I see my neon sneakers.

I LIKE my neon sneakers.

So I put them on and go for a morning run, instead of falling back into bed.

Should you tell people you have ADHD?

Whether to reveal you have ADHD can be a pretty momentous decision. Ari Tuckman gives a thought-provoking rundown of some of the major considerations here (for CHADD members) and here (free podcast).

To tell or not to tell?  For me, for now, I have told the people I’m closest to who are affected by my ADHD and who can help me deal with it and can deal with me more effectively and happily with that knowledge. I do not tell co-workers, loose-lipped friends, or most other people in my life. A primary reason for this is my profession, which is notoriously…well, unwelcoming of ‘other’ in whatever form. I’m not saying this is OK – but I am determined, for now, not to personally shoulder this stigma professionally. Not yet.

I’m not ashamed of having ADHD, and I believe any stigma attached to having ADHD is unfair and uninformed. But the stigma exists all the same.

I keep saying ‘for now’ – not because I believe popular (or unpopular) prejudices about ADHD will change, although I hope they will. I say ‘for now’ because I know my complacency with keeping my ADHD hidden could change with another’s heartbeat.

Any biological child of mine is more likely to have ADHD. It is not a certainty, but it is a probability (as wanting children makes it more probable, but not certain, that I will have children).

I wouldn’t want my child to be ashamed of having ADHD, to feel the basic, unalterable wiring of her brain is a shameful secret to be hidden from the world.

Wouldn’t I be my child’s first example? Her first and lasting glimpse of how to handle this quirk of biology?

If I hide, wouldn’t that say I was ashamed of her?

I cannot ask a child to be braver than I; I cannot demand courage from another that I do not demand of myself.

Does this mean I must be open about my own ADHD before I even know whether I will have a child with ADHD? For my words of pride and strength to ring true, do I need to speak them before there is someone listening?

For now, at least, I choose to stay hidden, but not silent. I don’t have to tell people I have ADHD to challenge prejudice, ignorance, or negative comments.

NAMI StigmaBusters

The ‘Own It’ Project (submissions through June 6, 2012)

‘Gigante’ (forthcoming documentary on Andres Torres)

ADHD Awareness Week (October 2012)

ADHD: Is Stigma Back in Style? (February 2012)

9 Myths, Misconceptions and Stereotypes About ADHD (June 2011)

ADHD: The Stigma Is Gone (July 2010)

Social Stigma Awaits Kids with ADHD (May 2007)

Career Advice from Powerful ADHD and LD Executives (December/January 2005)

Finding a Career that Works for You (undated)

Myths and Misconceptions about ADHD: Science Over Cynicism (June 2003)

Overcoming the ADHD Stigma (April/May 2003)

ADD (ADHD) in the Workplace (from Kathleen G. Nadeau’s 1997 book)

Born late

Probably shouldn’t be surprised by the recent finding that babies born post-term are more than twice as likely to develop ADHD as babies born at term. The study was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology (abstractfull text).

We really were born late.

Some news coverage of the study:

BBC
MSNBC
Daily Mail
NZ Herald

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Why are there so many cooks in my kitchen?

Cooking with ADHD is . . . let’s just call it an adventure, shall we?

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Preparing a meal requires a vortex of executive functions that are particularly challenging to people with ADHD, including planning, budgeting, calculating ingredients and servings, attention to detail (did I already add salt?), time management (do I have time to make this now?), awareness of time passing (is it done yet?), multi-tasking, and impulse control (no you can’t eat it yet / yes It needs to include vegetables / no I shouldn’t add in a side with 60 minutes of prep if I want to eat in half an hour).

So it is with great pride that I present the following recipe for what is quite possibly the greatest meal I have ever made: Broiled salmon fillets with asparagus and fingerling potatoes.

Why is it so great?

It was easy for me to make. Notice I said easy for me to make. The instructions are precise, complete, and brief. I worked out the exact timeline for each portion of the meal so I knew when to do each step so that everything would be ready at the right time. There is very little that needs to be done (and could be overlooked) in the last several minutes before things are done cooking.

Remember, ‘easy’ doesn’t mean ‘simple,’ especially for people with ADHD. Prime example: This “it’s too easy” recipe for 15-minute tomato sauce, which my boyfriend tried his hand at when I was traveling. He made it as quickly and easily as advertised, loved it, and passed it on to me, thinking I would thrive with such a simple recipe. In my hands, it was a disaster. I should have been suspicious of ingredients like “a bit of garlic if you like that kind of thing” and time estimates of “I usually start the sauce just as I begin to get the pasta ready, and they both are done at just about the same time.” Simple, yes – easy, no. For something to be easy, for me, I need structure, I need precision, and I need to know when the heck to put the water on to boil.

It’s good for me to eat. Good for everyone, really.

Broiled Salmon Fillets

Ingredients

Salmon fillets (6, about 4 oz each, skinned)

Marinade:
Plum tomato (1, finely chopped)
Olive oil (1 Tbsp)
Red wine vinegar (2 Tbsp)
Rosemary (1 Tbsp
Sage (or thyme) (1 tsp)
Lemon zest (1/2 tsp)

Preparation
Preheat broiler or grill. [If broiling, cover cooking sheet with tin foil, shiny side down, and position oven rack approx. 4″ from heat source.]
Rinse salmon fillets and pat dry with paper towel. Marinate fillets in Ziplock bag for 30 minutes to 2 hours (keep in fridge). Discard marinade.
Broil salmon fillets on sheet for 5-6 minutes. Flip fillets and broil for 4-5 more minutes (until fish flakes easily with fork).

To prepare alongside ROAST ASPARAGUS and FINGERLING POTATOTES:

(1) Marinate salmon, above.
(2) Preheat broiler (top rack 4″ from heat, bottom rack at least 6″ below that) and cover 2 cooking sheets with foil, shiny side down.
(3) Parboil potatoes until just soft (10-20 minutes for fingerlings). Drain, place in oven-safe dish, add herbs and drizzle with olive oil, and set aside.
(4) Place asparagus on foil-covered sheet; drizzle lightly with olive oil, toss, and set aside.
(5) Place salmon fillets on sheet on top rack and place asparagus on bottom rack. Cook 5-6 minutes.
(6) Flip salmon fillets. Place potato dish next to asparagus on lower rack. Cook 4-5 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a knife.

And some more takes on cooking with ADHD:

On the challenges of cooking with ADHDEven real chefs have ADHDTerry Matlen, Why I Hate to CookIdeas/discussion board for cooking, and following recipes, with ADHD

When drugs for depression fail, talking therapies help | Fox News

When drugs for depression fail, talking therapies help | Fox News.

  • Counseling.jpg
Patients with depression who fail to benefit from antidepressant drugs may do better if they are also treated with a type of “talking” psychotherapy called CBT, according to new research published on Friday. In the first large-scale trial to test the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, alongside medication for depression, scientists said they found that the combination works where drug treatment alone fails. Nicola Wiles of Bristol University’s school of social and community medicine, who led the study, said the findings underline the need to increase the availability of therapy for depressed patients. “While there have been initiatives to increase access to CBT in both the UK and Australia, worldwide initiatives are rare,” she said in a statement.
 
Wiles and colleagues recruited 469 adults from across Britain who had not responded to at least 6 weeks of treatment with an antidepressant. For the study, 235 patients continued with their usual antidepressant medication, while 234 patients got their usual care plus CBT and were followed up for 12 months. The results, published in The Lancet medical journal, showed that after 6 months, 46 percent of those who got CBT as well as their usual care had improved – reporting at least a 50 percent reduction in their depressive symptoms. This compared to 22 percent of those who did not get CBT. Patients treated with CBT, which involves talking through behaviors and ways of thinking with a trained psychotherapist or psychologist, were also more likely to go into remission and have fewer symptoms of anxiety, the researchers said. Similar effects were reported at 12 months. Major depression affects around 20 percent of people at some point in their lives. The World Health Organization (WHO)predicts that by 2020, depression will rival heart disease as the health disorder with the highest global disease burden. While there are many antidepressants on the market, including top sellers such as Prozac and Seroxat, it is widely accepted that many antidepressants work in only half of patients half of the time, and drugmakers are struggling to come up with a new generation of drugs in this field.
 
Willem Kuyken, a clinical psychology professor at Exeter University who also worked on the study, said its results showed that doctors and patients should be looking beyond drugs. “This trial provides further evidence that psychological treatments like cognitive therapy can provide substantive and lasting help to people who suffer depression,” he said. Wiles added, however, that even in wealthy countries such as Britain, where there has been a recent push to invest more into psychological therapies, many people who have not responded to antidepressants still don’t get the chance of trying intensive CBT that take between 12 and 18 sessions.
 
In the United States, only about a quarter of people with depression have received any form of psychological therapy in the last 12 months, she said.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/12/07/when-drugs-for-depression-fail-talking-therapies-help/#ixzz2ENRoPSFd

Top 10 Mindfulness Posts of 2012

 

Top 10 Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Posts of 2012

By  

mindfulnessWhether this is your first time you’re coming here or you’ve been around for the almost four years I’ve been writingThe Mindfulness and Psychotherapycolumn, I want to share a personal moment of gratitude and say “Thank You” for being a part of this community. This was a big year for this column,  it will become 4 years old and is also the year that The Now Effect andMindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler hit bookshelves. Now it’s my turn to give you some gifts of my favorite Top 10 posts of the year. In these posts you’ll read about the power of mindfulness, the importance of self-compassion in healing, the upside to embracing dark emotions, how to be alone, why multitasking is ineffective, many short practices and much more.

May they bring you a sense of insight, ease, peace and freedom. Enjoy!

  1. Mindfulness is Not a Cure, It’s Better
  2. 7 Life Lessons for Dr. Seuss
  3. The Power of Self-Compassion
  4. Depression: Medicate, Meditate or Both?
  5. The Science Behind Why Everything You Do Matters
  6. The Upside to Embracing Dark Emotions
  7. Learn How to Be Alone through Mindfulness
  8. Neuroscience and Compassion Training Predict a Better World
  9. Media Multitasking Leads to Poorer Cognitive Performance: A Mindful Response
  10. A Simple Way to Trick Your Brain Toward Mindfulness

Top 50 health apps: Body&Soul

Top 50 health apps – body+soul.

These are pretty good start .  .  . good ratings.

for PMS, meditation, relaxation, exercise, and more.

Rory

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By Charmaine Yabsley & Maureen Shelley

Maintaining your health, fitness and happiness goals is only a click away…

We review 50 of the best health and fitness apps you need to download, for a healthier and happier you
.

The 3 Steps for a Successful ADHD Marriage

The 3 Steps for a Successful ADHD Marriage.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can present many challenges for parents. Raising children with ADHD can be both exhilarating and exhausting. But when an ADHD child grows up and enters a relationship with another person, it can be even more taxing. Adult ADHD can be a mystery to those with ADHD and those who love them. Sometimes adults are unaware that they have ADHD and only realize after months or years of difficult and unexplained tensions in a marriage or committed relationship. Regardless of whether or not the ADHD was diagnosed in childhood or adulthood, there is hope for marriages partners dealing with it.

In a recent article, Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D., an author and psychotherapist, says that sharing responsibilities such as finances, chores, and parenting can bring ADHD symptoms to the forefront of the relationship. How couples address the symptoms and work through the tasks has a significant impact on the severity of the ADHD and the emotional status of each partner and the relationship as a whole. The first step is to get an accurate diagnosis. Once this has happened, couples can work together to manage the symptoms, the treatment, and their shared household responsibilities.

Gina Pera, an author and expert on adult ADHD, says that having structure and simplicity is essential in an ADHD relationship. When one spouse understands the limitations of the other, they can pick and choose the chores that are best suited to each person’s capabilities. This is true in every relationship, whether there is an underlying psychological condition or not. The most important things to remember when living in an ADHD marriage are these three elements: education, action, and empathy. Pera says that couples should learn about ADHD and copy strategies other successful couples use in their marriages. Take action to overcome the hurdles and work through the problems respectfully and as a team. And finally, be understanding of each other. Pera adds, “Having empathy and compassion for each other is vitally important in these relationships.”

Source:
Sarkis, S. (2012, July 9). ADHD and marriage: An interview with Gina Pera. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephanie-sarkis-phd/adhd-relationships_b_1659300.html

Money making you crazy? Therapy the answer?

If your relationship with money is making you crazy, therapy might be the answer – Winnipeg Free Press.

 

It’s one of the longest and most important relationships you’ll have in your life — and one where your love and devotion is guaranteed to go unrequited.

But forget about breaking up, because even if you don’t care too much for money, we’re talking about a till-death-do-you-part union. So if you and your bank account aren’t getting along, maybe it’s time for some financial psychotherapy.

You’re obviously the one with all the baggage. But Dr. Moira Somers can help you unpack it and sort through the emotional, motivational and interpersonal reasons you treat money the way you do.

“I help people make friends with their financial lives,” says Somers, a Winnipeg-based psychologist, life coach and “financial recovery expert.”

Financial psychology, like neuroeconomics and behavioural finance, is an emerging field that explores how people make decisions around money. As with food, our relationship with cold, hard cash is complicated and can bring out strong emotions and irrational behaviour. Money is at the core of most of our fears and anxieties. And it can destroy our relationships, our self-esteem and our health.

People repeatedly identify it as the biggest source of stress in their lives, says Somers.

Painful stress around money, she says, tends to show up in a lot of disordered behaviour, such as chronic debt, overspending, under-earning and using money as a means, unconsciously and inadvertently, to exercise power and control.

“It’s a complex topic,” Somers says. “Money is this vital life resource, which is good at doing what it was meant to — provide for our physical comfort and safety — but we embed it with power and emotional security, or we imbue it with evil and sin.

“And we ask money all the time to do things it was never intended to do.”

Things such as affirm our self-worth, comfort us (retail therapy, anyone?), distract us from nagging insecurities or fill an inner void.

In her new book, Geneen Roth, the author of the New York Times bestseller Women, Food and God who lost her life savings in the Bernie Madoff scam, offers insight into how unconscious relationships with money are akin to those with food.

In Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money, Roth, a self-proclaimed shirker of fiscal responsibility, draws comparisons between what made her a compulsive eater and what put her in a “financial haze.”

“We are one integrated system and we express the things we believe through the various actions we take — like shopping, spending and eating,” the author said in recent interview with Time.com. “If someone feels a lack of self-worth, this will manifest in many different areas of his or her life.”

While there’s no shortage of good financial or dieting advice, Roth said, it’s hard to follow it until you become aware that you’re using money (or food) for emotional reasons.

“When linear objective advice meets emotional needs,” she told Time.com, “the latter always wins.”

We all have a money story that began in childhood, when we developed a belief system around money, Somers says. “Depending on the many scripts that are embedded in childhood experience, or embedded by our culture, we end up making decisions based on those beliefs.”

Under-earners, for example, are self-saboteurs who don’t live up to their earning potential because they may have a hard time asking for what they’re worth, Somers says. They may earn $10 an hour or pull in six figures a year, but they tend to live paycheque to paycheque, are often in debt, and have “a high tolerance for low pay.”

People who believe money is scarce may cling to it and become rigid and unyielding in that part of their life. Somers says she has worked with families of “tremendous wealth” who have this script operating to some extent.

People in helping professions are often conflicted about money, she says, because the desire to help and the need to make a living can feel at odds with each other. To compensate, they’ll sometimes take on too many clients or overload their schedules with pro bono work.

Children who witness their parents fight about money may grow up to be adults who view it as inherently problematic and who make a decision, conscious or otherwise, to kind of tune out financially, Somers says.

Money scripts are often born out of emotional pain, she says, and a desire to protect the self from further pain. Which is why so many people just kind of go unconscious with respect to their finances.

Somers helps people wake up to their financial reality in several ways. In addition to one-on-one or couples psychotherapy, she also offers money coaching — where your psyche and your financial records get probed and you end up with a financial plan to follow — a tele-seminar series on women and money, and workshops on couples and cash and raising financially savvy kids.

Money, she says, is a vital life resource, “but it’s also a bounded resource, like time and energy. It really helps to get conscious about how you want to direct and spend it.”