Welcome to the May issue of the Hallowell Connections Newsletter. As always, we hope that you'll send us comments and questions that you would like us to address in future issues. Also, we encourage you to forward our newsletters to others who might be interested in learning more about Hallowell Connections. - Melissa Orlov, Newsletter Editor
Q: I'm marooned in a family full of people who have ADD. My husband has it. My two children have it. My father-in-law has it. Should I just give up now?
A: It is hard, no doubt about that. You have to watch for the following traps the "non-ADD savior" can fall into:
1. Don't take on the job of doing everything for everybody else. Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should. In fact you shouldn't. You need to work with the others to help them learn how to do for themselves.
2. Don't go it alone. You need a family consultant, therapist or coach, at least until life gets stabilized and a routine develops. Then put your consultant on hold until things destabilize again, as they inevitably will.
3. Don't become humorless. If you lose your sense of humor, meltdown will ensue.
4. Don't lose a sense of what is possible. Given your family, it is probably not possible for certain expectations to be met. Better to change your expectations than to grind your teeth down to your gums trying to make things happen that won't.
By Dr. Ned Hallowell
By Rebecca Shafir, Hallowell Center, Sudbury
Anxiety is often brought on by "worry". Many of you have written us asking for tips on how to curb the anxiety associated with stress and worry. Many of these tips are from Dr. Hallowell's book "WORRY". These are ten of our favorite tips for putting worry in perspective:
1. All worry is not bad. Identify all the things you worry about and separate out the 'toxic to your health' worries from good worry. Good worry amounts to planning and problem solving. Toxic worry is unnecessary, repetitive, unproductive, paralyzing and life-defeating.
2. Exercise at least every other day. Exercise reduces accumulated noise and helps relax you.
3. Repeat the mantra "I'll fix what I can and then I'll put the rest out of my mind," when you feel anxious thoughts emerging.
4. Add structure to your life where you need it. Often disorganization and poor time management creates anxiety. To help get you on track and calm your stress, consider hiring an organization coach. The National Association of Professional Organizers (www.napo.net) has a listing of such coaches near you.
5. Reality-test your worry. Regain perspective. Share your worries with someone who should know if what you are worrying about makes sense or if you have exaggerated it. So many of our problems are the result of overactive imaginations.
6. Use humor. Make friends with amusing people, watch a Marx Brothers movie, tune into Comedy Central or a humorous sit-com. Humor restores perspective; toxic worry almost always entails a loss of perspective
7. Get plenty of sleep. One good way to fall asleep naturally is to focus on counting your breaths. Inhale on 2-3 counts and exhale on 5-6 counts. This relaxes you and gives you something neutral to think about.
8. Avoid watching too much TV or reading too many newspapers and magazines.
9. Never worry alone. You often find solutions to a problem when you talk it out with someone. The mere fact of putting it into words takes it out of the threatening realm of the imagination and puts it into a concrete, manageable form.
10. Develop connectedness in as many ways as you can - with family, friends, organizations or nature. Take up a hobby that could get you involved in a local group - birdwatching, cycling, walking etc. Consider volunteering for an organization that you care about.
These are just a few suggestions of ways to deal with anxiety; we hope you find them helpful. Keep in mind that if anxiety becomes overwhelming and/or prevents you or a loved one from enjoying the things in life that are normally enjoyable, it is a sign that professional help is needed.
School-related problems often increase for kids when they hit middle school because they are suddenly asked to be much more organized and classroom activities are frequently less physical in nature. To compound the problem, many middle schools have eliminated recess, which provides an outlet for the energy that many kids have (with and without ADHD!) and helps them focus.
The skills for dealing with changing classrooms and tracking homework are more difficult for kids with ADHD to learn than for other kids. These must be overtly taught so that grades and self esteem aren't affected. Using a private tutor or requesting assistance in this area from the middle school resource center right as 6th grade starts is an excellent idea. Also, don't be afraid ask teachers to check in with kids at the end of class to make sure they wrote down their assignment.
Some other tips for helping your middle schooler succeed include:
Dr. Hallowell has recently given several talks about helping kids with ADHD succeed in school. We have had many requests to make these talks "available to everyone" and so have created both CDs and DVDs. If you are interested in either one, please go to the link below.
Dr. John Ratey, co-author of Delivered from Distraction and author of The Users Guide to the Brain received PE4Life's National Excellence in Advocacy Award this week for his study of the effects of exercise on the brain. PE4life is the nation's leading advocate for quality physical education in the nation's communities and schools. "Dr Ratey's work provides the scientific support for what we've intuitively believed for decades: a student's ability to achieve academically is enhanced when he or she is physically fit," said Anne Flannery, president and CEO of PE4life. "His research helps prove that physical activity is a critical element in a well-rounded educational model."
"It turns out that exercise is one of the most effective treatments for mild to moderate anxiety, depression and ADHD," says Dr. Ratey. "It has to do with the chemicals exercise releases in the brain...though it turns out that it is not endorphins!" Dr. Ratey will be teaching a 6 week teleseminar in the fall entitled "Harnessing the Psychiatric Effects of Exercise" on the topic. For more information, go to the link below.
For more information about PE4 life, go to their website at www.pe4life.com
There has been a great deal of confusion about various advisory panel recommendations to the FDA regarding warning labels on ADHD medications. Psychiatric News recently published an article that clarifies the state of affairs regarding label warnings. To get the latest information, as well as a link to the FDA's analysis of adverse events with ADHD medications, go to the link below.
Dr. Hallowell and others recommend getting plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet because they are good for your brain and have also shown benefit to those with ADHD. We have recently been introduced to some tasty cereals and cereal bars that are a great way to add Omega-3s to your diet that we thought you might like to know about.
Zoe's Foods offers granola, cereal "O's" (that kids love!) and bars that are all natural, taste great (or at least we think so!) and offer 800-1300 mg of ALA omega-3s per serving. For more information about their products and where you can find them, go to the link below.
Laura McLaughlin, M.Ed., L.M.F.T. is the newest addition to the Hallowell Center team. Laura received her master's in counseling from the University of Massachusetts at Boston. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Over the last 15 years, Laura has worked with youth and families in residential, community, home-based, and outpatient settings. Laura encourages a focus on solutions that foster resilience and strengthen understanding. In addition to individual counseling, of particular interest to her practice is adoption, pre-marital, and couples therapy. She will provide her services at the Sudbury and Andover Hallowell Centers. The following is an interview with Laura:
What attracted you to Couples and Family Counseling? I have always marveled at the resilience of the family system. The relationships we respond to are those that fill us with emotion. Through joy and conflict comes solidarity. No family is without passion and intensity of some sort, and I find working with every family an exciting and joyful experience.
What kind of interventions do you provide? I was trained systemically, so I naturally look for cyclical patterns. Interventions are very family specific, however identifying moments of opportunity where a shift, connection, or change can be made is usually done just prior to the point of pattern repetition. I sometimes compare family therapy to a game of "double-dutch". As a family therapist, you have to know when to step in and when to step out. Timing is everything.
What about family communication? Helping families identify what works and what doesn't is the first step to interrupting less effective methods of communication. Once family members practice how to disarm one another, demonstrate their empathy, and inquire with one another gently, self-expression becomes rewarding. As a result, old patterns are often quickly recognized and self-corrected over time.
Can you speak a bit about ADD and couples work? If one or more partners have ADD, synchronicity is often a theme in couples work. Again, timing is everything. Every couple must negotiate the balance of responsibilities and organize the family's daily routines; however for those of us with ADD, being or feeling out of step with the rest of the family can often be a source of conflict. A combination of coaching, skill building, communication, and contracting is usually a practical first approach.
How do you deal with sensitive topics in the company of children? I prefer to meet with parent(s) for an initial evaluation. Unusually sensitive topics can be reviewed during parent sessions. Sessions including younger children are often reserved for issues pertaining to shared family dynamics and solution focused discussions. During times of loss and/or separation, specific and delicate information must be shared with children. The initial evaluation and periodic parent sessions are often one way to facilitate careful disclosure.
Do you provide individual counseling? Yes. In addition to couples and family therapy, I also work with individuals. When working with adults and adolescents, enhancing self-esteem, managing anger, increasing the frequency and duration of effective communication, and implementing organizational techniques are often key to problem solving and promoting academic, occupational or personal success. Whatever the issue, I often rely on an eclectic mix of cognitive behavioral therapy, compassion, and common sense.
Laura McLaughlin can be reached at 978-287- 0810.