What happens when we’re hungry?


Hunger can affect more than our mood
It can also influence our willingness to engage in risky behavior

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Hunger and the Brain

You have probably noticed that being hungry can affect your overall mood and feelings of well-being — and that hungry people are often difficult to deal with.

Memes all over the internet frequently
describe that feeling as “hangry.”

But did you know that hunger can also influence the way you respond and make decisions, encouraging you to engage in risky behavior? This reaction can be seen in a wide range of species in the animal kingdom.

Experiments conducted on the fruit fly, Drosophila, by scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology have shown that hunger not only modifies behavior, but also changes the use of neural pathways, revealing that hunger affects decision making and risk perception.

For those who don’t understand why scientists bother studying fruit flies:

  1. the fruit fly is a wonderful genetic model organism for circuit neuroscience (studying connections) and gene/behavior influences.  (Model organisms that are especially valuable when similar early-stage research simply could not be carried out in humans);
  2. their extremely short life-cycle allows research labs to observe effects over many generations quickly – in an extremely cost-effective manner;
  3. their small size means that the equivalent of the entire population of a city like New York could be kept on a measly stack of trays in a single laboratory
  4. scientists and labs usually don’t have to overcome a public perception problem.  Except for incredibly ignorant comments like the ones made by Sarah Palin when she complained loudly about “totally wasted research funds” during the 2008 Presidential campaign, very few educated people rally to object to research on fruit flies.

Related posts:
A Lesson for Sarah Palin on Fruit Fly Research – YouTube
Mapping behavior in the fruit fly brain — ScienceDaily

DID YOU KNOW THAT, among other things . . .

…they can be used to study sleep — that coffee keeps them awake, and that old fruit flies sleep less than young ones?

…the first “jet lag genes” were found in these flies, which aided in their discovery in humans?

…the first learning genes were discovered in fruit flies and operate in the same manner in humans?

…in fact, about 75% of human disease genes have a recognizable match in fruit flies? (i.e., “Homologous” – having the same or a similar correspondence, as in relative position, structure and/or function)

…since they can get drunk and addicted to alcohol, they have been immensely helpful in addiction research?

…they have advanced our understanding of cancer, epilepsy & Alzheimer’s enormously and can be used to help develop future medicines for these conditions?

…they have functionally similar stem cells and have taught us a great deal about their behavior and regulation?

…they lead the way in dietary research, helping science discover what to eat for healthy ageing?

…Drosophila is the insect behind 10 Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine?

Source: Why the fly? | Manchester Fly Facility

And NOW they are helping scientists study the effect of hunger and nutrition on behavior.

Field observations and studies of other lab animals have shown us that the willingness of many animals to take risks increases or decreases depending on whether or not the animal is hungry. (For example, a predator in the wild only hunts more dangerous prey when it is close to starvation.)

In recent years, this behavior has even been documented in humans: one study showed that hungry subjects took significantly more financial risks than their colleagues who had eaten their fill.

In addition, it seems that the fruit fly, Drosophila, changes its behavior depending on its nutritional state.

But how does that work in the brain,
and what can we learn from it?

Read more of this post

November 2017 Mental Health Awareness


November includes N-24 Awareness Day

Along with Advocacy & Awareness
for many other mental health (and related) issues

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part of the ADD/ADHD Cormidities series

I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.
Edward Everett Hale

Each month is peppered with a great many special dates dedicated to raising awareness about important emotional, physical and psychological health issues that intersect, exacerbate or create problems with cognition, mood and attention management.

ALL great blogging prompts!

As October comes to a close, it is almost time for a brand new month filled with days designed to remind us all to help spread awareness and acceptance to help overcome the STIGMA associated with “invisible disabilities” and cognitive challenges — as well as to remain grateful for our own mental and physical health as we prepare for the upcoming holidays.

Mark your blogging calendars . . .

. . . and start drafting your own awareness posts to share here. Scroll down for the November dates, highlighting important days and weeks that impact mental health — as well as those remaining active for the entire month. (The calendar is not my own, btw, so not all mental health awareness events linked below it are included ON the calendar.)

If I’ve missed anything, please let me know in the comments below so that I can add it to the list.

Attention Bloggers: If you write (or have written) an article that adds content to any of these categories — or other mental health related days in November — please leave us all a link in the comment section. I will move it into its appropriate place on the list in the article, or into the Related Content section.

And please feel free to reblog this post if time runs short.

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Habit Formation BASICS


Understanding the HABIT habit
How your BRAIN wants you to do it

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Habits, Decisions, Attention Series

Your Brain is Habit-Building Friendly

© Creative Commons on Wikipedia from Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator

Habits are patterns – and the human brain has evolved to be a pattern-recognition machine.

As we learned in an earlier post in the Habit Series, Brain-based Habit Formation, a part of our brain called the basal ganglia keeps track of those links that are built through repetition.

It’s important to know and remember that pathways remain available for reactivation as long as the basal ganglia are intact.

That can be BOTH good news and bad.

  • It’s good news if we drop out the activities that lead to the development of a behavior we want in our lives and decide we want to try again.
  • It’s bad news when we stop paying attention to building our new habit and backslide into the non-productive ones before we know it.

In an MIT report of a 2005 study, Dana Alliance member Ann Graybiel wrote encouragingly,

“We knew that neurons can change their firing patterns when habits are learned, but it is startling to find that these patterns reverse when the habit is lost, only to recur again as soon as something kicks off the habit again.”

To underscore what we covered in Part-1 of the entire Habit Series,
Habits, Decisions and Attention . . .

In a 2011 Associated Press article, Dr. Nora Volkow explained that most individuals assign more value to an immediate reward than a long-term goal, based on what science reports about the preferences and behaviors of study participants.

Those study subjects probably represent most human beings fairly closely.

——————–
Dr. Volkow is a Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives [Dana Foundation] member,
and director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA]

She goes on to say that the pleasure our brain gets from repeatedly reinforcing the immediate reward is transformed over time into a habit through the processes modulated by the neurotransmitter dopamine (which long-time readers may remember from Brain-based Habit Formation: the Dopamine Pleasure/Reward System).

Volkow explains that the dopamine-rich part of the brain named the striatum (the major input station of the basal ganglia system), “memorizes rituals and routines that are linked to getting a particular reward. Eventually, those environmental cues trigger the striatum to make some behaviors almost automatic.”

Hold that thought!

Especially for ADD/EFD readers

Many of you already know that one of the reasons why stimulant medication is effective is that it increases the bioavailability of dopamine, the amount available for your brain to use.

Impaired dopamine metabolism in many of the citizens of Alphabet City almost approaches reward-deficiency syndrome [RDS]which is the main reason why consistent and immediate positive feedback is frequently required to reward our ongoing efforts and keep us on task.

Related Post: Virtue is NOT its own Reward

Volkow’s research is great news for us, however – it means that we can learn to manipulate our own dopamine production, even without medication!

Releasing more dopamine through the brain’s automatic response to performing positive habitual activities allows our brains to feel increasingly more pleasure.

That serves as wind beneath our wings as we develop even MORE new habits – as long as we keep it up. The additional dopamine will help with intentional focus overall, too!

No need for the rest of you reading to feel left out, however.

Creating habits that get us where we want to go eventually becomes its own reinforcement no matter how our brains were originally wired — as long as we don’t continually reactivate our bad habits.

Like attracts like

As explained in Habits, Decisions & Attention, Keystone Habits are habitual behaviors that have what is sometimes termed “a multiplier effect,” serving as a CUE for additional habits in harmony with the original set of actions.

By taking advantage of the multiplier effect of Keystone Habits, attracting the formation of positive changes congruent with the original habits, less productive habits will be naturally “pushed aside” by the new pathways created by the new habits — unless we continue to reactivate the old pathways.

That’s the reason why I gave you the final assignment in the previous habits post: “identify what you want to create instead.”  That will be step-one in determining which habits will be congruent with your keystone habits.

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Why you might have problems reading longer articles


What you “see” is not simply up to your eyes
The sensory input must be interpreted correctly by the brain

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Another Sensory Integration post

“What if you’re receiving the same sensory information as everyone else, but your brain is interpreting it differently?

Then your experience of the world around you will be radically different from everyone else, maybe even painfully so.” ~ Temple Grandin, Autistic Brain

And sometimes not

In my last article on Sensory Sensitivies, [Turtlenecks and Wool – Yea or Nay?] I explained a bit about temperature and tactile sensitivites that most of us probably believe are simply our own little quirks and preferences.

With examples and stories, I hoped to illustrate that sensory integration issues are not nearly as rare as you might believe, even though we hear most about them in the Autism Spectrum population.

“Studies of nonautistic children have shown that more than half have a sensory symptom, that one in six has a sensory problem significant enough to affect his daily life; and that one in twenty should be formally diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, meaning that the sensory problems are chronic and disruptive.” ~ Temple Grandin, Autistic Brain

Sensory Scrambling at the far end

Most people “can’t imagine a world where scratchy clothes make you feel like you’re on fire or where a siren sounds ‘like someone drilling a hole in [their] skull.’ ” ~ Temple Grandin. Autistic Brain

“The world isn’t coming in right. So autistic children end up looking wild.”
~ Temple Grandin. Animals in Transition, p. 192

But most people never dream that struggles with concentration or reading could possibly be the result of a sensory integration issue.

The Paul Revere of Sensory Integration

Dr. Temple Grandin was born in Boston in 1947, diagnosed autistic in 1950. She was four years old before she began to speak. Her mother, advised to institutionalize Temple as a child, fought instead to educate her.

Despite the fact that Temple was misunderstood and bullied for most of her life, and despite the fact that she was dismissed as “impossible to educate,” she went on to receive a Ph.D. in Animal Husbandry.  Her ideas and designs have revolutionized that particular industry.

Autism understanding and awareness took off, thanks in no small part to her books and speaking engagements. She is now a leading expert on Autistic Spectrum disorders and Sensory Integration issues [SI].

As the result of a wonderful movie about her life, more people are aware of Temple and her story than ever, able to understand that scrambled sensory processing is a huge problem for individuals on the autistic spectrum.

Few people are aware, however, that scrambled sensory processing affects many people who are otherwise considered “neurotypical” (i.e., brain “normal”) – to various degrees and in various sensory modalities. More than a few have been misdiagnosed with “learning disabilities” or other cognitive problems.

Even fewer people are aware of Helen Irlen, who has been working successfully with VISUAL scrambles for decades now – in many of those different population samples otherwise considered “neurotypical.”

I’ve been ringing the Irlen bell since I included Irlen Syndrome/scotopic sensitivity in the Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions module in my manual for the world’s first ADD-specific coach training (the only one for eight years) – over 20 years ago now.

Her method is still considered somewhat controversial, despite the fact that we now have functional brain scans that could be used to underscore her claims “scientifically,” and despite the fact that it is supported by experts in the fields of education, psychology, medicine, ophthalmology, and neuroscience around the world.

Read more of this post

Head Injuries – Acquired ADD?


Head Injuries Affect Attention & Focus
whether the injury was mild or severe

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Brain-based Coaching Series

Boing-oing-oing-oing . . . OUCH!

As long as there have been humans, there have been hits to the head. Some of them were a actually caused by those humans!

Much attention has been paid to sports-concussions and severe forms of traumatic brain injury (TBI), especially those resulting in concussions and coma.

The milder impacts, such as those from falling off a bicycle or a ladder, the jolt from a low-speed car accident or taking a weak punch in a fistfight are far more common.

These milder injuries may not entail losing consciousness — more likely to result in a slightly dazed feeling or a brief lack in responsiveness before recovering — have gotten the attention they deserve only relatively recently

They ALL damage the brain, however.

“New data suggests blows to the head are on the rise among U.S. adults and kids, but definitive diagnosis remains elusive.” ~ Scientific American Mind

Questions remain as to how long it takes to recover, to what degree and how quickly each piece of the cognitive puzzle comes back on line reliably, as well as how to identify which brain injuries are likely to recover and why some never do.

Part of the challenge in understanding these injuries is how varied they can be.  But it is no small problem.

Making things worse still, suffering even one concussion elevates the risk of suffering another and may make it all the more challenging to recover from future damage.

Here’s a scary statistic: According to an article found on the Scientific American blogsite, the average a 10-year old can experience as many as 240 hits to the head in a single football season.

Related Post: How Do Brains Get Damaged?  Is YOURS?

Troubles Often Persist

Even when a brain-scan cannot pinpoint specific areas of damage, months after a concussion patients may still have lingering symptoms, including an inability to concentrate as well as headaches — even when initial brain scans reveal nothing amiss.

Dr. Jennifer Marin, a Pediatric emergency physician at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh says, “Explaining the concept of cognitive rest [for recovering from injury] is difficult when you can’t show an image of how the brain has been injured.”

At the hospital, she says, “we stabilize patients but then they go home and a lot of them will experience complications down the line.”

What KIND of “complications?”

Attentional deficits and reduced speed of information processing have been found consistently, in even mild head injuries, despite lack of gross deficits in intelligence or memory (Bohnen, Jolles, Twijnstra, Mellink, & Wijnen, 1995).

These deficits are frequently the most persisting cognitive complaints (Chan, 2001).

From an article on ScienceDirect from the Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology (Volume 21, Issue 4, May 2006, Pages 293-296):

Head injury typically results in diffuse damage (not in one specific spot) that produces a reduction in information processing capacity.

This processing capacity has been broadly described as the number of operations the brain can carry out at the same time.

Individuals with mild head injury demonstrate problems when they are required to analyze or process more information than they can handle simultaneously (Gronwall, 1989).

Decreased information processing has been posited to be primarily due to problems with attention (Kay, Newman, Cavallo, Ezrachi, & Resnick, 1992; Szymanski & Linn, 1992)

In addition, fatigue and/or stress, common following head injuries, have been shown to further compromise the processing speed of those who have incurred even a mild head injury (Ewing, McCarthy, Gronwall, & Wrightson, 1980; Wood, Novack, & Long, 1984).

Related Post: ABOUT Processing Speed

Or perhaps it’s because of slowed processing speed?

Research conducted by Ponsford and Kinsella (1992) demonstrated that the difficulty in performing a sustained attention task experienced by individuals who have suffered even a mild head injury may result more from a slowed speed of processing than from attentional deficits.

Fortunately, even though the speed of performance is reduced for head-injured participants, no significant reduction exists in terms of accuracy of performance (Stuss et al., 1985).

Related Posts:
Processing slower or more to think about?
Processing Efficiency is all about Juggling

REGARDLESS of the underlying problem, the effects on behavior are very much the same as the struggles of those with a particular Executive Functioning Disorder known as Attention Deficit Disorder.

Let’s take a look at what that means.

Read more of this post

D.G. Kaye on growing self-esteem


Working through the past
to live powerfully in the present

Guest Blogger:  © Debby Gies (author D.G. Kaye)

©Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Returning the favor

In mid-August I was honored by a request to write an article for blogger Debby Gies, (author D.G. Kaye), so that she could spend her time getting her latest book ready for publication.

I chose to focus on the brain-based benefits to those of us who take frequent vacations between the pages of a book.

(CLICK HERE to read the entire article on her site)

I had a wonderful time putting something together for the writing/reading followers of Debby’s blog.  However, I made her promise that she would write something suitable for the readers of ADDandSoMuchMORE.com — as soon as she had a bit of that illusive free-time that seems to be in short supply for most of us.

And so she deliberately set aside time in her super-busy life to return the favor. I was thrilled when I discovered that she decided to feature self-esteem, one of the topics she covers in “Words We Carry,” a wonderfully heartfelt book I devoured on my Kindle and recently reviewed.

Because so many of us in Alphabet City have heard so many times that “we’re not doing it right,” we frequently develop low self-esteem as a result. A few of us struggle with it still.  I’ll let Debby explain a bit about how she battled that particular demon below.

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Developing those habits


How are you coming
with your new habits?
Did you take my advice to take advantage of
the context change of September?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Habits, Decision, Attention Series

Autumn Attempts tend to stick

In my last Habits article I talked about taking advantage of context change to jump start the habit-change and habit-building process.

I also disclosed that September is one of the best times to begin the year anew.

Since most of us have 12 to 18 years of school-starts in our background, we are primed for change and growth as the leaves begin to turn.

By understanding the process of habit formation, it is possible to develop systems in your life BEFORE you reach the point where you flake out on yourself, jettison the attempt to build a new habit or three, and conclude that nothing you try will ever work for you.

  • I hope you took the time to answer the questions at the end of the prior post (repeated below for those of you who did not) because that information will be helpful as we move forward.
  • If you follow along as the Series continues to develop — and actually DO the exercises suggested — by next September you just might have a brand new life.

October is not too late!

It’s still fall, and the crisp weather will still promote the ease of change if you start now — before winter arrives, signaling your brain that you blew it again, making change more difficult than it needs to be.

Since science now believes they know why habits develop, how they change, and how to build and rebuild them to our exact specifications, we can use that information to change just about anything we want.

We can, that is, as long as we understand what they know about how it all works — how patterns and pattern-recognition impact the the human brain.

If we work WITH our brain instead of against it, it is possible for any one of us to transform our entire lives through the power of brain-based habit formation.

  • What might be possible in YOUR life if you understood the neurology as well as the psychology of habits and the way patterns work within our lives, businesses, and social groups?
  • What if you understood how to apply the brain-based information you’ve read here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com (to counter some of the old-school, out of date, “standard” advice about motivation and habit formation that’s been around for decades) — so that you could tweak the information that dominates the info-market to make it all work for YOU?

Take a moment to really think about it:

What might your life look like one short year from now if you actually applied what you learned here, step by step?

  • Would you be healthier?  Wealthier?  Happier with your marriage and family life?
  • Would you finally find the time to write that novel, or start that new business, or to take the necessary steps to move into that lakeside house you’ve always dreamed about?
  • What WOULD you do, tweaking the old expression slightly, if you understood how to set it up so that you could not fail?

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Turtlenecks & Wool: Yea or Nay?


Are YOU “sensory defensive”
Do YOUR little quirks & preferences (or those of a loved one)
have a brain-based explanation?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Comorbidities Series

Sensory sensitivities

Regular readers already know of my intense disregard for summer. I can’t deal with heat.  Not only am I extremely uncomfortable, practically on the verge of passing out from heatstroke, I seem to lose the ability to think.  My brain wilts.

As October is a week old already – Indian Summer begone! – I am practically giddy as I begin to dig out my woolly turtleneck sweaters and the boots last seen before the weather turned beastly hot.

I am eagerly anticipating the arrival of the day when I can put away ALL my summer clothes and start wearing coats and gloves, swaddling my neck in long wool scarves – venturing out once again, in real clothes designed for grown-up bodies!

Seriously, have you ever really looked at summer clothing?

  • Limp and tattered rags of sweat-drenched cotton passing for tops;
  • Belly-button baring pants, whacked off at fanny level;
  • And shoes that are barely more than soles with straps exposing far too many toes in serious need of some grooming attention.

On the other hand . . .

More than a few people I know are practically in mourning, dreading the coming of the “bone-chilling” season that, for them, has absolutely nothing to recommend it.

  • They hate wearing shoes at all, and boots make them feel like a Budweiser Clydesdale.
  • They can barely breath in turtlenecks and neck scarves.
  • Wool makes them scratch themselves practically bloody.

You might be tempted to believe that we have little in common – but you’d be WRONG.  We are each members of the Sensory Defensive club – at the far ends of the spectrum: heat, for me, and cold for them.

But sensory defensiveness is not confined to temperature.
It can show up in any number of arenas, including:
sound, sight, touch, smell and taste —
as well as vestibular/proprioceptive (position, balance & movement)

What most people don’t understand is that these sensory sensitivities are usually the result of “faulty brain-wiring” — a sensory integration issue.

In addition to many individuals born with ADD, anywhere along the autistic-spectrum, or other individuals with attentional challenges, sensory sensitivities can also be a consequence of brain damage [TBI/ABI], and often accompanies PTSD.

Even some professionals who work with PTSD misunderstand the loud noise/startle response. It may well have a psychologically-based component that triggers flashbacks but, at base, it’s frequently a neurological issue. The sensory integration pathways have often been scrambled and must be healed or reconstructed.

But back to my friends and our clothing preferences

In addition to our shared inability to tolerate certain temperatures (comfortably, or at all), some of my summer-loving buddies seem to have an additional issue to contend with: tactile defensiveness – and that is what this particular article is going to address.

Read more of this post

HELP needed and offered #Flash4Storms


Every Little Bit Helps
Why do we discount our efforts when we can’t make a larger splash?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the What Kind of World do YOU Want Series

A human tendency?

I am often daunted as much as impressed by the generous offers of help that follow in the wake of a tragedy:

  • sending their personal planes to Puerto Rico to bring those who need chemotherapy to hospitals where they can be taken care of, like Rapper Pitbull;
  • delivering multiple cartons of food and flying down to prepare 8,000 meals a day to those in need, like Chef José Andrés;
  • over-the-top donations that amount to more than I make in a decade donated by more than a few celebrities.

What help could I possibly be?

It seems endemic

I have a similar reaction when a friend is ill and needs some cheering up.  If I can’t give them an entire afternoon, I am reluctant to make even a ten minute phone call.

Never mind why, I even feel guilty when I can’t take my puppy on the l-o-n-g walk I know he prefers on rain-threatening days when I waited too long to get him outside and have to rush him along to get us both safely inside while we’re still relatively dry!

And I KNOW I’m not the only one with that kind of limited-thinking reaction.  I even see it in the more than generous blogging community.

What about taking a few moments each to read the posts of our virtual friends, letting them know our reaction in a comment, when time itself is in short supply for all of us?

How many of us simply “like” them all from the Reader when we we lack the minutes that turn to hours to read and comment on more than one or two – instead of doing whatever little we can and giving ourselves a pat on the back for doing at least that much?

I almost did it again


Reading a post by D. Wallace Peach,  Help: Flash Fiction #Flash4Storms, I learned that another writer, Sarah Brentyn is donating $1 for every flash fiction story written around the theme of Help.

Diana [Myths of the Mirror] has pledged to match that amount.

Before I give you the details of the challenge, I have to ‘fess up to my first reaction:

  • I don’t write fiction.  And my second:
  • Even if I did, I’m sure I could never be brief enough to write flash fiction with a limited word count. (Regular readers will be happy to second that thought, I’m sure!)

I’m patting myself on the back that I decided that there was, after all, some little something I could do anyway.  I could help spread the word to all the writers who follow ADDandSoMuchMORE.com in a post explaining WHY we tend to do nothing when we can only do less than we’d like to be able to do.

But FIRST, the details of the challenge . . .

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Sleep Timing and Time Tangles


Thoughts about TIME,
Attention Management and Focus

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T, MCC, SCAC

TangledPyramid

TANGLES . . .

Piecing together all of the elements impacting our ability to live a life on purpose is a complex puzzle that is often little more than a mass of tangles.

Something as seemingly simple as SLEEP, for example, seems especially tangled when we are looking at the impact of chronorhythms (brain/body-timing, relative to earth timing cues).

Understanding is further complicated when we lack familiarity with certain words – especially scientific terminology.

We have to call objects and concepts something, of course — and each piece of the what-we-call-things puzzle has a mitigating effect on every other.

Unfortunately, new vocabulary often delays the aha! response, perhaps obfuscating recognition of relationships entirely – in other words, those times when we can’t see the forest for the leaves, never mind the trees!

The need to become familiar with the new lingo is also what I call one of those tiered tasks. It pushes short-term memory to its limit until the new terms become familiar. That, in turn, creates complexities from a myriad of “in-order-to” objectives inherent in the interrelationships of what is, after all, a distributed process.

See also: The Importance of Closing Open Loops:
Open Loops, Distractions and Attentional Dysregulation

Connections

There is something slippery in this sleep-timing interweaving I can’t quite put my finger on; something that no one else is looking at – at least no one published anyplace I have been able to find!!

Melatonin + corticosteroid release + light cues + core body temperature + gene expression + protein synthesis (and more!) combine to produce individual chronorhythms.

Individual chronorhythms influence not only sleep timing, but ALSO one’s internal “sense of time” — each of which further influences the effectiveness of other domains.

They do not operate in isolation — even though we usually focus on them in isolation, hoping to fully understand their individual contributions.

Here’s the kicker: prior associations

Whether we like it or not, the underlying, less conscious interpretations we associate with whatever words we use “ride along” with the denotative (dictionary) meaning of every single word.

In addition, the moment the terms become integrated into our understanding of the topic, they boundary the conversation — in other words, tethering it to old territory rather than opening new vistas. (See the linguistic portion of What’s in a Name?  for a bit about how and why).

Where we begin biases our understanding of new concepts we move on to study, which skews the inter-relationship.  Not only that, the relationship between the extent of our understanding of each piece unbalances our understanding of the whole.  Or so it seems to me.

Ask Any Mechanic

mechanicUnderHood

Setting automobile spark-plug firing efficiently affects engine performance which, in turn, affects a number of other things — gas mileage and tire wear among them.

I doubt that anyone has ever studied it “scientifically,” but every good mechanic has observed the effect in a number of arenas.  What we can “prove” is that the engine runs raggedly before spark-plug gapping and smoothly afterwards.

I doubt the entire inter-relationship has been quantified to metrics, so The Skeptics may still scoff at our definition of proof, even while the car-obsessed among them will take their engines to be “buffed.”

It makes me crazy!

To my mind, the overfocus on quantification has become its own problem.  Yes, co-occurance does not prove causation, but I prefer a more observational approach day to day.  At least, I do not discount it.

“Doctor, it hurts when I do this/don’t do that! is ignoring deeper problems, no doubt, but at least it avoids a prescription for pain medication that may well create a problem somewhere else.

But back to sleep timing and inner time sense — problematic for most of us here in Alphabet City.

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Oct. 2017 Mental Health Awareness


October is ADD/ADHD Awareness Month

Along with Advocacy & Awareness
for many other mental health issues —
this month especially

World Mental Health Day is October 10th

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part of the ADD/ADHD Cormidities series

Mark your blogging calendar

Each year is peppered with a great many special dates dedicated to raising awareness about important emotional, physical and psychological health issues. Scroll down for a list highlighting important days and weeks that impact mental health.

Also included on the list below are awareness and advocacy reminders for health problems that intersect, exacerbate or create problems with cognition, mood and attention management.

If I’ve missed anything, please let me know in the comments below so that I can add it to the list.

Attention Bloggers: If you write (or have written) an article that adds content to any of these categories, feel free to leave a link in the comment section and I will move it into its appropriate category.

(Keep it to one link/comment or you’ll be auto-spammed and I’ll never see it TO approve)


Increase your ADD/ADHD Awareness

Many attentional challenges are NOT genetic

The attentional challenges you will most frequently hear or read about are experienced by individuals diagnosed with one of the ADD/ADHD varietals, usually associated with a genetic component today — at least by those who do their research before ringing in.

Related Post: ADD Overview-101

However, NOT ALL attentional & cognitive deficits are present from birth, waiting for manifestations of a genetic propensity to show up as an infant grows oldernot by a long shot!

Almost everyone experiences situational deficits of attention and cognition any time the number of events requiring our attention and focus exceeds our ability to attend.

Situational challenges are those transitory lapses that occur whenever our ability to attend is temporarily impairedwhen there are too many items competing for focus at the same time.

As I began in Types of Attentional Deficits, regardless of origin or age of onset, problems with attention and cognition are accompanied by specific brain based bio-markers, the following in particular:

  • neuro-atypical changes in the pattern of brain waves,
  • the location of the area doing the work of attention and cognition, and
  • the neural highways and byways traveled to get the work done.

In addition to the challenges that accompany neuropsychiatric issues and age-related cognitive decline, a currently unknown percentage of attentional deficits are those that are the result of damage to the brain.

Many ways brains can be damaged

  • Some types of damage occur during gestation and birth
    (for example, the result of substances taken or falls sustained during pregnancy, or an interruption of the delivery of oxygen in the birth process);
  • Others are the result of a subsequent head injury caused by an accident or contact sports
    (since TBIs often involve damage to the tips of the frontal lobes or shearing of white-matter tracts associated with diagnostic AD(h)D);
  • Still others result from the absorption or ingestion of neurotoxic substances; and
  • A great many are riding the wake of damage caused by stroke, physical illnesses and their treatment protocols and medications.

Still More Examples:

Cognitive lapses and attentional struggles frequently occur when the brain is temporarily impaired or underfunctioning due to:

  • Medication, alcohol or other substances
  • Grief or other strong emotional responses
  • Stress, especially prolonged stress
  • Sleep deprivation

Stay tuned for more articles about attentional struggles and attention management throughout October.

NOW let’s take a look at what else for which October is noted.

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If music be the food of health, play ON!


How is music processed?
How might we use it to support memory & brain health?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Source: MedicalNewsToday

Music and Physical Health

In last week’s post, an original Tallis Steelyard tale from author Jim Webster, we saw how music awakened the soul of a woman who was struggling with dementia, barely alert until called by the song.

As I noted at the end:
Music has been well documented to remain in the minds of Alzheimer’s patients long after other memories and much of their Executive Functioning capabilities have faded.

Patients often retain memories of well-loved songs, which gives them a great deal of pleasure, and some can still play instruments. The description of life flooding back into formerly vacant eyes in response to music has been reported repeatedly.

Medical researchers have long noted that listening to or playing music can result in changes in our bodies, regardless of our age or current state of mental alertness, however.

For example, lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been observed in the presence of music. Better sleep and a lowered heart rate are associated with listening to music as well.

Even when you are a bit out of sorts, don’t you feel better immediately when a song comes on that reminds you of a particularly happy memory?

Science rings in

Dr. Charles Limb is a musician and surgeon who specializes in cochlear implants at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. He has been researching how our brain makes that happen. He and his team analyzed neurological responses to a variety of music, especially jazz and hip-hop.

In studies with magnetic resonance imaging [MRI], they have been particularly interested in finding out which areas of the brain “light up” when jazz musicians are improvising or rappers are “freestyling.”

The Universal Language?

They observed that the areas of the brain activated when jazz players are improvising are actually the language centers of the brain (the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior superior temporal gyrus).

When rappers were freestyling with their eyes closed within the MRI scanner, the researchers observed major activity in the visual and motor coordination areas of the brain.

  • Connection to movement centers certainly makes sense, if you think about it. Since rappers are usually moving when they rap, those areas are likely to be brain-linked.
  • But the visual areas?  Hmmmmmm . . . neurolinked to a video perhaps, or choreography?

Seeing when you listen

Haven’t you noticed that when you listen to music your brain sends you visual information as well — a flash of the club where you first danced to the tune, or the face of your partner when it came on the radio, right before you kissed for the first time?

Some people imagine scenes of their own private movie as they hear certain orchestral arrangements. Others report seeing abstract colors and shapes that flow and change with any music they hear. Maybe you see a few moments of a particular marketing video?

I challenge anyone who’s ever watched one of Michael Jackson’s music videos to listen to that track on the radio without at least a flash or two of a moving image!

Even in a Scanner

The brain seems to call upon its language, visual and motor coordination mechanisms when imagining and responding creatively to music both, even when the participants are lying still, eyes closed, and within a scanner.

In fact, Dr. Limb’s team found that the areas of the brain that were formerly associated with interpreting music – the angular gyrus and the supra marginal gyrus, which process semantic information (meaning, vocabulary, etc.) – are deactivated while musicians are improvising.

So what does that indicate about memory and healthy brain aging?

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September is the BEST time for what activity?


Forming or Changing a HABIT
and setting new goals!
Don’t wait for New Years Resolutions

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Habits, Decisions & Attention Series

New year, new goals

Somebody needs to write a new anthem: The kids are back in school!!  (My brain wants to sing it to the tune of The Boys are Back in Town)

Except for our under-appreciated, overworked teachers, most parents begin yearning for September long before July is in their rear view mirrors.

As much as they look forward to more family time during the school year, most have forgotten how having the youngsters at home all day tends to make a shambles of their schedules.

But the teachers are aware of something that the rest of us tend to overlook . . .

September really begins the New Year

I don’t care how old you are, unless you were home schooled or spent your younger years in full-time boarding school, most of us feel a fresh gust of wind beneath our wings at the start of every school year.  That tends to be the case even for those of us who don’t have kids at home anymore – or never had kids at home (old habits die hard).

  • Few of us complain about the early appearance of new notebooks and school supplies in the stores nearly as much as we kvetch about shelves of early Jack-o-Lanterns, Pilgrims, Turkeys and Christmas sparklies.
  • Many of us are as pleased by wandering the aisles to replenish our supplies of journals and pens as the kiddies who are excited to see the latest in backpacks.
  • And many folks fill the first few pages of those brand new journals with brand new goals for the brand new “school year” – an old habit reactivated.

Those folks and the teachers are aware of something
that the rest of us would do well to keep in mind . . .

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Of Kings and Kindness


A Tallis Steelyard Tale
Written especially for us by a popular & prolific author

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Story: © Jim Webster, all rights reserved

Mental Health and Fantasy?

In a blog conversation about his newest Tallis Steelyard tales, The Monster of Bell-Wether Gardens and other stories, author Jim Webster disclosed that he was about to launch a blog tour, sharing stories from and about his protagonist, Tallis Steelyard.

I commented that if he had anything mental health related I’d be happy to participate.

His response was, “I was wondering if anybody else had ever introduced mental health issues into Fantasy Comedy of Manners!”

Quick as a flash, he penned the story that debuts below!
I am honored to be able to host it here.

A little background

This episode picks up our hero following his previous adventure, which those of you who are curious will be able to find on Sue Vincent’s blog (Part I) and Chris Graham’s blog (Part II) — although everything you need to enjoy this story is complete right here, on the page below.

  1. Guest poet and raconteur: Tallis Steelyard – A Family Saga
  2. Playing the Game – Guest Post by, Tallis Steelyard…

I added a bit of formatting to the third part of the story here — for neurodiverse readers who find it difficult to stay focused on longer strings of similarly formatted text, but the author’s words are unchanged (British spellings included).

Let’s not quibble over American and English spellings as we sit back to read this delightful tale.

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The Laziest Exercise Tactic Believed to Work


Passive Heating:
The lazy-person’s way to get the benefits of exercise?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Source: iflscience site (augmented reblog)

Exercise is essential for body and brain health

I know that,
you
know that,
he, she and it knows that!! 

I doubt that there is anyone reading these words who does NOT know that.

  • How many books and blogs and gurus tout the importance of a regular exercise routine?
  • And how many times have how many of us sworn that we were gonna’ start tomorrow?
  • And do we DO that?  Not so much.

According to a study by Nuffield Health, 18% of us never exercise while 40% exercise less than once a month.

In an ideal world, says Grant Tosner, personal trainer and ambassador for Bio-Synergy: “We would follow government guidelines and exercise for 30 minutes at least five times a week.”

A mere 16% say they meet the guidelines.

Well guess what?

Some of us may have already been exercising 30 minutes practically every day — and we didn’t even know it!

We may have been exercising passively.

At least that’s what a recent study seems to indicate!

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Emergency Prep for lives that have A LOT of them!


When SHTF is a DAILY Occurrence . . .
and “Stuff Hits The Fan” repeatedly!

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
From the Executive Functioning Series

“Preparedness, when properly pursued, is a way of life,
not a sudden, spectacular program.” ~ Spencer W. Kimball

Time to revisit some older content . . .
(Updated content from a post originally published in February 2015)

Given what’s going in Texas, Louisiana and Florida during this Hurricane Season, there are a lot of “preparedness” articles to be found around the blogging universe these days.

THIS one’s a little different.

The first half of this article is a good disaster-prep reminder you probably will NOT see many other places – but the second half offers a bit of help toward preventing those “emergencies” in our everyday lives.

Lots to learn from the Survivalists

©Phillip Martin – artist/educator Found HERE

New to the acronym? “SHTF” is a Survivalist abbreviation for Stuff Hits The Fan (with another 4-letter “S” word replacing the one I used to keep things family-friendly).

As with any subgroup, Survivalists run the gamut from the extreme through the consumed by anxiety to the worried . . . all the way to the lower end of the scale: those who are merely cautious.

At base, many of them are no different from savers and planners in any other arena — except that Survivalists larder physical supplies and foodstuffs instead of cash reserves in more traditional savings formats.

They’ve lost faith in the system.

That’s something that many of us here in Alphabet City share with them.  Except the system we have a hard time trusting anymore is The Mental Health Care System which includes hospital administrators and health “professionals,” as well as the legislators charged with protecting the rights of the many in our society who have “invisible” disabilities.

It makes sense to me, given the probabilities,
that we ALL might be wise to expect the best
but prepare for the worst. just like those Survivalists.

Global catastrophe’s aside, the “worst” here in Alphabet City seems to happen A LOT more frequently than in the neurotypical population — and history has proven repeatedly that we can expect precious little help from the current state of the Mental Health [lack of an effective] System.

Let’s not spend time going over all of the ways in which the system is broken and desperately needs changing.  Despite the fact that I’ve been ringing that bell for over 25 years now – along with a great many other Mental Health advocates – things continue to worsen nonetheless.

Instead, let’s focus on what we might think about putting in place to, like good Scouts say, BE PREPARED.

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Moving Past PTSD triggers


Do we ever really heal from trauma?
What does “healing” really mean?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
adding to the Habits, Memory, EF, and PTSD Series

Responding to a comment

Right after I published the second part of one of my PTSD Awareness articles, author and blogger Chuck Jackson posted a comment that asked a question I couldn’t  answer at length in the comment format.

Do you ever recover fully from PTSD?

Chuck went on to add some context to his question:

Looking at your list of symptoms (mental and physical), if I was honest with myself, I would still mark yes to over fifty percent.

The majority of the time, I live a happy and enjoyable life. It is only during periods of anxiety or prolonged depression, do these symptoms raise their dirty head.

They are not debilitating, just very annoying.

So, for the most part, I suppose we could say that Chuck is essentially “healed.”

He has moved well beyond some pretty nasty stuff in his childhood (his healing journey shared in his stunning book about child abuse, “What Did I Do?).”

But I believe he is asking another, broader question with a much broader application:

Why am I not beyond all of my symptoms all of the time?

Real questions have real answers, so lets take a look at a couple of questions I’m sure we have all entertained at some point in our lives:

I’ll begin with a segment of my comment in answer to his question.

Forgetting is part of the process of memory too

“Forgetting” is still quite the mystery to scientists, even as they learn more about “remembering” – and that is really at the heart of Chuck’s question.

Most of us would prefer to have a way of “erasing” disturbing tracks laid down as the result of earlier experiences so that we can focus on and recall more positive/supportive reactions, thoughts and behaviors instead of disturbing reactions to PTSD triggers.

From an article I posted 3 years ago now,
Brain-Based Habit Formation:
~~~~~~

Any golf pro will tell you that eradicating their clients’ bad habits is the toughest challenge they face.

It’s much easier and quicker to coach someone to play par golf if they’ve never picked up a club than if they’ve been a bogey golfer for years.

Only the best golf pros understand why that is so and what to do to overcome it more quickly, however!

Brain-Based Habit Formation also explains that old pathways never actually get “deleted” — so unless the bogey golfer practices the new habits EVERY SINGLE TIME he picks up a club, he is likely to slip back into his old habits.

And every single time he “rehearses the old,” he deepens the “brain-grooves” of the habit he wants to eradicate.  In the same manner:

If you focus on your triggers and allow them to control you,
you are likely to find yourself back-sliding quickly.

What is needed is to link a new action to an old cue – to pull yourself gently but intentionally away from the old fears and other manifestations (symptoms) the moment you realize that you are “rehearsing the pain.”

So, in that sense only, I will tell you that,
at present, “PTSD” never really goes away.

NOW, let’s unpack that a bit – because that does NOT mean that you are going to have to suffer for the rest of your life. After all, as I said to Chuck, who cares whether “PTSD” goes away or not if it never troubles you!

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September 2017: Focus on Suicide Prevention


Awareness Day Articles ’round the ‘net
Depression, PTSD, Chronic Pain and more
– the importance of kindness & understanding
(and maybe an email to your legislators for MORE research funding?)

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

World Suicide Prevention Day – Monday, September 10, 2017 – every year, since 2003.

The introduction and Suicide Awareness section of this article is an edited reblog of the one I posted in September 2016.  Unfortunately, not much has changed in the past year.

Notice that my usual calendar is missing this month, to underscore the reality that those who commit suicide no longer have use for one.

Onward and upward?

“I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do the something I can do.” ~ Helen Keller

The extent of the mental health problem

Every single year approximately 44 million American adults alone — along with millions more children and adults around the world — struggle with “mental health” conditions.

They range from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ASD, OCD, PTSD, TBI/ABI to ADD/EFD and so-much-MORE.

Many of those struggling with depression and anxiety developed these conditions as a result of chronic pain, fighting cancer (and the after-effects of chemo), diabetes, and other illnesses and diseases thought of primarily for their physical effects.

DID YOU KNOW that one in FIVE of those of us living in first-world countries will be diagnosed with a mental illness during our lifetimes.  More than double that number will continue to suffer undiagnosed, according to the projections from the World Health Organization and others.

Many of those individuals will teeter on the brink of the idea that the pain of remaining alive has finally become too difficult to continue to endure.


One kind comment can literally be life-saving, just as a single shaming, cruel, unthinking remark can be enough to push somebody over the suicide edge.

It is PAST time we ended mental health stigma

Far too many people suffering from even “common” mental health diagnoses have been shamed into silence because of their supposed mental “shortcomings.”

Sadly, every single person who passes on mental health stigma, makes fun of mental health problems, or lets it slide without comment when they witness unkind behavior or are in the presence of unkind words – online or anywhere else – has contributed to their incarceration in prisons of despair.

Related Post: What’s my beef with Sir Ken Robinson?

We can do better – and I am going to firmly hold the thought that we WILL.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO’s primary role is to direct international health within the United Nations’ system and to lead partners in global health responses), suicide kills over 800,000 people each yearONE PERSON EVERY 40 SECONDS.

STILL there are many too many people who believe that mental health issues are not real – or that those who suffer are simply “not trying hard enough.”

That is STIGMA, and it is past time for this to change.

I’m calling out mental health stigma for what it is:
SMALL MINDED IGNORANCE!

(unless, of course, you want to label it outright BULLY behavior)

NOW, let’s all focus our thoughts in a more positive direction: on universal acceptance, and appropriate mental health care for every single person on the planet.

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Moving Past Task Anxiety to stop “procrastinating”


Procrastination vs. Task Anxiety
Executive Functioning struggles redux

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Time & Task Management Series

Poor Organization & Task Completion

Most of us with Executive Functioning struggles have difficulty “putting it all together.”

Our cognitive deck of cards gets shuffled in the process of recording “awarenesses” into short term memory and consolidating for long-term storage.

That makes it harder to figure out which cards to pull when it comes time to play the game — making it difficult to respond appropriately, or to correctly evaluate consequences, outcomes and timing.

As a result, projects tend to be abandoned unfinished in our dissatisfaction with our lack of ability to play at a level that makes the game interesting rather than an exercise in frustration.  Before we know it, we’ve labeled ourselves chronic procrastinators — and so have most of our associates and loved ones.

It certainly may look like chronic procrastination to anyone looking on. And boy howdy do those onlookers love to sling that label around — as if they believed that merely pointing it out would launch us into activation!

I would like to suggest that what’s really going on here is Task Anxiety.

Task anxiety, just what it sounds like, is what science used to call a “limbic system” activator — where your brain and body are primed to fight, flight or freeze, NOT to get things done!

EVEN those who push through and force themselves to tackle the tasks on their To-Do lists are, according to the latest studies, up to 50% less effective than they would be if they handled the task anxiety FIRST.

  • According to scientific studies conducted in the past few years by Dr. David Rock and his team, and Emotional Regulation Research founder, Stanford’s Dr. James J. Gross:

The degree to which your “limbic system” is aroused is
the degree to which your PFC [prefrontal cortex] is deactivated.

  • Task completion is decision-dependent — and deciding depends on prefrontal cortex activation.
  • The PFC of “the ADD/EFD brain-style,” which includes all of us with Executive Functioning struggles, is already under-performing, relative to the neurotypical population — and the research above was NOT carried out using the ADD/EFD population!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Madelyn’s 3-point Procrastination Primer

1. The greater the number of items to accomplish on the way to completing any particular task, the higher the likelihood of so-called “procrastination.

2. The higher the number of decisions to be made on the way to completing any particular task, the lower the probability that it will begin or end in a timely manner.

3. The more each item or decision depends on the completion of a prior step, the more likely it is to result in shut-down — and the greater the likelihood that the project will be tabled for another time.

Related Post: Procrastination — Activation vs. Motivation

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here’s the GOOD news:

Simply identifying what’s going on, whether you actually DO anything about it or not, helps to bring the PFC back online somewhat.  And there is SO much more you can do!

Identifying these areas and naming the steps involved will go a long way toward intentionality.

Awareness is always the first step, and “naming” it is the second.

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Time, Stress and Denial


You CAN change your relationship to time
(or just about anything else)
But, of course, that means you have to CHANGE

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Time Management & Executive Functioning Series


“The adrenal system reacts to stress
by releasing hormones
that make us alert and reactive.

The problem is
that the adrenal system
cannot tell what’s a regular case of nerves
and what’s an impending disaster.

The body doesn’t know the difference
between nerves and excitement
— between panic and doubt . . .”

~ Grey’s Anatomy, Season 9, Episode 8

WHY ARE YOU LATE?!!

If you have any flavor of Attentional Struggles – or Executive Functioning challenges for any other reason — I don’t have to tell you how tough it is to work with t-i-m-e!

If you are anything like me (or some of my former clients and students), finding out that many ADDers lack an internal sense of time— or a reliable one, anyway — was a huge relief.

At last!

An explanation for why others can set a time
and show up promptly and we can’t.

Whoa!  BACK UP JACK!

There are two potential problems with that “at last” momentary relief:

  1. Can’t” refers ONLY to attempting to deal with time internally
  2. An explanation is NOT a get out of jail free forevermore card

SO, if you have always struggled with something specific, (like time-management, in this example) and you want to leave that behind forevermore, you absolutely must begin to set new “time-management” systems in place if you EVER want anything to be different.

That, ladies and gents, is where things begin to fall apart in brand new ways . . .

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Chunking TIME to get you going


Getting Started
Getting the GUI Things Done – Part 2

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
in the Time & Task Management Series

Getting back to GUI!
Looking at Good, Urgent, and Important

In Part 1 of this article, Getting off the couch & getting going, I began by suggesting a down-and-dirty way to tackle a number of different kinds of tasks by throwing them into a few metaphorical “task bins.”

In this way of moving through malaise to activation, I suggested that you separate your tasks into 3 metaphorical piles, and I began to explore the distinction between them:

  1. Tasks that would be Good to get done
  2. Tasks that are Urgent
  3. Tasks that are Important

In the way I look at productivity, any forward motion is good forward motion!

Making a dent in a task sure works better than giving in to those “mood fixers” we employ attempting to recenter from a serious bout of task anxiety — those bouts of back and forth texting or endless games of Words with Friends™ — and all sorts of things that actually take us in the opposite direction from the one we really want to travel.

Dent Making-101

Anyone who is struggling with activation can make behavior changes and kick themselves into getting into action by breaking down the task until it feels DO-able in any number of ways, such as:

  1. Picking something tiny to begin with, like putting away only the clean forks in the dishwasher – or just the glasses, or just the plates – or hanging up the outfit you tossed on a chair when you changed into pajamas and fell into bed last night, or picking out only one type of clothing from the laundry basket to fold and put away;
  2. Focusing on a smaller portion of a task, as in the closet example in the prior post;
  3. Chunking Time — setting a specific time limit and allowing yourself to STOP when the time is up.

Now let’s take a look at that last one.
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Getting off the couch & getting going – Part 1


Worry, Worry, Worry!
. . . The agony of agonizing

©Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Time & Task Management Series:

Let’s Get GUI!
Looking at Good, Urgent, and Important

When I first began to blog on the topic of organization and task completion, I was initially daunted.

It seemed to me that productivity, accomplishment, follow-through and planning were such HUGE topics for anything less than entire books — difficult to handle briefly, even in an entire Series of posts on each topic!

While most of what I read on the inter-webs focuses on Tips and Techniques, I wanted to explore underlying principles, and I wanted to share them from a brain-based perspective.

QUITE the challenge — especially since I knew that most readers wouldn’t have my background of information, so I had to include an explanation of terms before I could move on even to underlying principles, much less sharing techniques that many have found helpful.

Don’t miss: Getting Things Done-101

The extent of the challenge stopped me for a while, I must admit, and it took me some time to begin to figure out how best to do it without wearing people out.  Long-time readers may have noted that my earlier articles are much longer than the ones I have been posting lately.

Whittling things down remains a challenge, but I don’t let that keep me from trying to be helpful in as brief a manner as I believe can get the job done for most people.

Moving along anyway

I am inspired by the malaise that seems to waft in with the summer heat, and I want to explore more about Getting Things Done. I plan to continue to whittle things down to a size we can manage in two ways:

  1. Dividing this topic and this article into parts, and
  2. Using language and examples that will relate primarily to those attempting to Get Things Done at home, whether the tasks are personal or professional in nature.

Let’s start by thinking about how to tackle a number of different kinds of tasks by throwing them into a few metaphorical “task bins.”

Getting GUI

Take a look at your task list every day (which implies that you make one, right?)  Separate the tasks that would be good to get done from the tasks that are URGENT and IMPORTANT.

Good to get done tasks

Good to get done tasks help you move your life forward – without the not-so-subtle pressure that normally accompanies a To-DO! List.  This category is for the “treadmill tasks” of life: the recurring chores that really don’t need to be done at a specific time or day, as long as they are done fairly regularly.

These are the tasks I keep encouraging you to put on autopilot:

  • Figure out a reasonably effective way to do them
  • Do them the same way every time so that they can become habitual.
  • Put them on auto-pilot. “Auto-pilot” habits don’t debit cognitive resources!  No deciding, no agonizing, and your conscious mind is freed for more important work.

Urgent Tasks

Urgent Tasks are two-fold, both of which you are going to work toward eliminating from your life as you learn more about what you need to be intentional about getting things done.

Type 1 Urgents are those items that carry a monetary, legal or emotional penalty for remaining undone — many of which are the result of not getting out in front of them earlier.

Taxes, license renewals, bills, birthday cakes, presents and cards all fall into the Type 1 Urgent category at the beginning.

Don’t beat yourself up about your struggles with this category — or ruminate over the fact that you “should” have taken care of whatever it is before it became a problem that had to be handled immediately (or else!)

Simply identify the items that belong here to make sure you don’t drop those balls in the future.

Many of us with Executive Functioning issues have developed the unfortunate habit of using the adrenaline rush that accompanies urgency to be ABLE to focus with intentionality.

Adrenaline is an endogenous psycho-stimulant (produced within).

It does work; we tend to get more done. But it comes with a high price tag.  There are healthier forms of energy that will help you get things done — more about those to come.

Bona fide Emergencies

Bona fide emergencies generally won’t make this list at all. They are the things that you rarely have time to put on a list in the first place, nor do you need to.

Fire, flood, illness, accidents and broken bones, necessary and well-maintained equipment that suddenly gives up the ghost  — things that it’s unlikely you could have predicted but MUST be dealt with immediately — ALL fall in the category of bona fide emergencies.

The only way to plan for bona fide emergencies is to leave a bit of ease in your schedule every single day so that you stand a shot at getting back on track when you have to stop to deal with them.

Type 2 Urgents are the things that you are going to practice saying no to: that means setting boundaries.

My favorite quote that describes this category perfectly is this one:
“Lack of planning in your life does not constitute an emergency for me.”

Many of the items in this category wouldn’t be on your plate to begin with if you would get the time and energy vampires off your neck.

Other items pop in here when you say yes because you can’t imagine how to say no.  You would not find yourself rushing to buy a hostess gift for a party with that couple you don’t enjoy, for example, if you hadn’t said yes in the first place!

We have a tendency to say yes to these items we really don’t want to do because it requires little of our decision-making power to respond in “emergency mode” — it feels like MORE to do to refuse to play, so we play.

It feels great to put out a fire — not so great to prevent one.

I’m not saying that setting boundaries is an easy fix, but it is a simple one, and the only one that will ever work to get Type 2 Urgents out of your life forever.

Unfortunately, until we learn to set and protect boundaries around what we allow others to push onto our plates, our behavior teaches those around us to do exactly what we do NOT want them to do.

To begin with, demote the Type 2 Urgents:
Don’t say no, say LATER.

Take a baby step toward teaching your family and friends that ONLY when you’ve accomplished what is IMPORTANT will you be able to focus time or attention on Type 2 Urgents.

They may never understand that you have more important things to do than pick up the pieces of somebody else’s dropped ball or help them handle their over-commitments or lack of boundaries, but it is essential that you understand that reality yourself.

When you say, “Not now,” show any whiners and complainers your list of what needs to be done first and tell them to get them workin’ on it if they want you to be finished faster.

You probably won’t be able to count to three before you hear (with attitude, no doubt), Oh, never mind!

[More about this in an earlier article: Priorities-101:Yes means No]

So what’s IMPORTANT?  

That’s a VERY good question.  What IS “important” to you?  I’ll give you a hint with another favorite saying:

Nobody ever said, at the end of life,
“Darn!  I wish I’d spent more time on my chores.”

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Standing FOR High Standards


Indications of who you really are
Creating your Reality

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Coaching Series

Higher or Lower?

Several years ago I posted a couple of coaching articles written to open your paradigms on the way to breaking loose from the habit of perfectionism and black and white thinking:

The Virtues of Lowering your Standards
and
Getting to Good Enough

And now it may seem as if I am encouraging you to do the exact opposite. Sheesh!

It’s a trick of language – two different meanings for the same word

When I speak of “lowering your standards” (small “s”) I am using the meaning most similar to, “an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations.” ~ Google Dictionary

Using that meaning of the word, I am referring primarily to getting beyond that crazy idea that “any task worth doing is worth doing well.”

Many folks continue to intone that meme as if it were a universal truth, without stopping to notice that it’s a great big black and white SHOULD.

It always seemed to me that if the task’s worth doing at all, any forward progress is good forward progress, right?

Aren’t these “Do it WELL” folks the same ones who swear
that “slow and steady wins the race?”

Think AGAIN

JUST because a task is worth doing, doesn’t mean that it is
automatically deserving of top-of-the-line priority focus.  Duh!

A job worth doing is worth doing adequately, too.

There is not enough time in anybody’s life to do every single thing in an A+ manner.  Good enough really IS good enough for many of life’s to-dos and activities.

Embracing that idea leaves a great deal more time for working at the top of your game where it really matters – like honoring your very own Personal Standards.  It makes for a much happier and more satisfying experience of living.

Friend and colleague Tom Nardone came up with a nifty chart to underscore that idea.

Raising Personal Standards is a different animal altogether.

When I speak of raising your Standards (capital “S”), I am using a meaning closer to (but not really the same as) “principles of conduct informed by notions of honor and decency.” ~ Google Dictionary

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August 2017 Mental Health Awareness


 Special days & weeks in August

Along with Advocacy & Awareness
for mental health related issues
(and a calendar for the month!)

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part of the ADD/ADHD Cormidities series

WE are the cure. Found HERE

 

Online Marketing Gurus extol the effectiveness of piggy-backing posts onto particular events – how about one or several of the ones below?
They make GREAT, positive writing prompts!

Mark your blogging calendars!

Many days of the year have been set aside every month to promote awareness or advocacy of an issue, illness, disability, or special-needs related cause.

In addition to a calendar for the current month, each Awareness post attempts to offer a list highlighting important days and weeks that impact and intersect with mental health challenges — reminders for health problems that intersect, exacerbate or create additional problems with cognition, mood, memory, follow-through and attention management.

If I’ve missed anything, please let me know in a comment so that I can add it to the list below.

I pray that 2017 is the year
when EVERYONE becomes aware of
the crying need for upgraded mental health Awareness —
and FUNDING – so that things begin to change rapidly.

Stay tuned for more articles about Executive Functioning struggles and management throughout the year (and check out the Related Posts for a great many already published).

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Benefits of Boundaries – and how to set them – Part 1


Boundaries safeguard your personal rights
. . . and so much MORE

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Coaching Series

Does YOUR Castle need a Moat?

Think of a Boundary like a moat around your castle.  It’s actual purpose was to keep scoundrels, bandits and warlords out and the people inside the walls safe to go about their lives and pursue their interests in peace.  That works!

During times of danger and conflict other friends and neighbors around the countryside could come inside the castle for protection.  A drawbridge spanning the moat provided a way for the keeper of the castle to let people in or keep people out.

So it is with happy, successful lives.

It is important to find a way to establish and maintain a safe distance from needs of other people that are not in alignment with our own best Self-interest.

Some people are not particularly evolved at the time they interact with you.  They tend to take advantage of the kindness of others — particularly the ones who don’t know how to raise the drawbridge to protect their own castles (like saying NO or leaving a situation before it starts causing trouble they repeatedly look to you to fix).

Related Post: 12 Tips to help you Take Back your TIME

Bounderies make you YOU

As my personal coaching mentor Thomas J. Leonard used to say,
“Boundaries help define who you are and who you are not.”

Emotionally healthy people set Boundaries that attract certain people and protect them from others. Learning to set and enforce Boundaries in a loving and appropriate manner are, in fact, two essential life skills most of us need to develop on the way to becoming healthy adults.

  • Setting personal Boundaries acts as a filter to permit those people who are up to where you are in life to come in and join the party.
  • Personal Boundaries also allow you to stop those who are not yet ready for you by raising your metaphorical drawbridge – as well as defining what actions are appropriate inside your metaphorical castle.

That, in turn, is reflected your experience of living – which frequently sets its tone – the tune to which you call yourself to dance.

Ideally, of course, we wouldn’t attract certain types of people and behaviors to begin with, but while we are working on that particular skill wouldn’t it be great to have a way to immediately course-correct?

Effective Boundary management is a great way.

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Advice and Boundaries


Linears and  Holographics
Different strokes for different folks

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections Post to introduce an upcoming Boundary Series

WHY won’t everybody LISTEN?

We humans are funny critters. We want everybody to do everything OUR way.

Secretly, we sincerely believe that whatever we have figured out effectively for our own lives would transfer to anyone else’s — if they’d only DO IT RIGHT, gol-nabbit!

The same advice is meted out to tortoises and hares, linear and holographic thinkers alike, depending on who seems to be currently doing better in the races we like to time.

THEIR problems would magically disappear with OUR solution,
IF ONLY they’d:

  • try hard enough
  • give it enough time to become habitual
  • “want to” badly enough
  • stop resisting
  • or procrastinating

 — or really wanted a solution and not simply a chance to complain!

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Time management tips for better Executive Functioning


EF Management Tips and Tricks – Part IV
Time Management Systems to Develop into Habits

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
PART FOUR: In support of The Executive Functioning Series

Quick Review:

In the introduction to this part of the article, I went over some of the concepts underlying the systems approach and why it works.

Basically, systems and habits help us conserve cognitive resources for when they are really needed. I added the caveat that nothing works for everyone any more than one size fits ALL very well.

For those of you who have the motivation and time to figure out how to make an “off the rack” outfit fit you perfectly, be sure to read for the sense of the underlying principles and tweak from there to fit your very own life.

If you can’t “sew” and are disinclined to take the time to learn (since most of us have trouble keeping up with what we are already trying to squeeze into our days), remember that I offer systems development coaching, and would love to turn my attention to your life.

I am going to warn everyone one last time that few of my clients ever really hear me the first dozen times, so don’t be too surprised when the importance of some of these Basics float right past you too.

The sooner you make friends with the basic concepts – and put them into place – the sooner life gets a lot easier, more intentional, and a whole lot more fun.

FIVE Underlying System Basics

Found in Part-2
1.
Feed Your Head
2. Structure is your FRIEND
3. Nothing takes a minute

Found in Part-3
4. Write it down (any “it”)

In this section:
5. PAD your schedule
PAD-ing: Planning Aware of Details™

Don’t forget, as you read the final principle:

Each of you will, most likely, need to tweak to fit.  However, some version of all five underlying concepts need to be incorporated into your life (with systems and work-arounds in place and habitual) before challenges recede and strengths have more room to present themselves in your lives.

No pressure — let ’em simmer in your brain’s slow-cooker.

As long as you don’t actively resist you will be one step closer to getting a handle on that systematizing to follow-through thing.

So let’s get TO it!

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Executive Functioning Systems


EF Management Tips and Tricks – Part III
Time, Memory & Organization Systems
to Develop into Habits

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
PART THREE: In support of The Executive Functioning Series

The Quick Review:

In the introduction to this 4-part article, I went over some of the concepts underlying the systems approach and why it works.

Essentially, systems and habits help us conserve cognitive resources for when they are really needed.

I added the caveat that nothing works for everyone any more than ONE SIZE FITS ALL very well.  For those of you who have the motivation and time to figure out how to make an “off the rack” outfit fit you perfectly, be sure to skip past the literal interpretation to read for the sense of the underlying principles.

For the REST of you: if you can’t “sew” and are disinclined to take the time to learn (since most of us have trouble keeping up with what we are already trying to squeeze into our days), remember that I offer systems development coaching, and would love to put my shoulder to your wheel.

The quick warning:

I want to warn everyone yet again that few of my clients ever really hear me the first dozen times, so don’t be too surprised when the importance of some of these Basics float past you a time or two as well.

The sooner you make friends with the concepts I’m sharing – and put them into place in a way that works for you – the sooner life gets easier, more intentional, and a lot more fun.

FIVE Underlying System Basics

Found in Part-2:
1.
Feed Your Head
2. Structure is your FRIEND
3. Nothing takes a minute

In this section:
4. Write it down (any “it”)

Concluding in Part-4 with:
5. PAD your schedule
PAD-ing: Planning Aware of Details™

Remember to remember as you read the principles to come:

MOST of you will probably need to tweak to fit as you incorporate the principles into your life (and/or take a second look at systems and work-arounds you already have in place that have now become habitual). If you really want to begin to experience the level of personal effectiveness you say you want, take a close and open-minded look at principles that have a 25-year track record of helping.

If you start to feel resistance,
let ’em simmer in your brain’s slow-cooker for a while.

As long as you don’t actively resist (as if YOU are the exception, fighting the ideas or ruminating over the thoughts that yet another person simply doesn’t get it), you will be one step closer to getting a handle on that systematizing to follow-through thing.

So let’s get right back to it!

 

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EF Management Tips and Tricks


5 Tips for better Executive Functioning
Part II – Systems to Develop into Habits

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
PART TWO: In support of The Executive Functioning Series

Quick Review:

In the introduction to this 4-part article, I went over some of the concepts underlying “the systems approach” and why it works.

I explained how systems and habits help us conserve cognitive resources for when they are really needed.

I went on to add that despite my dislike of articles and books that offer seemingly fix-it-ALL tips and tricks, I still share online tips myself from time to time — and that I was about to share five of them, despite the fact that  I strongly prefer sharing underlying principles, so that anyone reading might be able to figure out how to tweak to fit. 

  • I appended the caveat that nothing works for everyone any more than one size fits all very well, despite what the merchants would like you to believe.
  • I’m sharing the “tips” for those of you who have the motivation (and time to dedicate) to figure out how to make an “off the rack” outfit fit you perfectly.

Since most of us have trouble keeping up with what we are already trying to shoehorn into our days, if you can’t “sew” and are disinclined to take the time to learn, remember that I offer systems development coaching, and would love to put my shoulder to your wheel.

For the rest of you, I’m about to gift you some foundational principles I work on with my private clients, right along with whatever it is they came to “fix” – what I call my 5 System Basics.

I have to warn you again, however, that few of my clients have ever really embraced them the first couple dozen times I brought them up, so don’t be too surprised when the importance of some of these Basics float right past you a few times too.

The sooner you make friends with the concepts I’m about to share – and put some systems into place around them – the sooner life gets easier, less frustrating, and a LOT more fun!

 

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5 Tips for better Executive Functioning – Part 1


EF Management Tips and Tricks
Systems vs. Solutions

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
PART ONE: In support of The Executive Functioning Series

Introduced in an older article, ADD/ADHD and TIME: will ANYthing work?, this is what I remind my students and private clients:

Even though they are not exactly the same thing, most people with Executive Functioning challenges have quite a bit in common with people who have been diagnosed with ADD.

In addition to short-term memory glitches, the things that seem to negatively impact effectiveness most often are problems with activation and follow through.

When I work backwards to figure out what’s going on, I almost always discover foundational problems with time management and/or troubles with transitions.

Both of these struggles are exacerbated when few of life’s details are systematized, which means that very little can be put on auto-pilot.  Every action requires a conscious decision – which not only requires a greater number of transitions (that eat up time), it burns up cognitive resources.

  • “Processing space” in the conscious portion of our brains is not unlimited, at least not in the bottomless well meaning of unlimited. Consciousness is a resource-intensive process – your brain REALLY doesn’t want to burn up those resources making the same decisions over and over again.
  • DECISIONS are prefrontal cortex intensive – using the conscious pathways in your reaction/response mechanism – whether you are making a major decision or one as seemingly inconsequential as to what kind of ice cream you want in your cone.
  • The greater number of day-to-day to-dos you can relegate to unconscious processing, the more cognitive bandwidth you make available for tasks that truly require you to think about them consciously.
  • That means “standardizing” the timing and the steps – developing systems – so that they become HABITS.

Caveat: there are no one-size solutions

Despite my dislike of articles and books that offer seemingly fix-it-ALL tips and tricks, from time to time I still share online tips myself. 

  • I usually add the qualification that nothing works for everyone any more than one size really fits all – at least not very well.
  • I prefer to share the underlying principles, so that readers might be able to figure out how to tweak to fit – kinda’ like some of those fashion sites that tell you how to use a sewing machine to take a nip here and a tuck there.

But many people can’t sew, not everyone wants to take the time to learn, and most of us have trouble keeping up with what we are already trying to squeeze into our days.

That’s why some people make a living doing alterations –
or, in my case, coaching change.

 

HOWEVER, for those of you who have the time and motivation, I’m about to share again what many of my private clients hire me to help them put into place (no matter what “problem” we are working on at the time) – what I call my 5 System Basics.

I have to warn you, however, that few of my clients have ever really heard me the first few dozen times, so don’t be too surprised when the importance of some of these basics float right past you too.

Even when you’re desperate, change is flat-out HARD!

Try to remember as you read:

These aren’t merely a collection of five simple “suggestions.” If you have already noticed a few functioning struggles, try to hold them in your mind as practically absolutes – but lightly.

The five underlying concepts I’m about to share really do need to be accommodated in some fashion — with systems and work-arounds in place — before most of us are able to manage our energy toward follow through that doesn’t leave us endlessly chasing our own tails.

Lack of structure is really not the direction we want to travel if our goal is a life of ease and accomplishment.

Let ’em simmer in your brain’s slow-cooker.

As long as you don’t actively resist the ideas, (nit-picking the concepts or ruminating over the thoughts that yet another person simply doesn’t get it), you will be one step closer to having a handle on that follow-through thing, regardless of your current struggles with Executive Functioning.

Think of the underlying concepts, collectively, as a lever that will allow you to adjust your expectations appropriately, and to help you to figure out where you need to concentrate your time and effort ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible).

Trying to systematize a life without the basics
is like trying to start a car that’s out of gas.

  • Agonizing isn’t going to make a bit of difference.
  • Neither will “voting” – you may hate the idea, they may hate the idea. Sorry Charlie, it is simply what’s so
  • Hearing what a doofus you’ve been for not focusing on that little gas detail (especially hearing it internally) will shut you down and delay you further.
  • Go for the gas.

UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS WARNING!

The upcoming five concepts that will begin to put some gas in your car are simply that: FUEL.

Until you make sure your “car” has fuel, you can’t do much about checking to see if the starter is going bad. You may also learn you need to adjust the steering mechanism. Oh yeah, and you certainly won’t get very far on lousy tires.

  • You don’t expect your car to magically transform with a little gas, do you?
  • How about a whole tank full of gas?
  • How about gas and four new tires?

Yeah, right!

Try to remember that the next time the self-flagellation begins, as well as when you feel defensive and become offensive.

You can’t eat an elephant in a day —
EVEN if you take one tiny bite at a time.

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