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 — although everything you need to enjoy this story is complete below.

I added a bit of formatting 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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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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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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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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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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PTSD Awareness Post 2017 – Part II


June was PTSD Awareness Month
Adding to our awareness – Part II

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Updated Refliections Post
Self-Health Series
Part I HERE

“Emotions are very good at activating thoughts,
but thoughts are not very good at controlling emotions.

~  Joseph LeDoux

Since my Sleep Awareness post somehow jumped the queue and was posted at the same time as Part-1 of this article, I decided to wait a bit to give readers a shot at catching up.  Again, my apologies for seeming to inundate with info – it was not intentional.

This Part may seem long, but much of the first half is review — so those of you who read Part-1 will be able to skim through it quickly.

Identifying PTSD

PTSD can present in a variety of ways, with more than a few symptoms in common with depression, in addition to any or all of those characterizing other anxiety disorders.

As I explained in Part I, PTSD is now believed to be caused by a neuro-chemical alteration in the brain in response to exposure to trauma. It holds us prisoner, responding in the moment to threats from the past.

Unprocessed trauma continues to haunt us, eroding our sense of safety and security. As a result, it can keep us stuck in an amygdala-defensive emotional pattern that may induce a variety of symptoms over which we feel we have no control.

In fact, we cannot control them in the moment.  Current therapies are focused on helping us to change our subsequent response to them.

Exposure to trauma physically changes the structure of the brain, upsetting the neurochemical balance needed to respond appropriately, faster than we can over-ride cognitively.

It seems that repeated experience of traumatic events, especially when left to fester unprocessed, can prevent rebalancing, which prevents healing (meaning, allowing the past to remain in the past, confident that you have the strength to handle whatever life throws your way in the future).

In other words, our brains are designed to respond neuro-chemically when our safety is threatened, regardless of what we think about it logically or how we feel about it emotionally.

  • Some of us are able to process those perfectly normal and appropriate fearful responses and move forward.
  • Others of us, for a great many reasons science is still trying to understand, are not.
  • At this point in time, we move forward primarily with statistics.

Statistics explored in Part I

In the previous section of this article we also looked at the prevalence of PTSD compared to the total number of people who ever experienced trauma in their lives.  We took a look at the various risk factors for developing PTSD following exposure to trauma.

You saw that the risk was effectively double for women, and that significantly more women are exposed to trauma in their lives than their male friends and relatives – and that recovery times tended to be longer.

Approximately 50% – five out of every ten women – will experience a traumatic event at some point during their lifetime, according to the The National Center for PTSD, a division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

One in ten of those women will develop PTSD as a result.

Inadequate understanding & treatment

Science is still looking for many of the pieces of the PTSD puzzle.

Even though a variety of therapies can help relieve PTSD symptoms, at the current time there is no “cure” – or prevention – nor is there an adequate explanation for how exposure to the same trauma can affect different individuals to different degrees of severity.

We also do not have definitive treatment protocols equally effective for everyone who experiences PTSD.

Brain-based research

Right now it looks like the difference between who recovers from trauma and who is more likely to develop PTSD may turn out to have a genetic component.

It may be also be linked to the size of specific areas of the brain, which could be a product of genetics or epigentics (how your internal and external environments change the expression of your genes).

Related Posts:
Making Friends with CHANGE
A Super Brief and Basic Explanation of Epigenetics for Total Beginners (off-site)

While controversial, the most recent research ties the development of PTSD to the size of an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which is primarily known for its role in the formation of non-disordered memories.

Greater size indicates a greater ability to recover from trauma.

A smaller hippocampus may increase the risk of developing PTSD as well as the severity of its symptoms, and/or lengthen the duration and recovery time.

Some studies suggest that repeated exposure to stress may actually damage the hippocampus, through the repeated release of the stress-hormone cortisol.

Related Posts:
Hippocampal volume and resilience in PTSD
Brain region size associated with response to PTSD treatment

So perhaps PTSD is hormonal?

Cortisol is a mobilizing hormone.  We need it. We might not even get up off the couch without it. However, it is most widely known for its assistance motivating the body for rapid and effective response to a stressful or life-threatening event – our “fight or flight” reaction.

Problems result because our brains and bodies are not designed
to live in a state of persistent and protracted stress.

Scientists have long suspected the role of cortisol in PTSD.  They have been studying it, with inconclusive results, since findings in the 1980s connected abnormal cortisol levels to an increased PTSD risk

A study reported in early 2011 by researchers at Emory University and the University of Vermont found that high blood levels of the hormone PACAP (pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide), produced in response to stress, are linked to PTSD in women — but not in men.

PACAP is known to act throughout both body and brain, modulating metabolism, blood pressure, immune function, CNS activity [central nervous system], and pain sensitivity.

Its identification as an indicator of PTSD may lead to new diagnostics and to effective treatments — for anxiety disorders overall, as well as PTSD in particular.

But maybe not cortisol alone

Findings published early this year in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology point to cortisol’s critical role in the emergence of PTSD only when levels of testosterone are suppressed [April 2017, Volume 78, Pages 76–84 ]

Testosterone is one of most important of the male sex hormones,
but is is also found in women, albeit in much lower concentrations.

According to UT Austin professor of psychology Robert Josephs, the first author of the study:

“Recent evidence points to testosterone’s suppression of cortisol activity, and vice versa.

It is becoming clear to many researchers that you can’t understand the effects of one without simultaneously monitoring the activity of the other.

Prior attempts to link PTSD to cortisol may have failed because the powerful effect that testosterone has on the hormonal regulation of stress was not taken into account.”

PTSD Risk Can Be Predicted by Hormone Levels Prior to Deployment, Study Says

What we think we know for sure

What science does believe it now knows is that PTSD is a result of both the event that threatens injury to self or others, and the emotional, hormonal response to those events that involve persistent fear or helplessness.

At this time, the goal of PTSD treatment is to reduce, if not eliminate, chronic fear-based emotional and physical symptoms to improve the quality of day-to-day life.

Research is ongoing to see if it is possible to chemically block the development of PTSD by blocking the formation of fear memories.

Blocking human fear memory with the matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor doxycycline

Current treatments are limited to psychotherapy, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or other types of counseling/coaching, and/or medication, along with less well-known and less widely accepted attempts at intervention like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique: “tapping”) and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).

The value of information

Before we explore the variety of treatments currently available (in a future article), let’s take a look at some of the symptoms associated with PTSD.  It will help you understand your own or those of a loved-one with PTSD.

Understanding, empathy and self-acceptance walk hand in hand – which are healing all by themselves.

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July 2017 Mental Health Awareness


Special days & weeks in July

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

July is Fire Cracker Month in America

Please be aware that many vets will have flashbacks triggered by those noisy explosions that you think are harmless fun.

If ALL you want is to make a bunch of noise, please think again – or, at least, confine them to ONE DAY – July 4th, when many vets with PTSD go away.

Addendum from a comment from Ray’s dad Colin:

Pet owners will also really appreciate fireworks being restricted to that one celebration day. They can then plan their pet’s outdoor time accordingly. In advance… many thanks to all those who do limit their celebrations to July 4, and are respectful and sympathetic to vets… and pets.

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.

Included on every Awareness Month list at ADDandSoMuchMORE.com are awareness and advocacy reminders for health problems that intersect, exacerbate or create additional problems with cognition, mood, memory, follow-through and attention management.

I have NOT lengthened the post by adding text to explain them all – but I have added links to posts and websites with explanations, for those of you who are interested in learning more or blogging about these issues.

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 will be the year
when EVERYONE becomes aware of
the crying need for upgraded mental health Awareness.

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).

Read more of this post

2017 PTSD Awareness Post – Part I


June is PTSD Awareness Month
Adding to our awareness and understanding

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Self-Health Series
Refliections Post

“Emotions are very good at activating thoughts,
but thoughts are not very good at controlling emotions.

~  Joseph LeDoux

What We’ve Learned from LeDoux: Mechanisms of Fear

Cognitive neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux is an NYU professor and a member of the Center for Neural Science and Department of Psychology at New York University.

In addition to his work focused on the neural mechanisms of emotion and memory, he is also the director of the Center for the Neuroscience of Fear and Anxiety — a multi-university Research Center in Manhattan using research with rats to explore and attempt to understand the mechanisms of pathological fear and anxiety in humans (which LeDoux prefers to call “extreme emotional reactions to the threat response”)

Essentially, when we are looking at PTSD, we are talking about individuals stuck in a particular type of FEAR response — responding in the present to threats from the past.

PTSD sufferers appear to be at the mercy of the reappearance of memories and resulting emotions because they lack immediate conscious control.

For many years, neuroscientists believed that the cortex, the most recently evolved, wrinkly outer covering of the human brain, was required for the processing of any kind of conscious experience, even those triggered by a sensory input resulting in an emotional response.

Thanks to the work of LeDoux and his colleagues at The LeDoux Lab, we now know that this information can be chemically transmitted through the brain in an additional manner using a pathway that bypasses the cortex, allowing our emotions to be triggered unconsciously, faster than the speed of thought.

In other words, our brains are designed to respond neuro-chemically when our safety is threatened, regardless of what we think about it logically or how we feel about it emotionally.

How traumatic events intensify the threat response

According to current scientific understanding, experiencing traumatic events can change the way our brains function.

PTSD develops when we get stuck in the “ready to act” survival mode as the memory cycle repeats and strengthens the emotional responses to the original traumatic event in reaction to some sort of trigger.

The stress hormone cortisol strengthens memories of traumatic experiences, both while the memory is being formed for the first time, and afterwards.

Every time our brain gathers the pieces of memory’s puzzle and puts them back together – a process known as reconsolidation – cortisol is released anew as we are reminded of a traumatic experience.

Previous studies using scanning technology have shown that people with PTSD have altered brain anatomy and function.

Subsequent research on the connection between PTSD and brain-based disorders — including those associated with dementia and TBI [traumatic brain injury] — indicate that trauma itself actually changes structures in the brain.

In the face of an overwhelming feeling of fear, our lifesaving-in-the-moment set of adaptive responses leave behind ongoing, long-term and brain scan-observable physical residuals that can result in psychological problems as well as attendant physical symptoms.

Trauma upsets the brain’s chemical balance

Synchronization of the activity of different networks in the brain is the fundamental process that facilitates the transmission of detailed information and the triggering of appropriate behavioral responses. The brain accomplished this task through the use of chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters.

Synchronization is crucial for sensory, motor and cognitive processes, as well as the appropriate functioning of the circuits involved in controlling emotional behavior.

Synchronization is a balancing act

Researchers from Uppsala University and the medical university Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm have shown that in people with PTSD there is an imbalance between serotonin and substance P, two of the brain’s neuro-chemical signalling systems.

The greater the imbalance,
the more serious the symptoms.

It seems that repeated experience of traumatic events, especially when left to fester unprocessed, can prevent rebalancing, which prevents healing (meaning, allowing the past to remain in the past, feeling confident that you have the strength to handle whatever life throws your way in the future).

Related Post: PTSD reveals imbalance between signalling systems in the brain

Responding to threats of danger

Our nervous system developed to greatly increase the chances that we would remain alive to procreate in the presence of threats to safety and security. We wouldn’t live long at all if we lacked a mechanism to allow us to detect and respond to danger – rapidly.

When our safety is threatened, a survival response automatically kicks in — before the brain circuits that control our slower conscious processes have had time to interpret that physiological response that is occurring “under the radar.”

Initially, there is no emotion attached to our automatic response to threat. In other words, fear is a cognitive construct.

Our individual perceptions of the extent of the danger we just experienced or witnessed is what adds velocity to the development of fearful emotions, even if our feeling response follows only a moment behind.

Some of us are able to process those perfectly normal and appropriate fearful responses and move forward. Others of us, for a great many different reasons, are not.

Many of those who are not able to process and move forward are likely to develop one or more of the anxiety disorders, while others will develop a particular type of anxiety disorder we call PTSD — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Related articles:
When Fear Becomes Entrenched & Chronic
Understanding Fear and Anxiety

Read more of this post

Executive Functions & YOU


Executive Functioning
for Optimal Functioning™
What’s involved and what can go wrong?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
another part of the Executive Functioning Series

MORE folks on Team EFD than folks with ADD/ADHD

The executive system is a carefully orchestrated combination of processes that, together, merge and mingle to make us human and to make us, well, us!

These functions continually work together to help us manage hundreds of cognitive and practical tasks of life, day in and day out.

Not only that, they do it in the blink of an eye, and primarily below the level of our conscious awareness. At least, they do it that way when everything is on board and working “normally.”

New here? Read What ARE Executive Functions? for more description & detail.

The area of the brain that makes possible many of the wonderful cognitive abilities differentiating humans from the rest of the mammals is the frontal third of the outer layer of the human brain, referred to as the pre-frontal cortex [PFC], right behind the forehead:

  • the last part of our brains to evolve,
  • the last part of our brains to develop in the womb,
  • and the last part of our brains to mature as we grow up

And it’s fragile

The PFC is especially vulnerable to damage — both before and after birth.

The living brain is soft, floating around inside a fluid filled environment keeping it from bumping up against the inside of a hard skull that, in turn, is protecting the fragile brain itself.

Your PFC can be injured very easily bumping up against that bony skull, even when no direct hit to the head was involved in the original incident.

Anything that makes the brain “slosh around” in the fluid in a manner that causes it to come in contact with the skull results in at least minor brain damage, and the PFC is often involved.

Read: How Do Brains Get Damaged?  Is YOURS?

THAT means that in addition to individuals with disorders, stroke or some type of substance-promoted damage affecting the PFC, anyone who’s been involved in almost any sort of accident is likely to experience brain-based executive functioning challenges of one sort or another.

It also means that most adults have at least a few EF issues, not only individuals with:

  • mood disorders (anxiety & depression included)
  • autistic and attentional spectrum disorders
  • TBI/ABI,
  • Parkinson’s
  • dyslexia & dyscalculia
  • more than a few neurological conditions such as
    sensory integration disorders 

in fact, almost all of what I refer to as the alphabet disorders — as well as, currently, MOST of us over 45, as the memory centers begin to age.

So what does THAT mean?

Read more of this post

Reaching the Boiling Point


We still have some time
but we have to act – NOW

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

The content I am revisiting is an edited & condensed version of
probably the most important information I have ever shared
(in over 500 information-dense articles).
It applies to every single person living.
I hope those of you who missed it on Monday will
take the time to read it all this weekend – and tell your friends.

ABOUT Boiling Frog Syndrome

In a recently posted article from the Executive Functioning Series [How well do you REALLY function?], I explored the tendency to accommodate an accumulation of difficulties until we are struggling to cope and practically desperate — whenever things decline gradually.

UNFORTUNATELY …

The water temperature is perilously close to reaching the boiling point where global health is concerned.

We are ALL likely to be cooked to death if we don’t act together to turn down the heat – no matter how young or old we are currently.

According to U.S. statistics, in 1960 5% of the GDP** was spent on health care.

By 2010, that figure had increased to 18%
  over three and a half times higher —
and continues to increase.

It is projected that by the year 2040 — unless things change significantly — over 40% of the gross GDP** of the US alone will go into health care.

~~~~~~~~~~
**GDP [Gross Domestic Product] is the total value of everything produced by all the
individuals, companies and corporations in a country, citizen and foreign-owned alike.
It is considered to be the best way to measure the state of a country’s economy.

This is obviously a problem we cannot possibly afford

An unusually large portion of our health expenditures come as a result of the chronic, progressive “diseases of old age” — that become exponentially more prevalent the longer we live, and that become increasingly more expensive to manage (vs. cure, since we currently don’t have ways to cure them).

Yet we currently dedicate only a fraction of 1% of our biomedical research budget to the basic biology of aging — and millions of dollars of budget cuts are currently in the planning stages in the US alone.

DAUNTING Statistics Already

100,000 people die of old age-related illnesses every single day.  That’s over THIRTY World Trade Towers, by the way, just to put it in context.

Every single day.

Frailty alone kills 6-7% of the population and leads to many of the other debilitating diseases which increase dramatically in the over-45 population (yes, forty-five!)

The bad news is that if we live long enough — without a drastic change in how we approach health-science research — most of us WILL be challenged by one or more of the debilitating and costly degenerative illnesses.

Getting rapidly worse

According to the UN, the population of elderly human beings is the fastest growing around the world, and the number of elderly people by 2050 will be close to 2 BILLION.

MOST of us reading will be among them – any of us who have not already succumbed to one of the diseases of aging, that is.

We need to turn things around – NOW!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
By the year 2020 – in the entire world – there will be more people over 65 than under 5 years of age. As the 5 year olds enter the workforce, those who are now 65 become 75 and 85 and begin to become terminally ill.

We won’t have enough people on the planet
to afford this ailing and aging population.

By overcoming the diseases of aging, we can literally save trillions of dollars
— along with millions of lives that are now doomed to suffer as they die.

~ ‪Liz Parrish, CEO of BioViva Sciences USA – Human of the Future‬ (video)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Most of us are suffering from Boiling Frog Syndrome over the issue of healthy aging, refusing to give it the consideration it merits.

That manifests in our lack of willingness to advocate aggressively for resources to address the many challenges of aging that the clear majority of us WILL face before we die.

Our most important health-related goal needs to be applying our resources to solve the global challenge of remaining as healthy as possible for as long as possible – for as many people as possible.

“One of the biggest frustrations for me in my work is that old people don’t complain enough about how GRIM it is to be old — and if they did, maybe something more would be done about it.” ~ biomedical gerontologist ‪Dr. Aubrey de Grey‬.

Read more of this post

Executive Functioning & Diseases of Aging


A Humanitarian Problem
short-sighted at best – unconscionable at worst

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

This might be the most important post I have ever written
(out of 500+ information-dense articles).
It applies to every single one of us,
so I hope you will take the time to read it all.

A tragic implication of Boiling Frog Syndrome

As I began in an article as part of the Executive Functioning Series, two Mondays ago [How well do you REALLY function?], when things decline gradually we tend to accommodate the accumulation of difficulties until we are struggling to cope and practically desperate for help.

Before I continue with a Series of articles designed to describe and discuss EF struggles, what’s involved, and explain what you can do to mitigate the effects (before, during and after they develop), I want to take just a bit of a side trip to talk about something that WILL affect ALL of us, one way or another — unless, of course, something worse gets us first.

EF challenges as the result of AGING

According to a biomedical gerontologist ‪Dr. Aubrey de Grey‬, what we consider and accept as “normal” aging is far more complex than the accumulation of an increasing number of birthdays — that is, chronological aging.

Biological aging is a different matter entirely, and that is what his organization studies and believes they will be able to impact positively.

Biological aging is what causes the greatest number of functional problems in brain and body, responsible for cognitive struggles as well as the pain and suffering of the degenerative diseases of aging.

So remember that when researchers like de Grey talk about “reversing” aging with restoration therapies, healthy aging is the focus of their desire. Looking and feeling younger for an extended life-span is a beneficial side-effect.

Dr. Aubrey de Grey redefines Aging

“Aging is the life-long accumulation of ‘damage’ to the body that occurs as intrinsic side-effects of the body’s normal operation.  The body can tolerate some damage, but too much of it causes disease and disability.”

DAMAGE: changes in structure and composition that the body cannot – or can no longer – automatically reverse.

Dr. de Grey is the Cambridge educated co-founder and Chief Science Officer of SENS Research Foundation, dedicated to exploring and combating the aging process, a 501(c)(3) public charity that is transforming the way the world researches and treats age-related disease.

Dr. de Grey is also the Editor in Chief of Rejuvenation Research, a bimonthly peer-reviewed scientific journal published by Mary Ann Liebert that covers research on rejuvenation and biogerontology.

Speaking all over the world for many years, to lay as well as professional audiences, he spreads the message that the deleterious effects of aging are not something we need to accept as a given — in other words, they are NOT conditions that are impossible to prevent or reverse.

He presents his cogent explanations and arguments for the need for a drastic change in paradigm in many lectures, debates and discussions available on YouTube.

We do NOT have to accept the idea that the decline and eventual disappearance of the body’s resilience is inevitable.  ~ mgh

Turning things around

“One of the biggest frustrations for me in my work is that old people don’t complain enough about how GRIM it is to be old — and if they did, maybe something more would be done about it.” ~ Aubrey de Grey

  • The desire for healthy aging is an issue that concerns 100% of the people currently living today.
  • Yet most of us are suffering from Boiling Frog Syndrome, refusing to give this issue the consideration it merits — which includes our lack of willingness to advocate aggressively for resources to address the many challenges of aging that the clear majority of us WILL face before we die.
  • It surprises most people to learn that, for example, only a fraction of 1% of the research budget of the U.S. Federal Government goes toward the basic biology of aging.   Other countries don’t allocate appreciably greater funding, and some do much less.  ‘Sup with that?
  • Once enough people begin thinking about the physical and cognitive devastation of aging as medical problems that we can actually prevent and reverse – insisting that our political leaders consider it seriously and fund it appropriately – it will change the way we approach the public health “game” completely, with predictably positive results for every single person reading these words.

Our most important health-related goal needs to be applying our resources to solve the global challenge of remaining as healthy as possible for as long as possible – for as many people as possible.
~ mgh

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June 2017 Mental Health Awareness


Special days & weeks in June

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

JUNE is PTSD Awareness Month —
June begins with Sleep Disorder Awareness Week
and National Cancer Survivor’s Day

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 will be the year
when EVERYONE becomes aware of
the crying need for upgraded mental health Awareness —
and FUNDING.

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).

Read more of this post

How well do you REALLY function?


Soldiering ON with less
than Optimal Functioning™
when we could REALLY have a much easier time of it

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
part of the Executive Functioning Series
May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

Do you suffer from boiling frog syndrome?

You’ve probably already heard the story about cooking frogs by putting them in cold or tepid water, then slowly bringing it to a boil — even though they would have jumped out immediately if they were suddenly thrust into hot water.

Other versions of the story assert that, as long as the temperature increases slowly, the frog is able to adjust its body temperature to remain comfortable — until it ultimately becomes too weak to jump out before it’s cooked.

Just a myth, but apt

According to an interesting article on Wikipedia, neither version is true, but the analogy is perfect: as things slowly but steadily worsen, most of us adjust and accommodate, even when we could find ourselves in much better situations if we’d only react more quickly and reach out for help.

  • In my 25+ year coaching career, only a rare few individuals ever reached out for help or brain-based information until they were practically desperate, and almost all had been leading what I call “limp-along lives” for years.
  • More than a few had been taking pricey vacations or eating lunches in restaurants to get away from the stress of the work environment, or indulging in daily caffeine fixes at several dollars a pop, still convinced that they couldn’t afford coaching fees — until they felt they “had no choice.”

For YEARS it only made sense in the context of Boiling Frog Syndrome.

Even if they were cracker-jack “over-achievers” when they were younger, they contributed their functional and cognitive slow-down to aging
. . .  or the demands of parenthood
. . . or the increasing complexities of modern life
. . . or the rise of social media expectations

. . . or anything other than being flat-out worn down by repeated, unrecognized struggles with Executive Functioning they never understood how to overcome.

So What Goes Wrong?

It’s mentally and physically exhausting to continue to swim upstream.

  • As long as you are swimming with the current you get carried downstream with much less thrashing about on your part.
  • Not only that, when you’re swimming upstream, if you stop stroking for even a minute, your life goes backwards.  Nobody can keep up that kind of effort.
  • Before you realize it you are swimming alone, unhappy that life is so much work, but not really expecting it to be easier because you’ve always had to “work twice as hard for half as much” — or so it seems to you in your most private of thoughts.
  • You begin to believe that everybody struggles in the same fashion, but suspect that the others are somehow better able to cope than you are.

But it doesn’t have to be that way

It recently occurred to me that many people don’t reach out for help, perhaps, because they have forgotten (or have never really known) what effective focus and follow-through look like.

They’re falling victim to “that happens to everybody”
or “this is the best I can expect from myself” thinking
to explain and attempt to accept their various challenges.

Things can get WORSE as time goes by . . .

because each new skill must build on the ones before it.

If you never learned to add or subtract, multiplication and division would remain a mystery.

If you never really mastered basic arithmetic, how could anyone expect you to do well as you moved through school?

Similar to moving from basic arithmetic to higher math, learning how to manage life’s many challenges is also an incremental, multi-stepped process.

So, for the next few Mondays, I am going to detail the problems many of my clients had been putting up with because ““that happens to everybody,” and do my best to explain what’s behind the struggle — in the hopes that I will finally inspire more of you to spend a few months working with me to turn things around before you feel like you are about to crash and burn.

Lets START by taking a look at some of the problems
that are NOT “normal” functioning.
Read more of this post

My Computer has ADD


Stranger than fiction
But maybe more amusing?

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

Madelyn’s Believe it or Not

What is it about Executive Functioning struggles that has things go wrong JUST at the moment you need everything to go right to stand a prayer of showing up like you have a brain at all?

Or is it just me?

I know that sometimes my Calamity Jane moments are my own darn fault because I procrastinated, or failed to write something down, or use my systems or whatever.  I’m not talking about those times.

I’m not talking about those times when I ADD-out and forget to give somebody an important message — like maybe, they changed the time for his only daughter’s wedding. (not my oops, actually – one from a client)

I’m not even thinking about those times when I say yes to one more request when I am already juggling more than any six humans could accomplish in a single lifetime if they worked together and never slept.

It’s those OTHER times . . .

You know, like when you practically break your arm putting a gun in your own back to keep yourself on task so that you won’t seem flaky, and THEN the universe laughs in your face and you end up looking flaky anyway — for a bizarre reason that nobody would believe really happened, even if you had it on film.

Come to think of it, it seems that even when I am channeling somebody else’s reliable functioning, it doesn’t always work quite the same way for me.  I’m starting to believe that somebody up there doesn’t really WANT me to plan ahead.

Like that time the water gets turned off – through NO fault of my own, btw – before I have a chance to rinse off the dark brown hair dye I was wise enough to apply to my snowy roots two entire days before an important media event, for example.

I end up having to explain why I’m knocking on a strange neighbor’s door in snow boots, head wrapped in plastic and bod in terrycloth.

I need to use his phone, of course.

It’s urgent that I find out when my friend Janet will be coming home.  I need her to unlock the door to my apartment, simply because I spaced one tiny little detail in my haste to run next door to use her bathroom before my hair turned green: KEYS!

OK, I could have called to see if she was home before my mad dash, but I didn’t want to chance getting dark hair dye on my white phone — and Janet has no social life anyway – she’s ALWAYS home! (If anybody figures out who I’m really talking about, PLEASE don’t tell her I said that!)

Oh, and would this kind stranger and new best friend mind if I used his shower to wash out the hair dye so I won’t get it all over his nice living room furniture while I wait with him for Janet to arrive?

Surely he wouldn’t leave me out in the cold with wet hair, even if his wife IS away on a business trip?

And, by the way, I’m going to need towels.

Stuff like that.  Like I said, flaky!  

So I’m sure that you are not going to believe that what’s going on with my computer is really not my fault! But at least it’s not as outrageous as the experience of my friend Steven’s then fiance’s brother-in-law Jeff. THAT story is the stuff of legend!

Read more of this post

Memory Glitches and Executive Functioning


MEMORY ISSUES:

AGING Executive Functions and Alphabet Disorders
(ADD/HD-EFD, TBI, ABI, OCD, ODD, ASD, PDA, PDD, MDD, MS, etc.)

©Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, MCC, SCAC
Reflections from the Memory Issues Series:
Forgetting/Remembering | When Memory Fails

BlankMemoryMEMORY: Movin’ it IN – Movin’ it OUT

With Alzheimer’s getting so much press these days (and with adequate mental healthcare for Americans unlikely for the next four years or more, since extremely short-sighted House Republicans are willing to vote in accord with the unconscionable desires of the billionaire in office) — most of us are likely to be more than a little fearful when our memory slips, even a bit.

Understanding how memory works can help us all calm down —
about at least that much.

As I mentioned in When Memory Fails – Part 2, the process of memory storage is an extremely important part of the memory equation — but if our brain’s librarian can’t find what we want when it comes time to USE the information, what good is it?

 

USB_memorystick 64x64

Human Memory vs. Computer Memory

It would be wonderful if human memory were at least as reliable as those “memory sticks” that allow us to sweep files we need to have with us onto a nifty portable device we can use anywhere we can find a device with a USB port.

Unfortunately, it isn’t.

But before we explore the process of moving information into long-term memory storage, our brains’ version of a “memory stick,” let’s take a look at the ways in which our “neuro-librarians” deliver what we’re looking for once it is stored there.

The “regurgitation” portion of the memory process is a factor of, essentially, three different processes:

  • recognition
  • recall, and
  • recall on demand

Let’s distinguish each of them before we go any further.

Read more of this post

May 2017: Mental Health Awareness


Special days & weeks in May

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

May is Mental Health Awareness Month!
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!

It takes a village to transform a world. ~ mgh

Mark your blogging calendars!

Although May has been set aside to promote ALL Mental Health Awareness issues, many days of the rest 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, included on every Awareness Month list at ADDandSoMuchMORE.com are awareness and advocacy reminders for health problems that intersect, exacerbate or create additional problems with cognition, mood, memory, follow-through and attention management.

Since I have written prior articles on many of these issues, I have added links to a few posts with explanations, for those of you who are interested in learning more or blogging about these issues yourselves.

If I’ve missed something Mental Health related that you believe needs inclusion, please let me know why in a comment so that I can add it to the list below.  Thanks!

May 2017 be the year
when everyone becomes aware of
the crying need for upgraded Mental Health Awareness.
All the way to the TOP!

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).

Read more of this post

April 2017: Mental Health Awareness


Special days & weeks in April

Along with Advocacy & Awareness
for mental health related issues
(and a calendar for the month!)
Posting a day late so nobody shouts, April Fools!

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

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 writing prompts!

It takes a village to transform a world. ~ mgh

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.  It has – or will – affect most of us at some point in our lives.

The World Health Organization [WHO] has identified mental illness as a growing cause of disability worldwide.  They predict that, in the future, mental illness – and depression in particular – will be the top cause of disability.

That’s globally, by the way.  There has been an 18% increase in depression alone in the decade from 2005 to 2015.

Awareness Helps

In addition to a calendar for the current month, each Awareness post offers a list highlighting important days and weeks that impact and intersect with mental health issues.

Included on every Awareness Month list at ADDandSoMuchMORE.com are awareness and advocacy reminders for health problems that intersect, exacerbate or create problems with cognition, mood, memory, follow-through and attention management.

There are quite a few events in April, so I haven’t lengthened the post by adding text to explain them all.  Instead, I have added links to related posts, blogs and websites with explanations, for those of you who are interested in learning more – or considering blogging about these issues (make sure you come back and leave a link if you do).

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

May 2017 be the year
when EVERYONE becomes aware of
the crying need for upgraded Mental Health Awareness
especially at the top!

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).

Read more of this post

Take Me Out to the BALLGAME!


Life gets GOOD

Once you understand
how to drive the very brain you were born with
— even if it’s taken a few hits in the meantime™

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part of the Diagnosis & Treatment series

A lot of people have ADHD,
but they don’t want to talk about it.
But I am who I am,
and I don’t feel bad about it.
~ Major league baseball player Andrés Torres

Late to the Party

I have to admit that, because I’ve never been the world’s biggest sports fan, I’m more than a bit late to this particular party.

Maybe some of you missed it too?

I just read a heartwarming human interest sports story about Andrés Torres, a ball-playing superstar who couldn’t get to first base until he accepted that he needed to get real about a treatment protocol for his AD”H”D.

As the New York Times article began:

“Discerning a fastball from a changeup is difficult enough; imagine doing it with untethered focus, attention meandering.

This was precisely the obstacle impeding Andrés Torres, who stumbled for a decade through baseball’s minor leagues, working for a break, always falling short.

Only when Torres accepted the extent to which he was debilitated by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, finally embracing the medication and therapy prescribed five years earlier, did he begin to blossom as a ballplayer.”

And blossom he most certainly did!

In case you don’t follow baseball very closely either, after many disheartening years of limping along, barely functioning in an arena that was incredibly important to him — no matter how hard he worked — his story took a dramatic turn for the better.

In 2010 Torres helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series —
before moving on to play center field and bat leadoff for the Mets.

If you aren’t already aware of his story, and especially if you are still struggling yourself or are the parent of a child who is struggling, click to read a few of the links in the Related Content section, always at the end of my articles.

Ring me in

As the founder of the ADD/EFD Coach Training field, co-founder of the ADD Coaching field, an ADD/EFD advocate, coach, trainer & speaker for over 25 years now [and the ADD Poster Girl herself], I can assure you that this article was RIGHT ON in terms of their point of view.

Unfortunately, the scientific point of view is under-reported, most likely because the complex nature of Executive Functioning disorders makes them difficult to recognize and harder still for anyone who isn’t highly ADD/EFD-literate to diagnose.

Read more of this post

How do brains get damaged? Is yours?


Even a “little” hit to the head can cause problems that can last for years
But that’s not the ONLY way your brain can be damaged

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

In our attempt to understand ourselves and our environment, we often end up talking about the brain — “that three pound lump of jelly you can hold in the palm of your hand” ~ V.S. Ramachandran

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month
Brain Awareness Week
– March 13-19, 2017

More Common that you realize

Brain Injury can happen to anyone in the blink of an eye, whether it happens as the result of stroke, car accident, playing football, taking a tumble off a bike, or sometimes even when you trip and fall walking down the sidewalk.

After-effects can persist for years in some cases — and you don’t actually have to hit your head to bruise your brain, by the way.

The only brains most of us have ever seen are models, or brains that have been solidified by chemicals, leading us to believe that they are solid structures that are fairly rugged — and that it might take a significant hit to damage a brain.

Nope! The living brain is soft, floating around inside a fluid filled environment keeping it from bumping up against the inside of a hard skull that, in turn, is protecting the fragile brain itself.

The severity of brain damage can vary with the type of brain injury.

  • A mild brain injury is temporary, sometimes barely seeming to cause much of a problem at all, and often limited to headaches, confusion, memory problems and nausea when it does.
  • In a moderate brain injury, symptoms often last longer, can be more pronounced and can result in other challenges and impairments.

In the majority of cases of mild to moderate brain damage your brain recovers completely, as long as you give it time to heal.

Don’t let that encourage you to take brain injury lightly

Your brain can be easily injured bumping up against that bony skull, even when no hit to the head was involved in the original accident — especially the PFC [prefrontal cortex], the executive functioning portion right behind your forehead.

In addition to brain injuries that involve even limited damage to the skull, anything that makes the brain “slosh around” in the fluid in a manner that causes it to come in contact with the skull results in at least minor brain damage.  What frequently follows can be much worse.

Subsequent swelling or bleeding is a big problem with shaken baby syndrome, for example. I also learned from the overnight death of the young brother of a colleague that all children injured in sledding accidents need to be taken to the doctor to be checked out immediately – before you put them to bed.

Closed head injuries frequently result in what is called diffuse brain damage — damage to several areas of the brain — that also can cause a variety of subsequent problems with cognition, speech and language, vision, or difficulties getting other parts of the body to respond.

Anyone who has a head or brain injury needs immediate medical attention. Depending on the extent and location of the damage, brain injury that seems mild can be as dangerous as more overtly serious injuries.

The extent of potential brain damage is determined by neurological examination, usually including X-rays or brain scans, and neuro-psychological assessments that check out reflexes and cognitive abilities. After checking for brain bleeds and swelling, the first goal is to stabilize the patient to make sure that blood pressure is controlled, and that blood carrying oxygen is flowing to the brain to prevent further injury.

With the correct diagnosis and treatment that contains the damage, even more serious brain injuries do not necessarily have to result in long-term disability or impairment, although approximately half of severe injuries require surgery to repair a ruptured blood vessel or to relieve pressure on the brain.

Every brain injury is different – and ALL need time to heal

Found on Pinterest

Regardless of cause, brain injuries can range from mild to severe, with a majority of cases you hear about being concussions.

It can sometimes take many years for brains to heal from certain kinds of damage, but it always takes longer than a day or two for your brain to recover completely from even minor damage – and longer still if you suffer another injury while it’s still healing.

Football players eager to get back on the field aren’t the only ones who fail to understand why and how long they have to take it easy to avoid long-term damage, even when they believe they are ready to hard-charge it again.

You really do have to take it easy afterwards, just as you would if you’d injured an arm or a leg, but even more important.

Brain damage disrupts the brain’s normal functioning, and can affect thinking, understanding, word-retrieval and language skills, and/or memory, sometimes for years afterwards and sometimes not evident until years later.

Other than those who play professional sports, males between 15 and 24 are most vulnerable because they are the population most frequently engaging in risky behaviors. Young children and the aging also have a higher risk, probably because they are most likely to have balance challenges that result in falls.

Symptoms of Brain Injury

There are many, but negative effects cluster in what can be thought of in terms of three functional systems:

(1) intellect, which is the information-handling aspect of behavior;
(2) emotionality, which concerns feelings and motivations;  and
(3) control, which has to do with how behavior is expressed.
Source: Neuropsychological Assessment, 3nd  Ed., 1995,  by Muriel D. Lezak

These commonly include trouble with some or all of the following: 

• attention and concentration 
• short-term memory   • organizing/prioritizing
• impulsiveness   • task switching,
  and occasionally
• poor social skills   and   • mood swings.

EXCELLENT Related Post:
Lost & Found: What Brain Injury Survivors Want You to Know

Causes of Brain Injuries

In this article we won’t be looking at brain damage in the womb as part of a genetic or congenital disorder (fetal alcohol syndrome, for example) or damage to the fetus due to maternal illness or accident.

I also won’t cover in this post what is often referred to as Acquired Brain Injury [ABI] — brain damage due to disease, stroke, medication, alcohol and drug use, or oxygen deprivation. ABIs affect the brain at a cellular level, most often associated with pressure on the brain, or as the result of a neurological illness.

I want to focus on the kind of brain damage most likely to affect most of you who read and follow ADDandSoMuchMore.com — and the most commonly reported source of brain damage is trauma.

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SOAR: Summer Adventures for ADD/LD Kids & Teens


Looking for a Summer Program
perfect for neurodiverse brains?
Check out THIS one – with programs for ages 8-25

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

Guestpost from David Rabiner, Ph.D.
Dept. of Psychology & Neuroscience, Duke University
©
ATTENTION RESEARCH UPDATE; March 14, 2017

Building Executive Function Skills at Camp

This just in from David Rabiner, Ph.D., whose guest posts you’ve seen here previously, and who is the creator and publisher of one of the best ADD/EFD Newsletters in the field.

SOARSuccess Oriented Achievement Realized – is a long-time sponsor of Rabiner’s excellent Attention Research Update, enabling him to offer it at no charge to professionals, parents and ADD/EFD individuals.

He informs us that . . .

SOAR offers a variety of outdoor adventure programs that are designed to provide a positive, exciting, and successful experience for children and teens with ADHD and Learning Disabilities.

A brief description of several of the wonderful SOAR programs can be found below, my support for parents and grandparents looking for a program specifically tailored for kids or teens with Learning Disabilities or ADD/EFD struggles.  PLEASE pass it on. [Disclosure: NO compensation has been offered or received for this content]

NOTE: Dr. Rabiner uses the DSM-5 term “ADHD,” rather than “ADD” or ADD/EFD, which I strongly prefer and otherwise use on this site (click HERE for why).

Please remember at ALL times that he uses this term to refer to the Inattentive and Combined subtypes as well as the Hyperactive subtype.

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Pot Smoking and Developing Brains


Studies may lead to help for PTSD
as well as a greater understanding of addiction
and schizophrenia

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Foundational Concept of the Intentionality Series
Opinions vs. Facts

Reefer Madness?

Weed, Ganja, MaryJane, Cannabis, Pot, Hemp, Herb, Reefer

Some of my Senior readers may not recognize each of them, but practically any teen can tell you that they are all names for marijuana.

You know, that stuff you can roll into a joint that – except in jest – only the most out-of-it refer to as “a funny cigarette.”

The technical term for marijuana is cannabis – for a very good reason.  Since at least 1967, various chemical constituents of marijuana have been classified as cannabinoids.

They act on cannabinoid receptors in cells throughout our bodies, and alter neurotransmitter release in the brain – but they are NOT all the same.

One toke gets you higher and another makes you well?

THC [delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or Delta-9-THC] is the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – the stuff that gets you high – but it is not always the most abundant cannabinoid in marijuana.

Depending on the particular plant, cannabidiol can be the most abundant cannabinoid, which has many healing properties that you can read about on almost any Medical Marijuana site.

Cannabidiol is currently one of the most exciting of the 85+ known cannabinoids.

Also known as CBD, it is stepping out of the shadows and into the spotlight as a potentially breakthrough nutritional component and treatment.

It occurs naturally in significant quantities in cannabis, and it is extracted relatively easily from the seeds, stalk and flowers of cannabis plants – which include hemp as well as marijuana. (The main functional difference between hemp and marijuana is the level of THC.)

Receptor Sites and Binding

All recent studies have indicated that the behavioral effects of THC are receptor mediated. That means that neurons in the brain are activated when a compound binds to its receptor — a protein typically located on the surface of a particular cell “specialized” to, metaphorically, “speak its language.”

So THC gets you high only after binding to its receptor.  That, in turn, triggers a series of events in the cell that results in a change in the cell’s activity, its gene regulation, or the signals that it sends on to another cell.

Wikipedia – ©Creative Commons

Steven R. Laviolette and his team at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry discovered that directly activating cannabinoid receptors in a region of the brain called the amygdala, can strongly influence the significance of emotional information and memory processing.

PFC implications

Activating cannabinoid receptors also dramatically increased the activity patterns of neurons in a connected region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex [PFC].

That, in turn, controls how the brain perceives the emotional significance of sensory information, and the strength of the memories associated with these emotional experiences.

Regular readers may recall that the PFC has connections to, essentially, every other part of the brain.

It is the part of the cortex that allows us to regulate Executive Functions appropriately – items like planning, problem solving, concentration, mental flexibility, and controlling short-term behavior to achieve long-term goals.

The PFC is a major player for those of us with ADD and other Executive Function Disorders and dysregulations – including those with traumatic and acquired brain injuries [TBI/ABI].

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Mental Health Awareness for March 2017


Special days & weeks in March

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

It takes one person to make a difference —
just think of what thousands can do.

~ Psychology Today 2016 Awareness Calendar

Online Marketing Gurus extol the effectiveness of piggy-backing posts
onto particular events – how about one or several of the ones below?

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.

Included on every Awareness Month list at ADDandSoMuchMORE.com are awareness and advocacy reminders for health problems that intersect, exacerbate or create additional problems with cognition, mood, memory, follow-through and attention management.

I haven’t lengthened the post by adding text to explain them all – but I have added links to posts with explanations, for those of you who are interested in learning more or blogging about these issues.

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

May 2017 be the year
when EVERYONE becomes aware of
the crying need for upgraded mental health Awareness.

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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Learning to Work Around “Spacing Out”


Honey, you’re not listening
ADDvanced Listening & Languaging

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

Spacing out – when attention wanders

We’ve all had times when our mind goes off on a short walk-about as someone seems to go on and on and on.

But that’s not the only arena where attention wanders off on its own.

Have you ever gone into another room only to wonder what you went there to do?

I’ll bet you have little to no awareness of where your attention went during your short trip to the other room, but if you’re like me (or most of my clients and students), you’ve sometimes wondered if doorways are embedded with some kind of Star Trekkian technology that wipes our minds clean on pass-through.

Awareness is a factor of ATTENTION

Has your mate ever said “Honey, I TOLD you I would be home late on Tuesday nights!” — when you honestly couldn’t remember ever hearing it before that very moment, or only dimly remember the conversation for the first time when it comes up again?

Most of the time, when that happens, we are so lost in our own thoughts, we have little to no awareness that we spaced out while someone was speaking to us.

What do you do DO on those occasions where you suddenly realize that you have been hearing but not really listening?

Don’t you tend to attempt to fill in the gaps, silently praying that anything important will be repeated? I know I do.

It is a rare individual who has the guts to say, “I’m so sorry, I got distracted.  Could you repeat every single word you just said?” 

And how likely are you to ask for clarification once you are listening once more?

  • If you’re like most people, you probably assume that the reason you are slow to understand is because you missed the explanatory words during your “brain blip.”
  • If the conversation concludes with, “Call me if you have any problems,” I’ll bet you don’t reply, “With what?!”

That’s what the person with attending deficits or an exceptionally busy brain goes through in almost every single interchange, unless they learn how to attend or the person speaking learns how to talk so people listen.

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Can Eating Grapes Improve Your Memory?


Pilot study highlights role of grapes
in preventing Alzheimer’s disease
Implications for Memory & Attentional Struggles in Alphabet City

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Edited Reblog from the ClinicalNews blog
Ralph Turchiano on February 3, 2017

Brand New Study suggests Good News!

Grape-enriched diet prevents metabolic brain decline,
improves attention and memory
Public Release: 3-Feb-2017: California Table Grape Commission FRESNO, CA

Consuming grapes twice a day for six months protected against significant metabolic decline in Alzheimer-related areas of the brain in a study of people with early memory decline.

Low metabolic activity in these areas of the brain is a hallmark of early stage Alzheimer’s disease. Study results showed a grape-enriched diet protected against the decline of metabolic activity.

Alzheimer’s disease. as most people know, is a brain disease that results in a slow decline of memory and cognitive skills. Although it’s cause is not yet fully understood, it is believed result from a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

Currently 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease — and the numbers continue to grow.

Study implications for EFD

Scientists noted that the group that was given the grape-enriched diet also exhibited increased metabolism in other areas of the brain that correlated with individual improvements in attention and working memory performance, compared to those on the non-grape diet.

That’s encouraging news for those of us with Executive Functioning Disorders.

EFD, remember, is the term used to describe problems with cognitive abilities that most adults take for granted as products of intelligence, education and maturity — items like planning, problem solving, concentration, mental flexibility, and controlling short-term behavior to achieve long-term goals.

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Mental Health Awareness for February 2017


Special days & weeks in February

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

It takes one person to make a difference —
just think of what thousands can do.

~ Psychology Today 2016 Awareness Calendar

Online Marketing Gurus extol the effectiveness of piggy-backing posts,
onto particular events – how about one or several of the ones below?

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.

Included on every Awareness Month list at ADDandSoMuchMORE.com are awareness and advocacy reminders for health problems that intersect, exacerbate or create problems with cognition, mood, memory, follow-through and attention management.

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 issues.

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

May 2017 be the year
when EVERYONE becomes aware of
the crying need for upgraded mental health Awareness.

Google Find – suspicious link to source not included here

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).

Read more of this post

ABOUT the Mental Health Writers Guild


A new badge on my sidebar
and one more item I can cross off my to-do list

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Walking a Mile Series

No longer languishing undone

I’m doing my happy dance to be able to announce, finally, that ADDandSoMuchMORE.com is now included among the many other wonderful blogs on the membership roster of the Mental Health Writers Guild.

For those who are not already aware, The Mental Health Writers’ Guild is a voluntary, non-profit, non-professional community.

It exists to encourage positive, informative, inspirational writing supporting Mental Health Awareness, advocacy, encouragement, information and help.

It seeks to provide and promote a community open to all bloggers and writers who write articles which are either directly or indirectly related to mental health and mental well-being in an affirming – and non-commercial – manner.

Gettin’ A Round Tuit at last

It has been my intention to submit ADDandSoMuchMORE.com for membership seemingly forever, but something always jumped in front of it on my to-do list.

  • When I finally had the time and focus last year, the life of the site creator and administrator wasn’t in a place where he could keep up with the administration required, so was unable to respond to requests for membership for a time.
  • BoldKeven (also blogging at Voices of Glass) checks out every blog personally, to make sure that member sites reflect positively on one another and on the Guild, then adds a link to blog of the newly approved member on the Guild’s Membership Page.

All’s well that end’s well, right?

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Emotional Mastery to help us move forward


Upgrading how you feel
to help you change what you DO

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

UPDATE: This article was written to support the mood challenges of most readers here.  The blog of one reader reminded me to be SURE to say that some of you are dealing with issues that are more complex, and that other articles I’ve written might be more helpful to you.  Click to the PTSD/TBI LinkList for links to a selection of those.

Riding herd on runaway emotions

I recently found an emotional resiliency blog post by PsychCentral blogger Athena Staik, Ph.D. that fits right in with my focus on change-management in 2017.

She begins with four important points to keep in mind:

  1. Emotion mastery is a built-in capacity, often ignored yet always available.
  2. It is a learned ability to respond in a conscious manner that short-circuits our body’s survival-system to keep it from controlling us and our lives with ineffective automatic reactions and unconscious defensive strategies.
  3. It involves developing an awareness of and connection to our thoughts, emotions and body sensations — so that we are able to, step by step, cultivate a practice, or lifestyle habit of making conscious, informed decisions that will keep us on course toward achieving our goals
  4. In the process of cultivating emotion mastery, we will build the confidence and resilience we need to handle upcoming challenges more effectively.

Emotional Mastery

She continues by using the acronym M-A-S-T-E-R-Y to outline a system she recommends to help us tame our emotional reactivity.

The article seems to have been written from a neuro-typical point of view, so I don’t agree completely with every single thing she has to say about them.

I do agree with her on their importance, however – and I’m sharing in the hopes that her “MASTERY” mnemonic will help us all keep them in mind.

Mnemonic devices are techniques a person can use to help them improve their ability to remember something — a memory technique to help your brain better encode and recall important information.

You can jump over to Staik’s article to see what she has to offer in response to each letter.  My own thoughts will be found in the posts I’ve linked within or below each of her mnemonic assists.

 So lets take a look at them!

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Mental Health Awareness for January 2017


January Mental Health Awareness

Along with Advocacy & Awareness
for other 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

It takes one person to make a difference —
just think of what thousands can do.

~ Psychology Today 2016 Awareness Calendar

A bit early for January

I am using the lull between Christmas Day and New Years Eve to post January’s Awareness list.

I’m pretty sure that nobody will be in any kind of shape to pay attention to it on New Year’s Day (nor am I likely to be in any kind of shape to get it up on January first myself!)

Mark your blogging calendars anyway

Every month and many days of the year have been set aside to promote awareness or advocacy of an illness, disability, or other special-needs-related cause. Scroll down to use this January index to make sure you mark those special occasions this month.

In addition to a calendar for the current month, each Awareness post usually offers a list highlighting important days and weeks that impact and intersect with mental health issues.

May 2017 be the year
when EVERYONE becomes aware of
the crying need for upgraded mental health Awareness.

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

Attention Bloggers: If you write (or have written) an article that adds content, feel free to leave a link in the comment section and I will move it into it into the Related Content on this post.

Included on every Awareness Month list are awareness and advocacy reminders for health problems that intersect, exacerbate or create problems with cognition, mood, memory, follow-through and attention management.

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.

Read more of this post

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