Executive Functioning Systems


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

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

The Quick Review:

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

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

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

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

The quick warning:

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

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

FIVE Underlying System Basics

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

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

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

Remember to remember as you read the principles to come:

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

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

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

So let’s get right back to it!

 

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EF Management Tips and Tricks


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

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

Quick Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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5 Tips for better Executive Functioning – Part 1


EF Management Tips and Tricks
Systems vs. Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caveat: there are no one-size solutions

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Try to remember as you read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS WARNING!

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

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

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

Yeah, right!

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

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

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Overcoming the bad to get to the GOOD



The Power of Positive Thinking
Moving past WHAT & WHY to get to HOW

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In the Executive Functioning Series

Memory and Energy Management

Visiting a few blogs as I begin to populate a brand new Pinterest Board [Our TBR Lists], I clicked over to add one of  D.G. Kaye’s books, “Words We Carry.”  (Some of you may already know that D.G. Kaye is the name under which blogger Debby Gies pens her many books)

I jumped over to read and “like” a few reviews on the Amazon site for this book, and my eyes took note of something that read like what is often referred to as the publisher’s blurb.

Sharing her journey toward overcoming the demons of low self-esteem with the determination to learn to love herself, Kaye’s book allows us to see clearly how hurtful events in our lives can linger, and set the tone for our lives.

I was instantly reminded of an article I posted over three years ago now, on a topic I believe it’s time to revisit: our tendency to collect and carry every stick and stone that has ever broken our bones.  [Are we hard-wired to focus on the bad news?].

I began that article with a question that I think is an important one:
“How come the bad stuff sticks and the good stuff fades??” 

On the way to answering that question I asked another, in response to a comment from one of my virtual friends, essentially this:

I have lived 365 days times my years on this earth.
They can’t all be keepers — and this one wasn’t.

While that’s a wonderful lens through which to look at our occasional experiences of one of those days,  my brain immediately popped in another question:

Why CAN’T all the days be keepers?

I mean, why don’t we just filter out the crummy parts and file away what was good about the day so that ALL of our memories are pleasant and uplifting?

I’m aware, I went on to say, that Pollyanna isn’t exactly everybody’s idea of their favorite role model, but WHY NOT?

I believe I did a good job explaining why our brains tend to hang on to the “warnings” – a memory technique that was extremely pro-survival.

It’s helpful to understand why whenever we are agonizing over yet another of those negative thoughts inspired by some of our earliest experiences.

However, I don’t believe that it is exactly pro-LIFE to allow our brain to continue to have its way with us – especially when we can retrain it.

Life-lessons from my clients

As I continue to say, my clients bring more than a few “juggling struggles” to their coaching calls. They frequently call for their appointments with resolve and hope tarnished by the latest disaster . . . which reminds them of an earlier one, and off we go.

We spend the session in another way entirely, as I practically drag them over to reliving their successes. They hang up with a much better view of themselves — one that empowers them to “get back on the horse” to gallop full speed ahead once more — until the next time something stops them cold and we revisit the process.

We all do it until we train ourselves not to.
And those “positivity” reminders don’t help until we do.
Wrong technique.

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12 Tips to help you Take Back your TIME


Are you OVER feeling overwhelmed yet?

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, MCC, SCAC
Reflections Post

Have you taken stock of the items that contribute to your “too much to do and not enough time” life?

If you are anything like my clients, my students – and me! – no matter what the list looks like in detail, it boils down to one single thing.

Unbalanced energy:
too much going out, not enough coming in.

BAD IDEA: Saying no to YOU to say yes to them.

There may well be folks who have figured out how to have it all –
but nobody has unlocked the secret of DOING it all!

It’s an easy trap to fall into – especially when you’re busy. Believe me, I know better than anybody what that fly-paper feels like! And the best way to start rebalancing the scales is simple (but not easy!): get the Time & Energy Vampires off your neck!

Getting over Overwhelm

When we’re overwhelmed, what goes first? Yep! The things that are important to US. We’ve all been well trained to make sure we handle our “responsibilities.”

But when did their to-dos and priorities become OUR responsibilities?

Here’s a reframe: If you don’t have time to do what’s important to YOU,
you certainly don’t have time to do what’s not important to you! ~ mgh

Whose life is it anyway?

Certainly not yours, if you are chronically overwhelmed. Probably theirs.

Wiki – Creative Commons

The most obvious offenders are frequently the people who claim to love us.

And because we love them, we think we always have to say yes: spouses, lovers, parents, children. Those guys.

The worst offenders are the emotional bullies: people who pull any of the following stunts, bullying us into saying yes, usually because we feel like it makes little sense to invoke their immature consequences for saying no.

Only SOME of the nasty tricks they pull to have their way with us include the following. They’ve learned we tend to give in when they:

  • sulk (or cry)
  • play “take-away” (the dreaded silent treatment)
  • get angry or rage all over us – especially when icily controlled
  • shame and should on us for not being able to handle more than we can
  • pitch a fit (retaliating in some overtly aggressive, passive aggressive, or publicly embarrassing fashion).

Even though beginning to set boundaries around bad behavior from people close to us is clearly needed, they are the toughest to retrain, so let’s save how to handle most of them for another article.

Balance other scales to take back your time!

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Link between Gluten & ADD/ADHD?


Oh PLEASE, not again!
and from a source that I would think
would thoroughly research before reporting

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

Living Gluten-Free to rid yourself of ADD?

I use “ADD” vs. the DSM-5’s official name for the disorder – click HERE to find out why

The quick hit: Despite what you and I can find all over the internet in articles that have not done their research very completely, gluten does NOT cause ADD, so giving it up will NOT make it go away.

It could reduce the severity of a few symptoms, and there are a great many other health benefits you might experience, but if you want a quick fix for ADD (or a preventative), going gluten free is not your answer!

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

The Longer Answer

Regular readers are quite aware that I consider myself the ADD Poster Girl, struggling with practically every symptom in an ADD profile with the exception of reading focus and gross motor hyperactivity.

You also know that I have been studying and working with ADD/EFD (Executive Functioning Disorders) and comorbids for almost THIRTY years now.

So trust me when you read the rest of the article: I have thoroughly checked this out through scientific research that is current, reflecting the bulk of what we know for sure at this particular time, given the state of today’s technology.

If the science changes, you can trust me to tell you all that it turned out we were wrong, but it does not seem, from reading a great many studies, that it is likely that I am going to have to print a retraction any time soon.

Why Gluten – why NOW?

May is Celiac Awareness Month, as I reported in this month’s Mental Health Awareness Calendar, so I am just squeezing in under the deadline with a post about gluten.

There has been so much new information for me to digest, I’m sorry to report that more comprehensive articles informing you of gluten’s effects on the brain and body, Celiac Sprue and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity won’t make it under the wire.  Stay tuned for those in the future.

However, doing the research on gluten sensitivities for those more comprehensive articles, I tripped across more than a few posts that that stunned me – and not in a good way.

In my haste to counter the misinformation during the month where this post is most likely to be found, I decided to share with ADDandSoMuchMORE readers one of the comments I left on only one of those articles that seemed to be in the grip of confirmation bias.

Giving up Gluten

no-gluten-symbolSince listening to the expert scientists around the world at the world’s first Gluten Summit (many of whom have spent life-long careers researching gluten sensitivity and celiac disease), I became convinced that gluten is simply not good for human beings.

NEVER expecting to even consider giving it up when I began listening to the speakers, I began immediately to cut gluten out of my own diet before the Summit had concluded.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Get this straight:
I did NOT go gluten-free to “cure” my ADD,
because ADD is NOT caused by problems with diet.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For anyone who is still unclear,
let me say that in a slightly different manner:
based on a great deal of credible research to date,
neither ADD nor ADHD are caused by problems with diet.

The extent to which food sensitivities EXACERBATE an individual’s ADD symptoms may fool some people in to thinking otherwise, when symptoms become much less troublesome when one eliminates a troublesome food.

However (ONE more time), ADD is NOT caused by problems with diet in the same manner Celiac Sprue IS the result of the body’s autoimmune response to gluten, or gluten sensitivities are activated by gluten.

Don’t take my word for it

In a May 06, 2013 article entitled Celiac Disease and ADHD, Eileen Bailey, former ADD Guide for About.com, subsequently writing for HealthCentral, had the following to add to the conversation, supporting my assertion.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Study Negating Association Between ADHD and Celiac Disease

Researchers completing a study at Inonu University in Turkey reported that there is not a link between ADHD and celiac disease.

This study was published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition in Feb. 2013. The study looked at 362 children and adolescents with ADHD between the ages of 5 and 15.

Researchers found that the rates of celiac disease in those with ADHD were similar to rates of celiac disease in control groups (without ADHD.)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Stimulant BASICS: Ritalin and Adderall


Two BRAND names for medications
known for treating ADD/ADHD
GOOD news or bad?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
in the Diagnosis and Treatment Series – Part I

How much do you really KNOW?

When I first learned about ADD, as it was named when I was diagnosed at 38, years ago now, I was overjoyed to learn that there was a medication reputed to help.  Tearfully so.

Still, it took me over a year to give psychostimulants a trial – the first-line medications for ADD.

Meanwhile, I did my research, and continue to do so.

I am dismayed (often appalled!) by how much myth and misinformation I found and continue to find today — in the media, on the web, and even out of the mouths of doctors, sourcing so much needless fear and struggle.

SO, I have always been inspired to share what I learned
with as many people who are willing to listen
with an open mind.

Stimulant Basics

While I endeavor to share some important overview information in this particular article in the Diagnosis and Treatment Series, I’m going to hit the highlights, and save a great many of the specifics for another time and format.

Let’s begin here by going over the similarities between two medications you hear about most often: Ritalin and Adderall.

The Related Links at the very bottom of this article are there for those of you who want more specifics about the differences NOW.

On to those basics . . .

The psychostimulants you hear about most often (also called stimulants), are amphetamines (ex., Adderall & Dexedrine) and methylphenidates (ex., Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate & Methylin).

They are similar in chemical structure, and ALL can have different effects – including side-effects (true with any substance).

Psychostimulants are a broad class of drugs reported to reduce fatigue, promote alertness and wakefulness, with possible mood-enhancing properties (Orr 2007).

Don’t let that term scare you. Caffeine, nicotine and some of the non-drowsy allergy medications are also psychostimulants.

Since the early 1930s, doctors have prescribed either amphetamines or methylphenidate to treat various health-related conditions and disorders, among them obesity, depression & other mood disorders, impulse control disorders, asthma, chronic fatigue, and sleep disorders characterized by excessive sleep or excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnolence).

Addiction and Abuse

According to Wikipedia and despite what you frequently read: it is estimated that the percentage of the population that has abused amphetamines, cocaine and MDMA combined is between .8% and 2.1%.[4]

A study published in the Journal Pediatrics*, showed that individuals with ADD/HD who were treated with stimulant medication had a lower risk of drug abuse than ADD/HD individuals who had not taken medication, and subsequent studies have returned similar findings.

* Biederman et al, Pharmacotherapy of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Reduces Risk for Substance Abuse Disorder, Pediatrics, Vol 104, No 2, Aug.’99.

How they are the same?

Both drugs are in the same medication class: psychostimulants, and it is said that they both work in two ways.  While not exactly accurate, this is basically how they work:

  1. They make neurotransmitters last longer in the parts of the brain that control attention and alertness, and
  2. They increase the concentration of neurotransmitters in areas of the brain believed to be under-aroused or otherwise under-performing.

In other words, stimulant medications increase the release or block the reabsorption of dopamine and norepinephrine, increasing transmission between certain neurons. Each stimulant has a slightly different mechanism of action, and each may have similar or different effects on the ADD/HD symptoms of any given individual.

For anyone new to the blog, neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that send signals from one neuron (brain cell) to another, increasing the activity in certain parts of the brain, in this case helping to focus attention.

WHY they might be necessary

Contrary to what might seem logical if you’ve ever spent much time around a diagnostic Hyperactive Harry or Chatty Cathy, an ADDer’s unmedicated brain is less active than a neurotypical brain in the conscious “supervisory” areas that FOCUS behavior — in particular, the prefrontal cortex [PFC]. 

That leads to an under-performance of the brain-based mechanisms that make it possible for human beings to observe the environment and supervise responses, guiding decision-making and directing subsequent action effectively.

Basically, in a person with an ADD diagnosis, the brain’s filtering & focusing areas are not operating well, so its “juggling ability” is limited by the number of “attentional balls” it is forced to juggle already.  These are elements filtered out automatically by neurotypical brains.

Regular readers of this blog may recall that the PFC has “regulation responsibility” for what we term the brain’s executive functions, which include planning, organization, and critical thinking as well as time management, effective judgment, and impulse control.

The “normal” human ability to sift through options, plan ahead, use time wisely, focus on goals, maintain social responsibility and communicate effectively is heavily dependent on a PFC that is up to the task.

Stimulants do just what they sound like they’d do, and seem to work particularly well on the area that most needs it: they stimulate sluggish neuro-perfomance, waking up the PFC so that it can do its job.

Connecting the Brakes

While ALL stimulants are activating for certain parts of the brain, they often seem to help calm a person with ADHD.

That is frequently referred to as the “paradoxical effect” — leading to erroneous claims that ADD meds are “sedating” kids into compliance.

NOT SO – that’s not how they work!

Whenever the PFC under performs, other areas of the brain, effectively, step up to compensate. You can see the difference on a brain scan.

So the filtering and focusing areas are, essentially, down for the count, and there’s suddenly more activity that needs filtering and focusing.

  • See the problem when the PFC’s “offline”?

No filters, MORE to filter = BRAIN CHATTER, distractibility or hyperactivity, problems with short-term memory – swimming upstream!

  • Once the PFC is stimulated to come back on line, the rest of the brain can relax (filters working better – less to filter). Suddenly, we can get things done – swimming WITH the current!

As soon as the PFC is stimulated into action, the rest of the brain can calm down – leading to a calmer individual.

A study reported in the Jan. 1999 issue of Science* suggested that methylphenidate also elevates levels of serotonin, which may account for some of its calming effects as well. Methylphenidate has never worked that way in my own brain, however, it makes me jittery.

* Gainetdov et al., Role of Serotonin in the Paradoxical Calming Effect of Psychostimulants on Hyperactivity, Science, Jan. 15, 1999: 397-410.

So WHICH medication is better?
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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.

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10 Organizing Principles for the Organizationally Impaired


NOT Your Mama’s Organization

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In support of the Challenges Inventory™ & ADD Coaching Series
my edited reposting of a five year old article

If at first you don’t succeed . . .

I know.  I’m right there with you.  You’ve read all the books and made a good stab at following their advice, and you still live in what might affectionately be called a pig stye if only it were that neat.

Give it up!

Those books were NOT written for you and me.  They were written for fundamentally organized people with relatively reliable follow-through skills and abilities.

They simply needed a little how-to help and advice.

I don’t work their way.
Do YOU work their way?

How DO you work?

If you don’t get real about how you work, you will never be able to determine what YOU need to do to to keep from spending half your life looking for things that were “right here a minute ago” — and the other half tripping over dirt and detritus.

As I began in an even earlier post (ADD & Organized?) . . .

Yea verily, even YOU can learn to be organized
just as soon as you understand
the reasons why you’ve been stopped in the past.  

Those of us who struggle with any of what are referred to as Executive Functions work a bit differently than those neurotypical folks.  We do not have vanilla-flavored brains.  We’re more like the ice cream with the mix-ins.  Our stoppers are not their stoppers.

HERE’S the KICKER: it’s a different mix of stoppers for every single one of us.  

So much for helpful hints and tidy lists!  

That said, I’m going to go w-a-a-y out on a limb by offering my top ten organizing principles that I now call, collectively, The Executive Functioning Organizing Manifesto — a summary of some basic concepts that need to be embraced and understood if you want to have a shot at working out what you need to do for YOU to be organized.

In future posts in this series, I will expand on some of the points below.
For NOW, print ’em out and hang ’em up and follow them!

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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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Dealing with Distractions


When the mind drifts away
Even when we’re trying hard to concentrate

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from The Challenges Series

This article (and Series) speaks to ANY of us who struggle with staying focused and on-task, by the way.  Distractibility is common with depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and in plain vanilla brains with too much to do and too little time in which to do it all. What do you think is behind procrastination?

More about Distractibility

As I said in the conclusion to an earlier post of this series, Distinguishing Distractibility, most brains screen out persistent stimuli.  That talent is part of the mechanism that ensures the survival of the species.

In order to be alert to something that might be life threatening, the brain automatically decides that ongoing stimuli are merely “background,” no longer important enough to pass along to the conscious mind.

I’ll use the sense of smell to give you an example of what I mean . . . 

Because smells are processed directly by what used to be referred to as the limbic area of the brain (instead of having to go through the thalamus, like the other senses), most ADD/EFD and “vanilla” brains – those without the cognitive mix-ins – usually have the same experience of the way it works.

Lessons from the Kitchen

Have you ever prepared a Thanksgiving meal, or been in the kitchen while one was being prepared?

Think back to those amazing smells. Mmmmmmmmm – heaven!

Yet, if you stay in the kitchen, after a while you stop noticing them.

In fact, when another person comes into the room exclaiming, “Boy, it sure smells great in here!” you can’t really smell those amazing aromas anymore, even if you try.

Because cognitive bandwidth is a limited resource, your brain has “backgrounded” the persistent odors so that you will be available to pay attention to any new ones, possibly needing immediate attention — like the fact that the rolls are burning.

If you leave the room (or the house) for a few minutes then come back into the kitchen, even a short while later, every good smell will hit you like a wave in the ocean. “Wow. It does smell good in here!”

YOU don’t have to think about handling the “backgrounding.”

Your brain does that for you, just as transparently as your brain tells you how to walk down a sidewalk without your having to consciously consider each little step in the process — allowing you sufficient “brain space” to think about something else.

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Smoking: Additional reasons why it’s SO hard to quit


Nicotine and
self-medication

NOT what you think this post is going to be about!

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Another post in the Walking A Mile in Another’s Shoes Series

It’s National Cancer Prevention Month!
American Institute for Cancer Research

A relatively new study on nicotine and self medication (linked below in the Related Content) prompted me to revisit the topic of smoking.

Why do so many of us continue to do it?

WHY does it seem to be so difficult to put those smokes down — despite the black-box warnings that now come on every pack sold in the USA?

Science rings in

The link between self-medication and smoking really isn’t news to me, by the way, but some scientific validation is always reassuring.

An article I published early-ish in 2013 can be found HERE – where I discussed the relationship between nicotine’s psycho-stimulation, the brain, and the concept of “core benefits.”

For those of you who enjoy a bit of sarcasm with your information, it’s written in a rah-ther snarky tone toward the self-righteous – who, because of the way the brain responds, actually make it more difficult for people who need to quit with their nags and nudges.

Even if you don’t, you’ve probably never come across this particular point of view anywhere else as an explanation for why it can be such a struggle to quit — especially for those of us who are card-carrying members of Alphabet City.

I’ll give you just a little preview of what I mean by “snarky” below
(along with Cliff Notes™ of most of the info, for those of you with more interest than time).


HOLD YOUR HORSES!!

Sit on your hands if you must, but do your dead-level best to hear me out before you make it your business to burn up the keyboard telling me what I already know, okay?

I PROMISE YOU I have already heard everything
you are going to find it difficult not to flame at me.

There is not a literate human being in the United States (or the world) who hasn’t been made aware of every single argument you might attempt to burn into the retinas of every smoky throated human within any circle of influence you are able to tie down, shout down, argue down or otherwise pontificate toward.

NOW – can you listen for once?  I’m not going to force you to inhale.  I’m not even trying to change your mind. I would like to OPEN it a crack, however.

If you sincerely want to protect your friends and loved ones while you rid the world of the deleterious effects of all that nasty second-hand smoke, wouldn’t it make some sense to understand WHY your arguments continue to fall on deaf ears?

Unless you truly believe that saying the same thing for the two million and twenty-second time is going to suddenly make a difference —

or unless you don’t really care whether people stop smoking
or not as long as you get to rant and rave about it

 — wouldn’t it make some sense to listen for a moment to WHY some of the people are still smoking?

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A Mardi Gras END to Christmas Festivities


As Mardi Gras/Carnival Season begins
(with festivities that continue until Lent)

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Edited reblog from Happy Eve before Mardi Gras, 2015

About Mardi Gras – why here (and NOW)?

Since my ex-husband and I both attended grad school in New Orleans, we had three years to experience the celebrations of Mardi Gras – from King Cake parties to balls to parades and so-much-more. I relish the opportunity to share “insider” Mardi Gras knowledge gleaned from my personal experiences in New Orleans over several seasons.

I’m posting this reblog just a tad early this year, in case some of you might be inspired to set up a quick trip while there still might be a hotel room to be had.

Mardi Gras beads in the traditional colors: green, purple and gold – thrown from the floats by MANY different Krew members riding in the many, MANY parades they sponsor

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Sleeping with the Enemy: Mom’s N-24


How N-24 affects the rest of us
With a special take on the topic from Guest Blogger TinkerToy

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Comorbidities and Sleep & Sleep Disorders Series

“When you hear hoof-beats,
think horses not Zebras”

Most doctors are repeatedly exposed to that little ditty from their earliest days in Med School, encouraging them to always consider the simplest explanations first.

It’s not bad advice for many of the disorders and diseases they’ll come across in the patients who will walk through their office doors seeking diagnosis and treatment.

It just turns out to be exactly wrong when it comes to recognizing chronorhythm disorders – disorders of sleep TIMING.

November 24th is N24 Awareness Day

As explained in last weeks post, N-24 Awareness Day is almost upon us:

N24 Awareness Day was first organized in 2012 to help raise awareness of chronorhythm disorders – those affecting sleep TIMING – and particularly to increase awareness of one of its lesser known manifestations: Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Syndrome.

It is also known as hypernychthemeral syndrome, N24, N-24, or free-running sleep disorder.

It is a severe, chronic and disabling neurological disorder that causes an individual’s “brain clock” to be unable to stay in sync with “nature’s clock,” the 24-hour cycle of light and dark on our planet.

For many years it was believed to be rarer than those of us who live with it know it to be, and to affect only the blind – supposedly the only individuals unable to “rephase to light.” SIGHTED sufferers were excluded from the studies, and are still today.

How can medical science expect to find what they fail to seek?

N24 Awareness Day – or N24 Day – is now observed annually, gathering participants as increasingly more people become aware of sleep timing disorders, recognizing their own sleep-struggles when they read about the symptoms.

Many have been MIS-diagnosed with insomnia, narcolepsy, or “simple” sleep apnea, because MOST doctors, therapists and coaches remain shamefully unaware — unable to recognize clear symptoms of an entire class of sleep disorders: those that are the result of chronorhythm dysregulation.

Read more of this post

N-24 Awareness Day is almost upon us


I wonder if I’ll be awake for it?
Don’t laugh – “days” are always a crapshoot

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Comorbidities and Sleep & Sleep Disorders Series

Even though I’m scurrying to finish everything I need to do to be able to announce Open Enrollment for the upcoming Group Coaching, I simply must take a bit of a break to let you know of something coming up in less than one week: N-24 Awareness Day.

An Explanation, not an excuse

In addition to my personal Challenges as THE ADD Poster Girl, anyone who knows me well at all knows about my life-long struggles as the result of a bodacious disorder of sleep TIMING.  (If you don’t you can read all about it in JetLagged for LIFE!)

If YOU or someone you love has been known to be “up all night,” sleeping away much of the day, put it on your must read list.

Depending on how closely you can relate, it just might change your life to learn what just might be going on.

Read more of this post

Beyond the Limitations of a Post-It Note™ Brain


 

TIME Perception is a factor of Awareness

The more conscious the process,
the longer it seems to take

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections post from the Time & Task Management Series
Part THREE (Part I HEREPart II HERE)

According to Dr. David Eagleman, we humans are more than passive observers where time is concerned. And he should know. The author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, has studied Time perception for well over a decade.

According to his research, we are not merely watching the river of time flow by as if time happened TO us, or we happened IN time. Science is learning that our brains are actively constructing time.

Re-engineering Brain Resources

In Eagleman’s words, It turns out that it has everything to do with novelty, and with how much energy your brain has to expend.

So, when you can predict something, not only does your consciousness not come online, but [the event] feels like it goes by very fast.

In other words, driving to work may seem relatively fast eventually. The first time you had to do it, however, it seemed to take longer because of the novelty, as well as the amount of brain-power you had to burn the first time you did it — before your brain was able to predict much of anything about the trip.

Essentially prediction means that if it’s something you’re doing repeatedly, you’re actually “rewiring” — reconfiguring the circuitry of the brain.

You’re actually moving things into your sub-conscious circuitry, which gives you speed and efficiency, albeit at the cost of conscious access.

So you have to pay a lot of conscious attention if you’re learning to do something new, like playing golf or driving a car.

After a while it’s not necessary, because you’ve changed the circuitry of your brain — no longer at the effect of the conscious awareness of what you’re doing.

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Is struggling with weight a “Second Brain” problem?


The Hunger Games of The Second Brain
– from Knowing Neurons

a hand-crafted reblog adding to the Brain-Based Series
Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Gut Feelings

Most of us know what it means to have “a gut feeling” – whether it feels intuitive in nature, or a queasy feeling in reaction to something negative or disgusting.  We tend to feel it in the solar plexis or below.

Many of us consider this “gut feeling” idea a metaphor – or believe that the brain in our head sends signals to the gut that produce these feelings.

Not exactly.  Your gut actually has a brain of its own (of sorts).

The nervous system that lines your gut, the enteric nervous system (ENS), is popularly called the “second brain.” This complex network of over 100 million neurons along the gastrointestinal tract works independently of any commands from the brain!

How it Works

The ENS manages the body’s digestive system using the same functional machinery as the brain – a network of neurons, neurotransmitters and proteins. The ENS plays an important role in governing food habits via bidirectional communication with the central nervous system (CNS).

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When Depression Comes Knocking


Depression:
NONE of us can count on immunity
when life kicks us down

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
A Mental Health Awareness Month Post

Today, the first Thursday of October, is National Depression Screening Day.

I have written relatively little about my own struggles, and don’t intend to focus there. Nor do I consider myself a poet; I rarely share my amateur attempts. However, a brave post by writer Christoph Fischer touched me in a manner that an informational article would not have. I decided to risk pulling back the curtain on a bit of the struggle in my own life for just a moment, hoping that it will touch someone else in a similar manner and encourage them to reach out. 

We are more alike under the skin than we realize.  NONE of us are really alone.

Nethersides of Bell Jars

I have been wrestling with PTSD along with struggles sleeping when it is dark out since a friend and I were gang mugged at gunpoint between Christmas and New Years Day, 2013 – only a few steps from the house where I rented an apartment.

My friend was pistol-whipped and almost abducted. After they robbed her, they turned their attention to me.

Among other things, my brand new iPhone, keys, datebook, all bank cards, checking account, and the locks on my van each had to be replaced – and everything else that entails.

Since the hoodlums smashed my dominant hand, I had to do it all encased in a cumbersome cast, one-handed for three months.  I wasn’t able to drive – or even wash my face, hands or dishes very well.  Zippers and can openers were beyond me.

Practically the moment my cast came off, I was informed that my landlord wanted her apartment back.  Apartment hunting, packing, moving and unpacking with a hand that was still healing – along with retrofitting inadequate closets, building shelves to accommodate my library and my no-storage kitchen, arranging for internet access and all the other details involved in a move  – took every single ounce of energy I could summon.  Eventually, I hit the wall.

Unpacking and turning a pre-war apartment into a home remains unfinished still.

In the past 2-1/2 years I’ve dipped in and out of periods of depression so debilitating that, many days, the only thing that got me up off the couch where I had taken to sleeping away much of the day was empathy for my puppy.

He needs food, water, love and attention, grooming, and several trips outside each day – and he just started blogging himself.

I’ve frequently had the thought that taking care of him probably saved my sanity – maybe even my life, but many days it took everything I had to take care of him, as the isolation in this town made everything worse.

The words below

I’m sharing the words I wrote the day the psychopharm I have visited since my move to Cincinnati decided not to treat me anymore.  When I called for an appointment, her receptionist delivered the news as a fait accompli, sans explanation.

  • It might make sense to be refused treatment if I attempted to obtain medication too often.
  • The truth is that, for quite some time, I hadn’t been able to manage the scheduling details that would allow me to visit her at all — even though that was the only way to obtain the stimulant medication that makes it possible for me to drive my brain, much less anything else that might give me a leg up and out of depression’s black hole.
  • I would have expected any mental health professional to recognize and understand depression’s struggle. I hoped that she would be willing to help once I contacted her again. Nope!

One more thing I must jump through hoops to replace, costly and time consuming.

Related Post: Repair Deficit

And so, the words below, written upon awakening the day after I was turned away . . .

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Depression and ADD/EFD – one or both?


Increased Risk for Depression –
and for being diagnosed with depression in error

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
An ADD Awareness Month Post

Because of the pervasiveness of the co-existence of these 2 diagnoses, it is vital to understand the differences between the two and to also treat both . . . when appropriate . . . to develop the most effective treatment plan and outcome.

[It’s] important to treat the primary diagnosis first, in order to achieve the best treatment outcome. ~ from Attention Research Update by Duke University’s David Rabiner, Ph.D. (whose article on ADD and Depression was the genesis of this article)

ADD/EFD, depression or both?

Found HERE

Everybody has shuffled through a down day or a down week. Most of us occasionally experience feelings of sadness, grief or depression as the result of a difficult life event.

We don’t qualify for a diagnosis of depressive disorder, however, unless these feelings are so overwhelming that we cannot function normally — generally characterized by the presence of sad, empty or irritable moods that interfere with the ability to engage in everyday activities over a period of time.

It’s not Unusual

Depression is one of the most common disorders to occur in tandem with ADD/EFD.  In fact, it has been determined that, at one time or another, close to 50% of all ADD/EFD adults have also suffered with depression.  Studies indicate that between 10-30% of children with ADD may have an additional mood disorder like major depression.

The overlap of the symptoms of ADD/EFD and depression, however, can make one or both disorders more difficult to diagnose — poor concentration and physical agitation (or hyperactivity) are symptoms of both ADD and depression, for example.  That increases the potential for a missed differential diagnosis – as well as missing the manner in which each relates to the other.

The chicken and egg component

Found HERE

Many too many doctors don’t seem to understand that serious depression can result from the ongoing “never enough” demoralization of ADD/EFD struggles. In those cases depression is considered a secondary diagnosis.

In other cases, depression can be the primary diagnosis, with ADD/EFD the secondary.

Treatment protocol must always consider the primary diagnosis first, since this is the one that is causing the greatest impairment, and may, in fact, present as another diagnosis.

It is essential for a diagnostician to make this distinction correctly to develop an effective treatment protocol.

  • Untreated primary depression can be debilitating, and suicidal thoughts might be acted upon.
  • If primary ADD is not detected, it is highly likely that treating the depression will not be effective, since its genesis is not being addressed.

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September 2016: Focus on Suicide Prevention


Articles ’round the ‘net
Depression, PTSD and more – the importance of kindness & understanding

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

World Suicide Prevention Day – Saturday, September 10, 2016 – every year, since 2003. I deliberately choose to wait a day to post my own article of support for two reasons:

  1. So that I could “reblog” and link to the efforts of others, offering some of the memes and articles they have created to give you both a quick hit and an overview of the extent of the problem.
  2. So that I could honor September 11th – another anniversary of loss and sorrow, as many Americans mourn the missing.

The extent of the mental health problem

Nearly 44 million American adults alone, along with millions more children and adults worldwide, struggle with “mental health” conditions each year, ranging from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ASD, OCD, PTSD, TBI to ADD/EFD and more.

One in five of those of us living in first-world countries will be diagnosed with a mental illness during our lifetimes.  It is estimated that more than double that number will continue to suffer undiagnosed.

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 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” — and every single person who passes on mental health stigma, makes fun of mental health problems, or fails to call out similar behavior as bad, wrong and awful when they witness it has locked them into prisons of despair.

We can do better – and we need to.

According to the World Health Organization, 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.”

This is STIGMA, and this needs 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)

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Brains Need SYSTEMS to Develop


Learning CHANGES the Structure of the Brain:

Impossible in the face of chaos

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

“You don’t cure a different organization of the brain;
you find ways and strategies of helping that brain learn [. . .] in a different way.
It’s not about cure, it’s about teaching different ways.

~ Maryanne Wolf
reading expert & author of Proust and the Squid

Building a Brain

While it is true that no two brains develop in a manner that is exactly the same, babies come into this world with a brain specialized for learning – a pattern-recognition device designed to bootstrap learning into a structure of additional patterns.

The brain develops in a manner not dissimilar to the way in which a computer uses certain hardwired sub-routines to locate and activate still more code that allows for the loading and interpretation of additional programs — which facilitates their use for creating new ideas.

The human brain builds the new structures and networks it needs to allow it to continue to learn.  The process by which it does that work is known as neuroplasticity.

Not all that long ago, most of the science-crowd mistakenly believed that there was a relatively early window in which neuroplasticity operated. It was once thought that all of the neurons our brains were ever going to have developed within that window, and the systems the brain used to learn were set after a particular point in childhood.

Baby brains develop amazingly quickly

If you’ve ever spent any time at all around an infant, you might recall their unfocused stare and their unselfconscious movements and facial expressions.

It may not be immediately apparent to parents who spend day to day time with the baby, but adults who visit only occasionally are usually amazed at how much more that child is able to interact with the world each time.

Suddenly, it seems, that tiny child is able to focus on an object of fascination.  S/he responds to the direction of a particular sound and reaches for things. The baby exhibits what adults recognize as curiosity about the world around them and develops preferences.

Order out of Chaos

Babies come into a world of seeming chaos: sights, sounds, temperature, texture and more, with little in place to help them make sense of it all. They have to build the brain that will help them learn for the rest of their lives.

The task of their amazingly neuroplastic infant brains is to learn to recognize the constants that help them to derive meaning from a cacophony of stimulation that the majority of us learn to filter out – eventually.

And it is the task of the adults around them
to provide those constants.

As infants learn to recognize the simplest thing, as far as adult sensibilities are concerned, their brains grow and change their structures. As the baby’s brain learns that certain types of vibrations need to be visually interpreted, others audially, and so forth, it reorganizes its pathways for the most efficient recognition and interpretation of incoming data. It condenses the complexities of sensory awareness to comprehend “meaning.”

Assimilation of the basic concept of Mom, for example, requires a complex network of connections that, very quickly, allows the baby to understand that the source of his or her food is mother, and that she is one single element:

  • those hands are part of my mother,
  • those arms are part of my mother
  • that face is my mother smiling
  • that other face is still my mother, frowning
  • those sounds make up my mother’s voice
  • and I have a voice too

A lot of brain-based learning must take place before the baby assigns emotional or intellectual meaning to what s/he observes, eventually able to extrapolate expectations of sensory awareness to form new ideas about his or her world like, “I have a voice too.”

A LOT for our brains to learn

It makes sense that it might have seemed that brain-development is essentially a childhood task. Because young children have so much to learn so quickly, brain growth and change seems, by comparison, to stop in adulthood.

It has been postulated that, because of the size limitations of the birth canal in an upright-walking human being, our babies are born essentially nine months premature.  The increase in size of the infant’s brain after birth is phenomenal, compared to the growth in an adult brain. A baby’s brain doubles in size in their first year alone. By age three it has reached 80 percent of its adult volume.

Highways and Byways

It is a logical extrapolation that after a certain point, the brain would use what it has built in a manner similar to the way in which a city uses it’s roads to connect grocery store to neighborhood to a particular location in the center of town. There may be a hundred ways to drive from place to place, but nobody sober cuts through yards to form new roads that were never there before.

Except, with the brain, that hasn’t turned out to be exactly true.
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The importance of Trigger Warnings


I expect Universities to be places of enlightened thinking
The University of Chicago flunked the test

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
A Mental Health Awareness Post

A Trigger Warning is no different from a RATING

A Trigger Warning is NOT content censorship – it is a WARNINGPeriod.  It allows for the use of coping strategies by those students who need them.

It is absolutely insane to put forth some black and white argument expressing fear that supporting its use in ANY circumstance will facilitate its application to all situations where some student might take offense.

  • Few thinking individuals are up in arms about impinging on the rights of people who want to watch certain types of films simply because they are rated X to guide those who do not.
  • Rational people do not insist that the ban on guns in schools be lifted, holding up 2nd Amendment Rights  (the right to bear arms, for my non-American readers).

And yet, The University of Chicago sent out a letter to incoming Freshman outlining their [non] logic as they disclose that they will not support the use of Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces on their campus.

Rather than using this issue as a chance to increase Mental Health Awareness, which is to be expected from any institution claiming education as its purpose, The University of Chicago has chosen to issue what amounts to a gag order.

We have a L-O-N-G way to go where educating people about Mental Health is concerned – but for a University to be so blatantly unaware is both frightening and appalling. I’d yank my kid out of that “educational” environment in a heartbeat!

Why all the fuss?

Regular readers are aware of the reasons for my reluctance to use the WordPress reblog function – so I hope you will jump over to the posts below to read the rest of the excellent points surrounding the words quoted below.

In her introduction, Maisha Z. Johnson explains the issue in terms anybody might easily be able to understand, EVEN the decision-makers at The University of Chicago, especially John Ellison, U of C dean of students (who is declining to respond to emails, etc. by the way).

THAT would mean, of course, that they’d bothered to upgrade their egregious lack of education about mental health issues before responding in what I feel strongly is a cruel and ignorant fashion.

Two college students return to campus after both were present for an act of violence.

One of them was physically injured in the incident. In order to return to class, he asks to have space around his desk to allow him to stretch, because sitting still for too long would aggravate his injury.

How would you feel about his request? Would you understand why such an accommodation would help him heal? Expect his professors to oblige?

Now, the other student’s pain isn’t visible – it’s emotional.

He wasn’t physically hurt, but he lost a loved one, and he’s traumatized. Certain reminders have resulted in panic attacks, and he’d rather not experience that again – especially not when he’s trying to move on with his life and get an education.

So he also makes a request, asking his professors if they can give him a warning before covering material that relates to the type of violence that took away his loved one.

How would you feel about this student’s request?

What he’s asking for is a content warning, also commonly called a trigger warning. And it’s a huge source of debate.

. . . when it comes to an able-bodied person experiencing a temporary injury and needing support to heal, there’s usually not much debate about whether or not they should be allowed in class with crutches, a cast, or extra space around their desk.

The sharp contrast between this acceptance and common attitudes towards trigger warnings reveals something disturbing about our society’s approach to trauma and mental illness.

Read more of this post . . .


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Good news on brain-aging from The Nun Study


Healthy Brains for a Lifetime

We really DON’T have to lose it as we age

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T, MCC, SCAC
Reflections on Cognitive Impairment and Dementia Protection

Cognitive decline is NOT inevitable

A quick review before some data that will bring smiles to a lot of worried faces (especially for writers!):

There is still a lot to learn from School Sisters of Notre Dame “Nun” Study — the longitudinal scientific exploration of aging and Alzheimer’s disease originally funded by the National Institute on Aging.  Data, tissue, and genetic material collected in this landmark study will, no doubt, prove invaluable to a great many meta-studies long into the future.

Thanks to the Sisters’ unprecedented generosity of spirit, however, we now know a lot more about how the brain ages than we did, even a few years ago.  We also know more about dementia and what factors seem to be neuro-protective.

The oft-cited study centers on a group of a relatively homogeneous order of 678 Roman Catholic sisters (American, no drug use, little or no alcohol or tobacco, similar housing and reproductive histories, etc.) — which minimizes extraneous variables that may confound other similar research.

Along with, ultimately, hundreds of others in their order, a few brave nuns agreed to volunteer for a long-term study of aging and Alzheimer’s disease, hoping to provide evidence that might be used to teach the rest of us how to escape the worst ravages of this heartbreaking illness.

To repeat a comment from my last article [You don’t HAVE to lose it as you age: Moving Past Mind-Blips and “Senior Moments”]:

Upon autopsy, even some of the individuals discovered to have what used to be accepted as “positive Alzheimer’s identifiers” (senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles), managed to escape the behavioral devastation of the disease.

Others had only recently begun to exhibit signs of mental decline in the year or two before their deaths (at 80 and beyond), despite brains that would have predicted a significantly earlier onset of dementia.

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You don’t HAVE to lose it as you age


Moving Past Mind-Blips and “Senior Moments”

Maintaining & improving your brain’s vitality as you age

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T, MCC, SCAC
Reflections on Cognitive Impairment and Dementia Protection

“A mind equipped with a wide range of
previously formed
pattern recognition devices
can withstand the effects of neuroerosion
for a long time.”

~ Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, PhD, from
The Wisdom Paradox 


Along with suggestions designed to help, this article begins to debunk the myth of “to be expected” age-related cognitive decline — as it explains the mechanics of memory and outlines the functional trajectory of the healthy brain as time marches on.

In the Memory Issues Series, anyone currently struggling to fit into a neurotypical mold, even if you are GenX or younger, will find a lot of information that will help you develop effective you-specific strategies to work around some of the things that give you fits and shut you down.


Our Worst Nightmare

Staying in SHAPE as we age (Source HERE)

Most people who have lived with cognitive decline in an up close and personal fashion (in particular, the ravages of any of the dementias in a loved one), frequently report a back-of-the-mind concern that they are looking into a mirror of their future selves.

Time marches on, and we’re all getting older. The first wave of Baby Boomers – that spike in the population statistics once Johnny came marching home from World War II – turned 65 in 2012.

With the third-act aging of more and more of the Boomers, this conversation will become increasingly frequent, as those back-of-the-mind concerns rise to conscious awareness and become the worries of a greater portion of our population.

Take a D-E-E-P breath — you don’t HAVE to lose it as you age!!

Prevention is the better part of valor

You wouldn’t wait until the day before the marathon to train for it, would you? Same thing with healthy brain aging! Don’t wait until decline begins to start doing something about it — if you want to experience the rosy finish you can expect if you begin to employ neuro-protective techniques NOW

Good news for most Boomers –
it’s not too late to start turning things around!

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Listening from Belief


‘Cause maybe you DON’T know better

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections Post on Listening Skills for Coaches

AS I’VE SAID BEFORE:
More than most people with “vanilla” functioning
ADD/EFDers have had people
trying to “fix” them all their lives —
along with the other citizens of Alphabet City
,
whose cognitive challenges are not physically obvious.

UM, this is why . . .

When we try to explain our actions in the context of our challenges, they barely make sense to us – and rarely make sense to them.

Even when those “fixers” appear to be listening,
they don’t always seem to be hearing.

Too many of them seem to believe that their own experience of life is valid and useful, and that their ADD/EFD buddy merely has to adopt their perspective and their correct attitude to be able to function differently — and well!

• You’re running a victim racket  . . .
• It’s all that coffee, or sugar, or lack of sleep –
ANYTHING besides Executive Functioning Disorders themselves . . .
• You are at the effect of an inaccurate BELIEF

Most of us understand intellectually that most “helpful” comments probably come from a positive, even loving intention. Most of us are willing to believe that those we’ve hired to help us (or who claim to love us) wish us well – but do you realize how UNloving those comments are in execution?  They don’t help, and they DO hurt.

They’re invalidating. They’re shaming and should-ing all over the place!

What’s worse, they don’t even work.

They frequently produce exactly the opposite of what the person who says them says they want! They confuse the issue and delay getting to the understanding that will actually make improved functioning possible. It’s not smart to devalue the clues! We’ll start telling you what we know you want to hear, and then where are we?

Invalidation comes from two assumptions that are flat out wrong:

  1. They assume lack of self-awareness — that we are not experiencing or describing our world view appropriately or accurately;
  2. They assume volition well, maybe we’re not exactly doing it on purpose, but we’re not making choices that will allow us NOT to do it either. And we could!

So, once again, we’re back to the underlying assumption that “all” a person who is struggling with one of the invisible disorders has to do is make a commitment to willingness and their world will shift on a dime.

This Chinese finger-trap is a consequence of a failure to listen from a basic belief in another’s experience of the world, their willingness to share it truthfully, and their ability to language it relatively accurately.

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Coaching for those Senior Moments


ADD/EFD or
Age-related Mind Blips?

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections on memory before moving on with help

When your mind is like a steel sieve

It’s bad enough when we can’t recall a name in the middle of an introduction. It’s worse when we can’t remember where we put our keys when we’re running late — and so embarrassing when our minds drive right by birthdays and anniversaries.

We feel scatterbrained when we have to go back into the house several times to check that we turned off the lights, locked the back door, or unplugged the iron.

We feel stupid when we forget a basic fact we haven’t pulled out of our mental databases for a while – like how to divide fractions or figure percentages, or the spelling of a common word, for example.

We worry that we might be getting SENILE when we can’t recall entire events – like going to see a specific film with a certain person who is absolutely positive we were there with them, perplexed when we still don’t remember once they supply details to support their case.

If we don’t remember seeing the film at all, we begin to worry about incipient Alzheimer’s!

Memory lapses are not limited to those middle-aged mind-blips science sometimes calls “age-related cognitive decline.” It’s also awful when a student’s mind goes blank when s/he’s taking an exam after studying diligently for several nights in a row.

Question Mark in red circle; magnifying glass attempting to make it clearer.While the kids might substitute a different word for the last letter in the acronym, we all find it unbelievably frustrating when we have a CRS episode – those times when we simply . . .

        Can’t Remember Stuff !

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Productivity: Paying Attention on Purpose


Keeping our Attention on Intention
Accountability check-ins for purposeful follow-through

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

The Link between Attention and Intention

Many qualities and skills combine to produce successful follow-through. Today, we are going to focus on the importance of attention.

If you ever hope to stop scratching your head or beating yourself up over your struggles with staying on track and getting things done, understanding the implications of the concept of attention is foundational.

Every single technique I have developed, coached and taught over the last 25+ years has been structured with the underlying goal of strengthening  the attentional muscles – or compensating for them when they are weak.

No matter what your most frustrating problem is: clutter-management or up-front organization, making yourself start or procrastinating at the back end, time or mood management  — and a whole host of other challengesunderneath them all is a problem with attention allocation and management.

If you don’t understand how to work with yourself to focus your attention on what you want, when you want and for as long as you must, you’re going to have problems in some or all of those arenas.

So let’s get to it!

As I said in Brain Waves, Scans and ATTENTION —  One of the goals of comprehensive brain-based ADD Coaching is to identify areas where our clients can improve on the intentional direction of attentive awareness.  Nobody gets much done if they can’t focus very well on what they’re attempting to DO.

HOWEVER, without supportive follow-through structures in place, whether professional, partner or peer, the self-discipline to stay focused and in action for as long as it takes, is rare.

As our attention meanders from distraction to competing priority our willpower seems to drain away, leaving us wanting nothing so much as a vacation or a nap!

And then we turn on ourselves, beating ourselves up with negative thoughts and comments we’d never say to another living soul.

Related Posts: How to STOP Chasing your Tail
Productivity, Focus & Follow-through

How Come?

In case you missed it in Why Accountability Leads to Follow Through, it’s not that we’re lazy or lack sufficient motivation, even though many of us have been accused of exactly that, far too many times.

It’s that few of us realize that, no matter how strong our initial commitment, will-power requires cognitive bandwidth that is limited in supply. Just like a a muscle, it can only be exercised for so long – and handle so much – before it gives out.

We see the negative effects most dramatically in the citizens of Alphabet City, whose attentional “muscles” aren’t as strong to begin with. However, we can ALL use a little wind beneath our wings to help us keep on keepin’ on.

Related Post: From Impulsivity to Self-Control

Unfortunately, it becomes difficult to impossible to reach that happy state of managing our attention with intentionality until we understand what it is, exactly, that we are attempting to manage.

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Accountability & Systems on Auto-Pilot


Systems Development is Part ONE
It’s that consistent follow-through part that’s the killer!

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

Treadmill Deja Vu

As I explained in Keeping Up with the Treadmill Tasks, published over 2-1/2 years ago, Treadmill Tasks are those things that are never really done. No sooner do we put a task behind us than its evil twin materializes in front.

If we expect to eat every day, somebody has to fix the food. Then somebody has to deal with the dishes at least once a day or so, and wipe spills off the counters and the floor (at least well enough to keep the Board of Health away from our door).

Oops, let’s not forget to take out the garbage – and how about that grocery shopping?

Then there’s the general digging out: policing the living rooms and the bedrooms, the kitchens and the bathrooms . . . not to mention those home office to-dos, even for those of us who work for wages somewhere else.

SOME-body has to attend to all of those items or everybody must live with the consequences of mounting disorder and disarray that eventually makes life practically unlivable.

When YOU are that somebody – especially if you are one of the citizens of Alphabet City – I’ll bet you frequently feel like your life is little more than one rapidly revolving to-do list, and that you will never be able to cross off anything anywhere near the bottom.

Hang on – help’s coming!

But wait – there’s MORE!

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Why Accountability Leads to Follow-through


Keepin’ on Keepin’ ON
Accountability check-ins for follow-through

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

Structures for Accountability

Have you ever gone on a weight loss diet?  Even if you are one of the few people in America who have no personal experience with that particular follow-though struggle, I’ll bet you are familiar with somebody else’s on again/off again attempts at “losing a few pounds and getting into shape.”

Psychologist Dan Ariely, author, professor and Duke University’s founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight has made a comprehensive study of self-regulation abilities.

He’s noted that people can promise themselves they will stick to a plan (as with a weight-loss diet), and have all the motivation in the world (like a serious health concern, for example) but, without external controls, most people are unlikely to follow through on their commitments to themselves.

Why else do you think so many people trying to lose weight turn to Weight Watchers and other organizations that use an accountability/motivational check-in format?

Related Post: Productivity, Focus & Follow-through

Without support and check-in structures in place, having the self-discipline to follow through for as long as it takes is rare.

  • Haven’t you noticed that you have a better shot at staying on task when someone is watching?
  • Didn’t you study more diligently when you knew a test was coming up?
  • When your follow-through energy begins to flag and you start to get discouraged, doesn’t having somebody in your corner who reminds you of how well you’ve been doing make a difference?
  • When your will-power wilts, doesn’t it help to have a champion in your corner?

It’s not that we’re lazy or lack motivation — it’s that we don’t realize that no matter how strong our initial commitment, will-power requires cognitive bandwidth that is limited in supply.

Just like a a muscle, it can only be exercised for so long – and handle so much – before it gives out.  We need a little wind beneath our wings to help us keep on keepin’ on.

Related Post: Can This ADDer be Saved?

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Getting along when only ONE of you has ADD/EFD


When you love someone who seems to respond in non-loving ways
Adjusting expectations of HOW to get to WHAT

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

She is so selfish;
He never listens;
It’s like s/he disobeys deliberately!
At this point s/he’s just making excuses.

The blind leading the blind?

Whether you are a parent, a partner or a teacher of someone with Executive Functioning challenges, unless you truly understand the parameters of the problem you are, essentially, “blind” about how to interact with them to get what you want from the relationship.

And they are, essentially, “blind” to your expectations and why you are so frustrated when they don’t measure up to your standards.

Related Post: Executive Functioning Disorders – NOT just kid stuff

The hallmark symptoms of Executive Functioning Disorders (of which ADD/HD is only one) negatively impact what I refer to as attentional mechanisms. That can show up a number of ways in day-to-day behavior, but the symptoms that seem to be the most frustrating — the ones I hear about most often — include inattentiveness or forgetfulness, difficulty completing tasks, and impulsivity.

Related Posts: Symptoms of Attentional Struggles
Types of Attentional Deficits

How ADD/EFD Affects Relationships

Alone or in combination, each of the hallmark symptoms can have a devastating impact on relationships. When responsibility for children are part of the puzzle, these issues become all the more complex.

Without the appropriate diagnosis and treatment, ANY of the implications of Executive Functioning struggles can destroy marriages and other relationships — needlessly.

Below are only some of the problems that have been reported to me most often when partners, children or students have Executive Functioning issues, interfering with their ability to direct attention at will.

  • Seeming inability to handle responsibilities
    Forgetting to turn in completed assignments, pay bills or put a toxic substance away from the reach of children, neglecting to clear debris or mend a hole in the fence that keeps the family dog from running into the street are only a few of the many complaints I have heard over the years.
  • Difficulty listening and paying attention
    Many tend to “zone out,” interrupt and talk out of turn, making communication a struggle for both of you. It can also cause the “vanilla” partner to feel as though what s/he has to say isn’t valued or important to the “EFD flavored” partner.
  • Trouble remembering promises & completing tasks
    Thanks to glitches in the short-term to long-term memory circuit, problems with Executive Functioning regulation frequently lead to forgetfulness, which usually shows up as poor organizational skills like: missing important events like birthdays and anniversaries, or repeatedly forgetting to stop at the store on the way home to purchase the ingredients for that very night’s dinner. What may look like a lack of willingness to do what they say they would do (or to finish what they start) may translate into an apparent lack of commitment when it comes to jobs as well as relationships.
  • Impulsive behavior
    Attempts to wake up a sluggish brain often leads to a craving for stimulation. With little attention to thinking through the consequences of their actions, this can result in irresponsible, even reckless behaviors (from experimenting with drugs to speeding and jumping from lane to lane despite the fact that there are children in the car).
  • Emotional volatility
    They may seem to simmer with chronic low-grade irritability, or temper tantrums may flair over things that seem inconsequential to you, leading to harsh words and major misunderstandings. Arguments can quickly spiral out of control because the person with “the problem” seems unable to talk through issues calmly.  The truth is that conversational hot buttons are being pushed on both sides, inadvertently instigated by a frustrated “vanilla” partner.

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