ADHD and Executive Function Skills Through Dr B’s Eyes - 069Jan 02, 2020
Hey ADDers! So glad you could join me for today’s episode – ADHD and Executive Function Skills Through Dr B’s Eyes.
Back in the late 1970’s I had Graves Disease, which simply put is an overactive or hyperactive thyroid gland. ...Being an options thinker, I explored acupuncture, which addresses issues of energy directly and visualization techniques, which have been researched as very effective in the treatment of cancer. Plus, some reading in Louise Hay’s book “Healing Your Body” helped me to understand the metaphysical aspects of my thyroid, which is about speaking my truth. So, between the use of the medication, acupuncture, and visualization techniques with self-dialogue, I was able to release the hyperactive energy from my thyroid gland without the need for surgery or radiation. Everything that had happened to my eyes and thyroid gland went back to normal and you couldn’t tell it ever happened.
I share the stories in this episode with you, so you have a little sense of my worldview on wellness and how the limited options we are often given are just that – limited and limiting.
In this episode Dr B talks about:
- The importance of celebrating your wins
- Free 75-Minute Live Masterclass, either January 3, 5 or 6 - your choice! "The #1 Way to Move Beyond the Years of Damage from Undiagnosed ADHD and Executive Function Dysfunction." Event is over.
- Learn about Masterclasses on Decision-Making, Time Management and Procrastination!
The driving force behind this show, the ADDventures programs: AIA Foundational Skills and AIA Next Level, and all my social media is to end the needless pain and suffering of those with ADHD and/or under-developed Executive Function Skills.
Developing your Executive Function Skills and shifting your limiting beliefs is the fastest and most effective way to overcome ADHD limitations, find focus, gain confidence, and newfound freedom in your life!
My mission is to put an end to the worldwide needless suffering of adults with ADHD and those with under-developed Executive Function Skills - whether from ADHD, chronic depression or anxiety, trauma, addictions, or chronic illnesses. And, you don't need a formal diagnosis to know you need help developing these executive function skills in order to greatly reduce your suffering.
Full Episode Transcript Today is Episode 69 with Dr B
Hey ADDers! So glad you could join me for today’s episode – ADHD and Executive Function Skills Through Dr B’s Eyes.
Back in the late 1970’s I had Graves Disease, which simply put is an overactive or hyperactive thyroid gland. When I saw the specialist, they indicated that I had three options – 1) A thyroxine blocking medication; 2) I-131, a radioactive substance to destroy a portion of my thyroid; or 3) Surgery, to remove a portion of my thyroid. These were my choices, according to the physician’s education, their perception of the problem, and the protocol of that time. When I inquired about other options, they told me there were none. And furthermore, that if I opted for the thyroxine blocking medication and it didn’t work to resolve the problem after a full year, then I would have to choose option 2 or option 3.
I found the doctor’s perspective to be an interesting one, as it was limited by their paradigm of the practice of medicine and further limited by the objectification of my thyroid gland.
My paradigm, on the other hand, did not include radiation or surgery. It made perfect sense to me that if my thyroid gland was the ‘home’ for this hyperactive energy, then surgically or chemically removing its ‘home’ would only drive it to seek another home. When I presented my perspective to my doctor, they looked at me like I was crazy, and said that it doesn’t work like that. I guess we must have studied different physics courses in which I was taught that energy never dies; rather it transforms and moves on. I certainly wasn’t interested in that energy finding a new ‘home’.
So, being an options thinker, I explored acupuncture, which addresses issues of energy directly and visualization techniques, which have been researched as very effective in the treatment of cancer. Plus, some reading in Louise Hay’s book “Healing Your Body” helped me to understand the metaphysical aspects of my thyroid, which is about speaking my truth. So, between the use of the medication, acupuncture, and visualization techniques with self-dialogue, I was able to release the hyperactive energy from my thyroid gland without the need for surgery or radiation. Everything that had happened to my eyes and thyroid gland went back to normal and you couldn’t tell it ever happened.
When my dog Sundance was diagnosed with cancer back in 2005, the doctors gave her 2-3 months, stating it was a very aggressive form of cancer; that all I should hope for was to enjoy her for as long as I could, keep her comfortable, and then finally, say goodbye. Again, my paradigm about her condition was quite different than the doctors’. I knew from conversations with my father, who did healing work, cancer cells cannot survive in an oxygen rich environment. So, I got Sundance acupuncture treatments to strengthen her immune system, and ozone treatments to oxygenate her system. I purchased the necessary ozone equipment and learned to give her the treatments myself. She also received other treatments further on. She lived for 13 months after her diagnosis, about 12 months were very high quality of life and only in her last month did I need to focus on keeping her comfortable and finally saying goodbye. I am grateful to be an options thinker and skilled problem solver.
I share these stories with you, so you have a little sense of my worldview on wellness and how the limited options we are often given are just that – limited and limiting.
Following this train of thought a bit further, specific to living with ADHD and Executive Function Dysfunction as an adult, the conventional perception offers symptoms as a criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD, with a treatment protocol that sees medication as a first-line recommendation, followed by education, coaching, therapy and support groups. Executive Function Dysfunction isn’t even in the diagnostic manual. One of my concerns is that if ADHD is viewed as this list of symptoms, which could be coming from any number of sources, and is treated to eliminate the symptoms, have we really solved the problem? I don’t think so. And if we aren’t addressing the Executive Function Dysfunction, which can co-occur with ADHD, chronic depression or anxiety, traumas and addictions, we definitely aren’t really solving the problem. I think the solution is much greater than the currently recommended treatment protocol. My 30+ years of expertise in the field has shown me that with proper training and fine-tuning of our minds and emotions and behaviors, the face of adult ADHD and Executive Function Dysfunction will change.
Mindfulness of mind, simply put, is intentionally bringing your attention to the present moment with openness and curiosity. There is no judgment in that statement. Rather ‘openness’ to the possibilities and ‘curiosity’ as to what they are or will be. Mindfulness is a way of being that can strengthen your attention skills, help you develop greater self-awareness and support you in learning to both understand and self-regulate your emotions. Mindfulness is the basis for greater happiness and awareness of what is going on around you all the time. “Socrates said, in the movie Peaceful Warrior – “There is never nothing going on.”
Many of you may already have learned that what you pay attention to grows. Your attention may often be on problems or symptoms – not solutions. When you pay attention to the negatives such as what isn’t working, what’s not getting done, what you just can’t seem to handle – do those challenges just seem to grow and grow until you feel overwhelmed by them? For many, the mind-“fullness” they practice is problem-focused; their mind is so full of negatives, that there is no room for the positives to come in and take root.
A solutions-oriented view of life doesn’t ignore the problems; rather it identifies them quickly in order to know what solutions to be looking for or creating.
Remember – your vision and purpose need to be greater than your struggles in order for you to remain determined and motivated to achieve your desired outcome.
Again – your vision and purpose need to be greater than your struggles in order for you to remain determined and motivated to achieve your desired outcome.
Mindfulness of emotions is the ability to recognize, regulate and express emotions in a way that supports your wellbeing. There are many emotions (basic ones such as anger, fear, joy, sadness, disgust, surprise) as well as more complex ones such as love, pride, embarrassment, shame, guilt).
Emotions are E-motion or energy in motion. They are movement and flow rather than fixed or permanent.
The source of feelings or emotions can be mind and/or body. Meaning, you can be feeling mentally anxious (due to a thought), physically anxious (due to a bodily sensation), or emotionally anxious (due to the meaning or interpretation of a life event or bodily sensation). This anxiousness can result in a behavior or action taken that is colored by or filtered through the emotion of anxiousness.
Back to mindfulness of emotions – when you learn to recognize the emotion you are experiencing (such as anger) and stay open and curious as to the presence of anger in that moment, without judgment, you have a much better chance of understanding the message that anger is bringing you.
Next you learn to regulate the feeling of anger. This means that you are not ‘becoming anger or angry’, rather you are doing your best to ‘be with’ the feeling of anger and learn what it has to teach you. Remember – don’t shoot the messenger! The messenger isn’t the message; accept the message and learn from it.
Before moving on to how you express your response, a quote from Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ – “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” You have a choice of how you will express your response; expression is not hardwired into an event.
Why are emotions or feelings important with ADHD? They inform our choices and decisions. They tell us what is important – to us. And because they are at the heart of how we perceive something, and the meaning we give it, we are creating our own meaningful or meaningless life.
Let’s reframe that and look at it another way. Since our emotions and feelings have such power in the quality of our lives, and they are our emotions to learn to do with as we choose, we have the opportunity to give different, and more resourceful meanings to the experiences in our lives and thereby increase our own happiness and wellbeing.
Another way of saying this is – “the meanings and stories about your emotions and feelings and life is made up by you.” And you can make up (or rewrite or reframe) a more positive and empowering meaning to your feelings (still about those same feelings) that will help you move forward and achieve what you are seeking, rather than freeze you in your tracks! There’s so much power in the meanings we give to our thoughts, feelings, emotions and the events of our lives.
Charles Darwin said - “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive and adaptable to change.” The capacity to shift back and forth between emotional states is the key.
He’s speaking of our ability to self-regulate, and express resilience with what life sends to us. This is definitely an important executive function skill to fully develop because we’ll need it daily and for the rest of our lives.
Over the years, ADHD has been called a lot of horrible things: mental retardation, a moral deficit; an inattention deficit, and more. However, ADHD has yet to be officially named a dysregulation condition.
According to Georgia A. DeGangi, Ph.D. - “Interventions need to help the person learn to modulate (alter) arousal and sensory registration; to sustain attention; and to develop self-control and mastery in a variety of social, work, and everyday activities... A comprehensive model for treating attentional problems that incorporate cognitive–behavioral and sensory integration approaches.” That’s definitely more than just medication. To me, she’s talking about the importance of training.
And what about your beliefs? Why are they so important? Let me explain. Your mind doesn’t care whether what you believe is good for you or not. It doesn’t sort for such criteria. Rather, whatever you believe will directly influence your thoughts, choices, and behaviors as well as the outcomes in your life. So, whether you believe you can or believe you can’t...you are right either way.
A few words about Stigma, Shame, Secrecy and Self-Judgment…
Stigma: What we have here is a configuration of a brain and mind that has been stigmatized and diagnosed based on symptoms and history. Ridiculous! Signs and symptoms can be indicative of many sources; they don’t just lead to one source, cause or conclusion. How people present themselves is what’s stigmatized and yet not fully understood by the people doing the stigmatizing.
Shame: A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. Shame is about saying that your essence is bad or wrong; that you are defective to the core of you, which of course is NOT true. Shame is a social emotion; we cannot have it without others being around; or at least around in your mind. There is a sense of finality to shame; that it’s the totality of you forever! With guilt there is hope; you’ve done something wrong; not that you are wrong, because what was done can typically be fixed.
Secrecy: In our families of origin, we often learn to keep secrets – secrets about our parents or what’s happening in our homes. This can lead us to withhold information or the truth when we speak with others; a more guarded stance. In order to do this, we need to put on a persona or face; not our true self. And since we are only as sick as our secrets, it’s good that we learn to not keep them, especially when we’re in safe places to share them.
Self-Judgment: I often hear adults taking responsibility for something that isn’t theirs to be responsible for. They didn’t cause the problem or do something wrong, and yet they are taking responsibility for what happened. Often it gives them a ‘sense of control’ in their life when there isn’t much of one. If I am responsible then I can do something; if others are responsible and don’t do something then I am really in trouble. After all, I can blame myself for my troubles if I am responsible.
Another way in which we adults judge ourselves is by giving attribution (or credit) to something that isn’t the source of the problem. An example would be having trouble being on time for most everything in life. The natural place to look would be ‘time management’ because most would say that’s the problem. However, the problem is often that the person is depriving themselves of quality, important time “ME time”, and so they steal time from wherever they can get it and give it to themselves – all the time feeling very guilty for doing so.
It’s not your fault! I know you think it is because it’s you who is not doing or not getting things done. However, if you don’t know what you don’t know and those that should know what you don’t know don’t too, then how is this your fault? This is a multi-generational problem and needs to STOP; hopefully in this generation. There’s been enough pain and suffering; needless suffering by so many. It’s time for healing and a better, more effective and loving way of life for all of us.
And watch out for false hope vs. real hope. False hope is cheerleader hope. You can do it; I know you can (and that’s it.) Real hope is changing how you do what you do, what you believe, the stories you tell yourself, and supporting you to do so.
Remember – there’s no skill in a pill. Medication is a wonderful scaffolding (if it works for you and you opt to take medication) to help put you in the position of being able to do what you could not do before with regard to paying attention, and reducing hyperactivity and impulsivity. However, if you couldn’t play the piano before, you won’t with medication. You will be more able to learn to play and stay on task but won’t automatically play.
I don’t see what we typically talk about as the problems of ADHD as the real problems. I see these problems as symptoms of the greater problem, which has to do with a lack of mindfulness and lack of ability to regulate our emotions and self, when and how we need to (which is our executive functioning). In other words – our thinking, emotions and focus lack the training they need to serve us rather than take us down.
When I read posts in ADHD support groups, I read about so many negative experiences and various traumas as well as mistreatment at the hands of professionals while attempting to get a diagnosis or medication or both. It’s heart breaking. So many of us have lived lives filled with many negative experiences and various traumas, that have left us feeling depressed or anxious or defeated about our lives ever getting better than they are.
Instead of continuing to focus on the symptoms of ADHD, let’s focus on the deeper issues of healing our wounds so we can all thrive in 2020. It’s our time and I invite you to join me on January 3rd, 5th or 6th for a free live Masterclass on The #1 Way to Move Beyond the Years of Damage from Undiagnosed ADHD and Executive Function Dysfunction. You’ll find further information at https://www.drbarbaracohen.com/2020.
Earlier I touched on the topic of failed attempts to get a diagnosis or medication or both from professionals. Let’s look at this more closely.
First, there is no required curriculum for professionals to study and know anything about adult ADHD; none. Those that have expertise have taken it upon themselves to study outside of professional requirements. So, if they can’t see what’s right there in front of them and wouldn’t know what to do to help you even if they knew you’re an adult with ADHD or executive function deficits sitting in front of them, what often happens? Many of you receive a diagnosis of depression or anxiety (which can certainly be true) however the source may well be your unidentified adult ADHD and/or underdeveloped executive function skills. So treating the depression or anxiety isn’t fully effective if you are anxious or depressed because you can’t function effectively as an adult. Treating the symptoms doesn’t improve the quality of your life.
So what tools are used to get a diagnosis of ADHD as an adult? The diagnostic manual (DSM-V) most recently published in 2013, says it’s up to the individual clinician to decide how they are going to do an assessment and make a diagnosis; if they are allowed to diagnose. Just because you match a list of symptoms doesn’t automatically mean you have a condition. Without going further and looking at your family tree, taking a thorough history and ruling in and out other possible conditions, the professional is jumping to conclusions. And so are you if you just answer a quiz online and decide you have a condition.
It’s important to make sure that in addition to all the typical things you might be doing for yourself such as medication, therapy and/or coaching – that you make sure to get your executive function skills assessed to know how well developed they are and to rule in or rule out these skills as the under-lying cause of your difficulties. And while I am talking about a higher level of care, be sure you are exercising, getting good nutrition, restorative sleep and support from somewhere – a group or a program. This is not a journey to take alone.
So, what does all of this information mean for you and why did I share it? Because I want you to be informed and get the best care available for yourself, wherever you decide to get it. The point is, I’ve spent 68 years on this planet navigating this mental health system that isn’t too healthy or friendly and it can be incredibly difficult to get your needs met, even when you know how the system operates.
Remember - you are NOT what you do or don’t do; that you are more than that, whether it’s your time to develop these skills or not. Your time will come, if you get yourself ready for it and welcome it into your life. Also, you are not the stories you make up about yourself. You are not too old and it’s not too late for any of you. These are skills I’m talking about and just as you learned to walk, talk, and tie your shoe laces, if you do these things, you can learn executive function skills and strategies no matter what age you are.
YOU are NOT defective or less than as a person – as a human being because you don’t yet know how to organize your thoughts or your home or stay on top of your daily tasks. Did you receive instructions or take a class on how to do these things in a way that you could understand and implement? Probably not…
Speaking of classes, I’m hosting a live Masterclass on The #1 Way to Move Beyond the years of Damage from Undiagnosed ADHD and Executive Function Dysfunction in early January 2020. If you feel stuck and want to move beyond all the wreckage of your past and get into action, please join me on January 3rd, 5th or 6th: https://www.drbarbaracohen.com/2020
As we are moving into the New Year, I wanted to offer you some “action steps” but first, let’s celebrate a few WINS. Perhaps you’ve become aware of just how much you live in the past or future and have committed to live in the NOW; that’s a huge win! Or maybe you’ve undertaken the task of writing a new story about your life and the meanings of the events that did happen while you were growing up; that’s awesome! Or maybe you decided that time is passing and now is the time to get serious about what you want out of your life and how you will achieve those things; that’s a fantastic win!
Celebrating a WIN today, even if it’s been a tough day, let’s you acknowledge that at least something is good about today and that’s important, even in the worst of times. You are a precious child of the universe; and are called a “human being” not a “human doing” for good reason. You don’t have to earn your value by what you do; you were born with it. You’re value comes from “who” you are; not what you do. Got it? I hope so because you’re going to keep hearing me say it, because it’s so important to your self-esteem and quality of life.
So let’s transition to the “action steps” you can take to start turning your life around.
How much time do we have? Not much. So let’s get to it.
Today’s 3 action steps:
Now back to being an adult with ADHD in today’s world and some action steps.
1. The first action step is your SELF-CARE
a. Restorative sleep for 8 hours (no electronics to disturb)
b. Hydrate and cleanse your cells (pure water)
c. Nutrient-dense food plan (veggies, fruits, proteins and fats)
d. Physical activities/movement (stretching and strength training)
e. Oxygenation for better brain function (aerobics, tai chi, qi gong)
2. The second action step is your LIFEWORK
a. Every experience is an opportunity to practice new skills.
b. Looking forward to practicing rather than avoiding it
c. Tracking lessons learned and integrating them into your life
d. Gibran said – “Work is Love Made Visible” – treat it this way
e. Every moment is an opportunity to choose to move towards your dreams
3. The third action step is your PERSISTENCE
a. Willing to go to any lengths to achieve your goals
b. Daily consistency even in baby steps or 15-minute increments
c. Know your WHY for going after anything you are doing
d. Know your HOW and options, so you can keep going
e. Remember you already know how to persist on other things
You probably already know that self-care, lifework and persistence are important and yet you might not be doing them. One reason could be your underdeveloped executive function skills and strategies. Another could be a self-defeating belief. And it isn’t even enough to know this – so please don’t stop there. You need to get into action. If you can’t get yourself to do any of the three action steps I’ve suggested, then I suggest you work on your executive function skills so that you can. So many adults have problems “initiating” or getting started on what they already know they need to be doing and can’t. If that’s you, it might be an indicator that you need to develop your skills.
A Favorite Quote:
Germany Kent said, “Never underestimate the power you have to take your life in a new direction.”
Do you believe you have the power to take your life in a new direction? If yes, great! If not, then start with changing your negative belief so that you can make the changes that are indeed possible for you!
Remember that what you focus on grows. If you focus on your past, and mistakes you made or things you didn’t know “yet” – you’ll contaminate your present moments with regrets or past pain. If you focus on your future, and all the “what ifs” – you’ll create worry or anxiety about what may or may not happen. This is you having pain in advance. It’s important to plan for the future AND yet keep your focus on the present moment – right here, right now – and what you can do and how you can do it with what you have. Look at your strengths – we all have some we can tap into and leverage to improve our situations.
Whether you’re learning from my podcast episodes or live videos or working with me directly, you are in my world and I’m here to serve your needs. So be sure to reach out and get your needs met. It’s up to you to take action here so things can change for you.
In case this is your first listen to my show, my website is being redesigned and will be providing you with a more stream-lined experience as well as many resources you may not have known I share with my community for free. So, be sure to make your way over to my site at drbarbaracohen.com and check out the resources showing up over the next week or so in case there’s something there that can serve a need you have.
If we don’t know each other yet, I’m curious about your pain and how it’s impacting your life. I say that because no matter where I look, it seems that many people are in pain and suffering; many times needlessly, because they don’t know there was something positive they can do to eliminate the suffering. If you’ve been tethered to the events of your earlier life and don’t know how to move forward and embrace a new life path for yourself, I hope you will join me on January 3rd, 5th or 6th for a live Masterclass I’m presenting.
Be sure to head over to https://www.drbarbaracohen.com/2020 and choose the date and time that best suits you to attend live and I’ll see you there!
I appreciate you showing up to listen today and in the future. I’m back to producing more regular episodes and it feels good. I apologize for the inconsistency over the past months. Be sure to subscribe so the newest episode will automatically be in your feed.
If you enjoyed today’s episode, please share it with your friends and family, as well as rate the show. If you’d like to do a little more, write a thoughtful review on iTunes so I know I’m meeting your needs. I’d love to know if today’s episode was valuable for you and if so, in what ways. I love hearing from you, so feel free to email me at [email protected] It means a lot to me to know your life is getting a little bit better every time we get together.
Be sure to check out the show notes for all the resources I have referred to today. I hope to see you in the Facebook group, Living Beyond ADHD, enjoying the live videos I do on my Dr B Facebook page, following me on Instagram, as well as joining in the live Masterclass in just a couple of days from now - that is…if any of this is of interest to you. Thanks for listening… Until the next time… Bye for now…
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