Stress & Anxiety

Last week at the Adult ADHD support group that I co-run in Montreal we had a guest speaker, Sheila Southon. She works at the Yellow Umbrella Wellness Centre and is a Chopra Certified Instructor, Naturotherapist & Counsellor. Sheila came to speak with us about the effects of stress on your body and practicing mindfulness.

There was one slide in particular that caught my attention. The slide was originally from Dr. Deepak Chopra. I’ll do a summary of the info here. It isn’t nearly as pretty as her slide was but you’ll get the idea:

Reactive Responses to Stress

Fight

  • Chronic judgement/criticism
  • Social exclusion
  • Verbal attacks/gossiping
  • Blowing up
  • Being mean

Flight

  • Avoidance
  • Being unreliable
  • Appeasing/flattering
  • Complying/sabotaging
  • Depressive symptoms

Freeze

  • Being unresponsive/unavailable
  • Avoiding social situations
  • “Going along” with powerful figures
  • Not getting involved

Have you seen these three words before? I have! Fight, Flight and Freeze are usually related to anxiety. I started to wonder.. is there a relationship between anxiety and stress? Is the huge rise in anxiety that we are all seeing/experiencing really stress that we are labeling as anxiety? Can I tackle my stress and in turn help deal with my anxiety? I do know that implementing systems in my life like using a planner, making a routine have helped with my anxiety but is it really just helping to manage my stress which looks like anxiety? I guess it doesn’t matter which it is as long as the symptoms are diminishing!

At the end of the meeting I chatted with the speaker and I mentioned that I cannot fully allow myself to become engrossed in the meditation. I become very uncomfortable and I feel the need to open my eyes. She then said something that was a huge “aha moment” for me:

It might be that you don’t feel safe.

Stay tuned for the next blog post all about what the speaker said to me and why alarm bells went off!

How do you feel about the above “symptoms” of Fight, Flight and Freeze in relation to stress? What are you thinking about what I said about what I thought was anxiety really being stress? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts! <3

Why do we take something simple and make it more complicated?

Sound familiar? It definitely does for me!! I even wrote a blog post about my experience, “Is giving 100% always a good thing for ADHD-ers?” I didn’t realize that there was some  insight that I had been missing.

As you may already know from reading my blog posts, I have been listening to the telesummit “Succeed With ADHD”. The other day Linda Roggli was talking about  “Your (Overly) Complicated Life: An ADHD Love/Hate Story”

This is all that I took from her talk:

The complicated journey is more fun!!
Example: Little Billy is going to the store. He could walk along the street but he chooses to jump over the fence, cut through the yard. Isn’t that way more fun?!

Complicate our own lives (1)

Why do I need to make a major production?

–> Your ADHD brain likes it!

The major production entertains your brain by:

  1. Problem solving (call me in a crisis!)
  2. Engaged
    We want to be engaged. We are unknowingly trying to come up with a way to make the task more complicated to make it more interesting!

Ask yourself:

“What’s the goal?”

And think about this: We are used to things being complicated, we are used to having to jump through hoops.

When is it a problem to complicate our lives?

  1. Time
    Make sure that we have enough time to complicate the task before we complicate it.
  2. Leads to obsessive thinking
  3. Perfectionism
  4. Looks like procrastination

The good:

  1. We can dig into projects very deeply
  2. We see that it may not just be 5×5=25
  3. Broadens knowledge base
  4. We often come up with better solutions and see ideas that others don’t see.
    • NEW, bright and shiny! (More knowledge)
  5. Our brains make lots of connections.
    I better slow down so I don’t get a ticket = OMG! I didn’t pay my parking ticket.

To keep in mind:

  1. There needs to be a point where we stop and say enough is enough.
  2. Complexifying (Linda made up this word and I LOVE it!) your life can pull you away from things that are more important.
    –> A form of procrastination.
  3. A sign that you might be “in too deep”
    • If you dig in your heels and are snappy it might be a sign that this is too complex.
  4. It is very important that you make yourself aware that you are complicating things for yourself.
    • Is it worth it to make this situation or task more complicated for yourself?
    • Should this be a time where you take the shortcut?
    • Mind your mind. (I totally picture a British lady saying “mind your mind” rather than “mind the gap”). This is just a short and fun way to remember to be aware!

Can you think of ways that you may overcomplicate your life? And more importantly, is it worth it?!

Don’t forget, mind your mind!

 

 

Our second brain!

So i am currently like a kid in a candy store!! My candy is learning! Yes, I feel geeky saying that but I don’t even care! This week I am listening to a telesummit “Succeed with ADHD” and I am so happy with all the information that I am getting.  (you can follow the link and register while there is still time!)

If you follow along with my blog, you know all about my stomach issues that I have been having and my total frustration with trying to understand what the heck is going on! This is why one of the audios in particular caught my attention:

Understanding the Relationship Between ADHD and the Gut Microbiome — Dr. James Greenblatt 

Have you heard of our second brain; our gut?! Did you know that there are active neurotransmitters like serotonin in our gut? In fact, 90% of our serotonin is in our gut!! There was also a study done showing that by giving lab rats probiotics the amount of dopamine in the brain was raised (umm..yes please!).

Sooo why am I so happy about this? Well, it’s all because of this new word that i learnt:

Dysbiosis!

Dysbiosis is when there is abnormal bacteria in the gut. Usually from multiple rounds of antibiotics. The antibiotics destroy some of the good bacteria in the gut. Antibiotics also create growth of “bad” bacteria (example: yeast overgrowth). This can also lead to nutritional deficiency and impacts behaviour.

Laurie makes an analogy with bread: think about the reaction that the bread has to the yeast –> It rises (enter bloating)!!

Dr. Greenblatt even mentioned that in some severe cases they are even producing alcohol which results in a giddy and hyperactive person!

  • How do you know if you have dysbiosis?
    • Multiple use of antibiotics.
    • Poor response to stimulant medications
      • Aggressive
      • Hyperactive
    • Abnormal growth of a clostridia strain
  • Tests
  • Treatment: high dose probiotic
    • The science isn’t really there to say which strain to use. A high dose probiotic is recommended for 1-2 months.
    • Interestingly, he has never seen any side effects from using probiotics!
      • Brand: culturelle

Some other things that can effect our ADHD:

  • High levels of copper

    This could be due to the water supply (toxic levels of copper in the water).

  • Celiac 

Seen in college age ADHD kids. Malnourishment is the usual symptom that comes forward (example: anemic). Celiac disease is often missed because there are no GI symptoms; there are often cases where there is no GI symptoms.

  • Food allergies and food sensitivities

These can be a problem for some people and causes inflammation in the gut.
–>Test for IGG

  • Dietary intake

Sugar (artificial and refined). These effect the dysbiosis.

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

What do you think of all this?! Do you have anything interesting to add?

I’ll leave you with this fun fact: we have 5 lbs of bacteria in our gut!!

 

Please note: All of this information is paraphrased from the audio conversation in the telesummit “Succeed with ADHD”, guest speaker Dr. James Greenblatt

 

 

Fish out of water

You know those days when it feels like ADHD wins? You have so many things that you want to do and you can’t even do one thing? At the end of the day you are asking yourself what you even did?! Your ever-growing to do list is sitting beside you and it feels like it is getting longer by the second?

fish out of water

This is what my past week has been like. My school is in-between sessions and I found myself with a lack of structure and I was flopping all over the place. To be fair with myself, I did accomplish quite a few things but not to the extent that I would have liked.

I have been super creative the past week and my ideas are flowing. I love when this happens! The problem is that I am also left with A LOT of work that I wish I had done in my “free time”.

What’s the solution here?! PLAN!

The funny part is that I love planning and I love having structure. So why is it so hard for me?! Thanks to my lack of executive functions I have some issues with actually planning and structuring! My thoughts just run rampant and I have trouble harnessing and containing them into productivity.

So today is the today that I take the bull by the horns! I’m pulling out my planner and I’m making a plan! What does that involve? Here ya go:

  1. Make a list of all the things! Write down anything that you feel like you want to do that is taking up space in your mind. (The part here that is overwhelming me is there is SO MUCH reading that I want to do and it is completely bombarding me! I have to make a list of all the readings and that way I can go through them one by one!)
  2. Look at your day and write down all of your appointments and time slots that are non-negotiable. Example: family dinner or meeting with client.
  3. Take a look at your list and choose one thing. I like to set my TimeTimer for 1 hour and tell myself that the “one thing” is all that I will be doing in that one hour.
  4.  Once step 3 is completed, choose a new thing and use the same method!

How do you get yourself to stop flopping like a fish out of water?! I would love to hear your strategies 🙂

 

 

Discomfort and most of all, FRUSTRATION!

Hey all of you wonderful people!

I just wanted to write a quick blog post to explain what is going on and honestly, so that I can let out this bottled up frustration.

As you may or may not already know, I have been doing a gluten free and dairy free diet. I decided to start the diet because I was experiencing auras (black spots in my vision, numbness in my face & hands), stomach issues (bloating) that I will not go into too much detail about and stiffness in my hands and feet.

The gluten free and dairy free diet were working amazingly well, however I would still get bloating and am now back to feeling all the above feelings stomachthat had led me to start the GF & DF diet in the first place. ENTER FRUSTRATION!! There is something on top of gluten and dairy that I am unable to eat!

Now I’m wondering if it’s something more like IBS or Crohn’s. I will be starting the low FODMAP diet as suggested by my doctor (SO MANY LIMITATIONS). I’m also going to request a referral to see an endocrinologist so that I can get some tests done and have an answer once and for all. All these diets are taking so much of my energy and money and I am seriously fed up!!

The thing that really gets me about all this is that it is taking over my life. I had to leave work early on Saturday, couldn’t work on Sunday and now feel like I have to reschedule my clients for today because I feel like so much of my attention is distracted by the discomfort that I am feeling. I also had to bail on several of my friends. I really hate being this way. I have so many plans and ideas and they are all on hold because of this. I cannot wait until I have a diagnosis or an explanation and I feel better!!

Thanks for listening to me vent! Enjoy your day and more importantly, enjoy your healthy digestive systems! Next time you eat a piece of cheese or bread, think of me and savour it 😉 <3

Meditation – Natural breathing

I don’t know about you, but I’m a big ball of anxiety which makes my breath come out very short. This has always made meditation very hard for me because I have always felt like my breathing was forced and laboured.

I learnt something very interesting today. Tamara Leavitt’s daily meditation on the calm app was all about Natural Breath. I really appreciated this and I learnt two things:

1. We do not have to take long, deep breaths. If we are only able to do short breaths then stick with that and try to focus on relaxing our bodies.
Example: put a light smile on your face to relax your face muscles!

2. If you are focusing on your stomach rising and falling and it is not working for you then try focusing on a different part of your breathing like the cold air going into your nostrils when you breathe and the warm air coming out as you exhale. This little trick has really helped me and I have found that my breathing is less laboured and I am actually able to relax!

I also have something else that is really interesting that I shared with a couple of my classmates the other day:

A few months ago I would never have been able to look to my breathing to help me to ground myself and feel better!
My entire life growing up I had always pushed away my feelings and emotions and nothing was ever dealt with. I was always told “you are okay” and then that’s what I ended up telling myself. This led me to constantly push my body feelings and emotions down and to not deal with them and “just smile”.
I was seeing a psychologist and while I was working with her she would constantly try and get me to use my body to try and ground myself while having an anxiety attack. This did not work for me AT ALL and it would send me in the opposite direction and I would become more uncomfortable. What I came to realize was that I never related to my body, not at any point during the day!
Body is overwhelming
A tip that she gave me which REALLY helped was to wear a ring that had a pattern on it. When i was feeling any sort of emotion that made me uncomfortable that would lead to panic I would rub my fingers along the ring and focus only on the grooves, the bumps, the temperature of the ring, etc.
 You can do this with any object really but the ring worked really well for me because I would make sure that I had it on before walking out the door!
I realized that I needed to change my relationship with my body and I was led to meditation (this is extremely hard!), yoga and individual exercises (beachbody workouts, bike rides, kayaking). The whole reason why I am sharing this with you is because my body has now become one of my biggest resources to help me to calm down. I have taught myself (when I wasn’t angry, having a panic attack, etc.) what my body feels like. What breathing feels like, what my arms feel like, what my legs feel like, etc. It sounds ridiculous but I honestly never knew! Then when I was having an anxiety attack and I was told to focus on my body it was even more overwhelming for me because I was like wtf is this?!
The most important part for me about this entire thing is that I start my day with exercise and meditation. This REALLY helps me with grounding myself and starting myself on the right foot to tackle whatever is thrown at me (emotionally) during the day.
Are you able to use your natural breathing to ground yourself and get you back on track when you are set off course?

Productive vs. Unproductive Worry

Have you ever thought about this? That there is unproductive and productive worry?Productive vs unproductive worry

Productive worry looks like someone who is thinking about what needs to be done, how to manage their time, plan their life. This could also be thinking about a close loved one or friend. To me, productive worry is a lot like brainstorming and planning.

Unproductive worry is where a storyline emerges. There is a huge component of “what if”. This storyline is negative and is almost always completely way out in left field in terms of its probability and likelihood of actually happening.

Remember my blog post about habits? Well, there is such a thing as bad habits in terms of brain function and the “what if” worrying is a bad habit. This becomes a pattern that your brain automatically turns to.

Did you know that you can break that pattern? There is something called neuroplasticity.

I’ll explain neuroplasticity… think of your brain as your thigh. When you are eating lots of unhealthy food, not exercising and therefore under-using that muscle, you will begin to develop cellulite, your thigh will become flabby and the muscle will not be as strong. Well, your brain is the exact same way. If you feed your brain healthy food, positive self-talk and stimulate different parts of your brain (exercise it) herein lies the power of neuroplasticity!

If you are an unproductive worrier then your brain will automatically jump to the unproductive worry; this is a habit for you and it is unconscious. Well, there is good news! You already know that you can change your habits! This isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers; it will take a lot of work but I know that you can do it because I am living proof that it is possible! Let’s break the unproductive worry pattern that we have developed!!

Here is how you can do it:

  1. Be mindful. Oh yes, this again! If you take the time to stop and pay attention to what you are paying attention to then you are the one that becomes in charge!

    Let me give you an example: I am in the process of being mindful as to how I am talking to myself. I am constantly asking “why”, “what if” and “what will happen”. This is becoming super unhealthy for me because this leads to constant worry! I am working on being mindful and changing my thought process.

  2. Pause. My schooling has taught me this and I am a HUGE fan. So this is the part where you have already realized that you are unhealthy worrying but now you need to dissect it.

    How do you dissect it? Ask some questions:

    • What am I worrying about?
      (write it down, get it out of your brain. It really helps to see things clearly when it is on paper. Some people don’t enjoy writing and may be verbal processors. This is where someone to talk to comes in handy. If you don’t have anyone to talk to or that you feel comfortable with then you could also record yourself and listen to what you have said!).
    • Is this something that I need to deal with immediately? Can I put it in my planner to think about another time?
      I really like to tell myself: “this thought it taking up a lot of my energy and it doesn’t need to be. I would rather be spending my energy on something else”.

      (This could be hard to do alone, so if you have a friend or a family member that could help you with this, it might be best! If not, you might want to conside asking a coach for help! I am a coach, you can reach out to me! If I don’t float your boat, I can also help you to find someone who can!)

  3. Change the movie reel. This is another gem from my school. We all have this movie that we play in our heads. Other people create this movie and we create our own. Basically it is usually a movie that we create based on past experiences. “This is what has happened in the past, so this is what is going to happen in the future.” Well, guess what! You are in charge! You can decide what your movie reel is going to look like for your future, get your head out of the past!

    Examples:

    • I am not going to let this worry take up my energy anymore. I am going to write it down, talk about it, get it out of my brain any way that I can. If it is important, I will deal with it at another time.
    • If a visual is easier for you to understand: Your movie reel about your job interview tomorrow is looking like this: “I am going to walk in and trip and fall flat on my face.” Well, you can switch up that movie reel to look like this:
      “I walk in, trip, do a somersault and gracefully stand back up” — this is a dramatic exaggeration. By doing this you are almost making fun of how ridiculous your initial movie reel was.
      OR
      “I walk in, side step what I had tripped over in my initial movie reel, shake my interviewers hand and gracefully sit in my chair”

      The options for your movie reels are endless! My point is that you can make them to be whatever you would like. Why spend your time thinking about all the negative things that can happen when you could be focusing on the good and the amazing!

Finally, this is not a part of the steps but it could be really helpful to add in there somewhere, especially if the above steps don’t really work for you. Ask yourself this:

Can I really know what will happen?

This is SO CRUCIAL because unless you have some magical powers (you should really let me in on them if you do!) then you will never know what will happen in the future. Why waste your precious energy on worrying about what will happen?! WHAT A TOTAL WASTE. Use your energy doing something interesting and fun!

This productive vs. unproductive worry post was, again, inspired by Tamara Levitt on the calm app. I really love starting my day with her daily meditation. She really makes me think and gets me grounded to start my day! Here is a nice quote that she had mentioned at the end of the meditation: Piglet & Pooh. Supposing.jpg

p.s. If you have every considered doing the calm app and haven’t because it is too expensive… I just put it into perspective for myself. It costs me .19 per day. Totally worth it if you ask me 😉 They even have a free trial to see if it is actually something that you would be interested in!

I would love to know if you meditate or use the calm app. Also, give me a shout if you end up trying this unproductive worrying buster! Let me know if you would love to try and aren’t sure where to start. I love brainstorming and my door is always open! Have a great day <3

Eliminate the “why”

A few things have happened to me in the past several months:

  • I was diagnosed with ADHD.
  • I gave myself permission to feel.
  • I noticed that food was responsible for my headaches and body aches.
  • I have some sort of undiagnosed stomach issues (unrelated to anxiety because this is very new for me).

Now, the important part to understand is that I went to my doctor 7 YEARS AGO and told him that I thought i had ADHD. He told me that it was a fad and that I didn’t have ADHD. 7 years later I was diagnosed with ADHD. That really leaves me with this big giant elephant of mistrust for doctors. I don’t even need to explain to you how different my struggles would have been if I had been diagnosed 7 years earlier (enter the grief of being diagnosed with ADHD later in life).

So lately I have been completely anal and neurotic about my eating habits. To the point where I am overwhelmed and driving myself crazy. Why am I doing this?! My hunch is that since I ended up basically diagnosing myself with ADHD I now feel like I have to diagnose myself with everything (the stomach issues that I have been having need a professional diagnosis) and I feel like I can’t trust doctors. I guess I really need to forgive and move on because not all doctors are dismissive.

I realized something today. While stepping out of the shower I grabbed my hair and noticed that my hair felt very dry; not like the normal soft conditioned hair that you would feel stepping out of the shower. The first thought that came into my mind was “why is my hair dry”. I immediately noticed the change in my body and the panic that surfaced. Isn’t that incredible?! I was starting to become anxious because I noticed that MY HAIR IS DRY. Unbelievable lol. Dry hair is definitely not something to be nervous, anxious or to stress about!

I decided to set two rules for myself:

  1. No more asking myself “Why?”
  2. No more trying to determine “what will happen” or “what if”

In the past (today included) I would ask myself:

  • “What will happen if I eat this.”
  • “Why is my stomach feeling this way.”
  • “Why is my hair dry”
  • The list is exhaustive so I will stop it here since I am sure you get the point.

Well, guess what Alyssa! You are not a doctor. All you can do is find a doctor who understands and explain your symptoms to him/her to the best of your ability.

My solution:

Instead of asking myself “why”, I am going to simply state “oh, my hair feels dry”, pause,  and end the thought there. If it feels like it is important, I will jot it down and bring it up with my doctor. That is the end of it. I am so tired of feeling like I have to be in total control of all of my body symptoms and essentially diagnose myself. I have to believe that the whole situation with my doctor 7 years ago was extremely unlucky and I have to have faith in my new, current doctor and move forward from there.

I have also created a constant reminder to cut off the way that I am mentally speaking to myself; to get a better handle on my self talk!

Have any of you experienced anything like this? Do you often ask yourself “why” when the answer to the why isn’t really a concern of yours?

Emotional Hijacking

Bad news. Bad news has this way of completely taking over me. It takes over all of my thoughts and it takes over my entire body. Additudemag.com attributes it to “emotional hyperarousal”.

My shoulders are incredibly sore, it feels like I have been punched in the stomach, my limbs don’t even want to move, I get a stress headache, my breathing becomes short.

Not to mention it feels like I cannot concentrate on anything. It has been several hours now that I have been trying to:

a) Do work for one of my clients

b) Read a chapter from my school for the class that starts in 40 minutes. I have somewhat given up because it.just.isn’t.working.

I decided to write this blog post and try and figure out how I can get over this. Lets be honest, I am not going to get over this news that I have just received BUT I will not let it take over my life and get in the way of my day.

That said, I am still unsure of what to do.

My plan:

  • Move in with my loved one so she does not have to live alone while she is going through this.
  • This is going to require putting up solid boundaries so that I do not get walked all over.
  • Accept that I cannot fix the situation.
    Instead of trying to fix it, I will try and learn everything that I can.  I will try and learn as much as I can about her diagnosis and what the science (studies, etc.) says will help. I will try and understand what my loved one wants and try to do everything in my power to get her that (WHILE RESPECTING MY BOUNDARIES).
  • Do not lose myself. This is really so tough for me because I am the type of person that will dive into something like this and try and fix everything and completely lose myself in the process. I would put my loved one first and completely forget about myself and what I need to be doing for Alyssa. I think this is where boundaries will come into place again.

I friggen love blogging. I have sorted out my feelings and somewhat accepted that I cannot change this, I cannot fix it, I can only be there for my loved one. I will not put my faith in the doctors and I will not stop questioning everything that is going on;  just because that is who I am as a person. And to be completely honest, I do not trust our system. I feel like way too many patients and people fall through the cracks every.single.day. I can’t even begin to explain how hard it is for me to accept this whole situation but I am going to have to try my best.

Gluten Sensitivity & Anxiety

So lately I have been trying the “natural route” to help with my ADHD. I have done my best to eliminate dairy and gluten from my diet.

What I can’t believe is the reaction that I am having after consuming dairy and gluten! I have the absolute worst anxiety right now. I have forgotten about this “kind” of anxiety. My body is trying to fight or flight the gluten that I have ingested. AS IF that wasn’t enough I also consumed dairy today in the form of a chocolate mousse cake. OMG. My face and shoulders are in so much pain. I am exhausted. So my body is exhausted, in pain and my brain is yelling run! Run! I am going to go for a bike ride to try and calm my brain down but holy hell this isn’t fun at all. Gluten and dairy are sooooo not worth it. I had so much planned for this day and I am forced to hault 🙁

The small comfort from this experience is that I know that eliminating gluten and dairy from my diet is 100% worth it. Next step is to get some sort of sensitivity to dairy and gluten diagnosis and then I can definitively say that I should not be consuming dairy or gluten.