How To Naturally Treat ADHD In Children and Adults

How To Naturally Treat ADHD In Children and Adults

Looking back on my teen years, I can remember the struggles my parents faced with a child with ADHD. What follows are some simple tips on how to naturally treat ADHD in children and adults.

Everyday mindfulness:

I would also suggest working on mindfulness and trying it on small things: eating, washing dishes, textures, folding clothes, and some short format meditations at home.

Apps that help mindfulness: Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer

Sleep:

Sleep is one of the most common battles I see for teenagers. A sleep-deprived brain with or without ADHD is more likely to make mistakes on a test or on anything that checks functioning.

Research testing on people who slept less than six hours a night for a week revealed substantial changes in the activity of genes that govern the immune system, metabolism, sleep and wake cycles, and the body’s response to stress, suggesting that poor sleep could have a broad impact on long-term wellbeing.

The changes, which apparently affected more than 700 genes, may help to shed light on the biological mechanisms that raise the risk of a host of ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stress, and depression, in people who get too little sleep.

Kids need to practice good sleep hygiene. This can be things like getting them an alarm clock and not having their cell phone charge next to their bed. Taking a hot shower 90 minutes before bed. Drinking milk. Reading a book. Going to bed or getting in bed at the same time every night.

Eating:

Food is the fuel for our bodies and mind. Dietitians and psychiatrists suggest a well-balanced diet, including vegetables, complex carbohydrates, fruits, and plenty of protein. Foods rich in protein — lean beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, soy, and low-fat dairy products — can have beneficial effects on ADHD symptoms. Protein-rich foods are used by the body to make neurotransmitters, the chemicals released by brain cells to communicate with each other. Protein can prevent surges in blood sugar, which increase hyperactivity. Make sure they have snacks they can easily bring with them during the day like Larabars.

Exercise is essential for kids and adults with ADHD:

When you exercise, your brain releases chemicals called neurotransmitters, including dopamine, which helps with attention and clear thinking. People with ADHD often have less dopamine than usual in their brain.

Fitness can have the following benefits for adults with ADHD:

  • Ease stress and anxiety.
  • Improve impulse control and reduce compulsive behavior.
  • Enhance working memory.
  • Improve executive function. That’s the set of skills needed to plan, organize, and remember details.
  • Increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. That’s a protein involved in learning and memory. It’s in short supply in people with ADHD.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. That’s important because evidence suggests that people with ADHD are more likely to become obese.
  • Reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a normal range.
  • Strengthen your bones.
  • Improve your mood and self-esteem.

How do people with ADHD learn:

  • Do they learn at home or in groups?
  • Does using the Pomodoro technique work (breaking things into small time slices)?
  • Music without words (Calm or Headspace)
  • In their bedroom, in the kitchen, or at a coffee shop?
  • Do frequent breaks help?
  • Don’t go EAST (everything at the same time) start with a small chunk.
  • 45 minutes a day for 4 days or cramming (hint, cramming doesn’t work) and sleep helps you replay the material in your mind. (tip: using essential oils in study space and by bed)
  • Pay attention to what distracts and see if they are right.
  • Take 10-15 minutes before bed to review what you learned or review notes daily.
  • Use breaks like walking the dog or shooting hoops.
  • A power nap of 20 minutes but no more than 30 or interferes with sleep.
  • Frequent breaks help.
  • Sipping a sugary drink increases glucose and focus.

If you like this article and would like additional resources on ADHD and time management, simple ADHD treatment strategies, or if you want to learn more about ADHD in general, check out the other resources on our website.

The Mental Health Impact of Hurricanes

The Mental Health Impact of Hurricanes

By William Schroeder, MA, LPC, NCC

I have been watching the footage of the Hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico and have tremendous empathy for those who are going through the reality of post-storm reality. I moved to Austin 12 years ago due to Hurricane Katrina. After watching the news I couldn’t help but think of the mental health impact of Hurricanes. What follows is a brief summary of my process of things following the storm and then what I would advise for others going through it given some insight.

The Stages of Grieving Following A Disaster

Shock and Denial

I remember the immediate aftermath of crying when I realized my city was forever changed and a feeling of overwhelm like I had never experienced, and this was just the beginning of a long road. I tried to become a man of action as I was worried about getting stuck. There were a ton of problems – that all needed to be urgently resolved (damage to the house, temporary housing, mortgage, no power in New Orleans for months, school and job difficulties, cell phones that didn’t work, etc.). I wanted to get back in school, get to Austin, move my friends there, and start my life. I distinctly remember the long dark drives back to Austin from New Orleans after trips back to work on my house there. I would call friends and tell them how awesome Austin was and all the reasons they should move. Austin was new, thrilling, and completely unexplored. It seemed opportunity was waiting around every corner.

Pain, Anger, and Depression

After I had to moved a couple of times in the months following the storm, I started to realize I was still in a bit of denial about my reality and what had happened was truly pretty traumatic. A chapter of my life was shut without warning. Initially, I was in survival mode, I never got to grieve. After several moves, I was living in Dallas and the pain and anger came to up for me. I hated Dallas and the reality I seemed to be stuck in. I constantly read the news about New Orleans and the immense problems everyone I knew was confronting in the city during the recovery. I became a bit obsessed with it and it made me feel different than everyone I knew. I could not forget the visions of seeing people abandoning cars and the long lines of cars heading into a city under military law. I had flashbacks to what it had been like to be in a city where when I hammered on the side of my house, all I could hear was the echo of my hammer as the city was truly dead — no birds chirping, cars on the road, streetcars, boats on the river, air conditioning units, or any other sounds of normal life.

All of this fueled a depression and a physical pain in my back from constantly being tense, unlike anything I had ever encountered. I remember feeling that an emotional wall existed between myself and the rest of the non-hurricane world. I told one guy about the hurricane and he responded: “Well, the storm wasn’t as bad as the Tsunami in Thailand.” I remember feeling a seething anger towards the guy that said that as this was my emotional tsunami and comparisons didn’t help.

Upward Turn

I realized I was depressed as I wasn’t leaving the house and my couch had developed a permanent divot where my butt was planted every day for a month or two. I was stuck in a hole of reading news stories that detailed the difficult recovery ahead and looking for ways to make my next steps but not seeing an obvious path. I started going to therapy which helped lift some of the fog. This, in turn, allowed me to start focusing on other goals, like finishing grad school, working out, and getting a job. I realized I needed to get out of Dallas and back to Austin.

Acceptance and Hope

Following my return to Austin, I started to accept what had happened, built better support networks, continued working out, and found things that grounded me and gave me hope. One of those things for many was the New Orleans Saints. For the years that followed the storm, the Saints game on Sunday was our church and our community. Staying connected to others following the storm really helped as it helped you to not feel so alone.

Tips For Those Affected

  1. Understanding the stages of grieving: What I laid out about were my stages of grieving, but you might be aided in reading more about this to see if you can recognize this in yourself and others.
  2. Depression is a big enemy: Depression snuck in the back door of my mind and took up residence for a little while following the storm. No doubt many going through the hurricane will show signs of depression: fatigue, pessimism, trouble concentrating, insomnia or sleeping too much, irritability, hopelessness, etc. That said, counseling and support can be helpful during times like these.
  3. Find what helps and what hurts: If you notice that certain things trigger you (as the news was for me) find other outlets of stimulation. This could be time with friends, working out (even a 30-minute walk helps your brain), utilizing your faith, meditation, time with family (this can be a pro and a con), journaling, etc.
  4. Be patient: One thing I learned following Hurricane Katrina is that recovery takes a long time. New Orleans has gone through a lot of changes following the storm. In going back to visit, I feel like a number of the changes have been very positive and made the city innovate in ways that it previously could not. There are whole new sections of town that didn’t exist before and restaurants are booming. A lot of things were fixed in the city which could not have been fixed prior to the storm. That said, I can see that more easily since 12 years have passed. 3 years into the recovery, those signs weren’t so obvious and contractors still filled every cheap hotel. Find ways to pace yourself in this time of recovery by having time that isn’t storm focused.
  5. Simple things mean the most: I wasn’t a big fan of mindfulness prior to the storm but following the storm, I noticed it really did help. Taking a walk and trying to focus on the feeling of the sun on my arms, counting steps, noticing the breeze, etc. It all helped to get me out of my head for a bit. This can be something as simple as eating your lunch in a different space and trying to not let thoughts of the day creep in. It could also be time with your phone off and try to be present with your partner.
  6. If you need help, get it: Counseling, even if it is just for a few sessions, can really help. It can give you a place to unpack everything that is going on and make better sense of it all. You can grow your awareness around triggers and develop better-coping techniques.

If we can be of any help to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, please let us know. We have a skilled team of clinicians and we know what it is like to go through chaos and can help you grow from it as well.

Effects of Aging On The Brain

Effects of Aging On The Brain

By Shannon Haragan, LPC

Currently, over 46 million Americans are over the age of 65. By 2040, this number is expected to rise to over 81 million, and by 2060, almost 100 million. With this significant increase in the aging population comes a growing concern about the prevention and treatment of age-related diseases. One of the most notable of these diseases is dementia, due to the impact it has not only on the person with the disease, but also to their spouses, children, and to the healthcare system as a whole. Alzheimer’s is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the US (though a recent study may indicate it’s actually the third), and of the top ten causes of death in this country, it is the only one that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.

How do I know if it’s normal aging or early signs of dementia?

In the not-too-distant past, researchers believed that the brain only developed and built connections during our early years, after which, development stopped, and the rest of our lives were spent gradually losing brain cells. Thanks to significant advances in the area of neuroscience, now we know that the brain can continue to generate cells and build connections throughout our lifespan–a process called neuroplasticity. If we keep our bodies and our minds engaged and active, we can have a healthy brain throughout our lifetime.

Similar to any muscle in our body, however, we can apply the age-old “use it or lose it” principle to the brain, as well. As we age, we tend to engage less with things that are mentally and cognitively challenging. Our brains follow suit, and as a result, we may naturally experience memory lapses from time to time. So some memory loss is considered normal. But how much? What if you forget where you left your keys? Call your daughter by your sister’s name? Walk into a room and forget why you walked in there in the first place? Here are a few guidelines for what’s normal and what’s not:

Normal AgingPossible Signs of Dementia
You can’t remember the details of a conversation or event that took place a year ago You can’t recall details of recent events or conversations
You can’t remember the name of an acquaintance You don’t recognize or know the names of family members
You are worried about your memory but your relatives are notYour relatives are worried about your memory, but you are not aware of any problems
You can still operate common appliances, even if you don’t want to learn how to operate new devicesYou cannot operate common appliances without assistance; you’re unable to learn how to operate even simple new appliances
You experience no decline in interpersonal social skillsYou experience a loss of interest in social activities and/or display socially inappropriate behaviors
You experience occasional word-finding difficultiesYou experience frequent word-finding pauses and substitutions

Sources: Diagnosis, Management, and Treatment of Dementia: A Practical Guide for Primary Care Physicians (American Medical Association) and alzheimers.ca.

Thankfully, there are things that you can do now to help prevent future memory loss and cognitive decline, and possibly even prevent Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, having healthy social connections, and eating a healthy diet are just a few items correlated with overall brain health and the preservation of cognitive function. The well-known Mediterranean diet (along with the closely related MIND diet), has recently been shown to reduce one’s risk of cognitive decline and dementia by up to 35%.

Though there are many different causes of dementia (Alzheimer’s is the most common), the way the symptoms present is different for everybody. If you have a concern for yourself or a family member, talk with your primary care doctor or a neurologist. If you’re struggling with anxiety, worry or grief around a potential diagnosis, a therapist can be helpful. Though the current funding for Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia is significantly lacking compared to diseases such as cancer and heart disease, important research is currently ongoing, and there is great hope for finding effective treatments to combat these diseases in the not-too-distant future. For more information, go to www.alz.org or www.dementia.com. Also, even if you don’t have dementia and aging, in general, is a concern, this article in the New York Times on “How to Embrace Aging” might be helpful.

Shannon Haragan, LPC is a therapist in south Austin who works with families coping with a dementia diagnosis. 

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