Mental Health: Everyone Makes Mistakes, Anxiety and ADHD

Remember the song from Sesame Street? (you may want to ask a parent if you are under 40)

“Everyone makes mistakes oh yes, they do…..

Your sister and your brother and your dad and mother too…

big people

small people

matter of fact, ALL People…”

well, you get the idea.

We all have a tendency to make mistakes. What we don’t all have the tendency to do, is to be aware of how to be tolerant of others when they make mistakes. Even more importantly, we have to learn to be tolerant of ourselves when WE make mistakes.

Maybe the song should have gone something like this:

“Please remember this when you type on your social media page

Or yell at your spouse

or your child

or….yourself”

I write a lot about leadership and how important it is to foster a trusting relationship. I write about encouraging questions and an environment of learning.

What I haven’t written as much about is how to be OK with our own errors, and to work through those anxious feelings when mistakes happen. For adults with ADHD tendencies, or diagnosed ADHD, those learned behaviors of feeling anxious about behaviors and actions can result in a whole lot of anxiety.

Ever think back on a social event and think ‘why did I say that?? I probably shouldn’t have. I wish I could go back in time and not say it’.

This rumination, or thinking about the same thing over and over again, is a huge part of attention differences. Anxiety co-occurs with ADHD with a really high frequency, and can have a real negative affect on social relationships, sleep, and our own self-talk and self-care.

I’m really fascinated by the ADHD brain.

The ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) brain is different from brains which may be more neurotypical.

ADHD isn’t really about not being able to pay attention.

It is a different wiring of the brain, which can be either over or under-stimulated.

Let’s take an example of someone who has been diagnosed with ADHD.

That person may be able to focus intently on a specific task at times (referred to as hyperfocusing), and struggle to give attention to something they need to focus on at others.

As a parent to a child with those behaviors, it may seem that the child focuses on what they like, or what they want to, but not on what they need to focus on, such as completing chores or schoolwork.

The parent may then experience frustration and express that to their child in a negative way, perhaps by using a loud voice.

The child may then become anxious and worried about forgetting tasks, which creates a cycle of lower success.

Here are a few things that can help a child who has an ADHD brain to have more success:

Provide structure. Have a routine of tasks that need to be completed. The child then has more predictability and may know ‘OK, after dinner I do my homework. After homework I take my bath and get ready for bed’

Another idea is to break tasks into smaller chunks instead of listing everything out at once. A child who hears ‘Take your shoes upstairs, then put these clean clothes away, then I need you to come back down to finish your homework’ may take their clothes upstairs, notice they left out their game from earlier, and begin playing it.

The caregiver may then become upset with the child for not listening, and the child may become more and more anxious as the parent gives them a list of tasks because of their fear of forgetting.

The ADHD brain fires differently, and as with all things, we are still learning about how this works.

I encourage you, as an adult reading this article who may have a brain with ADHD or attention differences, to continue to educate yourself about how your brain may work differently than someone who does not have attention differences.

I encourage you, as a parent who may be reading this who experiences frustration, to give your child structure and provide small chunks of instructions instead of lists of them. To say ‘I need you to go upstairs and do 2 things. Take your shoes up and put your clothes away.’

You have then told the child how many things to do (2), and what those two things are. The child has a better chance of remembering to complete them because they may have focused on the number of things to do, or they may have focused what their tasks are. Having listed both the number of items and the tasks help to increase their chances of completing the requested tasks.

I then encourage you to monitor your child for success. Encourage them to recognize that they did complete a task, and to know you are both seeking and expecting them to have success, and that you are seeking less frustration from both of you.

As you and they continue to make mistakes, as you and they both will, remember the song I referenced at the beginning of this article. In this time of COVID, we’re learning a little more about our own tendencies and our children’s as we spend more time interacting and learning new patterns and habits.

Everyone makes mistakes oh yes they do…..

Leadership: Using Empathy ‘I Hear You Saying You Are Frustrated’

So anyone who lives in the US (or really, in the world) knows that there has been a recent election in the US.

It was, or is, a very tight race, with lots of people voting for the candidates whom they feel best represent their interests, their level of comfort, and numerous other reasons that compel people to vote.

Record numbers of people have voted, which affects local races, the Senate, Congress, and the election for the next leader of our country.

As a leader, both in parenting my children and as a leader in my work environments, I tend to have a lot of opinions about characteristics of leaders and what I find useful in bringing out the work/change in others that we are working together to accomplish.

A story of when I was first hired to be a supervisor of staff:

I was 28, and my two children who were born on the same day were just about 1 years old. I had been providing mental health therapy to families who were involved with Child Protective Services, and had learned about a program called Healthy Families. A difference between Healthy Families and the work I had been doing was the timing of the intervention to assist kids who were at risk for being abused or neglected by their caregivers. The program is intended for families who have a certain level of assessed need.

Healthy Families targets families who are going to care for an infant, and has to begin within the first 3 months of the child’s life. The research has been pretty clear that children who receive prevention/protective services fare better in terms of lowering their likelihood of being abused of neglected compared to those families who do not receive that support. The criteria to qualify for services at the time period in which I was working was a pretty low amount of documented risk, and families chose to be a part of the program.

I was hired to supervise this program that was new to two of the counties in which I had been working. I was promoted from my position as home based therapist/caseworker, to Healthy Families Supervisor.

A few benefits to me were the following: I had a predictable time to finish work each day, which was generally before the day care my children attended closed; I was able to be a part of something which I truly believed in and wanted to support; and I could utilize my skills/training in mental health to supervise entry level staff. I went from being a peer to several other employees, to having no peers. I got to jump in and lead two staff who were fairly new to the company and learn with them how to implement the program. I was also able to retain just a few clients I had been meeting with for counseling and of course, continue to parent and lead my children to be functioning adults.

I noticed that utilizing empathy when a staff is feeling frustrated helped them to perform better.

If I had a staff who was stressed about trying to schedule the number of families that they were seeing, particularly taking into account the distance the families lived from each other, I could identify the emotion that the staff was feeling by naming it and then have a discussion with them about their interpretation of what could help.

Example: I hear that you are feeling frustrated about getting all of your families scheduled. It sounds like you are concerned about driving distances between each client, while you are also wanting to make sure to get them all scheduled. That must be stressful.

The above is an example of empathy. I’m verbalizing that I hear that they are frustrated, which they may have specifically stated, and I am summarizing what I am hearing that they are frustrated about. I am then stating the stress that I am interpreting that is causing them.

One difference that we have among us is that we tend to use different words to express our feelings. I might say frustrated, and the staff member may correct me and state they are not frustrated, they are irritated. Or angry, or sad about it.

Me naming the correct emotional label was less important than me indicating that I heard what they were saying, with an opportunity for them to correct me if needed.

Leading with empathy can be very effective in getting desired results both at work and in the home enviornment with parenting children.

With kids, I will give a different example, which involves my then 4 year old son.

He was hungry, or wanted to play something different, or had some sort of need.

I don’t remember specifically what we were having a disagreement about, but I do remember getting quite frustrated and raising my voice to a higher volume. I was repeating myself, and he was repeating himself, and we were not communicating well

He stopped and yelled my name:

Mom!! I get frustrated when you use that voice to yell at me!’

As you may be able to tell, he had spent four years of his life (so far) with a therapist for a mother. He wasn’t getting his needs met, which for arguments sake was a snack before dinner.

I wasn’t getting my need met, which was for him to accept that I had told him ‘no’ and to move on to something else

We both started using loud voices, which can be hard on our ears and unpleasant to hear.

When he yelled my name, I stopped and listened. He was able to express his feelings, and to name his own emotion. This story includes an ‘I-statement’ and it indicates that he was listening and hearing my loud voice.

As we all work toward having peaceful moments, I encourage you to think about how you can show empathy for others.

How can you, as someone who is hearing someone say something, indicate that you are hearing what they are saying and understand what they are saying about how they feel?

In graduate school, at the University of Cincinnati, we had a whole course on practicing reflective listening and using empathy. We practiced with each other, and it felt awkward at first.

As you are working to get your needs met and yourself heard, how do you respond when someone shows empathy to you? Do you feel more heard and listened to when the person you are speaking with names the feeling you have or reflects back what you have said?

I challenge you to work to increase the amount of empathy that you show. I encourage you to speak in ways that show the person you are talking with that you hear not just the words they are saying, but also the emotions behind it.

Phase 2, Coronavirus: Hitting our Stride and Moving Forward

We heard this spring that there may be a second wave of Coronavirus as people started to re-emerge from their homes.

Texas, which is a state with soooo many people, seems to be experiencing that at the moment.

There are a lot of debates and different opinions about why the numbers have gone up so much. There is certainly more testing than there was in March, that is clear. There are also more people who are younger contracting the virus than did initially. These younger people tend to be surviving the virus, which is a positive.

So some might ask: is it that older people are more likely to stay home and not be infected? Are young people more likely to go out in close proximity to others and catch it? Has the virus mutated and evolved to be less deadly than initially thought?

And then there is the mask controversy.

Some people, me included, have accepted that masks are a part of going out these days. Whether they protect you, or others from you, they certainly contain germs differently than not wearing a mask. Sneezing and coughing, once thought to be a part of life which could be allergies, getting over a cold, or any number of innocuous reasons, is now a part of a regime of questions you get if you go to a medical provider or appointment.

Others feel that masks are infringing on their rights. I have heard some state that they don’t believe that the Coronavirus is ‘real’. I’m not sure exactly what that means, other than that their opinion is that people’s cause of death is being attributed to the Coronavirus vs. some other reason.

Regardless of people’s opinions, people’s lives are directly affected.

Children have not been to organized school since March. They have spent time with their parents, or childcare providers, to a degree that they had not previously.

Each school system that I have read about, which includes the school systems near me (Allen ISD, McKinney ISD, and Frisco ISD, and those in Hamilton County, Indiana), have communicated that school will be held, but parents will have the choice of sending their children to school or having on-line school for their children.

This gives parents and children the ability to choose, which hopefully will reduce anxiety in children, parents and even teachers who may have smaller classrooms. I can remember after Noblesville had a school shooting in 2018, that many students were anxious about returning to school that next fall.

I had multiple parents talk with me about having their child go to online school. At that time, if a student did not attend school they could not play on a sports team. This caused a lot of stress to families who had a child who wanted to play sports but was feeling very anxious about attending school.

I’m glad that parents will have the choice whether to send their children to school or participate in online school. My guess is, many parents are hesitant to send their children to school for fear of their child contracting the Coronavirus.

For other parents, their children need to be in school, and their parents need for them to be in school.

I’ve noticed that there is a lot of variability in people’s nervousness/anxiety about contracting the virus. I think it would be interesting to know the health background of people who are more anxious vs. people who are less.

The fact that this has become a political issue seems very surprising to me.

For you, as you think about the number of people who have contracted the virus and your risk, what are some thoughts you have about how to stay safe?

What are things that are comforting to you, and what are some new restrictions that are frustrating to you and you do not find helpful?

How do you communicate to your friends and loved ones your level of need for protectiveness from contracting the virus and staying safe?

Are you someone who wants to support local businesses and tends to order carry-out food? Are you someone who is comfortable eating in a restaurant?

Have you widened your circle to beyond your house so that you can see friends and family?

I have many friends and family in Indiana, where the numbers appear to be going down, and I live in Texas, which is making national news for having higher numbers of people who have tested positive for the virus.

It is interesting to see, on social media and through talking with friends and family, the different responses that people have to the suggestions of masks and measures to take to stay safe.

I hope you stay safe today, and in the future.

Changes: Tele-everything

It’s really interesting to see how companies are changing their norms and the way they do things to adapt to the safe-at-home model.

I am wondering which of these new norms may stay in place, and which of them will go away as our risk for the Coronavirus diminishes over time.

My guess is some things will change, and some things will remain the same. 🙂

I would hope that companies would be more open to their employees doing some work from home. Instead of going into a home visit where there may be germs, bugs, or dangerous people, maybe some companies who previously only allowed in person visits will now allow for some of the tele-health that has been going on during the last few weeks.

My guess is that the platform Zoom will continue to do well. They seem to have the market on teleconferencing, and have allowed some therapists to use their features for free (and other fields is my guess, I’m only familiar with my field).

I’m really wondering about how physical touches when people greet each other will change.

Will the handshake go away? Will we no longer hug friends we haven’t seen in a while, or hug to say goodbye?

Will we start having a 6 feet distance between each other as our social norms?

Only time will tell. I’m hoping that a lot of people are able to stay healthy, including those at risk, those who feel they can live forever, and those of us in between.

What are some things that are helping you get through these times of change and uncertainty?

Are you knitting? My grandma taught me to knit many years ago, and if this continues I may try to pick it back up again. My Aunt Rula taught me to crochet, which seemed a little easier at the time. I macrame-ed in Girl Scouts.

So many options. I’ve been face-timing my mom (and dad), which has been really nice. It is nice to see the person I’m talking with, so I’ll probably keep that up as long as my mom continues to carry her iPhone 5s 🙂

What are some habits you have picked up? What are some things you are thinking about doing, but haven’t done yet?

I’ve read a couple of articles about kids feeling that this time could be a memory that is positive. They spent time at home, which many don’t get a lot of chances to do these days. I call them ‘program’ kids, because they have every minute of their day programmed.

This is certainly a social experiment, and a time to remember how to stay safe while those in the health care field are working harder than ever.

I hope you enjoy your weekend. It’s pretty warm here in Texas. Hope you get some spring weather where you are.

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