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Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Dr. Hallowell on Losing a Beloved Pet

If you’ve ever loved and lost a pet, you know how difficult it is to say goodbye. Recently our beloved dog Ziggy Marley passed away. He brought our family so much love and happiness.  Sharing my message HERE of coping and hope in memory of Ziggy.

Ziggy playing soccer in his YouTube video.

If you’re coping with the death of your pet, The Humane Society of the U.S. is a great resource.

 

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

“Crazy” does not Equate Dangerous

Note from Ned

March 13, 2018

The first person I ever saw actually crazy, as opposed to crazy in the slang meaning of that word, was my own father.  I was a sophomore at Harvard at the time, visiting my dad at the Bedford VA Hospital.  He’d had a manic break after many years of stability on lithium since his original psychosis right after getting out of the Navy at the end of World War II in which he was captain of a destroyer escort.

Since I was visiting him on the grounds of a mental hospital I should have known that odd behavior could be expected, but I had never seen my father be anything but normal.  He was the All American hockey player turned  war hero turned business executive turned school teacher after going crazy.  But as a child I never saw the going crazy part.  I only saw the really kind, really steady, amazingly skilled school teacher that every kid loved, the man who taught Jackie Kennedy and countless other kids how to sail in Hyannisport, the man who had a plaque put up in his memory in the little public school where he taught in Pelham, New Hampshire after he died.

But this day in Bedford, Massachusetts we went out for a walk together.  I’d never been to a mental hospital before.  It actually didn’t look a lot different from Harvard Yard.  Big buildings separated by paved walkways lined by trees.  Dad was wearing a khaki windbreaker on what was a chilly fall afternoon.  We were talking about the course I was taking on Samuel Johnson. Dad seemed interested, when all of a sudden he pulled a rope out of the side pocket of his windbreaker.

“How about if I hang myself with this rope?” he asked me.

I stopped dead in my tracks and stared at him.  His eyes had totally changed.  They were on fire.  He was looking through me.  “That’s a really bad idea,” I said.

“I think this branch will hold me just fine,” Dad said, lobbing the line over the bough.

I grabbed it down and said, “Dad, this is stupid, cut it out.”

He snatched the rope back from me. “Get out of my way.”  He pushed me so hard I fell to the ground.  Out of nowhere, two attendants came rushing over and wrestled my father into submission.  “Ok, ok,” he said.  “I’ll behave.  You don’t need to give me a shot.  I just heard one voice.  It’s gone away.  I can talk to my son now.”

Since that day I’ve conversed with thousands of crazy people, much crazier than my father was on that chilly afternoon.  Over that time I’ve come to love crazy people.  They’ve taught me volumes about human nature, in ways that sane people and books can’t teach.  They show writ large what the rest of us know how to keep hidden.

One of the myths about crazy people is how dangerous they are.  My old teacher, Les Havens, who is now in heaven, used to tell us, “Your average banker is far more dangerous than your average crazy person is.”

  Which is why the stigma that surrounds mental illness—and all mental differences—is so pernicious, ignorant, and cruel.

I hope, during my lifetime, to see it burn off, like a fog, and give way to the sunshine of truth, the bright light of understanding, empathy, and love.

       What can we do to hasten that day?  At the grass roots level, which is where we all live, we can talk about mental differences as being just that—differences—and mental illnesses as being just that—illnesses.  Not curses, not satanic possessions, not marks of Cain, not evidence of bad character of poor parenting or moral turpitude.

        Often the worst part of a mental illness is not the illness itself but the societal shunning that results from it.  Shunning from ignorant people who should know better and will rue the day they turned their backs on such people when mental illness visits one of their family members as, odds are, it will, since mental illness hits 20% of Americans every year.

The two conditions I happen to have—ADHD and dyslexia—have such a tremendous upside I’ve been able to tap into so that, in my own case, I consider them assets, not illnesses at all.  But most people are not so lucky.  Most people need ongoing treatment for these chronic illnesses—depression, substance use disorders, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, to name some of the more common.

But it is time for them to take their place alongside other chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, congestive heart failure, hyperlipidemia, migraine, and arthritis.

When a person stops taking his high blood pressure meds we do not look at him with scorn, but when a person in treatment for substance use disorder relapses and starts drinking, society looks at him like a bum, only driving him deeper into relapse.  When the depression meds fail, and a person attempts suicide, society often deems that person weak or cowardly, while when the person with chronic congestive heart failure eats a high salt meal and tips into pulmonary edema and must be hospitalized, we send him get well cards.

This is all rooted in centuries-old ignorance, stigma, superstition, religious bugaboos, and flat out nonsense.  Like most such stuff, its manifestations are primitive, cruel, demeaning, and beneath the standards of any civilized person.

Let us join together in bringing such prejudice to an end. Let us restore dignity and compassion to all human suffering.

And let us remember, irony of irony, that unlike most chronic illnesses, chronic mental illnesses are often accompanied by extraordinary gifts: our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, had major depression; one of our greatest poets, Robert Lowell, had bi-polar disorder; one of our foremost novelists, William Styron suffered from major depression.  The list could go on and on.

   The point is that it is difficult to find a person of enormous creative or entrepreneurial talent who does not have some major challenge that he or she struggled with along the way, be it ADHD or dyslexia, depression, bi-polar disorder, substance use disorder, or anxiety disorder being the most common.

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Can You Handle the Truth? Accounting For Phone Time

by Rebecca Shafir, M.A.CCC Personal Development and Executive Functioning coach at the Hallowell Center MetroWest

Where does the time go? Why can’t I get more done each day? I want to finish my business plan, but other stuff gets in the way.

Do these complaints sound familiar?

If you’re serious about improving your productivity and finding the waste in your day, being accountable for your phone time is a good place to start. Of all the distractions and interruptions we need to control for, smart phones and tablet use rates as Number One!

We typically underestimate the time spent on our phones. As an exercise, I ask my clients to write on a slip of paper how many minutes or hours a day they think they spend on their phones and tablets. Their estimate is sealed in an envelope. Using one of the apps below they track the actual time spent on their phones for one week. After seven days their written estimates are unveiled. The estimates are often off by 50% or more! These apps can also tell you how many times you check your smartphone, what apps you use the most, reminders to take digital breaks and help you set limits on phone and table use. You all know that I’m not a big fan of GAGs (Gimmicks, Apps Gadgets) except for the ones that can keep us from over-using them!

The truth can be liberating. If you care about productivity, the truth can also motivate you to make needed changes.

Moment – Screen Time Tracker
A Handy iOS Feature

Also read: Become aware of just how much your use your smartphone!

After the shocking reality hits home, you might take the next step and track your reasons for your excessive phone use. In subsequent blogs, I will address the most common reasons and their solutions.

I’m always glad to get your comments and suggestions for topics. Write to me at rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com

 

 

Monday, February 26th, 2018

A New Solution for Anxiety: The Alpha-Stim

by Rebecca Shafir, M.A.CCC Personal Development and Executive Functioning coach at the Hallowell Center MetroWest

Perhaps the most common concern my entrepreneur clients report is anxiety and its cousin, insomnia. Founders have every reason to be anxious. In fact, if they are perfectly at ease with their startup, I get suspicious!  For those  new to  entrepreneurship there are constant battles between vision and reality, hope and doubt, deadlines and the worry of having no deadlines at all.  I encourage my entrepreneurs-at- risk to hold off on big, costly decisions until they get a handle on their anxiety. Control over anxiety means:

  • consistently good sleep
  • giving emotion a back seat when solving a problem
  • being able to re-frame mistakes and setbacks and move forward
  • the ability to inhibit impulsive actions and reactions.

Emotional control is one of the four core skills essential to healthy and successful entrepreneurship.

A review of the most helpful of anxiety-reducing activities include: meditation, yoga, exercise, visualization and  mindfulness training etc. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another fine option, but it requires regular sessions and practice. Others benefit from software tools like The Muse, Wild Divine, Heartmath and other kinds of biofeedback. The usual objections to these approaches include “not enough time,” or “the more I try to quiet my mind, the louder it gets.”

Let me tell you about another safe, effective, well-tested approach for anxiety, insomnia (and depression). It is a form of cranial-electrotherapy called Alpha-Stim. It is a user-friendly, handheld device the size of a cell phone. It requires no practice or effort by the user, and it can be used while doing most other activities except driving.

Moods and emotions are controlled through electro-chemical signals in your brain. When these signals aren’t functioning properly, the hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate your emotions can become unbalanced resulting in an anxious state.

The Alpha-Stim device generates a signal that produces a waveform conducive to calmness and a better state of mind − the Alpha frequency  (8-12 Hz). The Alpha-Stim has been very helpful with many of my clients. For those that notice no change with the Alpha-Stim, other approaches such medications or neurofeedback may be more helpful.

To learn more about the Alpha-Stim go to www.alpha-stim.com or email info@epii.com.

If you are local to the Boston MetroWest area, we offer a personalized Alpha-Stim demonstration and educational session at the Hallowell Center in Sudbury, Mass. If you’d like to make an appointment call 978 287 0810.

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Dr. Hallowell Addresses False Accusations

I’m saddened to see false postings stating that I have connections to drug companies and Big Pharma.  I do not, and it is slanderous to claim that I do.  I’ve worked for my entire career to help people of all ages who have ADHD by using whatever methods help a specific person, always starting with education, then suggesting various other interventions from coaching to exercise to meditation to nutritional changes to neurofeedback, to parent and teacher training, and yes, sometimes to medication, which I closely monitor and supervise.  This is the widely accepted standard of care.  My philosophy to to use whatever intervention works, as long as it’s safe and it’s legal.  Fortunately, we have many tools in our toolbox that can help people who have ADHD.

          It distresses me that we live in a world where people can lodge false accusations with no regard for the truth and find an audience on social media.  The truth is that I have no ties to drug companies.  I serve no private interest or corporation.  I am here to serve  my patients, and to educate the general public through my books and lectures.

           Please, let’s work together on social media to make the world a healthier more harmonious place.  Let’s use this great tool to connect constructively with each other, not to tear one another down.  Let’s start a movement together of spreading positive energy and good will.  Let’s do all we can to build each other up.  We all need daily doses of that. So let’s make it happen.  Thanks very much.

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