How to declutter your mind when you have Attention Deficit Disorder, anxiety, or just a bad case of life.

If you see me for therapy, you know that I am a huge fan of the Bullet Journal system. Bullet Journal is a method for keeping on task and decreasing the clutter in your mind – and the anxiety that goes along with it.

What is the system?

Just watch the video below. It is about 4 minutes long, and can explain quicker than I could in person.

In the next 12:50 minute video below, the creator of the system explains why it works to reduce anxiety and help with attention deficit issues (the creator himself has lived with attention deficit disorder):

Why am I a huge fan of this system?

  1. It is very simple, and well put together.
  2. You can’t beat the price. Get a pencil or pen, and buy a 200 page composition notebook like this one. At $2.99, it is so cheap that you can’t get it at Amazon alone, you have to get it as an add-on item at Amazon. Of course, you can always get another notebook (I prefer Moleskine style), but I just wanted to point out how cheap it is.
  3. It is a one stop calendar, task manager, contact book, project management, lecture note taking and personal journal tool.
  4. You can take it everywhere and it does not fail when you run out of battery juice.
  5. There is nothing quite as gratifying as saying, “I actually don’t need to write this down” when selecting tasks, marking tasks as done, or crossing off items you wrote down that you decided don’t matter after all.

I start my day with a list of no more than 5 things to do. That makes my life much more manageable and less anxiety-stricken.

i have some best practices that I use with the system, which I have developed over the past 2 years of using it.

  1. Just start it. It takes about 45 minutes to set up the first time, and less time after that the next time you make a notebook. The video really explains it simply.
  2. If you have to think about something for more than 2 minutes and you can’t solve it, it goes in the Bullet Journal.
  3. If you have a goal that will take more than 1 month to accomplish, break it into smaller tasks and put it in on a monthly basis in the Bullet Journal (you’ll understand after you watch the 4 minute video about the system).
  4. Keep it really simple. I have toyed with variations off of the video, and there are thousands of YouTube videos to make it color coded, origamied, etc. That stuff is just crazy. Stay with the simple. I’d suggest staying with the video above and then experimenting later.
  5. Always keep it at arm’s reach and in sight. If it isn’t, you won’t use it.
  6. Use it daily. Plan your day in the morning, review it at night.
  7. Personally, I integrate a Livescribe 3 pen system with my iPhone into the system. I have a further backup on Evernote. That way I can have a computerized backup, which is open to audio recordings that are synchronized with it, as well as photos. Note that I do not use audio recordings or pictures of my clients or material associated with my clients to protect confidentiality. When I go to lectures or workshops in the community is when I use these features. Make a point, where applicable, of asking for permission to record audio or pictures.
  8. You may want to use it as well to take notes of lectures or to do personal journaling.
  9. Tell others about how you use it. This will keep you using it.
  10. Use the 43 Folders system for things that are on pieces of paper that y0u can’t just copy easily into a notebook. See my blog article on this system for details. In the Bullet Journal system, I would just make a note to refer to the 43 folders system, so you know where the information is.

BUT I HATE PAPER AND PENCIL! CAN’T I DO IT DIGITALLY?

Yes, you can. You will gain a lot of advantages by doing it digitally, however, it is important to note that there is one major disadvantage. With the Bullet Journal, you can simply put a line through things you don’t care about anymore, and you aren’t faced with the question of whether or not you want to make the effort to copy forward a task into the next month by hand. If you really don’t see the need to put the effort into copying something by hand at the end of the month (when you review your tasks for the month to make sure they are done), then you really probably don’t need to copy it because it isn’t a worthwhile task. Therefore, by copying and pasting, you merely carry leftover anxiety into the next month.

That being said, then, there is a way I would suggest. At present, there is no completely digital version of the Bullet Journal. In my opinion, there really shouldn’t be. But, there are ways to work around it.

One is Evernote. Evernote is a very customizable site that has the ability to do all this, but it would take a lot to set it up, and you would be reliant on electronics. I’ve tried this, and it is clunky. As you can gather, I like simple.

A promising alternative for those in the Google Universe is a combination of Google Calendar and Google Keep. There is not enough space to go into how these work, but I will say that the way I would use these is to point out that if some task or thing you want to record has a date, use Calendar. If it doesn’t, use Keep. Objects in both Calendar and Keep will integrate into other Google products, e.g. Inbox and Google’s Microsoft Office clone products, e.g. Docs. It is well worth exploring, although I prefer paper and pencil, and I’m not convinced it will actually reduce stress. There is also the fact that they say that on the Internet, if the product is free, then you are the product–meaning that what you put there can be analyzed and is by no means confidential.

Regardless of the method you choose, the idea behind Bullet Journal is a wonderful method for reducing anxiety and enhancing concentration and intention. Try it out for a month, and let me know what you think.

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Half Full or Half Empty?

So the real issue is this, folks.  Today is a new day.  What would be a more efficient way to think about whatever is troubling you?

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Internal Critic? Or Internal Guide?

depression-1250897_1280

Hey.

You.

You are worthless.

You can’t accomplish anything.

Nobody wants you.

You have nothing to offer anyone.

Have you ever had these thoughts? Everyone does at some point in their lives. For people who come to see me for therapy, sometimes they even say that these thoughts are like their best friend, always present.

These thoughts are deadly, however.   Many of my clients who are suicidal deal with the stress that comes from an unrelenting barrage of these thoughts.

But where  do these thoughts come from? We know that we have to experience them, but sometimes we don’t know why why they show up like this, especially when there is ample evidence to the contrary of what they say.

One thing I know about in life when it comes to feelings is that all feelings are about five things.

Basically, do I feel safe and comfortable?, or, do I need to fight, flee, hide, or submit?

I base my argument that feelings are about this on simple evolutionary theory.   Two ancestors went down a forest path, and they saw a sabertooth tiger. The one who felt odd, like they wanted to run, lived to the another day.  The one who didn’t feel odd and stayed didn’t.  Why?  Because the one who felt odd did not feel like he was safe or comfortable, and his feelings compelled him to flee. After the one who had a flight response ran, he did feel safe and comfortable. He lived to the next day, met up with Mrs. Caveman, and produced little cavemen, our ancestors.   Back then, we had sabertooth tigers. Today we have spouses, bosses, and bills. However, we have the same physiological and emotional responses.  Feelings of joy, happiness, contentedness lead to feeling safe and comfortable. When we feel safe and comfortable, we know we are not under threat. We feel free to be creative and work for the greater good. When we don’t feel safe and comfortable, we often feel despair, anger, fear, and other negative feelings. These feelings are actually our allies. They help us to see that we need to work on addressing perceived threats so that we can again feel safe and comfortable and survive

All negative feelings are about helping you with feeling safe and comfortable in the future. All of them, if they are interpreted correctly, in the light of the fact that they are guides to feeling safe and comfortable in the long run.

So, why do we have these negative thoughts about ourselves, and why are they so critical, and why are we so crippled by them?

These negative thoughts come from when we oftentimes call our Internal Critic. This is the voice inside of us that tells us that we are worthless. It is the voice that has followed us from childhood and tells us that we can’t do anything. It is the voice that tells us we are unwanted.  It is the voice that tells us that we are not worth anything to other people.

My clients listen to the Internal Critic all the time.  For the most part it is why they come here for help. It causes them pain.  Their relationship with their Inner Critic is one that oftentimes is very dangerous, as they listen to thought stating that they would be better off dead. A lot of them live in fear of their own thoughts and feelings.   Worse, they identify with their own thoughts and feelings and fall into the idea that just because these thoughts are here, that  the thoughts and feelings expressed by the Inner Critic are actually who they are as a person, and the actual reality that they face.

In reality, the Inner Critic is simply a part of who they are, not the sum.  The Critic is an experience in response to something going on in their lives, either easily defined or not easily defined.  At the least, they are thoughts and feelings, but only thoughts and feelings.  I would argue that they actually represent parts of ourselves that we have pushed away, much like a kid who runs from his shadow because it is terrifying to experience.  It is a part of ourself that has been shunned by us and that wants to be reunited with us in a healthy way.  But, I’ll come back to that.

The Inner Critic, as I’ve stated before, is actually not your enemy.  It may tell you all kinds of things, up to and including that you would be better off dead.  But, it isn’t your enemy.  The Inner Critic is usually a representative of a part of yourself that does not feel recognized by the decision-making part of you.  Frustrated by this, it tries to get your attention by criticizing you into action, sometimes self-sabotaging or self-destructive action, in the hopes that you will change.  It criticizes, hoping you will respond positively. However, the mistake comes in misinterpreting its message.

When we don’t listen to what the Inner Critic is actually saying behind its yelling, we eventually become crippled, hiding and submitting to what we interpret as our own poor self-worth.  Work is undone, relationships are lost, we isolate, and eventually succumb to depression or anxiety.

So, this is what happens, but what are the mechanics of how it happens?

Usually anxiety and depression works like the following set of diagrams.

First, we experience anxiety about a situation, such as a fear about coping with a fear of being judged in a social context.  Then we notice the need and means to change, such as the need to go to a specific social event to meet people.

Guardian 1

This leads to tension, as one bounces back and forth between anxiety about a situation, and fear of the need and means to change.  A feedback loop develops between anxiety about a situation and the need and means to change, which spirals into either anxiety or depression.  Anxiety and depression lead to a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.

Guardian 2

People come to psychotherapy for relief from two things, and two things only: pain, and the Catch-22 about how to deal with it when confronted with the need to change.  They find themselves facing a riddle, which is to answer the question of how to move through change.  The problem is that they are stuck in patterns of thinking that pingpong between fear of the situation and fear of change.  With each paddling of the pingpong, more energy is added to the tension, and the client eventually spirals into anxiety or depression as a result of the unspent increasing energy.

In good therapy, clients are encouraged to let go of the Catch-22 cycle by identifying how it works in a given situation and then they are then asked to answer the Catch-22 and relieve their pain by changing the way they perceive the questions brought up by their Internal Critic.

However, it is important to note that while the therapist provides counsel, the real work doesn’t involve the therapist.  The real work is done between the person who comes to therapy, their internal anxiety about a situation, and their internal need and means to change.

So, how do we deal with the Inner Critic?

First, as stated before, we need to realize that the Inner critic is not our enemy, but is actively trying to help us to first focus on a problem, and then finding the need and means of coping with it.

A good way to think of dealing with the Inner Critic is to see it as a frustrated guide to life.  If we actually just look at what it does as a gift, we can learn a lot.

The Inner Critic gives us a gift by identifying a problem and discriminating it as a priority compared to others.  For example, if it seems to say that you are a terrible person because of the way you handle a family problem, you can interpret what it says as simply saying that a possible threat is the family problem in question.  All the other emotional drama is its attempt to get you to focus on the threat as an area for action.  The family problem is the threat to focus on, and you don’t have to worry about the price of rice in China, the recent antics of a TV celebrity, politics, or a hangnail.  It says the family problem is what needs to be focused on.  That is its gift, singling out the issue to be focused upon.

The need for change also gives us a gift.  When we look at the need for change and look for means to change, the sense of the enormity of change simply reminds us to temper our intervention on the threat.  If the family problems look insurmountable, then we are are forced to narrow down our options for how to work on it until we come up with the most reasonable. We don’t have to cut down an entire forest, we just need a path through the trees. The anxiety about making a change with family issues, then, can either cripple us if we only listen to the frustrated part of it, or it can help us by encouraging us to discern between efficient and effective ways of coping and inefficient and ineffective ways of coping. So, instead of freezing in the face of a family issue, we can use the energy that comes from the fight or flight response to stop, look at resources, and talk to people in the family or friends who can be of help navigating through the issues, for example.

How do we know we have the best answer? We feel relief, and the solution is positive and it is ethically the best for all concerned, even if it is difficult. If we don’t feel this or see this, then we aren’t done with looking at the underlying reasons why our Critic is trying to get our attention.

In then end, then, pain and fear of change are not our enemies. They can be our greatest allies. Learn to listen to your Internal Critic as your Internal Guide, perhaps even your Internal Guru. You and your world will be better for it.

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Seeing YouTube Videos Can Help Understand Schizophrenia

The videos mentioned in this article may be helpful not just for people who experience schizophrenia, but for those who experience psychosis in various forms.

They may also help family members understand as well.

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ACME Now Selling Narcan Over The Counter In PA

I work in Delaware County, PA, which is currently in the midst of a severe opiate addiction, as it is on the heroin and opiate pipeline between Philadelphia, Chester, Wilmington, and Baltimore. I can’t tell you how many clients I have who have opiate addictions in addition to what they are coming to see me about.

While this is a good start, I think it is a crime that some insurances will not pay the $155 per dose to save someone’s life. Please write to your representative and the drug companies that produce this to argue for less cost, as a lot of people who overdose are of a lower socioeconomic status, and $155 is prohibitive.

However, for what it is worth, this is a good start.

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How heavy is this glass of water?

A lecturer, when explaining stress management to a class, raised a glass of water and asked, “how heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g. The lecturer replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it.”

“If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. “In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

He continued, “And that’s the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on.” “As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the demands of life.”

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EMDR International Association

I’ve been using this since around 1993. Well worth your time.
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43 What?

Anxiety oftentimes comes from procrastination.  Sometimes it is hard to deal with anxiety by just changing thoughts alone.  Sometimes the best way is to act on the required behavior and suspend judgment about the feelings and thoughts that come from acting on the behavior until you can see that things are improving and your emotions and mind settle down with progress made.

Anxiety from procrastination comes from thinking that the pile of bills, papers, to do lists, etc. on your desk are waiting for you and stalking you, ready to fall on you and smother you.  The anxiety moves into freezing as part of the flight/fight response, and no positive behavior results, only procrastination.

Then the anxiety becomes worse by looking at all kinds of things to study to organize your life.  Getting Things Done, a system for organizing productivity, has a few good points, most notably the Inbox concept and the idea that if it can’t be done in 2 minutes, it needs to be filed.  However, all the tagging and cataloguing is a recipe for developing OCD.  There are other crazy systems out there that will increase your anxiety.

That’s why I really like to keep things simple.  I mentioned the Bullet Journal in a previous post.  It’s cheap ($1 composition book and a pencil, and you are good to go).  Can’t recommend it enough as it is so simple (the video at the Bullet Journal website is only 4 minutes long and describes pretty much the whole system), but it still isn’t for everyone, and it is not a good system for organizing bills and other paper-dependent  things.

For those who are more inclined to paper-pushing, there is the 43 Folders concept.  Here I’m only discussing the Tickler File system, not the 43folders.com website.  This is a very, very simple way of keeping on top of your tasks.

So, I’d suggest that you try it for a month, and see how it goes.  It only takes 21 days to build  a habit, and checking in daily and letting go of things by putting them in for other days will help you a lot.  Thanks me later.

Here (in the video below at the vantagepointtherapy.com website) is a decent video which goes over the 43 folders concept as applied in the Tickler File system.  Hope it helps.  Let me know.

 

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Anderson Cooper tries a schizophrenia simulator [HQ Audio]

Having worked with people with schizophrenia, psychotic depression, psychotic bipolar, and dissociative disorders that often have auditory hallucinations as part of the package, I can understand this experience. Listen to the whole thing (this has the simulator running throughout the whole interview). After only a few minutes, you’ll want to turn it off.

Imagine what it is like for those who can’t. Then think about this the next time you crack a joke about the mentally ill, or, if you are in a relationship with someone who experiences this, think about this when you are frustrated with them or their performance.
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I had a black dog, his name was depression

The term “Black Dog” was coined by Winston Churchill. And we know how his life turned out while having a black dog.

If you have an unruly black dog, it’s time to bring it to obedience training.
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