How A Mindfulness Coach Can Improve Your Life

How A Mindfulness Coach Can Improve Your Life

“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each movement. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

How many times in the past few months have you heard the word “mindfulness”? It’s become a “buzzword” in today’s world. Many people talk about it, but few actually understand the true meaning of mindfulness. At its root, mindfulness is a form of meditation. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines it as follows: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

That might sound simple at first, but when’s the last time you can say you honestly practiced this state of being for any amount of time? Would you ever consider having a mindfulness coach to help you achieve such a state? I have to be honest and admit that when I was first introduced to mindfulness, I thought it was an impossible goal that I would never achieve. After all, I had much better things to do that didn’t require me to pause and think about the present moment, and I thought those things would place me ahead of the game. What I didn’t realize back then was that learning to pause and focus on what was going on in the present moment — without judgment! — would allow me to be more productive, happier, and more fulfilled in what I was doing. Mindfulness helped pave my way toward a better present and future, and I have no doubt that it can help you do the same!

Mindfulness has become very popular in the past few years, particularly after large companies such as Google and ebay started using it to help benefit their business by teaching mindfulness to their employees. Google took it a step further, and has a program called “Search Inside Yourself” that is helping its employees learn and practice mindfulness. The idea behind it is that we can improve our emotional intelligence by utilizing mindfulness and neuroscience. Basically, as humans, we perform better if we are aware of and able to grow our emotional intelligence, which is broken into five sections: self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy, and leadership.

Many scientists have also provided evidence that practicing mindfulness can actually lead to stronger connections in the brain that will eventually change the structure of the brain. Yes, it sounds kind of crazy, but it’s called “neuroplasticity.” It is a hot topic in the field right now, and it is helping millions of people become more and more mindful.

If I told you that you could improve your life and reduce your stress and anxiety by working with a mindfulness coach, would you consider working with one? Even for one or two sessions? I am hoping that by the time you are done reading about the ways that a mindfulness coach can help improve your life, you might consider making the investment in yourself. But first, let’s dive right into how a mindfulness coach can help you feel better!

# 1 Help You Create a Clear Direction For Your Life with Greater Passion

If you are feeling lost and unsure about which direction to take, or if you feel that you know the direction, but are currently paralyzed by your fears, then you might want to consider working with a mindfulness life coach. One challenge that many of us face is getting lost in our thoughts and feelings whenever we think about future plans, our true desires, and how we can achieve those goals. You know when you feel like thoughts are swirling around in your brain, but you can’t make sense of them? We don’t allow ourselves to trust that when we relax our minds and listen to ourselves and our wishes without the many life distractions that are in our way, we might actually find the answers to our questions.

Your mindfulness life coach can provide you with the insight and support to find and stay on your path of awakening to your authentic self so you can find out what you were truly meant to do. In order for you to be able to find your authentic self, your coach will help you declutter the thoughts that are sometimes toxic and unproductive, and help you pave your way to cultivating a mindfulness practice, where you can learn to notice and effectively clear your mind. This then gives way for attention and intention to emerge. As you become more present and aware of your thoughts, you will learn to redirect those thoughts to make room for more positive and constructive ones.

Throughout the process of working with your mindfulness coach, you will begin to engage in a more positive mode of thinking, and be able to let go of the distracting thoughts that prevented you from achieving your goal. As you become more present and able to achieve your desired goals, you will also be on your way to a more joyous and fulfilled state of being.

Zen Mindfulness Meditation

#2 Learn how To Express Your Inner Strength and Unique Abilities

Many of us tend to look at our own qualities as flaws or imperfections, but we look at other people’s qualities as unique abilities or successes. With the help of your mindfulness coach, you will develop an awareness of your strengths and unique abilities and invest your energy and time focusing on these traits — instead of constantly dwelling on your weaknesses or perceived flaws. Furthermore, your mindfulness life coach will help you realize that in every moment there are opportunities for change and growth.

Learning to express inner strength and unique abilities will help you feel better about who you are and help you develop true self confidence and self esteem. When you are younger — if you are lucky — you have parents, teachers, and coaches that help cultivate these qualities and build up your self esteem. However, as we become adults, we are often left feeling lost. It can feel selfish and indulgent to think too much about your good qualities, what separates you from your peers. This is where a professional can help. Investing in yourself is never a waste of time.

The incredible thing about the practice of mindfulness is that the more your practice, the more your behaviors become your default and your habits become something that serve rather than something that harms you. Your mindfulness coach will also provide you with practical tips techniques and skills that will support you in making lasting, meaningful change in your life.

#3 Help You Find Joy in Everything You Do

In life we don’t always do things that we want or love to do, but sometimes these things can lead us to other things that are more meaningful. Think about something that you did that you didn’t want to do because you had something else better to do.

One example that comes to mind for me is when Shiloh, my 8-year-old daughter, asked me to play the game Guess Who with her. Of course, I wanted to play with her for as long as I could, but it just so happened that that day, I had a long list of things to do, including cleaning the kitchen and finish working on an important project. However, I looked Shiloh in the eyes and said that I would love to play with her. I made a conscious decision that since I was having special time with her, I would be fully invested and committed to what we were doing. I got into the game and we ended up playing for almost an hour. At one point, I looked up and we were both laughing so hard, and she was looking at me with so much love. It reminded me how fun and innocent it is to be a child, and I realized how rewarding and redeeming it was for me to relish in my role as her mother. I truly enjoyed being in the moment and playing with this beautiful child of mine and sharing such important time.

The kitchen and my other work waited, and I don’t regret that time we spent together. It sounds simple when I outline it like that, but the number of times a day we prioritize the “wrong” tasks on our lists will become more evident as you practice mindfulness. A mindfulness coach can help you decipher what you need to do versus what you want to do versus what will bring you both temporary and long-lasting joy.

# 4 Connect With Your Inner Wisdom

You might be reading this and asking yourself, “What is inner wisdom?” Inner wisdom is defined differently by different people, but it’s essentially something inside of us all that is pure. It’s a light inside that we don’t always see. Inner wisdom is also sensory versus all the loud voices that we hear and rules that we obey. Some refer to it as intuition. I remember thinking that some people have a more developed intuition than others — which to me meant they had a very special ability. While some people possess a very developed intuition and might have so-called special abilities, I have come to believe and witness that with practice, we can all become more intuitive and better connected to our inner wisdom. This is something a mindfulness coach can help you cultivate.

Feeling more connected to yourself will enable you to see what stands in your way more clearly and find/identify the appropriate solutions more easily. With the help of your mindfulness coach you will be able to seperate your rational voices from the emotional ones and access your inner voice that is beautiful and pure. This might sound like an impossible task, but with practice, you will be able to get there and find that you can live and lead a happier more fulfilled life style.

I remember that I when started working with a mindfulness coach over 10 years ago, I kept telling him that I had to get more and more training so that I could be as helpful as I could to my own clients. His response to me was this: “Your trunk is wide and full of information. From now on, you must focus on using what you know already and more importantly the skills and knowledge you possess that you never believed you had before.” These words stayed with me for a long time. I realized that when I was first working with clients, I spent hours and hours trying to find the answers to what they were going through, but always doubted my own intuition. As a new therapist, these doubts were probably normal, but what my coach helped me do more of was allow and trust my inner unique abilities to be used and expressed.

Providing therapy for my clients after that was a lot more enjoyable for me and more effective for my clients. I found that by making true meaningful connections with people I was able to experience life in a much more authentic way. More importantly, by demonstrating to my clients that I was present, I was able to connect with them and help them in new ways. I finally learned to trust that my education and skills were enough — and not just enough, but incredible tools to share that bring me much joy.

Calm relaxed woman meditating with laptop, no stress at work, mental health mindfulness coach

# 5 Help You Achieve Optimum Physical Health

There is much evidence for the the positive physical and health benefits mindfulness brings. There is a reason that so many people are drawn to the wonderful world of mindfulness. A study by Remmers et al (2016) found that mindfulness can help alleviate stress through improving emotion regulation, leading to a better mood and better ability to handle situations. Many other studies help support this finding by stating that when individuals induce a state of relaxation achieved through mindfulness, the benefits include higher brain functioning, increased immune function, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and increased awareness, attention and focus.

One of my most favorite experts in mindfulness, Dr. Daniel Siegel, published one of the first books ever to integrate neuroscience research with mindfulness. In his groundbreaking book he shows readers how personal awareness and attunement can stimulate emotional circuits in the brain, leading to a host of physiological benefits and improved cardiac and immune function.

It’s easy to put your physical health and your mental health into separate boxes in your mind, but when you realize just how connected they are, it will change your life for the better. Oftentimes, investing in your mental health is a vital step to improving your physical health.

The most important thing to take from working with your mindfulness coach is that it is possible to be fully present, fully engaged in life, and live the authentic life that you want to live. Your life can be full of purpose, and you can finish each day knowing that you lived it well.

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists or dietitians, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!

What Exactly Is OCD and How Do I Know If Someone Has It?

What Exactly Is OCD and How Do I Know If Someone Has It?

How often have you heard the phrase, “That person is so OCD”? Or how many times have you labeled someone as OCD, or even thought of yourself as being “OCD” in certain aspects of your life? I know that even as a therapist, I’ve found myself referring to other people who have certain behaviors that appear extremely particular as “OCD.” The truth is, though, society has latched on to this title to describe a large spectrum of actions, without really understanding what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder really is. What most people don’t know is that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental health disorder, which means an individual must present with very specific criteria in order to fall under that description. Because we all know people who seem “obsessive” about one thing or another, sometimes it’s hard to know when you should worry and what you should do. So I want to start by defining what OCD is and how one goes about being diagnosed.

As a warning, this post is rather technical, but I hope it helps give a better overview and understanding of OCD. You’ll see there are a lot of different forms of OCD, but you’ll also see that there are a lot of behaviors that might present as OCD but actually don’t merit that diagnosis. If after reading this, you are worried about yourself or someone you know, my best advice is to consult a therapist. This isn’t something you should try to solve on your own!

The Basics: What Is OCD?

First, it’s important to note that in order for someone to be diagnosed they need to have the presence of obsessions, compulsions or both. Now we need to define obsessions and compulsions. According to the DSM 5 (the bible of psychiatry), obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and unwanted and that in most individuals caused marked anxiety or distress. The person must also be attempting to ignore or suppress thoughts, urges or images, or neutralize them with some other thoughts or action. Compulsions are defined by repetitive behaviors, like handwashing, checking several times or mental acts such as praying or counting. The individual needs to be performing these behaviors in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly. Second, the behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety or distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation. However, these behaviors or mental acts are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize and in many occasions, they are excessive.

The obsession compulsions must be time consuming and take more than one hour per day as well as cause clinically significant distress or impairment socially, occupationally or in another important area of functioning to the individual. It is important to be aware that sometimes obsessive compulsive symptoms can be attributed to other causes, such as to substance abuse or medication or another medical condition, so it is important to be aware of that. Finally, the obsessive compulsive disorder cannot also be explained by another mental disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder or body dysmorphic disorder, and so before making the diagnosis that someone is struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, you need to rule out other related disorders that are similar in nature.

school supplies stacked obsessive compulsive disorder

What is considered obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Under the OCD umbrella, there are nine different disorders that are included. The first one is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, with the above criteria mentioned. The second one is Hoarding Disorder, which most of us are familiar with (particularly if you’ve seen the show Hoarders). Another disorder is Body Dysmorphic Disorder, where the individual is obsessed with one or more body parts, which causes repetitive behaviors such as checking oneself in the mirror often, grooming oneself excessively, picking skin or mental acts like comparing oneself to other individuals in response to the apparent concern. In order to reach the distinction of a disorder, that preoccupation with whatever body part must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social circles or other area of functioning and it cannot be explained by another disorder such as an eating disorder.

If you have school-age kids, then you probably have noticed someone in the school who is missing parts of their hair. This is known as trichotillomania, which is also considered an OCD. In order to be diagnosed with trichotillomania or “hair pulling disorder,” the individual must have the following criteria: recurring pulling out of hair; the individual tried to decrease this behavior on several occasions; also,  just as with most of these disorders, that behavior must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in several areas of functioning; finally, the hair pulling or hair loss cannot be attributed to another medical condition and cannot be explained by symptoms of another mental disorders.

Another disorder that I think is extremely important to discuss because people are not as familiar with it is Excoriation — which is basically skin picking disorder. I’ve noticed many kids and individuals who are struggling with skin picking disorder and a lot of therapists don’t specifically ask about it. Excoriation involves recurring skin picking, which results in skin lesions; the individual tried to stop and decrease that behavior and couldn’t; the skin picking causes significant distress or impairment and, as in all these orders, it cannot be better explained by symptoms of another mental disorder or attributed to the physiological effects of substance abuse.

There are also substance and medication induced obsessive compulsive and related disorders, but I’m not going to get too much into those in this blog. However, there are also obsessive compulsive and related disorders that are due to another medical condition, which I think are worth noting — especially if you are a parent of young children and you notice certain behaviors. I recently had a mom call me in great distress because she believed her 9-year-old daughter was exhibiting signs of OCD. After talking with her pediatrician, she was told that the OCD behaviors could’ve been precipitated by a pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder that is associated with strep throat. This is more commonly known as pandas. I don’t write this to scare you, but it is worth noting that when strep is left untreated it can cause severe autoimmune disorders that can also result in cognitive and physical problems down the line.

Lastly, know that OCD can be treated. If you are a parent, you should be on the lookout for the symptoms mentioned in this blog post, but also understand that the symptoms need to persist and be severe. There are lots of options depending on the exact diagnosis, and there are so many resources that can help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek treatment. Knowledge is the most powerful tool you can arm yourself with if you are trying to help your child.

A Psychologist’s Guide To ADHD Organization: Part 2

A Psychologist’s Guide To ADHD Organization: Part 2

If you missed last week’s post, be sure to read the first part of this article by clicking here.

ADHD Organizational Skills From Psychologist Ann Marie

Organization is key for all families, but can be particularly challenging for families with ADHD children. They may have every intention of bringing their homework to school or keeping track of their backpack, but problems with focus can make even small organization tasks difficult. Here are some small ways families can improve organization:

Folders

Pick brightly-colored folders to identify outgoing homework and incoming assignments. It may help to keep a special folder in the child’s backpack so that they simply put the homework into it immediately after completion (rather than putting it in a folder and then remembering to put the folder in their backpack).

Homework Station

Create a homework station at home that your child does their work at each day in a location that is away from distractions such as the TV or younger siblings. Set a rule that the area is free of clutter and contains only the items needed to finish homework tasks. This may change per assignment, but return the homework station to its original condition each night so the area is clear for the next day.

Communication

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Parents should keep in close contact with teachers and notify them of the organizational tools that are used at home, such as color-coded folders. While it’s imperative to communicate closely with teachers in subjects a child struggles in, it’s also important to speak frequently to teachers in coursework where the child excels. This not only allows the child to have pride that their caregiver notices their successes, but those particular teachers may have innovative ways of helping the child attend successfully to the schoolwork or organize themselves!

Inventory List

Sports and other activities can present organizational chaos when children have to remember uniforms, equipment, and other items. Consider creating an inventory list that the child can check when putting items into their bag. A laminated sheet can be used, so that the child can check off each item with a dry erase marker as they put it in their bag (younger children can look at picture cues rather than words). For older children who have smartphones, the list can be made on an app such as Keep.

Alarms

External alarms can help with time management for ADHD children. An egg timer can be used for younger children to remind them when it’s time to clean up, or to remind them to check their work. For teens, alarms can be helpful in reminding them of due dates, changes in daily routine, sports events, etc.

Apps

Consider using apps or systems for older children that are all connected. For example, Google profiles can significantly increase organization and task completion as the different features can be combined and tracked in conjunction with google alarms and reminders. Tasks can be added to a google calendar that has a link to a document (e.g. book report) right on the calendar reminder. The Google documents or calendar can be opened on a computer, a phone, or a tablet so that no matter where the child is they can complete their work or check their reminders (even if they forgot their phone at home). The task can be shared with the caregiver’s own Google calendar as well.

Phone Usage

Smartphones can be a lifesaver for teens with ADHD, and can help them stay more connected with their parents. However, they can also create more distraction due to endless apps, texts, notifications from social media, links within links when researching topics, and fun distractions such as silly videos or memes. Limit phone use during homework time and ensure that children are not looking at any screens at least one hour before bedtime, as the light coming from the screens can affect the body’s ability to recognize sleep cues.

Scheduling

Be strategic about organizing the child’s schedule so that they have time to de-stress, and also are not too stimulated before bedtime. Build in time for fun! ADHD children may need to complete homework in small chunks of time, and may need to take frequent breaks. Sometimes physical activity can be helpful during these breaks to expend energy, allowing the child to return to sitting calmly for a few more minutes while completing a homework task. Parents should be careful to balance this time for each child, as some need to have a quick dance party while others may become overly silly and active with even the smallest activity (those children may benefit more from stretching or doing a quick yoga pose rather than jumping jacks). Letting your child dissolve into giggles is ok once in a while, though, because everyone needs some spontaneous fun. It just might not be on the night that a book report and science project are both due!

Success

Celebrate your child’s successes, and celebrate them often! Children with ADHD are used to constant redirection from adults. They may begin to feel that they are only noticed for the things they struggle with. Building your child’s self-esteem and noticing the ways in which they have improved or been creative can go a long way in preventing depressive symptoms, which are fairly common in children with an ADHD diagnosis due to struggles with attending to social interactions and having to work harder to maintain academic performance.

boy holding fidget spinner

Unstructured Time

Allowing children with ADHD some time that is unstructured, unmedicated, and unpressured can be liberating. Some children need structure and benefit from medication at all times, so talk to your child’s providers to see if this is a reasonable option for your child. If your providers agree, many families choose to have unstructured time on the weekends or during school breaks. It can provide time for the child to be themselves, which can build self-esteem, and can also highlight for them the ways in which their brain cues them differently in different settings or structures (self-awareness is necessary when students go to college and no longer have a parent creating the structure). It also allows caregivers to notice the unique type of creativity that their child with ADHD possesses, a gift that has allowed for some innovative solutions in science, amazing artwork, and unique inventions throughout history!

Thanks, Ann Marie!

So, there you have it: some super useful tips that you can start incorporating into your daily routines now. We hope they’re as useful for you as they were for us!

We don’t know about you, but a lot of these organization tips are helpful to those of us without ADHD children, as well. Setting up structures that will help our child (and us!) stay on task is something that certainly takes work, but always seems to pay off in the end, as long as we stick with it. (That’s always the hard part, isn’t it?!)

Do you have any tips for organization with kids who have ADHD? What works for you? Let us know in the comments!