Personal Note

Hello and welcome to my newsletter!  The format will provide a balance of substantive information, updates on the field of executive functions as well as an opportunity to gain insights into the coaching process.  Please feel free to share your comments or suggestions-- I always look forward to hearing from you!  

In the past year doctors have reported an increase in those seeking mental health care. The number of ADHD diagnoses have increased. The pandemic has certainly changed our environment, our routines and is shining a light to the difficulties neuro diverse brains experience with boredom, lack of connections, and virtual experiences. As a result in this newsletter, I am highlighting the book ADHD 2.0 by Drs Edward Hallowell and John Ratey. The authors stress that connections, exercise (including balance exercises) and mindfulness can help manage the effects of VAST. In their words, “Connection and exercise make the brain sing.” 

I hope you will find the information as insightful as I did.


ADHD 2.0 Highlights

According to Dr. Hallowell, the neuro biologically correct name for ADHD should be VAST. VAST stands for variable attention stimulus trait. Dr. Hallowell states that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is the wrong term to use because individuals with ADHD have an abundance of attention not a deficit. He explains in detail how boredom is the kryptonite of VAST and states that the only consistent thing about VAST is the lack of consistency. As a result one should expect varied achievements even when performing the same task on a repetitive basis.

What can parents do? In a Nutshell Dr. Hallowell and Dr. Ratey say: 

  • Be proactive, empower them, allow them to learn to manage their condition and promote their strengths and skills!
  • Connect with them and spot their strengths.
  • React but don't overreact to the difficulties faced or mistakes made. Do not humiliate them because of their behavior.
  • Help them find “the right difficult” and a creative outlet that matches their interests and strengths.
  • Adopt a positive framework focused on having a “Ferrari brain where we need to strengthen the brakes.” Focus on learning about VAST and not just treating the disability.
  • Strengthen the relationship with effective communication not a lot of interrogation. Keep a positive balance by not providing only criticism, advice, or punishment. 
  • Recognize the effort.
  • Build and strengthen self-esteem: identify unique strengths and interests.
  • It’s ok to make mistakes, focus not only on the end result but also on the effort.
  • Recognize and celebrate small achievements

   * Do you have Vast/ADHD? The above stated tips can work for you too!  

Words of wisdom by Dr. Ned Hallowell:

  • VAST doesn’t hold people back. “Shame, fear, and ignorance does."
  • "Creativity is impulsivity gone right!"
  • "See structure as a friend.”
  • "Believe in the power of connection!” 

Final Thoughts

Spring break ends and suddenly it feels like a rollercoaster until we hit the end of the academic year.  If you are feeling excitement, speed, exhaustion and overwhelm... you are not alone!  

One of the constant coaching themes around this time of the year is "how can I tackle EVERYTHING I need to do?", "I will never make it!", "I have so many things to do and not enough time!” and “I am so tired!”  

Planning for summer, looking for internships, combined with the papers and finals due right before the end of the academic year can be overwhelming for any student.  Add the inconsistency of end of the year schedules, the extra "to do" items, executive function differences, and not enough time to get everything done.  Recipe for chaos? Not necessarily - the key is to look at your day and your to do list and chunk things down into manageable bits.  Yes, the 'chunking down approach' works wonders here too!  Be honest and ask yourself:  What can I realistically tackle today?  This time of the year allows the opportunity to practice setting daily goals and design the action steps that will help you reach your end of the academic year goals.  

There are some general rules that bring a sense of ease to the process.

  1. Simplify, simplify, simplify.  What will 'good enough' look like? Don’t stay in the “seeking perfection” rumination space.

  2. Enjoy the nicer weather! Study outside or go for a run as a timed break. Spending time in nature will reenergize you and can improve focus, reduce stress, and boost mood.

  3. Find a time every day to mindfully slow down (better yet-- find 3 or 4 times to incorporate mini breaks into your schedule! They could be as simple as looking away from the computer and breathing deeply 4 times). The University of Melbourne researchers found that interrupting an attention demanding task by looking at a digital nature image for 40 seconds improved focus and performance. If digital images can have that effect, imagine what a house plant or quick stroll could do!

  4. Design some simple 'me times' throughout your day and schedule them! (take a walk, listen to music, or drink a cup of tea!)

  5. Get a good night sleep. Keep a notebook next to your bed and write the things that are in your mind -- 'brain dumping' will allow you to empty your brain and get the sleep you need.

  6. Eat well. Make it part of your daily intention to make the 'best choices’ I can at the moment. Remember that protein will fill you up for a longer time -- so incorporate some high protein snacks into your day! 

  7. Don’t be afraid to say no.  Too many things on your plate and a new one is waiting to be added? Self-advocate and ask for what you need.  Count to 10 or take time to think about how you will feel adding a new task to your list. Setting boundaries is necessary.

  8. Connect!  Make the time to connect with family and friends on a daily basis.  Friends keep us grounded and we can 'vent' and recharge with them!

  9. CELEBRATE! Celebrate yourself and all your accomplishments... great AND small.

With gratitude, 

Ana Isabel Sánchez 


               Facebook  @anasanchezllc    AnaSanchez