Author: <span>Beth Church</span>

Single and Thriving

Written by: Jessi Beatty, PhD, LP

With all the messages on tv and the media around Valentine’s Day it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that having a healthy, loving partnership with someone is the absolute key to happiness. We get the message over and over again that having that special someone will improve our life and permanently elevate our mood in countless ways. But this actually isn’t true! Research on happiness shows that we all have a baseline level of happiness that moves up and down throughout our life. Happiness is a result of the complex interactions of our genetics, circumstances, activities, and choices. We tend to have a stable, individualized set point for contentment and happiness throughout life that we return to in between the ups and downs. Romantic partnerships are just one aspect of our lives that moves happiness up or down from that baseline level, but it is not the only one! When it feels like romance is alluding you and dragging down your mood, here are some steps you can take to feel better:

Empower your Focus

When we are empowered to focus on important aspects of our lives and our accomplishments, outside of romantic relationships, our happiness grows. Determining your values and moving towards a life that follows them, building in activities that bring joy and provide a sense of mastery, we are choosing an empowered focus on life. Your values help point you in the direction of what actions to take in your life so that it feels authentic and meaningful, and often result in relationship building. However, be empowered to develop a wide variety of fulfilling relationships; there are many important relationships in life outside of romantic ones! Use the time when you are single to build connections with family, friends, or members of your community that are important to you.

Focus on areas of your life that make you happy or give a sense of mastery. This means engaging in activities that help you feel confident, capable and in control. It could include small everyday chores and tasks or bigger commitments like reengaging in or starting new hobbies, traveling more, or getting active within your community by volunteering. Take the time to build in activities that bring enjoyment and leave you feeling energized and happy. Being single is a great time to reflect on what’s important to you and build the important practice of good self-care.

It’s also a good time to reflect on all that you have accomplished. Accomplishments are often not recognized and celebrated the same for those who are not in a relationship. So be sure to take the time and find ways to feel rewarded and proud of your accomplishments, big and small. Surround yourself with people who can celebrate them with you.

Navigating Through Regret or Grief

Most of us have regrets from past romantic relationships or opportunities for romantic experiences that have passed. Navigating through regret or the grief of ended relationships is an important piece of being single and thriving. We have a window of opportunity in these challenging feelings; we process them, learn what these emotions are teaching us, and let them go. Or, do you find that these regrets take on a life of their own, grow, and become amplified over time? Do they they become obsessive thoughts or worries? Thinking about the situation in a productive way is helpful, but when we obsessively dwell on certain thoughts or feelings it can make our thinking less rational and make us feel worse. Constantly running on the thought hamster wheel points your attention away from what is good in your life and zaps your energy. It’s important to “stay in the ick” long enough to understand where it’s coming from, learn from our regret and grief, but allow ourselves to move forward.

Rather than staying stuck in the bad feeling, ask yourself “What aspects of the situation are in my control?” For the parts you have control of ask “What productive action can I take to resolve the feelings of guilt or regret?” Additionally ask “What would you say to help a friend in this situation?” and “How can I show myself compassion in this situation?” Learning from the situation and finding areas of growth or ways to accept and love parts of yourself can be healing.

When you feel stuck, train yourself to recognize the thoughts that keep recurring. The next time the thought comes up, engage in activities that require your full attention, help you stay in the present moment, or act in the opposite of the feelings it brings up. Things like watching a favorite tv show or movie, going to trivia night, exercising, remembering happy times, singing, or dancing to your favorite song and keep you in the present moment, stop the negative thoughts, and help you continue on with the things you need or want to get done.

Love Thy Self!

Remember, being single isn’t a bad thing! There isn’t a rule anywhere that says you have to be in a romantic relationship. In fact, we are always in an ever-evolving relationship with ourselves. We are given a gift, an opportunity to truly learn who we are and nurture our soul with our interests, hobbies, friends, and family. Lean into the good things and embrace what life has to offer, regardless of relationship status. Feel how empowering it can be to be single and thriving.

Sleep Hygiene for Better Mental Health

Written by: Jessica Hauser-Harrington, PhD, LP

I’ll sleep when I’m dead!~ Warren Zevon 

No sleep till Brooklyn!~ The Beastie Boys

A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.” ~Charlotte Bronte

We all know that sleep is important for both our bodies and our brains, yet so few of us would say that we are satisfied with the amount and quality of sleep we get. In fact, many of you may have made New Year’s resolutions to get to bed earlier or to get more sleep. It is recommended that healthy adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. However, more than a third of adults report sleeping less than 7 hours a night. So many factors can impact our ability to get enough sleep: stress, worries, work and family obligations, over-scheduling, health complications, children who don’t sleep through the night, noisy neighbors, snoring partners, etc.  

A more recent phenomenon known as “revenge sleep procrastination” may also be a factor. “Revenge sleep (or bedtime) procrastination” is when someone stays up later in the night than they mean to or know they should, in order to compensate for a lack of free time during the day, or the feeling that their time during the day is not their own. It can mean delaying going to bed, or delaying going to sleep once in bed, and usually takes the form of binge-watching, scrolling online, social media use, or other fairly mindless, time-sucking activities. While it may feel good or justified in the moment, we often regret it when the alarm goes off in the morning and we have missed out on crucial hours of sleep. 

Having a partner who snores or maintains a different sleep schedule can also contribute to sleep loss. More and more couples are pursuing a “sleep divorce.” A sleep divorce,  also sometimes called a “sleep separation” or “alternative sleep arrangements” is when a couple chooses to sleep separately from one another with the goal of better quality sleep. For some couples, this may mean two beds in one room (maybe one partner likes a firmer/softer bed, more or fewer blankets, or tosses and turns throughout the night). For others, it may mean sleeping in separate rooms (especially if one or both snores, they work different shifts requiring sleeping at different times; taking turns caring for an infant, etc). While there can be a social stigma associated with couples sleeping separately, the potential benefits of getting better quality sleep are leading more couples to try this arrangement out. Recent studies suggest that approximately 1 in every 5 couples are sleeping separately most or all of the time.

Loss of sleep can have significant immediate and long term effects. 

Immediate consequences of sleep deprivation include:

  • Grogginess, brain fog
  • Impaired decision making
  • Impaired reaction time
  • Increased risk of accidents or injuries

Long-term consequences of chronic sleep loss include:

  • Increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke
  • Increased anxiety and depression

While certain medical conditions and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, etc. that contribute to disrupted sleep require medical interventions, there are a number of behavioral and environmental changes that you can make to improve your sleep quality and quantity. 

Good Sleep Habits to Start (and Maintain) in 2024

  • Go to bed and wake as close to the same time each day as possible
  • Avoid daytime naps if possible, and if you need a “power nap,”  limit them to around 20 minutes
  • Keep your bedroom as dark as possible
  • Colder rooms promote better sleep (the ideal sleep temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees)
  • Limit or avoid caffeine use in the afternoon and evening
  • Exercise regularly, but not too late in the evening
  • Limit your bedroom to sleep and intimacy 
  • Turn off screens (tv, computers, phones, tablets) 30-60 minutes before bedtime, and use the nighttime feature for evening screen usage
  • Consider activities such as meditation, journaling, a gratitude practice, or light yoga/stretching as a pre-bedtime ritual to calm your mind
  • Sleep on the best quality bed, pillows and bed linens you can afford

Can Therapy Help Me Sleep Better?

If, after making adjustments to your sleep habits, you find yourself struggling to get the amount and quality of sleep you need, it may be worth seeking professional help. Taking to your physician is important to rule out any medical concerns, but speaking with a therapist trained in behavioral medicine and CBTi (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia) is a good next step. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia is typically a short-term therapy that can typically be completed in 6 to 8 sessions. Your therapist will meet with you to review your current sleep routine, sleep environment, and any mental health concerns. You will work together to adjust your sleep behaviors and to address any dysfunctional beliefs around sleep. Untreated or undertreated anxiety and mood disorders can often contribute to disrupted sleep, so addressing those concerns in therapy is also important. 


If you’d like to meet with one of our professionals regarding sleep, contact our office at 248-220-3332.


Citations and Resources for Further Reading

The Centers for Disease Control, Sleep and Sleep Disorders: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html 

The National Sleep Foundation: https://www.thensf.org/ 

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research; Colten HR, Altevogt BM, editors. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2006. 3, Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19961/

Liu, Y., Wheaton, A. G., Chapman, D. P., Cunningham, T. J., Lu, H., & Croft, J. B. (2016). Prevalence of healthy sleep duration among adults–United States, 2014. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(6), 137–141., Retrieved March 24, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26890214/ 

Walker J, Muench A, Perlis ML, Vargas I. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I): A Primer. Klin Spec Psihol. 2022;11(2):123-137. doi: 10.17759/cpse.2022110208. PMID: 36908717; PMCID: PMC10002474.

What Is “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination”? https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/revenge-bedtime-procrastination 

“A ‘Sleep Divorce’ Might Be Exactly What Your Relationship Needs”

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/sleep-divorce 

Should I Try “Dry”?: A Quick Dive into the Benefits of Dry January

Written by: Jill Wasserman, MA, LPC
Edited by: Julie Braciszewski, Phd, LP

The new year is fast approaching and with it brings the promise of a fresh start and the exciting prospect of change. For many of us this offers an opportunity and a chance to redefine ourselves- to break away from habits that do not serve us and embrace new ones. Nothing feels more empowering than taking our mental and physical health into our own hands. 

One such transformative habit that has gained immense popularity and momentum is the concept of Dry January.

 

What is Dry January?

Dry January seems new and trendy but it actually has roots stemming back to World War II (1942). That’s right, more that 80 years ago! More recently, a challenge in the UK took off when people decided they wanted to abstain from alcohol for 31 days. The idea was that this time would allow the body to “detox” from the indulgences of the holiday season and provide time for the mind to “reset”. Almost as if we get a chance to start the new year with a “blank slate”. This period of time serves as an ideal opportunity to reflect on our relationship with alcohol and explore the benefits of abstinence.

If I Want to Try “Dry”, Does That Mean I Have a Problem?

Nope! Simply participating in Dry January is not an indicator that you have a problem with alcohol. In fact, more and more individuals are choosing not to drink just because it makes them feel good. However, having a Dry January does provide a valuable opportunity to reflect on how alcohol consumption affects your wellbeing. 

Here are just a few indicators that might be a sign of more problematic use:

  • Drinking more than intended on your own or at events
  • Not being able to slow down or stop, even when you try 
  • Giving up or not being able to perform certain responsibilities because of drinking (or effects of drinking, like hangover or fatigue)
  • Needing to stave off a hangover with “the hair of the dog” 
  • Problems with relationships, work, or school because of drinking
  • Consuming increasing amounts in one sitting or across a period of time, like a week 

If you or someone you know exhibit any of the above, it might be a sign of a more serious problem. While Dry January might be a great start, individuals who are experiencing problem drinking often need support, resources, and a helpful community to make sustainable change.

How do I do ‘Dry January’?

As of January 1, 2024 the idea is to completely abstain from all alcohol. Most people need to take some steps to be successful. If you are someone who typically enjoys a glass of wine with dinner, have a different beverage choice that feels rewarding ready and available. If you like to go out on the weekend and grab a drink with friends, maybe have a planned substitute activity or mocktail in mind before you head out. Check out some other helpful tips below:

  • Have a clear and measurable goal – Are you completely abstaining for 31 days?
  • Ask for support from friends and family – Ask them to join you! Social Support = Success!
  • Avoid triggers that may make you want to drink – certain times of day, places, situations, emotions, songs, etc. 
  • Find a substitute “go-to drink” for social situations – Maybe you want sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime, a special mocktail, soda, etc.
  • Remember that “no” is a full sentence – if someone asks you or pressures you to drink, you do not have to explain yourself. “No” is a full sentence and you do not owe anyone an explanation about why you aren’t drinking unless you care to share that information
  • Be sure to reward yourself for your achievements – big and small
  • Be kind and compassionate with yourself – Anytime we are making a change, we can expect slip ups and mistakes to happen. Learn from it, acknowledge it, remember why you started, then move on.

Dry January can extend beyond 31 days and oftentimes, many people choose to keep it going! There is nothing wrong with that! I say go for it…do what works for you!

What if I slip up?

Don’t let one, or even several, slip ups ruin the experience (or experiment) for you. Change is hard. Change is fluid, not linear. Slip ups and mistakes happen and to be successful we must accept this..The most important thing is, if Dry January is your goal, find a way to get back on track. Maybe consider why you wanted to participate in Dry January in the first place- what is the motivation behind these 31 days? Allow yourself some grace and compassion, don’t beat yourself up over it. 

How do I Socialize Without Alcohol? 

It might feel weird or awkward at first, but if you feel the need to hold a drink in your hand when you are socializing, then make sure you have a “go-to” alcohol-free drink that you feel comfortable ordering. There are a lot of beverage options available that do not contain alcohol. There are also many new creative and delicious mocktails that have become widely popular. If you are at a bar, any skilled bartender can turn your favorite drink into a mocktail. If you are starting to notice a reliance on alcohol to feel comfortable in social situations, then that is helpful information. Maybe you are learning about some anxiety that the alcohol has been assisting with, otherwise known as “liquid courage”. Throughout this process, you may begin to have new patterns, thoughts and emotions come to your awareness. Additionally, sober bars and events have gained popularity and are starting to pop up in more and more locations. If this may be of interest to you, perhaps see if one is located in your area and pay one a visit. Being alcohol free doesn’t mean that you have to be a hermit for 31 days.

Need a Motivational Boost? Here are Some Benefits of Dry January…

The benefits of participating in Dry January are countless and include both physical and mental benefits. 

Physical Benefits

Studies have shown that abstaining from alcohol, even for the short duration of a month, can lead to improved sleep quality, increased energy, weight loss, and improved organ function (such as the liver). Data also suggests that refraining from drinking can lead to reduced blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and even reduced levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood.

Mental Benefits

People who have participated in Dry January in the past have indicated that they feel happier, more confident, and more in control of their alcohol consumption and drinking habits. And, as an added benefit, people also shared that they were able to find new ways to spend time with friends and family and socialize that did not involve alcohol. Others have recalled how they were able to share deeper and more meaningful connections with friends and family and feel more present.

Conclusion

As we stand on the cusp of a new year, filled with hope and anticipation, let’s consider embracing the change that Dry January offers. It is so much more than giving up alcohol for a month; it is about starting the year on a positive note, setting the tone for the months to follow and taking control of our health, habits, and most importantly, our lives. Who knows…this one small change could be the catalyst for a year of transformation! 


If you think you or a loved one may have a problematic relationship with alcohol, help is available. Contact Monarch Behavioral Health to speak with one of our specialists. And check out this cool AA meeting finder!

Balancing the Joy and Stress of the Holidays

Written by: Alyssa Hedke, MA, TLLP
Edited by: Julie Braciszewski, PhD, LP

Pumpkin spice is a distant memory as we transition to peppermint mocha to energize our bodies full steam ahead into the holiday season.  The holidays are marketed as the “most wonderful time of the year”.  Odds are many agree with that sentiment. But, as we know this time of the year can bring both joy and stress. Nothing reminds me more of this delicate balance of emotions than the festive family picture. They are shared with family and friends through social media posts and holiday cards. They showcase families in their finest attire being silly, smiling, and looking lovingly into a camera on their best behaviors. We see the picture perfect family basking in the holiday season in all its glory. What we don’t see is the leadup to the picture perfect portrait. 

We do not hear siblings arguing amongst themselves. We do not hear disgruntled parents bribing their children to wear something other than their princess dress and crocs. We do not see parents frantically running out of the house 15 minutes behind schedule and sweating in their color coordinated outfits mom spent hours researching and putting together.  But, families do it every year. Why?  Because as much stress as the experience causes, we also know the picture will bring us joy. So, how do we manage the holidays knowing we will experience joy and stress together? There are strategies that we can all use to feel resilient and in control at the intersection of holiday cheer and stress.

Find Balance and Execute  

There are numerous wonderful experiences to be had with friends and family in such a short season of celebration. Saying yes to every invite may sound like a wonderful way to connect with your loved ones but it can become draining on your time, resources, and energy. Plan ahead and be realistic with how much time you would like to reserve for yourself and for others. Decide on how many events you feel comfortable attending during a week that will provide yourself and family with both holiday cheer and down time to relax and recharge.   Evaluate the needs of your family and align events that are geared towards your needs. A quiet evening at home watching a movie can be just as memorable as elaborate get-togethers or ceremonies.  

Set Realistic Expectations 

Setting realistic expectations during the season can help manage how we view and enjoy them! Expecting everyone to be filled with holiday cheer and get along  with no setbacks to occur (for an entire evening) may be unrealistic. When we are expecting children to test limits and challenges to occur, it can help us feel in control and prepared to manage them as they arise. Making a mental list of what you hope to experience during an event, as well as what would be reasonable limitations helps us to enjoy bright moments while making room for realistic challenges. 

Take Care of Yourself!  

It may sound silly to say, but it’s important to take care of ourselves to feel well prepared to navigate our emotional responses! Meeting our basic physical needs impacts our overall mental health a great deal. Get consistent sleep, engage in physical movement, and balance meals and water intake. When we are meeting our needs, we can regulate our emotions and reactions easier in times of stress. For instance, sleep has a huge impact on our mood. You may be short-tempered and vulnerable to stress if we’re not getting consistent quality sleep, moving our bodies, and fueling our bodies to feel good.  If needed leave holiday celebrations early – it’s okay to do that! Give yourself permission to care for yourself!  

Seek Help 

As always- reach out! We’re here to help if you’re 

      Experiencing more mental health difficulties during the holiday season

      Navigating the “first” holidays without loved ones

      Feeling like stress is preventing you from enjoying the holidays 

      Interested in learning strategies to build resilience and balance at the intersection of holiday joy and stress! 

 


Don’t face holiday struggles alone. Contact us and speak with one of our dedicated clinicians.

Keeping Away the Winter Blues

Written by: Jessi Beatty, PhD, LP

Now that the days are getting shorter, colder, and the sun is shining less, sadness may creep into our daily mood more often. In fact, it’s not uncommon for many of us to begin to feel ‘the winter blues’ this time of year.

However, some experience more intense feelings known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD.  This is a form of depression that lasts for a specific season of the year, typically the winter months, and goes away the rest of the year. During this time a person may experience the following symptoms: loss of interest in activities they typically enjoy, feeling sad most of the day, feeling easily fatigued, having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, and/or increased feelings of hopelessness or guilt.  If your winter blues are more intense, like described above, and have occurred for at least two winters, you may have SAD. There is research supporting treatment for SAD, so be sure to reach out to us if your winter blues have reached this level of intensity, we are happy to explain more and want to help.

To help combat the winter blues or SAD, the following research supported tips can help:

1. Get as much sun as possible

Exposure to less sunlight is one reason this season can be especially hard on us. Sunlight is known to affect areas of the brain that regulate mood and the sleep-wake cycle, as well as memory functioning. We feel happier and more ‘mentally sharp’ when we are getting consistent sunlight. One effective strategy to keep away the winter blues is to try to get sunlight shortly after you wake up.  You can sit by the window while you eat breakfast or open the curtains and blinds after you wake up. Winter outdoor activities and sports can also help us get our daily allotment of rays. Even just a 15 minute walk has a positive impact on mood. Also, many people use a light therapy box to mimic outdoor light. This type of light may cause a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and helps decrease the feelings of tiredness and sleeping too much. Typically, a person using light therapy will sit in front of the light box first thing in the morning for a short period of time.  Before deciding to start light therapy, it’s best to talk with your health care provider first. 

2. Keep active and moving

Physical movement helps our brain produce neurotransmitters that support positive mood. However, as it gets chilly, our physical activity often reduces. As mentioned above, there are plenty of winter activities that can keep you active. Walking or hiking to take in the fall colors or snow-covered trees, skiing, ice skating, or snowshoeing are all great winter activities in Michigan. If being active in the cold isn’t your thing, there are plenty of opportunities for indoor activities: look for sports teams at your local community center, get a gym membership, start practicing yoga, or take a dance class. Any way to get exercise and keep your body moving will help destress and increase your endorphins for a boost of positive feelings.

3. Maintain connections and social support

Research indicates relationships with good communication, shared experiences and regular time spent together positively impact our moods and can make it less likely for the winter blues to turn into depression for you or your children. During the winter months it’s not uncommon to want to stay in and be less active. However, that can make us feel more isolated and make us feel even more down.  Plan outings 15-60 days out to ensure you don’t isolate. Keep up with friends and let them know if you are feeling down. People around us often don’t realize or know how we are feeling, but care and want to help.

4. Stick to basics

Eating healthy and getting enough sleep are under-appreciated for maintaining your mental health. The fall season brings copious amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables to farmers markets and is a good time to try a new recipe or two. Making sure you’re eating regular meals and trying to stick to a balanced diet as much as you can during the holidays can help. Family meals are a great time to connect and catch up with each other. Involving children in meal planning or cooking with them can teach them important skills and connect. Getting sunlight first thing in the morning can help stabilize your circadian rhythm, stopping melatonin production to maintain regular sleep and wake times and get you more Vitamin D. Placing an importance on getting enough sleep can help with the fluctuations in mood and help regulate your emotions. It’s hard to be at our best for friends and family when we are not taking care of our physical and emotional needs.

5. Reach out sooner rather than later

If the winter blues last longer than 2 weeks or significantly impact you or your child’s functioning with friends, at school or work, or at home, it’s time to get real support or guidance. We encourage people to reach out before a crisis occurs, so that when difficulties arise, you or your child already have coping strategies and support in place.


If these activities do not help, or your symptoms worsen, contact us or talk to your health care provider.

Understanding Dyslexia: Myth Vs Fact

Written by: Julie Braciszewski, PhD, LP

Despite being one of the most common learning disorders, dyslexia is frequently surrounded by misconceptions and myths that can lead to stigmatization and hinder effective treatment. Our goal is to debunk some of the most common myths about dyslexia and replace them with facts. We hope to provide accurate information that can help individuals with dyslexia, their families, educators, and the general public better understand this condition. From the myth that dyslexia is simply about reversing letters, to the misconception that people with dyslexia have below average intelligence, we will tackle these falsehoods head-on. So, without further ado, let’s dive in and separate fact from fiction!

What is Dyslexia? 

Dyslexia is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts brain processes responsible for reading.  Dyslexia impacts how the brain processes symbolic information, such as letters and numbers, associates these symbols with meaning (such as sounds and amounts), and the speed and accuracy with which the brain processes this information.  

Myths versus Facts

Conclusion

Dyslexia is a condition that is widely misunderstood. It is a neurological condition that affects the way the brain processes written and verbal language. Individuals with dyslexia are just as capable as their peers, however, they may require additional support, treatment, and resources to help them learn and be successful. 

Having an understanding and awareness is key to eliminating the stigma associated with dyslexia or any other mental health condition. It’s our hope that we can collectively continue to educate ourselves and others about this condition, and foster an environment of acceptance and support for all learners.

We hope this post challenges you to look beyond the myths of dyslexia and perhaps even other conditions!


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Understanding the Relationship Between ADHD and Sensory Seeking Behaviors


Written by: Jill Wasserman, MA LPC
Edited by: Dr. Julie Braciszewski, PhD, LP

In the spirit of ADHD awareness month, let’s bust some of the myths out there and provide some accurate and potentially new, insightful information about ADHD.

First of all, what is ADHD? We hear about it all the time because it’s become pretty common in mainstream lingo, but what exactly does it mean? And why does it make sense to have a conversation about sensory seeking behaviors with ADHD?

What is ADHD?

In general, ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is not just about hyperactivity or inattention. It’s actually all about difficulties regulating arousal, attention/concentration, impulse control, as well as other executive functions that guide organized, goal-oriented behavior. A person with ADHD may find it extremely difficult to focus and sustain their attention, sit still, keep track of their belongings, categorize and organize things, plan and execute larger tasks, and control impulsive urges and behaviors. For example, have you ever known someone who just can’t seem to keep track of their car keys? Or a child who struggles to remember to bring home their homework? Or maybe you know someone that no matter how hard they try, they just can’t seem to keep their room picked up. How about someone that seems to really take a deep dive into the things they enjoy, but can’t find the motivation to plan or do things that are less important to them? All of these behaviors are normal on their own, but when observed in combination with other ADHD symptoms, and to a degree that they are impairing functioning at work, home or school… that person might have ADHD!

Sensory Seeking Behaviors

In addition to the symptoms and behaviors mentioned above, ADHD and many other neurodevelopmental disorders can also cause sensory seeking behaviors.

Have you ever seen a child climbing all over or jumping off of furniture, stomping their feet, purposefully falling, bumping into things or bouncing around? Have you ever seen a child or adolescent or maybe even an adult chew on their shirt or sweatshirt strings? Have you ever seen a child watch tv or their iPad while upside down? Or maybe they did a lot of spinning around or swinging? Have you ever seen a child watch tv or their iPad really loud? Or make loud, sort of strange repetitive noises? Maybe yelling or screaming? Any of these behaviors at first glance may have seemed like this child was “acting out” or “misbehaving”. But let’s look at this from another lens.

If you answered yes to any of these, you may have seen kids engage in sensory seeking behaviors! Sensory seeking behaviors help individuals regulate (increase or sometimes decrease) the stimulation their brain is getting. And more often than not, these behaviors are missed, overlooked, or misinterpreted as “bad behavior or bad parenting”. They are not “bad behavior”, nor are they a result of “bad parenting”. These behaviors are really important signals to parents, teachers, and clinicians about an individual’s need for sensory INPUT, not OUTPUT. And if these sensory needs are not met, it typically leads to an increase in needs and an increase and frequency and intensity of these behaviors. Meaning, ADHD behavior gets more disruptive sometimes because the individual is trying to regulate but isn’t getting what they need.

Understanding the relationship between ADHD and sensory seeking is crucial for developing effective strategies to manage these behaviors. By recognizing these connections, parents, teachers, and mental health professionals can better support children and adolescents with ADHD who exhibit sensory-seeking tendencies.

There are five main types of sensory seeking behaviors:
1. Oral Motor input
Examples: chewing, snacking, sucking, licking

2. Tactile input
Examples: finger tapping, using handheld fidgets, sensitivity to clothing, always using a specific blanket

3. Proprioceptive input
Examples: using the entire body- crashing into things, bouncing, climbing walls, jumping, stomping

4. Vestibular input
Examples: being upside down, swinging, spinning

5. Auditory input
Examples: watching tv or listening to music very loud, making repetitive noises, yelling or screaming

Now What?
So you’ve noticed your child engaging in sensory seeking behaviors, the question then becomes “now what”?

As a clinician, when I notice that a child is exhibiting sensory seeking tendencies, I make recommendations to clarify what needs the child has that are being expressed by these behaviors, including ensuring their diagnosis is clear and correct, and then I provide additional treatment recommendations. These recommendations may include getting in contact with the pediatrician/primary care physician, a possible referral to a neurologist, additional testing/assessments for diagnosis clarification, getting a referral for occupational therapy and/or physical therapy, and any other relevant additional services. In therapy we then work to increase the parent’s and child’s awareness of these behaviors, learn what need they are signaling, and learn to engage in positive, proactive coping and regulation. We practice these coping and regulation strategies so sensory seeking behaviors are less disruptive at home, school and work.

What do the parents do?
Parents should first and foremost understand that they have done nothing wrong and they have already done something invaluable and very important for their child by getting them help and support. Then parents can work with their provider to track these sensory seeking behaviors by asking, “what is this behavior telling us my child needs?” By tracking and understanding sensory seeking through this lens, your clinician can help you make a plan to meet your child’s needs at home and at school.

Having a child with ADHD and sensory needs is not easy, but the help and support is out there! We are here for you and we are here to make things easier for you and your child. They don’t have to go through life struggling and neither do you. It can get easier and it will.

Conclusion

ADHD and sensory-seeking behaviors often intersect, leading to added challenges in social interactions and classroom settings. However, with the right support, treatment, and accommodations, these sensory needs can be effectively managed. This not only helps the child navigate their daily life more comfortably but also fosters an environment conducive to their growth and development.

ADHD Resource Guide

We have created a custom list of our favorite resources for more information about ADHD including websites, books, and podcasts. Please see our guide below and bookmark this page so you can refer back to it anytime!


links:

www.chadd.org – Children and Adults with ADHD Support Group

www.parentsmedguide.org – Discussion of ADHD to include medications

www.myadhd.com – Online resource for literature about ADHD

www.addwarehouse.com – Online resource for literature about ADHD

Updated ADHD guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics

Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast by Nikki Kinzer

Parenting ADHD Podcast by Penny Williams

Practical ADHD Strategies Podcast by Laura Rolands


*Monarch Behavioral Health is not affiliated with any of the abovementioned resources 

Battling Autumn Anxiety: 3 Ways to Maintain Your Summer Mental Wellness Glow

 

Dr. Julie Braciszewski, PhD, LP

As the leaves start to fall, so too can our mood. Despite the increase in demands from work and school, we don’t have to let Autumn Anxiety take hold. Let’s work together in small and creative ways to hang on to the resilience and mental wellness we cultivated, so that our inner summer shines through the fall and into winter.

1. Stay Present Focused

The busy bustle of fall threatens to push us into anxiety. But each day this season brings us a bit of change and we can use this to stay present focused. When we notice a change, we can stay in the present and not get swept up by anxiety or expectations about the future and all there is to do. Take a moment to do a mindfulness sensory exercise. Take 30 seconds to fully concentrate on one sensory experience of fall. Will it be the crisp air, changing colors of leaves, the taste of cider donuts? Fully exist and experience this moment; notice your heart rate drop and your mind clear.

2. Support and Shift Executive Functioning

Moving into fall often means significant change and transitions. School starts, workloads often increase, schedules change, routines are structured differently; it’s a lot all at once. When we have to hold more in our minds and coordinate more, stress, anxiety and low mood can creep in. But what if we invest time in creating better support for ourselves? Executive Functioning strategies can be a game changer in reducing stress. Also, what if we shift some of this burden to others, enabling them to function more independently?

What tasks are burdening you that others could be doing? Imagine NOT doing those things 30 days from now.  If you find you are carrying a heavy mental load of others’ executive functioning (i.e. organizing, planning, gathering supplies/materials, strategizing, scheduling), it’s time to shift. We serve ourselves best by putting systems into place that increase others’ engagement and independence.  While the initial planning and setting up of expectations or supports does take some time, and we have to be ok with mistakes and mess ups, the pay-off is beautiful and long-term. Setting up sustainable structures like visual schedules, laminated/reusable check lists, and nightly preparation routines can shift the executive functioning load. If you’re struggling to know where to start, MBH therapists can help identify how to shift these burdens and alleviate stress for the long haul.

3. New Fall Movement

Of all the health-related behaviors that affect our metal wellness positively, movement is at the top of the list. While we might be tempted to shift into sweater-ready, pumpkin spiced shut-ins, getting out and moving our bodies in the fall will stretch the resilience you built in the summer over into fall and winter. To keep yourself motivated and interested, what activities can you think of that you can only do in the fall? Are there certain outdoor markets that are fun to walk around? Hikes that are particularly beautiful in the fall?

As always, if you feel your mood shifting and Autumn Anxiety building, shoot us a text or give us a call. We can help you learn and practice mindfulness, shift the executive functioning load, and find creative ways to move through the season.

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