The Life Empowerment Center’s philosophy is the culmination of a life's history, research, insight and perspectives developed by James Ochoa, LPC, influenced and informed by countless sources of inspiration and education. Living as authentically as possible, James Ochoa strives to continue his own evolution in honor of the nature and purpose of TLEC.
The Emotional Distress Syndrome
The Emotional Distress Syndrome (EDS), identified and coined by James Ochoa, is the cumulative effect of the neurological processing differences and behavioral challenges associated with ADHD. It’s a chronic state of emotional stress directly related to the struggle to live life with ADHD, a stress that breaks down emotional tolerance, stamina and the ability to maintain a strong sense of well being and spiritual health. The chronic, lifelong nature of ADHD–related stress can increase to such a level that it becomes a syndrome akin to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As with other ADHD symptoms, there’s good news and bad news, and you have choices to make:
- It won’t disappear on its own. One way or another, you’ll have to manage your emotional distress for the rest of your life.
- If you choose not to manage the emotional distress, the EDS will continue to erode your sense of emotional, mental and physical well-being.
- But don’t despair–the Emotional Distress Syndrome can be navigated.
- You are not broken.
- You can live a full, interesting, potential-reaching life.
Meditation for ADHD
If you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, the thought of learning meditation skills immediately seems like an oxymoron. Especially, if you’re newly diagnosed.
So how can you stay focused if you’re constantly distracted? Can those diagnosed with ADHD even learn to meditate? YES! And here's how to begin ....
First, let's drive away some common myths about meditation.
- Everyone who meditates gets distracted … even people who’ve been meditating for years. You’re in good company.
- The art of meditation is re-setting your focus to your breath, recognizing how your body feels, hearing the sounds around you ~ to whatever you set your intention to begin with.
- Meditation is a "practice" and not a skill that will be mastered. There are no wrong ways to meditate. Practice means learning how to build a personal relationship to meditation.
The importance of meditation for those diagnosed with ADHD needs to be a Maslow hierarchy of need, equal to food, water, sleep, and shelter. It’s not just a cool hip thing everyone is doing ~ a “shiny object” to rush toward and hyper-focus on for several weeks, spending too much money signing up for monthly auto-draft yoga classes, and draining your bank account in ways that create the worst of ADHD storms!
Instead, meditation is fuel for your ADHD brain to reach a center point of calm throughout the day and to increase feel-good hormones.
I introduce my clients to three different ways to build a relationship with meditation.
- Guided Meditations – a first step to learning what it feels like to be centered and calm, even for just nano-seconds at the beginning. I suggest the Insight Timer app (https://insighttimer.com/) with thousands of guided meditations to choose from.
- I encourage clients to find the most unusual, atypical guided meditations that capture their “shiny-object-seeking” minds to center and focus themselves.
- Interval Bells - setting up periods of silence with a series of bells that ring at chosen intervals. An example would be to set a timer for 20 minutes and every two minutes a bell will ring to reset, or shift your focus from sounds, to focusing on breathing. Those diagnosed with ADHD need choices to hold their interest. There’s no need for incense or sitting in uncomfortable positions.
- Contemplative Meditations - the act of “filling your mind” with an activity. Yoga is a great example of contemplative meditation that creates greater awareness and mindfulness. The act of washing dishes, or folding clothes, can also be mindful in the awareness you bring to it for the focus of being calm and centering yourself. Two ways to practice contemplation are what I call Slow Motion and Micro-Meditations.
- Slow Motion is simply slowing down an activity by 25% to increase your awareness to stay centered, like walking to your car slower from the house or work. Smile. Pause. See the moment. Appreciate the mental gymnastics of your brain.
- Micro-Meditations use one, two, or three-minute meditations to re-center yourself throughout the day to re-engage the kinesthetic memory of what you felt in other times of meditation. Those diagnosed with ADHD need this because we’re thrown off center so often.
My favorite meditation, now 20 years running, is to face the sun, close my eyes, and breathe deeply, while counting in my head one thousand one, one thousand two……up to one thousand sixty, for a minute, contemplating living a wildly passionate and fun life.
So, this is my recommendation for you: start meditating now and see where it takes you. One-minute, three-minute, or five-minute sessions are great places to start, though if you want to hit the pause button for longer, you should certainly go ahead
The Pillars of Self-Esteem and Self-Identity
We believe the foundation of daily living is the two pillars of self-esteem and self-identity. Metaphorically, we stand on these pillars for the strength we need to take risks, and to have confidence and courage to stretch ourselves to reach our potentials. These pillars are underpinned by spirituality defined as how we derive meaning from our lives.
Self-esteem – is the depth a person holds concern, care and love for themselves across all spectrums of their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual lives. It's developed early on by being loved unconditionally by our parents, or those closest to us, and allows us to feel and hold unconditional love in regards to self-acceptance, self-concern, and self-empathy creating a feeling of internal satisfaction.
Self-identity – is unconditional positive regard which a person conveys about the value of their own intelligence, personality, character, viewpoints, opinions, and skills. It's about how well we carry our ability to make a difference in the world, the ability to continue walking in the face of the unknown, knowing our strengths, and accepting our limitations.
Spirituality – is the foundation of self-esteem and self-identity. It helps manage stress when things happen without logical or linear explanation. Defined along the spectrum of the simplest things in life–which provide meaning to our perspective of faith, creating an ever increasing strength, allowing us to find internal peace to grow and thrive.
These pillars of self-esteem and self-identity, with spirituality fully ingrained into the bedrock of our lives, allow us to achieve goals beyond our reach and to manifest potential beyond conception.
Medication, Nutrition and Supplements as treatment
Often, but not always, ADHD is treated with medication. Depending on the severity of their situations, I sometimes advise my clients to seek a medication evaluation from a psychiatrist, particularly if there are complicating factors such as depression or anxiety. I’ve also had clients whose medication was easily managed by a primary care physician. Either way, I think it’s important to understand how meds can, and cannot, help. And by “meds,” I don’t just mean Western prescription drugs, because herbal remedies, naturopathic tinctures, nutritional supplements and exercise have each helped some of my clients over the years, with a success rate about equal to that of traditional prescriptions.
Honoring Your Entire Life History as Your Most Valuable Resource
We get to know you through your life history, through eliciting whatever helps us to untangle the mystery of self-worth. One of the underpinnings of The Life Empowerment Center is this: your entire life history is your most valuable resource. It’s your unique repository of experience, strength, knowledge and wisdom.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR Therapy, developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., was originally designed to help heal instances of trauma—anything from physical assault to recurring, disturbing memories and PTSD. While experimenting with ways to recruit both hemispheres of the brain, Dr. Shapiro directed her subjects to move their eyes back and forth. She discovered that these “eye movements” brought on a calm, relaxed state of mind. Even while mentally relieving traumatic events, her subjects became less anxious, allowing them to revisit or re-process the event from a “safe” perspective. Having processed disturbing memories or traumas, clients often learn how to use EMDR techniques to make positive changes in their lives, calm daily stress and solve problems. In other words, they move from “symptom reduction” into “comprehensive treatment.”
James Ochoa became certified as an EMDR practitioner when he discovered its value as a tool in defusing the Emotional Distress Syndrome of ADHD.