Do you have trouble:
- following directions
- remembering information
- organizing tasks
- finishing work on time?
Are these symptoms causing you problems at home, school or work? If so, you may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
According to WebMD, about 5% of adults in the U.S. have ADHD and every adult who has ADHD had it as a child. Some may have been diagnosed and known it. But some may have not been diagnosed when they were young and only find out later in life.
While many kids with ADHD outgrow it, about 60% still have it as adults. Adult ADHD seems to affect men and women equally. If you are having difficulty with focus and concentration to the point you can’t start and finish tasks you should go see a medical professional. Many people with ADHD also seem to experience the symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.
I have had many clients referred to me for yoga therapy by their doctor, a neuropsychologist, who explains to his patients with ADHD, anxiety and anger management issues that they need to calm their limbic system and yoga and meditation will help.
What did the doctor mean by this?
From an evolutionary view-point the limbic system is one of the oldest parts of the brain and is made up of a complex network of structures used for controlling our emotions. These structures are part of our ability to assess fear or danger and take action if needed – the fight or flight response – often referred to as the stress response.
The stress response is triggered by a fearful or tense situation.
A part of the brain called the amygdala (nicknamed the alarm bell of the brain) triggers the stress response which includes parts of the brain called the hypothalamus (links the autonomic nervous system to the endocrine system), the hippocampus (responsible for memory, emotions, motivation and switching off the stress response) and the frontal lobe (front part of the brain involved in planning, organizing, problem solving, selective attention, behavior and emotions).
The amygdala sets off a chain reaction of hormonal reactions such as adrenaline and cortisol and initiates neurotransmitters that send messages from the body to the brain and vice versa. These preparations include diverting blood and energy from areas like the digestive organs to areas like the large muscles of the legs, the lungs and the brain. The heart beats faster, breathing becomes more rapid, and the pupils dilate so you can see better. Your body is on high alert. This prepares the body to handle the situation by fighting, fleeing or freezing.
When the fearful encounter has passed the hippocampus switches off the stress response and the relaxation response can take over once again allowing natural body functions like digestion to resume. Problems occur when the stress response is in overdrive and the relaxation response does not take over. The proper regulation of the Autonomic Nervous System begins to break down including damage or atrophy of the hippocampus. When the hippocampus can no longer do its job of switching off the stress response we can get “stuck”, feel constantly stressed out, maybe even to the point of a nervous breakdown.
All the functions involved in regulating the Autonomic Nervous System are impacted. When the amygdala is constantly on high alert it enlarges and overreacts. The functioning of the amygdala has an inverse relationship to the prefrontal cortex of the brain, our executive functioning, negatively impacting our ability to plan, organize, problem solve, and our attention, behavior and emotions.
This is where yoga comes in as a natural choice for treatment of ADHD.
Through movement, breathing practices, relaxation and meditation changes take place in the brain that help to positively affect our ability to handle stressful situations on a daily basis. Studies have shown yoga can help regulate the autonomic nervous system bringing balance back to the stress response and relaxation response. The amygdala shrinks back to its normal size, the hippocampus becomes healthy once again and the prefrontal cortex gains size and volume allowing us to think more clearly and act more calmly.
Things that once seemed like a big deal become much easier to evaluate and manage.
As you begin to think more clearly you will be able to:
- focus and concentrate
- set priorities better
- manage your time more effectively
- assert your feelings in a positive way, rather than becoming angry, defensive or aggressive
- make healthier eating and exercise choices and
- an added benefit is sleeping better.