Attention · Development · Uncategorized

Attention, please!

A while ago I listened to a very informative podcast about the neuroscience of attention by Dr Adam Gazzaley on Unmistakable Creative via Apple Podcasts. Finding the material highly relevant I had made a few notes for personal use.

I find these points worth sharing in the current climate where it is quite challenging for those of us not used to working and staying focused for extended periods of time in a home environment. Of course these tips for enhancing attention are applicable in any situation.

These research-based strategies might sound ominously simple but I hope they grab your attention!

  • Eliminate sources of distraction. Put away devices that you are not using, shut doors/windows to keep out sound, close those unused tabs on your laptop!
  • Beethoven or Black Sabbath? Whether to listen to music or not during activities that require sustained attention has always been a contentious topic. It appears that the kind of music you listen to matters. Instrumental music that does not interfere with your thought process or trigger unwanted feelings appears to be okay. Personalise your playlist accordingly!
  • Take baby steps. Focus 10 minutes on a task, then take a 30 seconds break (stretch, drink water, takedeep breaths) and work your way up to 30 minutes of singular attention span. ​
  • Avoid ‘sink-holes’ while taking a break. A quick look at Instagram or call to a friend could lead to your work becoming a distant memory.
  • Set schedules and protect them. Write it down in your planner or mark your calendar and guard your to-do time.
  • Ensure good quality sleep. ​Sleep hygiene goes a long way in ensuring sound sleep. Religiously getting 6-8 hours might seem acceptable but it is worth noticing how you feel soon after waking up and your ability to focus through the day. Are there things you could be doing to improve your nightly rest?
  • It’s okay to be distracted, sometimes! ​We are not robots. The human experience encompasses a wide array of thoughts and feelings. Job and financial security, your children’s education or the status of your relationship could all be weighing on your mind right now. But what is good to know is there are small steps we can take to protect our brains from spiralling out of control.
Development · Uncategorized

The Power of Adolescence

Most often the terms teenagers and adolescents are used interchangeably. However, it is interesting to note that adolescence is the period from 10-25 years.

From time immemorial adolescents have received a bad rap for various ‘misdemeanours’ caused by their ‘raging’ hormones. However, new research is revealing that the powerful changes taking place during this phase are advantageous rather than a challenge. After the first five years of life, which are now recognised as a time when a child’s brain is extremely receptive, the adolescent brain is second in line for the great amount of growth and pruning that occur.

Here is a list of informative and inspiring podcasts (with links) that shed light on topics relevant to the adolescent age group.

  1. Dan Siegel: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain (Chopra Center Radio)
  2. Adam Gazzaley: The Neuroscience of Attention (The Unmistakable Creative Podcast)
  3. Unlocking the Psychology of Millenials (APA’s Speaking of Psychology podcast with Dr Jean Twenge)
  4. Parenting: The Teenage Brain (BBC Woman’s Hour podcast with Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore)
  5. Inside the teenage brain: How science is helping us understand adolescents (CBC Radio Ideas)
Human Qualities · Uncategorized · Wellbeing

Embracing the Unknown

The past few weeks have been surreal to say the least. Dubai’s school closures a couple of weeks ago left many of us moaning about the ‘overreaction’ by authorities to COVID-19. But watching the news unfold, moment by moment, even the cynics among us became fretful about the novel coronavirus.

As I work in learning support, my thoughts are obviously with the students. Children across the globe find themselves unexpectedly housebound. There is uncertainty over when schools will reopen. Schools, parents and caregivers are scrambling to implement e-learning strategies and make any possible arrangement for their kids to continue learning. The unique challenges that confront us are compounded for children with learning challenges, social-emotional difficulties, mental health concerns and special needs. There are more questions than answers for now.

While  listing the many negatives of the predicament we find ourselves in, it is easy to miss the silver lining, ever so slight as it may appear.

Continue reading “Embracing the Unknown”

The Road Less Travelled · Uncategorized

The Road Less Travelled: Grace (Part 4 of 4)

411lCr7XvpL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_“Life is difficult.” Thus begins the popular book ‘The Road Less Travelled’ by M. Scott Peck (1936-2005), an American psychiatrist. First published in 1978, the book’s simple language lends to easy understanding. Peck draws considerably from his daily clinical practice as evidenced by the innumerable examples sprinkled across the book. In a four part series I briefly explain the tools Peck writes about to achieve mental and spiritual growth; at the outset he mentions he does not distinguish the two. The four tools are discipline, love, growth-religion and grace.

In this final section, Scott Peck details the role of grace in a human’s life. Just as in earlier parts of the book, case studies, anecdotes and even Greek myths are employed to illustrate the importance of grace and its relation to mental health. This article attempts to present a condensed version of the last, yet profound, segment of the book. While I try my best to avoid a piecemeal approach, the subheadings are an endeavor to unite various ideas.  

Continue reading “The Road Less Travelled: Grace (Part 4 of 4)”

Behaviour · Communication · Sensory Integration · Uncategorized

Octagonal Awareness

Photo by Kyaw Tun on Unsplash

Those involved in teaching and caring for children and adults with exceptionalities are familiar with sensory processing challenges. Heightened or even diminished sensitivity to stimuli reaching the five senses of hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste cause either avoidance or seeking of certain sensations. Often, occupational therapy (OT) is recommended for sensory integration – a common route to help individuals cope with their sensitivities.

Some examples of sensory processing issues include:

  • Excessive preference for particular textures of clothing or food.
  • Experiencing a panic attack when the school bell rings.
  • Or in contrast, having no response upon hearing a fire alarm.
  • Covering eyes when faced by bright lights.
  • Anger at getting a waft of a certain scent.
  • Hitting, screaming, throwing tantrums or isolating oneself in reaction to an unpleasant feeling.

Continue reading “Octagonal Awareness”

Reading · Uncategorized

Reading Scroll

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Musings on books versus e-readers.

I lazily skimmed the first few pages of my digital book on my flight to Rome. The frenzied work days leading up to the departure had left my energy deflated like a flat tyre. Nevertheless, I was pleased to have packed my lightweight, handy Kindle rather than a heavy book. This saved me precious baggage space (for all the art work I planned to purchase); my e-book would also prove a faithful companion on my trip. Continue reading “Reading Scroll”

Human Qualities · Uncategorized

TO BE OR NOT TO BE…GOOD?

action-adult-affection-339620(Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels)

“I want to be a good person.”

“I want to help the poor and needy.”

“I want to make a difference in the world.”

What is common to these phrases is “I’’ and “want” and the only needy person could be oneself.

Very often our deep yearning to help others or be a “good” human being stems from our ego’s desire to be recognised and rewarded. Like a hungry baby, the human ego demands attention. One way it does so is by making us want to be useful. This utilitarian nature leads to praise from others or a sense of self-enhancement and prompts us to do further good deeds. The cycle continues.

Continue reading “TO BE OR NOT TO BE…GOOD?”