Let’s talk to Dr. Emily Anhalt today. Dr. Anhalt is a PhD, specializing in ADD and ADHD. She’s going to give us some great tips on surviving lockdown and keeping our mental health in check while doing so.


May 21. And we’re live. All right. Hey, everyone. Welcome to another episode of 20 minutes in lockdown, 20 minutes in… You think it would be just 20 minutes? I feel like about 18 years, but it could be a lot worse. I always know that, and I’m fortunate to have an audience and I’m fortunate to have awesome guests, including.

Dr. Emily Ann Hall, who my God just has that ridiculously good hair going on this morning. It’s like, it’s like you spent three hours with stylist. It looks, it looks amazing. Emily and I, or doctor at hall, I. First hooked up about three years ago, four years ago when she came on faster than normal. Uh, she was one of my first guests and she, I believe she just finished her PhD at that point.

Um, he is an ADHD queen, knows so much about, uh, the, the, the gifts that we all have. But more importantly, she talks to a bunch of people and about a bunch of stuff. He’s done a phenomenal Ted talk, which I encourage you to look up new stuff. Now we’re gonna talk today about anxiety, how we’re dealing with it in lockdown, how we’re dealing with it overall.

Welcome, Emily. It’s great to see you again. Thank you. Likewise. Always a pleasure and a, you’re doing something new that just tell us your story. Tell us a little bit about your background, what’s going on, and then we’ll dive right in. Sure. So I’m a clinical psychologist. I’ve been practicing about 10 years and I’ve always had an interest in the psychology of the entrepreneur because I grew up in Silicon Valley.

I’ve had my own raging ADHD my whole life and what I saw when I started to work with founders and people in tech and people who are starting businesses. It’s that ADHD really is a gift. And so I did my doctoral dissertation on ADHD and success without the use of meds, and I had a clinical practice working with people in tech.

And then about a year and a half ago, I met up with a woman, her name’s Alexa Meyer. She’s now my co founder, and we started a company called COA. And Koa is a gym for mental health. We have a mission to de-stigmatize mental health and change it from being this reactive thing that we only do when we’re unwell, to being a proactive practice that we do to maintain wellness.

And so our company opens brick and mortar spaces for therapy, for therapist led emotional fitness classes, and it’s all really grounded in community. So we’re trying to make ongoing proactive emotional fitness, more visible, easier to access, lower friction, and more grounded in community. Very cool. So, you know, unfortunately, brick and mortar sort of leaves a bad taste in anyone’s mouth today.

Um, you know, obviously that’ll, that’ll change back again. But, you know, what have you been seeing, um, from a mental health perspective over the past few months? Everyone’s talking about, you know, what happens when you get the virus, but there’s really not a lot of talk about the mental toll this is taking on.

Everyone’s from first responders to kids in school who have to just to homeschooling to just people like guys. So all of a sudden they’re like, well, crap. When’s the next time we get an airplane? I know it’s true and we’ve expanded everything we’re doing to being online, and it’s complicated because I really started this company because I believe in the power of in-person experiences, but ultimately this is where we all are and I want people to be connected and to have support during this time.

So we offer therapy matching and classes online as well. In terms of mental health overall, what I’m seeing is. Everyone is being affected by this. Even the people who don’t think they’re really being affected by this, this really has touched every part of our lives. And even if your day to day life is not that different, we’re still feeling the collective suffering of the world that we’re in right now.

And I think it’s affecting all of us in all kinds of ways. The question about it, and I, you know, it’s funny cause, um, we’re going to stream this onto a facet of normal episode as well. And so for people with ADHD, I think that’s just what the magnified, I mean, for someone like me, at least. I know that my ADHD was kept in perfect balance because of my forward motion.

Right. Was constantly moving forward. I was on a plane, it was going somewhere. I was speaking, I was on a stage, I was back home. I was this, and, and you know, nine weeks in and we’re like, okay, sit your ass down. We have no idea where we’re gonna move again. And that’s real for some, for people like us, it’s just this is hell yeah.

Not to mention if you’re an extroverted person with ADHD and now you don’t have the energy and stimulation of other people to feed off of and keep living, it’s really tough. It’s real. That’s the thing. I’m the most introverted extrovert you’ll ever meet. So it’s like, well, I love the fact that I can sit on my couch and do nothing.

Right. It doesn’t really last that long because there’s a, part of me says, I gotta be talking to people. I’ve gotta be doing something. But a big group of people I hate, you know, don’t, don’t, don’t invite four people over and expect me to like be there. I’ll be in the back room playing with the cat, but my new shirt that says ill people and as a cat with a mask on it.

So you know, but you gotta, you gotta have those moments where it’s like, well, what do I do? To sort of keep my brain in focus. You can only exercise so much. Right after the point of my Peloton, treble was like, dude, you gotta chill. You know? So like what? What can people do? So when I was about 12 years old and I was secretly throwing my ADHD meds in the toilet and out the window because I didn’t like them and trying to figure out how I could still be successful without them so that my parents didn’t know I wasn’t taking them.

I did a little experiment on myself. What I did was, I. Did a really boring task, and I timed how long I could pay attention to this task before I just absolutely couldn’t focus on it anymore. And I realized that for me personally, that’s about nine minutes. I can do about nine minutes of boring work before I just need some little boost.

And so I started training myself to have a little stimulation boosters around that I could do every nine minutes, whether it was looking at Facebook or getting up and doing jumping jacks, or having a snack, or going for a walk or whatever it might be. And since then, I have literally never. Forced myself to focus for more than nine minutes on a boring task without some little thing.

Sorry. What are those little things? Yeah, like eating a bite of really good food or moving my body in some way, or looking at a website that I’m actually more excited about, or having a quick conversation with someone nearby or sending an email and excited about whatever kind of gets my dopamine up.

I’ll give myself permission to do that. For just a short period of time, every nine minutes. So there’s a new version of it happening for everyone now, which is how long can you be inside? How long can you focus on things the way that we’re being forced to before you need some kind of, whether it’s taking a walk with a mask around the block or deciding to bake instead of work as you normally would.

I feel like we have to all give ourselves permission to realize that this isn’t business as usual and we might have to completely change the way we set ourselves up to succeed at work. Well, it’s funny, a friend of mine was on a conference call and uh, she did not realize that her video was on, or she clicked it on accidentally.

And you know, we’re all like talking and we’re on zoom, of course, it’s like 10 of us and we’re talking about really important stuff. And I look and I’m like, I look at her face and all I see is we’re facing a lot of blue sky, but I hear this, I sent her a private message. I’m like, are you fucking bicycling?

Like you’re cycling right now? And sure enough, she was like, I 78 out in Colorado or something. I’m like, go, go for it. But you’re trying to screw it up. You know, set your screen up. So Jesse Middleton says two good people together. Peter Shankman, Emily. So you know, it is crazy what’s going on? And that’s the thing, is it the playbook?

All the rules have really should’ve been thrown out the window. Right? And the funny part is, is that what a lot of people don’t realize about ADHD or just any sort of creative entrepreneurial types, is that. While we do sort of the fly by the seat of our pants, we crave structure. Right. I didn’t realize at, you know, at the time, but because I thought, I thought structure was the last thing I wanted, but it turns out even just the act of getting up early and working out is a form of structure.

I would have been great in the military. Right? I wouldn’t, I, when I was younger, I was an awesome, cause I would’ve just, Oh, look, direction, go pee now. Go eat now. Go fight. Now I could have done that. It probably wouldn’t, but yeah, it’s, it’s a crazy, crazy concept. You know, the, the, the, everything’s been thrown out the window.

So how do we deal with that? How do we deal with the fact that, you know, we’ve set up, I know that a lot of us, for me, my office has been set up in such a way that I can’t get distracted just because of the way it’s set up. But now I’m in the kitchen and I’m like, Ooh, Ooh, Ooh. The 56th floor. Right? What advice can you give to people like that?

Well, so there used to be structure built in. You had your home and you had your office. When you went to the office, there are certain hours that are expected of you. There were meetings, there was a place to go for meetings. You had a desk, you had a computer that doesn’t exist in the same way now. So you have to create kind of a theoretical structure for yourself.

And this looks different for different people. I think one of the most powerful ADHD truths that’s really true across the board. Is, it’s so important to learn what you need to do your best work and then advocate for that thing. So if you don’t work well early in the morning, ask your team if you can not schedule important meetings early in the morning.

If you are a person who works more comfortably from the couch, then maybe the couches are workspace. But you might be someone who actually has to put on real clothes in the morning. Who actually has to decide there’s a room of your house for work and you don’t try to work anywhere else. You might realize that you need to have a certain pen or a certain program, open certain kinds of music or a TV in the background or whatever, and not be afraid to say, okay, this is what I need in order to do my best work and then do it.

So create structure for yourself where it used to be created for you. Yeah, most definitely. And I think that what’s interesting about that is that is that we do create structure. And you know, the funny thing is, is we sit there and we’re like, okay, I, I’ve been working for way too long. I’m gonna take a break.

Even the breaks have to be structured, right? The bricks can simply be a criminal watch TV for a little bit because a little bit, now it’s four in the morning. Yeah. What I realized about myself is I need something somewhat stimulating in the background to focus, right? So when I work, I tend to have TV in the background, but what I’ve realized is if the TV show is more interesting than the work, then what’s going to happen is the work is going to help me focus on the TV show instead of the other way around.

So I have to pick a show I’ve seen a million times, or isn’t that interesting? So that it helps me focus on the. Thanks. So it’s all about finding that exact right set and setting the right level of stimulation to be able to help you get into what you need to do. A lot of us have that sort of thing that, that as long as we don’t do it once, we won’t do it.

So, you know, I won’t, I won’t allow myself to watch or to get into any bingeable show on Netflix or Hulu unless I’m on the bike or the treadmill. So I have my bike shows currently better call Saul and my treadmill show is make millions, but I can’t watch either of them if I’m not on that specific device.

Yeah. Eliminates me sitting down and spending an entire Wednesday watching two seasons. Well, you’ve paired reward with task, which is really powerful. So I think that’s a great thing to do to maybe, let’s say you really love sweets, maybe pair suites with the particular task you need to do. Like I get to have this banana bread if I do this particular thing.

Well, when I, when I say it, it sounds a lot less clinical. But yes, that’s exactly what I’ve done. No question. What other kinds of things are you seeing from your patients or people you’re talking to you? Any trends that you’re seeing in terms of. Uh, getting through this? Are you seeing, um, I know the people, at least two people in our world have been very, we understand what’s going on and even though it sucks, you know, we understand why lockdown is important.

We understand why solitary is important. We understand why we can’t go get our hair cut, right? We’re not out protesting about that. But that doesn’t mean it’s still insanity, right? It doesn’t mean it’s still perfectly acceptable. Yeah. I’m seeing a lot of anxiety. I’m seeing a lot of people who are like, is it normal that my nervous system is an overdrive, even though I’m sitting on my couch?

That kind of thing. So happy to share some tips for anxiety. That is, so first of all. Well, y’all are having to engage in physical distancing, but that doesn’t mean we have to engage in emotional distancing. What does it look like to keep connected to the people who care about, don’t spend so much time on zooms for work that by the time you get off, you don’t actually want to see anyone you really care about.

Another technique that I’ve seen work really well is schedule time to worry. I know that sounds a little strange, but if anxiety is sort of permeating your entire day, you can put some time in your calendar and when you’re feeling anxious at two you can say, you know what? This is 6:00 PM me’s problem.

I’ll worried about it then. For now, I’m going to focus on my work. And then I’ll share something which I think has maybe been some of the most powerful anti-anxiety advice I’ve ever gotten, which was a number of years ago. I was in a tough situation where someone I really loved and depended on was in the hospital.

It wasn’t clear if they were going to make it. We had a family friend come over who was an oncologist and a psychologist, so he was really familiar with what it looked like to deal with loss. And I said to him, what am I going to do if this person passes away? How am I going to handle it? And he said something that completely changed my life.

He said. Emily, the version of you that will handle that moment if and when it happens, will be born into existence then. And that version of you will have had so much more time and experience and wisdom to learn how to deal with that tough thing. Present you is only responsible for handling present.

Moment you have to trust your future self to handle future problems. So now whenever I feel anxious, I think you know what anxiety is worrying about the future, then it come back to what’s true right now, and I’m going to trust that future meet. We’ll figure it out. Just like past me. Trusted that present me would handle what’s true right now.

So that’s what I suggest to people. Bring yourself back to now and trust that your future, you will handle it. That is probably one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever heard. I mean, that is truly, truly spectacular. Oh, I totally believe it. I totally do it. Cause you, you, you disassociate from what? Yeah, I totally believe it.

That’s exactly pain. Don’t rush out suffering. That might not even happen. We spend so much time feeling, my mother might never come to be mom. I hope you’re watching and I hope you just listen to what Emily said. Don’t rush out to meet future suffering and worry. I hope you’re watching mom of all the times to be watching this damn podcast now is when you should be watching.

But it’s, it’s so true. It’s right up there with them. And old skydiving friends told me that, uh, th th that that rounds out the children, that’s not the third greatest piece of advice I ever got. The first two were, um, uh, if you, if you can’t change the people around you, change the people around you.

And the other one is, if you don’t like where you are in life move because you’re not a tree. So I love both of those, so I’m adding that for him on the version of you that will handle this moment. If it comes through, which will be born into existence, then God blessed that. That’s spectacular. Now you’re in San Francisco, right?

How is, how is San Francisco holding up? I think it’s been kind of the same as New York city right now. I mean, we’re doing pretty good. I think that we kind of went on lock down quickly and people are mostly doing the job. What I’m seeing is there’s such a thing as quarantine fatigue. People are starting to feel like the risk of not getting to be outside and see people is starting to outweigh.

I think the risk of. You know, the the disease and the problem is that can work. Our idea of what the best thing to do in any given moment is. By the way, I’ve just realized I’ve had such an ADHD moment and I typed my own name wrong into

We will, we’ll make sure we give the right name and the right way to find you. It wasn’t me for change. That’s awesome. Cool. Can you see the comments on the screen right now, if my father’s has got to get mom to hear this and then my mother below says, I hear you. She said, I hear you. That’s awesome. That is really funny.

I’m seeing a lot of that I think is great in an occupational setting is there’s such a thing. There’s a psychological concept called institutional transference and really simplified institutional transference is when we take feelings that are not about work. And they feel as though they are about work or vice versa.

So let’s say you’re not really feeling supported by your spouse. You might start to feel like you’re not being supported by leadership at work. Even if you are, or the other way around. Or let’s say you’re in a global pandemic and you’re feeling a lot of fear of uncertainty, you might start to react really strongly to ever every tiny little change happening.

So what I’m seeing is a lot of companies where people are having more conflict than usual, or they’re feeling like things are falling apart all over the place. And so my suggestion is. Take a step back, zoom out a little bit and think about the fact that it makes sense that right now it’s hard to know what our big feelings are really about.

We’re having a lot of big feelings. It’s hard to know what to do with them. We have so little control that we’re trying to find concrete places to put them so that we feel like we have more control over them. And if you zoom out a little, you might be able to create the space to realize, Oh, you know, maybe it’s not actually about this.

You know, maybe instead of me versus you, we can think about it like us versus the problem. And start to get on the same team against just this big tough thing that we’re all doing our best to deal with. No question about it. I think, talk for a second about the concept of there being no ending. I think one of the things that, you know, I’m seeing a lot of parallels in New York city to how we felt, at least for the first few weeks I was seeing an F nine 11, um, and it wasn’t so much that, Oh, we’re afraid we’re going to die, but rather when we’re things and get back to quote unquote normal, right?

When, where’s it going to be some level of normal normality that we can understand. And there is a, um, I’m seeing a lot here too. I think people are freaking out, not so much because they’re worried about getting covered 19 but because they don’t have any sense of when this is going to end, when this is going to stop, you know, if you go to, okay, on Thursday, the virus will leave.

We’ll all know that on Thursday we can do whatever. I told her she was going to drop. What’s up? You got two seconds. What’s going on? For those, for those watching an audio. My daughter just dropped it. Can you give me two more minutes and I’ll be done. Thanks. Love you honey. So, you know, I think that’s one of the issues is if we knew it was me and on Thursday, right?

I remember there was a Fox news reporter who said, we demand no one is going to be over it. It’s like, okay, you want to talk? You want to talk to the manager of the virus there, Karen? Okay, calm down. You know? But, but where is the ending? Right. And so I think that without that knowledge, that’s sort of worrying us what, what can we do about that?

Yeah. So I’m going to get serious with you for a second. And that is one of the things that I learned working with patients who are really struggling, patients who were even dealing with suicidal thoughts, things like that, that often the biggest factor that brings someone from feeling truly suicidal to feeling like they are not suicidal is hope.

It’s not actually about how bad the depression, it’s about whether there is hope that things will ever be different. And I think there is some, you know. Different, obviously, but some version of that that we’re all feeling, which is if this is forever, what does that mean? Something I think is important to remember though, is we’re never going to get back to normal because we’re going to create a new normal.

And the way that I’ve heard this described that I really like is you can almost think about this crisis as a blanket of fresh snow. We all had really defined tracks through our life before habits, routines, people. We saw things that we did, and this crisis has come in and it’s blanketed everything with this new snow.

And the opportunity is to create new tracks. What do I want my habits to be? How often do I want to talk to my parents? How often do I want to exercise? We have this really beautiful opportunity to think about how we want to move forward versus trying to figure out when we’re going to be able to go back because we’re not.

And I think an important aspect there is I think people need to learn how to grieve. I don’t think as a culture we’re super good at grieving and grieving is what allows you to move forward when you’ve lost something important. So if we can all come together and grieve the world and the lives that we had before, we’re going to be better equipped to move forward into what’s possible next.

God, I love you. That is phenomenal. I had a, uh, I had someone on the pod on the, um, on the show a couple of weeks ago. Mark John Clifford. Uh, he did a thing on a why everyone who says that this is like being locked down in prison actually isn’t, cause this guy wasn’t prison. He spent 10 years in federal prison for bank fraud and he said, um, his quote that he just, he just posted, don’t count the days of the time, just count on you to make it, which I think is pretty awesome as well.

Yeah. Very cool. Let me ask you one final question. We’re running out of time here. Um. And, and, and this is not directed to anyone specific, but I would like your take on it. As a clinician, as someone who has studied this, why are some people so goddamn hesitant to wear masks? Oh gosh. There’s so many reasons.

You know, there are some people who deal with fear through rebellion. There’s some people who deal with fear through denial, and there are some people who just really. You know, I think we’re all kind of hurdling toward our own destruction in some ways too. And there’s some people just have a harder time with that, but.

One thing I’d invite people to do is remember that we don’t have control over what anyone else does. We can keep wearing our masks. We can talk about why we’ve made the choice to do that with other people and invite them to do the same. But ultimately, the only person we have control over is ourselves.

So we can only make good choices for ourselves. Amen. God bless guys. You’ve listened to dr Emmy according to her, but name was actually Emily. She’s out of San Francisco. What is the name of the joint? Sila join. Yeah. dot com or on koa.com led classes right now to support your emotional fitness during this time.

I’d love to see you all there. I strongly encourage you to check it out. Dr handheld has been a huge fan of Faster Than Normal, and I’ve been a huge fan of her since, since the first time I ever met her. Go watch her Ted talk. She’s pretty awesome. She’s active on social, you can find her there. She, she puts out just phenomenal information.

I strongly encourage you to follow her on all her platforms. Thank you. As always, at some point, I really want to meet you in person and this whole thing for years. Let’s do it. Alright, awesome guys, as always, thank you for watching. Appreciate it. You can find all the episodes we’ve done@twentytwozerotwentyminutesinlockdown.com.

And you can also find this on YouTube and all over the place here, everywhere. So thank you for watching. Truly appreciate it. We’ll be back in a few days with some more cool people. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home, talk to you soon.

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