By: Ann Helmus, Ph.D.
NESCA Founder/Director; Clinical Neuropsychologist
While supporting a friend who was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I have come to appreciate how challenging it is for people with this disorder to maintain a stable mood state. One of the most helpful resources I discovered in my search for information to help me support my friend was a TEDx talk by Ellen Forney, an author who has successfully managed her bipolar disorder for two decades by following SMEDMERTS, an acronym for: Sleep, Medication, Eat Well, Doctor/therapy, Mindfulness/Meditation, Exercise, Routine, Tools (coping), and Support System. I was struck that only 25% of the solution for managing her mental illness involves the mental health system: medication and doctor. The bulk of her treatment system relates to lifestyle choices.
While attention to SMEDMERTS is important for all of us, especially in these stressful times, consistent focus on these lifestyle choices is particularly critical for the many children and adolescents who we see at NESCA presenting with anxiety, mood disorders, ADHD, and behavioral issues. Most of us struggle to achieve our daily goals for sleep, diet, meditation, exercise, sticking to a routine, practicing adaptive coping strategies, and nurturing our support system, even though we know how much better we feel and how much better our children function when we are focused on SMEDMERTS in our daily life. While the impact of medications and doctors on functioning is largely outside of our control, we can control our lifestyle choices, which are critical to the success of managing any mental health issue.
How can we help the children in our lives to embrace SMEDMERTS?
- Modeling it for them. As Robert Fulgham said, “Don’t worry that your children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
- Praising their efforts. Offer positive feedback, such as, “Great idea to get up early to go for a run,” or, “I like how you called a friend when you were upset to get some advice.”
- Enlisting the help of a coach. NESCA offers real-life skills coaching, executive functioning coaching, and health coaching to help children, adolescents, and young adults build and maintain habits to support positive lifestyle choices.
Health coaching is available to parents of NESCA clients who are seeking support in developing positive health habits, such as exercise, diet, stress management, and meditation.
About the Author
NESCA Founder/Director Ann Helmus, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical neuropsychologist who has been practicing for almost 20 years. In 1996, she jointly founded the Children’s Evaluation Center (CEC) in Newton, Massachusetts, serving as co-director there for almost ten years. During that time, CEC emerged as a leading regional center for the diagnosis and remediation of both learning disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders.
In September of 2007, Dr. Helmus established NESCA (Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents), a client and family-centered group of seasoned neuropsychologists and allied staff, many of whom she trained, striving to create and refine innovative clinical protocols and dedicated to setting new standards of care in the field.
Dr. Helmus specializes in the evaluation of children with learning disabilities, attention and executive function deficits and primary neurological disorders. In addition to assessing children, she also provides consultation and training to both public and private school systems. She frequently makes presentations to groups of parents, particularly on the topics of non-verbal learning disability and executive functioning.
To book an evaluation with one of NESCA’s many expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form.
Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, as well as Londonderry, New Hampshire. NESCA serves clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-658-9800.