Breathing for Pattern Interrupt with James Ochoa
James Ochoa is a licensed professional counselor dedicated to treating, understanding and exploring adult ADHD. He lives with ADHD himself and has long demonstrated his introspection and exploration through his work and writing. His book, Focused Forward, gifted us a whole set of new language when we talk about our relationship with ADHD and we’re thrilled he’s back to check in with us today, his SEVENTH appearance on The ADHD Podcast.
And why is he here? Because he’s devoted his work lately on using breathing to interrupt negative patterns. As James tells us, breathing is the only autonomic system in the human body which we can exert direct control over. If we’re not thinking about it, breathing just happens. But if we do think about it, we can speed it up, slow it down, even stop it for a spell. So how do you use it to teach your body some new tricks? We’ll learn from James today!
- Check out James’ Town Hall Series
- James’ Professional Trailblazing: A New Roadmap for Treating Adult ADHD
- Check out Shiny Merch!
Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon
Pete Wright: Hello, everybody and welcome to Taking Control, the ADHD podcast on TruStory FM. I’m Pete Wright, and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer.
Nikki Kinzer: Hello, everyone. Hello, Pete Wright.
Pete Wright: Oh, oh, hi. Hi, Nikki.
Nikki Kinzer: Hi, Pete.
Pete Wright: Hi, it’s a new character I’m working up. Hi. Hi, Nikki.
Nikki Kinzer: I don’t like it.
Pete Wright: All right. How are you doing? How was your weekend? How’s your Kung Fu? Good? Strong?
Nikki Kinzer: Great. Wonderful.
Pete Wright: Awesome.
Nikki Kinzer: It’s October. It’s AHDH awareness month. Did you know that?
Pete Wright: Yeah. It’s awareness of something else too. I guess we’ll get into that in the show.
Nikki Kinzer: Oh boy.
Pete Wright: Yeah.
Nikki Kinzer: Yes, we will.
Pete Wright: Yep. Well done. Very excited, although as we say around here, we’re kind of always aware of ADHD. So, welcome to the club, world. It’s October and it’s ADHD awareness month. We’ve got a lot of good stuff coming on this month, and we’re kicking it off with one of our very, very favorite people, that is James Ochoa. He is amazing and he talks to us all about helping us do some pattern interrupts with very strategic breathing exercises, talking all about mindfulness and resourcing ourselves, making sure we’re prepared for the diagnosis we receive. He’s just great and we talk to him in just a minute. Before we dive into that conversation, however, head over to takecontroladhd.com. Get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show there on the website or subscribe to us on the mailing list right there on the homepage and you’ll get an email each time a new episode is released. You can connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest at takecontroladhd. But to really connect with us, join us in our Discord community. It’s super easy to jump into the general community chat channel. Just visit takecontroladhd.com/discord. It will whisk you over to the general invitation and login. If you’re looking for a little bit more, particularly if this show has ever touched you or helped you to understand your relationship with ADHD in a new way, we invite you to support the show directly through Patreon. Patreon is listener supported podcasting, with a few dollars a month you can help guarantee that we continue to grow the show, add new features, invest more heavily in our community. Pateron.com/vadhdpodcast to learn more. And you get access to a whole bunch of super secret discord channels that you don’t get when you’re just a public community member. So, jump in, it’s super fun. And we have news.
Nikki Kinzer: We do. We have exciting group coaching news.
Pete Wright: This is a big deal.
Nikki Kinzer: It is a big deal. So, depending on when you’re listening to this, if you’re listening to it right now as we are in October of 2022, you will have the opportunity to look at our two new coaching groups. We are enrolling, enrollment is open now. They begin on Monday, October 24th, and they’re six weeks long. We have two different groups that are going on. We have one that is called Breaking Down The Overwhelm of ADHD. And it is going to be with myself and also Ian Wahlert, who is a coach at TCA, at Take Control ADHD. And we are very excited to break down the overwhelm of ADHD. Like, that can be so many different things and it’s going to be great. I’m really looking forward to doing this group with Ian. And it also gives you guys a chance to meet him as well. And he’s going to be on the show soon. So, he’s actually going to be a podcast guest to talk to us about ADHD this month. The next group that we have is the ADHD parents group. And this is for parents who have ADHD. It’s parents who have ADHD children. It’s parents who have ADHD and have ADHD children or anything. Like, it ADHD is in your family, then this might be a good group for you to join. And I’m going to be doing this group with our other coach here at TCA, Aviva Nirenberg. And we are really looking forward to getting some parents together and supporting one another, because parenting is not easy, we know that. It is not easy. So, all the information about these groups you can find on the website at takecontroladhd.com. And they’re both six weeks. They’re both running on Mondays, but they are two different groups. So, you can check those out. If you happen to be listening to this and it’s already past time, we will be continuing to offer coaching groups. So, please continue to visit the site. If we don’t have anything open at that time, you can put your name on a waiting list and we will get back to you as soon as we have new groups that we are promoting and launching during that time.
Pete Wright: Outstanding. Group coaching is back.
Nikki Kinzer: There you go.
Pete Wright: It’s been a long time.
Nikki Kinzer: It has been a long time.
Pete Wright: I’m very excited.
Nikki Kinzer: Yes.
Pete Wright: This has been up for a while.
Nikki Kinzer: And we still have GPS too.
Pete Wright: Yep.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. So, GPS is still a membership. It’s just it’s a closed membership right now, but we are going to be opening that up here pretty soon as well. So, keep your eyes out on that.
Pete Wright: Yes, absolutely. Thank you, everybody. Now, let’s see if we can go find James.
Nikki Kinzer: Perfect.
Pete Wright: James Ochoa is a licensed professional counselor dedicated to treating, understanding, and exploring adult ADHD. He lives with ADHD himself and has long demonstrated his introspection and exploration through his work and writing. His book, Focused Forward, gifted us a whole set of new language when we talk about our relationship with ADHD. And we’re thrilled he’s back to check in with us today, his seventh appearance on the ADHD podcast. We clearly need a hall of fame. James, welcome back, my friend.
James Ochoa: Thank you. Thank you.
Nikki Kinzer: Yay. Welcome back.
James Ochoa: Yeah, so happy to be back. It feels like all homely.
Pete Wright: Yeah.
Nikki Kinzer: Homecoming.
Pete Wright: Yeah.
James Ochoa: Yes, it is. It’s a nice homecoming. It’s a nice circle coming around again. It’s always amazing, particularly in today’s world, how it seems like I think it’s been a year since I’ve talked with y’all. And it’s just like, I feel like it’s a new world again. It’s like a reorientation of where are we now? As we climb out of COVID and all these other pieces and what it’s done to the ADHD piece. And the awareness month this month is just like, okay. I did think of the oxymoron. I’m not sure if anyone’s ever seen the oxymoron of ADHD awareness month, where awareness is the issue with ADHD.
Pete Wright: Yeah, right.
Nikki Kinzer: Right.
James Ochoa: Just saying.
Pete Wright: Yeah, we’re doing great.
James Ochoa: Yes, we are.
Nikki Kinzer: And I have to say, I think that ADHD awareness is every month in our world. Like, it’s every month, every day, every hour. It doesn’t matter. I mean, it’s nice that October is-
James Ochoa: Yes.
Nikki Kinzer: I don’t even know who made October ADHD awareness month, honestly.
James Ochoa: I’m sure it was Hallmark.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. But that’s okay, we’ll take it, right?
Pete Wright: Yeah, we’ll take what we got. You know, we’re here. I think we haven’t talked to you in so long. We have several things we wanted to talk about. But one of the things that sort of landed on our collective plates this morning is your thinking about using breathing as a resources for managing emotional storms. And that’s your thing. That’s your jam is figuring out how to move in and out of these emotional storms fluidly. So, I’m interested in your thoughts right now on how this works and how you use these breathing techniques that you’re going to teach us today as a pattern interrupt to stop us from some of these cycles.
James Ochoa: Right. So, let’s set this up, because it’s … I still don’t have the gold card figured out on how to get rid of or completely neutralize emotional and mental distress, and I don’t think we’re ever going to have it, right? It’s on a natural spectrum.
Pete Wright: Sure.
James Ochoa: But with that pattern interruption idea, the ideas of breathing I’ve been looking at and researching probably since 2017, a year or so after my first book came out. And I was intrigued by it because, as I’ll … And I’ll send you all a write up I’ve done on this, the one page write up on this exercise. This is the only unconscious system in the body or autonomic system in the body that we can take conscious control over for a short period of time and change and alter.
Pete Wright: You’re talking about breathing.
James Ochoa: Breathing.
Pete Wright: Yeah, right.
James Ochoa: So, you could do it to your heart rate to some degree. Some people can lower their heart rate or speed it, those things. But this is really the only … And so, it’s a very powerful resource. And the fun, shiny part for me is, it puts you right up against the door of survival, right? We’ve got life or death involved in breathing. And so, if you want something shiny, well there’s nothing more shiny than the beginning and the end. So, I figured, okay, this is one way to kind of come at this. But as a pattern interruption, you’ve got to have some kind of a reset, recentering, reorientation throughout your day. I really believe and I’ve become a real preacher in the mindfulness space that it’s not that I don’t use the word meditation anymore, but meditation is a skillset to be learned in a customized way over time. Mindfulness is, what do I want to fill my mind with on purpose that’s interesting and meaningful to me? And that’s a whole different equation for somebody with ADD. So, breathing to me is a pattern interrupt because one, you’re resourcing yourself with blood flow and oxygen supply. And the vast majority of people sub-breathe, right? They breathe right up here in their chest. They don’t take the full diaphragm breath where your stomach moves, where it’s … We don’t push out that carbon dioxide, which is really the only main reason we have to actually breathe out is we have to release and get rid of that carbon dioxide, which is the burn-off of all the stress and modules in the body. So, breathing to me is like, here’s a strategy I’m carrying with me all the time that doesn’t go away. So, to me it’s an ultimate strategy that you can use regarding kind of resourcing yourself around ADHD, but also it gives you a micro-meditation of slowing down to kind of see what’s next, transition point, segment into intending kind of space as my life coach would say.
Nikki Kinzer: Intention. I mean, that’s what’s screaming at me. When you were talking about mindfulness and you were saying on purpose. Like, there’s this purpose. And so, you’re putting more intention into mindfulness.
James Ochoa: Right.
Nikki Kinzer: And so, when you’re breathing, you’re really paying attention to how that feels and where you’re breathing.
James Ochoa: And if we’re talking about … I was telling Pete before we started recording that, look, I don’t mean this in an absolute way, but I really even have to challenge myself as a professional to say, what if I’m doing this all wrong? What am I missing here? Which is what I ask myself, and I think any good clinician does when you want to look at whether your techniques and things are effective. It’s like, what am I missing? What if I’m doing this all wrong? It’s like taking that juxtaposed position. In this case, I really do believe individuals with ADHD diagnosed with this, family members, anyone living an adjacent life to it as I talk about it now, has to be able to resource themself to put strategies into play. Well, breathing to me is resourcing, mindfulness is resourcing, sleep is resourcing, exercise is resourcing. But until we get those moving to some degree, I think that we’re at risk for even the education or the strategy work to not be as robust as it could be. I mean, because everyone’s really excited about strategies and they feel really good about them. But as you and I both know, Nikki, for you certainly as a coach in this space how frustrating it is that you get maybe a 20%, 30% or 40% success return rate. And we take it as part of the issue, right? We just kind of go right into designing and keep working. But I just have been on this model of resourcing because I think if we’re going to manage the emotional and mental distress of this condition that doesn’t go away and comes and goes like weather patterns, which is why the storm model is there, breathing’s a great way to back it up, so is imagination, so is intuition, and all these other things I’ve put up and focused forward.
Nikki Kinzer: When you talk about resource then strategize, like this is something that I’ve read around your work. So, your resource, you’re specifically talking about understanding the breathing first and having that pause and that mindfulness before trying to jump in and just have the best planner ever or whatever. I mean, I don’t know.
James Ochoa: Well, right, because if I’m not resourced, then the readiness I have for that strategy or that planning isn’t going to be as significant and robust. But I just think we as professionals need to enter that realm first. Let’s talk about how you center. Let’s talk about how you calm. And for people who are living with ADHD with three or four people in the family, this is no simple topic. This is a lot of what I took on in my town hall series last spring, where it’s essentially, this town hall series is come ask me your hardest question. I want to know the biggest problem you’re having that won’t go away, that’s driving you nuts. And yeah, I had a woman come in, a mother come in with three or four kids. Three, I think out of the four had ADD, both the parents had different forms of it. I mean, it was a mess. And it’s like, okay, designing resource in that system is pretty important.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah, because you all need to take a moment.
James Ochoa: Well, you have to take a moment, and if you don’t and you over-activate the mind, we know enough about the neurology that you go set off a survival instinct and the distress and hyper vigilance of the mind, it takes hours to reset, it takes days, sometimes weeks for people to reset. And so, you’re really working to not set off that module. But for some of us with ADD, it’s always running say at a 5 or 6 or 7 out of 10, where 10’s the highest, right? It’s just like, that restlessness is always there. So, yeah, I’m a nut for that and I really think … Because I think it’s just such a key element to this. And we always talked about, right? Stress is not an easy topic to talk about.
Nikki Kinzer: No, it’s not.
James Ochoa: Not a fun topic.
Pete Wright: So, I want to back up to the breathing as a tool that we always have with us a bit, because I’ve struggled with this in the past and I can kind of hear somebody listening to this saying, "Great, remember to breathe." Also, I have radically inattentive ADHD and sometimes I know I have the resource. Like, I have the mental model of the box that has the psychophysiological tools of meditation and mindfulness in it, but I’m so distracted all the time, I forget. Even when I need it the most, that doesn’t get triggered. I’m curious how you integrate some of these things into your day to day?
James Ochoa: Yeah. And so, you’re bumping up against whether it’s the distraction piece or what I would call the invisible wall, or the bubble that I just can’t pop. I’m sitting there looking at what I need to do and I can’t take action, okay?
Pete Wright: Right. Right.
James Ochoa: You know? And so, certainly, as a part of mindfulness to some degree, curiosity and observation as part of it become curious. I can’t take action. There’s an invisible wall in front of me. I’m inattentive and I can’t remember to do this and I forget it all the time. So, that curiosity and observation as I talk about, unplugs the mind, it pulls it out of gear deliberately, which is one of the things people with ADHD have a hard time doing is pulling their mind out of gear for objectivity or evaluation or planning, right?
Pete Wright: I could be sitting here in semi-panic mode and forget that I have access to a tool like breathing, even though I’m actively doing it.
James Ochoa: Yes. Yes, but you’re just-
Nikki Kinzer: Okay, I missed something. I wanted to write it down and I missed it. You talked about curious, and then you said the wall in front of you.
James Ochoa: Observation.
Nikki Kinzer: Observation, thank you. That’s what I missed. Okay.
James Ochoa: And so, that CO piece, that curiosity observation kind of model is very … It’s so natural to the human condition. But for those with ADHD, I think the underactivity of the prefrontal cortex, the hyper vigilance that happens as a result of storms and EDS related issues or RSD issues, whatever you want to frame them as, just set us up not to do that curiosity and observation. So, that’s the first thing, Pete, is one of the things is to know that you can do that. Secondly is, how do you remind yourself of that? So, writing the word breathe, getting it tattooed on your hand. I don’t care what it is. It’s like, how many ways can you trigger the possibility of it being around you is certainly a strategic measure many people have used, but do it personally. Weird paper, weird pen, whatever that grabs your attention. Even that’s not going to get around all of it, right? Because you’re still going to be sitting there stuck in it. So, I ask people to look at, okay, what’s a very personal meaning that they could attach to the sense of breathing? Not to the sense that I’ve got distress of ADD, but to the breathing, which is the resource. So, do I call it a different word? Do I associate it with something which is more of a memory trick? But how do I grab it in a personal way that’s meaningful to me? That’s another potential workaround. Ultimately, if you can grab curiosity and observation, and I actually have a client in session who is stuck on something. Actually, I have a client I’m working with right now who’s stuck in a very critical life decision space, and he’s been stuck for six weeks. That’s a long time to be working with someone. And I have him right now sitting right in front of where that decision is and being curious and observant. Now, here’s the kicker, and this is something I learned back in my coaching program in 2009 that was such a linchpin to understanding the neurology of ADD is you ask yourself open ended questions with that curiosity and observation. So, now I’m looking at that stuck point and I’m saying to myself, "Huh, I wonder how I could get around this in a way I haven’t thought about before. I wonder who could help. I wonder what’s going to grab me enough to pop me through this invisible wall or remember to breathe?"
Nikki Kinzer: So, I can see this and then I can also see the client saying, "I’ve tried it. I tried that. I don’t know why it’s not working. I can’t do it."
James Ochoa: Yep. And I would say, "Okay, then let’s do it together." And I put it right in front of me and I put the challenge right on me, okay? With that person. So, I’d say, "Okay, do it with me. Get a friend to do this with," because that resourcing of a body double or someone else is certainly something we know. But in the cases of distress, those individuals may not be getting insight, because what you’re getting in that open ended question is insight and action to move forward from a position that you couldn’t predict because the mind is an exploratory measure, not just a survival instinct, it loves to solve questions. And if you give it an open ended question, it cannot do anything but go search for an answer. That answer is going to come from an unusual arena, and we have them because they’re called epiphanies, they’re called ahas, they’re called … We naturally have them, but this is the way to exercise that muscle. So, for someone, Nikki, who says, "Well, gosh, I’ve tried that and it just doesn’t work," I would go to the resourcing side and say, "Okay, you may be so hyper vigilant, your mind is blocked in that space of insight." But then I would do it with them. I’d say, "Okay, let’s sit in front of this and let’s look at it." And I’d start asking them open ended question because the mind will work this way. It’s as simple as brainstorming. But we don’t orient to it because the survival instinct grabs it so often and just runs rough shot over us.
Pete Wright: When you talk about resourcing and strategies after you’re diagnosed, this is that survival panic state that occurs, that liminal state that occurs after I’m diagnosed and know that there are words that describe what I’m experiencing, but before I know how to exert any control or agency over that experience, is that fair?
James Ochoa: Yes. Yes. And how many people seek a diagnosis and get lost again for a very long time?
Pete Wright: Yeah, for years. Yeah, right.
James Ochoa: Way too many, which is why the professional training I’m doing right now, the professional trail blazing I’m doing, I’m teaching therapists that one of the most critical aspects when you do a diagnostics or an education about ADD, it has to include this resourcing. It has to include this space that says, "Okay, you’re at high risk for getting lost after this. How do we not get lost? How do you get a touchstone going?" So, for me, it’s always setting a followup, those kind of things which are helpful. But helping people understand, "Okay, you’re going to get this information, and 24 to 48 hours from now, you might be a puddle of tears because suddenly 40 years of your life has come slamming on the door. Okay, well let’s be aware that that’s going to happen." Now, I’m not going to predict it. I’m not going to say, "Oh, the stress always has to be the focus point and we don’t have skills or gift sets or things that are good. But just, we’ve got to have a high respect for this degree of distress and what happens to this panic piece, Pete."
Pete Wright: Yeah.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. It’s so true.
Pete Wright: Well, and that leads to, when you talk about how you ensure, especially as clinicians, how you ensure people are resourced. I’m thinking about it from the perspective of somebody listening who may be in that liminal space, who may be lost. What should we be looking for to set a foundation for being able to … Is there such a thing as safe self-resourcing?
James Ochoa: Yes. And safe self-resourcing is going to immediately come, obviously I’m going to come back to curiosity and observation, breathing and those kind of things. But it’s also going to come back to things that comfort you. If it’s a blanket, if it’s a stone, if it’s an animal, I don’t care what it is, resource in the sense of safety inside, because we certainly know if you don’t feel safe inside, you’re not going to learn well, you’re not going to do anything well. I ask people, "Do you feel safe inside?" Just go ask friends that. I mean, it’s something we don’t naturally ask.
Nikki Kinzer: No. I mean, you have to really sit and think. Like, what does that mean, exactly? Yeah.
Pete Wright: Right, or what are you conditioned to? Like, you asked that question and my immediate answer without thinking was no. No. Never from moment to moment. Absolutely fragile.
James Ochoa: Right, and then I go, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how fragile do you feel on an ongoing basis?" And you go, "Oh my god, it’s probably 6."
Pete Wright: It’s miserable.
James Ochoa: Right.
Pete Wright: This constant state of anxiety and misery.
James Ochoa: Yes, I do believe there’s a second book in me. My writing coach and I are looking at the outline to see if there’s really enough there. I think there is. But the one piece of it is, Pete, having some kind of a system that says, okay, what questions do I ask myself? Like, do I feel safe? Where on a scale of 10 do I feel that on a daily … Oh gosh. If you’re at 6 to 7 out of 10 of stress, that means the battery’s being drained at that level. This is not a qualified answer that says I’m going to go analyze it and see if you’re right or wrong, it’s subjective. Everyone feels it different inside and for different reasons, right? So, I think that, yes we all have some degree of hyper vigilance. How do you resource yourself and get safe? Comforting things are helpful, animals, walks, go sit in the grass, those kind of things that are grounding that sound to some people who are too cognitively minded or too up in their heads or are too hyper vigilant or too distressed will say that sounds like BS or foo-foo or zip. I’m like, "Then try it."
Pete Wright: I think the intellectual side steps in very, very quickly, right? As soon as you find out, okay, ADHD, I’ve been diagnosed, I know that there are words now. Picking up a cat and walking in the woods is not going to help me learn anything more about ADHD, right? Like, how do I actually learn about this thing and change my life?
James Ochoa: Right. Right. [inaudible 00:25:38].
Pete Wright: I want to feel that, right?
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah, you know?
James Ochoa: I know, I can see the strategy. It’s like, "Yeah, just go pick up your cat and go walk in the woods."
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah, yeah. It would be great. It would be fine.
Pete Wright: Pick up your cat. Go walk in the woods, you’re going to be fine. But you could see how one could fear that.
James Ochoa: Jengo Joe is recommending this diagnostic tool.
Pete Wright: Jengo Joe is a buffoon. He says I should walk with a fluffy cat in the trees.
Nikki Kinzer: Oh boy.
James Ochoa: As one piece.
Nikki Kinzer: One piece.
James Ochoa: But go ahead.
Nikki Kinzer: But you know, I want to say something that I watched on TV yesterday. It was a news program because October’s also breast awareness month, or breast cancer-
James Ochoa: Yes, it is.
Nikki Kinzer: Breast awareness month.
Pete Wright: Whichever, Nikki.
Nikki Kinzer: You’re going to have to cut that out because that just doesn’t sound right.
Pete Wright: No, I 100% will not be cutting that out. You’re amazing.
James Ochoa: He will put a glow around it.
Pete Wright: Right.
Nikki Kinzer: I know, right?
Pete Wright: I’m going to cut out everything else, that’s my new ringtone.
Nikki Kinzer: All right. I’m going to start over. If you cut it out or not, that’s up to you. You’re the editor, you’re the producer of the show.
James Ochoa: I do want to see the outtakes.
Nikki Kinzer: Right? Yeah, if anything. Okay, it’s breast cancer awareness month. But the story’s actually really good, and it’s very … It applies to what James is saying. So, there was an interview between these three women who are all survivors of breast cancer. And the news lady that did the interview is also a survivor of breast cancer. And she asked the question, "Where is your safe place to just go and sit and think and be at peace?" And what was so interesting to me is they all had a very immediate answer. And one was Central Park, taking a walk in Central Park. The other was at the beach. And then, the other person was on her front porch because that’s where she would sit and wait for her kids to come home from school. And it was just really interesting to me that they knew immediately what she was talking about and what that meant to them. And so, that’s kind of how, when I’m listening to you, that’s sort of how I’m envisioning this is that they’re dealing with a different thing, but it’s a very serious thing as well. And that’s what I see is that I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’m not doing well. I can see myself wanting to go take that nature walk because that will be what calms me. Not with my cat, not taking my cat. But you know, am I getting that right? Am I sensing that correct?
James Ochoa: You are. You are, and it’s one of many, right? You keep developing resources. So, it’s not the only thing you do.
Nikki Kinzer: Right. Right.
James Ochoa: But I do believe it’s one of the first things we do. So, I will ask people, "What are three to five things that you feel calmed, nurtured, distracted in a way that’s meaningful?" Because we all think that distraction is a major problem. Like, no, there’s a functional level of distraction. It’s called being under a blanket and listening to my favorite music and letting the world go away. That’s okay sometimes. We need a resource. We need to let our bodies reset. And so, yes, that’s the … The key piece is just if we’re not calm inside, the strategies we build, the things we attempt are going to be half-hearted. And it doesn’t mean that that’s not an okay thing at times, because we all have to survive. We all have to get food and bread on the table. So, I’m not some pie in the sky person, I’ve always been very pragmatic. But yeah, I don’t know how many strategies I have anymore. I stopped. I’m sure I have thousands. I embed my life in the space around me so that it’s resourced.
Nikki Kinzer: Do you have a particular breathing exercise that you teach clients?
James Ochoa: I do and I think I start with the education about what kind of breathing is and how to work with it. But it’s really become … In the last three to five years, breathing’s become much more of a mainstay in other places, yoga, there’s a lot of … There’s a breathing app now that teaches you how to do different types of breathing. And certainly yoga has had it for years. This is nothing new. We’ve just popularized it currently in the United States from a capitalization point of view, as people would say, you know? But it brings awareness.
Nikki Kinzer: Right.
James Ochoa: So, what I teach people is a five breath pressure technique that is just a five beat breaths. And at the end of the fifth breath, you let your air out. You don’t let all your air out. You kind of come back to sea level. This is kind of a norm, you still have some air in you, but you hold your breath there. And you hold your breath with the resource that you have felt from the blood flow and oxygen of the five breaths before. And so, you have this little mini-micro meditation. And you hold your breath and you hold that sensation of the need to take a breath building up in your body, which is essentially the CO2 in the body building up that you’re going to have to release. And then you go in to take a full breath, okay? And you take a full breath and you hold a full breath, but you begin to tighten your stomach a little bit, which pressurizes it to push it upward, so you’ll feel pressure coming up through your head. When it gets up and around the top of your head, you let out your breath. This is not meant to pass out. I mean, some people in their adolescent days, myself maybe included, where you breath fast and those kind of things to hyperventilate the body. No, this is about resourcing. So, you might get a little dizziness or disorientation from it. And if so, then you slow down the breath on how fast you’re taking it in and out. But it takes about a minute, maybe a minute and a half for the entire process. I did a deeper study into this with one of the viral individuals on the internet now named Wim Hof, who is from Denmark who’s also a cold therapist and those kind of things. So, I’ve been in freezing waters. But there’s reasons for that to resource the body. Well, they’ve been using that in Europe for years. I mean, again, none of this is new. We’re just revisiting it. But this breath technique, earlier this year, I took on training with him and I was doing 30 breaths at a time, holding in and out like I’m saying. And I was doing that for six rounds. And I was holding my breath for three minutes at the end of that six rounds.
Pete Wright: Three minutes?
Nikki Kinzer: Wow.
James Ochoa: It’s crazy. So, this lasted six months. It was an intense position. I was also doing some meditation that is … It’s got binaural beats, it’s got hemi-sync music. It’s got AMSR, I think it is, music where it’s like a surround sound. I was doing some deep work on purpose. Some of that is my shiny object chasing and some of it is research within the ADD model to see how it works. Well, one of the things that’s come out of this is this five breath technique, okay? And so, I’d like to do it with you all if you’d like to do it?
Nikki Kinzer: Yes.
Pete Wright: Sure.
James Ochoa: It’s not difficult to do. And I will send you the link so that people have it as a resource written up. So, again, you’re setting up. You’re taking a breath in through your nose, out through your nose. We are going to take five breaths. I’ll count us and coach us through slowly. And on the fifth breath, when you let your air out, you hold your breath and you wait until you feel like you need to take a breath and you take a full breath in and you pressurize a little bit. Now, everyone’s going to have a little different model on how long they can hold their breath. So, as parts of the demonstration, I will hold that pressure for a shorter period of time and then tell everyone to take a full breath in just for the element of teaching with what we’re doing here, okay?
Nikki Kinzer: Okay.
Pete Wright: But just for when you’re doing this alone, can you just describe the level of … I don’t know, is the word discomfort, that you should feel for how long you hold your breath? Like, before you pass out, but not …
James Ochoa: Yeah. You will feel a pressure where I say you get to a point of the feeling state of absolutely needing to take a breath, okay? It’s like, some people might say right before they gasp. I don’t go that far. I just feel the pressure. It’s like, okay, I want to take a breath now. And there’s no magic to this and it’s very subjective with every individual. And you can’t do it wrong, okay? And for people who do it intensely in certain ways, maybe they pass out. For the people who pass out, guess what? The body does that on purpose, it’s an automatic mechanism because it goes back to breathing, okay? So, the body has a great self-care mechanism. That’s not what I’m after here, I’m after resource. But there are people who are going to question it from that point of view certainly.
Pete Wright: Okay.
James Ochoa: All right. So, let’s go through this. Here we go. We’re going to set up. We’re going to take our first full breath in. Out. Two in. Out. And if you can get your stomach to push out on your breath in, that’s a great way to know that you’re getting to the bottom. So, third breath in. Out. Four, in. Out. And five, in. Now let your air out kind of to a normal level and just hold your breath. You can close your eyes gently if you’d like to. But you will feel the need build up likely in a period of say 20 to 30 seconds. For some people it could be longer, but everyone’s a little different on different days, depending on your lung capacity and lots of other things. So, now for the demonstration of this exercise, you could hold as long as you want. But I want everyone to go ahead and take a full breath in now and hold that breath. Now tighten your stomach and start to push it upward. And you’ll feel blood flow coming up through your face. Up there, and when it gets up in your face and in your head, then you release that breath. So, go ahead and release that breath now. You can do that holding your breath to a count of 10 if someone wanted a marker for it. But it can cause a little dizziness or disorientation for some. That is a wave kind of dissipating in the reorientation of the body. Curious, any feeling states or shifts or thoughts about this?
Nikki Kinzer: I wasn’t able to push my … Like, when you said to push your stomach and you would feel it in your chest or your … I wasn’t able to feel that part.
James Ochoa: Right. And so, over time that’ll be a practicing element for you that you would pull your breath in and you would tighten your stomach, just kind of tighten your abdomen, almost like a progressive muscle relaxation, like you’re tightening your fists and then releasing. In this case, you’re tightening the body going up.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah.
James Ochoa: But it’s a practice though. It’s a sematic kind of feeling state.
Pete Wright: I feel like I … Maybe I approached this almost too pragmatically, but as you were describing it, I was feeling exactly what you were describing. And one of the things I noticed particularly at the end when I’m holding my breath and pushing it up and I’m feeling the kind of throbbing in my head, as soon as I released the breath and took another breath in, I realized that that physiological experience of pressure removed anything else I was thinking about. Like, it cleared my mind right then. The whole time I’m taking the breath in, right? I’m doing the whole build up and I’m thinking, "I wonder what James would look like walking in the woods with a cat in a BabyBjorn." And then that was gone until right now when I started thinking about the joke again.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah.
Pete Wright: That was amazing. I didn’t think it would work and then it worked. I could see doing that as a practice. I can see that as a thing. Yeah.
James Ochoa: So, another term I use, how do you put functional pressure on yourself in your life? Whether they’re deadlines or somebody’s coming over to help you or you’re having a party and you’ve got to clean up. In this case, the functional pressure is the breathing and the holding and the pressurizing your breath. We’re functioning with the pressure. But we have pressure all the time with ADHD. Let’s just put it on the choice side of the coin so I can feel like I know what I’m doing with it.
Pete Wright: That’s really lovely and really easy, like did not take very long. Even if you’re holding your breath for a longer time, like taking a couple of minutes to do that exercises, really easy.
James Ochoa: Yeah. And you can use this also as a micro-meditation. So, during that period where you’re holding your breath out and on the first ending of the five, you can think about what you’re doing next, you can rest in that kind of piece. But as you noticed, Pete, on that pressurizing piece, it’s like hitting the reset button on a computer to some degree. It kind of pushes-
Pete Wright: Yeah.
James Ochoa: You can’t think about anything else.
Pete Wright: Right.
Nikki Kinzer: No.
Pete Wright: Right. Yeah.
Nikki Kinzer: And it does. I mean, you can almost visually see it leave you.
James Ochoa: So, you were asking earlier how do you get people to do these things? Well, some of it is the experience to the point that you realize, wow, that was a very intriguing feeling. So, now it has a personal meaning attached to it for you, Pete. So, it’s a likelihood you can come back to it because you appreciate it. Some people feel more clear in their mind. I’ve gone to some of my clients doing some of this breathing at the beginning of the session to kind of help them clear and get centered. And certainly, short mindfulness exercises at the beginning of our sessions are really good.
Pete Wright: Well, and here’s the thing. Sorry to interrupt, but I feel like I need to get this out of my face because this is the thing I think that the pressure … I’ve done all kinds of breathing exercises, right? Like, all kinds of breathing, box breathing. Name the breathing and I’ve done them. But the thing that’s different about this, the thing that serves to go back to my favorite term of the show as a pattern interrupt is the physiological state change that is introduced when my body starts to question the survival instinct just a little bit, right? And that resets all the precedent of stress that I might be having in my life, all of that. That’s why, for me, I can totally see this as a pattern interrupt because when I’m in my going into some sort of anxiety panic or something, it triggers me to remind me that in just about 30 to 45 seconds, I could remind myself what really matters, and that is that I am safe and alive and breathing. And everything else is suddenly more approachable.
James Ochoa: And what you described as pressurizing or activating the survival instinct to a small degree, that and a lot of work has been done around the vagus nerve and relaxing the vagus nerve and how do you do that? And that’s the other way to … So, you’re startling yourself on purpose. In this case, it’s a little more gentle of a startle, rather than the other way. Something I tell people about, I haven’t done anything but cold showers for over three years. It’s the way I resource my body because you put it under a state of intensity for a short period of time and you breathe through it and it resources you. Now my startle response has become a lot less disruptive because my vagus nerve or the sense of being able to calm down, right? You have a ventral nervous system where the tiger is chasing you, and you have a vagus nerve system that is calming you down after the startle or the event. Many people with anxiety, stress related conditions like ADHD don’t have a good exercise of calming themselves down on the other side of the coin. There’s a lot of work being done on that clinically.
Nikki Kinzer: That’s so interesting.
Pete Wright: Cold showers for three years? I am provoked, sir.
James Ochoa: Yeah, it’s a little bit … My wife thinks I’m still a little crazy, which I probably am.
Nikki Kinzer: Hey, it works.
Pete Wright: But the way you describe it, it’s so level headed.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. Yes.
James Ochoa: It’s stimulating on purpose. I can still take warm showers if I choose to. I love taking hot baths. But it’s become a real, really shiny … Now we’ve termed it contrast therapy where you’ll go get into a 40 degree pool of water, which is unbelievably cold. And it’s not something you do immediately. But then they have like an infrared sauna in the same room. And you go back and forth. Well, they’ve been doing this in Europe for years. This is nothing new.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. My daughter-
James Ochoa: That contrast therapy’s been there forever.
Nikki Kinzer: My daughter and I went to a spa when we were in Hawaii and they did that. They had an area where you could go into the cold pool and then you could go into the warm pool. And she was saying you go back and forth between the two. Yeah.
James Ochoa: Well, if you think about ADHD in a chaotic, disorganized way sets off that survival, startle response. You’re taking control of that in a way that says, "No, I’m going to exercise that process so that I can calm myself down more effectively, rather than it just coming out of the blue." I do think I’ve been able to calm down from startles or things, storms, things that come at me that I didn’t expect because I’m exercising that part of my body.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. That’s great.
Pete Wright: This is fascinating as always, as always James Ochoa. Thank you so much. Yeah, it’s really fun. You’ve got a bunch of stuff that you’re working on.
Nikki Kinzer: Yes.
Pete Wright: And as we wrap up here, why don’t you share with us some of your new projects and where you want people to go to learn more about your work?
James Ochoa: Well, yeah. So, we’ve got some fun things coming up at the end of this month. We’ve got a town hall series, it’s a six week series that I’m calling, Ask Me Your Hardest Questions About ADD. Where are you having the biggest problems? So, it’s six weeks of one hour. I will do 10 or 15 minutes of education in six areas of ADD that I find most important or critical. And then, I open the floor up to people asking questions. And a couple of times during that hour, I do what’s called live for fives, where I will open someone’s mic up who is open to that, and I will dialogue with them about their question and a strategy development or in a resourcing element, so that people can see how I work, but also to actually get something. And then, all these are recorded and you can watch them later. We are planning to do them for as long as I can foresee, twice a year. I’m going to do a fall series and a spring series. I want to keep reaching people in a way that’s affordable and resourcing, okay? And so, to me, this is one of my models. The second one is I will jump off into the professional training world with other therapists and coaches called Professional Trail Blazing. And so, Professional Trail Blazing and a new roadmap for treating adults with ADHD is 12 weeks of education and then a clinical consultation, education, consultation. So, we back and forth six times for a 12-week model. And I’m doing my first one this fall and it’s fascinating. I did it five years ago as a pilot to make sure what I was doing wasn’t just centric to me, and other people really appreciated it. So, it’s everything I know about ADD on steroids. And all the questions are there. And then, we’ve also got things coming up. I do have, I think, a second book in me. My writing coach and editor, Robyn, is … And I think the title of the book is already there. I think it’s, When The Shiny Wears Off: Navigating The Lifetime Storms of Adult ADD. It’s the stuff that doesn’t go away and how do you manage it?
Pete Wright: Perfect.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah.
Pete Wright: That’s perfect.
Nikki Kinzer: That’s great.
James Ochoa: I didn’t think anything was going to be there. But all this can be seen on jamesochoa.com. And that’s the easiest way to get to it. And I do have a dedicated website now for my book, Focused Forward. It’s under focusedforwardadhd.com. And on there is this merchandise that I showed to you, stay shiny my friends. So, if you want a little merchandise, I thought it was a fun thing to do just to throw up there. But thank you all so much. I really appreciate you all letting me reach a bigger audience with such important information.
Nikki Kinzer: We love it.
Pete Wright: We sure appreciate you, James.
Nikki Kinzer: You being here.
Pete Wright: Thanks for coming back. Number seven is in the bag.
James Ochoa: It is.
Pete Wright: What are we going to do when we get to 10? We’re definitely going to need a plaque.
Nikki Kinzer: Big celebration.
James Ochoa: Yes, we will. We’ll have to do it in person. Maybe we’ll do it in person.
Pete Wright: There you go.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah.
Pete Wright: Live show. I can feel a live show coming. Hey, thank you everybody for downloading and listening to this show. We appreciate you and we appreciate your time and your attention. Don’t forget, if you have something to contribute to this conversation, we’ll be over in the show talk channel in the Discord server and you can join us right there by becoming a supporting member at the deluxe level. On behalf of James Ochoa and Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright and we’ll see you right back here next week on Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.