Training Your Brain to Deal With Stress

Lester Sandman, MD, receives referrals for patients with psychiatric conditions who have attempted to find help elsewhere through counseling, medications, and other treatments without success. On his website, Dr. Lester Sandman offers links to a variety of articles about mental and psychological health, such as Excel Under Pressure.

In her article titled Excel Under Pressure: Prepping for Stress Can Enhance Your Response, Megan Johnson describes a common problem when people face too much stress. In colloquial terms, they have a brain freeze. Johnson attributes the problem not to the working of the brain, although the prefrontal cortex is involved, but rather to people’s tendencies to ignore the capabilities of their automatic response and instead focus on the importance of the moment.

For instance, if a politician stands up in front of the camera, he or she may suddenly blank out on how to continue. Or, in another case, a student may do poorly on an exam after doing well on a practice test for that exam. They may have prepared well, but when it comes to the important moment, they focus on the consequences of that moment rather than the current task. In order to avoid this, Johnson suggests preparing for that important event with a situation that simulates stress, but at a lower level. That, she says, is enough.


Does Meditation Alleviate Anxiety Symptoms?

A former chief of psychiatry with the United States Army’s Blanchfield Hospital, Lester Sandman, MD, also worked as the chief of inpatient services at the Fitzsimons Army Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Lester Sandman currently works in private practice, where he regularly treats patients with anxiety disorders.

For many years, mental health experts have touted the benefits of meditation in alleviating anxiety symptoms. For the most part, meditation involves finding a comfortable sitting position, focusing on breathing, and turning thoughts to the present moment. In a review of 19,000 meditation studies conducted by Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that mindfulness-based meditation had a significant effect on anxiety, depression, and even chronic pain. Because relief of psychiatric disorders is often difficult to quantify, there is no way to directly measure the effects of meditation on anxiety and depression. The research is still promising, however, and many medical experts consider meditation a valuable supplement to medication and clinical therapy.

Common Treatments for ADHD

A longtime psychiatrist in the state of Washington, Dr. Lester Sandman spent a significant portion of his career as a chief of psychiatry with the United States Armed Forces. Currently a solo practitioner, Lester Sandman, MD, provides treatment for psychiatric conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or just attention deficit disorder (ADD). A variety of treatment options exist to manage ADD, a relatively common disorder that frequently manifests in early childhood and sometimes persists into adulthood.

ADD can also be sometimes confused with mood disorders. Distractibility is a core feature of “bipolar spectrum” disorders. Getting the diagnosis right is key, since medicines commonly used for ADD can make bipolar disorder worse, and sometimes after a substantial delay so the connection is not recognized.

A careful evaluation is needed to get the diagnosis right and sometimes even then, treatment must go forward with some degree of uncertainty and careful observation over time.

Mood Charts for Tracking Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Over the course of his career as a psychiatrist in the Puget Sound area, Dr. Lester Sandman has incorporated a number of approaches into his treatment of individuals with psychiatric disorders. When working with patients with bipolar disorder and other recurrent mood disorders, Lester Sandman, MD, often recommends use of a tool known as a mood chart. Mood charts provide physicians with information that may assist them in developing a treatment plan.

Patients fill out mood charts by documenting their overall mood on a given day, as well as their “highest” and “lowest” moods on that day. As patients fill out their mood charts over time, the charts begin to provide patterns for the physician to interpret. Mood charts are also useful tools for tracking medications’ impact on both overall mood and mood swings. Although mood charts have traditionally been filled out using pen and paper, a number of smartphone apps are available, many of which take only a few seconds per day to complete.