The core symptoms of ADHD are hyperactivity, impulsiveness, distractibility and inattention as evidenced by problems organizing, planning, procrastinating, and time management. But doesn’t everybody have these problems? Yes, but for the diagnosis to be applicable, the doctor will consider the severity and duration and the extent to which your problems interfere with the quality of your life. For a diagnosis, you must see a doctor who is knowledgeable in ADHD and related problems. The principle tool for diagnosis is the interview.
Before seeing your doctor, take some quiet time to think about what is really bothering you and write it down. (People with AD/HD often forget the key things to say). If your office looks like the aftermath of a hurricane and you feel depressed, be sure to tell the doctor both facts. You may be depressed because you can’t deal with the office, or your office may be a disaster because you are depressed. Which came first?
“Pills? I don’t take pills!”
Well, you aren’t alone. Many people feel that way. Consider for a moment. Do the pills make you a different person? Is it not you, if you take a pill? Who is the real you?
That person who loses his temper at the slightest excuse,
the nerd who walks past his best friend without saying “Hello”,
the wife who is too tired to clean up the mess and greet hubby with a smile and kiss when he comes home?
Or are you the smiling affable, competent person you know is inside trying to get out?
Let’s go back to our car. Do you expect your car to run without oil or gasoline? Would you drive a car that worked on two or three of its four cylinders? Your brain needs fuel.
Ideally, every brain would produce just the right amount of all the ingredients it needs, but there is no such thing as an ideal brain. Some brains are chronically undersupplied with the chemicals they need to function properly. Clinical trials have shown that medication is the most effective method of dealing with an under functioning brain
There are a number of medications available. Your doctor may need to try more than one, to find the right one for you. He will probably start with a low dose to see if you tolerate it and then increase the dose to find the most effective dosage and timing. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a positive result immediately.
When you start taking the medication it would be a good idea to keep a record of the time you take it and any sensations you may feel and the time when they occur. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the effects. Some unpleasant effects like a headache or dizziness may, in fact, be what are called rebound effects which occur when the medication wears off. The problem can often be resolved by changing the timing of the next dose or even by increasing the dosage. Help your doctor to know what’s happening and he can help you to find the best solution for you.
For information about medication, you must see a doctor who has experience with ADHD.
For treatment guidelines and which medications are available, see
A PHYSICIAN’S PERSPECTIVE on ADHD Medications by Theodore Mandelkorn, MD
Editor’s note: Not everyone wants to take medication or is helped by traditional ADHD medications. Nor is medication alone enough. Some type of outside intervention, however, is usually helpful. You may prefer to try cognitive behavior therapy, coaching, diet changes, supplements, mindfulness meditation or any number of holistic or alternative treatments. Many treat their ADHD with a combination of these, searching for the right mix. Please see the Pinterest boards listed below for examples.
ADHD Coaching is a partnership dedicated to you. ADHD Coaching provides support and encouragement for you to follow your passion and realize the visions of your childhood.
Editor’s note: A coach can be anyone who believes in you and cheers you on. Your friends or family, a mentor, or even an employer can help you find your strengths and develop them. It’s important, however, for both of you to understand ADHD and how it impacts your life so that you can work around it. If you cannot afford a personal coach, see Alternatives to ADHD Coachingwhich lists group coaching, self-coaching, and other options.
ADHD Coaching will help you vanquish negative thought patterns and help you build strategies to master organization and time management. New confidence and a healthy self-image provide the motor to climb your personal mountains.
Your coach will listen to your stories of pain and frustration and hear your wholeness, your strengths, and hidden resources. Powerful questions open up new vistas to explore. Making choices leads to ownership instead of victimization. The result is a new awareness of self. Your coach is your loudest cheerleader, and they expect you to succeed.
ADHD Coaching startswith an inventory of where you are now and where you want to go. Many clients want some help organizing, managing time, and surviving overwhelm. You will choose two or three areas on which you want to focus in your coaching.
In following sessions, usually held once a week by telephone, a coach will hear your success report, help you explore problems that have arisen and ask you to choose and commit to your next steps for the next period of time.
A successful ADHD coaching relationship requires honesty and a willingness to change. You will do the work of creating new habits. It is important that this is important to you and not your spouse, parent or employer. A coach must be able to be honest with you. It may be hard, but important for you to learn how others see you.
You may not feel much like celebrating if you are discouraged and frustrated with ADHD. Negative thinking, constantly focusing on what is wrong, and denying or ignoring what is good and right is characteristic of people with ADHD.
People with ADHD have tremendous vitality and enthusiasm. They are creative and fun to be with when they are in an environment which supports them. Get a job which thrills you and a partner who believes in you to find the sparkle and passion of life.
The reason for making this list is that ALL (or most) AD(h)D’ers have a low self-esteem issue. I wanted to make this list to help myself as well as others.
Follow my steps to a better, more confident YOU!
After all, I made this list for my tribe!!
Let’s get started!
Your first step is STRUCTURE.
By creating structure, each day, you’re giving yourself a reason to wake up and get out of bed!
The second step echoes the first step. Set up a daily to-do list. This will give you a sense of accomplishment (it gives you a reason to be proud of yourself).
Step 3. FOCUS on your good qualities. Look in the mirror and choose 5 things about yourself that you DO like about you! Write these 5 things down and tape it to the mirror (changing the 5 things each week). By choosing 5 things you do like about yourself, you’re creating hope and mindfulness that goes deep down to create an inner peace. Inner peace leads to a sense of power and in a matter of weeks, a more confident you!
4. Be your own cheerleader! No one else will do it for you. Your only concern should be you. If you have to, tell yourself, “I can do this”, “I am going to do great”, “I AM worthy”.
5. Learn to LIKE yourself. Meditation works wonders!! Sit in a quiet place for 10 minutes and just breathe in and exhale all of that negativity.
6. Get CREATIVE. DIY projects, draw/sketch something, crochet or paint a landscape. Anything that makes you use your mind in a positive, constructive way.
7. Get ACTIVE! This means anything from exercise to walking up your street. You could also try Yoga or Karate. This activates the positive chemicals in your brain- happy vibes! If all else fails, DANCE!
Number 7 would tie in perfect for the eighth step as well, which is, SEEK SUPPORT. This can be a family member, a close friend, a Facebook support group or any other networking support groups. Enlist someone you trust to get active with you. Killing two birds with one stone is always a plus! By enlisting a close friend or relative, you’re getting the support aspect as well as working those happy brain cells. If you make this a habit and decide, “I’m not up for this today”, that partner will get your butt up and make you do it! Ah, support is great!! That brings me to number
9. All of us could use a little pep in our step and we’re not getting there by loading up on donuts. Try introducing a, once a day, healthy snack. This will promote energy and unlike donuts, won’t bog you down. With time, you can baby step your way to healthier meals. Instead of that scone in the morning, try a banana and yogurt. Protein and potassium make for a great and energizing way to start your day. An apple with peanut butter is a great option as well. Make that apple and peanut butter a snack and you have a totally guilt-free snack and an afternoon burst of energy!
10. GET OUTside or change the scenery. It’s a great way to promote a healthy mentality and a happier you.
11. TAKE CARE OF YOU! The world is an amazing place, but it’s also very stressful at the same time. Take time for yourself. Get a massage, pedicure or do something you love. (We’re nearly there!)
12. TRY SOMETHING NEW! This is a way to get out of your comfort zone. Say you decide to try Yoga, well, some of those stretches are hard to do. Go with me on this. You sign up for a class, get in there and do better than other first timers. That will boost your confidence and make you proud that you were able to try something new and excel! If you don’t do as well, hey, practice makes perfect and you’re working your way up to a brilliant confidence level while achieving a goal. That is definitely something to be proud of. It’s a double plus!
13. LEND A HAND! This is a no-brainer for me. I love helping. It makes my inner self-pleased to do something completely selfless and the reward- a smile on someone’s face. Examples of ways to help out are volunteering, helping an elder struggling to carry groceries etc. Get creative and look around. There’s always someone out there that needs a little assistance.
14. STEP IT UP. Comfort zones are hard to get away from but in order to succeed anywhere in life, you must step it up. Put on a smile (even if you’re not feeling it.) You never know who will see your smile and it impact their day and mood positively or, to go a bit further, your smile could save a life. I’m not kidding – Those people that are lonely, that never get noticed, the ones that keep a frown because no one cares – You notice. STEP IT UP, greet them. You may be preventing them from ending their life.
15. MEDITATE every morning to promote a peaceful mindset and every night before bed to promote a healthy, restful night’s sleep to wake refreshed and ready to begin your day.
16. BABY STEPS. Nothing happens overnight (Rome wasn’t built in a day), contrary to beliefs and otherwise. Start out slow and work your way up. All good things come with time, so be patient.
Finally, REINFORCE STEPS 1-16 each and every day. A healthier mind and body lead to a happier and more confident YOU!
Allow yourself to follow these steps and you will surely improve your esteem!
Just remember, I believe in you!
You have to shift gears all the time. Throughout your day, you transition between thoughts and tasks when you are:
going to work.
starting a new task.
engaging fully in a new conversation.
beginning a meeting.
trying to “shelve” a thought/concern for the time being.
And, because of the challenges with transitioning, getting stuck in a gear is a real possibility for adults with ADHD.
What are specific times when shifting gears is the most challenging for you? Use the strategies below so you can transition with greater ease.
Isn’t it time to stop grinding your gears?
ADHD and Transitions
Transitions can be difficult for you in part because of the challenges of your ADHD symptoms, such as:
Activating – You may have a hard time starting a task because you don’t know how or where to begin.
Focusing – At other times when you do start you may have a tendency to hyperfocus on a task that catches your interest. Alternatively, you may just get lost in the details, whether they are important or not. In either case, it is hard for you to stop.
Managing Emotions – Your emotions – frustration, annoyance, anger, etc. – may get in your way, making it hard to move from one task to another.
Regulating Action – If you are impulsive at times, and jump in before considering all the necessary details, it will obviously be difficult to transition effectively.
Do any of these sound familiar to you?
Ready to explore some possible workarounds?
Getting There On Time
Whether it is the office, meetings, social engagements, home or other places you may find it difficult to get there on time.
The key is to build your capacity to anticipate andplan for what you need to do in advance in order not to be late in getting from point “A” to point “B.”
I know. You knew that already.
But right now your standard operating procedure when going from place to place may sound something like, “Oh no, I didn’t know it was so late!! Where are my keys? I need that file. Why do I always do this?!!”
If you commonly utter phrase like these, and want to change this so you are not late so often or at critical times, adopt and practice the 4 Steps to Getting Places on Time.
Of course, all that preparation is not going to help you, if you can’t stop what you are doing so you can move on to your next task.
I know this may seem obvious. But it may also be one of the biggest challenges getting in your way of moving effectively through your day.
Here are some of the various strategiesother Adults with ADHD use to make it easier to stop and make the flow of their day smoother:
Have a clear plan for your day so you have a reason to stop. If you are not clear on what you are moving onto next, you may just go down one rabbit hole after another.
Decide in advance how much time you are going to spend on a task and set a timer.
If you are in a hyper focus mode, you may ignore the timer. So get up and stretch or take a short walk when the timer goes off. Physical movement can help you get out of hyperfocus.
You may even want to change your environment by moving to a different room to work after the timer goes off.
If you know it may be hard to stop working on a particular task because it is particularly captivating, you may decide to do it only after finishing less interesting tasks.
Don’t start. If you know it will be hard to stop, and you don’t have enough time to engage in the task the way you want, don’t start it. Do it when you have more time.
Which of these strategies are you going to try this week?
The above steps seem pretty straight forward, right?
But, as an adult with ADHD, you may feel all “jumbled” at times when you have to move quickly from one task to another.
So, to fully extract yourself from one task so you can fully engage in your next task, give yourself as much white space as possible between tasks as you move through your day.
Instead of rushing from one task to the next:
Stop and take note of where you are on a task before pushing it to the side. It will be easier to pick up when you get back to it and you will feel more confident that you won’t forget what you were doing.
Take a short walk to clear your head and think about whether you are doing what you need to do.
Review the agenda or your notes before going into a meeting.
Even if you don’t have time to make a full plan for the next day, stop a bit early and make brief notes to make it easier to start the next day.
These are just a few ways to slow down and take stock throughout your day so you can feel more grounded and transition easier.
Ready to slow down?
If you’ve gotten this far in the article, you get that being able to plan, stop and switch gears are all key to transitioning well between tasks.
But what about activating, starting, initiating?! Once you stop, how can you make it easier to shift into first gear again and get going on your next task?
You don’t want to stall out.
The first step is to chunk down your project into parts. Because, if you are not clear on what your need to do, procrastination can easily set in – you don’t start.
The amount of time you choose for each part will depend on your attention span for that particular task, energy and time available. While the allotted time for each part may vary, be sure each part is discrete and you can see a clear beginning and endalong with adue date.
You don’t have to have your whole plan prepared in advance. But you do want to see the next few steps as you are working. To see how this might work let’s look at the exampleof writing an article.
Determine your objective, as this will guide you and keep you from going off into tangents.
Review recent questions you have received, news items and other sources to get ideas for a topic.
Decide on the topic.
Decide on the title of the article. Again, this will help guide you as you write.
Create a rough outline of the article. You can always change it, but at least you have a loose structure of what you want to include.
Write a draft of each section. Don’t worry about too much careful editing as you go along. That will just bog you down.
Edit the whole article at once to make sure it hangs together and you have met your objective.
Add, delete or rewrite sections as needed.
If you have someone editing your article, send it to them
Make corrections per the suggestion of the editor.
If you don’t have an editor, do a final edit.
The second step is to create an environment that will help you get started.
Choose the optimal time of day for you to work on a particular task. If you are writing an article, figure out when you do your best writing.
Clear your space of potential distractions. Turn off your email notice. Close your door. Turn off the ringer on your phone.
Have enough food and water, so you don’t get distracted by thirst and hunger.
Set a timer.
Put on the proverbial horse blinders and remind yourself, “I’m doing this and not that!!”
Play music or white noise, if that will help.
What can you do differently to get started on a task you are working on today?
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
Slowing down and creating a plan for better transitions can help Adults with ADHD feel more grounded and get more of the right stuff done.
By ADD coach Marla Cummins. Please visit Marla’s website at www.marlacummins.com for additional articles and resources on Adult ADHD.
“Image courtesy of Sailon/FreeDigitalPhoto.net” – Modified on Canva.com
Find more information on Time Management on our Pinterest page.
Time can be elusive for many with ADHD. So, it is no wonder that running late is a common problem. Yet, I know you want to get to places on time because you want to be responsible and honor your commitments.
It would also be nice to be grounded and present once you arrive at your destination, right? Just think of those times when you arrived someplace feeling like you had just slid into home base. How ready were you to engage in the task before you?
Even if getting to places on time has felt like a fire drill up until now, you can change this.
Use the suggestions below to the degree that you need. Of course, if you are going to a job interview, you will want to do a lot of preparation. But, if you are meeting a friend for coffee, you may not want to put in as much effort.
The first step is to visualize and write down everything you need to do to get ready for your appointment.
For example, if you are going to a meeting, the following are examples of what you may need to have ready:
clean clothes, stockings, etc.
purse/wallet with keys and phone
documents for the meeting
phone number (you never know when an unforeseen incident may delay you)
money for the meter
time you need to leave
The second step is to check and make sure you have what you need. Do this a few days in advance, so you have time to get what you don’t already have at hand.
The third step is to schedule when you intend to accomplish what you need to do to get ready. When are you going to get ink for the printer, iron your shirt, get quarters for the meter, etc.?
Yes, I know it may seem like a lot of effort. But I think you will enjoy the peace of mind that will come with preparing.
Estimate the Time Needed
As estimating time is a challenge for many with ADHD, determining when to leave for an appointment can be a bit tricky.
A helpful strategy is to think about how long it could take for each step along the way, such as:
programming your GPS
driving in traffic for that time of day
finding a parking spot for that time of day
walking from your car to your appointment
going to the washroom, if you are going to an interview.
In Boston, where I live, traffic is more of a factor than the distance. And there is almost always traffic. According to my GPS, it “should” take about 20 minutes to drive Downtown. But I will add as much as a 1/2 hour to my travel time to make sure I can get to meetings on time.
If it is critical that you get to the appointment on time, try overestimating the time needed. I heard your gasps of surprise at this suggestion! And I know you may get bored easily. So, bring a book or some other work to keep yourself occupied in case you arrive early.
It is true. Preparation and intention may not be enough to get to your destination on time.
You still need to stop what you are doing and get ready to leave. Not always an easy feat! If transitioning between tasks is a challenge for you, as is true for many with ADHD, not giving yourself enough time to transition may still torpedo your plans.
Stop what you are doing at least 15 minutes early so you can give yourself time to clear your head and get ready to leave. Use a timer to cue you, if you need a reminder.
Actually Getting out the Door
One last hurdle is actually getting out the door on time.
You may, however, suffer from the common affliction of “one more thingitis.” Those who suffer from this ailment often suddenly remember things they “have to do” at the most inconvenient times, like when they are leaving to go to an important meeting.
Does the scenario below sound familiar?
As you are walking out the door, you decide you really need to take out the recycling. Then you drop it. As you drop the recycling, a glass falls. You need to clean it up so the kids do not cut themselves. Ten minutes later, you are still not out the door.
It is a slippery slope, to be sure.
The antidote is to resist the urge by using some type of self-talk, like, “If I don’t go now, I’ll be late and that will not look good. The recycling can wait. It would not be the worst thing if it went out next week.”
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
If you want to get to places on time, you can optimize your chances by adopting some or all of the steps above:
Prepare in advance
Estimate the time needed to get to your destination. Better yet try over estimating!
Have a plan to transition from your previous activity.
This is How you Treat ADHD based on Science with Russell Barkley, Ph.D.
How to refuel your Fuel Tank and be less ADHD. Create external scaffolding to support Executive Functions. Behavior modification techniques work for children. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) or coaching works for adults. Develop specific strategies for time and organization management that work for the individual.
13-minute video from Part 2 of the 2012 Burnett Lecture – Includes slides and lecture on same clip.
“The back and front parts of the brain involve two processes, knowledge and doing. ADHD splits them apart… I don’t care what you know, you won’t be able to do them… You’ve got a real problem on your hands.”
“ADHD is a performance disorder. A disorder of intention, not attention. It’s an executive function disorder (EF)…. It’s time blindness. You won’t be able to aim your behavior toward the future to care for yourself as effectively as other people can…”
“They know what to do. They just can’t do it. It ends up looking like a problem with motivation… The only way to deal with executive deficits is to re-engineer the environment around them to help them show what they know… All treatments must be out there, in their lives, where you have to build that scaffolding…”
“Build that “ramp.” You must reinforce external reminders and consequences. Put them “in the now…”
“EF deficits (Executive Function) are neuro-genetic in origin. Therefore, medications may be essential for most (but not all) cases. Meds are neuro-genetic therapies.”
“ADHD is the diabetes of psychology. It’s a chronic disorder that must be managed every day to prevent the secondary harms it’s going to cause… ADHD is the most treatable disorder in psychiatry… The biggest problem is, most people don’t get treatment.”
See links to the complete lecture below the embedded video.
Yesterday, my husband, Duane, and I celebrated 29 years of marriage. I would like to say it was all blissful, but I’d be lying and I’m a terrible liar. (Not the anniversary! That was wonderful! I mean the 29 years of marriage!)
Until Duane received his diagnosis of ADHD in 1996, neither of us knew what the problem was. Duane and I struggled with dividing household chores (the struggle was not in dividing them, I did it all despite his best efforts and promises to do better), with our finances and the added pressures of Duane’s frequent job changes as he became bored with or lost his jobs. Under so much pressure, we fought… a lot. Duane’s impatience and emotional outbreaks affected our relationship and his relationship with our daughters. The entire family was dysfunctional.
After his diagnosis, Duane began his journey toward embracing the positive and overcoming the negative aspects of his ADHD. Duane and my youngest daughter, as is quite common, received their ADHD diagnosis around the same time – Kyrie was diagnosed first and as we read about her situation, light bulbs went on about Duane’s struggles. And while only Duane and my youngest were diagnosed, I think of us as a family with ADHD. We could only solve this problem working together, and so this was as much my journey as theirs.
Today, as an ADHD coach, when I work with an adult ADHDer, some of our biggest challenges are with the spouse. And I get it. Been there, done that! Being a member of a family with ADHD can be exhausting, nerve-wracking and absolutely frustrating. And I think what I found most frustrating is that I thought I had no control over anything. Once I learned that there were some things I could do to make life with ADHD better for all of us, the building process began and the frustration diminished.
Here’s what I did to fix Duane:
First, I changed my mindset. I realized that I wasn’t the only one suffering in the family. I know Duane had it worse than me – he was living it 24/7. He wanted to be a better partner and a more patient father. Our daughters suffered too. They saw their parents constantly worried, fighting or impatient. Kyrie struggled with her ADHD and learning disabilities, and our oldest daughter, Jennifer, felt neglected as all our efforts were directed at helping Kyrie and Duane. Duane wasn’t the only one who had some work to do, I did too. As parents, we feel for our children and would do anything to make their hurt stop, after all they didn’t ask for this. Oddly enough, we don’t always feel the same empathy towards our spouses with ADHD (even though they didn’t ask for it either!) I let go of my martyrdom and embraced empowerment, realizing that at any given moment, people do the best they can with what they know at the time.
I learned all I could about ADHD. I didn’t just learn so I could help my daughter (which as a mother, I would do without question) but also for my husband. The more I knew, the more empowered I felt. I read books, listened to webinars and went to conferences on ADHD. Attending our first ADDA Conference as a couple was a life-changing event. We both learned so much, met other people coping successfully with what we were going through and left empowered.
I became part of the solution. Duane struggles with several aspects of ADHD, but the worst is his short-term memory, which IS an ADHD problem. So why was I asking him to do things or to pick things up at the store when he didn’t have a pen and paper or his PDA to take notes? I also often asked him to help when he was tired or distracted. How likely was that to turn into a positive situation? It was only when I was willing to let go of the way things were done and turn responsibility over to Duane that we began to make progress. He told me he’d take over certain tasks… if he could do it his way. He took over the grocery shopping. I offered my help if he needed it (secretly thinking we’d probably starve to death waiting for Duane!) To my surprise, he created his own system for doing it (don’t ever tell him I said this, but it’s much more efficient than the way I did it!) and we’ve never looked back.
I took care of myself. I lowered my standards on things that didn’t really matter much, especially in the beginning. So what if I didn’t clean the house EVERY week and cook ALL my meals from scratch? Instead of chasing dust bunnies, I spent time with friends to relax and return to my family a lot more ready to laugh as freak out at the wacky situations most ADHD families encounter regularly.
The most important thing I did was to notice any positive changes. As Duane began to work with his physician and his coach, I avoided nagging about what wasn’t yet addressed – change takes time – and made sure to notice what was moving in the right direction. And I was sure to let him know how much I appreciated it.
There are several other things we did to improve life as an ADHD family. We learned to communicate better how we felt rather than blaming, and we shared our dreams and aspirations. We started dating again; no, we didn’t have much money back then, but using Duane’s vivid imagination, we found fun things to do that cost little or no money. We didn’t get bogged down by social norms of gender roles and what constitutes woman’s work and man’s work, opting instead to take on the jobs around the house that we were better at or liked more.
We even created our own secret language to use discretely in public (I could provide Duane with cues to appropriate behavior in social situations, for example. And he could signal when he couldn’t take another minute of the 47 family members sharing a cabin in the woods for Christmas anymore and needed a break for some peace and quiet.)
And so now 29 years later, here we are still married, and much, much happier. We laugh a lot more and fight a lot less. I can safely say that Duane is my best friend and I, his. Was it easy? Absolutely not, but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together and I know it was definitely worth it.
By Linda Walker. Linda Walker, PCC, B. Admin., is a certified ADHD Coach who helps adults with ADHD overcome the special challenges of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) they encounter at home and in the workplace. She is the creator of The Maximum Productivity Makeover for Creative Geniuses, a training program for adults with ADHD and the author of With Time to Spare. http://www.CoachLindaWalker.com Originally Posted May 7, 2013 http://coachlindawalker.com/heres-how-i-fixed-my-adhd-husband/
“Exercise is a vital component in the treatment of ADHD.” ~ Russell Barkley, Ph.D.
“For a very small handful of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD ADD), it may actually be a replacement for stimulants,” says John Ratey, M.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “But, for most, it’s complementary — something they should absolutely do, along with taking meds, to help increase attention and improve mood.” When you excercise your brain releases several important chemicals that elevate the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels. These brain chemicals affect focus and attention, which are in short supply in those with ADHD. (1)
I found a great article by Leo Babauta with an approach to developing an exercise routine that you can stick to without losing the habits you’ve already put into place. Even if you’ve tried in the past and failed, you CAN make a major shift in your diet and exercise habits. You don’t even need much motivation. Change is possible when you approach losing weight as changing your lifestyle one small step at a time. Don’t rush it! Make small, gradual changes, barely challenging yourself at each level. These tips are perfect for people with ADHD. Take the time you need to get comfortable each step of the way. Believe in yourself and work the steps. They work.
“I know a lot of people who want to lose weight but are stuck – like I was in 2005.
They want to get healthy and fit, but can’t seem to stick to a diet or exercise plan. They start, and then fail, and then feel bad about it.
This was where I was 10 years ago, and I’m happy to tell you that it’s possible to change.
The secret lies in leveling up.
Like a video game, the way to changing your health habits is by starting out at the first level, and only going to the next level after you’ve beaten the one before that. The problem is that most people start at Level 10 and fail, and wonder what happened. Most of us want to skip several levels, but we’re just not ready.
So the secret is to start at Level 1 and to advance only when you’re done with that level. One level at a time, you’ll master the game of losing weight and getting healthy.
Here’s my guide to leveling up.
Please, for goodness sake, don’t make the mistake of skipping this level because it sounds too easy. The easy levels are where you gain your skills.
You need to do two very easy things at this level:
Start walking just for a few minutes every day.
Reduce your eating by a little bit. A very little
The walking should be as simple as walking around the block a couple times, or going to a nearby park for just 5-10 minutes. It should seem so easy that you feel a little dumb not doing more.
Why should it be so easy? Because you’re not ready for higher levels yet. You might think you are, but if you haven’t been regularly exercising for awhile, you aren’t.
The eating could just be as simple as putting a little less on your plate at dinner, or having one less soda a day. Make it almost unnoticeable.
Only progress past this level after you’ve successfully done it for a week.
Remember, don’t go to this level until you’ve had a streak of 7 days of doing Level 1.
Here are the two things to do at this level:
Walk every day for a few minutes more. If you’ve been going around the block twice, make it three times. Or add 5 minutes to your walking.
Eat a little less than in the previous level. Just a little less — not really noticeable.
You’ll slowly adjust to the new levels of walking and eating. Do this for another week before going to the next level.
If you’ve successfully done Level 2 for another week, you’re ready to add more:
Walk a little more.
Eat/drink less of something that’s empty calories — less soda, sugar, bread, pastries, sweet coffee drink, chips, cookies, pizza. Don’t drop any of these completely, just eat less of it.
Slowly, you’re adapting to a new level. Again, spend a week here.
Now we’re going to change things up a little!
Add a minute of faster walking to your walks. Just one or two intervals of walking at a pace that makes it harder to have a conversation. So walk for 5 minutes at conversational pace, then speed it up for a minute, then back to the regular pace. You can repeat that a couple times if you feel like it.
Add some veggies to your food. Just a little, and something you might like. Greens are the best, but if you’d rather eat carrots or cauliflower, go for it. Don’t make it a lot, just a little.
Spend a week at this level.
Basically, this is a repeat of Level 4 — add a little more fast walking to your daily walks, and add another veggie to one of your meals.
You can repeat this adding each week for 2-3 weeks. You’re getting the idea by now: basically, you started out by eating a little less each week (barely noticeable) and then adding some vegetables to your diet. You started out by walking just a little each day, slowly adding more, then adding some faster intervals. Keep increasing this progress slowly, one week at a time.
Now we’re going to add some harder challenges:
Add some hills or stairs to your walking routine. Find a hill to walk up for at least a few minutes, or if you have stairs in your building, do a few flights at the end of your regular walk. Don’t make this too hard!
Try finding and making a new healthy recipe online each week.
Stay at this level for 2-3 weeks, until it seems easy.
Only do this level once the previous level seems really easy!
Add some pushups. Just 2-3 sets of fewer pushups than you think you can do.
Find a healthy breakfast and eat that.
By now, you’ve been walking, doing walk intervals, added some stairs/hills, and some pushups. You’re in much better shape than before.
You’ve also slowly started eating less, adding vegetables, trying out new recipes, eating a healthy breakfast.
That’s a major shift in your diet and exercise habits, and you did it slowly, barely challenging yourself at each level. You didn’t rush it.
Now that you understand how this leveling system works, you can create your own levels beyond Level 7. Some ideas for higher levels — but be sure not to make any of the levels too difficult:
Add more bodyweight exercises
Add a little bit of running to your walks if you want
Try some pull-ups
Try some dumbbell weight exercises
Eventually, try some basic barbell weight training (squats, dead-lifts, bench).
Do a few yoga poses on some days
Eat more veggies
Reduce empty carbs
Add whole grains
Eat less junk food
Slowly eliminate fast food
If you can slowly change your diet and exercise to include these levels, I can almost guarantee you’ll have weight loss over time, and most importantly, you’ll be much healthier over the long run.
Leveling up isn’t easy if you’re impatient, but it’s the smartest way to change, and it works.”
About the author: Leo Babauta of Zen Habits shares his work freely, without copyright. If you appreciate this approach to gradually improving your health through diet and exercise, feel free to pass it along. Originally posted on Zen Habits – August 11th, 2015 – http://zenhabits.net/levels/
(I added the first two paragraphs and highlighting. Note: I’m proof that this approach works, having gradually lost 30 pounds using these tactics. The best part is that I have been able to maintain that loss. Joan Jager)
“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhoto.net” Modified on Canva
Self-advocacy can give you the opportunity to speak for yourself regarding your needs and help to secure the necessary support at work or school and for your personal life. We don’t have to struggle so hard. Developing self-knowledgeis the first step. ADD Coach Dana Rayburn reminds us, that, “When properly treated, ADHD loses much of its power over our lives. As adults, we can paint a new picture of who we are and what we contribute to the world…” (1)
The goal is to develop your strengths and delegate your weaknesses.
Don’t go it alone, feeling you have to prove yourself over and over again that you CAN persevere! The truth is, delegating the things you aren’t good at, or just plain don’t like, is a good idea for anyone. If you have ADHD, however, it can make the difference between constant struggle and an enjoyable, successful life.
Negotiate with other workers/family member/friends/employees for help in areas where you struggle. (Hint: Ask them for help in areas where they shine – or at least don’t mind doing with the right incentive). What can you offer or trade to make their lives easier? Make it a point of honor to follow through with your end of the deal.
1stName your challenges both at home and at work. What are your weaknesses? When and where do they cause you the most problems? For basic challenges of ADHD, refer to any ADHD symptom checklist. The official DSMV diagnostic criteria or any of the ADHD screeners we list are good choices. You need to separate your ADHD from yourself. You are NOT the disorder. Your symptoms cause certain behaviors, like being late or missing deadlines, but they don’t define you.
It’s also important to identify the situations when problems are most likely to show up. Being in a hurry, under stress, and during times of transition between places or activities are common reasons. Certain environments can also bring out symptoms. Being unable to move about freely, noise levels and visual distractions are just a few. We often think of ADHD as involving “getting things done,” but don’t neglect to note emotional reactions and uncomfortable social interaction as challenging symptoms.
2ndKnow exactly what your strengths are. Your values, talents, and skills are all contributing factors. You probably have a general idea, but the more specific you can be, the better. According to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator practitioner, Nila Nealy, “You don’t need someone else to tell you what your strengths are. Your heart knows them. Still, I believe that sometimes we take them for granted or are so sucked into the “you must be broken” viewpoint that using tools other people have created can be helpful.” (2) Don’t forget that you have friends and family that can also help you identify your strongest points. (After all, they know you, love you anyway and are probably your biggest fans)
“Give yourself permission to proceed with identifying, embracing and integrating your unique brain wiring into your life,” ~ ADD coach and trainer, David Giwerc. “The standardized ways of learning, processing information, and performing may not work for you…Your job is to discover the options that naturally work for you and integrate them into your daily life…Educating others in your life about what works best for you, can help you facilitate home, school and workplace environments that…serve you.” (3)
Another reason to utilize these tools is that self-esteem is a core issue of ADHD and you may not be comfortable “claiming” your strengths without outside verification. Don’t neglect to ask those who know you well what they think are your strongest points. Your friends and family are likely to be your biggest fans. Don’t let self-denigration get in the way of accepting their positive feedback
3rdYou can’t wait until you ‘get over’ your ADHD before you start your life. Develop strategies that reshape how you approach life. Leading with your strengths rather than your weakness allows you to fully express yourself in new ways. It’s about accepting yourself and making good decisions based on what you do naturally, without the struggle. It is based on getting the help that you need to highlight your ability rather than simply shoring up your weaknesses.
What are you looking forward to in the next two to three weeks?
What are you proud of?
There are also many Tools for Discovering your Strengths.
Discover your Strengths by assessing your values. – In recent years, some people have proposed that ADHD itself conveys certain strengths. In 2015, the VIA Institute on Character, in conjunction with the ADD Coach Academy, conducted a research study to identify whether there are indeed specific strengths of people who have been diagnosed with ADHD. (5) Instead, but not surprisingly, the study found that most people with ADHD had shared difficulties in areas related to impulsivity and sustaining attention. Their weakest ”Strengths” were Prudence, Self-regulation [self-control] and Perseverance. Although the qualities of Creativity, Humor, Kindness, and Teamwork did rank slightly higher in people with ADHD, their highest “Character Strengths” were uniquely individual.
What was a revelation, however, was that when individuals worked in accordance with their highest values, their weaknesses proved to be situational. That is, they were far less of a factor in getting things done when interest inspired action. As David Giwerc explains, “When you focus on what ignites your heart and your positive energy, you will always be able to self-regulate.” (6) That is why a “Strength-based” approach works so well. You can continue to struggle to “will” yourself to do work which does not inspire you, or create an environment where your interest and urgency based nervous system works with you to achieve what you desire. The eight-minute video at the bottom of the page explains more about character strengths and their place in creating a meaningful life.
VIA Youth Survey (Also FREE, but for ages 10-17) Takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.
VIA Reports– Take the VIA survey, but receive more in-depth reports of your personalized profile. Learn what your strengths mean and how they can help you reach a more optimal, positively fulfilled life, whether you are using for yourself or with others. ($10 for youth, $20 to $40 for adults)
Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator Tests
MBTI is what it says it is, an indicator. It points you to the general area of preferences you have for interacting with the world, taking in information and making decisions. Some ways just may feel more natural than others. The MBTI assesses how you get energized as well as the ways you perceive and express yourself.
Official MBTI assessment with certified professionals ($50 or $150 with person-to-person feedback from a certified MBTI practitioner.
If you want to investigate even further, I recommend the Gallup book and Strengths Finder 2.0– Buy the book. ($12 to $16 (+ S&H) Use the code within to take the online test. *One use only. Your Goal? Identify your top 5 talents. (You can buy a version of the test only through another site, but the book provides great personal stories and ideas for using your strengths at work and in your social life.)
Remember, the first step towards advocating for yourself, for getting the help that you need, is getting to know yourself. Explore those areas where you struggle as well as those where you have competency and shine. You are so much more than your symptoms. Don’t battle endlessly with your challenges. Ask for help. Discover your strengths, your best self. Create a more positive future for yourself. You deserve it.