Hope your days are not too hot and you have time to relax this summer. If planning and packing for a long vacation is difficult for you or your family, you might try for easier to plan day trips or backyard picnics.
Remember, holidays are a break from everyday routines and challenge normal coping skills. The lack of structure and increased social demands can be a problem for both kids and adults with ADHD. If you need tips on planning vacations, packing, traveling and ideas for the summer break for kids, see our Pinterest Board, Holidays and other Celebrations. Scroll down to find last year’s articles as well.
For myself, spending a lazy afternoon reading in the backyard is just my speed. I like to disconnect and get lost in a new book more than taking a chance on everything going wrong on a trip. I travel not to see the sights but to visit friends and family. I like to walk and talk more than looking for what others consider fun.
My own experience challenges the perception that all people with ADHD are adventurous, always in motion and like doing multiple things at the same time. This month’s author, Michele Cook, however, agrees with this view of Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD in To the Mom with the ADHD Child. Although she acknowledges that ADHD may well be both a blessing and a curse, Michele offers hope to parents that some ADHD traits can become positive aspects by adulthood.
I love the many tips she shares that have helped both her and her children manage their ADHD. She believes that adults can create an environment that can control most of the negative aspects of ADHD.“Having ADHD as a child is miserable, but having ADHD as an adult can actually be an asset. As long as you learn to manage the energy and focus the energy on the good, you will be great…
She continues, “As an adult, your responsibilities are entirely different. You need to be able to wear many hats, to switch focus many times a day, and to run around for most of the day… For (some) adults with ADHD, this is an environment they thrive in.”
I am NOT one of those people. Where Michele thrives under pressure, the many and varied responsibilities of adult life are often overwhelming and create major chaos in my life. Yet, I do not discount what ADHD coach Marla Cummins says In Areyour ADHD Traits also your Strengths?
“I see clients all the time who succeed because of their ADHD traits, not despite it!
“It is a double-edged sword, to be sure. A strength can be a weakness and vice versa. The same trait that helps me to persist when others may give up can hinder me in other areas if I let it.”
Therapist Don Baker from Unpacking ADHD has created a meme of these “Mirror Traits of ADHD. “ This illustrates the idea of redefining symptoms as positive traits. This illustrates the idea that what one man thinks of as a disability, another may think of as his heightened ability. Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human experience. Neurodiversity: Reframing ADHD, offers a number of articles on this viewpoint.
I do agree with Michele that adults are better able than children to create an environment that works for the individual. I like Dr. Charles Parker’s simple idea to explain why the performance of someone is ADHD is so often hit-or-miss. One of his video tutorials claims that ADHD is people with ADHD have way too much on their mind. Most symptoms disappear. when you “Decrease the number of variables and establish structure and reasonable limits for any given task.” You can also harness the Secrets of the ADHD Brain – using interest, a challenge, novelty, urgency or a strong sense of purpose to help spur action. This has been widely promoted by Dr. William Dodson but is echoed by most ADHD experts today.
I cannot agree with the concept of neurodiversity because it denies the very real consequences of ADHD. A Canadian non-profit recently put out a report, the CADDAC Policy Paper – The seriousness of ADHD (Link works) that outlines damages that can occur.
To quote, “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a chronic neurodevelopmental disorder affecting approximately 1.5 million Canadians…”ADHD is not just a disorder of attention, but a disorder of self-regulation. This means ADHD predisposes individuals to adverse health outcomes and risky lifestyle behaviors such as smoking, alcohol and drug use, and poor diet and exercise.”
“Left untreated it can have devastating effects over the course of ones’ lifetime. ADHD is linked to an increased risk of mood and anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders, transportation accidents, suicides, injuries, teenage pregnancies, unemployment, underemployment, and incarceration (Barbaresi et al. 2013, Ramsey and Rostain, 2016)…. A recent study (even) found that ADHD can shorten one’s life expectancy by up to 22 years if persistent into adulthood and reduces their healthy life expectancy by 8.4 years.”
Strength-based treatment is indeed the current model of controlling the worst emotional aspects of ADHD and helps us control our symptoms to the point where they no longer rule our lives. Dodson has a great article ADHD’s Common Denominators: 11 Hidden Truths that Unlock Treatment Success from ADDitude Mag. To state, “You have ADHD — so your treatment plan should be based on how people with attention deficit think, feel, and live. Dodson also urges that you “Don’t ignore medication. Medication evens the playing field and makes the changes possible.”
We don’t have to suffer. ADHD impacts all of us differently and the strengths we use to cope are uniquely our own. Rather than focus on remedying areas where you struggle, you need to use those specific tools that get you “in the zone” and help you start each morning feeling motivated and capable. You can combat the worst of future damage through diagnosis, treatment and attending to other disorders that so often accompany ADHD. The same strategies that Michele Cook names for children also work quite well for adults. Use these and other ideas you find here and in articles and video that include even new strategies. Learn to laugh at your own foibles, apologize, and carry on.
Don’t ever give up on learning the best ways to help your child or yourself live well with ADHD.
Have you ever considered what your five biggest weaknesses are? Mine have been smacking me in the face recently and I figured it was time to face up to them. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to. In fact, I didn’t even want to face up to the fact that these things existed in my life. I was happy to sweep them under the rug and pretend they didn’t exist. Except that never works. So in a bit of motivation for you and accountability for me, I thought it was high time I put them out there in the light where I could examine them from every angle.
Biggest Weakness #1 – I hate asking for help.
I don’t even like asking my husband for help! I always think of other people are too busy, I don’t want to bother them, they wouldn’t want to help me, I don’t want to put them on the spot – and on and on. The truth is allowing someone else to help me is a way to strengthen the relationships I have with other people. I get great joy out of helping someone. I feel pride when someone asks me for help. Why would I want to deny someone else that joy? Why would I think other people aren’t willing to help when it is something I enjoy doing so much?
The truth is, I shouldn’t. The truth is, I should be looking to collaborate with people on projects, to ask experts in their field questions, and to just plain ask for help when I am having a rough time. This is number one on my list for a reason and to combat it, I have to diligently squash that little voice in my head every time he pops up. I have to say, “No, I am going to give so and so the opportunity to help”.
So far this has been a struggle, but as I see more and better results, I am learning. My relationships are stronger. My marriage is stronger. I come away feeling like someone else has my back and it’s a great feeling.
Biggest Weakness #2 – I doubt my expertise and life experience.
Sure my life might be great as a cautionary tale but as an expert?
It took me a long time to launch my site about farming and rural living because I didn’t believe I was qualified to talk about these things. Forget the fact I grew up on a farm. No need to mention I can give shots and draw blood from most any farm critter. Sure I had a hugely successful garden this year, but didn’t everybody?
Can’t everyone hop on a piece of equipment and operate it? Of course not!
If someone else had said that to me I would have looked at them like they had three heads. Half the people I know can’t operate a lawn mower let alone a backhoe. So why was I feeling so unqualified? The answer lies in both the size of my place (a little over 3 acres) and my knowledge of farming. A three-acre farm isn’t much and my small flock of chickens and herd of goats felt tiny in comparison to many of the farmers I know. And there was the rub. Comparison. That dirty little word that makes us all feel less then we are.
To get over this one, I asked for help. (Go me!) I asked people what they were curious about or what they would like to do with their small acreage. The response was pretty overwhelming and I wound up with a year’s worth of blog posts in a matter of minutes. Stop comparing and do what you do as good as you can do it.
Biggest Weakness # 3 – I put everyone and everything above myself.
I quit my job so I could focus on farming and writing books, but the truth is I wrote more books and did more for my business when I was working full time. WTF. How could I not have a full-time job and be getting less done?
I had to take a hard look at where my time was going and set some serious boundaries. Many of my friends and family would say “Oh you work from home so you have time to do XYZ”. The truth is, I don’t. Running a business and writing books is serious work, and it takes serious time to get those things done.
I started using my vision statement more and more to evaluate the things I was doing. If it didn’t line up where I wanted to go, the answer was no.
Biggest Weakness # 4 – I loathe self-promotion.
Maybe it’s the introvert in me, maybe it’s that dang little voice in my head, but I truly loathe self-promotion. If you are going to own a business or even if you want to climb a career ladder, self-promotion is part of the game. How would I get customers if I didn’t promote my business? If I didn’t say, hey this is a best-selling item that adds value (or tastes delicious in the case of my sold out spicy pickles) how would people know the option was even available to them?
I had to realize self-promotion didn’t have to be icky. I didn’t have to run around yelling “pick me, pick me!” All I had to do was create excellent products and services and show people their benefits. Instead of walking up and down the aisle at the farmer’s market yelling “GET YOUR SPICY PICKLES HERE!! SPICY PICKLES!! GET EM” HERE!!” I could just point to the jar and tell people it was a top seller.
When someone asks about my book on buying your first horse, I don’t have to tell them my life story and qualifications. All I had to do was to point at the 5-star reviews and show them how my book has helped other people in their situation. This was an eye-opening process to me and I am slowly putting it into practice.
Biggest Weakness #5 – I am easily distracted which leads to disorganization.
If you have read any of my posts on ADHD, this one might not come as a surprise to you, but it was something I thought I had a good handle on. I was wrong. When I started looking at the time I spent scrolling through my Facebook feed or playing games on the phone, I was embarrassed. All these distractions were wreaking havoc on all of the organizational processes I had in place. It’s hard to stay on track when you are watching random videos on YouTube.
This led me to really look at my processes and see what things I could do better and where I needed to give myself some leeway. Here are just a few of the things I did to protect me from myself.
I started leaving my phone in the bedroom where I couldn’t hear any of the buzzing or dinging.
I close my computer when I am not using it so I don’t hear the buzzes and dings.
I schedule play time
I brain dumped my to-do list, and then organized it into bite-sized chunks
I started using a timer
The truth is that working for yourself takes discipline. A discipline I am slowly developing. Doing just these few things is helping me stay more organized and less distracted. Next, I plan on tackling my processes to see what’s working and what’s not.
What are your five biggest weaknesses? Have you ever considered them or do you just sweep them under the rug? My challenge to you is to sit down and consider some of your weaknesses and then make a plan to overcome them.
About the author: Michele Cook is a mother of four, including two boys with ADHD and has ADHD herself. Like most people with ADHD, she has many projects going at once. She is a published author, a blogger, a communications specialist and owns a small farm in the mountains of Virginia. Her motto is “ADHD is my superpower” You can visit her site at Michele’s Finding Happiness
Once again I’m getting out this month’s article just days before the month is over. I’m trying to let go of when I think it SHOULD come out and calling this my new normal. My coaching group just laughs and says that could be expected for a blog about ADHD. I hope you can find the humor as well.
I remember my support group laughing when a member from Japan told us that the title “Women with Messy Houses” was the Japanese translation for Sari Solden’s book, Women with ADHD. (Link works) It really WASN’T very funny though, since most of us had struggled mightily to keep our houses organized, our chores done and some semblance of order in our lives.
My own life has improved quite a bit since those early days learning about ADHD. Over time I learned that developing systems is the key to organization, housekeeping and good time management. In this comprehensive article, I have put together a few of my favorite resources to help you find the right tools to adapt to your life. Pick and choose your own strategies from
Take it slow and gradually build up to workable systems for you. Adapt them as needed. You’ll be surprised at how big an impact that even small changes can make. Try just one idea for a week and see for yourself.
It’s almost springtime. The earth and sun will warm soon and we’ll see a renewal of growth that can inspire our own growth.
We’re finally thawing out here in the Northwest. It’s amazing, the snow has barely melted, but we already have Snowdrops, my earliest spring bulbs popping up all over. With more light in the day, I can feel my mood lifting and am finally feeling more productive. Once again, my February newsletter is going out the final day of the month. (I thought I was a little bit ahead, but it turns out that February is a short month. Who remembers things like that?)
If you’re struggling too and could use a few new strategies, our latest article, “How to Make ADHD Work for you – Pills don’t teach skills:Manage Your ADHD with Behavior Strategies” offers a number of great ideas from basic health needs (like Eating, Moving and Sleeping) to a number of helpful ADHD hacks.
Tia found out she had ADHD in addition to anxiety at the ripe old age of 28 and went on a quest to figure out what that meant for her. What she discovered was life-changing and her blog was born. Little Miss Lionheart’s goal is to serve as every woman’s guide to ADHD and help you turn the challenges of ADHD into an advantage.
I love the comment one reader left.
“Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, many pointers, and understanding of ADHD! – It’s comforting to know I’m not alone and can gather support and acceptance with knowing I/we’re special and unique and able to embrace the way we are made and use it for our good, and too for those around us!” Wendi
Meanwhile, I talk to myself to help overcome my fear of writing, perfectionism, and procrastination. I used a few personalized mantras to keep me going this month “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify,” “Put a Box Around ( Also known as Increase structure and Limit the Variables,) “Go for Enough, Don’t worry about Perfect, ” “Just Touch it” and “One step at a time”.
Your job is to discover whatever works best for you, your child or other loved ones. It’s not easy to learn to live well with ADHD, but it’s worth it. Do the Work! You won’t be sorry.
Enjoy any sunshine and warmth that your weather brings this March. It would be great to be able to put the snowshoes and shovel away for another year.
This post contains links to other articles on Tia’s website as well as her Affiliate Links.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, think that’s what’s going on for you, or you have another issue with similar challenges, the symptoms can be overwhelming and medication, though helpful, isn’t a cure. For me, there’s been a gap between the effect of the meds and what I need in order to be functional.
I still struggle with getting big projects done–procrastinate starting them, can’t get myself to finish the annoying little details once most of the project is completed. I still forget things–like accidentally leaving my husband’s lunch out on the counter overnight instead of in the fridge where it belongs. Yeah, that happened last night.
When it comes to managing your symptoms, behavioral strategies become really important, or so I’ve learned for myself. I’ve discovered some practical tips to help bridge the gap.
Practical Health Strategies for ADHD
Exercise is Your Trump Card
Exercise is good for many things; it’s only to be expected that it’s one of the most helpful things you can do to naturally or behaviorally work with your ADHD. Regular exercise can help you improve focus and memory, calm impulses and reduce hyperactivity. It also helps improve sleep. Daily exercise is the goal but for many people that may not be realistic. Set your sights on exercising more days than not. More vigorous exercise may be most helpful but moving your body more, in general, is really what we are going for.
Mind Your Diet
Whether you are on stimulants or not on stimulants, your diet is a really important factor in ADHD management. It’s been said that many ADHDers (myself included) tend to crave carbs and sugar but all the simple sugars really mess with your attention, focus, impulse control, and hyperactivity. That’s not to say you have to cut out carbs entirely, just that focusing your diet on protein and fiber and choosing complex carbs like brown rice over pasta and pastries is most helpful.
Eat regularly. Eat balanced. If you are on stimulants, it’s easy to forget to eat. Don’t fall into that trap. Set a timer if you have to but not eating regularly can decrease the effect of your medication and hurt your body in the process, making you feel weak and dizzy (guilty on that one, but I’ve learned my lesson).
Sleep. Like, good sleep.
Sleep is another one of those things that can help your medication be most effective or hurt it’s impact. If you aren’t on medication, it’s still going to have a significant impact on your ADHD symptoms. We’re fighting an uphill battle as most ADHDers have trouble sleeping according to research. Lucky for you, I wrote an entire post on how to get good sleep. All strategies tested by your’s truly 😉 You can find it here.
How to Use Your ADHD Mind to Your Advantage
The Big, Important Question to Get Things Done
Using this question for myself has been a HUGE help in motivating myself to get things done that I need to get done. Sitting still for long periods of time is hard for me, as you can imagine, and even though I love writing, I don’t always love the process of writing. That’s where I developed this strategy. Let’s say I have to sit down and write my notes (THE WORST! I hate doing notes with a passion but they are an absolutely necessary evil). I have never experienced wanting to do my notes because they are the worst and most of the time I dread them and put off doing them and experience anxiety even at the thought of sitting down to do them.
One day I started asking myself, “What do I need in order to want to do this?”
I couldn’t think of something that would excite me about them but I thought of a few things that you make me dread it less and tolerate it better. I have to ask myself this question every time I have to write notes. Sometimes it’s a trip to the coffee shop to do them in a different environment. Sometimes it’s on my couch with a cup of hot cocoa, a warm blanket, and a delicious smelling candle burning. I still didn’t want to do them, but I did want the coffee and the environment and that helped me tolerate the notes.
When my doctor told me I had to start exercising to help with my ADHD symptoms, I was kinda dreading that mostly because I find the gym boring and I don’t run. I asked myself this question and found that it doesn’t feel like exercising when I’m teaching myself gymnastics. Now it’s really easy to get myself to exercise and sometimes it’s actually hard to get myself to stop exercising because it’s something I actually enjoy. I found a way to want to exercise.
Using this question as a motivation strategy has been a game changer for me.
Meditate with self-compassion
Meditation is a funny topic when it comes to ADHD. It’s one of the most effective strategies for managing ADHD symptoms and yet it’s also harder for ADHDers to meditate than it is for other people. Why? Duh, our attention likes to wander! I have found a few strategies helpful. One, I tend to do better meditating when I’m listening to a guided meditation and especially when I’m listening to one that uses imagery. The combination of auditory and imaginary imagery is enough to help me stay *mostly* on track. When my attention wanders, I just gently bring it back knowing that’s just par for the course and I keep going.
Self-compassion specific meditation is a really effective form of mindfulness that teaches us to have a better relationship with ourselves and helps us lessen overwhelming and painful emotions and change our self-talk. Those of us with ADHD are often pretty hard on ourselves when it comes to our challenges and the painful experiences we’ve had as a result. Constantly beating yourself up or shaming yourself for the challenges you face (whether ADHD or not) only make your symptoms worse and creates new problems, too. Mindful Self-Compassion has been a huge help to me personally in helping me accept myself as I am–challenges and all–improving my confidence and restoring my sense of worth, while also lowering anxiety. (Check out Tia’s website for some beginning exercises and if you like that, check out The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive by Kristen Neff to go deeper into the practice. (Link works) Tia owns this workbook and uses it regularly.)
Recognize Your Strengths
We tend to get bogged down with the challenges we experience and overemphasize the “deficit” part of ADHD. While we definitely experience challenges with the difficulty regulating our attention that sometimes causes friction and disrupts life a bit, it’s important that we don’t get fooled into thinking that these problems are all there is that matters about us and all there is to the ADHD “curse.”
The truth is that while there are some major challenges to having ADHD, there are also some strengths that we have because we aren’t neurotypical. ADHDers tend to be more creative and innovative, many of us make great entrepreneurs, we’re very empathic, tend to be passionate about justice and other things that really matter, and have the ability to learn to live fully in the moment to an extent that is harder for other people.
If you’ve experienced a lot of pain or shame as a result of having ADHD, it’s easy to look at the good things and think that they don’t matter in comparison to the bad. Just let both be true for you. The good doesn’t cancel out the bad and the bad doesn’t cancel the good–they are both true and they are both significant to you. That subtle shift can make a huge difference in the way you see yourself and your struggles.
The big lesson here is to not let yourself get stuck in the place of only allowing shame and deficit to be valid–whether related to ADHD or not. That’s giving it a bigger place than it should be allowed to have and keeps it in a place of power that holds you hostage. Let your strengths and your abilities be true, too.
Tips For The Biggest ADHD Challenges
How to Use the Hyperfocus to Your Advantage
Hyperfocus, in my experience anyway, is both the most amazing part of ADHD and the worst part of ADHD. At the same time (letting them both be true 😉). Hyperfocus lets me get awesome things accomplished no matter what barriers stand in my way. I’m determined, slightly obsessive (understated for dramatic effect 😂), and I love the feeling of being so into what I’m doing that nothing else exists. Until is 2 am and I have to be up in 4 hours. Until I’m trying to transition from what I’m doing to anything else (especially if I’m transitioning to something I really don’t want to be doing anyway). Unless I need to shift my focus and concentration to something else. Hyperfocus feels like a train barreling down a track fast and furious and trying to stop it feels like you’re trying to turn left in a car that just lost its power steering.
I’ve learned not to engage hyperfocus within a few hours of bedtime. It’s too hard to calm my thoughts down enough to go to sleep. I’ve learned not to engage hyperfocus just before I have to do something really important or requires a ton of concentration. It’s too hard to shift my thoughts and be fully present. I have learned to engage hyperfocus when I have ample time to indulge it and then it feels like self-care. I engage hyperfocus as a distraction if I’m anxious about something that I can’t control. I engage hyperfocus as a way to accomplish things that need to happen and further myself or my career. Using it to my benefit is what makes hyperfocus more of a blessing than a curse.
When used right, there is a major upside to hyperfocus.
Bounce, Fidget and Move to Manage the Restlessness
I feel too energized a lot. Exercise really helps with that but sometimes the restlessness hits in times that I’m supposed to be productive and exercise isn’t an option. As I’m writing this post, I’m sitting on my exercise ball (Link works), bouncing when I feel like it, taking a break to balance myself for a few seconds here and there because doing so helps me work with the hyperactivity to remain productive without so much discomfort.
When bouncing isn’t an option, I twist my wedding band around my finger or play with my hair or I use squishy toys to work out some energy because doing so helps me stay focused when I’m concentrating deeply. Using a standing desk to work allows me to balance on one foot or do calf raises or take a moment to do a cartwheel to work out excess energy. I’m much more productive and less likely to get distracted by all the other things I’d rather be doing when I give myself the space to do these things.
Use Accountability and Competition to Get Things Done
ADHDers are often competitive. The good news is, this can be used to your advantage to help you get things accomplished that you really don’t want to do. I mentioned that I hate note writing–one helpful strategy has been to have a race with a colleague to see who can get their notes done first. If you aren’t competitive or don’t like the feeling of being in competition, that same colleague can function more like an accountability partner who you know will be checking in with you to make sure you got it done.
This strategy is often used to help people stick with a new exercise regimen or make other difficult changes and it’s effective, which is why we still use it. Adapt it to fit what you need. Maybe have someone check in with you about that project you’ve been meaning to get to or whether you completed your to-do list today. Knowing that someone else will be aware of our progress, tends to make us more efficient and effective.
Use Tiles for things commonly lost
You’ve seen these, right? The little squares you can stick on your phone, keys, wallet, or whatever else you have a tendency of losing regularly and you can use an app to make the tile start beeping and help you find what you lost? These things are awesome.
I don’t really lose my keys that much anymore since I started hanging them on a hook beside the door (which is also a helpful strategy, btw), but I lose my phone generally about once a day. Once, I lost my phone and didn’t find it for 8 months! It was buried in the couch, apparently. What I would have given to have a tile that day instead of having to spend money on a new phone. Ah well, lesson learned. If you have trouble finding important things, invest in your new best friend.
Write it Down Because You WILL Lose it
I keep a notebook just about where ever I go. When I forget my notebook, I have an app on my phone that lets me take notes. I tend to experience a lot of anxiety that I’m going to forget important things because I often forget things. I mean, today at lunch I was searching for a straw and in the middle of looking, I forgot what I was trying to find.
That kind of spacing out creates anxiety that you’ve forgotten something more important than a straw and it’s going to bite you in the butt in the near future. So I write everything down. I KNOW I’ll forget it so writing it down helps me keep track of all the important things that I have forgotten and calms the anxiety. It also helps me keep major things from falling through the cracks…most of the time. If you have trouble remembering to look at your notebook or to do list, create a daily reminder to go off a couple of times a day to look at your to-do list.
Planners and Bullet Journals for Organization
In addition to my to-do list, I keep a planner. I have appointments scheduled for most days and I definitely don’t want to forget them. Even with the planner, I sometimes still mess up my schedule but 95% of the time, the planner keeps me on track. I’ve begun experimenting with using the planner more strategically to help me be more effective with other tasks and get less distracted. I typically go for a weekly planner with a good amount of space to write for each day. Like this one.
Left to my own devices, I started writing this post and got lost in researching therapy and coach training for ADHD, then got caught up in a brain teaser game and a show on TV. I’ve started using the planner to separate when I focus on research, when I write posts, when I work on bigger projects (like ADHD coaching), etc..so I’m less likely to get distracted doing a little bit on multiple things that are important and that I want to accomplish.
It’s a bit more organized, which helps so that when I’m writing a post and I get caught up thinking I need to do research on this big project I have, I know that I’ve already planned out time to get to that project and can pull myself back to the task at hand. I’m also experimenting with bullet journaling because it combines organization (which I’m trying to get better at) with creative expression (which I love). Seems like a win-win.
Notes on Using Your Phone: Some people like me prefer a physical planner. There’s something about writing it down that helps me remember and it feels more natural to me than using my phone. For other people, using a phone is a better option. If it feels more natural to keep it on your phone or you tend to lose physical planners or need to set reminders for the events on your planner, your phone may be your best option.
Invite people over so it pushes you to clean your house
I’ve been unintentionally doing this for years. I have a hard time keeping my house clean. Partially because I hate cleaning. It’s boring, I’m impatient, and there are literally a million things I’d rather be doing. Also because cleaning involves a lot of things I’m not good at like organization, not getting distracted from one task to another, and I also really hate strong smells or getting damp or wet. Can you tell that I hate cleaning?
The mad dash to get the house presentable is the one thing that focuses me enough to get the job done and ignore all the things I hate about cleaning. The time crunch is a pretty solid motivator for me. If your house is a mess, consider inviting a friend for dinner next weekend. In my experience, before she walks in the door, the house will be in pretty good shape.
And there you have it, the beginners guide to managing your ADHD.
What do YOU do to manage your symptoms?
Title photos – both for Facebook and Pinterest – created on Canva.com
About the author: Tia found out she had ADHD at the ripe old age of 28 and went on a quest to figure out what that meant for her. What she discovered was life-changing and Little Miss Lionheart was born. Her blog’s goal is to serve as every woman’s guide to ADHD and help you turn the challenges of ADHD into an advantage.
By Louise Brown of Thriving with ADHD about Emotional Dysregulation and Rejection Sensitivity
As a young child, I remember believing life was a wonderful adventure. To make the most of it I was always on the move: exploring, dancing, singing, or climbing. I talked a million miles an hour and asked a trillion questions. And I loved the thrill of new experiences, constantly sought stimulation and always wanted more and more.
I also remember being so completely lost in my imagination or absorbed in my latest interest, that I didn’t notice how my endless energy, over-enthusiasm, and constant chatter was affecting others. Nor did I notice when I said something inappropriate or breached someone’s personal space or privacy. Instead, my thoughts happily raced ahead of me in blissful abandonment.
I was carefree, preoccupied in a world of my own oblivious to any damage I caused or signs of possible danger.
On the flip side, I remember struggling with the frustration I felt when asked to wait or to delay gratification, and that being bored felt like ‘hell on earth.’ – A mind-numbing excruciating pain, accompanied by restless agitation.
But even worse was the debilitating pain I experienced when I was in trouble or on the receiving end of rejection, criticism or anger. This pain was crippling. It would surge through my body and flood my senses. And with it my chest would tighten, I’d get a lump in my throat and tears would well in my eyes.
I always tried so damn hard to prevent this pain but, due to my self-regulation challenges, couldn’t seem to avoid it.
As I grew older my emotional challenges intensified. I began to experience what mum called ‘high highs and low lows,’ there was no in between. And due to my extreme sensitivity, could shift between the two in the blink of an eye.
I imagine living with me must have felt like being on a rollercoaster. My family was involuntarily dragged along for the turbulent ride by my emotions. Hanging on for dear life, I experienced my ups and downs with unnerving uncertainty.
How Mum coped through my teenage years I’ll never know. Needing constant stimulation I became rebellious and argumentative – anything to escape the mundane. Yet I remained ever so fragile, in need of love and understanding, and never-ending reassurance: Ruled by my emotions and the opinion of others. – A confusing, misunderstood mix of teenage angst, on steroids.
Even when my Dad stopped coming home until I was asleep, my Mum stayed by my side, persistently trying every strategy she could think of to help me – in the hope that I would change or possibly grow out of it.
But I didn’t. And never will.
For although maturity has greatly decreased their intensity, my emotional dysregulation challenges and rejection sensitivity, along with my inhibition challenges, are here to stay. They are part of who I am: A manifestation of my genetic make-up – An expression of my ADHD traits. – And something I’ve had to accept and learn to live with.
Coming to peace with this realization, however, took time and was only possible once I found out I had ADHD. As before my diagnosis at 47, like an unfinished jigsaw, I was missing part of my puzzle, which made it impossible to really understand and accept myself. However, with all the pieces in place, this changed. For I finally had the self-awareness I required to develop the strategies I needed to maintain a sense of control.
So now it’s my son’s turn. As without his ADHD medication, my Mini Me displays the same traits I did as a child. He’s highly sensitive, emotionally reactive and prone to frustration. At lightning speed, he can flick between being blissfully happy or hurting with frustration, and his big emotions frequently overwhelm him.
As his Mum, it’s heart-breaking to watch and difficult to manage. As although his medication stabilizes the rollercoaster during the day, in the evening I feel like I’m walking on eggshells. I have to tread ever so gently, hoping he won’t break.
But that’s okay. My job is to keep him safe whilst he is young. And to do all that I can to help reduce the impact of his ADHD symptoms, thus ensuring he has a bright future. And he will, for I’ve already begun fostering in him the self-awareness and self-understanding, along with the skills and strategies, he will need to one day manage his emotional challenges independently, so he can thrive and enjoy all life has to offer.
Tips For Adults
If you’d like to work on better managing your emotional regulation challenges and rejection sensitivity, here are some tips that may help:
Knowledge is power: to help you develop a deep understanding of your emotional dysregulation challenges read this: Emotional Dysregulation
Forewarned is forearmed: the most effective way of managing the emotional challenges associated with ADHD is to pre-empt them in the first place as this enables you to put in place strategies to:
Mitigate or avoid your triggers altogether.
Reduce your triggers sensitivity. For example, medication (stimulants plus or minus antidepressants), sleep, diet, exercise, meditation, all reduce trigger sensitivity. As can planning what you could say to yourself prior to entering a potentially challenging situation so you’re better able to use speech to self (your verbal working memory) to self-soothe and maintain control.
Help you rein in your emotions if you find yourself triggered and experience emotional flooding. For example, planning and practicing ahead of time strategies such as deep breathing, meditation, mantras, and speech to self.
Bring your loved ones on board: explaining to your family why you struggle with your emotions, what makes it harder to cope and how they can communicate with you to reduce your challenges, can also greatly reduce emotional regulation challenges.
Tips for Parents
If you’re looking to foster self-regulation skills in your child with ADHD, the tips in these posts found on Thrive with ADHD may be of assistance to you:
Hope you are well this season. I especially hope that you have avoided the illnesses that have struck my own family this past month.
It’s been rough. I was only sick for a week, but my mother and husband have both had pneumonia. My husband spent ten days in the hospital and Mom was both hospitalized and in Rehab to regain her strength and balance for weeks longer. All I had to do is visit once a day and bring them things that they wanted, and now take them to all the follow-up Doctor visits, but that has been just about all that I can handle.
Worry, feeling alone, and changes to my schedule and routines all took their toll. I missed the coaching groups and body double sessions that keep me on track producing a newsletter each month. Fortunately, my basic habits and routines DID remain in place. The bills got paid, the laundry got done, I ate regularly if not always well, and did the dishes. I even trusted in the Doctors and nurses and managed to sleep well. THAT would NOT have happened in the years prior to my diagnosis at forty years of age. Still, I have judged myself for not handling the stress well and have been ashamed of my lack of productivity.
This month I am inspired by two articles dealing with grief and acceptance of ADHD. In “Can you Make Peace with your Child’s Differences?,” parent coach Elaine Taylor-Klaus reminds us, “To support our “complex” kids in their growth and development, we often need to shift those images we created when they were little, changing our expectations to meet the child we have, not the child we thought we would have. Of course, that means changing our dreams for ourselves, as well.”
Coach Elaine is NOT alone in these feelings of somehow “failing” at parenting. Her article is directed at parents, but many adults also mourn their own lost years – the failures, intermittent successes, and self-doubt caused by the disorder.
Coach Lou Brown tells her story of how understanding the many ways that undiagnosed ADHD has impacted her life has helped her deal with the grieving process in “Coming to Terms with ADHD,” Moving forward, one small step at a time, she has developed a self-acceptance that has helped her create a better life for herself and her son.
Why is it that our quest for “normal” has left such deep scars? I believe that it may just be because in many ways ADHD is a problem with productivity. We have moved work into a place of priority in our lives. That which we struggle with the most has become our measurement for our own self-worth.
As I was feeling bad about everything I HADN’T gotten done last month, I happened upon a note in my husband’s doctor’s office that changed my ADDitude for the better.
Doctor Craddock says:
Perhaps I didn’t fail to meet my obligations after all. I just had others that were of higher PRIORITY.
To determine your own priorities, I like a recent post by Jaclyn Paul of the ADHD Homestead, What’s Working Lately: Small Hearts. Its subtitle is self-explanatory: Use small goals and simple tools to create good habits and achieve your dreams with Adult ADHD. Jaclyn has a number of ideas for managing your goals by using schedules adjusted for your energy levels and previous commitments, as well through building tiny habits that lead to routines that promote growth.
Our video this month is How to (Explain) ADHD. At 7 ½-minutes, these facts from Understood.org and descriptive metaphors submitted by the community are well worth your time.
Is that To-Do list getting ridiculously long? Do you need to get some work done asap?
Don’t sweat it! You got this!
Take a deep breath and read my 7 Solid Productivity Tips for People with ADHD to help get you started.
1) Find the Right Work Environment
Evaluate your work space and be realistic with yourself; is the area you are working in conducive to getting stuff done? Is it quiet? Are you tempted to do other things? Are you being interrupted often?
A public space like a library or coffee shop, as opposed to home, can be especially helpful to minimize distractions. Some people, like myself, have a really hard time working from home (I find myself doing anything and everything except the task at hand!).
If you work in an office and are prone to interruptions, consider blocking out time in your schedule that you can close your door and focus. Perhaps put a sign on your door that states when you are available and to please not disturb you unless it is an emergency? Talk to your co-workers ahead of time so everyone understands what you are doing.
2) Filter out Distracting Noise
The ADHD brain has a hard time filtering out information, it can pick up on every little noise or motion, making it really difficult to not get distracted.
Some non-distracting music in your headphones (like Jazz or Classical) can really help drown out the distracting background noise.
I recommend listening to something instrumental and different than what you listen to for fun and recreation.
Try sticking to the same type of music while you work, through repetition, the music will start to serve as a queue to your brain that it is work time.
3) Pick the Right Time
Think about the time of day that you are most productive and do your best to schedule your work during that time.
If you medicate your ADHD, odds are you are most productive a couple hours after taking your meds.
I take Adderall XR and I find that I am most “ready to work” about 2 hours after I take my meds (and after I’ve have had a cup or 2 of coffee/tea!)
4) Long Blocks of Time Are Your Friend
When you have ADHD, just starting a task can be incredibly difficult. It can take someone with ADHD a while to get organized enough to start the task at hand.
For example, when I start work for the day, I need to make sure I have all my materials first; my coffee, a snack, my water, my notes from last time, my laptop, etc.
This “set up time” that goes into starting work is exactly why one 6 hour work session is better than two 3 hour work sessions.
Longer blocks of work time mean less startup time which means more time to work!
5) Sometimes You Need To Start With a Treat
I love to play that motivation game where I tell myself that once I get X, Y, and Z done THEN I can take myself out for a treat.
This is great but sometimes, particularly during stressful times, I may need to engage in whatever activity de-stresses me before I can focus and get my work done.
Check in with yourself before getting started. How are you feeling? Are you going to be able to focus right now?
If you are feeling frazzled, go ahead and give yourself permission to take care of yourself first. You are better off taking some time up front to get your “head right” first rather than struggling through an uncomfortable few hours of half ass work.
6) Just Start Someplace
Prioritizing tasks is very difficult for those with ADHD. Two helpful questions to ask yourself when trying to figure out where to start are:
“Is there something on this list that once done will make it easier for me to do some of the other things?”
“Which of these tasks is giving me the most anxiety?”
These questions can help you key in on things that need to be done first.
If they still seem about “equal” to you then just start anyplace! Once you get started it’s much easier to stay with it.
7) Always Respect the Basics: Sleep, exercise, and diet.
If you ever find yourself struggling with life, the first place you should always start is thinking about your basics.
I seriously cannot stress the importance of the basics enough. So many of us are so sleep-deprived, dehydrated, and malnourished that we truly wouldn’t even know what it feels like to not be.
Sleep deprivation seriously deteriorates our cognitive abilities and research suggests that the active ADHD brain might actually need more sleep than a neurotypical brain (9-10 hours as opposed to 8) For more information, see the additional resources below.
Exercise does wonders for one’s overall mood and ability to focus since it increases our brains dopamine naturally.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in our brains reward and pleasure centers. Scientists have observed that lower levels of dopamine are associated with symptoms of ADHD.
A proper diet high in protein and vegetables, fewer carbohydrates and sweets, and possibly some nutritional supplements can also go a long way in bettering your ADHD symptoms.
There is plenty of research out there that suggests a link between ADHD and vitamin/mineral deficiencies. Deficits are noted in several vitamins and minerals like; magnesium, B-Vitamins, Iron, Zinc, and Copper.
If you want to read more about nutritional deficiencies and ADHD, check out the additional resources listed below.
About the author: Danielle Joy Scott sold all her stuff, quit her 9-5, and moved her family to another state in the pursuit of happiness. Her goal is to inspire people just like you to LOVE their life! The Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, blogger, and wannabe chef lives in Phoenix, AZ with her guitar obsessed husband and their adorable, exhausting toddler. Check out her blog at www.thespicytherapist.com for more tips on how to take your life to the next level.
Most people have only a vague understanding of what ADHD means. Current DSMV diagnosis standards assume that a lack of attention, distractibility, and hyperactivity are the basic symptoms of ADHD and assign impairment based primarily on those issues.
This avenue of diagnosing ADHD fails to recognize that ADHD is not a deficit of attention, but rather an inability to regulate that attention, an inability to self-regulate, to focus mind and body movement according to the importance of the task. According to William Dodson, M.D, for a child or adult with ADHD, movement toward a future goal is instead “turned on” by an interest-driven brain.
NO amount of remediation is enough to control all the negative effects of ADHD. Instead, we must each define and use our interests, values, and strengths to find that “zone” where we can do our best work. When we can define the “Why” in a project, we are inspired and empowered to meet our own goals. There’s been some speculation that the symptoms of ADHD, themselves, convey certain strengths. Although I am also inspired by such memes as Awesome Qualities of ADHD from Laurie Dupar, I’ve challenged this viewpoint before in Self-Advocacy for ADHD: Know Yourself.
“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. (1) 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. (2)
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.”
We’re lucky to have two articles from LuAnn Pierce, LCSW that explain just a few of the intricacies of diagnosing and treating ADHD.
The first is Adult ADHD: Soft Signs and Related Issues. Don’t be surprised if you didn’t know about these additional signs to look for. Many clinicians lack the knowledge as well due to inadequate training in school or lack of interest in getting additional training later
Hypersensitivity/ Sensory Overload
Overwhelm or Over-stimulation
OCD-like Coping Skills
Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria – Overwhelmed and emotionally devastated by any perceived or real criticism or rejection
LuAnn Pierce also covers a lot of territory in ADHD Success at College and Work. She is in good company when she writes that “ADHD is NOT just for Kids – at a minimum, 50-65% of us continue to have symptoms into adulthood. The symptoms may be to a lesser degree or change a bit, but they are ever-present…”
“Perhaps the most confusing thing about ADHD is that it occurs in some situations but not others.”
The key is creating an environment that allows you to do what you love best and accommodate for those areas where you struggle. There is no cure for ADHD, but there are ways to deal with the worst of its effects. Diet and exercise, creating habits and building routines as well as more specific ideas for college and workplace concerns can help you be to be effective, productive and successful at work:
Creating that space where you can recharge and help your symptoms fade away is the key to managing ADHD. Accepting your unique strengths and challenges is a work in progress for all of us, but there is a lot of good advice in LuAnn’s article. She finishes with these self-help basics:
Do not over-schedule – leave extra time between all tasks and leave 15 minutes early for work, etc.
Work with your symptoms – find a job that fits your skills and create a schedule that fits your sleep patterns.
Stop trying to be perfect – recognize limits and own your mistakes.
Make it okay to be different – celebrate your differences and help others understand your needs and strengths.
If the kids get bored this summer, the ADHD Kids Page has lots of things to do, watch and read.
ADHD in adults has many symptoms. The ones that are usually associated with ADHD may be easily recognized, but there are others that look like or create additional problems that can rise to the level of separate psychiatric disorders if not managed carefully.
As an Adult ADHD specialist and an adult with ADHD, I am quite familiar with these soft signs. They are not usually found in the diagnostic manuals, like the DSM-V, but experts in the field of ADHD write and teach about them. This is another reason it is so helpful to see an Adult ADHD specialist if you need help learning to manage the symptoms. Specialists have more training than just a couple of seminars about ADHD.
To find a true Adult ADHD specialist, you might want to ask questions about the person’s training and experience in the area of Adult ADHD. You might ask them how much specific training they have in adult ADHD (different from children’s ADHD) and how many clients they treat with Adult ADHD. Ideally, you can find someone who has significant experience and training in this field. (See Questions to Ask Before Scheduling an Appointment by Cynthia Hammer)
Other Lesser Known Symptoms of Adult ADHD
Some adults with ADHD may have recognized the ‘soft signs’ of ADHD in childhood and adolescence, but many do not acknowledge these (or confuse them with other problems) until adulthood. The following list is probably not all-inclusive but provides a good overview of the most common soft signs in the literature.
Hypersensitivity/ Sensory Overload – Some people with ADHD find they are very emotionally sensitive. They feel their feelings strongly, and often take on the feelings of others. These folks are like sponges absorbing the emotions around them. They are often considered highly sensitive people, as defined by Elaine Aron, Ph.D.
Some people with ADHD are very sensitive to touch, the feel of certain fabrics and tactile experiences, ie. the texture of some foods. These people find it difficult to tolerate tags in their clothes, the feel of specific foods in their mouths, scratchy or otherwise uncomfortable fabrics. Tight clothing or the way it feels to wear shoes that have laces can be a miserable experience for some people with ADHD. Personally, I could not eat baby food and still don’t eat many foods with that texture. I also had quite a reaction to getting my hair brushed, wearing tight clothes, tags in clothes and other experiences.
Many people feel claustrophobic in crowds or areas where there is a lot of noise, light, etc. Places like airports, stadiums and other areas where there are too many people, lots of noise, bright lights and chaos can be overwhelming for us. (Yes, I have this symptom, too.)
There are a number of related psychiatric disorders that may overlap in symptoms. Some people with Adult ADHD have enough of the symptoms to meet the criteria for diagnosis with a coexisting or comorbid disorder, like social phobia, anxiety, panic-attacks or sensory processing disorder. Others find that if they can learn skills to manage or minimize these situations, they can deal with it using specific skills and techniques. They often do not meet the criteria for a separate disorder but suffer from these ADHD-related symptoms nonetheless. (For those who have clinical anxiety, it will need to be treated by someone who understands both anxiety disorders and ADHD.)
Overwhelm or Overstimulation – Many adults with ADHD describe feelings similar to anxiety that are related to hypersensitivity. For those whose symptoms do not meet the criteria for a separate disorder, overwhelm and overstimulation are often more accurate descriptions of the problem. Laypersons throw around terms like anxiety and panic attack without much thought or awareness of the criteria for diagnosis. If a person with ADHD experiences these symptoms in isolated incidents, learning how to manage the symptoms is usually preferable to taking on an additional diagnosis and highly addictive anti-anxiety medication.
OCD-like coping skills – (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) Some people with ADHD develop obsessive-compulsive type coping skills to manage the chronic disorganization and feelings of being overwhelmed. These behaviors are a way of compensating for the messiness of ADHD, but can also create a lot of anxiety if the person becomes rigid in his/her approach to coping. An example would be someone who can’t begin homework or a project until everything is in the exact proper place on the desk. In those cases, a type of paralysis can develop that prevents them from doing anything productive other than obsessing about getting things in order.
True OCD is driven by anxiety – it is a form of anxiety disorder. OCD-like skills used to cope with ADHD is different but may result in anxiety. The messiness of ADHD creates anxiety for some people when it reaches a certain point of being out-of-control. For many, this is a way of building up enough energy to actually start on a project or chore. We literally allow enough time and chaos to ensure that we create stress.
When the stress reaches a crescendo, people with ADHD finally stop procrastinating and act – often due to a looming deadline that we can no longer ignore. Other times it is because the chaos reaches the point of anxiety or frustration. Feelings of anxiety may be the result – even though it is self-imposed or created. Some experts call this type of anxiety cognitive anxiety – thinking without acting on your thoughts also known as ruminating. Managing it requires learning to deal with the underlying ADHD symptoms of procrastination, time management, and executing tasks (instead of delaying starting or worrying for an extended period and not acting).
Hyperfocus – Although it may be hard for us to get focused, once we get into something that triggers the dopamine we often get so focused we find it hard to stop or change tasks. This usually happens when we are doing something we really enjoy. For many, it happens when working on a project we are excited about, playing video games or getting pulled into social media. It happens to me with writing when the topic is something I know well and feel passionate about. (Which is why this article is getting so long!)
Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria – Definitely not in the DSM-V, but a term coined by William Dodson, MD, one of the top experts in the field of ADHD. Dodson describes this as akin to atypical depression, which means it is not true depression but dysphoria, a term that means difficult to bear. In essence, Dodson has found with his patients a common theme of people who describe an internal state of arousal that prevents them from simply relaxing and enjoying life (hyperarousal vs. hyperactivity – remember after adolescence most of us show few symptoms of hyperactivity). The other commonality they reported is feeling devastated by failure or rejection. (See the first item in this list about hypersensitivity.)
This is an important distinction because Dodson links it to the differences in the ADHD nervous system, which he describes as hyperaroused. (Elaine Aron has found the same thing in people who are highly sensitive – a difference in central nervous processing). The literature is full of accounts of highly successful people with ADHD who report feeling ‘dysphoric’ when they experience failure or rejection. Behaviorists would have us believe that this reaction in adulthood stems from earlier experiences that trigger the emotions. Dodson says it is in the hard-wiring, and that about half of his patients have shown improvement with medication. This is worth noting as those who have this issue may want to consider talking to their medical provider about it now that they realize it may be ADHD-related.
It is important to know that some of these issues can be managed by learning to manage and/or treat ADHD effectively. 3 Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks by William Dodson, MD from ADDitude Magazine further expands on other less well know symptoms of ADHD as well as how to recognize and manage an interest-based nervous system for starting, following through, and getting things done. This interest-based nervous system states that Interest, Urgency, Challenge, and Urgency are the keys to creating strategies for “turning on” the ADHD brain. A mnemonic device to remember these is “I see you now.” (I. for Interest, C for C.hallenge, You for U.rgency, and Now for N.ovelty.)
Treatment of ADHD is complicated – much more so than just taking a pill. Learn more about it in our Thriving with ADHD section. You can choose those articles or videos that meet your specific needs. Another article we have by this author covers additional methods in ADHD Success at College and Work.
About the Author: LuAnn Pierce, LCSW has 30+ years in the field and is a guest author for a number of mental health-based websites. LuAnn offers solution-focused counseling to people in Colorado and Wyoming via teleconference or telephone. She also provides training and curriculum development to a variety of organizations. Contact Information: email@example.com