Healing ADHD: Radical Acceptance Meets Executive Function
February/March 2020 Enews
Welcome to March.
Somehow I missed the February newsletter altogether. I’ve been very busy – especially with worrying, researching, and watching the news about the Coronavirus, doing ANYTHING else “more important” or more interesting, and otherwise procrastinating. I’ve even started a few times but didn’t manage to get it done.
Unfortunately, “most of us with ADHD have to hijack the emotional part of the brain to get started. We use our emotions to help us to think, remember, plan, and act.” It’s amazing just how harmful this tactic can be. Self-acceptance is a universal problem, but those of us with ADHD struggle with it again and again. With every slip-up and failure to produce, we hammer the message home. “You are NOT enough!”
New treatments for ADHD are beginning to focus on the importance of accepting the reality of ADHD and celebrating the core of our “being” despite the problems we face. The challenges exist. Never the less, in order to heal, we have to learn to live with them with grace, WITHOUT tearing ourselves down with each new “failure.”
Loving yourself is a basic need of the human spirit, but we’re talking about ADHD and things get complicated because of the emotional aspect of the disorder. I explore this approach to Healing ADHD through a number of resources this month. They include:
Take care of yourself in this uncertain time of contagion. Educate yourself and remain vigilant about hygiene and distancing to protect yourself and your loved ones. Don’t let fear and anxiety take over.
Somehow I missed the February newsletter altogether. I’ve been very busy – especially with worrying, researching, and watching the news about the Coronavirus, doing ANYTHING else “more important” or more interesting, and otherwise procrastinating. I’ve even started a few times but didn’t manage to pull my thoughts together.
Unfortunately, most of us with ADHD have to hijack the emotional part of the brain to get started. Just a few ways that we “motivate” ourselves are Anxiety, Avoidance, Procrastination, Anger, Shame, and Self-loathing. Tamara Rosier writes more about why these are so harmful in “5 Perfectly Awful Ways to Motivate the ADHD Brain“.
“Many of us with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) have less reliable access to our prefrontal cortex (PFC) than do neurotypical people,” she says. “Life’s details are (typically) managed in the PFC. It is a calm, rational butler, directing behavior in a Siri-toned voice: “Sir, your keys are on the table.” Or, “Madam, you must leave now if you want to arrive on time.”
“Those of us with ADHD can’t rely on our PFC butler for planning, short-term memory, working memory, decision-making, and impulse management. (Also known as Executive function) So we go to our emotional centers, in the limbic system, to remember things, make decisions, and to motivate ourselves. We use our emotions to help us to think, remember, plan, and act.”
I know. I’ve been doing it myself all my life. The problem is that this DOES work. Well, Sometimes. Eventually. Maybe. But just as often, it really does NOT work, not at all. And using our emotions to fuel action comes at a very high cost to our psychological well-being. This month, ruminating over NOT writing the newsletter was just one of many tasks that I gave myself a hard time about not getting done. Honestly, I’m so tired of beating myself up.
Although their focus is on women, Solden and Frank’s ideas apply to everyone with ADHD or other neurological disorders – men, women, and children. In an article for Psychology Today, Radical Acceptance Meets Executive Function, they advocate a shift in treating ADHD from a medical perspective to a person-centered point of view. (Link works)
They explain, that, “This approach measures the success of these woman’s lives not by the decrease in their symptoms (which is helpful) but instead by how they can continue to lead fulfilling authentic lives; the goal is not just getting over their struggles but developing a healthy relationship to them.”
Mind you, their advice to therapists includes using many coaching techniques for ADHD such as identifying individual strengths and interests as well as problem areas where their ability to cope falls apart. They recommend delegation, organizational tactics for the physical environment, as well as time management skills to address executive function difficulties. But the focus is on restoring the individual to wholeness through connection, meaningful purpose, and acceptance. As Solden and Frank remind us, “Disowning oneself is far more destructive than living with the chronic disorganization and executive functioning issues of ADHD.”
In other words, all the tricks and “hacks” for living with ADHD that we have put into place, no matter how successful we are in “getting things done,” mean little if you can’t be happy with who you are. Stop trying to “fix” yourself. That doesn’t mean stopping the strategies that are helping you, but that we need to separate, to untangle, our “brain-based challenges from our core sense of self.” This video helps explain. Helping Women (and Men)with ADHD Live Boldly
“I CAN take one step at a time. Moving forward and making the smallest step is progress towards success.
I can, I can, I can….
The point is that even though my brain doesn’t allow me to do normal things in a normal way, I can try and find a way to do them so I am successful. My brain isn’t “normal”. I can’t expect it to work that way.”
It’s an ongoing process. 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. We don’t have to struggle so hard. Developing self-knowledge is the first step. Find tools for discovery in the collection of resources in Self-advocacy for ADHD: Know yourself.
Helping to define your “purpose” in life is a great way to inspire action. Partly due to our feelings of shame and inadequacy, we tend to believe that something that comes easily to us has little value. But the ADHD brain “lights up” when we are interested in something and many of our struggles fade away when positively engaged.
“What is something that you are really good at doing? Something that comes naturally to you? Something that you do with hardly any effort or difficulty?
What is one thing that when you do it, you forget about the time, about eating, about using the bathroom, or about any of your responsibilities? Meaning, you are so focused that you naturally forget about everything else.
What is something that you can talk about for hours, and when you talk about it, it lights you up, gets you excited, and gives you energy?”
Taking good care of your body and mind is also vital. Although we tend to ignore (or overindulge) even minimal basics like food and sleep, we work best when our time is balanced and supported by good self-care. I am inspired by a meme by Liz and Mollie on Instagram that illustrates the importance of self-care. It’s composed of two Venn diagrams. The first is titled “What I thought would make me productive” with the entire circle devoted to “Hard Work“. The second diagram, “What actually does” is divided into numerous pie-shaped sections with Hard Work taking up about 1/3rd of the space while Exercise, Healthy Eating, Sleep, and Time Off fills up the rest.
Self-acceptance is a universal problem, but those of us with ADHD struggle with it again and again. With every slip-up and failure to produce, we hammer the message home. “You are NOT enough!” Leo Babauta of Zen Habits urges us to consider ourselves as whole and wonderous beings (NO MATTER WHAT!) in You’re Not Doing Life Wrong.
“ See how you are enough. Just as you are. Without any need for improvement. You are also a wonder, exactly enough.”
“You can go about your day, pausing every now and then to do a check: is this moment enough? Are you enough? And try answering, “Yes, absolutely and wonderfully.”
For now, I’ll try to take my own advice,
“Start from enough. Better may or may not follow. Live with that for a while. Let that be enough too.”
Until next month,
Take care of yourself in this uncertain time of contagion. Don’t let fear and anxiety take over.
If your children will be home from school for any length of time, Our ADHD Kids page can help fill the time. It contains Things to read, Things to do, Things to Watch, More Reading, as well as a few Pinterest Boards for Kids. If your children get specialized accommodations, it’s important to try to maintain their routine. See “Grab that IEP! Preparing for School Closures”. To help you cope with spending so much time together, On ADHD: Parent to Parent offers down-to-earth and practical approaches that honor your child’s individuality while acknowledging the very real challenges in your family life.
Once again, the New Year has come and gone without any action on my part to name any “resolutions”. My ideas for goals are still rolling around in my brain with no specific starting date, commitment, or accountability. For now, the ideas are flowing and hope sustains me. That will have to be enough
I’m taking my own advice again this month, better late than never. I’ve also written another post full of resources for you to explore. Writing these newsletters, with long posts full of resources to explore has never been easy for me nor really very popular. But ADHD advocacy is what gets me up in the morning and collecting information, sharing, and offering support is what I do best.
Turns out there’s even a name for it. Curation. (Google definition: cu·ra·tion – /kyəˈrāSHən/ – the selection, organization, and presentation of online content, merchandise, information, etc., typically using professional or expert knowledge.)
Our article this month addresses ADHD Routines and Resolutions.
The problem with resolutions
Choosing goals of inherent value to you
Create routines that support your ability to find success
Using your strengths to inspire action
The importance of unconditional acceptance.
Inspiration: Mr. Rogers song lyrics and video – It’s you I like. Just as you are.
Once again, the New Year has come and gone without any action on my part to name any “resolutions”. My ideas for goals are still rolling around in my brain with no specific starting date, commitment, or accountability. I’ve decided that’s okay with me.
I saw a cartoon last week with two characters talking. The first asks, “Why do you think that 2020 will be better? The second answers, “There will be flowers.” The first retorts, “There are always flowers. What makes this year any different? Looking over the other’s shoulder, he then asks, “What’s that you are doing? Our optimistic fellow simply answers, “I’m planting flowers.” And therein lies my both my dilemma and my hope.
Imagining how the “flowers” or goals for my life might look like is just the first choice. They need to be something I can get excited about, invested in SO MUCH that I will not have to depend on “shoulds” or shame to create a PLAN for positive action. For now, my hope sustains me.
There will be flowers! (Flowers to be named later.)
I’m taking my own advice again this month. Better late than never. Moving towards those yet unnamed resolutions, I look to my best tools for success in the past, using small and sustainable actions to create habits and build routines that move me forward. As Darius Foroux says in “Stop Trying to do Everything ”, “Success is sequential, not simultaneous.”
“Things add up. You learn one skill. Then another. You finish one project. Then another. Over time, your accomplishments add up to form an impressive feat.”
Once I identify those “things”, that are creating problems in my life, I can try out small changes, usually by linking them to already established habits. When they work, they will eventually create routines to make larger changes a reality. My reward comes as each day goes a little smoother and I begin to string a series of successes behind me.
It’s not just getting things done that matter. Many of us fail to meet such basic needs as eating, sleeping, or resting. Your brain is already hampered in its ability to perform the necessary executive functions of the brain, those skills whose development is delayed – that give us the ability to coordinate actions needed to effect positive change for the future. The ADHD brain struggles with the ability to plan, keep items in working memory, move past procrastination, overcome overwhelm, or succumb to perfectionism. We rush towards productivity without the self-care we need to sustain progress.
“Think of ADHD as a marathon, not a sprint”, she says. “To be a successful marathon runner, you have to conserve your energy, pick your battles, and pace yourself. You have to plan for the long haul.”
Her first tips include:
1. “Celebrate Progress, Not Perfection. As long as you’re making progress toward your goals, I encourage you to consider your efforts a win. Be kind to yourself.
2. Value the Power of Praise. Praise is a way of sharing love and building self-esteem
3. Quiet the (Inner) Critic.”
Like anyone, and especially if you are a child or adult with ADHD, we need to feel loved and accepted before we can keep our feelings under control and move forward towards our goals. This control is also known as self-regulation. Children need acceptance from their parents and adults that guide them, but so do grown men and women. Adults may need to “re-parent” the wounded part of themselves – to connect with and work on accepting that inner child who bears the scars of being misunderstood and misjudged in childhood.
“What if we applied unconditional acceptance of who we are? He says. “What if we took a good look at ourselves, our body, our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and said, “You are perfectly OK. You are perfectly good”?
“What if instead, you loved yourself, fat body and all? What if you loved yourself, laziness and all? What if you loved yourself, all that is ugly and incompetent and mean, along with the beauty and brilliance and kindness?”
“Acceptance isn’t stagnation — you will change no matter what. You can’t avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction. I vote for unconditional love.”
Coming from a place of love, you can work towards better within your own values and interests. The more you can put boring, mundane, or difficult duties on automatic, the less time you have to spend trying to manage the most damaging aspects of ADHD. You can live and work more “in the flow”, using the way the ADHD brain is motivated, not by importance but by interest, challenge, and deadlines, and in ways that match your most treasured values in life.
Your routines provide the structure to do what you “need to do” but are not necessarily inspired or motivated to do. Habits and routines help you get to what you WANT to do by handling those necessities of life that may not even be on your radar otherwise. Your routines should not look like anyone else’s. They should reflect your own values, your own minimum standards of “good enough”, and the ease of following the steps necessary to complete the routine.
For instance, I hated cleaning the bathroom, but having a clean sink with polished chrome is something that is important for me. I started using the toilet paper method of cleaning the bathroom. Now, every time I use the restroom, I grab some tissue, clean up the sink, spot clean the counter top and polish the chrome. When I see hairs on the floor or in the tub, I scoop them up. If these areas look fine, I’ll take a minute to address the toilet, getting dust and hair off the seat and tank top and doing the floor around the toilet too. Same for the tub and floor, spot clean and wipe up hairs.
By doing these small tasks throughout the day, I seldom have to deep-clean. Even the tub and shower are easy. I have a soft toilet bowl brush that looks like a mop. I just spray Awesome cleanser with bleach that I get from the dollar store, wait a minute and wipe down with the “mop”. I don’t even have to get on my hands and knees.
Honestly, how many of you now feel that the toilet paper method the best way to keep YOUR bathroom clean? But it works for me. And that what is important.
Through all my years, my biggest struggle remains learning to accept and value myself just as I am. I am sure that I am not alone in this. Writing these newsletters, long posts full of resources to explore has never been easy for me nor really very popular, but ADHD advocacy is what gets me up in the morning and collecting information, sharing, and offering support is what I do best. Turns out there’s even a name for it. Curation. Google definition: cu·ra·tion – /kyəˈrāSHən/ – the selection, organization, and presentation of online content, merchandise, information, etc., typically using professional or expert knowledge.
I was recently inspired by the lyrics to a simple song from the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I’ve also included a video of the more well-known song “It’s You I Like” that includes Mr. Rogers’ conversation with his guest Jeffery Earlinger.
I like you as you are
Exactly and precisely
I think you turned out nicely
And I like you as you are
I like you as you are
Without a doubt or question
Or even a suggestion
Cause I like you as you are
I like your disposition
Your facial composition
And with your kind permission
I’ll shout it to a star
I like you as you are
I wouldn’t want to change you
Or even rearrange you
Not by far
I like you
I like you, yes I do
I like you, Y-O-U
I like you, like you as you are
This month I want to address the value of simplifying the holidays and everyday chores. We also have ideas for discovering your strengths and creating a life that features your best qualities.
Holidaysare a break from everyday routines. They are therefore an extra challenge to normal coping skills for people with ADHD. The lack of structure and increased social demands can be a problem for both kids and adults. Christmas is next week. How are YOU doing?
I hope that whatever holiday you celebrate, this season is a time of joy and communion with loved ones. Some of you may be excited and easily manage the many tasks involved, while others feel overwhelmed by the upcoming holidays and all its physical and social trappings. To keep your mental and physical energy at comfortable levels, you may have to simplify.
That doesn’t mean you have to drop everything from your schedule. But by thinking ahead, choosing your activities carefully, you can help your family enjoy the most important traditions while feeling safe and able to keep difficult emotions under control.
This newsletter comes too late to help you simplify the holidays this year, but I have a Printable from Andrea Dekker,Simple Steps for Staying Organized,that will guide you every day. It starts, “If you open it, close it. If you drop it, pick it up. If you try it on, put it away…” I keep a copy on my refrigerator. Amazing what a daily reminder can do to inspire action.
Trusting my abilities despite still needing to work on certain areas doesn’t come easily. Because of the erratic nature of whether I am capable of handling routine, boring, or difficult work on schedule, I have devalued the progress I have made. I ignore my talents and areas of strength. Coach Linda Walker writes on the importance of strengths and self-advocacy for both adults and children. Don’t miss her Twelve Great Strategies that Help ADHDers Thrive.
1. Take advantage of your strengths.
2. Surround yourself with people who can embrace your differences and who accept you for who you are and for what you are not…. and 12. The most important: laugh.
When we are interested or challenged by a project, most of us find that in those situations, our mind works well and we can shine. The best strategies build on your natural interests and skills.
Welcome to the chilly nights of November. This begins the holiday season traditions and getting together with friends and family to celebrate. Holidays, however, often break down established habits and routines and thus challenge normal coping skills. The lack of structure and increased social demands of the season can be a problem for both kids and adults with ADHD. As Erin Synders of Honestly ADHD says in Six Tips for Handling the Holidays, “We keep coming back year after year torn between the dread of the ADHD-fueled chaos and the hope for something different and more meaningful this holiday season.” If you need more tips on surviving the holidays for yourself or the kids, see our Pinterest Board, Holidays and other Celebrations.
November is also a time for expressing gratitude. This will be my family’s first Thanksgiving without our mother, so expressing my thanks for the year is a little tough. But then I realized that even small things can be a blessing. One thing that helped get me out of bed and kept me going the past month was by following other advocates, searching for the best they had to offer, and sharing on social media. Thank heaven I can call this part of my “work”, so I could use my time to “Play Attention.”
Changing my working hours to playtime made all the difference. The ADHD brain wants stimulation, challenge, novelty, deadlines, and works best when very interested in a project. It’s not laziness or uncaring. It’s a glitch in the way the brain works. Emotions also get in the way with fear of failure, perfectionism, and shame stopping progress. Weak Executive Functions contribute to the problem. Poor planning systems, not being able to picture the first steps, or what the finished project should look like are all examples of what keeps us on track.
I began my advocacy efforts 5 years ago by posting my research for an ADHD non-profit on the “crack” of all social media formats, Pinterest. At the time, the format was perfect for my need to help others with ADHD because many small steps created a finished project and following the stats on “repinning” offered quick rewards that encouraged me to keep going.
Later, I added a website, but maintaining and building my site feels like WORK! I wanted to keep on “playing, so I started a Facebook page. This offered a great opportunity to encourage others while also providing quick clips of valuable information as well as a laugh or two.
Today, many other individuals and groups offer ever more interesting content to support understanding ADHD and advocacy efforts. Together, we are attracting attention and influencing the lives of ever more people. It’s a group effort. Indeed, my featured articles this month come from freely shared writings on various support groups and informational pages.
ADHD and Learning Disability advocate, Nichola Parody, reached out to me on Facebook messenger. I soon began following her new page Heidi and Me, Our Neurodiversity Journey. As a public service, she posted An Open Letter to my Child’s Teacher. She describes in some detail her child’s individual challenges and strengths the teacher may expect to see and offers tips on tactics that have worked in the past. The way I see it, she says, “My child’s successful education depends on teamwork, with you and I understanding and supporting each other.” Her example provides a good template to follow in introducing your own child to a new teacher, babysitter or even family members that struggle to understand ADHD.
I found ADHD Marbles: An Analogy on the ADHD Reddit page. It begins, “HAVING ADHD IS LIKE HAVING TO HOLD ONTO 100 MARBLES TO BE CONSIDERED AN ADULT…You’re trying to manage all the stuff that neurotypical people are able to manage but it’s just too much. The marbles keep falling out of your hands. And everybody else is giving advice…. It gets discouraging.”
You may have your own analogy, the way you like to explain the experience of having ADHD. If you haven’t come up with your own description yet, maybe it’s time to work on one. Sharing your story in simple metaphors is a great way to combat stigma.
For a bit of fun, I love to follow Dani Donovan, who creates mental health comics. Her insightful chalk drawings/comics describing ADHD symptoms and how they impact children and adults are funny as well as informative and offer gentle lessons to help others understand ADHD a little better. Follow her on Instagram or Facebook – Support Dani’s work through Patreon.
You can also find “Comics about the daily struggle with ADHD” on the ADHD Alien. Created by Pina, her work is also found on her Tumbler page. Her Patreon page offers the first views of her work and invites your ideas for her next work. Her comics were originally inspired by the often misunderstood expression of inattentive ADHD, but have expanded to include many different types and other ADHD symptoms. I particularly like the Time Blindness series.
Of course, you can always find the best comics, memes, articles, and videos on ADD freeSources. I invite you to explore ADD freeSources.net.ADHD Websites and the Find Support section list a number of social media sites that I follow. Enjoy ADD freeSources on Facebook or see our many Pinterest Boards. I know that some of us can get “sucked in” by social media, so be careful. A little bit of time on the right sites, however, can go a long way to provide information, support, and encouragement for your own journey with ADHD.
Stigma, misinformation, and fears about ADHD continually flood us with negative messages. Pre-conceived ideas, ignoring scientific evidence, and misinformation combined with a bias against medication make getting diagnosed and properly treated problematic throughout most of the world. The truth is out there, but spreading the news is a never-ending battle. Having a month devoted to sharing information, encouraging treatment, and even celebrating a common experience can provide relief for many.
This month you can find many different sources to help you understand and treat ADHD. Take advantage of everything that is offered as it meets your individual needs.
Participating in ADHD Awareness Month We list a number of online events for this month as well as ways to find support throughout the year. You can spend just a few minutes, listen to short daily presentations or attend longer Webinars. Whatever you choose, you can get a great education in ADHD and experience a powerful feeling of belonging.
It can be a personal revelation to attend a conference with other members of the ADHD “Tribe.” It’s also good to see those many professionals who want to learn more about how to treat ADHD effectively.
Both the United States and Canada have conferences coming up. In Canada, October 4th– the 6thare the dates for CADDRA’s 2019 Conference and Research Day in Toronto, Ontario. (Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance) Sorry for the late notice. Save the date for next year’s conference now.
The 2019 Annual Conference onADHD: Better Together is being held November 7 – 9 in Philiadelphia, PA. – Individual ticket – $390. $60 discount with membership in CHADD, ADDA, or ACO, (Children and Adults with ADHD, ADD in Adults, and ADHD Coaches Association)
Getting educated about ADHD and finding some form of support for your journey is so important. But, beyond a feeling of community, there is a lot of personal work involved in coming to your own awareness of the unique way that ADHD is expressed in your or your loved one’s lives.
“The ADHD brain works by its own rules. There’s a perpetual need for stimulation or novelty-seeking behavior that’s characteristic of the condition. Creating structure and developing routines helps, as does an interest in the task or subject, a sense of urgency, or immediate consequences or rewards for their actions to help successfully manage their life…just knowing about ADHD isn’t enough.
There’s a process involved after you first become aware. First, there is the issue of getting a diagnosis. Then comes the process of getting treatment, Medication, therapy, coaching, and/or other tools and strategies only work when they are used.”
All too often, we only dwell on the negatives of ADHD. Andrea Nordstrom reframes the way we often perceive Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder purely as a deficit in The ADHD Manifesto. (2 ½ minutes) It’s a great pick-me-up if you’re ever feeling down about “being different.”
“We don’t do life the normal way. we do it the ADD way! We are not broken. We are whole. When we fuel ourselves properly, our drive accelerates us.” ~ Andrea Nordstrom
There is hope with ADHD. Educate yourself. Do the work. Understand that your child WOULD do better if they COULD. Support them emotionally, create structure and help them learn self-regulation. Accept yourself just as you are. As you can, do better, but remember to leave the criticism behind. It doesn’t help anything.
Love the weather, but I’ve still got a lot of home repair and yard work to finish up. It’s like going back to school after a long vacation. I’m getting ready by setting boundaries that protect my time and energy to let me focus on the upcoming projects. I’m also breaking down the entire list to tackle one project at a time and rewarding myself each step of the way.
Fall can be a difficult time difficult for parents and children with ADHD in the family as well. Returning to school brings increased pressure for all family members. Moving ahead without undue stress is a matter of attitude and strategies to inspire action.
I am convinced that for children, understanding ADHD and how it impacts their life is one of the best ways to learn what they need to increase their well-being. For information as well as a bit of fun, see my Kids ADHD Page – Things to read, do and watch. For parents, parent coach Dianne Dempster writes about using self-care for better self-control of parenting skills in Four Things Every Successful Super-Mom (and Dad) Knows! Finding a way to support yourself in being the kind of mom you want to be is what is important.
.Managing ADHD is Possible
ADHD pioneer Russell Barkley, Ph.D. explains, “First, we must understand that mostADHD managementisnot a problem of knowing what to do. It’s a matter of doing what we know.”
“External scaffolding is needed – like developing habits and routines, getting comfortable with transitioning between activities, strategies for starting and finishing projects as well as controlling one’s emotional responses.”
“What you need to know about Attention Deficit Disorder:
Accept that supports may be needed across the lifespan of a person with ADHD.
Interventions have to happen in the here and now on an as-needed basis.
*** The strategies ONLY work when they are used.”
The Art of Thriving with ADHD
For adults with a late diagnosis, Thriving with ADHD follows many of the same principles. You may be surprised to know that they aren’t so much about productivity for its own sake but more about how you are feeling about yourself. They are as much about accepting your unique personality quirks and gifts as they are about learning strategies to overcome your difficulties. Author Kari Hogan says, “Take advantage of your strengths. Identify what you’re strong in and find ways to do more of it. When you realize “you’re a natural” at something, this is almost always an indication that you are playing to your strengths… “Surround yourself with people who can embrace your differences and who accept you for who you are and for what you are not.” See Tools for Discovering your Strengths for ideas on how to use your strengths to meet your challenges and advocate for yourself. Kari’s strategies are outlined in 16 Steps to Better Self-Esteemfor ADHD Adults.
“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….”
ADHD communities are extremely supportive and a wonderful place to learn about your diagnosis and what to expect. “When you feel lost and alone, it’s comforting to know that others get it. … My best teachers have been people like me.” Support groups have been a vital part of my own treatment plan. It’s easier to recognize strengths in others than in yourself. Members of my “ADHD tribes” have helped me recognize many talents that I had discounted because of my difficulties in other areas. An online community will do, but meeting in person or through a video Zoom connection is even more powerful. See our sections on Finding Support for ADHD and Options to Personal ADHD Coaching for help discovering your own “safe place.” For an amazing feeling of community, you might want to attend the 2019 International Conference on ADHD in Philadelphia, PA. Save the date! Thu, Nov 7 – Sat, Nov 9 – (Earlier sessions for professionals begin Thu, Nov 6.)
That’s it for this month. Remember, focusing on organization and productivity tools can only get you so far. Self-care, self-awareness, and self-acceptance are the keys to self-control and finally being able to bring our lives into order.
This month we feature ADHD: 20 Tools to Enhance your Memory. Our thanks to the award-winning blogger and ADHD coach Marla Cummins for sharing these many useful tips. Minimize your frustration with these core strategies that you can learn to use on your own.
“Short term (working) memory, as well as long term memory, is often weak in adults with ADHD. You may not hold information long enough to follow through on it. Because you do not hold onto information long enough it also does not enter yourlong term memory.
Even if you do capture that memory, you may have difficultyremembering your intention to do something in the future or have difficulty recalling information.” Memory is just one Executive Function, but it affects how effective your other efforts will be at planning and propelling actions. A few tips to keep your life in orders include:
Write it down. (On a notepad, planner and/or calendar.)
Use apps to manage your to-do lists.
Develop a new strategy by tying it to another habit…
We also have9 Ways to Get Organized with Minimal Effortby professional organizer Donna Smallin Kuper. She says, “If you want a cleaner, happier home, stop wishing you had a magic wand and become the magic wand!” You can’t go wrong if you follow these basic strategies.
One thing I’ve found helpful is to not expect everything to work right from the beginning or fail. At a matter of fact, I assume that something will go wrong. (Either in starting the new habit or keeping it useful over time.)Then I try to identify just what did or did not happen that got in the way. Where did my bag of tricks fail me? Only by knowing where my sticking points are can I know what tactics to try the next time.
Lately, I have not been using my calendar and planning system despite a long period of success. Many areas of my life and work have been on hold for the last two months and I was getting quite frustrated with myself.
Finally, I realized that my new computer setup, using a monitor and keyboard connected to my laptop, meant that I no longer had room for my planner on the right-hand side of my desk. I couldn’t easily jot things down as they came to mind, plan the day, or keep track of my schedule.
Eureka! A little rearranging made space my space for my planner again. And it worked! I’m back on track. At least until the next time things go awry. Meanwhile, I keep trying.
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.