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.
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.
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.
This month, we feature, “My ADHD Journey: Living with ADHD in Pakistan.” The author, Haseeb Waqar, has mined his life for information about the many ways that ADHD has impacted his life and how he has changed his story from one of failure to one of increasing success. Long summer days give us the opportunity to relax, to just “be.” I suggest that it is also a good time to reflect on your own journey with ADHD.
Just a list would do, but recording your story, in the spoken or written word, has greater power to inform and transform your life.
This doesn’t have to be complicated.
Use your remembrances from childhood.
What do your parents remember about you?
How well did you do in school?
What challenges did you face?
How did you feel about yourself?
What tactics did your parents and teachers use to ease your struggles?
Recall your journey towards wholeness.
What have you learned about ADHD?
What are your struggles and how have you overcome them?
Who and/or what has guided your understanding of what you need to succeed?
What tools and skills have you developed to address your difficulties?
Claim the unique abilities and values that guide your vision of the future.
What “drives” you? Gives you purpose and direction?
What is your mission in life?
Have you developed supports that will help you along the way?
Coach Linda Taylor proposes that “At the heart of successfully managing ADHD is redefining or eliminating the measure of normal.” Use the power of story to define YOUR normal.
As Haseeb says, “We should all have the opportunity to know who our true self is, and to learn to focus on our strengths and gifts rather than our weaknesses…You have many great qualities that define you more than your diagnosis ever will.” Celebrate them. Use them to create the life you were meant to live.
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
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. 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 thing 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.
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.
Scientific research and new models of ADHD are proving that ADHD is much more involved than anyone has previously conceived.” As Joel Nigg, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University, says, “ADHD is a genetic disorder, but DNA is not working alone Stress, diet, and environmental toxins change the brain as well.” “ADHD is not a breakdown of the brain in one spot. It’s a breakdown in the connectivity, the communication networks, and an immaturity in these networks,” says “These brain networks are interrelated around
ADHD is a complex and highly comorbid disorder. “Diagnosis of ADHD requires much more than meeting the criteria set forth in a certain set of symptoms. You need to see a mental health professional who will take a complete history using personal questionnaires and interviews with the person, their family, or teachers. This process will help them assess your symptoms and see if your story “fits” what they might expect from ADHD.” (See ADHD Screening Tests for signs to look for when you suspect ADHD)
“Comorbidity or co-occurring means having two or more diagnosable and related conditions at the same time. Indeed, researchers are discovering that ADHD “seldom rides alone.” Studies suggest comorbidity rates between 50% and 90%. This complex interplay between ADHD and its commonly occurring comorbid psychiatric disorders complicates diagnosing and treating ADHD. (Taken from ADHD Grows Up ) For more on diagnosis, see “A Physician’s Perspective” listed below.
Our guest author, Mary Fowler explains. “First, we must understand that mostADHD managementisnot a problem of knowing what to do. It’s a matter of doing what we know.”
In her mini-workshop for teachers, Increase On-Task Performance for Students with ADHD, Mary describes in detail many specific tools to help children “do what they know” through simple support techniques Although Mary’s advice is quite useful the classroom, the same understanding of ADHD and principles for getting things done remain true for all ages. It is well worth reading for yourself as well as sharing with your child’s school
But, DO NOT expect that using these ideas just a couple of times will change their behavior in the near future. That’s like expecting a child in a wheelchair to get up and walk up the stairs because they’ve used a ramp for a while. ”It’s not a lack of knowledge, but an inability to perform mundane or confusing tasks at an assigned time that is affected by ADHD.
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.”
Acceptance and Community
In Learning to Accept Myself after my ADHD Diagnosis, Kristi Lazzar writes, “Getting diagnosed started me on the path of new growth, change, and yes, acceptance. I could finally be myself and stop wondering why I couldn’t be like everyone else. I could stop the self-loathing. I now had a name for my behaviors, which gave me something to work with. I could finally be myself. I could stop the self-loathing.”
Thriving with ADHD is a gradual process. You may be surprised to know that they aren’t about productivity; they’re 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. And “Surround yourself with people who can embrace your differences and who accept you for who you are and for what you are not.” Only then does she offer a number of strategies in 16 Steps to Better Self-Esteem. (If link doesn’t work, Copy and paste: https://addfreesources.net/16-steps-to-better-self-esteem-with-adhd/)
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….”
All too often, we dwell on the negatives of ADHD. Andrea Nordstrom reframes the way we look Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder as merely 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.”
Spring is the time for renewal and growth. Lovely as it is, however, it also means more yard work to keep nature in check. After thirty years of home ownership, I’ve developed a garden that lifts my spirits but doesn’t drain my energy to maintain. I’ve assessed what I like the most and eliminated those chores that were just too much for me anymore. Just as I had to redesign my garden, I need to simplify my newsletter. We should both benefit. I’ll struggle less while writing it and you may actually find the time to read it!
Life also unfolds like the seasons – bringing new possibilities for growth. The more realistic you are about your own needs, abilities, and purpose, the more likely it is that you will find success in a new endeavor. To be real also means to be authentic. As our guest author, Tyler Dahl writes, “Authenticity occurs when your actions line up with your values as a person.” In 8-Step Process to Be True to Yourself, Dahl offers a number of ways for you to “be more authentic and let your true self shine.” It’s your turn to “match up your actions with who you are underneath.”
If you’re a Pinterest fan, you’ll find many more articles dealing with being “real” with yourself on the board Lead with your Strengths. For help figuring out how to “work around” your challenges and redesign your life, see ADHD Coaching Strategies.
In the midst of it all, sometimes you just have to laugh at the way our brains operate. I found a 2-minute video from a favorite cartoonist that may feel all too familiar. “ME VS. MY BRAIN” – “Typical discussion I will have with my brains when I want it to get to work.”
This clip is from Lev Yaniv’s Tales of Mere Existence series. We’ve got a selection of his cartoons on site. See Mere Existence.
Meanwhile, it’s a lovely May morning and a great time to mow the lawn. It just takes me 30-minutes nowadays, but it still needs to be done. A weekly newsletter versus a monthly one has taken a lot less time as well. It hasn’t been effortless, but the process is indeed more in tune with my own style. I may even get it sent out before the week is over!
The notion that you can be exactly who you want to be 100% of the time is a false notion. This would be reaching perfection and the only perfection that exists is imperfection. Digging deep and striving to bring out a better you, however, is possible and necessary for a life with passion and purpose. Authenticity occurs when your actions line up with your values as a person.
How can you do this? How can you be more authentic and let your true self shine in your life? How can you match up your actions with who you are underneath?
1. Make it Known
Make it known to yourself who you are underneath. What is important to you? Make a personal inventory. Write out all the statements that make you who you are. Write out “I am” statements.
“I am someone who cares about others even if I don’t know them.”
“I am someone who is down to earth and can’t stand being arrogant.”
“I am someone who is willing to drop anything for my family.”
These are a few examples. When you know who you are, you will find more purpose in your life. If you don’t know what your purpose is, find it and hold on to it. Once your purpose and identities are known to you, you are aware of who you are and can start identifying actions that take you away from who you are.
2. Decide to Make Change
Once you are aware of who you are you can strive to be true to yourself. You can start to take action and work on yourself. Truly deciding to make changes requires commitment. This is the point where most people fail. Deciding is not just declaring in your mind that you want to be true to yourself. Deciding is making active commitment to change. Write down things you have done in the past that have caused self-remorse and work on changing them. Write down things you don’t like about yourself. Decide, commit and you CAN grow.
To be true to your self is a journey and can be a rollercoaster ride. You will make mistakes. Those who make the same mistakes over and over or are confused with themselves will fall back to familiar behaviors and ultimately fail in their attempt to be true to themselves. Those that fail, but fight back, and return to their action plans to move forward will fail less and less. Thus, self-forgiveness is key to moving on to find higher levels of yourself.
4. Stop Comparing
In order to be true to yourself, you have to love yourself. Loving yourself makes the whole process that much easier. When you compare yourselves to others, you are actually detracting from yourself. You are loving them more than yourself. If you are comparing yourself negatively, you will do something that is out of line with who you really want to be. Don’t judge yourself by someone else’s standards. If you do know someone that has some truly amazing qualities and your inner-self wants to be more like that, you can develop those traits.
5. Embrace Yourself
Embracing yourself goes hand-in-hand with getting rid of comparisons. Embracing yourself means doing what you love. Be grateful for what you have. Find the power of gratefulness in your life. The only way to be instantaneously rich is by developing gratitude. Everyone has their own gifts to bring into the world. Everyone also has their own insecurities. Embrace your insecurities and be vulnerable with them and you will start to love yourself even more. Follow that little voice inside you. Respect yourself and others will respect you.
6. Identify Your Patterns of Failure
Most people, when failing things repeatedly, will be able to notice a cycle of failure. If you feel that you keep failing and messing up in life, examine your cycle and patterns of thinking. This process is similar to what addicts undergo in treatment. Addicts seek to identify a pattern of thoughts that contribute to their addictive behaviors. Many addicts will have thoughts unintentionally come into their head because of their addiction. Those that stay addicted aren’t aware of what these thoughts are doing when the thoughts turn into intentions. The intentions then turn into actions where an addict relapses and starts the process over again. After the process has started over again an addict might become complacent and let the thoughts turn into intentions and the whole process cycles over. Find your pattern of thinking that led to your behavior.
7. Change Your Patterns
This is the best part of the whole process because this is where you will find the changes in your life. The reason identifying patterns of failure is second to last is because someone might have done everything they needed to do but then fail after so much hard work and don’t know where to go after their failure. Once you have identified your pattern, you understand the process of yourself and you can see where you messed up to improve for the next time. You have a place to go after failure when you have identified your patterns. Changing your patterns comes down to a battle of will. Are you willing to do things differently? Are you willing to do things the hard way? If you are, you will succeed.
8. Reap the Rewards
To let your true self shine, love what you have done. Embrace yourself even more. Nothing can stop you. You are who you want to be. You can have a purpose. You will gain self-respect and others will respect you for that. You will inspire others and keep your actions in line with who you are because you have made the sacrifices to be a better you. You hold yourself to a higher standard and will continue to reap rewards from it.
Tyler Dahl is a freelance writer who dedicates his time to finding solutions for people who feel they can’t go on anymore. He specializes in writing about self-motivation and chronic pain. If you would like to contact him you can do so on his LinkedIn.
Spring may not have sprung for everyone, but the days are getting longer and MY mood is certainly improving. Hope you’ve had a fine month and are feeling good and in control of your life.
If not, I have a question for you, “How well have you accepted your ADHD? Or that your child has Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder? Do you doubt the diagnosis or feel helpless in the face of the many challenges impacting your personal or family life?
ADHD is NO ONE’S fault, but once you know about it, it is your RESPONSIBILITY. You and/or your child deserve to handle everyday life without undue stress and strain.
Why? Because you are WORTH it.
None of us are NORMAL. It doesn’t exist. All of us are somehow DIFFERENT. An article reporting on a Yale University study claims that all traits exist somewhere along a spectrum. This complicates diagnosing for medical professionals, but the degree of impairment determines whether the criteria for a diagnosis is met. Since an evaluation for ADHD requires that impairment be present in two or more settings, some type of intervention is indicated and could be of great value. Choosing to medicate and/or develop an ADHD friendly environment and a “bag of strategies and tricks” helps to “level the playing field.” Get to know your strengths, the ways that ADHD impacts your life and learn how to DO something about it!
This month, 3 authors have contributed 4 articles with lots of ideas to help you and your child. Enjoy these personal stories about coming to realize the necessity of treatment for all of your symptoms, whether it be medication or other interventions. Parents and adults both should find something that can help thrive despite negative effects from ADHD. I’ve also found 4 videos that explore the theme of self-awareness and acceptance of ADHD.
When you believe in your own worth and are willing to seek outside intervention to improve your life, ADHD need not be a barrier to success. You CAN find greater happiness in your life through knowledge, true acceptance of the disorder, and practicing empathy in how we speak to your child or yourself.