Avoiding ADHD Insanity

ADHD Strategies, Adults with ADHD    July 9, 2014

Albert Einstein once said…”Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Sound familiar?

For instance, have you been trying the same strategies to get out the door on time, but constantly arrive late? Are you struggling to organize your day at work or home only to lose (errr…forget) important pieces of the puzzle? Do you find yourself losing your temper with your children, spouse or other important people in your life and end the day feeling frustrated?

And at the end of it all, do you feel just a little bit like you are going crazy?

Einstein had it right…insanity is repeating the same thing and hoping this time, things will be different.

But we aren’t crazy. When we keep doing the same thing, hoping the results will be different, it may be that we keep trying to solve our challenges using our weaknesses, rather than tapping into and applying our ADHD gifts.

creativity word cloud on blackboardFor instance, one of the many gifts of an ADHD brain is the ability to be creative, but sometimes we get so stuck hyperfocusing on our failures that we fail to think outside the box to solve the problem.

Or often, we hit a “tipping point” and the old strategies don’t work anymore. We are suddenly struggling in areas of our lives where we usually find success.

What would it be like to pause, tap into that creative problem solving and ask…what can I do to fix this or what can I do differently?

The next time you find yourself in a situation where all your previous strategies aren’t working, try taking these steps:

  1. Stop and pause. Ask yourself: What is really the problem? For instance, continually having problems getting to work on time can be the result of many things. Is it that you are having a hard time organizing yourself to get out the door? Are you not allowing enough time to do everything you want to do to get out the door? Are you late because you don’t allow enough time for the drive? Are there new distractions or obstacles that pop up preventing you getting to work on time? Believe it or not, all these different situations require different solutions.
  1. Tap into your creativity. Creativity is just not for artists!!! Creativity is the use of the imagination for original ideas…and most of us with ADHD have this strength in abundance! So, try some creative, imaginative or even magical thinking to solve the problem. For instance ask yourself: If I had no restrictions (or even a magical wand), what could I do to get to work on time? Eliminate the ‘can’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t work’ thinking. Get grandiose with some of your ideas. Chances are the “new solution” is in there somewhere.
  1. Now take action. What would be the next step you could take to put some of those strategies into reality? And then, what would be the next step after that? What can you do right now, today? Yes, you can’t slow down time, but you might be able to do something the night before to give yourself more time in the morning?

Finally (because I love a good quote to keep me inspired), perhaps consider this: Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is not noise, trouble or work. It means to be in the midst of things and still be calm in your heart. ~ Anonymous

I’d love to hear how you use your creativity in your problem solving!!! Let me know by responding to the post or emailing me at .

 

Minimizing Your Symptoms of ADD: Which Comes First…Exercise, Diet or Sleep?

ADHD Strategies    June 10, 2014

Which is more important to help manage your symptoms of ADD…exercise, diet or sleep?

Ideally we are fueling our bodies with nutritious food, moving our bodies with regular exercise and getting the consistent sleep we need to feel rested, alert and focused to decrease our symptoms of ADD.

But reality is…we are missing at least one, if not all of these essential management strategies.

If you could focus on one key strategy to make the biggest difference in experiencing relief of your symptoms of ADD, which would it be?

Trying to address or change all three of these at the same time is a plan fraught with more potential for failure than success. So where to start? Up until recently, when trying to place one as a priority over the others, I am not sure I could choose. Each has its benefits and important role in managing your symptoms of ADD, but there is one that seems to be coming out a clear winner.

Man sleeping in bedSo if you are wondering “Where to start?” to minimize your symptoms of ADD and get the most bang for your effort, I am going to officially go on the record (and perhaps out on a limb) and say that getting enough, consistent sleep is the priority. Here’s why:

Sleep is more important than food. That is if the science I read is accurate. It’s true that a well-balanced diet rich in protein will benefit our overall energy and provide the longest lasting fuel source for our busy bodies and brains with ADHD. However, a person can go without food for many days and survive. Within a day of having a bad night’s sleep, we start to experience drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, less patience, decreased accuracy on tests, impaired judgment, memory challenges and a lessening in the functioning of our immune system to name just a few. Go without sleep for ten days, and you are likely to die. I am convinced that if sleep weren’t essential to our overall well-being we would have evolved out of it ages ago.

It’s hard to eat healthy when we are sleep deprived. When we are tired, our intention or determination to eat healthy is shaky at best. Simply put we don’t have the energy to shop, plan and prepare nutritious foods. Add to this the impulsive symptoms of ADD around food choices and our best intentions for healthy eating never make it through the kitchen door.  In fact we may even gain weight and feel hungrier as our tired mind seeks out easy to get sugary and carb-filled food because they are metabolized the fastest and will satisfy our exhausted brain.

Sleep is when our physical body regenerates and our hormonal and immune systems are restored. Without sleep, our body cannot mend itself. Wounds will not heal, muscles worn by exercise cannot repair, key neurotransmitters essential to our well-being and optimal brain functioning cannot be replenished. In fact ADHD medications are not as effective when poor sleep is involved because the unrested brain has not had a chance to restore its neurochemical balance. Our ability to fight infections and ward off illnesses is significantly decreased. Ever try to head out to the gym with a head cold?? There is also evidence that sleep deprivation will negatively affect our digestion and increase our stress hormones.

Lack of sleep dumbs you down. Sleep plays a critical role in thinking, learning and memory. Consistent, adequate sleep is key to being able to perform at our best academically or for that matter any task that requires memory and accuracy. Bluntly, lack of sleep interferes with attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently. Without sleep our memories can’t be consolidated and you can’t remember what you learned or experienced during the day. Just imagine trying to do well on a test or that report to your boss when your mind wasn’t able to fully absorb the information from the day before and your thinking is fuzzy.

You are less likely to feel like exercising when you are tired. Admittedly, sleep and exercise are intricately entwined. Research has shown that when we exercise we sleep better. However, when we don’t sleep we are not able to utilize or produce serotonin for our brain. Without enough of this neurotransmitter, we may experience depression or anxiety or both. Neither of these common co-existing conditions with ADD are very motivating when it is required to put one foot in front of the other and head out the door for a brisk walk.

If you are not sleeping well, here are a few key ways to maximize your pillow time:

  • Turn off screen electronics at least one hour before you plan to go to bed.
  • Develop a bed time routine that helps your body and mind prepare to shut down for the day. This might include bathing, changing into pajamas or reading.
  • Create the most ideal sleep conditions for yourself. Cool rooms and warm blankets are more conducive to sleep. Keep the room dark and consider adding white noise in the background if your mind tends to not want to shut off. Pay attention to physical distractions that might interfere with sleep such as uncomfortable mattresses, scratchy sheets or tight fitting sleep wear.
  • Get up at the same time (or within an hour of that time) every day…including weekends and holidays. Although we would love it to be true, we can’t make up for lost sleep and “sleeping in” on weekends deregulates other areas of our lives that plays havoc with such things as when to eat, exercise, take ADHD medications, etc.

How are you sleeping with ADHD? Let me know by responding to this post.

Happiness and ADHD

Recently I’ve noticed that being “happy” or striving for “happiness” is a major topic of many conversations. We seem to live in a world where we are inundated by information about being happy. Pursuing it could literally be a full time job! Being someone who has struggled with depression, it has made me wonder what would happen if we were happy all the time, whether unhappiness has a purpose, and if happiness is really the point.

So what would happen if we were happy all the time?

Imagine being one of those people who was always happy (there are some out there). What would that be like? Waking up to greet each day with a smile, and looking forward to whatever the day will bring. Sounds wonderful. I for one would be tempted to stay and delight in that blissful state of happiness and do nothing else.

And when I mean nothing else…I mean just that. Life would be good. I would be happy. And I probably wouldn’t feel the need to change. Or grow or take on challenges that might make me uncomfortable. So I would do the same things every day. Because let’s face it… if I’m happy with things just the way they are, why would I do anything to change that?

Hmmm…almost sounds boring.

fingers coupleLooking at it that way, I am not sure we are meant to only be happy. As a student of science I know that very little we experience as human beings is random. Whether that is physical or mental. It seems that experiencing the entire range of feelings from happy to sad allows us full expression of our emotions. Realizing that happiness is at one end of the spectrum, maybe it’s sometimes okay to also acknowledge being sad. Sometimes…it might even be necessary.

What do we get from unhappiness?

For many people, depression is a common co-occurring condition with ADHD. In fact nearly 50% of people with ADHD experience feelings of low mood, sadness, or hopelessness along with the ADHD symptoms of distractibility, difficulty focusing, impulsivity and restlessness. With these statistics, it seems that UNhappiness is a somewhat normal emotion of ADHD. In fact, I would even go out on a limb to say that it is an important component.

Because while being unhappy is not very fun, there is a richness that comes with its ups and downs. A variety. Being constantly happy would be boring. Boredom is the bane of existence for people with ADHD. We avoid boredom at all costs. Perhaps unhappiness provides us with a range of experiences that keep things from feeling all the same. We realize that if we can’t be happy in that moment, we might as well be experiencing something interesting and different to try to find that feeling of bliss.

We also tend to value things more if we work for them or if they are a challenge. If being happy were easy, would we appreciate it? Unhappiness and dissatisfaction is uncomfortable. Most people don’t like being uncomfortable so we seek out ways to change things, for things to be different. Whether it be in our work, our relationships, our environment, the way we treat ourselves or the way we let others treat us, unhappiness propels us to make changes, learn and grow.

So although being unhappy is not ideal, perhaps it is necessary. Unhappiness, although not recommended as a constant mood, gives us something to push against as we strive for happiness. It is an important part of why people are willing to work so hard and take the risks to make changes personally and in their world.

And is happiness even the point at all?

Having been there, I’m not saying we should pursue or celebrate sadness, but maybe it’s okay to accept, embrace and experience our sadness as being important to living a full life rather than something to escape.

Personally I find it helpful to acknowledge my sadness when I am experiencing it, so I can learn from it and move forward. Nothing is worse for me than putting on a “happy” face.

A couple of years ago I read a book recommended by my daughter’s English teacher. A quote from the book seems to sum things up:

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” Perks of Being a Wallflower

After all, life is full of both richness and sadness and, if we are to live a full and meaningful life, it means accepting all of our emotions – good, bad, happy and sad.