What 10,000 Steps and ADHD Have in Common

ADHD Awareness    April 30, 2019

ADHD myths

If you’ve been following my newsletter and blogs, you know that I have stepped up (pun intended) my exercise in the last few months. So, you can understand when I say that finding out that the 10,000-step goal was a myth, just an arbitrary number, sort of burst my exercise enthusiasm bubble.

Whether you’re new to walking or looking for a way to improve your health you’ve likely heard the advice to aim for 10,000 steps a day. For most people, this equals roughly 5 miles, depending on things like height and walking gait, etc. I will admit I was working toward this goal myself. Yet, it turns out 10,000 steps isn’t the Holy Grail for healthy walking.

So how did the 10,000 steps number come to be? Interestingly, the number can actually be traced back to a marketing promotion for a pedometer that was released in Japan in the 1960s. That was over 50 years ago! Since then, other businesses have jumped on the 10,000 steps bandwagon, used this random number…and the 10,000 steps movement was born.

It occurs to me that the myths about ADHD that have been going on for decades are a lot like the 10,000 steps myth. In fact many of them originated about the same time in history. Myths and misconceptions about ADHD that science, time and experience have proven wrong over and over again. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence random, unsubstantiated rumors continue to be believed.

Here are some of the myths about ADHD that are not accurate, along with the accompanying fact:

Myth: ADHD does not exist at all. It was made up by psychiatrists, drug companies, psychologists, and the media, to create more business.

Fact: Scientific studies spanning 100 years have consistently described a group of individuals who struggle with concentration, impulse control, and in some cases, hyperactivity. The name for these challenges has changed over the years. Currently, the appropriate medical term is called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This condition has been confirmed as a disability by the legal, educational, and medical systems.

Myth: The medication to treat ADHD is the same as cocaine or meth and is addictive.

Fact: Medically prescribed medications used to treat ADHD are chemically different from cocaine and methamphetamine. Saying they are the same is like saying that oxygen and water are the same because they both contain the molecule oxygen. In fact most people diagnosed with ADHD struggle to remember to take their medication. A behavior exactly the opposite of someone addicted. Longitudinal studies have shown that individuals with ADHD when properly diagnosed and treated with stimulant medication such as Ritalin or Adderall actually have a lower risk of addiction in adulthood.

Myth: ADHD is just an excuse to not be responsible.

Fact: ADHD is a neurobiological disorder resulting in the inefficient communication of the neurotransmitters in the brain. One of the primary symptoms of someone with ADHD is of being easily distracted. Although it can look to someone else as if they don’t care or are irresponsible, the struggle to follow through is due to the significant distractibility characteristic of ADHD.

Myth: ADHD is a result of bad parenting.

Fact: The symptoms of ADHD are due to a biological-based miscommunication of the neurotransmitters in the frontal lobe of the brain. Just as you can’t improve someone’s vision, diabetes or asthma with discipline, neither can you punish a child with ADHD and correct the neurobiological basis of the disorder.

Myth: ADHD is something made up by Big Pharm to make money.

Fact: Pharmaceutical companies are businesses and as such aim to sustain a profit. However, there is smaller financial gain in the manufacturing of treatment of medications for ADHD compared to disorders such as diabetes or high cholesterol. Also, there have only been a handful of new pharmacological treatments for ADHD on the market in the last 70 years. If there were money to be made in the treatment of ADHD, Big Pharm would certainly be churning out options more prolifically. Compare this to the huge growth in the pharmaceuticals used to treat high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.

Myth: The diagnosis of ADHD isn’t scientific.

Fact: We are fortunate to live at a time when science has advanced to the point of being able to see into the fluids of our body to diagnose such things as diabetes, or view inside our body to detect cancer. It can therefore make sense to assume that unless there is a specific physical medical test for ADHD, it isn’t real. Yet, what we forget is that at one time those methods of detection and diagnosis were not always possible either. Even though there currently is no single physical medical test for diagnosing ADHD, it is recognized as a legitimate diagnosis by medical, psychological, and educational organizations worldwide. Until science advances further, disorders like ADHD are still best diagnosed by a qualified professional skilled at differentiating symptoms based on a person’s history and current challenges. This method of diagnosing is still the gold standard used in the diagnosis of ADHD.

Myth: You can’t have ADHD if you are an adult.

Fact: 50-70% of children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to struggle with symptoms and challenges consistent with ADHD into adulthood. Individuals are diagnosed at different ages due to a combination of their specific challenges, environmental support, and compensating strengths. ADHD is not a disorder that discriminates based on age. A diagnosis of ADHD is possible at any age as long as the person meets the diagnostic criteria.

By learning more about ADHD, you can help increase the truth, understanding, and awareness worldwide. What is one of the ADHD myths you have heard and what do you know is the truth? Let me know by responding in the comment section below.

Oh…and about those 10,000 steps.  Experts recommend that you track the amount of time you are active rather than the number of steps. The goal? 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. For me that is good news although I will admit it may not stop me from asking for a Fitbit for Mother’s Day!

Marie Kondo Your ADHD

ADHD Strategies    March 31, 2019

I’ll admit…I’m a huge fan of Marie Kondo…the petite, bubbly Japanese de-clutter-er. I first read her book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” years ago. I took to heart the “does it spark joy” question to help reduce some of my home’s clutter. Using the spark joy prompt…I was able to say good-bye to items I had held onto for years.

When my daughter told me that Marie Kondo had a Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” I was thrilled! I don‘t know if my binge watching was curiosity about Marie Kondo the person, or the transformations that occurred under her tutelage. Either way…I am smitten.

Being such a huge fan, I couldn’t help consider how some of the tidying principles might apply to living with ADHD. The physical decluttering application seems obvious. However, it is how the overall Marie Kondo tidying message can be applied to other areas of our lives that I wanted to explore further. And this is what I came up with.

One of the key questions Mari Kondo asks people when decluttering things in their homes is “does this spark joy?” In Marie Kondo’s world, it’s important to take a moment to hold and consider the item while asking if the item “sparks joy”. Doing this helps people notice the difference between those things that “spark joy” and those that don’t, which is important. If it doesn’t “spark joy,” then out it goes! Why? Because if something doesn’t “spark joy” for us, it is a burden to us. It is draining mental, physical, or emotional energy from our lives.

The Marie Kondo system of decluttering starts with areas and things in our homes that are easier to sort, like clothes or books. After becoming comfortable with the joy or no joy process, it’s time to move on to more emotionally charged areas, like memorabilia, photos, etc.

Oh, and one last thing about the letting go of things. Thanking them before we let them go. When we realize something does not spark joy for us any longer, it’s important to take a moment, say “thank you” and pass it on.

Now when you are living with ADHD, our homes aren’t the only things that need decluttering. There are also our thoughts and beliefs. The longer we have lived with ADHD, the more beliefs, rules or habits we have collected. Many that need to be aired out and possibly tossed out.

So, when applied to your ADHD life, does what you’re doing/feeling/believing “spark joy”?

When Marie Kondo-ing your ADHD life, start with areas that feel easier for you to sort through and work forward from there. You get to decide the order that works best for you.

You may want to get a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Write “Sparks Joy” on one side of the page, and “Does NOT Spark Joy” on the other. Starting at the top of the page in the left hand margin working down, write the words: systems, sleep, food, movement, environment, plan, relationships, work, rules and beliefs. Leave several lines between the words on the left to allow space for you to write your responses.

Here is a list of things you might want to consider:

  • Do the systems or strategies you use to manage your ADHD spark joy? Are they interesting, engaging and effective in helping you accomplish your “to do’s”? Consider the current strategies and habits you use to manage your ADHD. If a system is not sparking joy for you, think about what needs to change. Allow yourself to revisit what worked or sparked joy in the past. Be curious as to the similarities between those systems and structures that spark joy for you and those that don’t.
  • Does your sleep spark joy? Adequate sleep is essential for optimal brain function. So, does your sleep spark joy? What about where you sleep? Do your sheets, blankets, and pillows spark joy? Do your pajamas spark joy? Does the temperature of the room and your covers spark joy? If not, what might need to change?
  • Does the food you eat spark joy? The food we eat with ADHD can add to the healthy functioning of our brain or not. Food can be enjoyable…or not. Consider if the food you are eating sparks joy for you. Does it feel nourishing? Healthy? Enjoyable? If not, why? What can you add or change? What new recipes or old favorites might you add. Recently I have started eating a lot of finger food. Cutting cheese into cubes, slicing and rolling lunch meat, adding more raw vegetables and dips. For me, eating food with my hands is definitely sparks joy!.
  • Does movement and exercise in your life spark joy? This is a biggie for me. If I don’t like it, I won’t do it. Although exercising may never get easier for me, I have found that the right music, sights and shoes do wonders for my enjoyment of it. If exercise doesn’t spark joy for you, consider what you can change to make it more interesting, engaging or stimulating for you.
  • Does your overall environment spark joy? Consider the places you spend most of your time. It could be your home, office or even school. With ADHD it might be a given that our physical areas are more cluttered, but this is more about the overall space where you spend your time. Does being in that space spark joy? If not, consider what is getting in the way of that feeling. Begin to break down what specific things either do or do not spark joy. What might need to change?
  • Does your planning spark joy? With ADHD, “plan” or “structure” can feel constricting and limiting. Certainly not joyful. However, the right planning system can also provide just enough structure so we are actually freed up to do other things. So, does your planning or external reminder system (EMS) spark joy for you? Is it visually interesting and engaging? Is it organized in a way that fits with your needs? If not, what might you change?
  • Do the relationships in your life spark joy? Which relationships do, and which do not. Start with noticing the feeling you get when you hold the thought of someone that does spark joy for you. Now, notice the feeling you get when you hold the thought of someone that doesn’t spark joy for you. What is the difference? Begin considering what might need to change in your relationships. What relationships are you holding onto that are draining you rather than energizing you? What might need to change in your circle of support for you to experience more joy in these relationships?
  • Does your work spark joy? If not, what is missing? Work is a major part of our lives. Typically we spend at least a quarter of our lives working, whether you work for yourself, work for someone else, work out of the home or work in the home. What about your work or parts of your work spark joy? What themes or similarities do you notice about what sparks joy and what doesn’t? What might need to change for your work to spark joy?
  • Do the rules or beliefs you have about yourself spark joy? Living with ADHD for any length of time means that we are going to have internalized lots and lots of mind clutter. This is a great time to Marie Kondo those rules and beliefs about yourself that no longer apply. Separate those thoughts and ideas that are positive and make you feel good verses those that are limiting, zap your energy and are not encouraging or helpful to hold onto. What beliefs do you have about yourself that spark joy? Which do not? Which might you want to let go of?

If areas of your life with ADHD don’t spark joy for you, try tidying it up with the Marie Kondo approach. Life with ADHD can mean that clutter is not only in our homes or offices,  but in our minds. Remember to start with what’s easy to declutter in your life. Acknowledge those areas and things that spark joy for you. Then, step-by-step, thank and let go of the things in your life that are no longer serving you and adding to your ADHD clutter.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about tidying up your ADHD life.  Let me know in the comments section below.

I Haven’t Exercised for More Than 5 Minutes Since 2017

ADHD Strategies    March 1, 2019

Deep breath.

This blog is going to be a bit more personal. And, I know this isn’t going to work if I’m not completely honest.

I had a terrific start to 2019…I completely rocked January!  I cut sugar and white food out of my diet and I’m sleeping a good 8 hours each night.  But with the start of March, I need help with one of my other goals for 2019.  Specifically exercising.  So I’m reaching out to all of you…my tribe.

You see I know myself pretty well.  I know I don’t want to let you down.  You are one of my biggest motivators.  So, I figured I’d approach this as if you are my virtual accountability partner.  Starting with being honest with you and myself.  It doesn’t work otherwise.

So here goes.

I haven’t exercised purposefully in almost two years.  Gulp.

Despite my love of productivity and getting stuff done, I have yet to strap one of those steps monitoring Fitbits to my wrist. In complete honesty, I would be embarrassed to know how few steps I actually take during the day.  In truth, I’m feeling pretty disappointed with myself.

Sure, there was a polar vortex in early February here in the Pacific Northwest, which left inches of snow on the ground.  However, I knew when I moved here that normal weather in my beloved state of Washington is wet and cold and often windy.  You don’t need sun to take a walk.  And I have a great umbrella collection to choose from even if it does rain.

When I lived in California it was much easier to get inspired to go for a walk…that was until it was too hot.  And my two furry four-legged friends were always so happy and motivating when I pulled out their leashes.  But times change and I’m in-between wagging tails as motivators at the moment.

For the majority of the last two years, I have lived at the top of one of those infamous Seattle hillsides (think San Francisco).  Starting a walk going downhill is OK, but realizing that I would be scaling the same hill going up at the end of my walk paralyzed me.  Yet avoiding hills isn’t making it any better.

Moving this month has certainly convinced me of the need to work on my endurance and strength.  Climbing three flights of stairs to carry my belongings to my new abode has humbled me beyond words.  And I will admit that I am considering putting off the 10,000 steps goal even longer, rationalizing that my body needs to recover.

And yet I know that before I could say “AttentionDeficitHyperactivityDisorder”…March will be here…and I will still not have made any progress towards my fitness goal.  And I really want to explore my new town!

I know what this means.  It means that I need to take a spoonful of my own advice.  My exercise goal right now is too big.  It’s a problem of mine at times.  Setting big hairy audacious goals.  I usually meet them head on.  But this is different.

10,00 steps a day…everyday…feels too big.  Even once a week to start with feels pretty big.  I need to make it smaller…break it down…take only a bite…or a few steps.

I’ve done this before.  When my youngest daughter was born, I knew that the only way to keep up with my four children was to be in shape.  At that time I was either walking or on a stair climber for an hour a day.  Three years ago, my oldest daughter got married and I wanted her to be proud of me when I walked her down the aisle.  Again, I walked, building up my endurance to over 3 miles a day.

The thing I always forget is that I need to start small.  So I am going back to my roots.  I am going to start with exercising 10 minutes a day…for 40 days and go from there.

There can be real magic in a ten-minute goal.  I can do just about anything for ten minutes.  And ten minutes a day adds up in a way that is truly amazing.  At the end of 40 days that would be 400 minutes or 6 hour and 6ish minutes of exercise I wouldn’t have otherwise done.  And who knows, maybe I will go beyond that minimum goal, and it’ll add up to even more.

I’m also going to allow myself to be generous with what exercise means as I start out.  Exercise means literally any movement I wouldn’t have otherwise done.  Since I currently could spend easily 10 hours a day in my office working, just about anything that involves moving for health counts.

Forty days is April 9th.

I’m hoping you’ll help keep me to my word.  I’ll let you know how it’s going in my next newsletter…how I’m doing.  If you want to give it a go with me, you can add that into the comment section below.

Let’s do this!

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