Posted on May 20, 2013
I’m often asked what one can do to get un-stuck and to get motivated. There are hundreds of books out on motivation and procrastination and I’m sure there are hundreds of great tips and suggestions, as well. But I think we sometimes forget to dig a bit deeper and really ask ourselves what is holding us back, why and what we can do about it.
Obviously, having ADHD means the problems above are typically part of your every day struggles. Those symptoms are hallmarks of having ADHD. We can discuss the way our brain works to pick up some clues, but today, I’d like to take a different approach.
When something is stopping you dead in your tracks, whether it’s a pile of papers sitting on your desk needing to be filed, bills needing to be paid, laundry to be washed, yards needing to be weeded, ask yourself this:
- What is preventing me from jumping in and doing these things?
- Why am I avoiding these tasks/chores?
- What can I do to move forward?
Here are some common reasons why people with ADHD get stuck in Procrastinator’s Hell:
- Feeling overwhelmed: the piles look 20 feet high.
- Not knowing where to start.
- Not having the proper tools/equipment to get the job done.
- Fear of getting things done; fear of not getting things done.
- Lack of time (often, perceived time).
What can you do?
I’m a big proponent of using mind games. We all know the normal tricks for getting things done when you have ADHD:
- Using your planner and writing in your chores
- Using a timer to keep you on track
- Rewarding yourself for any and all successes
But what about mind games? Actually, they aren’t mind games; they’re simply a new way of looking at your problems and getting through them. Here’s a few:
Looking back at my list of WHAT, WHY and WHAT CAN BE DONE, analyze them all carefully:
- Identify what the problem is (no clean clothes)
- Ask yourself why that is a problem (avoided doing laundry because too tired, too busy, too boring and often, over-estimating the time needed to accomplish it)
- Decide what you can do about it (put clean clothes away to free up baskets for dirty laundry- yes, I know you keep clean clothes in those baskets!)
And here’s where the mind games come in:
You can choose not to do the laundry and wear dirty clothes. You can choose to not pay bills and pay finance fees. You can choose to leave dirty dishes out on the counter and feel disgusted with yourself every morning that you have to face the mess.
If you’ve read about ADHD, you have lots of tools in your toolbox on how to manage the problems above. But yet, there’s still something missing, and that’s the internal dialogue:
If I CHOOSE to leave the mess, the piles, the bills, HOW does that make me feel? What are the consequences of this?
If I CHOOSE to take action and get these things done, HOW will that make me feel?
You can choose how you wish to feel.
If you’ve made the choice to take action, you can then grab the tools you know you’ll need: make sure you set aside time for the chore, find ways to make it as pain free as possible, etc. Lots of these ideas and tips are in my book, “Survival Tips for Women with ADHD.”
Now that you’ve made the decision to feel GOOD instead of BAD, join me online at my ADD Action Team, where we work together as teammates to get things DONE. This month, we’re working on de-cluttering the yard, tool shed, basement and storage areas and your car. But you’re free to choose whatever project is making YOU unhappy about yourself.
Are you ready to move forward? Or not?
Join me today at the ADD Action Team and we will work together to get you out of your rut. And maybe your mood will begin to soar!
Posted on May 05, 2013
Years ago, I found myself in a conversation with a mom whose husband and two high schoolers had ADHD. This woman, a professional working part time in a highly competitive medical field, obviously had her hands full, keeping on top of things. Yet, when she spoke of her daily challenges, she had a smile on her face. I asked her how she was able to juggle all these things without having a nervous breakdown and she said simply, “I take a vacation ever couple of months to re-charge.”
Now, I don’t know of many people who can afford the luxury of going on vacation that frequently, so I quizzed her about how she did this. Her response made a lasting impression on me.
She explained that in order to take care of her family, she had to first take care of herself. So…every couple of months, she booked a room at a local hotel, which happened to be connected to a large mall. Since she always “vacationed” on a weekend, her husband was able to take over the parenting duties in her absence. She spent the weekend relaxing and shopping, sleeping in, eating out and basically, re-charging. She said it was cheaper than going to a psychiatrist where she would only spew out her frustrations over and over again each week. This way, she saved money, and after a couple of days, felt renewed and able to face another few months of “ADD insanity.”
The added bonus was that her husband had the opportunity to not only connect more deeply with his children; he also got a taste of the difficulties his wife experienced in taking care of their daily needs. Their marriage strengthened in the process.
When I lecture on the topic of parenting children with ADHD, particularly when the parents also have ADHD, I typically suggest that they think about the instructions travelers hear from flight attendants before takeoff: “In case of an emergency, make sure you don your oxygen mask before placing one on your child.” In other words, in order to care for your child, you need to take care of YOU, first.
In that vein, this mother had figured out that in order to be an effective parent, she needed to take care of her own physical and emotional needs in order to be available to her children and husband.
Here are some other ways to take care of YOU if your loved ones have ADHD:
- Take time away from the family- with your spouse, a friend or alone.
- Hire a sitter to help with the kids EVEN if you’re at home.
- Maintain a sense of humor. Easier said than done, I know. But if you can identify these times of distress as “ADD Moments”, it’s one way to re-frame things in a more positive light.
- Don’t take on all of the responsibility. Mothers in particular, feel society’s pressure to take over and manage the majority of household and parenting responsibilities. Start a dialogue with your partner about helping out more.
- Of course, there’s the obvious: good health habits- exercise, good sleep hygiene, eating properly.
- Remind yourself of your family’s positive traits and get into the habit of praising them. We tend to over-focus on the negatives. This shift alone will change the tone and relieve stress within the entire family.
- Let go of the guilt. If you’re reading this, you are working on learning as much as you can about ADHD and how to get the help you need. Stop the self-blame; it only takes up needed energy.
- Consider seeing a therapist or counselor to get support and to learn ways to manage your ADHD family.
- Make sure all family members with ADHD are getting the proper treatment.
- Work with your partner in presenting a united front. The children need consistency of expectations and discipline.
- Take parenting classes specific to challenging children. Arm yourself with parenting tools.
- As Dr. Ned Hallowell often says, “never worry alone”. Reach out to others who are sharing your struggles. Join CHADD, ADDA and local support groups. Open up to family and friends about your difficulties. Find online forums and chats where you can find empathy and even share strategies.
If one of the family members with ADHD happens to be you, make sure you are receiving optimal treatment. Think back to the oxygen analogy. If you aren’t living optimally and managing your own ADHD symptoms, it will be much harder to handle the needs of your family.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Posted on April 23, 2013
Just a few weeks ago, this country, this entire world, was shaken by the Boston Marathon bombings. The media is having a field day with this story – you can’t seem to get away from it.
I happened to be online, reading Facebook when someone posted the horrific news. I was horrified, sickened and worried about what would unfold. Of course, everyone was shocked and terrified by this tragic story, but I found that I could not take my eyes off the news or turn off the radio or stop myself from reading online news feeds. The videos were repeated over and over again until I could memorize the faces of the people running past the finish lines- some in horror, some not even aware of what was happening.
Most people seemed to be able to fit this new piece of terrifying history into a place in their brain and move on with their daily lives, for the most part. I, however, could not remove the frightening images and fear that left me breathless for days.
You see, lots of people with ADHD have an intense emotional reaction to things- we feel “too strongly.” Not in a negative way, but in a neurobiological sense. Certain commercials can bring immediate tears to my eyes. Soulful songs can bring a lump to my throat. As a teenager attending my first symphony, I was overcome by emotion, dabbing my eyes throughout the concert. Hearing of children with special needs struggling in school due to uninterested or misinformed staff makes me pull together a rally in the capital to fight for their rights. In fact, the reason I went into social work a billion years ago, was because of my intense need to fight injustice in this world.
At the time, I didn’t know I had ADHD. But I understand now that I feel things so deeply that if I don’t do something proactive, I literally feel sick.
For those of us with ADD, a comment that can sound like a mild criticism can set us into a tizzy, causing us to obsess over our perceived shortcomings. A book with a sad ending can make us plummet into a bad mood, or worse, for days. Yet, a sunny day after a long gray winter can make us feel indestructible and on top of the world, because deep feelings can go both ways. I remember weeping and I mean weeping when my oldest daughter walked down the stage with her newly earned college degree under her arm. The intensity of my feelings can just get the best of me, sometimes. Which is why I rarely go to the movies, and flat out refuse to watch violent TV shows.
I’m not sure how much of this is the neurobiology of our ADD brains, our sometimes lack of impulse control (emotional, in this case) or if it’s a trigger, a memory of early screw-ups that makes us more sensitive and vulnerable.
What about you? What triggers your deepest emotions? How do you deal with them?