How hot can you handle it?

I originally shared a variation of this on social media but I’m going to expand upon it here, why, cause you’re my favorite in the whole wide world 😉 

​​Mindset may not rid you of the challenges of ADHD, but it has everything to do with for long long you keep going. 

How many things in life have you had to push through? I mean really work hard and sometimes end up with a result you don’t like. 

How’d you respond, “I’m never doing that again” or “That was a waste of time.”

Not really the cry of a resilient ADHD Warrior (someone with ADHD who keeps challenging themselves regardless of their difficulties).​​​​

It’s the cry of someone who values winning above learning.

Responding with, “Well that was an education” turns an undesirable outcome into part of the process of becoming better. It isn’t the end.

Case in point,​​​​​​ ​​yesterday
 was the hottest day I can remember since the MS was diagnosed in 2017.
​ 
My wife said it reached 100°F

​I spent most of the day in bed, trying to stay cool. Yes the A/C was on. 

​It became increasingly hard to move as my joints and muscles tightened. I’m guessing as the temperature increased. 

​Yes I drank plenty of water which had nothing to do with the symptoms anyway. 

​The pain in my legs was like fire and for a time I could neither feel or move my left arm. 

​I’m proud of myself for the self talk I managed during all this. 

​Once the sun set I began feeling better. As difficult as it was I kept coming back to the process, “Just another minute, just get through it, one breath at a time. It was like mindfulness on steroids.”

I wasn’t trying to win anything or beat anyone. I simply focused on enduring the overwhelm of the experience until I came out the other side. I couldn’t do much more to change the situation but I could choose my mindset throughout the storm.​​ 

​​Attitude is the secret weapon in managing ADHD as it determines your approach to seeking and using strategies that can help you live more fully. 

Your greatest tool is between your years but so few take the time to learn how to use it.

What do you have to lose?

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What’s in it for me?

A common question when presented with an opportunity. Here’s the issue.

Gaining something isn’t the always the ideal outcome of an opportunity.

Losing may be what you’re actually looking to experience.

For example, I meditate every day to reinforce my capacity for equanimity.

I also do it to shed any tendency to emotionally react to things.

When I became a parent I learned to let go of many things to stop driving myself crazy with self doubt and criticism.

I invite you to share things you had to let go of to be a more effective parent:

Knowing everything – our heads are loaded with opinions supercharged by emotion. When the emotion is stirred we vomit opinions all over our kids in the least effective way. Virtually guaranteeing we’ll be dismissed as irrational by our kids.

Drama – Worst case scenarios are useful for helping you to see how out of hand a worry driven imagination can become. But when used to try and instill fear, e.g. “If you stay on this path you’re gonna end up blah, blah, blah.”

These scenarios can seem unrealistic to a young kid with no point of reference to help them appreciate what you’re talking about.

What is a good teacher is natural consequences.

Rescuing – I set myself up for a huge fall when I believed I could protect my boys from pain and suffering.

You simply can’t protect your child from the human condition or naive, short sighted, often impulsive decisions kids make.

Your adult brain functions at a different level of emotional maturity (hopefully) and self discipline than your child.

You’ve achieved that in part due to simple biology. Which means, your child’s brain isn’t as developed as yours so don’t make the mistake of thinking your child can simply grow up, so to speak.

Being the Hero – I used to want to impress my boys and everyone else for that matter. That was my ego and insecurities talking.

Nowadays I want to model how much more fully you can experience life by just being human.

By letting go of the fear of taking risks and replacing it with a yearning for discovery and growth.

Show your kids how to learn and grow instead of demanding it.

I think you’ll like those results better.

How can ADHD lead to overeating?

 
This started with my frustration over my difficulty losing weight. No matter what I do I keep vacillating between eating well and overeating. 
 
As I made my morning smoothie I dumped the frozen fruit in the blender and said to myself, “Thank goodness they sell this in portioned sizes so I don’t overdo it.”
 
Then it hit me, “They were made into portions ahead of time so it was harder for me to overeat.” 
 
Of course meal planning is a helpful way to avoid overeating, but there’s more. 
 
I work with a lot of parents on homework strategies and my mind drew a comparison to “chunking” which is about breaking larger tasks into smaller manageable bites (sound familiar)? “Chunking” is also helpful when cleaning a home or work space. 
 
We tend to think of “chunking” as it relates to organization but not so much when it comes to eating.
 
Why is chunking particularly helpful for people with ADHD or ASD?
 
Why is “chunking” something we often need help with every time we need it?  
 
I’ll answer these questions in a bit.
 
I posted this question to one of the parent groups I belong to,“Does your child with ADHD or ASD have difficulty breaking down large assignments AND also tend to overeat at meals?
 
Some of the reply’s I received include:
 
  1. Yes. My daughter needs large assignments broken down into small tasks. When her medicine has wore off or she hasn’t taken it that day, she overeats.

  2. No because we’ve broken it down into smaller segments with regular activity breaks and praise. We also now have him make his lunches and have him grow and prep dinners and help doing menus so that he has more control thus eliminating the fights.
     
  3. Yes mine does. We have to tell him he has had enough food. He will whine and say he is still hungry this is after having seconds on food. I don’t think he is aware of what it means to be full.
     
  4.  My son has a hard time staying on task when it comes to big assignments. We have to break it down into smaller steps and I have to stay with him to make sure he stays on task as he finds it really hard to concentrate. When it comes to food he eats a LOT and he eats really fast. It’s almost like it’s a race for him.

So what’s this all mean? 

As parents we tend to focus so much on classroom success we forget to explore how executive function issues show up outside the classroom. 


When your brain thinks in an “all or nothing” way, which ADHD & ASD brains do. There are two ways to approach a large task, do all of it or none of it. 

Homework can appear overwhelming because, “I can’t do all that work, it’s too much. So I just won’t do it.”

The option of “chunking” seems elusive because a brain that struggles with that ability won’t seek it as a solution, it isn’t an easier path to the desired outcome. 

When your brain doesn’t chunk well it stays with what it knows, all or nothing

But when someone good at “chunking” helps me create a list or template I can use again and again, its like building a bridge over a steep valley so that two things are connected that previously may have felt miles apart.

Recipes chunk down the process of preparing a meal.
Lists and templates help break down larger projects into less overwhelming and manageable tasks. 

Portion control is about meal planning AND having a specific definition of what it means to be full. 

I used to eat until I felt full, like Thanksgiving full. Now I eat to feel not hungry, big difference. 

Kids with poor self-awareness may not be tuned into their hunger and eat until it hurts because that is a strong and clear signal that they’re no longer hungry.

All or nothing, starving or stuffed. 

So now that I realize my overeating is (at least in part), due to my extreme difficulty with “chunking” things down,

I’m going to ramp up the amount of support I seek in this area so I can experience better results. 
 
How is this helpful for you?

Fear of the unknown keeps life from being better

A subject that keeps showing up in conversations with clients and colleagues alike, is fear.

More specifically the fear that seems to reside outside your awareness.

For example, you may be very aware you’re afraid of spiders but oblivious to your fear of success.

How does a fear of success show up then? By not following up on opportunities or outright saying NO to opportunities you know are good because something didn’t feel right.

Yeah, that feeling is cognitive dissonance.

Know what that force field of plasma surrounding your comfort zone is made of – fear.

Fear keeps the familiar inside the perimeter and the risk of progress on the outside.

One of the most important characteristics of anyone who values life long growth and learning is a seemingly insatiable curiosity.

Curiosity trumps fear because curiosity wants to and is committed to exploring the unknown.

Fear stops in its tracks for the simple reason that it stands before the unknown.

Fear is the mother of so many thoughts and feelings that sap your energy and blunt your ability to see what’s truly possible for you.

Fortunately, I work with people committed to taking fear head on.

We help each other push through it and permit ourselves to succeed.

It isn’t enough to want it, you must permit yourself to rise to it and to let it in.

How is fear holding you back?

How structured are you and is it hurting your problem solving ability?

How structured are you?

Do you need a plan before taking action or do you prefer to get started and figure it out as you go?

As someone living with ADHD it’s helpful to have an end goal, some objectives along the way to remind you where you are but also room to play.

I think my organizational strategy is like an outline of activities within which I get to play as a means of accomplishing that objective.

By play I mean giving your scattered, nonlinear and curious brain room to wander, reflect and consider the possibilities as it related to solving the problem at hand.

Too much structure kills your creative flow.

Think of a syllabus or a workshop agenda so detailed it feels like you’re being asked to squeeze yourself into a pair of skinny jeans.

Whether you end up fitting or not the effort you put in leaves you exhausted.

Solution? When dealing with an agenda that leaves you feeling like you just need to break free and play, allow yourself to play.

Honor the part of you that works best on the road less traveled, the road we always take likely offers nothing new.

So I’ll work within your sandbox but I’ll play with the toys however I want to. Don’t worry I’ll have your sandcastle by the end of the day.

My son with ADHD kept hitting classmates, here’s why

I’m blown away by how out of touch many parents and educators are when it comes to understanding why our kids with ADHD do what they do.

Please Please Please STOP seeing undesirable behavior as the problem and stopping said behavior as the solution.

I had an exchange with a mother in an ADHD Facebook group. Her son keeps getting in trouble for hitting classmates.

Other parents in the group suggested dietary changes, medications and a functional behavior assessment.

My suggestion, ask him why he hits his classmates.

We determined that her son is very anxious and wants things to happen in a certain way because he feels calmer when things are predictable.

When a classmate doesn’t follow the unspoken plan he becomes anxious and hits the student.

The issue here is a student with inflexible and self centered core beliefs. Pills and diets won’t help here but a good counselor or coach can.

Ways to keep overwhelm away

This morning I was asked what my go to strategy was for when things become too overwhelming.

To start with, I do my best not to let things get that far before doing something. Proactivity vs Reactivity is the name of the game.

Sure there will be life events that are unexpected and happen faster than you can anticipate.

When it comes to things you can see coming (e.g. family gatherings, a busy work environment) you can do a lot to manage overwhelm before it gets away from you and you burn out, freak out or run out.

So a daily, habitual practice of self-care is required. I listen to music throughout the day and if I can’t I may hum quietly or run the music through my head.

Even remembering your favorite songs, movies etc., can cause releases of dopamine and serotonin which can help you remain calm throughout the day.

I can’t quite go for a walk these days but I can drive somewhere for a change of scenery.

I can practice mindfulness no matter what the circumstances as such this is my go to strategy.

Anything you can do to interrupt the build up of tension that leads to overwhelm (e.g. not including street drugs) is helpful.

What are your options? What are you already doing that helps you keep overwhelm at bay? What do you need to start doing?

How can I help you?

Helping someone can really help you heal

It’s been said that the best way to deal with your own problems is to help someone else with theirs. I think this is true and here’s why.

  • It reminds you that it isn’t all about you.
  • It reduces your feeling of isolation because you’re reminded other people have problems too.
  • AND, there’s a strong likelihood you’ll catch yourself dispensing the very wisdom you need to hear yourself.

We are social creatures and it seems to me that this is one way we heal by engaging our community.

By helping others, myself included, I find I tend to offer help to people having the same or similar problems to me.

As such our conversations tend to have themes (e.g. trust, vulnerability, boundaries). Each time I notice a theme- I do some reflection.

Only to discover that I’ve been subconsciously asking myself a question for which the answer has been elusive.

The advice I give can be the answer I was looking for but wasn’t ready to act upon myself, or I’m offering options to others in search of the one I want to try.

Our peers are part role model, part sounding board and sometimes they’re our testing ground. If it works for them maybe I should try it as well.

You see, you don’t solve problems alone as much as you think you do.

Every time you reach out to help someone else you have the opportunity to heal a little more.

Every time you reach out to help you create an opportunity for two (at least) to experience healing.

  • You can share the lessons of healing you’ve already experienced.
  • You can offer to take on a challenge together and support each other through the ups, down and epiphanies.
  • You can simply be there so they don’t feel alone.

Heck, you can be there so you don’t feel alone.

For people with ADHD or other challenges, the right relationships can mean the difference between inclusion and isolation.

Relationships are so powerful and so healing. Aren’t they?

How calm do you allow yourself to be?

One skill people with ADHD must prioritize learning is how to calm down.

Your level of anxiety, your physical restlessness, your racing mind. Any one of these can burn you out if allowed to get out of control on a regular basis.

I was speaking to a new client this morning who is living with ADHD and experiencing a common problem. She described how the demands of her job is making her anxious, overwhelmed etc. Can you relate?

Yes, the demands of work and from the relationships in your life can leave you feeling like the demands on your energy will never stop.

So much to deal with that you fret even when not at work or talking to anyone. See an issue with this? Fretting is something you do to contribute to the feelings of anxiety and overwhelm.

Knowing how to calm your mind and body is a powerful way to preserve your energy for the things deemed to be most important.

What’s most important is derived from learning to set clear goals, learning to say NO more often and deciding to prioritize self care.

I’ve spent decades disciplining my mind to remain calm even under intense circumstances. I can do this while facing a problem head on.

Even if you can’t (yet), every bit of effort you put into increasing your calm can exponentially improve the quality of your life simply because you aren’t walking around in threat mode.

What do you need to make this happen for yourself?

Somebody put anxiety on my ADHD

A common characteristic of ADHD is a racing brain.

There’s questions around whether the racing thoughts cause anxiety or vice versa.

Either way it’s imperative to understand the role anxiety plays in ADHD. Cause if you don’t manage it it will sabotage you.

For example, let’s say you need to give a presentation and your head begins generating thoughts of all the things that could go wrong.

As the thoughts increase in speed and number you suddenly find it harder to focus. You drop your note cards and they scatter.

You organized them quite easily the night before but now you can’t remember the order. You know the drill.

The more anxious you become the worse your ADHD gets as you move along the fight or flight continuum.

It’s imperative to have strategies to calm yourself to decrease the affect of anxiety on your already fragile executive functioning.

Mindfulness has been a game changer for me. Having disciplined my mind to fixate less on stressful memories or worries in favor of the present moment has been transformative.

I’ve been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (around 5th grade). Being able to keep that anxiety in idle through mindfulness improves my focus and productivity.

You won’t get the maximum benefit from pills alone. Pills and Skills may be the answer. I rely on skills vs pills.

Bottom line, there’s mindset and lifestyle work that needs to happen to maximize anxiety reduction.

The more capacity from the executive functions you use best that you can muster, the greater your contribution and impact in the world.

We have work to do.