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.

We were out of cereal so I hit my teacher

Sometimes your kid with ADHD acts out aggressively and you have no idea why.

You think about the situation s/he was in and can’t figure out what the trigger was, right?

Consider that the trigger occurred earlier, before this situation even arose.

S/he was looking forward to their favorite cereal and was disappointed to find you were fresh out. 

Your already anxious child who believes a good day happens when everything goes right now believes the day started off poorly so the day is ruined.  

Now your child is simmering from the trigger event of disappointment but holding it together pretty well.

But s/he’s fretting and slowly escalating.

Then your child enters a situation (e.g. social) that puts a strain on their executive functions until they become unable to process, become overwhelmed and go into fight or flight.

If you have your child tell you the story of their day you may stumble across the trigger.

Why won’t my child with ADHD learn from their mistakes?

You have a child living with ADHD who has difficulty learning from their mistakes, yes?

Does that same child struggle to learn from successes?
A child resistant to doing something they’ve done successfully in the past like it was the first time.

So what the heck is going on here, huh? It’s called the Zeigarnik Effect (Your guess is as good as mine on the pronunciation).

It refers to a phenomenon of human memory in which tasks considered completed are forgotten more easily. Whereas uncompleted tasks tend to stay in the mind and create tension.

I knew one young man who developed sleep problems and it turned out he was fixated on the sound of a dripping faucet. “It’s not supposed to do that,” and in his anxious mind the house wasn’t safe until everything was as it should be. They fixed the faucet.

It’s hard to learn from mistakes you can’t remember making isn’t it? In your child’s mind it’s done, over, they don’t want to talk about it. Their brain knows exactly what to do with that info – DUMP!

Same with successes. It was hard enough to do it this time and they hope they never have to do it again – DUMP!

Now to add insult to injury. Folks with ADHD frequently have a working memory problem. In that they have difficulty recalling what they already understand and know how to do. This includes info on what they don’t want to do again and what they want to duplicate.

In my case I have extremely poor working memory. I need help remembering what I know by being asked questions. The question is like executing a Google search in my brain. Very helpful.

A straight forward solution is in order here so here’s one to get you started – journaling. Keeping a log works too. A simple recording of completed tasks/accomplishments (wins) and unresolved issues (not yets).

If its in writing it’s easier to track and recall because it’s out of your brain which is unreliable.

When it comes to recording unresolved issues, we aren’t calling them “problems”, “bad things”, crises or anything of the sort.

Those are emotional projections upon the event 
that cloud judgment, 
trigger fight or flight 
and kick your resourcefulness square in the cajones.

Let’s work to neutralize the feelings of catastrophe by calling them “unresolved issues”.

With them listed you can plan their resolution one at a time.

Taking action to solve the problem does wonders for reducing anxiety. Give it a go.

Helping people with ADHD believe in their ability to change

One mistake many parents and professionals make is assuming people with ADHD are interested in changing to improve their lives.

It isn’t that they don’t want to change, it’s that they often don’t believe they’re able to create the necessary changes required to make the effort worth it.

We’re talking about a community of people who often has difficulty finishing what they start, have difficulty getting started at all, struggle with creating an action plan let alone executing on one.

People with life long difficulties in these areas can end up with such brutal self-talk they believe themselves to be stupid, incompetent, worthless etc.

The first thing to establish with any person living with ADHD you’ve been entrusted to help – is their mindset.

1. Is change something they want?

2. Do they believe they are capable of making the change(s) they want?

3. If things were more like they wanted them to be, what would be different?

4. What one thing could they do to begin making that change?

5. What do they need to believe about themselves in order to take that first action?

6. Do they agree to act as if what they believed what was stated in #5 is true?

7. Do they agree to take the new action and report back?

How they respond to this exercise will tell you a lot about how flexible their thinking is, their level of self-doubt etc.

Again, the objective is to introduce the possibility that change remains accessible and achievable but isn’t attainable until the individual believes it is. Mindset before Skillset.