Beth Main's blog

Election 2016, ADHD-style

You can usually count on people with ADHD to speak their minds. To be just a little bit outside the traditional box (or maybe a lot).  To not do what everyone else is doing just because everyone else is doing it.

This election season, I’ve heard a lot of people say they’re voting for Clinton because they hate Trump.  Or for Trump because they hate Clinton and the establishment she comes from.  When I point out that there is another option, third-party candidate Gary Johnson, they brush it off.  “He’ll just take votes away from <the candidate I hate>.  That’s what happened with Ross Perot in 1992.”  But if everyone says that every four years, we will be stuck forever with the same flawed two-party system, where we vote for the lesser of two evils.   This isn’t a horse race where it pays to bet on the person with the best odds.

I don’t want to get involved in anyone’s politics. Everyone has the right and the responsibility to vote for the candidate they believe will do the best job.  I guess that’s the point I want to make.  My wish for this country is that everyone finds the ADHD-like courage to let their voice be heard, to step outside the box, and do what makes sense to them.  Sadly, I think most people probably won’t.  They will continue to walk through the cattle chutes of their existence and do what everyone else is doing.  

But what about the ADHD community? I think we can do better because that’s how we’re wired. Can we leverage our ADHD-related strengths to do right by our country? To be bold? To jump right over that cattle chute?  To be the impetus for change? I want to be clear, if you really LIKE Clinton or Trump, by all means, that’s who you should vote for.  But if not, there is another choice. Gary Johnson will be on your ballot in November right next to the candidates more people loathe than like. 

Do your homework and vote what you believe.  Not what you’re told “makes sense”.  If enough of us do that, we can make a difference.

May the best candidate win.

Email management: I'll get back to you

 

Email

Many of my clients want help organizing their email.  Some of them even aspire to "inbox zero", the practice of keeping the number of messages in one's inbox at - you guessed it - zero. On the surface, it seems like a simple problem that could be resolved by setting up some folders and unsubscribing from email lists that are no longer relevant.  But really, where you put stuff is only a small part of the issue.

The real problem with email management – or lack thereof – is perceived responsiveness. Someone sends you an email asking you to do something.  You procrastinate, but you know the request is in your email, so you don’t worry too much about it.  You’ll get to it “soon”. But the requests keep coming in, and next thing you know, your inbox is a mishmash of to-dos, information, and guilt.  Hours turn into days, which turn into weeks, and next thing you know, you’ve been labeled as a person who doesn’t respond to email.  Or worse, is incompetent or doesn’t care. 

Email was never meant to be a task management tool.  It’s a communication tool.  So let’s separate the tasks from the talk.

There are a couple of reasons why you might not respond to an email right away:

  • You have to do something first
  • You have to decide something first
  • You have to think about how you want to respond 

All are valid.  But no matter what the reason, you can save your credibility with five little words:  “I’ll get back to you.”  Send a quick reply right away letting the person know you got the message, so they don’t have to wonder if it – or you – got lost in cyberspace.  This gives you time to do the thing, make the decision, or compose your response. 

Of course, you do have to actually get back to the person eventually. How will you remember to follow up?  Put it in your task management system.  If a decision has to be made, “decide what to do about ____” is the appropriate to-do list item.   Then when you’ve made the decision, or completed the task, send the full response.  

This two-part approach to answering emails will go a long way towards building – or saving - your reputation as someone who can be counted on.  No matter how many messages you have in your inbox.

ADHD Tools: AirTrim Sport Mask

Run in the cold!I love to run. But the cold air hurts my lungs so much that I find it rather unpleasant to run in the winter. Due to cold-induced asthma, I end up wheezing and my chest hurts for a long time afterwards. Yeah, I could run indoors on a treadmill, but I find that unpleasant too. Part of the joy of running, for me, is being in nature and becoming part of the landscape.

What does this have to do with ADHD? Well, exercise is a critical element of any ADHD treatment plan – it gets the neurotransmitters firing and helps us focus. But we often put it off. In general, we tend to procrastinate on things that are:

  • Unclear
  • Too big
  • Boring
  • Unpleasant

There’s that word again, unpleasant. The simple solution is to find a way to make the thing you’re avoiding (in this case, exercise) more pleasant.

A few years ago I took a chance on a product called the AirTrim cold air mask. It’s a little on the expensive side at $65 plus shipping and not available locally (if you live in south central Pennsylvania). It’s a heat exchanger mask that traps the air you exhale and uses it to warm the air you inhale by as much as 40 degrees. It’s ugly as sin, but it works! I like it for running because it doesn’t trap wet vapor against my face, it only covers my mouth and nose so I don’t get overheated, and it’s lightweight. According to the manufacturer, it’s used by the Swedish ski team. So yes, you can also use it for skiing or any other outdoor activity if cold air bothers your lungs. Surprisingly, it’s not available on amazon.com. I got mine online from Boulder Nordic Sport.

So there you have it. A simple tool to keep you exercising outdoors even in cold weather. And a general principle for overcoming procrastination: figure out what you’re finding unpleasant about the activity/task/event, and use your ADHD creativity to find a way to make it more appealing. Or at least less unpleasant.

Meditation for ADHD – it’s (maybe) not what you think

Meditate with mosaic

You’ve probably heard that mindfulness meditation is good for people with ADHD. But many of us, myself included, have an incredibly difficult time sitting still long enough to become proficient.  I know, I know, there’s a reason meditation practice is called PRACTICE.  Apparently the more you practice, the easier it gets.  But sitting meditation is just not my thing. 

There are other ways to practice mindfulness meditation. You can be mindful when you eat, savoring the texture, aroma, colors, and flavor of your food (props to my good friend Claudette for sharing this technique with me).  You can be mindful when you walk, noticing the way the wind shakes the leaves from the branches or the different colors in the grass.

I personally like meditating through mosaic.  For me, cutting or finding the exact shape I need for the space I need to fill is meditative. I become so engrossed in the work that I’m focused on nothing else.  It’s not long before I’m feeling refreshed. That is mindfulness! I’ve been working the piece shown above for months.  I have an entire wall in my living room reserved for it. But if it never gets done, I’m okay with that, because it’s more about the process than the product. (I guess I’m okay with empty walls, too.)

I’ve seen some really cool coloring books for adults. Some of them have stained glass patterns, others have mandalas. A woman I know colors mandalas every night before bed and it helps her sleep.  Bye bye Ambien.

If sitting meditation isn’t your thing either, I encourage you to get creative. Find something that clears your mind, and do it as often as you can.  It’s relaxing, refreshing, and good practice for staying focused.

Evening hours for ADHD coaching or therapy

Evening hours

Some people find it hard to make it to a coaching or therapy appointment during the day. That’s why I offer evening hours on Wednesdays. Those hours filled up very quickly when I announced them back in June (many people like to reserve the same day and time for their weekly sessions). But now, both the 6:00 and 7:00 slots are open again.

Call me at 717.730.2144, email me at beth@adhdsolutions.net, or request a free consultation using my website form if you’d like to schedule an appointment.  We can meet via phone, Skype, or in-person at my office in Camp Hill, PA. Let me know what works for you!

How to avoid ADHD-Christmas overload

Christmas overwhelm(This blog post originally appeared on my ADDitude Magazine blog.  Seems like a great time to run it again, before the holiday madness really sets in!

My childhood Christmas memories include cookie baking, tree decorating, and carol singing. Yes, really — it was perfect. I remember all seven of us signing the dozens of cards sent to friends and family, and taking turns opening each day on the advent calendar. The presents were always highly anticipated — and usually perfect. My godmother hummed Christmas songs, and always had a hug or a kind word to share. She never once lost her temper.

Maybe the pace was slower then – one wage earner, one car, us kids entertained ourselves all day – or maybe I’m just remembering it wrong. Either way, for many years I invested too much time and anxiety in trying to reproduce that holiday magic for my own family.

I kept shopping-list spreadsheets (with more than 100 gifts). I fretted over paying the credit card bills. I baked cookies after work, trying hard not to throw anything when they came out burnt. I scribbled our names onto Christmas cards for people I didn’t make time to talk to during the year. I woke up in a panic some nights, worrying about what I’d forgotten.

I grew to dread the entire month of December. The holidays were way too much for my already-overloaded ADHD brain. I considered prescription medicine for seasonal anxiety related to my ADHD, and self-medicated with eggnog.

Then one year, something magical happened. A co-worker sheepishly asked if we could stop exchanging gifts. I was elated! It got me thinking: How many other people would be relieved to lessen their holiday burden? The following year, I broached the idea with several enlightened relatives. Yes, they said, they too found gift giving to be stressful. “Thank you for asking!”

Today, I’m a minimalist when it comes to celebrating the yule. I do only the holiday things that truly bring me joy.

I don’t decorate for the neighbors, I don’t send cards, and I don’t mind that I don’t get many either. I don’t bake (it sabotages my efforts to stick to an ADHD-friendly diet of protein, vegetables and whole grains anyway). Not even a Christmas tree (ick, those needles!), although I do have a lovely pink poinsettia on the dining room table. My gift exchange list is manageable: one person. He’s fun to shop for, so I’ll keep him on the list.

The point of all of this? We all have ideas of how the holidays should be celebrated, based on our childhoods, what we see on TV, and what our friends and neighbors do. But how much of it do we really enjoy? How much of it do our families enjoy? They probably do NOT enjoy being the recipients of our increased frustration level, that’s for sure. It’s hard enough to deal with the stress of daily living with ADHD. Do you know anyone who feels less stress during the holidays? I didn’t think so.

So If we aren’t enjoying it, why the heck are we doing it?

I invite you to consider your own traditions next year. What seems obligatory? What seems like madness? What would you rather do without? What can you reasonably do and still feel good about? That’s what you should do. Give yourself permission to drop the rest. Then, you’ll know the feeling of joy during the holiday season. And that, I believe, is the whole idea.

Can we procrastinate on winter?

Fall viewThis is the view from my office window today.  Gorgeous, isn’t it?  Beautiful scenery notwithstanding, fall is my least favorite season. Why? Oh, the weather is usually just right – not too hot, not too cold. Heating and cooling expenses are lower. The bugs are gone.

The reason I dislike fall so much really has little to do with the season itself.  It’s the anticipation of winter - ice, freezing temps, bulky layers of clothing. I dread it. Funny thing is, once Jack Frost arrives, I realize that it’s really not so bad. It’s nice to sit in front of the fire.  There’s something incredibly peaceful about creating fresh tracks through the snow-covered woods. And I have a lot of nice sweaters!

There’s a parallel here to life with ADHD.   How many times have you put something off, and put it off again, because you just “know” it’s going to be awful? And when you finally make yourself do it, you realize it was easy?  Our perspective of how difficult things are, how unpleasant they will be, or how long they will take, is often skewed.  Perspective is funny like that.

Sometimes the best thing to do is take a closer look.  What are you really dreading?  How bad could it really be? What’s the worst thing about it?  You might recognize that your fears are an illusion. Or you might find some truth to them, in which case you can deal with them in a rational way.  Either way, hopefully, you’ll find your procrastination falling away like the autumn leaves.

CBT for ADHD

One of my favorite slogans is “Never underestimate the power of positive thinking”. So when I learned about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), it seemed like the perfect addition to my tool belt for working with ADHD adults.  A brief primer for those unfamiliar with CBT:  The idea is that negative thinking causes us to feel bad, which in turn affects our motivation and behavior. If you’re saying things to yourself like “I’ll never be able to do that” or “why do I always screw up?”, you feel bad.  You procrastinate, or do other unhealthy things. You stay stuck. Conversely, if you challenge those negative thoughts and replace them with something like “I’ve been successful with things that were harder than this”, or consciously look for examples of where you did not screw up, you’ll feel better. And, as you’ve probably noticed, feeling good makes it much easier to do just about anything.

What does this have to do with ADHD?  Well, I've noticed over the years that we ADDers tend to be really down on ourselves. It's probably from programming we received growing up. We were often told, explicitly or implicitly, that we're no good, lazy, will never reach our potential.  Ouch.

Changing the way you think, and creating healthier habits, isn’t as simple as it might sound. Often, we aren’t aware of these negative thoughts. They tend to pop up automatically without us even noticing.  And when you are aware of them, sometimes it’s hard to get out of the negativity by yourself.

CBT was designed to increase awareness, identify negative thoughts (which are often "distorted", or inaccurate), and replace them with healthier thinking. It also helps you solve real-world problems and change the way you do things.  That’s the “B” in CBT – changing your behavior.  Your actions.  And it’s one of the most evidence-based (i.e. tested) mental health treatments around.  CBT plus an in-depth knowledge of ADHD - such as what a specialist like myself would have - is very powerful combination. Anyone with attention-related concerns, who also tends to dwell in the land of negativity, would be well advised to give it a try.

I recently attended training on CBT at the Beck Institute.  CBT was initially developed by Dr. Aaron Beck back in the 1960s. He still participates in the training workshops that are now run by his daughter, Dr. Judith Beck.  Getting this training directly from the source, along with people from all over the USA and 22 different countries, was an incredible experience. While I’ve been using CBT since my grad school internship, I learned a lot during this training that I am now using in my work with clients.  I’m even more jazzed about it than I was before, which is saying a lot.

 

 

3 Surefire Strategies that Don’t Work for ADHD

Here's an excerpt from another great piece by Margarita Tartakovsky at PsychCentral, citing my belief that staying up late to get things done is counter-productive:

"Ineffective strategy: Staying up late to get work done.

It’s very common for people with ADHD to stay up late. “[P]rocrastination can lead ADHD-ers to wait until the last minute and then complete projects, study for exams or pack for travel overnight,” said Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Also, “many ADHD adults are night owls and naturally stay awake late at night,” said Dana Rayburn, a certified ADHD coach who leads private and group ADHD coaching programs. It’s easier to focus when there are fewer distractions and everyone has gone to sleep, she said.

However, “sleep deprivation exacerbates all your ADHD tendencies,” said Beth Main, a certified ADHD coach who helps individuals with ADHD develop the skills, systems and strategies they need to overcome their challenges and achieve success.

It hampers concentration and executive functions, such as organizing, decision-making, attention to detail and planning, Main said. You’ll likely miss things that are right in front of you, and make errors in your work, she said. Sleep deprivation also compromises your immune system, Olivardia added.

Adults with ADHD are prone to sleep problems and sleep disorders, he said. So it’s important to take your sleep seriously, and protect it."

Read the full article at http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/08/02/3-surefire-strategies-that-dont-work-for-adhd/.

ADHD Solutions is moving up!

 View from Beth's officeMoving up in the world - literally!

ADHD Solutions is now located at 3920 Market Street, Suite 201 Camp Hill, PA 17011.

The new phone number is (717)730-2144.

It was wonderful working at home for all those years, but it's time to move on. And check out the view! That's not a picture on the wall -  the office overlooks the Conodoquinet Creek.  It's a great place for coaching and therapy.

Speaking of therapy, I completed my master's degree in counseling, passed the National Counselor Exam (NCE), and am now a National Certified Counselor (NCC).  I'll continue to maintain my Board Certified Coach (BCC) designation as well. Very excited about this new credential, and looking forward to helping more people with with the full array of issues that go along with having ADHD!

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