Beth Main's blog

Predicting attention-related errors before they happen

I just read a really interesting article about new research that could affect future ADHD treatment.  According to the article, scientists can now see distinct changes in brain wave activity just BEFORE an attention-related mistake is about to occur.

The study, conducted by the University of California, Davis, and the Donders Institute in the Netherlands, was published last week.

The study participants sat at a computer for an hour with random numbers flashing onto the screen every two seconds.  The subjects were instructed to tap a button when any number except five appeared.  40% of the time, they hit the button when they weren't supposed to, which was to be expected because of the repetitive nature of the test.  Using MEG (magnetoencephalography) technology, the researchers witnessed changes in brain wave activity about a second before each of the errors occurred.

Researcher Ali Mazaheri suggested that this discovery could lead to new treatments for ADHD.  "Instead of watching behavior — which is an imprecise measure of attention — we can monitor these alpha waves, which tell us that attention is waning. And that can help us design therapies as well as evaluate the efficacy of various treatments, whether it's training or drugs."

Here is a link to the full article:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090323122439.htm

Spring Wellness Seminar

I'll be one of three presenters at the Spring Wellness Seminar on Saturday April 4  at the Dulles South Community Center in South Riding, VA.  Here's the lineup:

  • Positive Practice

Maybe you are worried about finances. Or your work environment isn’t encouraging. Or at home you find yourself snapping at others when you don’t really mean to. It’s easy to be negative, sarcastic, cynical, or even just plain down in the dumps. Being positive is a skill - not something we either have or we don’t. Learn ways to overcome negative habits and reshape our thoughts, words and behavior to create a healthy, positive atmosphere.
AJ Ikner is a classical musician, new mom and a YogaFit trained instructor who has been practicing yoga since 1998. She is the owner of the AJYOGA studio in South Riding.

  • If You Could ‘Just Do It’ You’d Be Done By Now

You've been putting off the Big Project for way longer than you want to admit. Now is the time to get past the anxiety, uncertainty, and whatever else has been keeping you from getting it done.    In this workshop, you will get motivated, create an action plan, and come away with the tools you need to get going – and accomplish your goal! Participants are asked to bring a topic to work on. (Here are a few examples:  organize your basement, remodel your kitchen, start a business, change careers, go back to school.)
Beth Prosser is an ADHD & Life coach.  She helps adults as well as teens clarify and achieve their personal, professional, and/or academic goals. www.bethprosser.com

  • Self-Healing with Reiki

Reiki is a simple, natural method of energy healing that was developed in Japan and is used to promote overall health and well-being. Many people use Reiki to restore balance, reduce stress and anxiety, release pain from headaches, backaches, and stomach aches, improve insomnia, and for addressing emotional and mental issues. Reiki can be practiced as a form of self-care or be received from a Reiki practitioner as a complement to all other medical and therapeutic practices. The practice and benefits of Reiki will be briefly discussed and a method for self-healing will be shared
Liz Holcomb is a certified Reiki Master-Teacher in the Usui Shiki Ryoho Tradition. She practices and teaches Reiki in Leesburg, Virginia.

The cost for the seminar is $25.00.  Sign up on the AJYOGA web site at www.ajyoga.com, under "Special Events".

Get it in writing

Memory problems can cause tremendous frustration for those of us with ADHD and the people who depend on us.  You never know when your memory is going to fail you.  So you should write down everything you need to remember, no matter how sure you are that you won’t forget.

When people ask you to do something for them, if you can’t do it right away, have them write it down for you.  Ask them to send you a follow-up email or put it on your calendar or white board for you.  Make it common knowledge that if it isn’t written down in one of the places you check regularly, it isn’t going to happen.  Eventually, people will get into the habit of asking you where they should write things down.

Don’t think of it as an imposition. By insisting that requests be made in writing, you’re actually helping people. You’re increasing the odds that they will get what they need, by giving you what you need.

Turning Monolog into Dialog

Many thanks  to the Harrisburg Adults with ADHD Support Group for their warm response to my ADHD and Relationship/Social Issues presentation on Wednesday night.  There was a record turnout and wonderful audience participation!  We discussed strategies for about eighteen common issues.  Monologuing is one of them.

Sometimes we get so engrossed in what we’re talking about that we go on for far longer than we intended – and far longer than our audience can stay interested.  We feel driven to fully express our thoughts before they escape.  The other person doesn’t have a chance to speak.  This usually has a negative effect on our listeners, and ultimately, our relationships.

Monologuing is an ADHD behavior that many people aren’t even aware they have.  If you suspect it might be a factor in your interpersonal difficulties, here are some pointers.

  • Consider your audience when deciding how much detail to get into.   If you're really into cars, but the people you're talking to are not, just tell them you drive an Audi (or whatever) and let it go at that.
  • Practice becoming aware of how long you've been talking.   Noticing is the first step to making change.
  • Practice "bottom lining", or getting right to the point.  Is all that background information really important?
  • Insert deliberate pauses into your speech.  Say a few sentences, then stop for a second. That way if anyone has something to add, they have a chance.
  • Look for indication that your audience is still with you.  Are they smiling, nodding, asking questions?
  • Ask a friend in advance to redirect the conversation if you’ve gone on for too long.  Or agree on a way he or she can signal you.

Some of these skills may need to be learned because they don’t come naturally.  Try practicing them alone, role play with a friend, or experiment in easy situations like talking with a sales person.  That way, you'll be prepared the next time you find yourself monologuing.

I've been talking for long enough now, so it's time to close.  Make it a dialog by posting a comment to let me know what you think!  I'd love to hear from you.

Join me on March 11 for a presentation on ADHD and Relationships / Social Issues

I’ll be conducting a presentation on ADHD and Relationships/Social Issues at the next Harrisburg Adults with ADHD Support Group meeting.

The presentation will be interactive: I’ll review the issues, suggest strategies, and facilitate group discussion so that everyone can share their insight and perspective.

The meeting will be held on Wednesday March 11, 2009 at 6:00, at the East Shore Library.   As always, there’s no cost to attend.

Visit the Harrisburg Area ADHD Support Group’s web page for more information about the group.

Another coaching success

It's a bittersweet evening.

Another client has achieved all of his coaching goals, and it's time to say goodbye.

I'm happy and sad at the same time.  Grateful to his family for allowing me to be part of their lives for the past seven months.  Excited for what his future holds.  Proud of us both for a job well done.  I'm going to miss him.

All of my clients enrich my life.  They show me new ways of thinking and solving problems.  Each of them brings his or her own unique perspective on ADHD and its challenges.  I learn a lot from them.

This particular young man is going to go far in life.  He's intellectually and musically gifted.  His family is loving and supportive.  He goes to an excellent school.  He's creative, ambitious.  The only thing that was holding him back was his ADHD.  And now he's gotten past that.  He's getting straight A's in school, beat his procrastination habit, developed consistent daily routines, is staying organized, and knows how to plan his days and avoid distractions.

He's going to fly.

I'm comfortable in my own skin, it's my clothing that's the problem

Fitness.  Ah yes, I remember that.  Back in the day when I kayaked, ran, worked out at the gym, biked, and went for long hikes - all in the same week.  Every week.  Now I'm ten pounds heavier and feeling like a sausage.

My problem is that I'm content.  I don't feel like a lioness in a cage any more, so I'm not driven to exercise.  Even though I know how important it is,  especially for those of us with ADHD, it's everything I can do to get in half an hour a week.  I'm just not motivated like I used to be.

So I hired a personal trainer.  He works for a dollar a week.  What, you say?  A dollar a WEEK?!  Yes, that's right.  He's my son.

He created a workout plan for me.  And wrote up a contract - I'm free to discontinue his services after two months.  He counts my crunches as I do them, and runs with me.  He's very motivated by money, but more than that, I think he digs telling me what to do.  I let him be the boss. I encourage him to yell at me when I'm being lazy.  I even agreed to let him shoot me with an airsoft gun if I become difficult, but so far, it hasn't come to that.

We're both having fun. And we're both exercising.  Every day.

If you have a child, or access to one, I highly recommend this approach.  You may have to fork over more than a buck (sssh, don't tell my son), but it will be worth it.

Get back to work!

In my last post,  I wrote about Instant Boss, a free computer application that helps you stay on task by running a timer to manage your work and break periods.   You tell it how long you want to work before taking a break (say 25 minutes), how long your breaks will be (say five minutes), and how many times to repeat the cycle (say four, for a total work period of two hours).

One of the pitfalls of using this system is extending a break and never getting back to work.  So this time, I’ll share some ideas for what to do on your breaks to ensure that you get right back to work when your time is up.

  1. Drink a glass of water
  2. Do some light stretching
  3. Do some simple aerobic activity (maybe a few dozen jumping jacks)
  4. Meditate
  5. Step outside for some fresh air
  6. Grab a quick, healthy snack
  7. Spend five minutes reducing the clutter in your immediate vicinity
  8. Check your email and phone messages IF you can do so without responding to any of it
  9. Avoid activities that exert the same sort of fatigue as what you’re working on.  For example, if you’re writing a report, don’t switch to writing a blog entry on your break.  You won’t feel refreshed when it’s time to get back to work.
  10. Above all – and this is the one that gets most people - avoid activities that draw you in.  Don’t start something you can’t wrap up in the time allotted.  Don't do anything you know you’ll get lost in, like internet surfing or reading the paper.

It’s helpful to think about your break activities in advance so you don’t spend half your time wondering what to do.  Or worse yet, get sucked into something that draws you away from your work for the rest of the day.

Remember that the purpose of your breaks is to recharge yourself for the next work period.   Use them wisely.

Stay on task with Instant Boss

Sometimes you can get more done with two hours of sustained effort than you can in an entire day.  There’s a great little free computer application called Instant Boss that helps keep you on task.  Like a real boss, it tells you when to work and when to take breaks.

Here’s how it works:

  • You tell The Boss how long you think you can work without getting distracted, how long of a break you need, and how many times to repeat the cycle.  For example, maybe you decide to work for 25 minutes, take a five minute break, and repeat that four times.  That gives you a total work session of two hours.
  • You start the timer
  • The Boss tells you when it’s time to take a break
  • The Boss tells you when it’s time to get back to work
  • The Boss tells you when you’re done for the day

This is a beautiful thing for those of us who do well with timers, but aren't so good about setting them for breaks - or setting them again afterward.

There is a bit of flexibility in case your good intentions are unrealistic.  You can tell it you want to extend your break, or skip your break, or stop the clock to answer the phone.  But try your best to follow the schedule.  The results will be worth it.

Friday the 13th

Lucky or unlucky?  Depends on your perspective.  I personally think it's lucky because I was born on a Friday the 13th.  My mother?  Probably not so much, since she had to walk herself to the hospital while she was in labor.

Is having ADHD lucky or unlucky?  I say I'm lucky to have it.  I follow my dreams.  I'm spontaneous, creative, smart.  My clients can relate to me.  I've been told by several that they see me as an inspiration.  I don't think I'd want to be all organized all the time, to have a flatline life.  I have lots of energy.  I take chances.  I love working on sixteen projects and seven books at a time.  I see details that other people miss.  I'm quick to forgive - because I can't remember to hold a grudge.  My life is no conveyor belt!

Luck is a state of mind.  It comes more easily if you're able to see the good in all things - including ADHD.

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