Category Archives: ADD/ADHD

Plan to Join the ADHD Tribe

I’m just back from the 2017 Annual International Conference on ADHD, held in Atlanta. It was an extraordinary experience for me. The conference was attended by people with ADHD, parents of ADHD children, many of whom also have ADHD, and therapists, coaches and psychologists who work with people who have ADHD, many of whom also have ADHD.

Even though I don’t have ADHD, I felt like a legitimate member of the “tribe” as conference attendees call themselves. Most of my coaching and organizing clients have ADHD, as does my husband. I understand it both at a personal and professional level. It was incredible to participate with so many people who are committed to learn as much as they can about ADHD and make a difference by embracing, normalizing and educating others about ADHD.

I came away with a deeper knowing of the daily struggle of ADHD — to be on time, to have their act together, to stay organized, to find what they need when they need it, to start and complete tasks, to hold themselves accountable, etc. What was so remarkable was that many of the speakers who have ADHD spoke candidly about their struggle instead of hiding it under a mask of pseudo-confidence. It was safe to let others know you have ADHD!

Speakers showed up in the truth of their on-going struggle to manage their lives and reach their goals. AND, they made significant contributions to our learning at the conference. In spite of the challenges of their ADHD, they have kept on keeping on in their lives because they were passionate about helping others understand ADHD and how to manage it. Having ADHD didn’t stop them from taking huge steps.

If you have ADHD and struggle because you feel different from others, mark your calendars for the 2018 Annual International Conference on ADHD, November 8-11, 2018. There you will find your tribe. It is so therapeutic to know you are not alone. In fact you belong to a group of highly creative, compassionate, and talented people.

The conference will be held in St. Louis next year. Registration this year was only $300 for 2.5 days of outstanding programing plus an incredible talent show. The conference experience will take you further faster in making peace with your ADHD and creating a life that fits your ADHD brain. I will be there. I hope to see you there too!

Debbie Bowie’s Favorite ADHD Resources

Books

More Attention/Less Deficit by Ari Tuckman

Women with Attention Deficit Disorder by Sari Solden

ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life by Judith Kolber & Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.

Overload: Attention Deficit Disorder and the Addictive Brain by David Miller & Kenneth Blum, Ph.D.

Healing ADD Revised Edition: The Breakthrough Program that Allows You to See and Heal the 7 Types of ADD by Daniel G. Amen

Smart But Stuck: Emotions in Teens & Adults with ADHD by Thomas E.Brown

Articles

“Essential Oils for ADD and ADHD: Better Focus, Quicker Learning, Calm and Grounding,” https://suite.io/victoria-anisman-reiner/5rn280

“Natural Remedies for ADD and ADHD,” https://suite.io/victoria-anisman-reiner/5rd280

Online Resources

http://www.additudemag.com Great short articles!

http://www.theartofadd.com Great quotes & ADD info!

http://www.amenclinics.com/conditions/adhd-add/ Great ADD resources!

http://www.camerongott.com Great followthrough coach & blog!

ADHD: The Payoff for Completions

When I finish a project I am in the habit of stepping back and taking a moment to appreciate

Celebrate your completions!

what I’ve done and notice how good I feel when it’s done. In my work with ADHD clients for almost two decades, however, I have noticed that more often than not when we finish a project or a portion of a project clients rarely look back and appreciate our completions. Their brains seem to automatically take them to the next thing. This habit is a missed opportunity to celebrate themselves and their accomplishments and build self-esteem.

For me the stepping back, noticing what I’ve done, and patting myself on the back when I’ve finished a task have been my positive payoff for my hard work. What I only recently learned is that with each completion the brain rewards me by releasing serotonin, the neurotransmitter that promotes positive mood and emotional balance. In order to feel the benefits of the serotonin, however, I have to pause to allow myself to feel it. Rushing on to the next task on my to-do list distracts me from pleasure of the release of serotonin.

So, when you finish tasks take a few minutes to look back at what you’ve accomplished. Celebrate your completions even if you have much more to do. Pause to appreciate your efforts and enjoy your well-earned serotonin  surge.

How People With ADHD Can Successfully Clear Clutter

I received the following post from Tom Robinson, the founder of Adventures event_455738537in ADD, a meet up group for people with ADHD in the Richmond, VA area. Tom has ADHD, and like many people with ADHD, getting and staying organized is difficult.

Tom wrote, “I just started on the first step of my goal to get better organized and free of un-needed, (not un-wanted), “stuff” before Christmas. What could I do with two dozen rods and reels that were stacked in a corner and all tangled up with lines, hooks and weights? I gritted my teeth and made a decision to take the bull by the horns and take a positive step towards a less-cluttered life. Viola! In less than an hour I built twelve feet of rod holders to suspend from the ceiling of my fishing shack. Wow! Looks great and no tangles.”

Tom took the following steps.

  1. He set a goal to get better organized and free of un-needed stuff before Christmas.
  2. He set a specific deadline.
  3. He chose to grit his teeth when hit with some initial overwhelm rather than run from the job.
  4. He made a decision to take a positive step, just one step toward his goal.
  5. He made the task enjoyable by coming up with a creative solution for creating order.

Tom made progress toward achieving his goal by focusing on a very specific desire, to get better organized. That desire helped him push through his resistance. Plus, he used an ADHD strength, his creativity, to make the task more enjoyable and ultimately successful. And, surprise, surprise! The task took less than an hour!

People with ADHD can be successful with clutter clearing if they 1) focus on what they want, 2) find some way to make the task pleasurable/fun, and 2) use their strengths of persistence, determination and creativity to keep them moving and on track.

An ADHD-Friendly Strategy to Be Productive

Initiating tasks and sustaining attention and  effort to a completion point are

The reward for progress!

The reward for progress!

very difficult for most people with ADHD, particularly if a task is uninteresting, boring, or repetitious. Consequently people with ADHD often live surrounded by numerous unfinished tasks.

At Adventures in ADD, a local meetup group, I learned a great strategy for getting things done that is designed to be ADHD-friendly. ADHD symptoms occur because the pre-frontal cortex of a person with ADHD is under-stimulated, resulting in executive function deficits. Consequently people with ADHD seek stimulation in order to fully engage their brains. Their brains are stimulated by fun activities, newness, crises, conflict and endeavors that are interesting to them.

The woman (I’ll call her “Edna”) who shared her strategy for getting things done probably did not know the neurobiological explanation for her productivity challenges. However, she knew she got bored easily and would likely bounce away from tasks when they were not interesting. Taking that information Edna developed the following strategy.

Edna identifies four or five different tasks she needs to get done. She works on one task until she gets bored (about 10-15 minutes). She then stops and rewards herself with a short period of time working on a jigsaw puzzle. She really loves putting puzzles together. Then she moves on to another task for 10-15 minutes followed by another puzzle break. Working in this way she gets work done on each of the tasks.

Edna is able to sustain effort and interest in working on her tasks because she has limited the time she spends on any one task and thereby avoids the ADHD tendencies to get bored easily, to get overwhelmed by the enormity of a task and to bounce away from a task to seek something more interesting and fun. She also deliberately provides what her brain craves — fun! She is willing to work for puzzle time! And, she makes progress on four or five tasks.

A strength of people with ADHD is their creativity and willingness to think outside the box. This strategy is evidence of both! Thanks, Edna!

Are You Stuck? How Coaching Can Help

Are you stuck, unable to take a step forward because of fear, frustration, not knowing

Are you stuck and frustrated?

Are you stuck and frustrated?

what to do, not knowing how to do something, because your thoughts are spinning in your head? Coaching can help.

I recently worked with a woman who has ADD. She came to our coaching session feeling frustrated because she had tried very hard to get a number of tasks done that day and kept running into roadblocks. With each road block she became more and more frustrated. The frustration sent her thoughts spinning. She was having great difficulty figuring out her next step.

In our coaching we talked about what happened that day, the challenges, her actions, her attempts to make progress despite roadblocks. As we talked she gradually calmed down. That was no small feat. It can be difficult for the ADD brain to settle down once aroused by uncomfortable feelings. The act of putting her struggle into words that I could understand helped her look at her situation more objectively.

My role was to listen to her story, ask questions to clarify details, and help her identify her priorities. She went from feeling like everything was a priority, another common way that ADD shows up, to identifying two actions to focus on. Together we identified when she would do those tasks and followup actions to take if she ran into more roadblocks.

Two days later I got an email from this woman. She told me that once she took the first step, getting her cell phone working at the Verizon store, she felt better and was off and running. The first task we’d identified as most important was the block to further action. Once she got her phone fixed she wrote, “I did a number of other things on my To Do list and had a great time that night with friends. I went from feeling mentally exhausted to refreshed.” Plus, the next day she was so charged up from her successes the night before that she was motivated to knock off many more difficult steps.

Coaching provides a safe place to process current challenges and design actions with the support of another caring and interested person. When this woman took time out of her day to call me, having a supportive person on the other end of the phone created just the pause she needed to regroup, figure out what was most important and consider options for moving forward. Without our conversation she might have stayed stuck and spent her evening feeling frustrated and mad that she had accomplished  so little despite her efforts. Our coaching conversation made it possible for her to design a new game plan and take action.

Are you stuck? I invite you to schedule a free 30 minute Back on Track sample phone coaching session to explore the possibility of coaching as a resource and support to help you get moving to accomplish YOUR goals.

ADHD: Medication Increases Productivity

“I have ADHD, but I won’t take medication.” I can’t tell you how often I have heard that pills-140186_640emphatic statement. My heart sinks when I hear those words because medication can make the difference between being productive or struggling and being unproductive. I’ll never forget the participant of an ADHD group coaching class slamming a bottle of Ritalin on the table and saying, “This is what works for me!” When he uses the medication, he gets things done. When he doesn’t, he is unable to focus enough to efficiently and effectively work on tasks.

Getting started on tasks is an ADHD challenge. As a coach I am always curious about how my clients with ADHD initiate action. What motivated them to go from inaction to action? More often than not an ADHD client who has had great success being productive has had the support of a medication that improves the functioning of the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, the center of executive functions like planning, organizing, prioritizing, memory, time management, initiating action, etc. When the pre-frontal cortex is operating well, productivity improves.

Recently a woman in my ADHD Clutter Clearing & Productivity Facebook group wrote of how medication helped her cope with the stress of Christmas preparations:

“I can’t say what I did right, but Christmas happened so effortlessly for me this year. I even sent Christmas cards for the first time in ten years and scheduled an abdominal surgery the week before! It may be that my load is a little bit reduced this year, but I really think it is because of a medication I started last spring: ABILIFY. I started it for residual depression, not ADHD, but without doing anything differently (i.e. with no more effort) I started knocking out projects that had been having serious repercussions in my life for years. It didn’t feel any better to do them – the time on task was just as miserable as ever – but burdens were getting out of the way. I learned a new word: “DONE.” Sometimes I’d find myself sitting down wondering what to do next, instead of always being aware that I had far too many things than I could ever do.”

What’s keeping you from exploring the use of medication? How would your life change if you were able to be more productive?

ADHD Management Begins with Self-Awareness

To manage your ADHD you first have to know how it shows up. Identifying how ADHD

Woman looking in to the mirror

Woman looking in to the mirror

shows up for people with ADHD can be challenging because ADHD executive function deficits manifest in awareness challenges. Awareness of what matters to you, of what you do that causes you problems, of how you create clutter, of how your behavior affects others, awareness of what works to get things done. Whether taking action or stuck, opportunities to learn along the way often don’t register.

One way to practice developing awareness is to consciously watch yourself as you move through your day, with curiosity, not condemnation. Notice what lights you up and brings you pleasure. Watch yourself in your struggles to be on time, start tasks, stay on task, complete tasks. Note what pulls your attention away from important tasks. Pay attention to what your brain does when it’s bored. Notice what bores you. Notice when you get in conflict with others.

When you deliberately watch yourself, you create the opportunity to get to know how your ADHD shows up. There are common characteristics to ADHD, but it doesn’t show up the same way in everyone with the disorder. For example, some people are able to be on time. Others are never on time. Some are very defensive and unwilling to look at their challenging behavior. Others are willing to look at their behavior so they can learn from it, etc.

To identify how your ADHD how shows up, observe yourself for a day. Make yourself your project for the day. Make a list of every situation that is challenging, any action that annoys someone else, any situation that makes you feel irritable or angry, any time you don’t follow through on an action, any situation that is stressful, any time you shut down and get stuck, any time you put yourself down. Your list will show you how your ADHD shows up.

Once you are aware of how your ADHD shows up you can release the bat of self-criticism from your hand and view your challenge areas as ADHD symptoms. When you are no longer beating yourself up for actions that stem from ADHD executive function deficits, you can begin to seek ways to address problem areas.

Watch your behaviors with curiosity, not judgement. ADHD management begins with self-awareness and knowledge of hour your ADHD shows up.

ADHD Coaching Benefits Those Ready for Change

As I reflect on the progress of my ADHD coaching clients, both individual and group clients, the main factors that affected their progress were a compelling desire for life to be better, and their readiness for change. Those who have been most successful really were “done” with bumping along in constant stress and environmental chaos by themselves. They committed to a coaching relationship for support to get to a better place. Their commitment to making changes to improve their lives and their spaces made them willing to do the uncomfortable work of self-examination and doing things differently than what their ADHD brain dictated.

Change is hard. Habits are hardwired into the brain. Changing habits that don’t serve you requires creating new neural pathways. Those pathways are formed by doing new behaviors over and over again. Repetition is boring to the ADHD brain, and often avoided. Keeping a new behavior in awareness is also hard for the ADHD brain. So, what does it take for a person with ADHD to make changes necessary to manage their ADHD symptoms?

People with ADHD are motivated by strong emotions. When they reach a point where they feel extremely tired, discouraged, and stuck in stress and misery, that extreme discomfort motivates a strong desire for change. Those with that compelling desire benefit most of coaching. It keeps them stepping out of their comfort zone and open to learning about their ADHD. It helps them move past their shame, anxiety and resistance to look at how their ADHD shows up to cause them problems, and helps them access their creativity to explore new ways of doing things.

ADHD coaching is a learning/action process that can result in positive changes in self-awareness, life management, and relationships. It only benefits those with a compelling desire for life to be better, and a willingness to change habits and behaviors that cause problems.

Are you ready for life to be different? How strong is that desire? If you are ready for long-lasting positive change, schedule a FREE 30 minute Back on Track sample phone coaching consultation now.

ADHD coaching can open new doors of awareness and lead you to life-altering changes when you are ready. 

ADHD Clutter Clearing: Daily Habits to Prevent Clutter

Over and over people with ADHD have told me that when they get home from work they can’t make themselves do anything that requires brain power. I suspect that they “blow all their brain” at work trying to stay focused and be consistently productive — which can be VERY difficult for the ADHD brain that naturally bounces, seeking stimulation in things that are new, interesting or fun.

Job security and financial survival motivate people with ADHD to manage their ADHD DSCN0157symptoms at work. But, it takes all their brain power to do that, to work outside of what is the norm of the ADHD brain. With depleted brain power for decision-making and completing tasks, they arrive at home, drop their stuff and plop on the sofa or head for the bed. Over time the dropped stuff and incoming mail accumulate.

Having a blown brain at the end of a work day is very real for people with ADHD. So, thinking they can get a lot of work done once they get home is just a pipe dream. That takes brain power they don’t have. However, a tired brain can do habitual tasks. With practice daily maintenance behaviors can become habits that require little brain power.

Following are the 4 most important tasks that if done every evening can become habits and can prevent the accumulation of clutter:

  1. Hang up your coat — 1 minute
  2. Unpack shopping and other bags that come into the house with you — 5-10 minutes
  3. Sort mail to get rid of junk mail — 2-5 minutes
  4. Clean up after dinner — 15 minutes
  5. Hang up your clothes — 2 minutes

Those tasks will take at most just over 30 minutes to complete. They are tasks that require little brain power. Yes, they are not the most interesting or stimulating tasks, but enduring 30 minutes of boredom can prevent hours of clutter clearing in the future.

Put on some music. Fix yourself a beverage you love and invest 30 minutes in clutter prevention. Do those things to stay in control of your stuff and enjoy more peace at home. 

Put Things Away, Prevent Clutter

Clutter is created in many ways. One of the most common is for people to just drop things instead of taking the time to put them away. People with ADHD in particular tend to move through their lives with such a sense of urgency that they often drop things because their ADHD brain convinces them that there is something more interesting and important to attend to than putting things away.

In the ADHD Group Coaching to Clear Clutter series I am currently running, participants are developing new awareness about clutter, how it happens, and how to get clutter clearing done. They have learned that their ADHD typically results in self-awareness challenges, one of which is that they often aren’t aware of how they create clutter.

Each week participants tackle a clutter clearing project and come to group to share their experience, their learning, their successes and challenges. This past week one participant spoke about the process of unpacking his vehicle after a camping trip. Because in group he has been urged to observe himself and his habits, he was able to watch himself reflexively start to drop items without taking the time to put things away. When he was about to put firewood down where it didn’t belong because it was expedient to do so, he caught himself. His new commitment to

A place for everything and everything in its place.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

prevent clutter and his desire to not destroy the good work he had already done, caused him to pause and think about what he was about to do. He told himself, “The wood pile is within easy reach. If I drop this here, I will be creating clutter.” He then took the wood to the woodpile.

After processing that client’s experience, the group came up with a new reminder to help them prevent clutter in the future: “If I drop something, it becomes clutter. If I take just a few more steps and a few more seconds, it will be put away and I can prevent clutter.”

Watch how you create your clutter. When you are tempted to just drop something out of place, remember, you have a choice: create clutter or prevent clutter.

ADHD Self-Awareness Challenge and Clutter Creation

One way that ADHD shows up is in deficits in self-awareness. In other words, people

Hanging up clothes at the end of every day prevents clutter.

Hanging up clothes at the end of every day prevents clutter.

with ADHD move through life, but can’t clearly see the effects of their behaviors and decisions.

I first became aware of this ADHD challenge when I was helping a client clear clutter in her classroom. As I worked my way around the room creating order, she was working her way around creating new clutter. When I paused and saw what was going on, I pointed it out to her. She looked around and was totally baffled to see what she’d done. She was totally unaware that as she worked she was creating more clutter. Very often when I ask ADHD clients how their space got to be so cluttered they honestly answer, “I don’t know.”

When a person has good self-awareness, they are able to observe their behavior as they move through life. People with ADHD have busy brains, so much going on in their heads that paying attention to their behavior and how it’s affecting their lives and the lives of others doesn’t make it onto their radar very well.

In ADHD coaching, I partner with clients to help them learn how to be more self-aware. Together we look at situations and challenge areas and create awareness of habits and behaviors that affect outcomes. With practice over time, made possible by weekly coaching sessions, clients become more adept at observing themselves and what they are doing so they can better avoid problems and make progress to achieve their goals.

Got ADHD? Got clutter? A good first step is to create awareness of what you are doing that creates clutter. Watch yourself as you move through your day. What are you doing that creates clutter? Not putting things away immediately? Not cleaning up after yourself? Not hanging up your clothes? What are you thinking when you decide not to put things away immediately?

What are you doing that prevents clutter?  Are you sorting mail every day over your recycling bin to get rid of as much unnecessary paper as possible? Are you taking a few extra seconds every evening to hang up clothes you wore that day? With awareness of how you create clutter you can then plan strategies to prevent clutter.

If you find you can’t create awareness on your own or make necessary changes to prevent and clear clutter, email me to schedule a free 30 minute consultation to learn more about how ADHD coaching can help you address your clutter challenges.

Pause to Manage Your ADHD

Even hummingbirds pause. So often we see those tiny birds in constant motion. It’s easy

Even hummingbirds pause.

Even hummingbirds pause.

to think that their wings never stop beating. But, they do. I saw it for myself today. I have a branch right outside my kitchen window where hummingbirds come to pause for a few seconds before heading back to work. It always seems like a miracle when I witness that miraculous event!

Pausing is not only essential for rest, but we humans need to pause so we reflect on our actions, desires, and our reality to create new awareness, anchor learning, and regroup. What does this have to do with ADHD? People with ADHD (even the inattentive type) find it difficult to pause. They are either physically moving or their brains are constantly active.

The ADHD brain has two speeds: either full on or stopped. Consequently, people with ADHD can miss the learning and opportunities that are possible with a pause. Failing to recognize the value of pausing, of taking a breath to engage reflective processes can result in acting impulsively without sufficient thought to benefits and/or consequences of actions. The fallout can manifest as mistakes, hurt feelings, wasted time, and worse.

Pausing is hard to do in our fast-paced world, and especially difficult for those who have ADHD. Coaching provides the opportunity to pause. Clients who participate in coaching make a conscious decision to stop and step outside their busy lives. The coaching process is all about clients pausing to create new awareness and learning that can be used to design action that will help them achieve their goals.

Are you running as fast as you can but still not getting where you really want to go? Perhaps it’s time find a coach to make pausing possible. Why not pause right now and schedule a FREE 30 Back on Track phone coaching session to find out more about coaching and consider whether it’s a process that could work to help you achieve your goals.

What Is an ADHD Organizer Coach?

People with ADHD function best when they get support from others who understand

An ADHD organizer coach can coach by phone and work in clients' homes to help get organizing done.

An ADHD organizer coach can coach by phone and work in clients’ homes to help get organizing done.

the nature of ADHD. An ADHD coach can provide that support. ADHD coaching helps people with ADHD manage their symptoms and discover ways to lead more organized, productive, intentional and fulfilling lives.

There are currently two good coaching options for people with ADHD: an ADHD coach or an ADHD organizer coach. An ADHD coach is a trained coach who has chosen to specialize in coaching people with ADHD. An ADHD organizer coach is both a professional organizer and a coach. ADHD organizer coaches are typically trained both in coaching and in working with ADHD coaching clients.

Disorganization is a common ADHD challenge that causes problems in many areas of life. What sets the ADHD organizer coach apart from the ADHD coach is that she/he is qualified to address a client’s organizing challenges as well as other common ADHD challenges like time management, emotion regulation, getting things done, consistent followthrough, making decisions, impulsivity, memory problems, relationship challenges, etc.

Because an organizer coach is required to have hands-on organizing experience in order to become a Certified Organizer Coach® (COC), and a majority of people who seek the services of professional organizers have ADHD, those who become COCs have undoubtedly logged  many hours working side by side with people who have ADHD. That gives them first hand knowledge of the way ADHD typically shows up, not only in organizing issues, but also in time and task management challenges. They also come to coaching with experience and knowledge about what works to help people with ADHD clear clutter and set up and maintain organizing systems that work for them.

Getting things done, initiating action and sustaining action to completion is difficult for people with ADHD, particularly if tasks are overwhelming, boring or repetitious. Clearing clutter and getting organized can be both overwhelming and boring. Unlike the ADHD coach, an ADHD organizer coach can work with clients not only over the phone, but in a home or office setting. When it appears that clutter and organizing issues are impeding client progress, an ADHD organizer coach can work side by side with clients to clear clutter, set up organizing systems, and get organizing done.

If you have ADHD and have clutter and organizing challenges, an ADHD organizer coach can help you with both challenges. I am an ADHD organizer coach. Email to schedule a free 30 minute phone consultation to explore the option of ADHD coaching to make your life more manageable.

ADD: How Coaching Helps 

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a neurobiological disorder that occurs because of deficits in

Coaching helps ground you and helps you learn to manage ADD symptoms.

Coaching helps ground you and helps you learn to manage ADD symptoms.

executive functions in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain that result in problems with time management, prioritizing, impulse management, decision-making, and task management. People with ADD have challenges with self-regulation — regulating time, effort, feelings and moods, productivity. Coaching is a process that helps people get to know how ADD is affecting their life, and helps them learn how to manage their ADD symptoms.

There are many misconceptions about what coaching is and how people benefit from it. After several years of coaching people with ADD I have been witness to how coaching helps people with ADD. Below is a list of  some concrete results that I have observed in my clients.

ADD Challenges and Opportunities

Challenge: lack of and/or faulty awareness

Opportunity: with a committed coach who knows ADD, you will develop awareness of ADD challenges, how they show up in you, and what works to address them

Challenge: difficulty pausing to think

Opportunity: coaching is a pause in your life to process life experience to create new awareness and learning

Challenge: difficulty engaging in action

Opportunity: with your coach identify the cause(s) of avoidance of starting tasks and identify ways to engage in tasks that work for you; practice engaging in tasks between sessions, and process your experience in the next coaching session

Challenge: completing tasks

Opportunity: with your coach identify barriers to completion and strategize ways to complete tasks, getting support for completion with accountability (coach will check in about attempts at completion the following week)

Challenge: decision-making

Opportunity: practice making decisions with the support of your coach; identify thought patterns that make decision-making difficult, and developing new strategies for decision-making

Challenge: getting stuck in negative thoughts and negative self-talk

Opportunity: create awareness of the habit of slipping into negative thinking and negative self-talk with the help of coach feedback; explore how to get unstuck, and generate other more positive perspectives

Challenge: regulating emotions

Opportunity: bring situations where you have had difficulty regulating emotions to coaching sessions to identify what leads to heightened emotions; strategize ways to be more aware of feelings, and learn how to manage them

Challenge: disorganization

Opportunity: work with your coach to identify organizing challenges and strategies and resources to address disorganization

Challenge: setting priorities

Opportunity: clarify priorities in conversation with your coach

Challenge: time management

Opportunity: practice being on time for coaching; develop better time awareness with your coach; and, learn how to use time in a way that works with your ADD brain

Challenge: low self-esteem

Opportunity: identify your gifts, passions, values and needs

The support of a coach makes ADD management and long lasting positive changes

possible for a person with ADD.

Clear Clutter to Get Clear About What You Want

“Clear to get clear.” That’s a slogan I’ve used for years. When you clear physical

Can't figure out what to do? Clear clutter!

Can’t figure out what to do? Clear clutter!

clutter you clear environmental distractions to clear thinking. It’s fun to watch this happen when I work with clients. At some point in our session we cross a line. After we have removed items from the space to donate, send to trash, recycle, or relocate new ideas and thoughts start popping. Decisions we couldn’t make at the beginning of the session are suddenly easy to make. With the clutter gone, so too are our minds clear, and creative ideas and clear thinking emerge.

Recently I received a message from a coaching client who had enlisted my help to clear clutter once she realized she had ADHD. We coached together for about four months. During that time I also did several hands-on organizing sessions with her. Her note expressed gratitude because as a result of our coaching and clutter clearing she was able to figure out what she wanted for the next chapter of her life. She wanted to move. With quantities of clutter gone from her space she was able to think more clearly and figure out the fact that her house was too big for her and her husband now that her children are leaving the nest. With that clarity she was motivated to continue to clear clutter to prepare the house for sale.

Not sure what you want? Clear clutter for greater clarity. Make space for your truth, new ideas, and clear thinking.

ADHD Action Strategy: Task Switching

People with ADHD have difficulty engaging in action and sustaining action to a point of completion. With awareness that ADHD directly affects their ability to be productive, they can learn strategies that work well with their special brains. I love sharing the strategies that they discover on their journey to manage their ADHD.

I recently received an email from a client with inattentive ADHD and autism who was very excited to have made good progress clearing clutter. This client has typical ADHD challenges with sustaining focus and completing tasks. In that email he shared the “Task Switching” strategy with me, a strategy that has helped him keep going despite his ADHD challenges. He gave me permission to share his description of the strategy.

“I’ve mostly discovered task switching when I’ve been unable to just step away from work entirely.  When I was on deadline for comics, twice each week, for 5 years, for the VCU student newspaper, I learned to switch from drawing with a pencil to inking the words, to inking the lines, to shading, to bordering, and back around, when possible.

On my research assistant job. . . , I would switch from researching one state to researching another, or researching on another project in progress, or (with kind permission and encouragement from my Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services job coach) about 5 minutes with a game.

At home, I can switch from walking around to sitting, from papers to dishes, from one room to another, or from clutter to a computer game.”

About a recent success he wrote. . . “I helped myself along by listening to a comedy podcast, then watching some extra features for “Doctor Who” Season 8 [of the 21st century reboot], and also playing a computer game, for a few minutes at a time, now and then.”

Task switching is a great way to keep moving even if your attention wanes for your current focus. It is a way to work with your ADHD brain that is wired to seek stimulation to function effectively. The switching creates the stimulation.

There are also risks to the task switching method. One risk is that the ADHD brain can get stuck (hyperfocusing) on tasks that are particularly stimulating, new, fun and/or exciting. Because awareness is also an ADHD challenge, you might get stuck hyperfocusing and not even be aware that you’re stuck and eating up time doing a particular activity.

Another risk of task switching is that you could lose awareness of the important task(s) you are trying to get done due to ADHD deficits in working memory (holding in memory one task while working on another).

The above challenges, however, could be addressed with a timer to break any hyperfocus and a written note with the important task(s) to be done located beside the timer. When the timer goes off, you are cued to pause, refocus and shift back to anHand check mark the list important task.

Do you already task switch to get things done with your ADHD brain? If so, let me know how it works for you. If not, give it a try. Working with your ADHD brain’s normal tendencies is easier on your brain, prevents discouragement when non-ADHD productivity strategies don’t work, and can lead to greater productivity and success.

ADHD? Clutter Challenges? A Medication Success Story

Most of my clients have ADHD, commonly referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder with or

ADHD can look like this. Want something different? Try medication!

ADHD can look like this. Want something different? Try medication!

without a hyperactive component. Some have been diagnosed with the disorder. Others have considered the possibility that they have it but have never been tested, and still others have struggled with the challenges of ADHD symptoms for years (organization, clutter, time management, decision-making, prioritization, and productivity challenges), but had no clue that ADHD could be the reason for their on-going struggles.

When I bring ADHD up as a possible cause for on-going organizing and productivity challenges clients often ask me what can be done about it. I tell them that medication, to regulate brain chemistry, and coaching, to learn to manage their ADHD symptoms, are the two primary ways to deal with ADHD. Many clients immediately bat away the idea of medication, saying they don’t like taking medications, that they might try other possibilities, but not medication.

Medication can make it possible for a person with ADHD to focus and initiate and complete tasks, all of which are primary ADHD challenges. It doesn’t work for everyone, but when it does it can transform a life that alternately feels out of control or stuck into one that is manageable and rewarding. Following is an example of what medication can do.

“I no longer inhabit my home. I love in it.” Those are the words of a client who for many years felt uncomfortable living in her home because of clutter challenges. What happened? What made things better? I helped her identify that she has ADHD. She went one step further and sought medication to help regulate the symptoms that affect her ability to get things done in her home.

When she and her doctor found the right dosage of medication, she sent me an email sharing her success. Excerpts follow.

“I started doing things here that have not been done in some cases for years and years. I am mainly making it look better. I am discarding a lot of stuff, and moving things around. . . In moving things around I am freeing up space, making room to breathe. I am discarding things, but I am not making decluttering or downsizing the primary thing.  Rather, getting my space better. I go wherever my interest and energy want to go and do things that way. . .

Lots more to do, but I am actually enjoying a lot of this. Every time I look into my living room, there is so much more space and it is lighter, not all stuffed in. Not finished here either, but making progress. . .

From my heart to yours, Debbie, thank you for hanging with me until I could see that I probably did/do have some ADHD and related problems. This medication has given me energy, a much improved mood, more comfortable in my skin. I’m not sure that this is the best stopping place with trying medication, but I sure am grateful for what has occurred with me so far.”

In this client’s case being able to make real progress on clutter clearing in her home wasn’t possible until she figured out that she had ADHD and got the right dose of medication to help her focus. Medication made it possible for her to engage in tasks that previously she would have avoided. 

It’s clear that my client’s quality of life has improved with the addition of medication to help manage her ADHD symptoms. How sad that many others with the ADHD challenge refuse to give themselves the opportunity to make their lives more manageable, less challenging and more rewarding.

If you have ADHD, why not explore medication? It could change your life for the better!

ADHD: Watch Your Language for the Best Results

This week while coaching a client with ADHD I noticed that she kept saying that she was “freaking out” about holiday preparations and getting everything done. In conversations with others she’d tell them the same thing. “Freaking out” is pretty strong language, and its effect on my client was to keep her in a heightened state of arousal. 

People with ADD have under-stimulated pre-frontal cortexes which leave them with executive function deficits like difficulty with time management, planning, organizing, initiating action and completing tasks. They therefore unconsciously seek stimulation in order to kick their pre-frontal cortexes into action. In my client’s case she was using the stimulation of emotional language, “freaking out,” to motivate her to take action on important tasks associated with holiday preparations.

Using dramatic words was working for my client. She was able to get important tasks done. However, they also kept her feeling out of control, out of awareness of the progress she was making, and unable to pause to assess what she’d accomplished and what was left to be done. 

Also, words are energy. As such they attract more of the same. Being “freaked out” is likely to oct25_bizattract circumstances about which to be freaked out. In my client’s case she was staying motivated by the stimulation of the fear that “freaked out” was generating, but was unable to attract what she really wants — to feel in control and confident that she will create a positive holiday experience. 

What language do you unconsciously use to stimulate yourself into action? Could it be attracting circumstances you don’t want? What language would motivate you and attract more of what you do want? 

Watch your language. It could be determining your experience and your destiny!

You Might Have ADHD If —

If you have organizing and clutter problems, time management problems, and problems withiStock_000026018385Large productivity, you could have ADHD (I use ADHD to include both inattentive ADD and hyperactive ADHD). How do I know? Most of my clients come to me with those problems, and many have been diagnosed with ADHD.

I wrote this blog to give those of you who wonder if you have ADHD information about some of the more common symptoms of ADHD. I am constantly amazed at how many people I work with who have ADHD and don’t know it. They’ve just assumed that their clutter challenges are the result of not being disciplined or just being lazy. 

In fact, ADHD is a neurobiological problem. Translated, that means that there are mechanical problems with the functioning of areas of the brain. ADHD is not a matter of will or choice. It is a wiring problem in the brain that causes many challenges in the lives of people with ADHD and their families. 

The ADHD brain doesn’t work optimally, particularly the pre-frontal cortex, the area associated with executive functions associated with memory, organizing, prioritizing, time management, emotion regulation, effort, focus and getting things done. Below is a list of the way I have experienced ADHD showing up in the lives of clients and loved ones:

  • you have difficulty prioritizing tasks to be done, everything seems equally important,
  • you have difficulty starting tasks, particularly tasks that are not interesting,
  • urgency is a primary motivator for action,
  • you constantly seek pleasure, fun, new and interesting,
  • you have difficulty focusing when not interested in a task or conversation,
  • you can focus for long periods of time on tasks about which you are interested (hyperfocus), but have difficulty disengaging from those tasks,
  • you have difficulty sustaining action or interest when doing tasks, particularly those that are not stimulating, new, interesting or fun,
  • you get distracted by anything that is more fun, interesting, stimulating than what you are currently doing,
  • you get distracted by all the conversations going on in your head,
  • you have difficulty completing tasks,
  • you have difficulty transitioning from one activity or task to another,
  • you overcommit yourself because you underestimate the time and effort involved in tasks and you lose sight of all you’ve already committed to,
  • you procrastinate, particularly tasks with no deadline, urgency or that are not interesting, stimulating or fun,
  • you have difficulty with consistent follow through, doing what you say you’ll do,
  • you have difficulty managing time: lose track of time, waste time, underestimate the time it will take to get tasks done,
  • you struggle with getting and staying organized, particularly paper,
  • you have difficulty getting to sleep because you can’t shut off the activity in your brain,
  • you have difficulty regulating your emotions (become easily frustrated, get swept away by strong feelings, get angry easily),
  • you have difficulty pausing, especially when feeling emotional.

This list is by no means all inclusive, nor is it meant to be. It’s meant to give you some basic information about the way ADHD can affect the lives of people who have this challenging disorder. If you recognized yourself as you read the above list, I urge you consider getting a formal assessment to determine if you have ADHD. It will open up access to many resources that can make living with ADHD much easier.

ADHD is a neurobiological challenge that cannot be cured. However, its symptoms can be managed. If you think you may have ADHD and want to explore your options for next steps to take to improve your life experience, call me at 804-730-4991 or email me to schedule a free 30 minute consultation. Life can be different!

ADHD: Creating Visibility to Calm Emotions and Complete Tasks

young attractive brunette with six arms multitasking her workMy ADHD clients, when asked about time management and task completion often describe their process of handling multiple competing obligations and tasks like this, “I had so much to do that I got overwhelmed and didn’t get anything done.”

One possible reason for their apparent paralysis is that they had too much incoming and no method for organizing, prioritizing and strategizing how they’d handle the influx of tasks that had landed on their mental to do lists.

So, this past week when a coaching client came in with the same type of challenge described above, I was excited to have the opportunity to learn more about that overwhelm/shutdown dilemma that is so common for people with ADHD. Together we could look at the reality of her current situation and develop awareness of what actually happens when too much lands on her plate. With that information we would be in a good position to generate ideas of what she can do moving forward to manage multiple tasks and task influx and keep moving.

As I listened to her describe the projects and associated tasks that had just heated up, what I noticed was that it seemed that all that incoming information was being carried in her head. She was attempting to keep track of all that had to be done and had been done with her memory alone.

Anyone would have difficulty carrying so much information in memory, given the complexity of the projects she described. However, one of the hallmarks of ADHD is having an unreliable memory and great difficulty with working memory. The way she was currently managing her project obligations was the equivalent of trying to capture all the details of her projects in a sieve. Some tasks were getting done, the lucky ones that got caught in the sieve, but even so, my client was aware that she didn’t have a complete grasp of all that needed to be done, thus she felt anxious.

I checked in with my client about how she was keeping track of all the tasks to be done. Was she in fact relying on her memory alone to manage her projects? Yes, all that data was floating in her head, stirring up anxiety. We discussed the option of making the projects and associated tasks visible, pulling them out of her head and onto paper or a computer screen. I call this “dumping your brain.” She liked that idea.

In our discussion my client admitted that by trying to keep everything in her head she really couldn’t see the total picture of her current obligations. Not being able to see her reality made her anxious. She also couldn’t see what she already had done, something that could have eased her anxiety and motivated her to keep going despite feeling the weight of responsibility associated with her projects. Writing out the tasks associated with each project would make it much easier to determine priorities, a timeline, a sequence for taking action and resources needed and available to complete the tasks. 

By combining memory with making project details and tasks visible, my client agreed that she would in a better position to create an accurate picture of her reality, to develop a doable, strategic action plan, and initiate and complete tasks from a position of feeling in control and empowered instead of running on anxiety and urgency or becoming paralyzed by overwhelm. In our session she moved from “freaked out” by all she needed to get done to excited at the prospect of creating a visible action plan. Not being able to see the full picture of her obligations kept her anxious and overwhelmed. Creating visibility would help her manage her anxiety and make successful completions more likely.

Where are you shut down, paralyzed by the weight of the obligations you carry in your head? Make them visible and watch the tyranny of your emotions ease so you can spend your energy on effective thinking, planning and strategizing when and how to get them done instead of needing to spend valuable energy to manage anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings that emerge when you’re operating in the dark. 

ADHD, Facebook, The Internet, and Sleep Problems

sleeping womanSleep is an essential component of self-care for people with ADHD. However, many people with ADHD have sleep challenges. They have great difficulty shutting off their busy minds so they can rest.

Almost every ADHD client I’ve coached has described having difficulty getting enough sleep. They stay up late despite having to get up early the next day to go to work or some other activity. They run on a sleep deficit which makes managing the symptoms of their ADHD much more difficult.

Many ADHD challenges (problems with executive functions that result in planning difficulties, difficulties getting and staying organized, difficulties managing impulsivity, a short attention span, and difficulties making decisions, etc.) can be attributed to having frontal lobes that are less active than people who don’t have ADHD. People with ADHD, therefore, have great difficulty getting their brains to cooperate when they need to concentrate and engage in and accomplish tasks. To jumpstart their frontal lobes they unconsciously seek stimulation in many ways. Checking Facebook, posting to Facebook, and surfing the web are stimulating activities. 

When I’ve explored what clients are doing prior to attempting to sleep, every one of them cited being on the computer or their phone engaged with the internet and/or Facebook. In effect they were stimulating their brains up until they shut their eyes, sometimes even after they had gotten into bed. Is it any wonder they were having difficulty getting to sleep? Their normally active ADHD brain’s sleep challenge was compounded by the mental stimulation of being on the internet or Facebook.

Facebook and other social media activities are seductive to the stimulation-seeking ADHD brain. Could refraining from that stimulation for an hour before bedtime make getting to sleep easier? Give it a try!

Be sure to notice how your brain reacts when you remove it’s pleasurable evening stimulation. The brain typically objects to change, and the ADHD brain, which tends to seek pleasure, may really object to the removal of pleasurable stimulation.  If that happens, notice it, acknowledge it as a normal response, but also notice what happens regarding your ability to get to sleep and the quality of your sleep. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to add getting adequate quality sleep to your ADHD self-care plan!

Reduce Access to Technology for Better Sleep

sleeping womanPeople with ADHD have great difficulty shutting down their brains at night. Going to sleep can be a real challenge for their busy brains. Given that reality, I was taken aback when a coaching client who has ADHD told me she’d gone to bed at 9:30 a.m. the night before. And, consequently she woke the next day much more rested and ready to face the new day. Her habit had been to stay on the computer until late in the night so she could enjoy time to herself, thereby reducing her sleep time. As we do in coaching I asked what made that possible.

She told me she was listening to what her body needed. She also told me that she’d chosen not to go on the computer as was her habit, and that she’d turned the TV off because she didn’t want to stimulate her brain. It was as if she was speaking a foreign language. Just two weeks before she wasn’t talking with such self-awareness when we discussed her sleep habits. What had made the difference?

With more exploration I learned that she’d read this post online: “The Case Against Busy and the Art of Sitting Still” (http://www.fastcompany.com/3029388/work-smart/the-case-against-busy-and-the-art-of-sitting-still?partner=rss) by Jane Porter. The message in this article resonated with her so much that she consciously changed her nighttime routine.

The message of this article is so compelling that I wanted to share it with you. The author makes a case for the benefits of stillness and unplugging from technology. She advocates stepping out of  the “busy” norm to be able to access parts of yourself that go neglected when locked into the tyranny of busyness, much of which is generated by too much incoming through technology.

With awareness of what connectivity is costing you and understanding that participating in it is a choice, perhaps you too can unplug, reduce mental stimulation and get more and better sleep!

ADHD Speech, A Calling Revealed

This past Saturday I stood before a group of about 17 people to give the seminar “ADHD: imagesCA7LLPVQChallenges & Solutions.” Most Saturdays I’d rather be home having time to myself to recover from the week, but this time I was vibrating with excitement. I was finally going to speak in front of people about a subject that is near and dear to my heart!

What’s the big deal? I’ve given many speeches, and I make a point to only speak about things about which I feel some passion. This speech was special. I’d been preparing to do it for over 15 years.

There was a time early in my career as a professional organizer where I would have told you that I’d never give a speech about ADHD. Yes, I worked mostly with people who were challenged by that brain-based condition, so I had experience with the nature of the beast. But to make sense of what I’d been dealing with in my work clutter clearing, organizing and helping clients with time and stuff management issues to be able to put it into words? No way! I, like the very clients I’d been serving, was overwhelmed at the prospect of explaining what I was observing and experiencing in homes full of clutter and lives full of turmoil and stress.

Fast forward ten years, add many more hours of experience working with ADHD clients in their homes and work spaces, add time spent one on one with a husband who has ADHD — finding ways to make our marriage work given his ADHD symptoms and my high need for order and task completion, add coach training by two trainers who both have ADHD in a coaching program with a strong emphasis on coaching people with ADHD, and experience coaching many people with ADHD, and there I was standing in front of that group ready, no, thrilled to share what I’d learned!

What was the thrill? I finally felt equipped to share information that I knew could make a real difference for a population of people I have come to know, love and appreciate, a misunderstood population of outstanding individuals who have amazing gifts to share if they could manage their ADHD symptoms.

I was also finally crystal clear about my true calling (a calling I’d tried hard to avoid): to partner with people who have ADHD so they can emerge from personal and professional lives of challenge, strife, disorganization, crisis and chaos into lives where they thrive, working with their strengths and gifts to manage their ADHD symptoms, and live lives that bring them, those that love them, and those around them real joy.

There is no greater joy than being being clear about your true calling and in the place to meet it! What is your calling? What must you do that makes your heart sing, lifts your spirits, and gives you a reason to open your eyes in the morning?

If, like many people, you aren’t clear about your life path, email me to set up a 30 minute call to explore the option of coaching to clear the clutter of your mind and develop awareness of your right path.

Take the first step to discovering your calling today!

How ADHD Shows Up in Low Stress Times

“I’ve been very irritable and “antsy” at work this week. And, I’ve been so annoyed with one

Watch for irritability! It could be a sign of withdrawal from brain stimulation!

Watch for irritability! It could be a sign of withdrawal from brain stimulation!

employee.” Those are the words of a coaching client with ADHD, who like many people with ADHD, thrives in high pressure situations and is motivated to act by urgency. This client had had several weeks of working on an even keel, successfully managing her feelings and detaching from challenging employees. She and I were both curious about what had dropped her from calm and productive to agitated and irritable.

As we explored the reality of the situation to tease out what had caused the shift in attitude she said, “We’ve had a lull at work. We just closed out the month. That’s a high stress time. Typically we get new orders right away and are off and running again. But, the new orders haven’t come in.” The word “lull” got my attention and a light bulb went off in my head. Lull is the opposite of urgency.

The frontal lobes of the brains of people with ADHD, which are characteristically under-stimulated, come alive when there is urgency in their work and their lives. Remove the urgency and their brains return to being under-stimulated and therefore don’t operate optimally. My client went from a highly stimulating, high pressure week to no pressure at all. Her battery had been removed! And, her brain objected!

I liken what happened to my client as a form of withdrawal from her drug of choice: stimulation. Stimulation makes the brains of people with ADHD work well. Lack of the stimulation provided by pressure and urgency can be experienced as deprivation of nourishment for the brain. Take away what brings pleasure and stimulation and they experience withdrawal symptoms. My client’s ability to maintain a good attitude and calmness in the work environment was replaced by irritability and reactivity, typical withdrawal symptoms.

If you have ADHD, watch your performance and attitude in urgent, pressured situations and compare it to your behavior in calm waters. When are you at your best? What can you do to work with your brain to show up as your best self in all situations ?