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When Organizing Sparks Joy (Through the ADHD Lens)

Some of you may not know this but my youngest daughter moved out on her own last year. Kyrie struggles with ADHD and severe learning disabilities. To make matters worse, like many ADHDers, she has very low motivation from low levels of dopamine in her brain.

As a result, her apartment looks like a tornado just went through it. She doesn’t like to stay in her apartment when she’s not at work because it distracts her; she’s unable to relax and it’s far from a calming environment, so she goes out and spends money she doesn’t have just to stay away from that demoralising environment.

I’ve offered to help her get organized, but she has never been interested because she knows it won’t be all that enjoyable. Recently, I came across an interesting approach to organizing proposed by Marie Kondo, a Japanese woman who has written a couple books on the subject based on her work helping organize people’s homes in Japan.  I read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in hopes that her method could help my readers with ADHD. While some of the strategies are far from being ADHD friendly, there are some strategies that, I believe, are promising.

It’s a Two Step Process

Step 1: Discard then Step 2: decide where to store: The first strategy is to discard. I believe that the fewer items you have, the less you have to manage.  (This is why businesses hold big sales BEFORE they do inventory- fewer things to count!)

Tackle one category of things at a time: Kondo advocates gathering all items in one category in the same place before you begin and she means everything (but, remember, only in one category at a time) – this gives you a better idea of what you own.  She recommends you:

  • Start with clothes – that includes accessories, socks, shoes, belts and outdoor apparel such as mitts and scarves
  • Then move to books
  • Documents and various papers
  • Miscellaneous
  • And finish with mementos (the things you keep that have no purpose except to remind of you something) – they’re the hardest to deal with because of the sentimental value.

This doesn’t sound much different than other approaches so far, but when I spoke to Kyrie about the part I loved the most about this method, she was intrigued and eager to try it out.

Finding the Joy

Kondo insists her clients take each item in their hands and ask themselves: “Does this spark joy?” If it does not, thank it for either giving you joy when you bought it or for teaching you what doesn’t suit you, and then discard it for good. So last Sunday afternoon, Kyrie and I gathered every article of clothing in her apartment, put them on her made bed, and divided them into sub-categories such as:

  • Tops
  • Bottoms (including shorts, pants and skirts)
  • Dresses
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Purses
  • Accessories
  • Shoes
  • Outerwear

Then, starting with tops, Kyrie picked up each item and asked the question “Does this spark joy?” Anything that didn’t, we put in a bag to give to Goodwill or, if it was damaged, into the garbage it went.

It was amazingly easy for her to make the decision because the contrast in her mood when she picked up an item that sparked joy compared to when it didn’t was so great. She’d exclaim “Mom, I just feel so beautiful when I wear this” or “I just love, LOVE this color on me”.  She didn’t have to convince me that she should keep it. I could see the joy on her face.

Some Items Are Heavy

Some items didn’t spark joy; they sparked guilt. These were often items she kept because they had been gifts from me or her sister. They had served their purpose, but she kept them because they came from people she loves and she didn’t want to disappoint or hurt us. I encouraged her to thank those items for the love they represented and then let them go.

In no time, we plowed through all her clothing. As we completed each category of clothing, Kyrie decided where to store that category and we folded each item.

Folding For the ADHD Brain

folded

folded

Out of sight, out of mind; ADHDers quickly forget about things they don’t see. So if you know that if you don’t see something, you forget about it, why on Earth would you fold your clothes and store them one on top of the other in a drawer, or, as many of you do, shove them, unfolded, in your dresser?

If an item sparks joy, you want to be able to see it when you open your dresser. So Kondo recommends that you fold all your items so they are stored vertically in a way that allows you to see every piece when you open the drawer.

Rolled

Rolled

You don’t want everything to get wrinkled – who has time to iron everything before you put it on – but rolling the clothes keeps them visible and prevents them from getting wrinkled. Kyrie and I folded the clothes two or three times lengthwise, then, being careful to remove the creases, we rolled them up and placed them in the drawer.

Within two hours (and we took a break to go shopping for a few supplies in the middle), we were done.  I was so inspired by this approach, I started to implement it with my own clothes. I’ve included pictures of my drawers so you can see what it looks like.

Is This Sustainable?

Kyrie brings her laundry to my house once a week to save on laundromat fees, so a new habit she will start implementing (and I’ll help her by doing it too), is that as we are passing time together, she’ll roll up her clothes before she leaves and then put them away as soon as she gets home.

I’ve tried both rolling and folding and I like the effects of the folding better and it didn’t take much more time. Marie Kondo explains in one of her Youtube videos how to fold.

What About You?

Do all your clothes spark joy? If not, thank them and get rid of them. If you haven’t worn something for a long time, is it because you’ve forgotten about it? Or is there guilt associated with it? Get rid of it and allow it to spark joy in someone else.

Want To Give It A Try?

  1. Make your bed
  2. Gather all your articles of clothing and place them on your bed (and I mean everything!)
  3. Divide them into categories as I mentioned (see the list above)
  4. Then tackle one pile at a time; hold each item in your hand and ask “Does this spark joy?”
  5. After each type of clothing (tops for example) is sorted, roll up the ones you’re keeping (blouses and dresses should probably be hung up) and put them away where you’ve chosen to store them.

 

Here’s how to fold like Marie Kondo: https://youtu.be/Lpc5_1896ro

Solving your ADHD Problems at the Source

In my recent article entitled “I Have ADHD, Help me!”, I explained the importance of identifying which ADHD challenges to work on first. In the follow up article, “If You’ve Got ADHD, Missing this Step Practically Guarantees Failure,” I discussed the importance of building awareness of ADHD in your life to determine what’s causing the problem.

In this article, the third in this series, I explain the best way to solve the problem you’ve identified once you’re aware of its source (or sources).

You know the cause of your problem, what’s next?

So you have a pretty good idea of what’s causing your most vexing problem, what should you do next? Most of us think, “Well, stop whatever’s causing the problem!” Ah, if only it were that easy.

The good news is, there are almost certainly several ways to solve the problem, just as there may be many sources at the root of it. Remember, though, it’s very likely that solving your most vexing problem may take a few more steps and a little more effort than, say, turning off a light. However, while this may sound counterintuitive, if you want to make progress quickly, start by asking yourself this question: What is the smallest significant step I can take towards solving the problem? Don’t try to change or fix everything at once; pick one small, but meaningful, thing, and change that.

When our financial awareness-building exercise revealed we were overspending on small purchases – we were both shocked to discover Duane was spending $200 per month on soft drinks alone and I was spending the same amount on coffee – we looked at ways to cut only on those purchases. We didn’t try to refinance the mortgage, get another job or begin growing our own food. Those might also be good ideas, but when you try to fix everything at once, you often sabotage your own efforts.

Instead, we asked, “What’s one small, but significant, change we can make to help solve our problem?” Duane began to purchase his soft drinks at the supermarket instead of from the soda machine, saving a whopping $1.50 per drink (75%) and I started making some coffee at home; I’d drink my first coffee of the day at home, and then fill a travel mug for my second. Only buying one coffee per day instead of three saved 67%.

Starting one small step at a time

Nick, who was on the verge of a burnout, realized several behaviors were reducing his productivity. He wasted a lot of time on emails each morning, said “yes” way too often and jumped from one task to another because he didn’t plan his priorities each day. He knew he’d go a long way to solving his productivity issues if he had a clear plan of what he wanted to do with his time throughout the day. He decided his small but significant step would be to start planning. He didn’t start planning his whole week right away, because that would have been too big a step and he would have been overwhelmed. Instead, at the end of each work day, he identified his top three priorities for the next day and wrote them on a post-it note in front of his computer. Seeing those first things reminded him what his priorities were. He committed to only checking his emails in the afternoon, once the three priority tasks were completed.

The only approach that guarantees success

If you want to “fix” the problems ADHD is causing in your life, the only approach that guarantees success is to start with a small step and work your way up. Changing everything at once doesn’t work. Even changing multiple things at once doesn’t work. When you make too many changes in your life, you get too far out of your comfort zone. No one can sustain changes that are too uncomfortable.

You can also help yourself succeed in maintaining your changes by developing small support systems. For Nick, his system was as simple as having a post-it on his computer monitor that said “Check Your Calendar”. For Duane, it was writing a note to himself to include soft drinks on the grocery list.

Your mission should you choose to accept it…

  • Identify the first small step you can take that will make a significant difference. Implement it.
  • Devise a simple system to remind yourself of your plan.
  • Leave a comment in the box below to let us know what small step you’re planning to take.

 

If You’ve Got ADHD, Missing this Step Practically Guarantees Failure

In my last article, I Have ADHD, Help Me! I wrote how difficult I found it to respond to ADHDers who write simply, “Help me!” As I mentioned as well, it’s no easier to respond to those who write their life story and everything that’s ever gone wrong as a result of their ADHD in the hopes that I can give them THE answer. Of course, ADHD is much too complex for a single clichéd answer. Instead, I thought it would be best for me to provide you with a step-by-step approach to defining the problems and then finding solutions to your unique ADHD challenges.

In the first article, I assigned you a “mission.” You were to choose the first ADHD issue you would want to manage better based on your unique needs. I even described an approach for going about deciding which challenge to start with. Today, I’ll tell you what you need to do next to be able to proceed toward improving your ADHD.

By the way, the reason you need to choose only one thing to work on is that change is difficult and trying to change too much at the same time always backfires. It’s always better to take one step at a time. When Mary-Jo decided she wanted to improve her health, she didn’t start exercising, begin going to sleep earlier and start eating right all at once. Actually, she didn’t do that this time, because she HAD tried that before and sure enough, it backfired! So this time, she started with one thing, working on exercise first. She started with 5-minute walks around the block, eventually moving to longer walks then starting Zumba classes. Soon she was “addicted” to exercise, and this provided the catalyst for her to desire to begin eating better. As an added bonus, she found that because she was keeping a consistent routine of exercise, she was soon sleeping better and it was almost effortless for her to improve her sleep hygiene. Improving her health one step at a time made the changes manageable and not too uncomfortable.

If you accepted your mission in the last article, you’ve determine what problem you want to solve. Now what? Most people think the next step is obvious, “FIX THE PROBLEM!” But no, there is one more step that is essential, in fact, it’s a step ADHDers usually miss, and when they do, it practically guarantees failure! Before you can fix the problem, you must build awareness.

The First Step to Any Change Is Awareness

Unless you do this step, and it’s a step most ADHDers miss, nothing else works. The first step to changing your circumstances is always to build awareness. Ask yourself, what are you currently doing that’s contributing to your problem? You need to do this in a non-judgmental way; name-calling, especially calling yourself names, is not productive.

Building awareness is not an easy thing for an adult with ADHD to do because you’re often not paying attention to what’s going on. However, when you create the intention to get to the bottom of what behaviors are causing your problem, you are already half-way to a solution.

When Duane and I realized we had 17 creditors and were getting into a bigger hole each year (each month!), we could point to the fact that we were spending more than we were making and so were getting into debt faster than we could get out, but we still didn’t know how it kept happening. And when we fought but were focused on trying to win the argument, we didn’t understand why the same fights happened over and over with nothing ever getting resolved.

When my clients tell me, “I get to work early and leave late, and I don’t take breaks, plus I eat at my desk and take work home”, it’s obvious they’re expending a great deal of effort trying to solve a problem without really knowing what behaviors are causing the problem in the first place. There is no end to examples of how we can expend a great deal of effort to solve a problem without achieving results unless we first build awareness of the specific behaviors causing the problem.

How Do I Build Awareness?

So, how do you build awareness of your behaviors when you can’t pay attention? Let’s pretend there’s been a series of crimes perpetrated and your team of detectives are here to solve the case. I liken awareness-building to playing the role of Crime Scene Investigator. The CSI mantra is to study the evidence without judgment or bias.

Set the intention to become aware by creating systems that will help you pay attention to what you’re doing and will capture your behavior as you’re doing it. ADHDers can pay attention – in fact, you are distractible because you often notice things before others do – but unless you create an intention to note your behaviors and give yourself a way to capture the information, you’re not likely to pay attention and if you do, you’ll forget what you noticed before you have a chance to take note of it. Here are some examples of systems to build awareness.

To determine why our finances were a problem, Duane and I decided to track our spending, all our spending big or small. At the time, smart phones didn’t quite exist so we wrote every expense in small notebooks we carried everywhere. For one month, we tracked what we spent, where we spent it and how much, from the 32 cent stamp (yeah, I told you it was a while ago), to the $1.50 coffee and big ticket items, like furniture. This exercise allowed us to see where the money was going.

When my clients go on a mission to improve their ability to focus so that they can really improve their productivity in my Thrive! Program, I ask them to track their levels of mental and physical energy throughout each day to determine their energy patterns. Armed with this and other information they need to build awareness around, such as lifestyle behaviors that enhance or reduce their mental focus, my clients are then able to plan to make better choices that vastly increase their productivity.

Create a system to track your behavior. When tracking my finances, I put my notebook in my purse with my wallet so that I was always reminded to track. Nowadays, there are apps that can help with that.

Duane and I recently joined Weight Watchers. An important step to Weight Watchers is to track your food intake and to become more aware of the nutritional characteristics of the food we eat. Just this simple step makes a world of difference and often leads to weight loss without necessarily following a diet, simply because you become more mindful of what you put in your mouth.

Your agenda can be used as a tracking tool to determine how you spend your time each day. Clients who struggle, because they seem to leave at the end of the day with an in-basket that’s piled higher than when they arrived at work, use their agenda to track how they spend their time. There are also tools like the ADDA Storylines mobile app, which is specifically designed to help ADHDers track their ADHD symptoms.

If you’re struggling with an issue, the first step is to determine the source of the problem by creating the intention to build awareness, then devising a system for capturing the information you need to become aware.

Your Mission on Your Way to Finding a Solution to Your ADHD

So this week,

  1. Set your intention to become aware of the behaviors that are causing the challenge you’ve chosen to work on.
  2. Devise a system to help you collect the information you need to create that awareness.
  3. Collect the information. (Yes, you’ll miss some things, but you’ll still have far more information to work with than you do right now.)

In the next article, I’ll tell you what to do with the information you’ve collected.

Share in the comments box below the problem you’re struggling with and describe the system you’ll use to build awareness of the source of the problem.

I Have ADHD, Help Me!

You have ADHD and you’ve hit a wall. Your job is on the line, your spouse is screaming divorce, your finances are shamble and you’ve just made another huge ADHD mistake that might just be the last straw. You just can’t keep up with your life anymore, and you’re on the verge of a burnout. Whatever your wall is, you’ve already hit it, or you can see it looming as you approach at 100 miles an hour, and it’s all because of your ADHD.

I’m sure you recognize this moment. This is when the typical adult with ADHD seeks help, and they want it now. I know this moment well. I can tell exactly when someone has reached this point, because they write me an email or post on my Facebook page, “Help me!” Sometimes, that’s all they write! They’re so overwhelmed they can’t even explain the problem. Or they write their life story (usually in one continuous sentence!) and finish with, “So what should I do to fix this?”

You can imagine how difficult it is for me to answer such a cry for help. It’s not that I don’t want to help, but how can I? I suppose I could send off a list of “tips and tricks” saying “Do this” or “Don’t do that”, but that would trivialize ADHD and the person’s situation. When you have ADHD, you’re never tackling a single problem. No, ADHD is so much more insidious than that.

Each Situation is Unique

Even if we could narrow the focus to one thing, such as “chronic procrastination” or “disorganization”, each of these problems is so much more complex than we first imagine. Overcoming procrastination means more than applying any quick-fix, solves-all solution. Each ADHDer has a different set of circumstances, different strengths and different tasks they procrastinate. There’s no solution that works for every case. The same is true of disorganization. You may be disorganized, but only at the office. Or maybe your home looks like a tornado went through it, while your cubicle looks like nobody works there. You may be able to organize your space, but you struggle to organize your thoughts. Perhaps you have great ideas but can’t put them in order to write them down. Maybe you know how to do many things, but you can never organize them into a series of steps to manage a project. It’s easy to see why there’s no Band-Aid solution.

I’m Stumped!

Despite a great desire to help people (and I do want to help as many people as I can) when I see an email or Facebook message that’s a cry for help, I don’t know what to do. It’s not a lack of skills or training; no professional, doctor, coach or therapist would be able to solve that problem.

So, that’s why I’ve created this series of article explaining how you can figure out exactly what you’re facing, and how to break it down into identifiable, definable, solvable(!) problems. Then you’ll be able to ask for help in a meaningful way that will allow an expert to give you meaningful, useful advice. If you’d like to start overcoming your ADHD, this will deliver far better results than yelling for help.

Decide What You’ll Work on First

Deciding which ADHD problem to tackle first is essential. You can’t work on them all at once. However, this will not be easy for any adult with ADHD. ADHD permeates every area of your life, with both negative and positive effects. Write down an inventory of your ADHD issues. I have a form I use with my clients to help them create an inventory of the things they’d like to work on. It may be helpful for you to identify what ails you. Download it here.

You may find it easier to track challenges as you go along than to just sit and write the list. For example, as you go through your day, every time you see a symptom, write it down. If you waste an hour surfing the Web when you sat down with the intention of quickly answering an email; write it down. If you have a blowout with your spouse over the mess you left in the kitchen (again); write it down. If you realize you don’t have enough money to pay your rent because your finances are a shamble; write it down. Keep a notebook with you, or use your phone – there’s a free app designed to help you track your ADHD symptoms, called the ADDA Storylines App.

As soon as you have a reasonably good list (it doesn’t have to be complete – you may have challenges you don’t even know are caused by your ADHD), decide which ONE you want to work on first. Yes, it will be difficult to choose, because making decisions is also a struggle for adults with ADHD, so let’s look at that first.

But Decisions Are Hard for ADHDers

The best way for you to make this difficult decision will depend on the type of person you are (just one example of why there’s not one-size-fits-all solution.) I’ve built my business by always considering each individuals unique situation, strengths and personality. I do this when working with clients one on one, and I’ve even incorporated it into my online training programs. Here are three options for how to choose what to work on first. Pick the one that fits your personality best.

Option 1: If you’re someone who struggles with ADHD AND with low self-esteem – you’ve tried so many things that haven’t worked, your belief in your ability to change is almost non-existent – or you really need to take things slow to avoid having anxiety attacks, find the low hanging fruit. That means, choose the problem that is easiest to fix but would make a significant (it doesn’t have to be huge) difference. Why? Because the biggest problem may not be something you believe you can tackle right now. Studies show that when you don’t believe you can succeed at something, you are right.

Option 2: If you’re someone who believes you are a creative genius and you feel confident you can change your life – you know it won’t be easy, but you’ll make – or you’re someone who needs to see big change to stay motivated, choose the problem that is the most present in your life. If you’re always late; choose that. If you’re not very productive at work, choose that. If you’re constantly saying things that get you in trouble, choose that.

Option 3: If you’re still not sure, choose option 1.

Your Mission on Your Way to Finding a Solution to Your ADHD

So this week,

  1. Make a list of what ails you. I invite you to share some of the doozies in the comments box below.
  2. Choose one challenge to work on.
  3. Like me on Facebook :). I’ll announce when the next article in this series comes out there.

Don’t miss the next article in this series on The One Step Most ADHDers Miss That Guarantees Failure

Getting Back on Track with Your Routines

Picture was provided by DeathtoStock photographers Allie and David.

Picture was provided by DeathtoStock photographers Allie and David.

One of the advantages of having a “virtual” business is the ability to work from anywhere. Most of you aren’t really aware where I am at any given time, so you may not know that I’ve been away at my daughter’s in Regina since mid-November. I was there helping out for the birth of her second child (and our second grandson!) She recently moved to Regina for a job and so had no close friends or family in the area she could leave her toddler with in case she had to rush to the hospital Everything went very well, and everyone is healthy. I was able to help out while continuing to operate my business, but it was challenging working there productively, and it was challenging moving back home.

I’ve been back just over two weeks, and I’m just getting comfortable settling into my routines again. Even though many of my routines are deep-rooted, there’s always a period of readjustment when you’ve been away or when you’ve missed doing them for whatever reason. Changing my routines when I travel, and reintegrating my routines when I return home affects my productivity.

I don’t have ADHD, and it’s a problem for me, but if you are someone with ADHD, like my husband, it’s an even bigger problem. He came to Saskatchewan for two weeks over Christmas and found it very difficult not to have his familiar environment and routines that help him cope with his ADHD.  Then, when he came home again, he also struggled to get back into his routines even though he’d only been away for two weeks!

Since many of us take some time off during the holidays – and even if we don’t have time off, our regular schedules are often changed during the holidays with visitors, work schedule adjustments and so on –, I’d like to share some advice on how to get back on track with your routines.

First Things First

Continue any routines you can. Whenever possible, I counsel my clients to continue as many of their routines as possible, even when they are away or in transition for any reason. For example, maintain whatever routines you can – continue to make your bed, brush your teeth, go to the gym, etc.  Recreating as many routines as possible gives you a structure you can build on to get things done. Given that I was going to be away for 6 weeks, I enrolled in a local gym in Regina and immediately scheduled the same daily exercise appointments with myself each week.

There will be some routines you cannot continue while you’re away. Taking out the garbage, recycling and composting were routines I could not continue while I was there. In fact, since they don’t compost in Regina, when I returned home, I had forgotten that I should be composting all those apple cores and pepper stems and seeds. It was only halfway through my first week back that I noticed the compost bin on the counter and realized I hadn’t been using it. It was also difficult for my husband and I to plan meals since my daughter and her husband made those decisions at their house.

So How Do You Get Back

Start by making a quick inventory of your routines, and see which ones you need to adjust. Among my pre-Regina routines I was unable to sustain while gone, meal planning was at the top of the list. Much of my work routines had also been disrupted in Regina since at home, I use my mornings for program development and writing, but in Regina, that’s when I took Evan to daycare, and since the gym was close to his daycare, I’d pop in there in the morning, a change in my routine.

Forgive yourself. There is nothing to be gained by being mad at yourself for missing your routines. I kept up with some routines, while others had to change. However, while I might have been able to keep up with some routines, I was distracted by the new baby and the new environment and some routines fell through the cracks. For example, I didn’t drink enough water. Strange as it sounds, Saskatchewan is so much drier than Montreal, I really had to increase my water intake to compensate – in fact, my first week there, I lost my voice because I wasn’t hydrating enough. That acute laryngitis attack lasted three weeks!

Draw a line in the sand. That was then – when you missed your routines – and this is now – when you can take back the controls of your life. Don’t put off starting your routines back up one more day. Routines are one of the most effective tools for successfully living with ADHD, so the sooner you get back into the groove, the better.

Set the intention to return to maintenance habits, starting today!  One of my intentions was to get back to writing and I did – you’re reading the proof.  When setting the intention, make sure you create a plan to tackle those things that tend to get in the way. If I start reading my email in the morning, I KNOW I won’t get much writing done so I decided to set a 10-minute timer on my emails in the morning. When the timer rings, I close my email system and go to work.

Create appointments for routine activities into your agenda and set reminders.  Once these activities become automatic again, which shouldn’t take long (returning to habits the second or third time takes a lot less time and effort than the first time around), you can remove the alerts since, as habits, you’ll do them automatically.

What maintenance routine did you have difficulty maintaining over the holidays?  If you’ve never had routines, what routines could help you better manage your ADHD? If you have no routines and don’t know where to get started, you’re missing out on a really helpful tool for dealing with your ADHD. In fact, it’s so powerful, I created a program just to help you implement routines – and it’s FREE – at least for now. Click here for more details.

Let’s Declare 2016 the Year ADHD in Women Gets Recognized

Let’s Declare 2016 the Year ADHD in Women Gets Recognized

womanWhen my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in 1994, there was virtually no information on ADHD in girls. Some doctors even told me it was impossible. At the time, specialists willing to admit it existed said that for every girl with ADHD, there were 3 or 4 boys who had it. Today, I still occasionally hear the same statistic quoted though we now know it is completely false. The new statement should be “for every 3 or 4 boys we diagnose with ADHD, we fail to diagnose and treat 2 or 3 girls.” We fail because we don’t recognize that ADHD often does not manifest itself the same way in girls as it does in boys.

The Impact of Unrecognized ADHD in Girls

The daydreaming girl who sits quietly at the back of the class doesn’t get recognized because she is quiet. She also doesn’t get the attention she needs to thrive and achieve her full educational potential. She does not have the opportunity to choose a career that allows her to contribute using her unique strengths. Without that opportunity, she may instead, land a job that forces her to work in her areas of weaknesses, handling details or doing work that bores her to tears. Not all ADHD women end up like this but that is, for many girls, the cost of not being treated.

Women Have Unique Issues

Women also struggle with unique issues. While we may have made great strides in sharing responsibility in the home, the responsibility of dealing with family details (a child’s friend’s birthday party, managing meals and daycare, dealing with housework and renovations, helping kids with homework, etc.) often fall on mothers. In this situation, many ADHD mothers feel overwhelmed and incompetent. When they let a ball drop, they feel a great deal of guilt and shame. On this front, we need to address these issues and change how we divide chores and responsibilities so that every member of the family contributes, not by some arbitrary standard of what each member “should” do, but going instead with your strengths.

Finally! Some Attention Given to Women’s Inattentiveness

Next year, 2016, arriving in just a few short days, has a great deal in store for women with ADHD.  First, the ADHD Women’s Palooza, hosted by Linda Roggli and Terry Matlin, will take place from January 11 to 16th. I’ll be one of 31 guest speakers address issues of ADHD in women exclusively.

Secondly, Sari Solden, author of Women with Attention Deficit Disorder and Journeys Through ADDulthood, will be hosting the Better Together Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She decided to hold a festival (which sounds a lot like a big party!) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the launch of her ground-breaking book, Women with Attention Deficit Disorder, on May 14th, 2016.  I’ll also be attending this event along with a long list of other ADHD specialists.

Let’s use these two events as catalyst to put more attention on the unique challenges faced by women with ADHD for the coming year and let’s find better solutions for them.

Feeling Burnt Out? I’m Not Surprised, and You Shouldn’t Be Either

lack-of-focus-300x249A few years ago, I had a large influx of clients. Within a month and a half, I welcomed seven new clients. Of the seven, six confided that they were on leave from work for burnout! One was on sick leave for burnout for the third time and, believing there must be some underlying cause, did his own research and discovered he’d been suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) all along.

I was intrigued by this seeming coincidence. I began reviewing my files to determine the number of clients, past and current, who had mentioned suffering from burnout at some point in their lives. I was shocked to discover that over half, 54%, of my clients had been on sick leave for burnout, depression or stress-related health problems at least once in their professional lives. Some had had several periods of stress-related sick leave.

I began digging deep into the literature and found one study that had been conducted on a group of people who were on long-term disability for burnout or stress-related health issues. What they found astounded me. Within that pool of 62 people, they found 24% suffered from ADHD and up to 56% met the criteria for ADHD but testing results were inconclusive because of other confounding issues.

When you consider that the incidence of adult ADHD in the general population is 4 to 8%, this indicates that there’s an increased risk for adults with ADHD; they are three to six times more likely to suffer from burnout or stress-related health problems.

Seeking to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of burnout, I began to research in earnest. While there is no diagnosis of “burnout”, we understand it to be extreme exhaustion brought on by prolonged periods of stress. As I learned more, I realized ADHD-related burnout was quite different from neurotypical or “textbook” cases of burnout.

ADHD-Related Burnout vs. “Textbook” Burnout

The underlying cause or reason that people burn out differs between the two groups. Neurotypicals (people without ADHD) who burn out often do so because they are trying to prove themselves. They (or others, such as their parents) face high expectations and are trying to “over-perform” as a way of getting noticed. People with ADHD burn out because of the stress brought on by a fear of losing their jobs.  They work harder and put in longer hours trying to catch up because they don’t feel productive. They try to make up for their poor productivity and to hide the shame they feel about their inability to meet their workload.

Neglecting your own needs can exacerbate burnout. These two groups (neurotypicals vs. adults with ADHD) neglect their needs for different reasons; whereas ADHDers skimp on sleep, abandon exercise routines and work through their lunch hour and late into the night in an effort to keep up with what they see as the “normal” demands of their job, neurotypicals do the same but because they choose to use that time to fit in more projects that will give them more visibility.

Another difference between the two groups is that while in both “textbook” and ADHD-related burnout, employees suffer from cognitive impairment such as lack of focus, poor short-term memory and challenges with managing their emotions, for neurotypicals, the impairment is due to their prolonged stress and will abate after a period of rest. For adults with ADHD, the cognitive impairment is typically symptomatic of their ADHD (made worse by the stress to be sure) and is at the source of the burnout. Those symptoms remain even after long periods of rest, so a second or even a third bout of burnout is inevitable unless changes are made beyond simple rest, because the source of the burnout has not been addressed.

Recognizing the Source of Burnout is a Prerequisite to the Right Treatment

It’s true that in all burnout cases, rest is needed to reduce the effects of prolonged stress. However, for ADHDers, the treatment must also include an “attack” on the underlying source of the burnout, by managing the ADHD symptoms. The objective is to reduce the level of impairment resulting from the ADHD, and so allow the ADHDer to improve his or her work performance. One of the most dramatic ways to optimize focus improve productivity is for the ADHD-burnout sufferer to learn ADHD-friendly energy and time management strategies as well as organizational strategies. Helping the ADHD employee build awareness of the signs of overwhelming stress and helping them prepare a plan of action to enable them to respond to it effectively is essential to prevent future burnouts.

Finally, beyond simple rest, burnout victims benefit enormously from “recovery activities” such as improving health hygiene (sleep, exercise and nutrition), connecting with family and friends and engaging in creative activities. These help reduce the effects of stress and cut the level of stress to a manageable level.

In today’s society, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to eliminate stress that could lead to burnout.  However, we can learn to effectively manage that stress by recognizing the true underlying causes of ADHD-related burnout and treating the problem at the source.

Webinar Invitation: Preventing Burnout in ADHD Women

On Monday, November 9th, at 9 pm EST, I’ll be giving a webinar for my colleague, Linda Roggli at ADDiva

overwhelmed-womanOur busy pace today is challenging for all employees, but disorganization, lack of focus, inefficiency and poor time management make employees with ADHD particularly vulnerable to burnout. Women with ADHD face even greater danger as juggling most family details and caretaker duties fall to them. ADHD-related burnout, when it happens, strikes not once but two or three times as conventional treatments do not correct the source of the problem, ADHD symptoms.

In this session, we will examine differences between ADHD-related burnout and typical burnout and outline strategies for preventing it.

This presentation is open and free and you are invited to join us by clicking here to register

And the Winner of the “Quick Wins” Contest Is….

drumroll-pleaseWe’ve been hard at work developing the new program you were invited to help me find a name for! In fact, we held a contest to name the new program, which we were calling “Quick Wins”, a program of small changes that make a significant difference in your life quickly. Today, we finally get to announce the new name, the winner of the contest AND the launch of the new program! It’s a BIG DAY!

First, thank you to everyone who participated in the contest. There were so many great ideas, it was a challenge to choose, but we finally picked a name that defines this program well. So…
Drum roll please….

The name of the new program is
Your Path Forward
Conquer Your Adult ADHD One Step at a Time

And the creative genius who came up with this name is Bob R. Congratulations Bob! (We’ll be in touch with you in the next few days). The winner gets to choose between receiving a new Fitbit Flex or a $129 credit off any one of my programs he enrolls in (we increased it from $100).

Now, I want this to be a winning program for everyone so I’m inviting you all to enroll in Your Path Forward for FREE! Click here to take this 12-week program that will guide you through a number of small, simple steps that will lead to real change in your life.

Coach Linda Walker’s Master Travel Checklist

Earlier this month, I was coaching a client who was getting ready to travel for her vacation and she related the stress that travel tends to generate in her. Her biggest issue was that she feared forgetting something important. She didn’t want to have the added expense of replacing some item she forgot.

Having everything you need when vacationing reduces stressI mentioned how one ADHDer had a great idea for avoiding forgetting things by creating a travel checklist. He would print his Travel Checklist, plasticized and kept it in his suitcase. Then every time he realized he’d forgotten something, he’d add it to the list for the next time. Of course, he had to reprint and re-plasticize his list. When I began to travel extensively for work and pleasure I adopted his strategy only I used Evernote and created a Master Checklist, which I copy into a new note so that I can use the Checklist feature. Like him, every time I’d forget an item, I’d add it to my Master Travel Checklist – no reprinting or plastifying involved. Evernote synchronizes in all my devices so I can check the same list off my tablet pc, my mobile phone and laptop. It is almost perfect now. However, if you notice anything missing, please add it in the comments box below.

When my client and I ended our conversation, I had made a mental note (Note to self: mental notes are as good as the paper they’re written on) to post my CoachLindaWalker-Master Travel Checklist. You are welcomed to use it.

As you travel this summer, please take the time to enjoy your well-deserved time off and be safe.

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