Adult ADHD : From Curse to Gift

I keep reading discussions around the question of whether ADHD is a curse or a gift. Most ADHDers are divided on this. As an ADHD Coach, spouse and mother of ADHDers, I have seen ADHD in both ends of the spectrum.

On one hand my ADHD adults struggle to keep their jobs, keep a happy marriage, stay financially afloat. Many are overwhelmed, distracted, disorganized and have self-esteem issues. When you find yourself stuck in the negative aspects of ADHD, it’s understandable that you could see it as a curse.

On the other hand, others who see it as a gift usually excel in their jobs, or create a business they’re passionate about, keep the spice in their relationships, and are financially in control, to name a few. They tend to have a more positive outlook on life.

What’s the gap between these two realities? How do you close it?

The difference is that those who thrive with adult ADHD stay open to change and invest in improving their lives. They use their assets, such as their strengths, talents, energy, out-of-the-box thinking and risk-taking abilities and adopt ADHD-friendly ways to live. They change what they can and accept what they can’t.

Want to close the gap?

Join me for Get Your Year in Gear for ADHD Adults, a free teleclass, tonight, Monday, January 19th at 8 pm ET. We’ll discuss how you can close the gap. Register at http://tinyurl.com/adhdgift

Adult ADHD: Enough to Move You

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Dr. John Ratey, co-author of Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction, and speaker at the ADDA (ADD Association) Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota that took place July 10 to 13, 2008 spoke about adult ADHD and exercise.

He makes a good case around the fact that exercise is an important component to overcoming ADHD. As Dr. Ratey mentioned, more than 10,000 years ago, humans walked, ran or sprinted an average of 10 to 14 miles per day just to survive. They hunted and were hunted and so those who could out-run and out-plan their prey or preditors got to survive. This in fact, put ADHD adults at an evolutionary advantage. This ability to move quickly, this need to move, and make impulsive decisions actually aided in the survival of the species.

Now, fast forward to modern humans, we’re lucky if we walk, run or sprint 10 steps in our day. As a result, the same traits that ensured their survival in the past, create an unsatisfied need to move in ADHD adults. As a result of our sedentary lifestyle, ADHD has become a disorder.

To counter this, exercise becomes an important part of the solution. He described many convincing studies that described how exercise not only helps ADHD adults and children but is good for all brains because:

  • it increases blood flow by increasing the number of blood vessels in the brain;
  • it increases the release of neurotransmitters responsible for ADHD: norepinephrine and dopamine
  • over time, you build more receptors, enzymes and blood vessels in your brain
  • it helps control impulses because exercise arouses the brain
  • it reduces the need for disciplinary issues in school

His new book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, is available at bookstores and describes much of the research on the importance of exercise as a way of improving the brain’s executive functions and thus, reducing the effects of ADHD.

 He recommends:

  • find an exercise you enjoy and make it fun
  • make a commitment with yourself and others to help you stick to it
  • select more challenging exercises involving balance such as karate, danse, tennis, volleyball, etc.
  • use music to stimulate you
  • go outside to exercise whenever possible
  • make it into a ritual

As an ADHD Coach, I can safely say that my clients who have the most success in their lives despite their struggles with ADHD are often those who have adopted a more active lifestyle.

If you’ve never liked exercising or have found good excuses for not doing it, I challenge you to find something you’ll enjoy and begin with babysteps that you build on and

Get moving!

The ADDA Conference: Making Connections

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I just returned from the 13th ADDA Conference (http://www.add.org) called Adult ADHD: People, Purpose and Passion, and what a blast!

For adults with ADHD, this conference provides access to resource people (experts in numerous fields) and resources such as books, programs, and tools. Access to information through the numerous breakout sessions and motivation from the keynote speakers is unequalled anywhere, and it’s also a chance to see many different models for how to live with ADHD successfully.

At the same time, while the keynote speeches by Drs. Ned Hallowell, John Ratey and Sari Solden were definitely worth the investment and travel, they aren’t the most valuable treasures you get from attending such an event. As an adult with ADHD, you likely spend a lot of energy trying to meet “neuro-typicals” expectations. Trying not to ruffle feathers and dodging the proverbial bullet is stressful, exhausting and fraught with pitfalls.

Now imagine yourself with in a room 400 other ADHDers (hopefully more next year). They accept as you are, providing the opportunity to connect with others who deal with many of the same issues as you… most of them caused by trying to make the 90% of the population who don’t have ADHD happy! Even people who came to the conference alone left having forged connections with other ADHDers who accept and understand them. This is perhaps the most rewarding part of the ADDA conference experience: connecting with others who “get you.” Perfect strangers came together and shared their experiences as ADHDers without fear of ridicule or making a “faux pas.”

So often ADHDers avoid connecting with others fearing judgment (often with good reason). It’s simply too stressful to worry about doing something socially unacceptable. However, Dr. Hallowell (author of Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction among others) emphasized the importance of connecting with others who know you and love and accept you despite your “flaws.” It’s important for everyone, but absolutely for ADHDers to find someone in your life who can say:

“I know you and I love you anyway.”

If you haven’t found someone like that in your life, don’t give up! And I’ll see you next year at the ADDA conference!

Don’t Play the ADHD Blame Game

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ADHD blame game If you’re an adult with ADHD, you’ve lived through many negative situations, probably more than your fair share. A lifetime of failures, shame and struggles leaves scars in the form of low self-esteem and a tendency not to trust others or yourself. As a way to protect yourself, you may begin to play the ADHD Blame Game.

When disaster strikes at work, you blame your boss, the situation, the resources that weren’t quite good enough or when there’s no one or nothing else to blame, you play blame solitaire and blame yourself. You’re not alone, everyone does it… in the “big leagues”  they sue each other, always looking for someone to point the finger at.

The problem with the blame game is that it focuses on judgment, instead of learning. Mistakes are an essential part of learning and when you play the blame game, you deprive yourself of important learning experiences. You can`t learn because you`re busy looking for a scapegoat.

If instead you shifted your thinking away from blame, you’d find that maybe you’ve identified a need to acquire or improve current skills, or that maybe you should avoid certain situations in the future or at least ask for help from someone more skilled or experienced. Maybe you need a whole new approach! Heck! If nothing else, you now know what doesn’t work. Remember that and you won’t be doomed to repeat it.

Even if you were wronged, avoid playing the blame game just because it’s not productive. It keeps you thinking like a victim and only prevents you from moving forward.

So if you find yourself looking for someone to blame, stop! Now, ask yourself:

  1. What can I learn from this situation that I can use in the future?
  2. What have I learned about myself because of what happened?
  3. What do I need to do to move forward from here?

And then just do it!

How to Tell Someone They May Have ADHD

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adhd,adult adhd,overwhelm,procrastination

Recently I received an email from a woman who heard me speak at a business conference and who felt that her sister had all the symptoms of ADHD. Given the struggle her sister was dealing with at work, she felt that investigating the possibility of her sister’s ADHD might explain her sister’s difficulty and help her provide a solution. The problem was how do you tell someone you think they have ADHD in a way that she won’t feel attacked.

Here’s what I answered:

Telling someone they have ADHD, which may have very negative connotations, requires love and empathy. Your sister likely already knows that something is going on. She may suffer deeply, thinking that it’s her fault or that there’s something wrong with her. Her self-esteem is likely affected by her inability to manage it.

Remind her that you love her and that you want what’s best for her. Tell her without judgment about the “symptoms” you see her exhibiting and that it must be painful for her to struggle with these. Explain that you’ve heard something that could explain her difficulties. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) is a difference in brain wiring that requires a differing approach to doing things and that learning specific strategies can not only allow her to minimize or eliminate her struggle but also reap the upside of ADHD.

The important thing is to ensure that it be done with compassion and without judgment and that she know that she doesn’t have to struggle anymore. Most ADHDers are relieved upon hearing that it’s ADHD and that they are not lazy, crazy, or stupid. Once she gets a formal diagnosis, it’s imperative that she gets the help she needs to manage it. ADHD is an explanation but can become an excuse if you don’t do anything to improve your situation.