Archives for 2013

How to Prioritize When You Have ADHD

How to Prioritize When You Have ADHDAdults with ADHD have big problems knowing how to prioritize. One reason why it’s so tricky is because the brain is like a popcorn machine; constantly generating ideas of things to do, see and create. When faced with all these interesting options, it’s hard to know what to do first.

The definition of Prioritize is:
‘designate or treat (something) as more important than other things.’

The big question is, how do you decide what is more important than the other things? The best way for ADDers is to step back from the day-to-day dramas and mini crises and figure out what matters most to you. These are the things that, even on your deathbed, you are proud you spent time doing. Think of your BIG 5, health and family are normally in there; others will vary depending on you personally.

When you have your BIG 5, prioritizing your time will be easy. For example, if health is number 1 and you get invited to an event when you had planned to exercise, it’s an easy decision to say, “thanks, but no thanks” to the event.

Your Big 5 will stay pretty constant throughout your life. However, life is constantly changing and so do your short-term goals. Every 12 weeks, pick 3 priorities for this time period. These Flexi 3 will reflect your short-term goals. They could be related to anything from a work project to home renovation.

When you are clear on your BIG 5 and Flexi 3, write them down in places you will see often; such as: in your wallet, above your desk, etc., so you never forget them.

Getting clear on what is important to you doesn’t take long, but it does really help you to prioritize quickly and effectively, be productive, less scattered, make and enable you to focus your attention on projects and activities that mean the most to you.

ADHD and Sugar Addicts!

ADHD and Sugar Addicts!Do you think you might be a sugar addict? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone!! It is easy to become addicted to sugar as it’s readily available, cheap and hidden in the most unlikely foods.

Like everyone, ADHDers love sugar… but it’s extra enticing for you because when you eat sugar, you get a shot of Dopamine! Because the ADD brain is lower in dopamine than non-ADD brains, it is always on the lookout for ways to increase dopamine.

Compared to caffeine, smoking cigarettes, street drugs and over-spending, sugar seems like a pretty harmless way to get dopamine. However, it can still take its toll on your body.

Here are a few ways it can affect you in relation to your ADHD:

– Mood swings
– Fatigue
Depression, anxiety
– Insomnia
– Irritability
– Distractibility

Dopamine makes you feel happy, and because it feels good to feel happy, you reach for more and more sugar. Unfortunately, sugar also depletes your nutrient stores; which is another reason you keep reaching for the sweet stuff.

For your body to metabolize sugar and convert it to energy, it uses micro nutrients like B vitamins and minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. Because sugar doesn’t contain vitamins and minerals itself, it has to use your stores. This leaves you feeling tired and lethargic and because of the lack of nutrients, your body doesn’t feel nourished, so you reach of more food. If you are a sugar addict, that food will probably be sugar!

There are a few ways to give up sugar:

1) Slowly reduce your sugar intake until it isn’t part of your diet.

2) Go cold turkey. This can be painful because you feel withdrawals such as low mood and energy.

3) Follow a sugar detox program such as ‘The 21 Day Sugar Detox’ by Diane Sanfilippo. This book is full of healthy super tasty ADHD friendly recipes. I highly recommend it!

Not only will you have greater mental clarity and reduction from the other ADHD symptoms, you will have more energy and zest for life and lose weight. It might be hard to quit sugar, but there is a huge pay off. Good Luck!

How to Plan a Productive Day When You Have ADHD

How to Plan a Productive Day When You Have ADHDWhen you are planning your day, are you ambitious in your expectations?

Do you believe you will get more done than humanly possible?

Then, at the end of the day, do you feel bad about yourself for not finishing everything?

You are not alone! Many ADDers do this.

It’s partly because:

1) You are an optimist and genuinely believe you will be able to do everything.
2) You have SO much you want / need to do, you plan to move mountains.
3) Time travels differently when you have ADD so it’s harder to know what is realistic in the time allowed.

However, constantly being disappointed in yourself is damaging to your self-confidence and self-esteem. Here are some suggestions to create do-able to-do lists:

1) Limit the number of things you plan to do, to what you can write on a post-it note or index card. If you have regular sized hand writing, that will be about 3-5 things.

2) By the side of each item, note how long it will take. If you don’t know, time yourself doing it 3 times and then, work out the average. This gives you a realistic idea of how long something takes and helps you plan in the future.

3) Schedule your day and to-dos in a day-time planner. How your day looks, influences how many things you will be able to cross off. A day with back-to-back meetings will leave you with less time than a day when you have none.

4) Take action first thing in the morning. When you cross one thing off, you get a shot of dopamine and this makes you want to get more things done; which makes for a very productive day!


ADHD Christmas Checklist

ADHD Christmas ChecklistThe holidays are getting closer! Even though they are a whole month away it’s surprising how much there is to do and how quickly the time disappears. Holidays can be a lovely time to spend with the people you care about, however, for an adult with ADHD, this time of year can be highly stressful as there are so many extra things to do and coordinate.

Here is a checklist to help take the pain out of the holidays, so that you can feel organized and on top of everything!

Christmas Checklist


1) Holiday Binder
Get a 3 ring binder and dedicate to holiday planning. It will house all the information you need for an organized holiday season.

2) Location, Location, Location
Talk to family members to decide how and where you are going to spend the holidays this year.

3) Book flights
If your holiday plans require flying, book them now. Then print out the details in your binder.

4) Going away?
If you are going away, either by air or land use the ADHD Travelers checklist as well as this one.

5) Create Lists
Create lists and put them in your binder. Here are a few suggestions, but make lists around topics that will be useful for you, gift ideas, menus, Christmas cards, general to do’s.
When you have the lists you can just add information to the appropriate list when you think of it.

6) Post Office Check
If you are sending presents through the mail check to see when they need to be posted by.
International parcels need to be sent much earlier than you think.

7) Holiday Budget
Create a holiday budget for the holidays. This reduces stress and guilt about spending money. This is a creative budgeting tool for all year round

Mid November

8) Address labels
Order address labels with your address. This saves you having to write it out millions of times on envelopes and/or parcels. This company does nice simple one:

9) Events calendar
Print out a calendar for November and December to keep track of your holiday activities

pop it in your binder so you don’t lose it and it is easy to add new dates to.

10) Make Reservations
Decide what activities really enjoy doing over the holiday, then make reservations for example, Nutcracker Ballet, and then you can add other commitments around them.

11) Write a Christmas Card List
Write a Christmas card list, so you know exactly how many cards and stamps you need.

12) Buy Christmas Cards, Wrapping Paper, Gift Tags, Tape
It’s good to buy Christmas cards, wrapping paper, gift tags, tape at the beginning of the season and then you are all prepared. Put it all in a box that is easily accessible from now till the end of the holidays. This saves constantly on hunting for any of these items.

Last week of November

Write your Cards
13) Take your Christmas card list, address book, address labels, pen, Christmas cards and stamps to a coffee shop and write them all. On your way home, mail them. Multi-step task are hard when you have ADD having everything you need at once means you will get them sent off without getting side tracked.

14) Wardrobe Inventory
Take look at your events calendar and decide what you will wear for each event. Make sure everything is clean or if you need to buy something you have scheduled a time to shop.

1st Week of December

15) Give Your Home A Really Good Clean
You might not have time later and it’s easier to do it now before the decorations are up.

16) Buy All Your Gifts
When this is done you will feel really accomplished.

17) Hairdressers
Visit your hairdressers for a trim. Then you know you will look good for the rest of the holidays.

2nd Week of December

18) Decorations
Buy your tree and decorate it, as well as, other parts of your home

19) Wrap presents
When you wrap a present and put a gift tag on it, write down what you got the person in your binder. What you actually got them might differ from what you planned to get them and you might forget never the time when they are thanking you for it.

20) Menus
Create menus for the meals you will be preparing over the holidays. No need to go crazy, if you don’t like cooking. Simple is okay.

Few days before Christmas

21) Go Food Shopping
Pick up everything on your list.

Christmas Day

22) Relax and Enjoy!

Another article about how to enjoy the holidays

Can’t Start a Task Even Though It’s Really Important?

Are you having trouble starting a task even though it’s really important? You aren’t alone. This is a very common issue for adults with ADHD. The most common reasons are: fear of failure, feeling overwhelmed, fear of success, and lack of motivation.

Fear of Failure:

This happens when you feel you aren’t capable of achieving a task, so you don’t want to start. Interestingly this frequently happens when the task is connected to something that is very important to you. You would rather have an unfilled dream with the potential of it working out, than facing the disappointment of taking action and failing.

Feeling Overwhelmed:

Sometimes a task seems too overwhelming and that you don’t know where to start. So you don’t. The best way to combat being overwhelmed is to the break the task down into tiny, bite size pieces. Sit down with a piece of paper and write down all the steps you can think of. If a step still seems daunting, break it down further.

When the list is finished, you can check off items when you have completed them. This gives you a sense of accomplishment and will motivate you to continue.

Fear of Success:

This might sound strange, but it’s more common than you might imagine. A client had one semester until she graduated University. She had a 3.8 average and enjoyed school. However, she didn’t know what she wanted to do afterwards. Her friends were getting jobs, but she was scared about what life would be like in the real world. She was couldn’t bring herself to study for exams or write assignments and had several panic attacks. In the end, she dropped out and went back to live with her parents. This is an extreme case, but it illustrates how scary success can be.

If you find you are fearful of success, focus on what is happening in the moment. For example, you might say, “right now I am sitting in Starbucks with my favourite coffee and access to the internet.” Or “right now I am lying in my comfortable bed, my cats are next to me.” When you are mindful of what is actually happening it stops you worrying about what might happen in the future. And whatever happens in the future you will be able to handle.

Lack of Motivation

ADHD is less about attention and more about motivation (Dr. Barkley). So, if you are struggling to start a task there is a good chance you aren’t motivated by it. As you are reading this you might be thinking “but it’s really important I  SHOULD be motivated.” Don’t feel guilty or ashamed if there is a pressing deadline, but you aren’t taking action. Instead work out something that would motivate you.

Here are Some Ways to Motivate Yourself:

1) Reward yourself:
Think of something to reward yourself after you have finished the task, or if it’s a large task, after you have reached a certain point, e.g. watch a movie, have a favourite meal or spend time with a friend.

2) Link the task to a bigger goal that does motivate you.
For example, if you are struggling to write a paper for school remind yourself how much you want to get a degree.

3) Set challenges for yourself.
For example, if you are decluttering your house you could set the challenge of finding 10 things to donate to charity in 30 minutes. Or 1 garbage bag of rubbish in 30 minutes. Then see if you can beat that in the next 30 minutes.

Action: Next time you have a task that you can’t get started on, identify what is stopping you and apply these tips!

ADHD and Alcohol

adhd and alcoholStudies show a strong connection between ADHD and alcoholism. For example: children with ADHD are more likely to drink alcohol to excess than their non ADHD peers and 25 percent of adults seeking treatment for alcohol abuse also have ADHD.

If alcohol is playing a bigger part in your life than you would like or than is healthy, here are some resources to help.

Online support

Change 4 Life

This simple website covers all the basics, such as a calculator to work out how many units you are consuming, as well as, tips and advice on how to cut down, health benefits and even an app to track your alcohol intake. The site has a friendly, non-judgemental tone.


Founded by Lucy Rocca (author of The Sober Revolution,) this site is a safe place to connect with other heavy drinkers who are at various stages of quitting. There is an active forum of supportive encouraging people. The site has mainly women members, but men are welcome too.

Hello Sunday Morning

Hello Sunday morning is the brainchild of Chris Raine, who wanted to help people change their relationship with alcohol. There is an active online community, where people are encouraged to commit to 3 month (or more) period without alcohol. Because your life will seem empty without drinking, you are urged to set other positive goals too (Ex. a fitness goal) and share your progress with other HSMers.

 In person support


AA is the oldest and most well-known support group for alcoholics and no matter where you live, there will be a meeting taking place near you today.

 Books about quitting

Kick the Drink…Easily

Jason Vale

Jason gets us to question our beliefs about alcohol and society’s positive view on alcohol; despite the negative effects it has on our health. He hopes that by the end of the book, you will be ready to stop drinking and not miss it.

The Sober Revolution: Women Calling Time on Wine O’Clock

Sarah Turner and Lucy Rocca

The authors address the viscous cycle on hangovers, guilt and blame from daily wine consumption. They give their personal stories of quitting, as well as inspiration and practical tips, so that you can quit too.
Good Luck!!

Do you have any resources that have helped you reduce your alcohol consumption?

Adult ADHD 101…new book!

Adult ADHD 101

Did you know that October is ADHD Awareness Month?
Raising awareness about ADHD is a very good thing as it’s still misunderstood by so many people.

To celebrate this special month, I am launching a new mini book called, Adult ADHD 101.

Adult ADHD eBook

It’s designed to help adults in the early stages of discovering they have ADHD. This can be an overwhelming and scary / exciting time and Adult ADHD 101 answers all the common, burning questions including:

How is ADHD Diagnosed?
Should I tell people I have ADHD?
Do I have to take ADHD meds?
What exactly is ADHD?

…and much, much more!

The best news is that it’s completely f.r.e.e.!!!
Just go here and get your copy.

And in the spirit of ADHD awareness month, where knowledge is power, please share this link with anyone else who would find Adult ADHD 101 helpful.

As always, if you have any questions, please email me or leave a comment below.


ADHD and Caffeine

ADHD and CaffeineIs it ok to drink caffeine when you have ADHD?

Caffeine is a stimulant, but unlike other stimulants, such as nicotine, cocaine and prescribed meds (including ADHD medication) is widely used and socially accepted.

Caffeine, whether it’s in coffee, tea, chocolate, Coca-Cola or energy drinks, like Red Bull, all make you feel more alert, happy and energetic. This is because it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and you feel its effects in your body and brain.

Some people feel more comfortable treating their ADHD with caffeine than taking ADHD meds (but there are more cons than pros to this) and others drink caffeine to increase the effectiveness of their meds. However, most people enjoy caffeine and are wondering how much is too much…if this is you, keep reading!

There are some positive things about consuming moderate amount of caffeine when you have ADHD:

1) Helps focus and problem solving.

2) Gives you an emotional pick-me-up (thanks to the increase in dopamine production)

3) Gives you a boost of physical energy

4) Reduces sleepiness…which is so useful in the morning, if you struggle to wake up

All these benefits are great, but they are only short lasting, which is why it’s easy and tempting to reach for more when the caffeine benefits start to wear off.

The problem with too much caffeine when you have ADHD is that:

1) Caffeine can decrease the effectiveness of ADHD medication

2) It can cause negative health effects, such as headaches and nausea, but more importantly, anxiety (which 50 percent of people with ADHD have).

3) It can deplete you mentally and physically. For example, many ADDers get into bad habits with eating, (forgetting to eat, or not organizing time to prepare food) so they use coffee and sugar to keep them going all day. This causes a quick burst of mental and physical energy, but then results in a crash. To get out of the crash, you reach for more caffeine and sugar. This leaves you jittery; mentally and emotionally and physically exhausted.

4) Caffeine interferes with sleep, which is important as a staggering 75 percent of people with ADHD have problems getting a good night sleep.

You don’t have to give up caffeine completely. However, because moderation is key, here are some painless ways to reduce your caffeine intake.

1) Track (with no judgement) how many caffeine drinks you have each day.

2) Notice what it is that prompts you to have one. For example: a pick me up in the afternoon, an excuse to go for a walk, a habit, or a need to focus on a hard mental task, etc.

3) Look at this information and see if there something you could do instead of drinking caffeine that would help. If you get an afternoon slump, perhaps replace your big lunch for a smaller meal and then have an afternoon snack. If you need to go for a walk, give yourself permission to just go for a walk rather needing a reason, such as picking up coffee.

4) Are there some times when a non-caffeinated drink would be just as good? For example, whenever I sit down to write, I have this ingrained habit of sitting down with a hot drink. However, I realized it doesn’t have to be tea; sometimes, a mug of hot water is just as good.

5) Drink more water; because caffeine is a diuretic and also, when we are fully hydrated, our bodies crave less caffeine.

If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of using caffeine to treat your ADHD, check this article out:

Magical Drink for Focus and Productivity

People sometimes get annoyed when I suggest simple strategies because their problems seem so big, they think only big solutions could possibly help.  However, sometimes simple is the most powerful and a perfect example of this is keeping fully hydrated by drinking enough water.

Our brain is made up of 85% water.   In order, to keep it working at its optimal function, we need to drink LOTS of water.   Without enough water, our concentration becomes shorter, memory worsens (which can already be a problem if you have ADHD), and we become moody, depressed and fatigued. The brain also needs oxygen and the more hydrated the body is, the more oxygen is available.

It is thought that an adult loses 10 cups of fluid each day even without exercising.  So it’s important to drink and hydrate every day.  On an average day aim for ten 8 oz glasses of water. However, that will increase on hot days, when you exercise and if you consume drinks like coffee and alcohol.   On these days you will need more water to counter-balance these dehydrating factors.

How to drink more water every day:

1) Note how much water you drink in one day at the moment.

2) Think creatively how to increase that.

For example:

  • Carry a bottle of water with you whenever you go out.
  • Keep a bottle of water in your car to drink on route to and from work
  • Have a jug of water in the fridge with lime or lemon slices (makes it extra tasty)
  • Get a pretty glass you love drinking water from

3) Make water drinking goals, e.g. 4 glasses before lunch

4) Consider purchasing a home water filter system

5) Notice how alive and able better able to focus when you are fully hydrated.