Archives for October 2013

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.

How to Improve your Memory when you have ADHD

One of the symptoms of ADD/ADHD is poor short-term memory. Research has shown that there is a link between impaired memory and ADD. However, your memory is not a stagnant commodity and can be improved no matter what your age, IQ or if you have ADD.

You will find that not only does your memory improve when you start to implement the list of suggestions below, but your other symptoms of ADD/ADHD will also improve too!

how to improve your memory when you have adhdPractice self care

When you take care of your basic needs, such as food, exercise and sleep, your body repays you with improved memory.

Eat. The phrase “you are what you eat” is really true. You need to feed your brain in order that it can function at its best. Eat a well-balanced diet of protein, fresh fruit and vegetables, and whole grains. Take a good multi-vitamin too, to support your body, as well as an Omega-3 supplement.

Exercise. Exercise helps increase the flow of blood to your brain. If you have been eating good food then the brain gets these nutrients.

Relax. A stressed person’s memory ability is reduced. One particularly stressful period in my life, my short-term memory became non-existent. I realized where the term “brain like a sieve” came from. However, when the stress disbursed, my memory returned. So be sure to do things to relax. Meditation and exercise are two great ways.

Sleep. Think of the last time you didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Was your mental ability a bit “off”? Lack of sleep reduces your memory. Make sure you get enough sleep every night.

Avoid alcohol and drugs such as Marijuana. Both seriously affect your ability to remember.

As well as taking care of yourself physically, there are some behavioral changes you can make to increase your memory.

Don’t multi task. Do one task at a time. Not only will you be more productive, your memory will be stronger. This is because when you are scatted you give less attention to what you are doing and your memory suffers. Your memory is only as good as the attention you gave to the incoming information. Don’t be alarmed if you have ADD. It might be harder for you than your peers, but it’s still possible.

Be mindful of doing task. This is particularly true of simple everyday tasks, such as switching the oven off, locking up before going to bed, or turning your lights off in your car. When you are mindful of what you are doing, you won’t have to second guess yourself or get up in the middle of the night to check and double check.

Develop routines. Developing routines gives your memory a rest. For example, you might want to develop a night time routine. Rather than every night having to reinvent the wheel, write down four things you need to do that you aren’t doing, such as pack bag for tomorrow, get clothes out for the next day, take vitamins, put the dishwasher on. Done often enough (habits are said to form somewhere between 21 and 28 days), then this is part of your routine and you no longer have to remember to do these tasks.

Use memory saving tools. I am always surprised at the number of people who don’t use an agenda to write down their appointments, birthdays, etc. They tell me they have a good memory and don’t need to use one. That might be the case, but it’s quite stressful having all those dates and times running through your head all the time. Instead, save your memory for faces and names, and other details and facts. Use memory saving tools such as address books and agendas to give your memory a rest.

Keep on doing the things that work for you. You probably have developed certain tricks to help you to remember to do things. For example, leaving the empty carton of milk out on the counter to remind yourself to buy more milk or tying a knot in your handkerchief. Keep on using these tricks and develop more. There is no shame in this.

Keep your brain alive. Embrace new mental skills. Learning a new language or completing puzzles such as Sudoku and crosswords are not only fun, but also really help your memory.