Archives for September 2016

10 Reasons Why Pets are Awesome for ADHDers.


Photo by Reanna Evoy.


Pets can have very positive effects on your ADHD symptoms.

“Pets, in studies, have been found to lower blood pressure and improve overall quality of life.  Dogs especially help get people exercising – and exercising has been found to be an effective non-medication treatment for ADHD.”  Stephanie Moulton Sarkis PhD NCC LMHC, author of the bestselling 10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADD.

I asked readers to tell me how their pets affect their daily lives.  Most readers had either cats or dogs. However, rabbits, guinea pigs and fish were also popular.

There were so many amazing replies. Thank you for taking the time to email me!  I compiled the answers into the list below.

1) Self-esteem

Low self-esteem and ADHD tend to go hand in hand. However, having a pet can help to  increase your self-esteem. Having someone who has missed you and is always excited to see you, makes you feel really good.  ADHD pet owners also feel really proud of themselves for taking care of their pets. Sometimes it is the first time they have ever been able to take consistent daily action. This builds their confidence and has a ripple effect on other parts of their lives. Some owners told me that they were barely able to take care of themselves, yet when they got their pet, it forced them to raise their game. Not only did they become outstanding pet owners, they also started taking better care of themselves too.

2) Maintain Structure and Routine

Almost every single reader mentioned how their pets help them with structure.  Having structure, routines and habits  provides a framework in your life, so you can effortless take care of all of your responsibilities and still have time for creativity and fun.  ADHD symptoms can make  setting up structure and maintaining it tricky.  Pets are very helpful in this area!

Here is what Marcia wrote about her dogs and routines:

My dogs: I cannot imagine living without my dogs. I never thought of them as helping with my ADD, but they do keep me on a routine, which I really need. Without a routine, I’m afraid I would push myself too hard and get far out of balance. I tell my dogs they have clocks in them. They get me up in the morning if I forget to set my alarm, and they tell me when it’s time to go to bed at night. If it gets to be 11 pm and I’m not moving towards the bedroom, Liesl barks at me until I do. There is just no option of continuing to sit at my computer or continuing to watch TV while there is a 12-pound dog barking at me! Also, I like to work and often try to continue working past dinner time. This is also not possible, as Gracie lets me know it’s time for dog food and a walk by 5:30 or 6 pm — and she is very insistent. Sometimes I just try to feed them and then go back to work, but then Gracie is up on my lap with her paws on my keyboard and her nose in my face. After dinner is our play, snack, and cuddle time, and if I’m not doing it, I have two sets of intense eyes on me staring and taking turns barking as they sit at my feet. They know how to get me up and moving, and it always makes me feel looked after in a gentle and fun way. 

Marcia Hoeck

3) Focus on The Now

Lots of readers mentioned that when they are with their pet, there brain slows down, and they are able to focus on the present moment. This has a calming and almost meditative effect.

Terry Matlen describes this effect beautifully:

Having grown up with dogs and having a dog  –  or two –  throughout my life as an adult, I can’t imagine living without one. For me, the connection between ADD and having a dog is about a sense of calmness I get when I’m petting one of them or simply hanging out with them. It slows me down, slows my brain and offers comfort. Of course, people without ADD might say the same thing, but having mine near me, especially after a hectic, stressful day, helps me to focus on something outside of myself. I stop worrying (what did I forget? What should I be doing?), and cuddling with my Elliott or Harper stops my racing brain, allowing me to slow down and connect with another living being- one that has zero expectations of me (for the most part) so that I can enjoy the moment. 

Terry Matlen and

4) Love You Just The Way You Are

Your pets love you unconditionally. They never get mad or judge you even if you forgot to take the trash out. They can see you at your worst, including the parts you hide from other people, and they still adore you.

One reader described it perfectly:

I love my dogs because they see me without my ‘mask’. They see my chaotic life as it really is and not the one everyone else sees, and they still love me for it, unconditionally.

Although I love my sons, I would give my life for them, but I find showing love towards my dogs is easier somehow. You can show them your tears, and they instinctively respond with a calmness that gives you an inner piece, then things just seem a whole lot better.

They don’t mind that I’m disorganized or slop about in my PJs when the ‘wheels fall off’…I just wish I could train them to find my keys though.

5) Reduce Stress

Living with ADHD is stressful! Research shows that it only takes 15 to 30 minutes with your cat or dog or even watching your fish for chemical changes to take place in your body and for you to feel less anxious and stressed. Lots of readers mentioned how their pets helped them to feel less anxious. In one longitudinal study it was found that people who didn’t own a cat were 40% more likely to die of a heart attack than people who did. Another study showed that cat owners had fewer strokes than non-cat owners.

6) Body Double

There is a term in the ADHD world called ‘body double’. A body double is usually a friend, family member or coach.  This person sits with you while you are doing something stressful, mundane or boring to  keep you on task.

Well in some situations (it depends on the task and your pet), your pet can be your body double substitute. Their presence can reduce your anxiety as you make that difficult phone call or file your taxes.

7) Help with Depression

One reader wrote to say that she credits her dogs in helping her deal with  bouts of depression that she has experienced throughout her life.

Unconditional love, a reason to get up in the morning, companionship, exercise in the form of walks, and getting out into the sunlight for some green therapy, are some of the ways that pets can help with depression.

8)  A Problem Shared

A reader told me that he always felt different from everyone else when he was growing up.  His black cat was the only one he could tell his problems to. Every day his cat learned about the struggles with teachers, friends and homework.  He would stroke his cat, whisper in his ear and then felt much better. A problem shared is a problem halved, and you don’t always need a solution, just a listening ear.

 9) Social Contact

Social interaction is vital to our mental and physical health. However, many ADHDers find social interactions difficult perhaps because they are shy, have social anxiety or are in hibernation in mode. Many people with ADHD also experience a deep loneliness.

Having a dog can help with all of these issues. Studies found that dog owners have many more interactions with other people when they are walking their dog than a non-dog owner walking the same route. Having a dog is an ice breaker. People will come and talk to you, and if you can’t think of anything to say, you can talk about dogs. The social interaction resulting from walking your dog helps you to  gain confidence with  talking to people in other situations.

10) Fun

Pets bring an element of fun to your life in 3 ways.  They force you to go out and have fun adventures together, they get into mischief, or their daily habits and quirky mannerisms make you laugh.

Here are some things that my cat kitty does that make me laugh.

*When sees some food she would like to taste, she licks her lips in advance.

*She always senses when we are heading to bed and runs to secure the best spot on the bed for herself.

*When she is taking a nap, she covers her eyes with her paw as if the light is too bright.

How does your pet help your ADHD symptoms?

The ADHD Filing System

filing-cabinetDo you have a filing system? Or more of a piling system?

If you have ADHD, just thinking of filing your papers away in a filing cabinet can fill you with dread.

There are 4 Very Good Reasons to Have a Filing System.

1) Peace of Mind

Knowing exactly where your important documents are gives you peace of mind and a sense of comfort and security. No more intense panics when you need to find your birth certificate or tax documents.  Lots of people with ADHD love excitement and so the idea of ‘peace of mind’ might not be a compelling reason for you.  However, hunting all night for a piece of paper is stressful. It is better to know where your papers are and organize a fun adventure for some positive excitement instead.

2) Saves Time.

You can find a letter or piece of information within minutes rather than hours when you have a filing system. ADHDers often say, ‘Yes but I know exactly where everything is in my piles’ and that might be true. Most of the time. However, it only takes someone to accidently trip over or move one of your piles, and your super power is lost.

3) You Look Organized

People respect you more if you look organized. I know it doesn’t seem fair, but it’s true. If your desk at work is packed with papers and your co-worker has a clear desk, guess who your boss thinks is more competent? It doesn’t mean they are, but that is how people perceive an organized space verses a disorganized space.

4) You Are Able to Focus and Concentrate

When you are surrounded by piles of paper, it is hard to focus and concentrate on important tasks. You might not think they affect you, but they do. Keep the projects that you are currently working on (max 5)  in color coded folders. Then file the rest of your papers away.

Why is it Difficult to Have a Filing System When You Have ADHD?

It is hard to feel motivated to do tasks that are boring and mundane when you have ADHD. Filing isn’t  interesting or stimulating. It is a task that fits into the ‘I know I need to do it some day’ but it is very easy to procrastinate or dash off to do something more exciting.

Some ADHDers fear filing systems because they worry that if something is out of sight they forget about it. If this describes you,  it is a good idea to keep your current projects in full sight.  But, you don’t need to see your home insurance document every day to remember you are insured. Documents like this can live safely in a file.

The 2 big challenges of having a filing cabinet when you have ADHD are

setting up and maintaining it.

filing-cabinet2How To Set up Your Filing System

The key to having a successful filing cabinet system is to keep it logical and intuitive for YOU. Not anyone else. You don’t need to create elaborate systems or even alphabetize it. You just need to know where the logical place for you is. So, if I said ‘car’ you would know where all your car information is.

Wondering What Categories to Have in Your Filing Cabinet?

You could do an internet search and get a list of common filing cabinet categories. However, what you really need are categories that make sense for your life. Here is a quick way to find out what these are.

Find a clear space on your floor, then grab one of your paper piles and start to group similar pieces of paper together. For example, group all of your banking papers together,  all of your pet information.  Each group gets its own hanging file in your filing cabinet.

If a group starts to get too big, that is a sign to divide it into two categories. For example, a health category could be divided into ‘family doctor’ and ‘dentist’ or into Health 2015 and Health 2016.

Once you have your categories, label your hanging files.  I use a label machine.  I am not a naturally organized person so being organized takes lots of effort. Having a few tools like a label maker makes organizing more fun for me. Plus the labels are easy to read and ‘official’ looking.  For some reason this motivates me to put paper in the right hanging folder much more than if they were in my hand writing.


Once you have set up your filing cabinet, be sure to use it!

If you have a piece of paper in your hand, file it straight away rather than popping it on your desk and saying ‘I will do it later’. It will only take seconds.  In contrast, if you leave it, that 1 piece of paper will become 100 and your filing task will take a few hours.

Often filing systems become graveyards for old information. If your filing cabinet gets full, or the files no longer reflect your life, you stop using it. Then you revert back to your piles. Remember, you don’t need to keep everything forever. Even tax documents can be thrown out after 7 years. Only keep what you need.

I purge my filing cabinet every year after I have filed my taxes. Linking cabinet spring cleaning to another activity is a good idea particularly one that is set in stone, like taxes, because it acts as a reminder.  Purging doesn’t take long. Just take out everything you no longer need and shred it.

Because organizing paper is unlikely to ever become something you really love to do, try to minimize the amount of paper that comes into your home. Sign up for online banking and get digital copies of your bills whenever possible.

What type of filing system do you have?


PS. The filing cabinet in the photos are from a Banksy exhibit I went to in Rome.


ADHD and Weekly Reviews

One of the characteristics of ADHD is not always learning from your experiences. It might be because you are in rush and dashing to the next task or appointment or because you are distracted or perhaps your mind is so full that there isn’t room for one more thing.

 ADHD and Weekly ReviewsWhatever the reason, if you did not get a chance to process and reflect on an event (big or small) you can end up feeling like you are in the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ and each day is a repeat of yesterday.

It could be that you are always apologizing to the same people for being late. Or perhaps you forget that something is not enjoyable until you are in the same situation again, each time promising yourself never again.

Not taking a few moments for reflection also means that there is no time to congratulate yourself when something goes well.

This is why having a Weekly Review is so important when you have ADHD!

Spending time reviewing your week might sound boring and time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. It only takes 10 minutes, and it can be enlightening, empowering and a really great way to help you to reach your potential.

Here is a simple ADHD-friendly way to review your week and your life.

1)Pick a time that makes sense for you.  For example Friday afternoons, or Sunday evenings. Make it a recurring event.

2) Create a Word or Google document and label it ‘Weekly review.’

Ask yourself 2 questions:

What worked this week?

What didn’t work?

Under ‘What worked’ write down everything that went well for you this week. Use bullet points so that you aren’t tempted to write long paragraphs. You can, but we want this to be a weekly habit; if you feel like you have to write pages,  procrastination could set in and it won’t get done.

Here is an example:

*Went to bed every night before midnight and was able to get up with the alarm every week day morning,

*Took gym clothes to work and went straight to gym after work… 3 times

* Took a shopping list to the supermarket and only bought what was on the list. Saved about $40 on impulse purchases

Keep doing the things that worked!

Under ‘What didn’t work’ write down the things that didn’t go so well. Also problem solve to think of a solution.

For example,

*Went to the theatre with friends. Forgot how bored and restless it makes me feel.

Will suggest we try doing X instead next time they invite me.

*Impulsively interrupted Sally again. She accepted my apology but seemed offended.

Even though Sally talks very slowly, I will practice focusing on each word she says, (almost like meditation) and wait until she has finished her sentence even if I know the answer.

Your review doesn’t need to be perfect. Don’t worry if you don’t write down everything that didn’t work. Even just a few points will help you to operate differently next week.

Why do I need to write the weekly review?

There are many benefits to writing down your review rather than just thinking about your week. The act of writing forces reflection time. If your weekly review was just a mental one, it might be easy to get distracted or miss parts.

Your review document becomes more valuable as the weeks go by. You get to see your progress, which helps build your confidence and self-esteem. It jogs your memory of things you might have forgotten, and you will also see themes emerge.

If there is a stressful phase in your life, good habits can disappear. Then, when the stress has gone, it is very easy to forget what you were doing -sometimes for years. This document allows you to jump back on the horse quickly.

This week schedule your first weekly review, and let me know how it goes!