ADHD and Hyperfocus

ADHD and HyperfocusWhen we focus on something, we make it the center of our attention. We block out distractions, (external and internal) and mentally engage with it, for minutes or hours at a time. Focusing is how things get done. It feels rewarding and satisfying.

ADHDers have the ability to take focusing to an entire other level and hyperfocus. When you hyperfocus, you do such a good job of blocking out distractions that you aren’t aware of what is going on around you. My friend, Bonnie was reading a newspaper while her 2 small children were happily playing. The next thing she knew, her daughters head popped up between her and the paper and she was saying, “Mom, are you in there?” She had been trying to attract her mom’s attention for several minutes before deciding she needed to physically check in.

This lack of awareness of what is going on around you, can get you into trouble; you might miss appointments or worse. In her book, Adventures in Fast Forward, Kathleen Nadeau writes about an ADHDer who was hyper-focusing on writing a paper. She was so engrossed, she didn’t notice that her house was on fire. “She had missed the sirens and all the commotion and was finally discovered by firemen, as she was working contentedly in her room while the kitchen at the back of the house was engulfed in flames!” says Nadeau.

When you hyperfocus on a work project, or a creative hobby, it feels fun, creative, productive and gives a huge sense of accomplishment. When you hyperfocus on something such as a TV watching binge, or 8 hours surfing the web, it doesn’t feel good because it comes with an element of guilt or shame. Also, the people in your life gets annoyed when you are late, or they want your attention and you seem to be ignoring them.

Hyperfocus can be confusing. You can’t really choose what you hyperfocus on. Boring mundane tasks, like housework will never be tasks that you can hyperfocus on, even though you wish you could. In order to hyperfocus on something, it has to be interesting, and just the right level of difficulty. Not too difficult; not too easy, but taxing enough that it engages your brain in a rewarding way.

Here are some tips so that you can enjoy the benefits of hyperfocusing and limit the negative.

1) Write down the activities that you do hyperfocus on: The good stuff and the not so good stuff.

2) Plan chunks of time when you can do the good activities. When you have ADHD,  a lot of the time, you are trying to force yourself to take action, or focus. It seems a shame to have to pull yourself away when you are being productive and focused.

For example, I get into the flow when I do my taxes (I know it s weird!) So once a year, I schedule an uninterrupted day where I can do all the tax things at once. This takes advantage of my brain energy and makes an enjoyable day.

3) Limit hyperfocus on the not so good stuff. When you have identified your danger activities, you can still do them, but know when you start them, it will be hard to disengage. For example, if a particular computer game is one of your hyperfocus things, plan to play a day at the weekend, rather than in the week when you have work commitments.

4) Set very loud timers. If you have an appointment, or a time you need to stop doing a task, set a very loud timer and put it away from where you are sitting. This means you will physically have to get up to switch it off. You will be forced to mentally disengage and then, it will be easier to stop your hyperfocus activity.

 

What activities do you hyperfocus on? Leave a note in the comment below!

2014’s Top Ten Most Popular Articles

Top 10 ListThis time of year, there are a lot of ‘best of’ lists wrapping up 2014. I love these lists and I thought we should have one too!

This list is ‘Top Ten Most Popular Articles on Untapped Brilliance in 2014’. In true Letterman style, they are in reverse order!

10) ADHD and Pets

Having pets in your life when you have ADHD is very beneficial not only in reducing unwanted ADHD symptoms, but also for your overall physical health and happiness. Here are 5 reasons why having a pet is helpful when you have ADHD.

http://untappedbrilliance.com/pets-and-adhd

This article was first published way back in 2009, which seems so long ago now! I love pets and very happy it’s still so popular.

9) ADHD and Motivation

Dr. Russell Barkley says that ADHD is more about loss of interest and motivation than attention and concentration. This makes sense, as we know ADHDers can pay attention for hours on tasks they love.

http://untappedbrilliance.com/adhd-and-motivation

8) ADHD and PMS

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is never pleasant, but when you have ADHD, it can strike louder and harder. The reason why PMS is so challenging when you have ADHD is related to dopamine. To learn more, check out the article.

http://untappedbrilliance.com/adhd-and-pms

7) 7 Reasons Why ADHDers Seem Self-Centred

Are you often being told ‘the world doesn’t revolve around you!’ It’s not that people with ADHD are more self-centered than the rest of the population, but some of the characteristics of ADHD can give the appearance of being self-centered.

http://untappedbrilliance.com/7-reasons-why-adhders-seem-self-centered

6) How to Wake Up When You Have ADHD

When you have ADHD, waking up before noon can feel like trying to wake up an animal up in the middle of hibernation. Here are 8 suggestions (that work), so you can wake up even when you have ADHD.

http://untappedbrilliance.com/how-to-wake-up-when-you-have-adhd

5) 8 Reasons Why Adults with ADHD Feel Stupid

I hate the word ‘stupid’, but I put it in the title because that is how many people with ADHD describe themselves. There is a big discrepancy between self-description and fact. Here are 8 common reasons why people with ADHD feel stupid.

http://untappedbrilliance.com/8-reasons-why-adults-with-adhd-feel-stupid

4) ADHD and Loneliness

Many adults with ADHD report feeling lonely. Loneliness is a state of mind that makes us feel disconnected from others. Loneliness can make you feel depressed, isolated and more prone to addiction. Here are 7 reasons why ADHDers feel lonely.

http://untappedbrilliance.com/adhd-and-loneliness

3) Can you have ADD and ADHD

I first wrote this back in 2012, and it continues to be a popular post, mainly because the official meaning to the terms ADD and ADHD changed over time and got confusing! To learn if it’s possible to have ADHD and ADD, head here.

http://untappedbrilliance.com/can-you-have-add-and-adhd

2) ADHD Feels Like…

This is the article I am most proud of in 2014, but I didn’t write it! Instead, I asked people to describe what ADHD feels like to them. I thought it would be helpful for non-ADHDers to understand what ADHD is like. However, it’s also been validating for people with ADD to know they aren’t alone and how other people experience ADHD.

Readers have left descriptions of what ADHD feels like to them in the comments section.  I would love it if you added a short description of what ‘ADHD feels like’ to you.

http://untappedbrilliance.com/adhd-feels-like

Drum roll please! This is the number 1 most read article on Untapped Brilliance in 2014!

1) PTSD vs. ADHD

PTSD is a condition that frequently co-exists with ADHD. In fact, Dr. Hallowell believes most ADHD adults have a mild form of PTSD because if left unmanaged, ADHD can mean repeated traumas, humiliation, rejection and failures.

ADHD and PTSD can look similar, so check this article out, as it explains the similarities and differences of the 2 conditions.

http://untappedbrilliance.com/ptsd-vs-adhd

Thanks for reading the Untapped Brilliance blog, and for emailing and writing your lovely comments! 2014 has been a fabulous year and 2015 is going to be even better.

7 Reasons Why ADHDers seem Self-Centered

Are people with ADHD more self-centered than the rest of the population?Probably not. However, some of the characteristics of ADHD can give the appearance of being self-centered. As annoying as these characteristics might be to your loved ones and friends, they don’t stem from a mean or selfish place.7 Reasons Why ADHDers seem Self-Centerd

  1. Don’t Follow Traditional Rules

A very attractive quality ADHDers have, is seeing things differently from the rest of the world. You see things with fresh. inquisitive eyes.  This is how ADHD entrepreneurs become wildly successful. When people spend time with you, it feels exciting, empowering and that anything is possible.

The downside of this characteristic when someone wants you to follow a conventional rule and you don’t want to, is that it can appear self-centered. For example, your wife might want you to wear a suit to a wedding that you are attending.

Conventional thought is:

a.) It’s standard dress code for a wedding,

b.) Everyone else will be wearing one, and

c.) It shows the couple respect and that you care.

You on the other hand time think:

1.) Suits are itchy and that makes me grumpy,

2.) I don’t feel myself in a suit; it makes me feel restrained and changes my personality,

3.) Why would I want to look like everyone else, and

4.) Of course they know I care; I wouldn’t be going to the wedding if I didn’t.

  1. Extreme Self-Care

An ADHD friendly diet, daily exercise, meditation and 8 hours of sleep, all help reduce the negative aspects of ADHD. However, those things take time, every day; time you can’t be with and do things for people in your life. Rigidly following these things are as important as taking medicine. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it from this point of view.  They might say, ‘one day doesn’t matter,’ but it does! In our society, we place high value on doing things for others; doing things for yourself is seen as selfish.

  1. Advanced Planning

Sometimes ADHDers are impulsive but sometimes, you need to mentally prepare yourself before starting something. This is particularly true for the tasks that aren’t fun. Suppose you and your partner have a plan to go grocery shopping at 10am on Saturday morning. But they are ready earlier, it seems plausible for them to say ‘Hey, let’s go now’.

However, for you, it’s not such an easy request. You had mentally prepared to leave at 10am, and had primed your brain to transition from what you are doing to the new activity at 10am. If you are forced to change your plans, you can’t help but be grumpy and annoyed. To your partner, it looks strange that you can’t move away from Facebook to accommodate them.

  1. Communication

Some ADHDers really struggle with communication skills.  Here are some common things that people perceive as being self-centered:

– Interrupting a person to share a thought that popped into your mind. You wanted to share it straight away; otherwise, you would have forgotten it by the time they had finished talking.

– If a conversation is boring you, abruptly changing it to a topic that is interesting.

– When you are talking, you look at the other person. However, when they are talking you, you find it hard to look at them, so you look away, out of the window, etc.; all signs that indicate that they are boring you.

– If there is a gap in the conversation, you fill it. Often, you don’t want to be talking about what you are talking about, but you can’t seem to stop.

  1. Protecting Yourself

Growing up with ADHD diagnosed or not, is hard.  You get more rejections, put-downs and disappointments than your non-ADHD peers. As an adult, this can result in a high wall of emotional protection. When you are trying to protect yourself from getting hurt and rejected, you behave in ways that look distant: unhelpful, uncaring, and well, self-centered.

  1. Time Management

ADHDers aren’t naturally good at time management. A classic ADHDer behaviour is arriving late, unprepared, and unable to plan into the future. These are all things that people interpret as not caring and being self-absorbed.

  1. Poor memory

Like time management, memory is also one of the executive functions that causes problems in ADHDers’ lives. Remembering birthdays, personal details,etc. are things people attribute to you caring about them. When you don’t remember, the conclusion is that you don’t care because you’re too busy thinking about yourself!  What people don’t know is: you have to work very hard to do ‘simple’ daily things that they do without thinking.

Have you ever been called ‘Self-Centered?’ Leave a note for me in the comment section below.

 

 

How to Get Going On a New Task When You Have ADHD

In this video, I answer a great question from a blog reader.

“It seems to take me forever to get going on new activities; especially when I start my day or at the office. Can you help?”

This is a very common problem and it’s pretty easy to overcome when you know what to do. So watch this short video to find out what the 3 steps are!

How to Stop Worrying When You Have ADHD

Worry and ADHD go hand in hand. Your creative busy mind thinks of all sorts of things to worry about. However, there are things you can do to empower yourself and stop worrying. In this video, I share my 3 best tips!

What do you worry about? Leave a note for me in the comment section below.

Download this inspirational printout by clicking on the image below:
Worry Doesn't Empty Tomorrow Of It's Sorrow. It Empties Today Of It's Strength.  ~ Corrie Ten Boom

Why it’s Hard to Stop Multi-tasking!

Why it’s Hard to Stop Multi-tasking!This summer, I wrote an article called, ‘ADHD and Single Tasking’; all about why single tasking is the new multi-tasking. You can check it out here. If you are still multi-tasking, don’t feel bad. Today’s article explains why multi-tasking is compelling.

Daniel J. Levitin, a psychology professor at McGill University and author of the book, ‘The Organized Mind’, explains we can’t really multi-task because the brain can only do one thing at once. Rather than do 4 things at a time, the brain rapidly moves from one activity to the next.

However, every time we shift focus, we burn glucose, which is the food our neurons use. After a couple of hours of speedy shifting, we feel drained. In addition to using up our glucose store, cortisol (the stress hormone) has also been released, causing us to feel edgy and warping our self-perception.

This bit is key! When we are in this tired, edgy state, we think we are good at multi-tasking, but we aren’t; we just think we are. Levitin likens it to thinking we can drive safely after drinking a lot of alcohol.

When you have ADHD, multi-tasking can be part of your life for few reasons:

1) You are scared to forget to do something. You act on the thought right away, regardless of what you are working on when it popped into your mind.
2) You have a low threshold for boredom, uni-tasking feels boring.
3) You crave stimulation; so by flitting from one thing to the next quickly, life seems more exciting.

However, with your new knowledge that no one is good at multi-tasking (even you), experiment with single-tasking. Switch off your phone, close down all the windows open on your computer and give one task all your attention. If it feels weird at first, sit through that feeling. If you remember something you need to do, jot it down on a notepad, so you don’t forget and bring your focus back to the task at hand. Not only will you feel calmer, more energized, you will also get a lot more done!

Are you a multi-tasker or a single tasker? Let me know in the comments section below!

 

 

8 Reasons Why Adults with ADHD Feel Stupid

Credit Freepik: "designed by http://Freepik.com"I hate the word ‘stupid’ but I put it in the title because that is how many people with ADHD describe themselves. The ADHDers I have met (which are a LOT at this point), are bright, intelligent, sharp, smart, wise, good company and wickedly funny.

Clearly there is a big discrepancy between self-description and fact. But why do people with ADHD feel stupid?

1) Academic success.
ADHD isn’t a learning disability but it is one of those conditions that make learning difficult. Struggling to pay attention in class, with memory, organizing skills, problems, etc. mean getting good grades is hard. Society places a huge emphasis on academic success as a way to gauge intelligence.

2) Learning Disabilities
About 40 percent of people with ADHD have a learning disability in addition to their ADHD. Approximately 20 percent have Dyslexia and some ADHD adults have more than one learning disability. Learning disabilities can cause difficulties when reading, writing, performing calculations, as well as, visual or auditory perception difficulties.

3) Behavior at school
If you were a high-energy student unable to sit still or stop talking, you were properly getting into trouble with your teachers. While this doesn’t mean you are ‘stupid’, it can make you feel that you are.

4) Simple Tasks
ADHDers struggle with things that other people find easy; such as showing up on time, planning a meal, remembering to take out the recycling on the right day.

The thought pattern seems to be: if I can’t do ‘simple’ things like this, then I must be ‘stupid’. But this isn’t true; just think of the professors who have many letters after their name, but still struggle to make a piece of toast? No one thinks they are stupid!

5) Information Retrieval
ADHDers can struggle to find the words to express themselves. It could be at a party or in a meeting at work. This doesn’t have anything to do with smarts or knowledge; it’s an information retrieval problem. The good news is, this can be improved quite easily.

6) Topics of Interest
ADHDers don’t lack knowledge; they are life-time learners. However, they only remember things that interest them. If you are at a party and people at discussing a certain general topic that is boring to you, you might not be able to contribute.

7) General Knowledge
If you have a learning disability, you can spend a lot of time and energy on learning things for school and no brain space left for general knowledge. This happened to me; I spent so much time on reading and spelling, that my general knowledge was immensely lowered. Usually, it improves when you are out of the academic environment.

8) Who You Spend Time With
Have you noticed how when you spend time with certain people, you feel smart, sharp and funny? Then with other people (perhaps those who you feel are critical or judgemental of you), you feel ‘stupid’? It’s not your imagination. Researchers found that the people you spend time with do affect your conversation. Pick your friends and romantic partners carefully. You want to spend time with people who naturally bring out your best.

What can you do to stop feeling stupid and start feeling smart?

1) Stop calling yourself stupid, either out loud or quietly to yourself.

2) Intelligence is so much more diverse than what appears on an IQ test. If you feel ‘stupid’ because you didn’t do well at school or for any other reason, check out Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory on Multiple Intelligence. He found there are 8 types of intelligence. It may be very validating to you.

3) Focus on what you are good at! Because ADHDers often struggle with the basics, they develop a struggle mindset. This means you don’t value what comes easily to you. However, this is where your strengths and gifts lie. Spend as much time as possible doing these things!

4) Often, feeling ‘stupid’ is connected to low self-esteem. Check out this book, ‘Self-Esteem’ by Patrick Fanning and Matthew McKay.

 

Do you ever feel ‘stupid’? Leave a note for me in the comments section below.

How to Prioritize Self-Care When You Have ADHD

How to Prioritize Self-Care When You Have ADHDSelf-Care is all about knowing what your needs are, then making sure those needs are met. It’s care for you, by you. A lot of adults with ADHD are good at looking after other people, but not so good at treating themselves with the same care. However, self-care is essential for your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Some of the emotional reasons why ADHDers don’t put themselves at the top of their priority list includes:

– Guilt
Shame
– Feeling undeserving

Feeling overwhelmed or that there is no time, are examples of practical reasons why self-care is not done.

Impulsiveness, problems forward planning and poor memory are examples of why having ADHD makes practicing self-care difficult.

By not looking after yourself, you will become physically depleted, emotionally exhausted, resentful, depressed or angry; so your ADHD gets much worse.

Self-care means different things for different people. However, here is a list of the basic self-care categories:

1) Health

  •  Visit doctor(s), dentist for regular check-ups.
  •  Check with a psychologist to address emotional upsets
  •  Exercise every day is best when you have ADHD
  •  Eat healthy ADHD friendly foods
  •  Take supplements
  •  Get 8 hours of sleep a night

2) People

  •  Spend time with people who respect and appreciate you
  •  Have healthy and respectful boundaries

3) Communication

  •  Feel comfortable saying no to things

4) Transport

  •  Have a safe car to drive in
  •  Follow the speed limit

5) Time Management

  •  Have a realistically schedule, so you can arrive on time for appointments

6) Finances

7) Happiness

  •  Spend time doing things that are fun for you: hobbies, etc.
  •  Wake up, looking forward to the day

8) Personal Grooming

  •  Book regular hair dresser appointments
  •  Look neat and tidy Ex. nails, shave
  •  Have clean and presentable clothes (without holes) to wear

If you are struggling with self-care at the moment, now is a great time to develop your skills. Making self-care a priority runs much deeper than picking up the phone to book a hair dresser’s appointment. It also involves an awareness of what makes you tick and knowing you are an important person to deserve these things.

You might need to:

  •  Work with a therapist or coach to help improve your self-esteem or improve your assertiveness in order to say no to people.
  •  Learn new skills like budgeting or time-keeping; which could help you improve your self-care.
  •  Work on managing your ADHD.
  •  Or a mixture of all 3!

Rather than doing a complete overhaul now (which can be difficult), or waiting for a ‘perfect’ time in the future (which never comes), try to make upgrades in small increments.

  1. Sit down and write a long list of all the ways you could improve your self-care.
  2. Look at the list and see what you could do that is easy. Maybe take an Omega 3 supplement, or get your hair cut every 2 months rather than every 3 months.
  3. Then, gradually do more and more of the things on your list until you are practicing extreme self-care!

 

How do you practice Self Care? Tell me 1 (or more) way you look after yourself in the comment section below!

 

 

7 Ways to Be Social When You Have ADHD

7 Ways to Be Social When You Have ADHDMaintaining friendships can be a big challenge when you have ADHD. You can have social phases, where your friends hear from you in copious amounts. During these times, you feel inspired to call, text to make plans, email them nuggets of information you think they would enjoy. Then, you can sink into unsocial phases and you just want to be alone. If friends call you, you don’t pick up the phone. Not to be rude, but answering feels like a lot of work and effort. Emails go unanswered and texts get forgotten.

Friendships are more like house plants than camels. They need regular care to flourish.

You can’t give the plant gallons of water and then ignore it for months. It would drown with good intentions or wilt from lack of water. It’s the same with friends.

If you have ADHD friends, they aren’t phased because they are the same. However, your non-ADHD friends interpret this inconsistent behaviour as either you are being unreliable or rude. Good people that you care about can fade out of your life.

Here are 7 ways to be consistently social:

1. Create social habits
Habits are great when you have ADHD because they take away the decision making process. Some habits that take the brain work out of socializing are:

a) Have a regular movie night, either with a group of friends or individuals
b) This couple created a Friday night ritual of inviting friends over for meatballs every Friday.

http://budurl.com/a9vz

c) Habits don’t have to be weekly. A friend and me always go out for brunch to celebrate each other’s birthday. This way, we know we will see each other at least twice a year. We even go to the same restaurant, so we don’t even have to decide where to meet.

2. Plan ahead
Planning ahead might seem annoying to you if you like to wing it and see how you feel on the day. However, if some of your close friends are planners, then they are probably already booked up when you invite them to meet that evening. You don’t have to plan everything, but a bit of planning and a bit of impromptu is a nice balance.

3. Standards
Create a standard where you reply to every friend that contacts you. This helps to avoid isolation and puts a stop to that comfortableness of you getting back in touch after months of silence.

4. Facebook
Facebook can get a bad rap, but if used a certain way, it can be exceptionally helpful in maintaining closeness with friends. Limit yourself to 20 minutes a day. Scroll down your news feed and see what your friends are up to. Don’t just lurk though. Be active, press the like button, leave a brief notes of congratulations, etc. This does 2 things:

a) It keeps you up-to-date for what your friends are up to and helps you to make small talk (if this is hard for you) when you see each other face-to-face.
b) It shows your friends that you are interested and care about them.

5. Daily communication
If you are someone who could easily go for months without speaking to anyone, make a commitment to speak to one friend every day. Not only does it help you to stay in touch, it also wards off depression.

6. Birthdays
Make a note of when your friends’ birthdays are and send them a physical birthday card. It does take a little effort and planning, but it’s because of that, which makes it extra special when they receive it.

7. Life Changes
If a friend is going through a hard time, work, divorce, etc. contact them a little more often than usual. They will really appreciate it and it’s a good way to really solidify a friendship.

 

Do you find it hard to be social? Leave me a note in the comments section!