What Successful ADHDers Do…And How You Can Do It Too!

Justin TimberlakeJustin Timberlake came to Montreal over the weekend!  JT is a brilliant performer; he can sing, dance, has an incredible stage presence, and is funny and genuine.

If you are thinking that the photo was taken a long way away from the stage, you are right. It was! 15 months ago, tickets went on sale at 10 am and at 10:06, those were the best seats I could get. Crazy (in a good way) right?

Justin Timberlake has a huge fan base; the noise at the concert was insane, not from the music but from the appreciative crowd. Everyone was very happy to be there. Imagine having the power to make that many people happy by doing something you love to do.

Did you also know that JT has ADHD and OCD?

JT, like other famous or successful people with ADHD, uses it to his advantage (it take a lot of energy to perform 2 hours and 30 minutes). He focuses on what he is good at and what he enjoys doing.

Are you wondering what ‘focusing on what you are good at’ looks like for a regular person? Here is a real life example.

John (not his real name), is a client who is naturally very talented in all things technical. He has a wealth of knowledge about a particular software and is a successful consultant to business owners. John helps business owners use this software to make their business run smoothly and profitably. People love hiring him because not only can he problem solve, create big visions, set up complex things, he is also a gifted teacher and coach.

Every so often, John attends a networking meeting. Last week, John was asked if he could run the meeting, because the organizer was going to be away.

On the day of the meeting, John arrived on time but forgot to print out the itinerary to hand out to everyone like the organizer usually does. He did remember to bring snacks but forgot the soft drinks. He started to beat himself up about the things he didn’t do.

However, when the guest speaker didn’t show up, John stepped up in front of the crowded room and did a talk completely unprepared. The guest speaker was going to talk about the software John knows a lot about. So John talked about the software and he bought it to life with a case study. When he finished, he got a round of applause (the first in the history of the meeting)! Everyone at the meeting had been completely engaged with the presentation, and days later, people were still talking about it in the online forum.

When John and I talked, he told me about the event, but he was having a hard time enjoying the success, because he was focusing on the things he hadn’t done: the drinks and itinerary.

Because it was easy for him to talk about a software he loves, he wasn’t giving himself any credit for the fabulous presentation he had given with no preparation.

John isn’t alone in this. Many people with ADHD do this. They don’t give themselves credit for their successes. They discount its importance because it’s easy for them. Instead, they focus on the small things that they didn’t do. Things that other people have long forgotten (no one posted on the forum about the missing itinerary). However, when you do this, you drag yourself down and cloud your brilliance.

John, like Justin, has created a life and business focusing on his strengths and what he is good at. With a tiny of bit of fine tuning to his internal dialog, John is going to really enjoy his successes; which in turn, will lead to having more and more successful experiences!

This week, your action steps are:

1) Write down what you are naturally good at.
2) Identify which of those you enjoy doing.
3) Work out how to spend more time doing them.
4) Spend more time celebrating your successes than thinking about the small stuff.
5) Notice how much easier and fun life is!


What are you naturally good at? leave me a note in the comments section 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: http://www.healthcentral.com/adhd/c/1443/142837/coffee-adhd-symptoms/

Cod Liver Oil vs. Omega 3 Fish Oil, Which Is Best When You Have ADHD

Omega 3 Fish OilWhen I suggest someone with ADHD take Omega 3, a common response is, ‘That’s fish oil right? Can I take cod liver oil instead?’

My standard reply is, ‘You could, but it’s not as good’.

Here’s why.

Cod liver oil

As its name suggests, cod liver oil is taken from the livers of cod fish. The collected liver oil is high in vitamins A and D. This oil has a lower concentration of Omega 3 than in Omega 3 fish oil.

Omega 3 Fish Oil

Omega 3 is fish oil is taken from the flesh of oily fish like mackerel, herring and salmon. Because the oil comes from the flesh, not the liver, they have 3 times the amount of DHA and EPA. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are the long chain omega-3 that have the important health benefits. Vitamin A and D are not found in this oil.

You’ve probably heard horror stories from your Grandma about how she was made to take cod liver oil on a spoon when she was young. Even though that doesn’t sound pleasant cod liver oil is not really bad. In fact, if nothing else was available, it would make a good plan B. However, as an adult with ADHD, increasing the amount of EPA and DHA is a great way to help your ADHD. They improve your memory, focus, concentration and happiness levels, which is why Omega 3 fish oil should always be your first choice.

Also because cod liver oil contains vitamins A and D, and large amounts of vitamin A can be toxic, it is not safe to take large amounts of cod liver oil.

Exercise and ADHD

Exercise and ADHDTo the average adult with ADHD exercise takes a back seat to almost all other activities. Work, family and friends, errands, sleep and even housework! These activities are important, however so is exercise. Exercise not only helps the longevity of your body, but it helps reduce some of the negative effects of ADHD too. For example, exercise improves your attention, mental focus, memory, mental stamina and allows you to expend pent up energy. Dr Hallowells says  “Exercise stimulates epinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, like meds. So exercising is like taking meds for ADHD in a holistic, natural way”.

So what can you do to make sure exercise is part of your daily life? As well as choosing a form of exercise that is fun for you and one that is convenient, a powerful way is to look to those people who you admire and are inspired by. Perhaps your favourite sports personality or someone who you know personally. There is one particular example of someone we all know who I find very inspiring and that is Barack Obama.

On the 4th of November 2008, the eyes of the world were on America and its election day. Barack Obama made history by becoming the first African American president. His political views, beliefs and sincerity resonated with millions worldwide. It was a huge day for him and his young family. Over two years of hard work on the campaign trail culminated on this day. We can only imagine the intense emotions he must have felt. That evening when the results were official, he stood in front of 125,000 people in Chicago and gave a speech that brought people to tears and gave people goose bumps all around the world. I am guessing he didn’t get much sleep that night.

Do you know what Barack did around 6 am the morning of the 5th of November? After this momentous day? He went to the gym. Then he put on a suit and started his day.

Now if anyone could excuse themselves from a visit to the gym that day, it would have been Barack Obama. Some thoughts that might have popped into his mind: I am too tired, too busy, I have just been voted the next president of the United States! Even if those excuses did come to his mind, he went to the gym anyway.

What can you do to make sure you exercise regularly?

  1. Make exercise part of your daily routine so that it would be just as hard not to exercise as not brush your teeth at night.
  2. Think of who inspires you to exercise and use them as a motivation to get you moving.
  3. Give yourself a healthy reward after you exercise.
  4. Next time an excuse pops into your head about not exercising, think of Barack.
  5. Notice and enjoy the benefits that exercise has on your ADHD.

ADHD and Dopamine

ADHD and DopamineDid you know that the brain of a person with ADHD doesn’t produce as much dopamine as someone without ADHD? This shortage affects the anterior frontal cortex part of the brain and impacts attention and focus and impulsivity, mood, and motivation…core symptoms of ADHD.

The way ADHD medications work is by positively affecting dopamine levels. For example, Ritalin and Adderall work by blocking dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake so the dopamine that is produced stays in the synapse for longer. Adderall causes more neurotransmitters to be produced.

When your brain doesn’t have enough dopamine, it craves it. You might find yourself driven to do activities that aren’t particularly healthy, like overeat on carbs, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, drive fast, have extramarital affairs, over spend or take street drugs.

However, there are things you can do to increase the levels of dopamine in your brain in a healthy and natural way.

1) Exercise

When you exercise your brain produces more dopamine. Find an exercise you love and do it every day.

2) Take Omega 3

Omega 3 increases your levels of dopamine. Take a supplement as well as including more Omega 3 rich foods in your diet.

3) Meditate

When you meditate you also increase your dopamine levels.

4) Vitamin C

Include lots of Vitamin C in your diet. Vitamin C is very helpful in ensuring the dopamine synapses is working well.

5) Eat foods that raise dopamine levels contain the amino acid phenylalanine, once eaten the body converts it to tyrosine and then tyrosine manufactures dopamine. Include beef, pork, lamb, poultry, fish, nuts and seeds in your diet as these are all good sources of phenylalanine.

6) Your body needs iron and vitamin B6 to convert food from phenylalanine to dopamine. So get your iron levels tested by your doctor, if they are low ask about taking a supplement. In one study researchers found that 84% of the children with ADHD had an iron deficiency, so it’s worth finding out.

7) Sleep

When you sleep you don’t use much dopamine, which means your dopamine levels increase overnight ready for the new day.

8) Reduce stress… stress depletes dopamine.