SPIN Cycle

Dr. Ed Hallowell is a well known expert on ADHD. He often talks of the SPIN Cycle and how people must learn to harness energy from their ADHD to learn to thrive. It’s natural in all aspects of life though to have periods where we excel followed by times that seem stagnant or even time where things worsen. 

Positive aspects of ADHD

When ADHD is well managed, we can learn to improve upon our skills. We can work on our organizational skills. Our time management can improve. Sitting down and staying on task is possible. We feel more successes than failures.

I’ve written before about all the reasons we should appreciate ADHD, including creativity and extra energy. The problem is getting to the point where we can recognize the benefits of the ADHD mind – the negatives easily get in the way. 

Waterfalls and ADHD

Dr. Hallowell compares ADHD to a waterfall in his blog on the SPIN Cycle. 

Dr. Hallowell compares ADHD to waterfalls - both are powerful but must be managed.

He goes on to say,  “This waterfall is an insurmountable obstacle if your goal is to paddle.  But, if you will change your plan, I can show you how you can turn this waterfall into something wonderful.  This waterfall can generate enough energy to light up millions of homes.  People will pay you for all that electricity.  You just need to throw away your paddle and build a hydroelectric plant.”

What’s the SPIN Cycle?

During the spin cycle we get stuck in a period where we seem to stop progressing in our self improvement. Sometimes we even seem to slip back into old habits. The negativity weighs us down and can make us want to stop trying.

Dr. Halloway coined the SPIN Cycle. It's natural to have periods of excel followed by times that seem stagnant or even time where things worsen. Learn more.

Shame

It’s not uncommon for people with ADHD to feel ashamed due to their inabilities to sit still, stay quiet, turn in assignments on time, and the myriad consequences of the executive functioning struggles they have. This can lead to Rejection Sensitivity, anxiety, and depression.

Until we learn to love ourselves and look at ourselves in a positive light, it is impossible to function well. Negative self talk keeps us from being productive. It inhibits our sleep. We start to give up. 

We all tend to be our harshest critic. Learn to look at yourself as you would look at a close friend. You’re probably able to accept that a friend forgot to reply to a text or showed up late. Don’t beat yourself up over the same issues. While it’s not good to do those things, you can use failures to learn instead of to fall into the trap of negative self talk.

Focus on the positives in your life, not the negatives. Look at everything you have accomplished. Write accomplishments down as they happen so you can easily review the list to give yourself a boost when you’re feeling down! Don’t wait to solve the world hunger problem to consider something an accomplishment. It can be the little mundane things that we need to do every day but struggle to do.

Is it hard to remember to feed your pet without your mother reminding you? Today you remembered. Write that down!

A great way to block the shame is to focus on gratitude.

Each day take a moment to think about why you’re thankful. This can be things you’ve accomplished as well as people and things in your life you appreciate. It’s also a great time to set goals for the next day. Don’t forget to include doing things for others. There’s no better way to feel better about yourself than to help others!

Pessimism and Negativity

It’s easy to fall into pessimism and negativity, as discussed above. Sometimes we feel like nothing will work out, so why bother even trying. 

We can’t control what other people say or do. The weather is beyond our control. A classmate might say something really hurtful. Natural disasters happen. All of these things can bring us down. Or we can change the way we think about them.

We can learn from things that go on around us. If we don’t like the way we feel when people say certain things, we can learn to not say those types of things and hurt others. We can practice responses to say or how to leave the situation when people say things that cause us to hurt or feel angry.

Maya Angelou

You might know someone who simply gives up. They stop trying to do homework because they get so frustrated that they make silly mistakes or they don’t understand the assignment. Maybe they can do the work but they always forget to turn it in. Why even bother doing it in the first place if you don’t get full credit, right? 

That’s negative thinking. The glass is half empty. With this type of thinking, it’s less likely that you’ll get anything done. 

Focus on the positives and stop the negativity. Learn to control what you think. To learn more about this, read How to Get a Growth Mindset

Focus on things you can control to help solve problems. Find more positive tips in the post.

Isolation

Dr. Hallowell writes,  ” Isolation is often the by-product of shame, pessimism, and negativity.  It intensifies the shame and negativity, and can lead to depression, toxic anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and generally poor performance in all aspects of life.”

It can feel easier to simply avoid being around people if you worry about what people will think of you. While it might seem to decrease your stress if you avoid a stressful situation, it can lead to new worries that you have no friends. It also leads to a weak support system, so when you need a friend to lean upon, they aren’t around. 

It might take working with a friend to draw you out and into situations. Some people need to work with a therapist to learn how to socially interact.

Jessica from How to ADHD has some great social skills tips in this video:

No Creative, Productive Outlet

When we’re stuck in a negative mindset, we lose our creativity. Productivity goes out the window. That leads us to more frustration and dispair. 

We need to get out of the rut and do something productive to regain some self esteem and feel good. 

Try to make tasks fun. Think of Mary Poppins… she helped Jane and Michael clean the nursery by making it into a game. Granted, she used a little magic, but you can sing a tune or find another way to make chores fun.

I sometimes listen to an audiobook while I clean. It makes the task more fun while I listen to a book I enjoy. You could get more creative and pretend you’re in a movie and act out what the character would be doing. If nothing else, focus on a positive aspect of whatever chore you must do as you do it.

How to stop the SPIN Cycle

When you get stuck in the SPIN Cycle, you can find a way out by simply playing. Have fun. Clear your mind of the negative thoughts. Be around positive people. Do something nice for someone else. Think positive thoughts. 

Learn a few tips from Mary Poppins…

Catastrophizing: When the sky is falling…

It’s not uncommon for us to automatically think the worst when something unexpected or negative happens. If you think life is one catastrophe after another — the end of the world — you can learn to change your perspective and move on. When you think every little setback is a huge hurdle, it’s called catastrophizing. It’s possible to stop catasstrophizing by taking a step back and finding solutions. It isn’t easy, but you can learn to change your perspective.

Making mountains out of molehills

This is a common phrase, which just highlights how often people feel like whatever problem they’re having is the biggest problem of all. The good news is we can learn to handle this strong anxiety.

For example, if you don’t feel ready for a test, it’s easy to think you’ll bomb it. If you do bad on the test, surely your grade will drop. Bad grades won’t get you into the college you want, and then you won’t get the job you want. 

That line of thinking is what many people experience. Everything is a catastrophe.

What can you do to avoid catastrophizing?

Give it time.

First and foremost, give yourself some time. Whether you can only afford a few big breaths or you can sleep on it, a little time can help. 

If you impulsively react to anything negative, you’re more likely to overreact, cause more problems, or just not be able to find a solution.

Give yourself time to calm down because trying to think straight when you’re upset is not helpful.

In the example above, if you keep thinking along those lines, you won’t be able to focus on your test, which will negatively impact the outcome. Clear the negative thoughts to be able to focus.

Learn mindfulness.

I know it’s not easy. Trust me. My mind wanders horribly when I try to be mindful. But I’m still practicing.

Studies show mindfulness helps with anxiety, focus, and physical health. It’s worth learning. 

When you’re good at being in the moment, you can use mindfulness to help calm yourself before reacting. 

Learn how to get stuff done through mindfulness
November 6, 2018 come to our meeting about using mindfulness to get stuff done. See our Events page for details.

Look for facts.

I always say that feelings are louder than facts. When we’re sad, angry, scared, or feeling any strong emotion, it’s hard to think about the facts.

You need to find the facts.

Write down what’s going on. Sometimes it takes seeing things written out to see the facts. 

In the example above, do you really think you’ll fail to get a job because of one test you weren’t well prepared to take? 

No.

While it’s always a good idea to study, get a good night’s sleep, and be prepared for tests, the truth is many successful people have occasionally been unprepared.

They do their best and try harder next time. They use that as a learning opportunity and study differently the next time. Maybe they ask the teacher more questions or find a tutor. Or they simply make the time to study. They might try a new technique, such as taking notes while reading or standing to read.

Whatever it takes, they learn from their mistake. This is resilience.

Change your mindset.

There’s a whole post on changing mindset. Please read it. 

A growth mindset is correlated with success more than intelligence. So how do you get it? Did you know your brain can learn to change the way it works? It doesn't just learn the new information you study at school. Our brains are able to change and adapt. You can learn to use your brain to your benefit through developing a growth mindset.

Be realistic.

Let’s face it: we all have good days and bad days. Things happen. 

We don’t need to blame anyone or anything. Sometimes it’s no one’s fault. It just is.

A common example of a no fault solution is in sports. Someone has to win a game, which means someone loses. Losing isn’t the end of the world. Again, use it as a learning experience. Maybe there’s nothing you could have done to change the outcome, but you can change your mindset about the outcome. If you did your best and the other team was better, then that’s the way it is.

Think of other positives. Was it good just to spend time with friends? You got exercise and a break from studying. What good came from it?

Identify when you’re catastrophizing.

If you find yourself frequently frustrated at what is going on around you, look for triggers.

What sets you off?

If you can find certain things that always get your fire buring, watch out for those situations and tread extra cautiously.

Maybe things that work you up are frequently related to school. Smart students tend to worry excessively if they do poorly academically, even if it’s not worth many points.

Don’t fall for the slippery slope of one small setback leading to failure. Identify it as your hot topic area and work on changing your approach.

What is protective?

Do you realize that if you are tired or hungry you’re less able to handle stress? Does that mean that the oppoiste is true? Be sure to get enough sleep if you think it does. (Hint: This is true for most of us. Check out The Big 3.)

If you find that talking to someone helps, find people who can calm you down before you act inappropriately.

Exercise often helps people clear their mind. If you have the time to take a walk or hit the gym, do it. If you don’t have a lot of time, get your wiggles out in another way, such as a brisk walk around the room.

Change the pattern.

Learn to change the pattern of catastrophic thinking.

In catastrophic thinking, a negative experience is followed by unpleasant feelings. These unpleasant feelings make it seem like nothing good can follow in the situation.

If you learn to spot the pattern you can interrupt the thought process and choose to se the situation differently.

Play the rewind game.

A fun game to play that can help you learn how to change your mindset and behavior to get a better outcome is Rewind. In the game you roll play with a friend or just in your mind.

This game works a lot like those books that you can choose the ending. If you want to go in the house, you choose page 4, if you want to walk down the street, you go to page 12. The choice you make alters the outcome.

In this same manner, you can choose different things that could have been said or done, and role play what the response from the other people involved would have been.

Rewind a situation and play it out differently.

When you find yourself complaining about the outcome of an event, think it through again, starting with what you could do to try to get to a better ending.

The trick is you have to be the first to change what you say or do. In the real world we can’t just expect someone else to change a behavior. We can only change what we do. Others usually follow suit, depending upon what the situation is.

For example:

You forgot to turn in a homework assignment. This leads you to worry that your grade in the class will fall. A lower grade makes you worry that you’ll be kicked off the school team due to GPA requirements. Of course then you’ll lose your scholarship and won’t get to go to college. If you don’t go to college then you’ll end up in a minimum wage job or homeless.

The first step is to recognize this as catastrophizing. You won’t end up homeless due to one missed assignment.

Next you will need to not make missing homework assignments a habit, so use the rewind game to figure out what you can do to change the outcome in the first place.

What could you do differently?

Do you need to write your assignments in a planner and check them off when you do them? How do you remember to bring the homework and everything you need to complete it home? Did you choose the right location to do the homework without distractions? How do you remember to put the homework back in your backpack when copleted? What distracts you in class from turning it in? Can you come up with a routine that would help?

Sometimes the rewind game will allow you to play out a scenario in which your words or actions can change, which changes someone else’s response. This is good when you have a disagreement with a friend. You can’t expect them to change their response unless you first change yours. What can you do or say differently next time?

Playing rewind trains your brain to think about what you do and how others react. Each situation is different, but the game can help you play it out to get a better outcome and then use the techniques in real life.

10 Secrets of Productivity

What can you do to be the most productive? Our top 10 secrets of productivity are found here! Make the most out of your time with these tips.

1. Choose the best time

There’s a time and a place for everything. We all know that. But choosing when you will do certain things is as important as choosing what you will do.

This is especially important for those with ADHD who have a limited time on medication.

If you plan to do your homework in the evening when your meds are out of your system, guess what? It will take longer. There will be more frustration. You’re more likely to make silly mistakes. Your handwriting may be less readable. You’re more likely to be tired and unable to recall things as easily.

It just isn’t the right time.

If you have a little extra time during class or between classes to get a few things done, use that time. Don’t waste it.

What can you do to be the most productive? Our top 10 secrets of productivity are found here! Make the most out of your time with these tips, such as choosing the right time.

2. Choose a good location

Many people presume the best place to study is a quiet, secluded place, but that isn’t always the case. If you’re more likely to daydream when you’re secluded, choose an area with others around.

If you’re the type of person that gets distracted by every little sound or movement, you might do better secluded. Or if there are others around, use earplugs to help drown out the sound.

Don’t use your bed for studying. You’re more likely to fall asleep before finishing. And more likely to end up with neck and back problems. 

If you like a tidy area and you have a cluttered desk, the clutter might be distracting. Take a few minutes to clear your space before you get to work.

What can you do to be the most productive? Our top 10 secrets of productivity are found here! Make the most out of your time with these tips, such as choosing the right location.

3. Grab a study buddy

If you have a study buddy or are in a public location, these can help you stay on task. Keep each other accountable.

Of course the buddy can get you off track if they start joking around, so make a pact to keep each other on task. If you see your buddy checking their phone, tell them to put it down. If they see you staring off into space, they can bring you back to the books.

What can you do to be the most productive? Our top 10 secrets of productivity are found here! Make the most out of your time with these tips. Would a study buddy help?

3. Sound control

Noises can be distracting.

Whether it’s a bird chirping outside that makes you look or if it’s a conversation at the next table in the library, there are distractions.

Use instrumental music to drown out these distractions. I don’t advise your favorite songs that will make you want to sing along… nothing that distracts you from whatever you’re doing.

Use earplugs if sounds in general drive you to distraction.

What can you do to be the most productive? Our top 10 secrets of productivity are found here! Make the most out of your time with these tips, such as sound control.

4. Find an aspect to like

We all have to do things we don’t like to do, but there can be at least one thing about it that you enjoy.

It might be hard to find, but look for it.

If you have to write a report on a book you hate, think of one aspect of the process that you like. Even if it’s the finished paper, there’s something good to focus on.

What can you do to be the most productive? Our top 10 secrets of productivity are found here! Make the most out of your time with these tips, such as finding something to look forward to.


5. Break up big tasks

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with big projects, so break them up into tasks that are more manageable.

The secret to this is that you need to schedule time to do each task. Don’t just do one task and forget the rest of the project – people with ADHD are famous for starting many things but finishing nothing!

This technique doesn’t work for everyone. If it’s hard for you to get motivated to start, it might be better to do everything in one big block. Once you get started, if you’re in the zone, stay in the zone. As long as you still have time to do the other things that need to get done that day. If you need to move on, move on. 

What can you do to be the most productive? Our top 10 secrets of productivity are found here! Make the most out of your time with these tips, such as breaking things up.


6. Fuel your body

Don’t forget to eat! Those with ADHD often don’t feel hungry due to medications, but it’s still important to eat at least small portions of nutritious foods.

There is a growing body of research that suggests a link between ADHD and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Magnesium, B-Vitamins (this links to B12, but there are links to other B vitamin pages at the bottom), Iron, Zinc and Copper are all implicated in how our brains work. Not enough of them can lead to symptoms found in ADHD. Read about where you can get these vitamins and minerals naturally. Try to eat a variety of foods with these vitamins and minerals.

What can you do to be the most productive? Our top 10 secrets of productivity are found here! Make the most out of your time with these tips, such as fueling your body.

When your stimulant leaves your system and you start to feel hungry, don’t grab chips or cookies. Eat real food. More and more evidence is showing that what we eat affects not just our physical health, but also our mood, attention, and overall mental health.

What can you do to be the most productive? Our top 10 secrets of productivity are found here! One important one is to make healthy choices.

7. If anxiety’s got you stuck…

For many of us, if we’re worried about an overwhelming project, it’s even harder to get started.

Just jump in.

You have to start somewhere. If you have to write a paper but are worrying about the final paper’s readability, content, and punctuation, you won’t be able to just start writing. Start by jotting down ideas. They don’t even have to be complete sentences. You can always go back and add to your comments to put them into coherent thoughts and make them grammatically correct.

For example, for this blog I first looked at my list of topics that I want to cover over time. After choosing productivity, I started by listing the headings/topics that I thought would help with productivity. I then added the explanations under each heading ~ many additions and changes were made along the way. I decided to make photos to go along with each section to make it easy for people who don’t like to read as a last minute thought. Along the way I changed things that needed to be improved. I finally proofread for what seems like the millionth time before posting. 

If you’re stuck getting started because you’re worried about the final product, take time to break big tasks into smaller ones. It’s daunting to do big projects, regardless of the project. Even things you want to do can be overwhelming. Find small things that you can do to work toward a final goal. Plus, it’s fun to check off things as they’re done!

What can you do to be the most productive? Our top 10 secrets of productivity are found here! Make the most out of your time with these tips, such as jumping in.

8. Sleep

We all need sleep.

Many people erroneously think that if they extend their day to 18 hours, they will get more done. The problem is that your body and brain need more than 6 hours of sleep.

If you only sleep 6 hours, everything you do will take a bit longer. You’ll make more mistakes. Things will be forgotten. There are many risks to sleep deprivation.

Make it a priority.

If you need tips on how to get better sleep, see How to get better sleep

What can you do to be the most productive? Our top 10 secrets of productivity are found here! Make the most out of your time with these tips, such as getting sleep.

9. Don’t aim for perfection

So often we get stuck because we want the finished product to be perfect. 

You know what? It can’t be perfect if it’s not done.

You just need to start. You can always fine-tune as you go, but the trick is to just start. 

Our top 10 secrets of productivity are found here! Make the most out of your time with these tips, such as not aiming for perfection.

10. Schedule everything

Taking a few minutes each day to plan ahead can save hours overall in mindless wandering. 

Each morning review everything on your calendar for the day. 

As you get new assignments or projects, add them into your planner. If it’s a big project that will need to be done over several days, schedule an appropriate amount of time between now and its due date. Waiting until the last minute increases anxiety, which can lead to problems focusing and getting started. 

Don’t forget to schedule the little things and the things you want to do. Add in your activities and exercise time so you know what time’s not available for other things. Set your bedtime as a priority so you get the sleep you need.

What can you do to be the most productive? Our top 10 secrets of productivity are found here! Start with a schedule!

Related blogs

Finish Tasks

“Yet” A little word with big potential

Why don’t teens get enough sleep?

Watch Out for Rejection Sensitivity

5 Self Confidence Boosters Part 5: Helping Others

How to Get at Growth Mindset

“Yet” A little word with big potential

Yet is such a little word, but it has huge potential. Learn how it can change your mindset and help you to be more reslilent.

We’ve all been frustrated when things get tough, but why do some people seem to trek on and succeed while others give up? They’re resilient. Many of them have learned the power of “yet.” Yet is a simple, but very powerful word. It gives people hope and a knowlege that they can. Even if they can’t do it now, they can one day. Understanding that you can will help you stay resilient. 

Resilience and grit to succeed

Resilience and grit are traits some seem to come by naturally. These traits help people succeed when things don’t go their way.

In fact, resilience and grit are linked to success more than intelligence.

Think about that for a minute. Sticking to things is more important than intelligence when it comes to success.

I’m sure you know some really smart people who haven’t made it very far in life because they just don’t keep trying.

And you probably know some average intelligence people who have really gone far in life. They succeed beyond expectation. These people have grit. They keep going when things get tough and don’t quit. 

The truth is, we can all learn to be more resilient. It can be hard, but possible. 

“I can’t…”

We hear people say, “I can’t do this,” all the time. Maybe it sounds more like, “I’m not good at driving,” or “I don’t understand this math.” Whatever the actual words, the outcome is the same.

These people are stuck in a fixed mindset. They won’t ever be able to do whatever it is if they have that mindset. 

Learn the power of “yet”

If you simply learn to say “yet” after you have the negative thinking above, it can help.

I can’t do this… yet.

I’m not good at driving… yet.

I don’t understand this math… yet.

Change "I can't" into "I can't yet" to see a big change in outcomes!
Change “I can’t” into “I can’t yet” to see a big change in outcomes!

A simple word changes it all, doesn’t it?

Learn to use “yet” in your daily life.

When you feel frustrated, try it.

If you feel overwhelmed, give it a shot.

When you’re challenged with new or difficult material, just say it.

Repeat it as necessary. Use it to give yourself momentum and an extra push.

See if it helps! What have you got to lose?

Related blogs

Resilience: What is it and how can I get it?

How To Get A Growth Mindset

5 Self Confidence Boosters Part 5: Helping Others

Watch Out for Rejection Sensitivity

5 Self Confidence Boosters Part 1: Stop the negativity

Watch Out for Rejection Sensitivity

People with ADHD tend to have something called rejection sensitivity or rejection sensitive dysphoria. Watch out for this!  

What is rejection sensitivity?

It’s the tendency to perceive a situation negatively, when in reality it is not meant to be negative at all. It can lead to significant anxiety or low self esteem. 

For example

An example of this may be that you attempt to text a friend multiple times. There may be many reasons they don’t reply, but you automatically assume they’re mad at you or don’t value your friendship. Even after hearing that their phone died or they didn’t have it with them, you still may feel that their delayed response was somehow due to them not wanting to answer your text.

Stress response

When you have ADHD, your nervous system overreacts to things from the outside world. Any sense of rejection can set off your stress response. This leads to an emotional reaction that is out of proportion to the situation. Sometimes whatever really occured was not a negative thing at all, but your reaction to it is negative. 

Symptoms of rejection sensitivity. Learn to recognize them so you can work on it.

Why does this happen?

It’s estimated that the typical 12 year old with ADHD has received 20,000 more negative messages than other kids their age.

They are constantly reminded that they’re not on task.

Chores are often forgotten.

Homework is lost.

They may interrupt others and speak without a filter.

Sitting quietly without constant movement is expected in certain situations, but very difficult for many kids with ADHD.

Each of these situations is due to all of the executive functioning shortcomings, not intentionally bad behavior. But the scoldings and reminders make kids feel like they were bad. All that criticism can take a real toll on their self-esteem.

Over time people who are chronically made to feel like they didn’t meet expectations grow more sensitive to all situations. They might attempt to be perfect in what they do to cover up real or perceived shortcomings. Since it’s impossible to always be perfect, they fail, which serves to further lower their self esteem.

What does low self esteem look like?

When people experience repeated failures to do things as expected, they may lose the drive to try. They often give up. This can look like laziness, which can lead to more shame. 

Only when people who are affected in this way are guaranteed success will they even try. There aren’t many situations in life that we’re guaranteed anything, so this can be a big problem.

Many people are afraid to ask for help when needed, so they simply don’t do perceived difficult tasks. Some children fail to do homework because they’re ashamed to ask for help when they don’t understand it. Parents may mistake this for willfully not doing homework or being lazy, which isn’t the case. Often kids wish to do the work, but they’re overwhelmed and too embarassed to get help.

Some people try to overcompensate and show more confidence than they have. They might state that they are really good at something when they don’t really believe it. The overconfidence can backfire when it hurts someone else’s feelings or when they fail to live up to the set expectation. People can simply view their statements as bragging. No one wants to be around someone who thinks they’re better than others. The irony is that in this situation, the person really doesn’t think that. They have a low self esteem and are overcompensating or simply trying to hide their fears about themselves. 

How does this affect relationships?

It’s not surprising that rejection sensitivity leads to a lot of problems within relationships. 

Blaming

Many people with very low self esteem attempt to blame others for all of their problems.

They are unable to accept responsibility for their shortcomings. This prevents them from learning from their mistakes.

It of course also affects how the other person feels – which isn’t good.

No one wants to stay around someone who makes them feel bad, so it can strain relationships.

Drive people away

With the texting example above, if you accuse your friend of not valuing your friendship, they will be annoyed. Maybe not at first. With the first occurance, they might simply blow it off and say you’re being silly. But if you consistently treat them like they need to be at your beck and call because you get angry or jealous when they’re not, they’re likely to get tired of it. They’d have every reason to ask for space and intentionally stop making plans to do things with you. 

Jealousy

Dating relationships can be even more affected, since it’s a one on one situation. Many people with rejection senstivity easily get jealous. If their boyfriend/girlfriend talks to someone, they might misinterpret the situation and jump to the conclusion that they’re cheating with – or at least have a crush on – the other person. Relationships should be based on trust, but when there’s jealousy, all trust is lost.

When a person gets jealous easily, they often become very controlling. This can lead to emotional abuse of the partner. It brings forth negative emotions in both people in the relationship. It isn’t healthy to stay in relationships like this. Even if you really care for one another, it is important that everyone in a relationship is safe and respected. 

Failed relationships

It is not uncommon for people with ADHD to have more failed relationships (including marriages) than people without ADHD. This is not exclusively due to rejection sensitivity, but rejection sensitivity certainly plays a part. Recognizing this trait and working to improve self esteem and decrease the rejection sensitivity can help with maintaining strong relationships. 

What can be done to treat rejection sensitivity?

Recognize it 

The first step in treating this is recognizing what is going on when your extreme negative emotions are driving your thoughts and actions. If people tell you you’re being too sensitive, reflect on it with an open mind. Don’t just get angry, blame others, or avoid the issue.

Treat your ADHD

Treating the underlying ADHD can help some of the issues with rejection sensitivity, but not all of the symptoms.

Impulsive behaviors can exacerbate the emotional response to a perceived negative situation. Controlling the impulsivity appropriately can help with the response directly, as well as to help preserve your self esteem by allowing you to think before acting and speaking.

Improving your focus can help you be successful in completing tasks without rushing through them. Again, this helps to preserve your self esteem because you achieve success. 

If you don’t think your ADHD symptoms are properly managed, talk to your parents and your doctor.

Talk to others

It’s important to not hide or cover up your negative thoughts and concerns. Doctors, therapists, and loved ones can help if they can be told what is going on in a way that helps them understand. Too many people are afraid to talk about why they stop trying, are negative or jealous, and about their overall low self esteem. Many might not even realize what is going on and why they feel like they do, but if the above list of symptoms reminds you of yourself, talk to someone you trust about it.

If the person you tell is not familiar with rejection sensitivity, they might not understand what you’re trying to tell them. Please don’t let that knock down your self esteem even more because they don’t understand. Show them this post and and other information about rejection sensitivity. Help them learn rather than accepting their ignorance and going further down in your own self esteem. Talk to your doctor, a school counselor, or a therapist. If they don’t know about the condition, show them the resources you have too.

Accept yourself for who you are

Learning to accept yourself for who you are – faults and all- can be difficult for anyone, but it’s possible.

Focusing on the positives can help.

Take the time each day to think about and write down what you’re grateful for from that day.

Also write down the things you did that day that made you proud or accomplished. Don’t focus on the tasks that you haven’t finished – think about all the parts you have done.

Celebrate all you do, even the little things! It can help build self esteem.

Humor can be a good healer

Learn to use humor when situations get tough. It’s okay to laugh at situations to help avoid negative thinking.

Don’t forget to learn from the situation, but keeping the mood light helps to not have negative self talk.

Medications

Rejection sensitivity is sometimes treated with medications such as guanfacine and clonidine (both are blood pressure medicines now approved to treat ADHD), and MAO inhibitors.

These treatments should be discussed with and managed by a physician knowlegable in this treatment.

How can you get better sleep?

We’ve all heard that sleep is important for our mental and physical health, yet it always seems we don’t get enough. Screens, homework, activities, and our natural circadian rhythm all seem to get in the way. What can you do to get better sleep?

Go to bed when tired at night.

Fighting sleep initially will make it harder to go to sleep when you finally go to bed.

If you miss the tired phase, you will hit a second wind and be up for much longer in a wired phase. You won’t necessarily feel tired past bedtime, but you body will suffer the effects of sleep deprivation if you miss out on needed sleep.

Attempt to follow a regular sleep schedule.

Going to bed and getting up at about the same time every day really helps you get better sleep overall.

While sleeping in on weekends can help repair a sleep deficit, it can make it harder to get to sleep Sunday night and getting sufficient sleep every night is better than just getting more sleep a few days/week.

Try to sleep in no more than 2 hours past your school day wake up time. Sleeping in too late makes it hard to get to bed on time that night.

Follow the same routine each night at bedtime.

Brush teeth, read a book, color, take a bath or shower — do whatever helps you wind down and relax.

Repeating this every night can help your brain get ready for bed. The routine itself helps. Your body anticipates sleep is coming.

Nap to help make up missed sleep.

A short 15-20 minute nap after school can help revitalize the brain to get homework done. Just don’t sleep too long or it can interfere with bedtime.

Turn off the screens an hour before bedtime.

All lighted screens keep your melatonin levels too low. A gland in our head makes melatonin in response to darkness. The melatonin helps us feel tired.

This means that television, computer games, computer/tablet use for homework, and smartphones for socializing all keep you awake. Turn them off at least an hour before bedtime. Don’t even check your social media accounts during that last hour of your day.

Try to get all your homework that requires a computer or tablet use completed earlier in the evening. Save the homework that only involves paper books and assignments for last if needed.

If you must be on a screen close to bedtime, use night mode screen lighting and apps that take the blue lights off of the screen. I personally use the f.lux app – it’s free and easy to set up. It works well!

What about melatonin supplements?

Melatonin is available as a supplement in many forms. It is commonly used in children to help with sleep. Since up to 70% of kids with ADHD have problems falling asleep, it is especially common to be used in this group.

It’s generally considered safe, but there are some cautions. It isn’t regulated by the FDA, so what the label says and what you get might be different. Studies in children are also lacking, so specific interactions, dosing, and best uses are not known.

In my experience, there are few side effects from melatonin. Some kids still don’t sleep well with it and others are still tired the following day. It can also interact with other medications, so if you take it, be sure to talk to your doctor about it.

To learn more about melatonin, check out this great post from Dr. Craig Canapari.

Avoid caffeine in the later afternoon.

The time it takes half of the caffeine to be removed from your body is 5-6 hours.

Ideally teens would sleep and never drink caffeine, but I know that isn’t reality. Any caffeine in the later afternoon can make it harder to fall to sleep.

Don’t forget “hidden” sources of caffeine, such as chocolate, energy bars, and workout supplements.

Coffee nap

One interesting concept that has scientific backing (but goes against the “no caffeine after 3 pm” rule) is the coffee nap.

Basically, you drink coffee (or another caffeinated drink – but be careful of those loaded with sugar).

You then quickly nap for 15-20 minutes. Sodas and teas don’t work as well as plain coffee due to too much sugar and too little caffeine.

The coffee nap has been shown to be more effective than either a nap or caffeine alone. The basic premise is that your brain gets a nap before the caffeine kicks in, then you wake as the caffeine is taking effect to help you wake up.

Cautions for the coffee nap

Use the coffee nap only at times you really need it.

Don’t do this too late in the day or the caffeine will inhibit your regular night’s sleep.

Caffeine + stimulant medicines don’t mix

Be very careful using caffeine if you take a stimulant medication, such as methylphenidate or amphetamine.

When you add caffeine to this, it can cause an elevation in your heart rate and increase anxiety.

If you take a stimulant medicine most days but don’t take it other days, it would be acceptable to use caffeine for short term benefits when off your medicine. Caffeine is not a good substitute for medications long term though. The medications have a more consistent dose effect.

Talk to your doctor if you do drink caffeine so they can help you adjust your medicine if needed.

Skip the snooze button.

Set your alarm for the last possible moment you can, which allows your body to get those extra minutes of sleep.

If you need to get out of bed by 6:45, but set your alarm for 6:15 and hit snooze several times, you aren’t sleeping those 30 minutes. Set your alarm for 6:45!

Skip the late night studying.

Studying too late is ineffective.

When the brain’s tired it won’t learn as well and you will make mistakes more readily. It takes a lot longer to get anything done when you’re tired.

Go to bed and get up a little earlier to get the work finished if needed.

Of course you should also look at your time management if this happens too often. Are you involved in too many activities? Do you work or volunteer too many hours? Did you waste too much time on tv, games, or socializing? Do you put off big projects until the last minute?

Homework needs to take priority when you’re more alert in the afternoon and evening. If you have problems with this, talk to parents and teachers about what you can do.

Charge your phone in another room. 

Friends who decide to text in the middle of the night keep you from sleeping. Even phones on silent have blinking lights that can spark your curiosity.

It’s too tempting to look at your social media apps one more time if you have your phone with you as you go to bed. Your brain gets a dopamine hit every time you play a game or interact on social media. This reinforces more and more phone use, which means one last check can turn into an hour or more of playing on the phone.

Don’t use the excuse that you need your phone as an alarm. Alarm clocks are cheap. Get one and put your phone elsewhere!

If you lay awake for hours or wake frequently, try these techniques to help fall asleep: 

If these fail, talk to your parents and doctor to help find a solution.

Use your bed for sleep only.

Don’t do homework in bed.

Stop watching YouTube and Netflix in bed.

Train your brain that your bed is where you sleep.

Exercise.

Exercise helps our bodies sleep better, but it should ideally be earlier in the day.

Exercising too close to bedtime can wire us up, so if you can exercise earlier, that’s a better choice. I know some sports and dance require late practice and class, but if you can schedule exercise earlier, do it.

Get natural sunlight in the morning. 

Natural sunlight helps to set your circadian rhythm. It’s a tried and true method to reset your internal clock when traveling out of your time zone and also helps when you need to adjust your sleep schedule at home.

Keep the bedroom cool and dark.

It’s harder to sleep if the room is too warm or too bright. A fan can be used to circulate air. (The fan also can double as background noise, which is often helpful.)

Use blackout shades if needed.

Keep pets out of the bedroom. 

Your animals might love you and you love them, but if they keep you up, it’s just not worth having them around at night. They’ll still love you in the morning if you keep them away from your room.

Nicotine and alcohol affect sleep.

Nicotine and alcohol should not be used by teens in an ideal world, but I know teens will not always follow the rules.

Everyone should know that if they are using nicotine or alcohol, their quality of sleep will be affected.

Nicotine is a stimulant (like caffeine), which leads to more time sleeping lightly and less time in deep sleep. And yes, vaping and chewing lead to this problem too since it’s the nicotine that causes the problem. Don’t start these habits!

Alcohol reduces the time it takes to fall asleep but it increases sleep disturbances in the second half of the night, often leading to early wakening. Alcohol relaxes muscles, which can lead to sleep apnea (often noted as snoring). Sleep apnea does not allow the body to have restful sleep. Alcohol is also a diuretic, which might increase the need to wake to go to the bathroom during the night.

Get help if needed

If you are addicted to any substance, talk to your doctor for help stopping.

Your doctor must maintain confidentiality under most circumstances, so you can trust that they will help you and not cause more problems. The exception to confidentiality is if they think you are in immediate harm from a substance.

We all need to to prioritize our sleep. Learn how you can get better sleep.

What happens when we’re sleep deprived?

Problems from sleep deprivation are seen everywhere. I hear parents say they need more and that their kids need more. Even teens often admit that they don’t get enough. But why is it such a big deal? What problems are really caused by sleep deprivation? There are many! When we’re sleep deprived, it can lead to many problems that are often not attributed to poor sleep. This can include irritability, poor academic performance, accidents, obesity and more.

Last week we discussed why so many tweens and teens get too little sleep.

You’ll have to learn what your real sleep needs are. Too many people think they’re “used to” less than recommended amounts of sleep, so they’re okay. Once you know your needs, learn the problems with sleep deprivation so you can recognize symptoms in yourself.

Next week we’ll talk about how you can get better sleep.

How much sleep is needed?

Sleep experts recommend nine to ten hours for growing tweens and teens, with a minimum of eight and a half hours until the mid-twenties as our brains continue to mature.

Remember that when we’re sick or in a growth spurt, we need more than usual. Listen to your body!

Find your specific need.

You can estimate how much you need by experimenting over a school vacation time. Go to bed when you’re tired at night and wake on your own. Talk to your parents to let them know what you’re doing so they don’t try to wake you too soon.

Initially you will probably need a lot to catch up on sleep debt, but after a few nights of adequate sleep, see how much your body needs regularly. Don’t lay around all day watching tv or playing on your phone. Get moving! If you have too much down time, it can make your body feel tired, even when you’re not.

Count the hours you sleep naturally once your sleep debt is paid. When it’s time for school or other activities, adjust your bedtime to allow for that much sleep. If that’s impossible you’ll have to work with parents, coaches, and teachers to find solutions.

When you fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed and wake up without an alarm, you’re probably getting the right amount of sleep. If you fall asleep immediately upon hitting the pillow and always need an alarm to wake up, you’re probably sleep deprived.

Problems of sleep deprivation

Hormone changes

Sleep deprivation can lead to increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), decreased activity of human growth hormone (which is active during tissue repair), and decreased glycogen synthesis (energy). Hormones that regulate appetite are affected by sleep duration. Sleep also influences the release of insulin, which is important in our sugar metabolism

These hormone changes are all implicated in the sleep problems we recognize, and we’re still learning more effects.

Moodiness

We all associate the teen years with angst, so we can easily attribute a teen’s moodiness to just being a teen. But being chronically tired can lead to emotional dysregulation. This will look like irritability, frustration and anger.

Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with developing depression. Depression affects our ability to sleep well and poor sleep can increase the risk of depression, so it can have a snowball effect.

Growth

Growth hormone is released as we sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can affect your overall height if you don’t get enough sleep during your rapid growth tween and teen years.

Growth hormone isn’t just needed for growing. It also stimulates muscle growth, muscle repair, bone building and fat burning. Sleep loss may affect healing time and weight due to less growth hormone.

Obesity

Obesity has been associated with sleep deprivation. Specific appetite hormones are altered by sleep. Our appetite can be increased when we fail to get enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation can lead to eating more calories than needed because of increased appetite. This increases the risk of obesity and all the health consequences of being overweight.

Diabetes

Sugar metabolism is directly affected by sleep. People who don’t get enough sleep are at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes from this direct effect as well as from carrying excess weight.

School problems

Getting proper amounts of sleep can help with focus and learning. When we fail to get enough sleep, problems with attention, memory, decision making, reaction time, and creativity start to show. As if ADHD wasn’t enough to cause these things – sleep deprivation compounds the issue!

Grades can easily fall, which leads to anxiety and depression, which in turn leads to more moodiness and trouble sleeping.

Sleep deprivation mimics ADHD. If you think the medicine to help your ADHD that’s worked for years suddenly isn’t working, think about your sleep needs and amounts. Increasing the medicine isn’t the answer!

Injuries

Teens with chronic sleep deprivation are more likely to be accidentally injured due to poor focus and slowed reaction time. Sleep deprivation also slows healing after injury.

Drowsy driving is comparable to drunk driving. Tired teens are at high risk for falling asleep at the wheel. Drowsy driving is the most likely to occur in the middle of the night (2-4 am), but also in mid-afternoon (3- 4pm) as teens drive home from school.

Athletes are more likely to be injured while playing their sport, so it is in the best interest of the team to get enough sleep. And yes, I know with the busy practice schedule and homework it’s hard. But athletes need sleep.

Sports Performance

It’s not just injuries that increase among sleep deprived athletes. Performance also falls when we fail to get sleep.

Less sleep increases fatigue, lowers energy, and leads to poor focus. It may also slow recovery as mentioned above.

In short, sleep helps your sports performance.

Study of 18-27 year old males

Eve Van Cauter, Ph.D., from the University of Chicago Medical School, studied the effects of three different durations of sleep in eleven 18-27 year old men. For the first 3 nights of the study, the men slept 8 hours per night. Over the next 6 nights, they slept 4 hours per night. For the last 7 nights, they slept 12 hours per night.

After 4 hours of sleep per night, participants metabolized glucose least efficiently. Levels of cortisol were also higher during sleep deprivation periods. This can lead to memory impairment, insulin resistance, and impaired recovery.

After only 1 week of sleep restriction the previously young, healthy males had glucose levels that were no longer normal. They showed a  reduced ability to manage glucose, similar to the way elderly people metabolize it.

Study of female university athletes

Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory has studied college level athletes for many years. Her research shows that getting more sleep leads to better sports performance for all types of athletes.

One study of the Stanford University women’s tennis team focused on increasing sleep to 10 hours per night. Those who increased their sleep time ran faster sprints and hit more accurate tennis shots than while getting their usual amount of sleep.

Illnesses

Too little sleep increases the risk of getting sick. Your immune system needs sleep to perform at its best.

Risky behaviors

Teens with chronic sleep deprivation have been shown to participate in more risk taking behaviors. These behaviors, such as driving without a seatbelt, drinking alcohol, skipping the bike helmet and tobacco use, add to the problems of sleep deprivation.

Next Up:

Now that you understand the many problems with sleep deprivation, come back next week to learn how to get more sleep.

Why don’t teens get enough sleep?

Teens often do not get enough sleep. Most teens need 8.5-10 hours of sleep each night. Not 6 hours. Not even 8 hours. Most don’t get even close to meeting their needs and that’s a bigger deal than many realize. You don’t just “get used to” too little sleep. Sleep is very undervalued, but we need to prioritize it. Sleep deprived teens suffer from many physical and emotional problems. Add ADHD or anxiety into the mix, and it’s even worse!

This is part 1 of a 3 part sleep series. It will focus on what makes it hard to get enough sleep. Next up will be why it’s so important to get sleep, then the big topic of how to get more.

So… why don’t teens get enough sleep?

Body clock.

One of the most common reasons is that their biological clock (AKA circadian rhythm) makes it hard to fall asleep before 11 pm and school starts too early to allow them to sleep until 8 am, which would allow for a reasonable 9 hours. Nine hours are on the low end of sleep need for many adolescents. If teens are still growing, they will need even more!

Research shows that tween and teen sleep patterns are hormonally influenced. Your parents probably get frustrated with your late nights, thinking you’re in control of your bedtime, but you’re not. This isn’t an act of rebellion.

Research shows that the hormonal response to the 24-hour daily light/dark exposure that influences circadian rhythm is altered in the adolescent years. Adolescents physiologically stay awake later at night and therefore need to remain asleep later in the day.

It’s not your fault!

But sadly, it is your problem because you suffer the consequences.

Screens.

Melatonin is a hormone that is released from our pineal gland. We need it to feel tired. During the day the pineal is inactive. When the sun goes down and it gets dark, the pineal gland starts to produce melatonin. It’s released into the blood and helps us feel tired and sleep. Melatonin levels in the blood stay elevated through the night until the light of a new day helps to lower the levels again.

The light from smart phones, tablets, and computers interferes with our natural melatonin rising. This keeps us from feeling tired and falling to sleep.

It’s best to limit screen use for at least an hour before bedtime. I know that for many teens this is difficult because they have to finish their homework at that time. Today’s teens need their computer or tablet to do homework.

If you have any time during the day to work on homework, do it. This is even more important for kids who take stimulant medicines for their ADHD. This medicine is out of your system close to bedtime, so it will be harder to sustain attention, making homework more frustrating and less efficient. Homework will take longer to do after medicine wears off, which decreases the time for sleep and fun activities.

If you can’t turn off the screen, at least use a program that limits the blue light that prevents the rise of melatonin. I personally use f.lux. It’s free and works on PC, Mac, ipad, android, and Linux. I find that it really helps. Try it!

Phones.

On a similar note, phones distract us all from what we’re doing, including getting to sleep. They also can wake us if we forget to put it on silent when we sleep.

Playing that one last game or checking Instagram one last time gives our brain a dopamine hit. Dopamine is a neurochemical known as the “reward molecule” that’s released after certain behaviors, such as eating, exercising or reaching a goal. While physical activity is most commonly linked to dopamine’s release, social media and online gaming are now shown to give a dopamine rush. This is why these behaviors are so addictive. It’s hard to stop the habit. One of the easiest ways is to just not use it except specific times of the day.

Take charge of your phone use ~

If you don’t want your parents restricting phone use, set your own reasonable limits.

Maybe check for messages before you leave for school after you’ve gotten ready. This can let you know of any needs or changes for the day.

Check messages again after school for the same reasons. Allow a 30 minute period to play a game or look at social media after homework is done. Then put it away and do something else.

It’s important to do things other than online games and social media. Find things to do that you enjoy. This article’s about sleep, but there are many negatives to spending too much time on screens. If you can’t limit yourself, talk to your parents or your doctor.

Indirect effects of phone use ~

It’s not just the direct issue of using our phone when it’s bedtime that interferes with sleep. There are indirect things as well.

It takes longer to finish homework when there are distractions from the phone. Putting your phone in another room when doing homework will help you finish more quickly, allowing you to get to other things more quickly.

Think of the extra time you can have to hang out with friends, getting exercise and getting to bed on time if you limit your screen time!

School starts too early.

Most school districts around the country start school well before the recommended 8:30 earliest start time.

School districts that have started later start times have shown improved test scores, fewer absences and tardies, less depression, improved athletic performance, and better graduation rates.

Unfortunately, those schools are still in the minority.

Activities are too late.

It’s not uncommon to have regularly scheduled activities too late in the evening. Many activities in my area are scheduled to run until 9:30 or 10 on school nights for middle and high school aged kids.

When kids finally get home, they’re hungry, need a shower, and are ramped up so not ready for sleep. It can be well past 11 pm when they finally hit the pillow, so they need be able to sleep until at least 8 am to sleep 9 hours, but school’s already started by that time. It’s impossible for them to get sufficient sleep. After school naps might help, but not if there’s not enough time to fit it in between homework and the activity.

There’s no easy solution for this other than reviewing what’s really important and cutting back on whatever can be cut back. This might mean one less activity. Or maybe not taking every AP class or working fewer hours. All of these are important, but sleep is more important to your health and well being.

It will also take the adults in the community to recognize the benefits of sleep. Studies support later school start times, but there are many reasons schools haven’t adopted these. If you’re a real go-getter, get active in later start times movements.

Activities start too early.

I know many kids who must be at school before school actually starts. Whether it’s band practice, church study groups, sports, or taking a missed test before school, they all interfere with sleeping in, which is what teens need.

Again, this will take the adults in the community to recognize the importance of adolescents getting enough sleep. And for most teens, this means sleeping in because that’s when they’re physiologically able to sleep.

Medical causes of sleep deprivation.

If you suspect any of the following conditions are affecting your sleep, you should work with your doctor. Even if you aren’t sure why you’re always tired, talk to your doctor.

  1. Anxiety – recurrent thoughts keep popping up
  2. Restless leg syndrome – if your legs just need to move when you lay down
  3. Sleep apnea – pausing of breath, often associated with snoring
  4. Medications that affect sleep cycles – stimulants are commonly used for ADHD and can affect sleep
  5. Heartburn or acid reflux
  6. Hormone imbalances, such as thyroid problems – you might sleep a lot but still feel tired and have other symptoms
  7. Anemia, or low red blood cell counts
  8. Depression – every teen should have a depression screen yearly, but if you think you might be depressed, talk to your doctor now!
  9. Nutrition – if you’re not eating enough, or eating foods that are not nutritious, you could feel more tired. If you eat foods that cause spikes in your blood sugar, as those sugars drop you feel fatigued.
  10. Infections – we all need more sleep when sick!
  11. Celiac disease – talk to your doctor if you have chronic abdominal issues, such as diarrhea, vomiting, pain, or weight loss
  12. Chronic pain conditions – if it hurts, you can’t get comfortable enough to sleep
  13. Chronic sleep deprivation – I know this is counter-intuitive, but being tired can make it harder to sleep.
  14. ADHD – that race car brain just won’t wind down!

What difference does it make?

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably not surprised that so many teens (and adults) don’t get enough sleep.

What difference does it make if we’re sleep deprived? It turns out, there are a lot of consequences. Some you may know, some you may be unaware are related to sleep deprivation. Tune in next week to learn why we care so much about sleep deprivation!

How To Get A Growth Mindset

A growth mindset is correlated with success more than intelligence is predictive of success. So how do you get this growth mindset?

Did you know your brain can learn to change the way it works? It doesn’t just learn the new information you study at school. Our brains are able to change and adapt. You can learn to use your brain to your benefit through developing a growth mindset.

What’s a growth mindset?

You're in charge of your mind. Carol Dweck

The concept of fixed and growth mindsets was introduced by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck in 2007. Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, discussed this new way of thinking about how we think.

Of course, Yoda knew this long ago…

Fixed Mindset

Per Dr. Dweck, people with a fixed mindset believe that people’s intelligence and abilities are static and outside their control. In contrast, those with a growth mindset know that intelligence is dynamic. We know that the brain is able to change based on experiences and efforts.

Some kids worry that they don’t have enough.

Not enough intelligence.

Or enough skill.

This is the fixed mindset.

Young Luke Skywalker was suffering from a fixed mindset. Yoda, the wise master, told him there is no try. He was pushing Luke to have a growth mindset.

Growth Mindset

Some kids grow up thinking that they can do anything if they just work hard at it.

They don’t worry if they’re smart enough or skilled enough.

These kids know that if they work hard, they have a chance. This is a growth mindset.

Who succeeds in life?

You know what? Studies show that intelligence doesn’t matter as much as grit.

People with a growth mindset have grit and resilience. They are more successful in life.

Even people who are very gifted intellectually can fail to succeed if they stop trying. They often start off in school finding that it’s easy, so they don’t need to learn study skills early on. When academics become challenging, they don’t know how to learn. They can easily get frustrated and give up if they’ve relied on being smart and lived with a fixed mindset.

Many people with ADHD develop a fixed mindset because they so often struggle with everything. They focus on getting a good outcome, but they fail to see the benefit to the process of trying. The good news is that they can learn to succeed if they change their mindset!

How can you get a growth mindset?

Okay, so it’s obvious that a growth mindset is better than a fixed mindset, but how do you get one?

Look at your way of thinking

When you face a challenge in daily life and you want to quit (or just not start), ask yourself what’s going on.

Really stop and think.

  • Is there a voice telling you that you can’t do it?
  • Does it say you’re not good enough?
  • Is the little voice telling you that it’s someone else’s fault?

This little voice is your fixed mindset.

A fixed mindset is when we believe our intelligence, attributes and abilities are fixed and unable to change.

If you listen to this little voice, you will stop before even trying.

This voice holds you back. It keeps you from achieving your goals and dreams. You’ll never know your full potential if you listen to it and quit.

Quitters never win. Winners never quit.

When we have a fixed mindset, we constantly feel the need to prove ourselves. It leaves us vulnerable and highly sensitive to being wrong or making a mistake. When we have this mindset, any failure or mistake destroys our self confidence. This leads to being anxious and keeps us from learning from constructive criticisms and mistakes.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Choose to ignore that little voice

Once you recognize that the little nagging voice is your fixed mindset, you can learn to ignore it.

A growth mindset allows us to understand that our talents and abilities can be improved and developed.

Dreams don't work unless you do. John C Maxwell

If your fixed mindset voice is telling you that you can’t do it, think of how you can.

Is a big task overwhelming? Break it into several smaller task and get started on the first one. Small tasks seem manageable. And after doing one, you can move on to the next. Before you know it, the whole thing is done!

Instead of saying…

“I’m not very good at this.” or “This is too hard.”

Say…

“This is really hard for me. I need to keep practicing.”

Celebrate the hard work

Remember all the times you weren’t sure if you could do something, but you did it?

Even if it wasn’t perfect, you did it!

If you don’t even try, you can’t succeed.

How can you start whatever needs to be done? What tools do you need? Are there resources you can use? Is the size of the task intimidating? Can you break it down into smaller parts?

Maya Angelou

Instead of thinking you’re not good enough, think about what you can do to be good enough.

Know that you are able to solve problems. You can grow from doing anything you set your mind to doing!

If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney

Keep track of progress

Keep a notebook or electronic file of all the things your fixed mindset said were not possible to do but you were able to get them done.

Include your successes as well as the times you tried but didn’t quite meet your goal. They can be celebrated for the process of doing, even if the outcome wasn’t what you wanted.

“What can I learn from this? What will I do next time I’m in this situation?”~ Carol Dweck

You can learn a lot even when you don’t quite meet your goal. Think about what happened when you didn’t quite get what you wanted – usually it’s not that bad.

Be sure to not get lost in the goal itself, but the process of how you got there. There’s a lot of good learning that comes from the process.

Mistakes are always forgivable, if you have the courage to admit them. Bruce Lee

Maybe you didn’t get an A on that really hard project, but you learned something about the topic. Maybe you didn’t see it at the time, but you learned organizational skills or research tips from the process.

Sometimes the best teacher is a mistake – as long as you evaluate what happened and use it as a learning experience. You can take all the things you learned with you when you work on your next project.

Your best teacher is your last mistake. Ralph Nader

It’s the effort you put in to a project that helps you learn. The outcome if things work well or not really is less important. Focus on how you problem solve and your determination to continue, even when things are hard. That’s what helps you to strengthen your growth mindset.

Exercise your brain

Your brain is like a muscle: the more you use it, the better it gets. Each time you’re faced with the negative little voice of a fixed mindset, you need to challenge it with positive thinking.

The more you practice this, the easier it gets. It might never be your first line of thinking, but you can always choose to think with a growth mindset.

Want more?

Growth versus fixed mindsets are explained in this short video from TedEd.

This is a FANTASTIC inspirational video.

Take the time to watch The Wisdom of a 3rd Grade Dropout.

The Power  of Grit

Resilience: What is it and how can I get it?

Resilience is the ability to handle hardships in life. People who are resilient are more capable of handling adversity than people who are not resilient. Life can throw us challenges at any given time, but have you wondered why some people seem to handle them easily while others seem to fall apart?

Resilience?

Resilient people are able to use their skills and strengths to handle whatever challenges come their way.

Bad grades. Death of a pet. Relationship break up. Late assignments.

All of these can make some teens get too frustrated to continue and just give up. Others might make excuses and blame others for the problems.

But not those with resilience. They are able to tackle these problems and find a way to turn things around.

That doesn’t mean they don’t get affected by the problems. They still feel angry, sad, anxious, or frustrated just like everyone else. But they can pick up the pieces and move forward.

They often use these as growing experiences and come out stronger than they were before.

What happens without resilience?

If people are not resilient, they might become overwhelmed and use poor coping mechanisms to face problems. These can be simply ineffective or they can be outright dangerous.

Examples of unhealthy or self destructive behaviors

Self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs to “feel better” is one such dangerous coping mechanism.

Cutting and other self harm methods are also serious risks when a person is not able to find appropriate coping skills.

Some teens just stop studying and give up on trying to get good grades.

Others might try to “get even” after a break up by spreading rumors.

Many are unable to accept responsibility for actions, so might blame the teacher for not teaching well enough instead of finding ways to learn the material.

You get the picture and can imagine how destructive some of these choices can be, right?

Don’t they worry?

People who are resilient are normal people.

They still have typical worries and stress. Problems still get them down and make them sad or angry. They get frustrated just like everyone else.

It’s how they handle the stress and challenges that sets them apart.

People with resilience look at the situation and problem solve. Instead of avoiding the problem (which may make it grow) they look for solutions. They don’t look for excuses, they look for ways to self improve or fix whatever is wrong. They pick up the pieces and move on.

Being resilient doesn’t mean they don’t get upset, it simply means they keep going.

How do you build resilience?
How do you build resilience?

How can we become resilient?

(Edited after our meeting to include things you can do.)

How to Get a Growth Mindset

Learn the power of “Yet”

Self Confidence Booster series (see the other posts linked within)

Celebrate ADHD

Watch out for Rejection Sensitivity

From the original version:

Some people seem to just naturally have the traits that make them resilient, but we can all learn resiliency. The first ADHDKCTeen event will be all about building resilience.

See the ADHDKCTeen Event Page for more information about the ADHDKCTeen event and RSVP here.

If you’re interested but can’t make it, go to the RSVP page – there’s a spot for you!

Both RSVPs will get you signed up for ADHDKCTeen member’s only benefits!

After each of our events we’ll post a summary and sometimes even a video of the night for our members to view. You must RSVP to have access to this members-only benefit!

Learn to build resilience at the September 2018 ADHDKCTeen meeting.
Learn how to build resilience at our first meeting. See you September 4th!