Does rumination and negative thinking keep you from finding appropriate solutions and moving forward? Learn how to overcome negative thinking with ABCs.
We all have negative thoughts, but when we get stuck in a rut about them, it’s called rumination. When we ruminate, we can’t stop thinking the negative thought, which keeps us from finding appropriate solutions and moving forward. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches how to break this cycle of rumination. One way to use CBT is to think of your ABCs. Use the handout linked below to stop thinking negative thoughts.
A is for Adversity
When there’s a problem, we need to identify the trigger, or what is causing the adverse situation.
Check out the following examples to see how the process works.
Situation 1: Your BFF hasn’t answered your important text.
A: Your friend is usually quick to reply and you’re worried that there’s something wrong that’s kept her from replying.
B: You don’t know if she’s mad at you or dead on the side of the road after an accident.
C: You are worried that you did something to anger your friend or that something catastrophic is keeping her from answering.
D: There was no indication that she was upset with you last time you spoke. She is a safe driver and the road conditions are fine. It is possible that she could have forgotten to charge her phone (again). She could have the ringer off. Sometimes texts don’t go through. She might be busy doing something and unable to check messages.
E: Do you feel less anxious realizing there are other reasons that your text has gone unanswered? What about these new thoughts can help you problem solve? Is there another way to reach your friend, such as through her parent or another friend? Should you call instead of text?
Situation 2: Too much to do!
A: Last week you missed a couple days of school so you got behind and can’t quite get back on track. You have a paper due, a huge test this week, and practice every night after school.
B: There’s so much to do, you’re overwhelmed and can’t even start on any of the schoolwork. After practice you want to just relax and watch YouTube videos. You need time to relax to feel better, but then you realize hours later that no work has been done, so you’re going to be up all night working. This leaves you too tired to focus at school so you get confused on even simple concepts and questions.
C: Anxiety is keeping you from initiating what needs to be done. While relaxing is important, you are not using your time efficiently, which is adding to the problem. You’re sleep deprived, which increases anxiety.
D: Take a look at how much time you’re spending on everything. What can be pushed off until later? Where are the priorities? How can you moderate your down time so you can be productive but still have time to relax?
Mindset: This is a situation I have the capacity to deal with. I’ve developed a pattern of avoidant coping but I can get better at non-avoidant coping through the right kind of practice. This is an opportunity for that.
E: Does realizing how much down time you waste help you regroup and use time more efficiently? Are you motivated to set timers to help limit your free time? Can you grab a friend to study together to keep you on track? Are there things you need to change in your schedule so you can devote appropriate time to tasks? Are any of your teachers willing to extend the deadline since you were sick? What can you learn from this to do it better next time?
Most of us want to be happy, but true happiness remains elusive. What’s the big secret? I don’t think there’s a single secret. There are many things that can add to our happiness. I don’t mean making millions of dollars, having the latest model cell phone or having the cutest prom date. Those can bring temporary happiness, but they miss on true happiness. Sometimes they actually can make us unhappy.
Have you heard the title quote before?
Live is a marathon, not a sprint. ~Unknown
I think it holds some of the best ideas about true happiness. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s break down what that means. I’ll start with a bit about what goes into running a marathon. Then I’ll give several examples of how we’re sprinting along and how this can lead to burnout. I’ll end with tips on how to turn this into a marathon. Pace yourself. You’ve got a long life ahead!
Running a marathon isn’t easy.
People must train for long periods of time. It takes dedication and consistency.
There is a big time commitment – and it’s not all running. It’s coming up with the time to run regularly. And eating enough healthy calories to sustain your body.
Not to mention preparing yourself mentally.
Only after months of hard training can you actually run the marathon.
Sometimes injuries delay things unexpectedly.
Excitement builds as the date approaches.
During the marathon, you might feel on top of things as you run past others, but then there will be some who pass you. There are moments a runner may feel like there’s no way to go on because you have nothing left to give. It takes grit and resilience to keep going.
After finishing, you might even spend time wondering what you could have done differently to shave off time.
And you need to take time to rest so your body can recover.
Then maybe you start the cycle all over again.
Society of here and now.
We’ve become a society that has access to everything right here. Right now. While it seems like this is a good thing on the surface, this can lead to impatience, anxiety, and entitlement. All of these lead directly to unhappiness.
It’s not uncommon to hear how busy people are. They complain, yet they often seem to be bragging of all the things they have to do. Being busy isn’t something to brag about.
It is seen as a negative thing when we take time to relax. We’ve become a society that doesn’t value balance, despite everyone talking about finding work-life balance.
Being constantly busy and expecting everything when we want it has become our general expectation. We don’t learn resilience when we’re able to get what we want when we want it. Resilience is when someone is able to pick up and move on when something doesn’t go their way. If we never learn resilience, we’ll be unhappy in life.
The good news is you can learn resilience at any age!
Instant access to friends and family
When I was growing up, we had no cell phones. (I’m a dinosaur, I know.)
I didn’t even get voice mail or caller ID until my mid to late teens. If a friend called and no one was home, we didn’t even know they called. Sometimes that caused frustrations because we had to keep calling to find someone to answer if it was important, but it also was a lot more freeing in many ways than being constantly attached to a cell phone.
We looked forward to talking at school and activities. There were fewer distractions when we were with people because it was rare that someone had to take a call. It took planning to arrange to meet friends, but that itself helped us learn an important skill!
In today’s world if want to tell a friend something, I text them. This is impersonal and doesn’t build communication.
Sadly, we often impatiently wait for an answer. Some people even start to worry when the text remains unanswered for a few minutes.
~ Did I do something to make them upset?
~ Are they having fun with someone else and ignoring me?
The facts can be very different.
Maybe the text is delayed. Their ringer could be off. If they’re driving they shouldn’t answer. Maybe they’re practicing self regulation and it’s not a time they are using their phone – they’re doing something else. The phone can be in another room – or taken away by parents.
So many things can interfere with a quick response, yet we often get upset when the reply isn’t instantaneous.
Isolation of online
There are so many things to do online. Some of these are required for school or work. Sometimes we simply want to relax and check up on things or watch a video.
That keeps you away from actually living life and self care.
Set limits for yourself. You will find that you have more time to do other things that bring more joy. Less time online also means less time to get upset with what others post.
If we are in need of things, we can order online and Amazon will deliver it tomorrow. There are even food delivery services that will deliver from any restaurant in the area, so we can order online and never leave the house.
While this seems convenient, there’s something to the action of going shopping or out to eat. Planning a day and time to be able to shop (or eat out). Actually looking through the store and possibly running into someone you know or having a simple conversation with the store clerk are becoming lost skills. We are isolating ourselves by taking the convenient road.
Fear of the great outdoors
In years past kids would play outside until it got dark outside. They’d walk to school and back unsupervised. A great memory is shared in The Summer of No TV.
Today parents are afraid that kids will get hurt or abducted, so they won’t allow them to roam alone.
Parents of today tend to schedule kids in sports, music lessons, dance classes, scouts, and more.
They structure a child’s time so much that kids of today don’t learn how to fill their time with fun things to do. They don’t learn to work through problems and differences with friends on their own. The fear of injury and abduction overshadows the real dangers of kids not learning how to become independent and resilient.
This over-structured lifestyle leads to teens who don’t know how to find things to do other than screen time or scheduled activities. Kids don’t learn to use boredom as a door to discovery. They don’t discover their own interests and talents. It can lead to feelings of inadequacy and sadness.
Our society is growing adults who have no idea how to organize their own time and succeed in life.
If you’re a teen reading this, talk to your parents about how you can gain independence and be accountable for yourself. If you’re a parent, think about ways you can let go and let your kids figure things out themselves.
Want to know the secret to happiness?
Make it a marathon
You can’t get away from many of the busy activities in life.
The key is to use balance. Balance can lead to the secret to happiness.
Spend time with others
Find ways to be with friends and family on a regular basis in real life.
Go beyond your regular practice and game time and schedule unstructured time. When we are in class or at practice, we have rules to follow and things to do. Unstructured time is when we’re able to be creative with our time, find new interests, and learn more about one another.
Make time for yourself.
Yes, I know I just said to be with other people, and that is still important. When we’re alone too much, we start to feel self doubts. Anxiety grows. Depression can set in.
What I mean by making time for yourself is that we all need to practice self cares.
Here’s another self care necessity. I know you hear this all the time, but it’s important.
It’s easy to spend most of the day sitting. Failure to get daily exercise can lead to lifelong problems.
Find something you enjoy doing, such as a sport or dance. If it’s nice outside, invite a friend to take a walk or bike ride. Walk a dog. Play frisbee. Have fun! This directly and indirectly can increase your lifetime happiness.
Expand your horizon
We tend to get stuck in our daily routines, which can get boring and doesn’t allow us to find our true passions.
Explore other cultures.
Learn about other people and cultures through books, movies, music and cultural events. Visit a museum or historical site.
Talk to people outside your social circle. I know that can be intimidating for some and difficult if you’re in a small town, but it can be very rewarding to learn about other people and their culture.
If you don’t have time to read, or just don’t like reading, try an audiobook. You can listen while exercising or doing chores around the house.
Take up a new hobby
When we’re young our parents sign us up for things to do or buy our toys and games.
As we get older, we need to explore other interests to help find ourselves. There are many things out there that you might not even know about. Think about what characters in books and movies have done. Does any of that interest you?
You can try new things at school by taking an elective that you know nothing about.
Take an art class or learn to rock climb. If you think you can’t dance, sign up for lessons. If competitive sports aren’t your thing, check out a non-competitive league or an individual sport.
Join a new club at school.
Give to others
Community service is becoming required for many teens, but it should be something we do with a giving heart.
Doing things for others is one of the biggest secrets to happiness.
Don’t simply sign up for a service project because you need the hours. Find something that suits your personality and interests.
If you love the great outdoors, find ways to help others outside.
Love animals? Check out the animal shelters.
If you’re good in a subject and see a friend struggling, offer to tutor. (Be careful how you propose this… you don’t want to offend them or come off as a know – it- all.)
Is your neighbor aging? Offer to help with yard work or house work without charging. Leave a pot of flowers on their porch just because.
Do you love kids? See if you can volunteer at a summer camp or respite care.
If you’re interested in healthcare, look at hospitals and other healthcare settings to see if they offer volunteer opportunities.
We often associate spirituality with religion, but they are not the same. We can learn about our own spirituality through meditation and prayer. Spirituality involves a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you. It is about loving yourself, others, and our planet.
Spirituality also involves mindfulness, philosophy, and more. Learn from books and other people to develop a deeper understanding of love and life. Attend a conference or retreat. Continue this learning life long.
Certainly religion is important to many people, and exploring your faith can be very rewarding towards overall happiness. Teen years are a common time to question, so it’s a great time to reflect, read, and learn. Learn about your own religion and others. This isn’t to change your belief, but it often reinforces it. If you do find that another religion is appealing to you, find people from that faith to talk to so you can continue learning.
Enrich your spiritual life by taking time each day for reflection. Keep a gratitude journal. Help others.
Check out your senses
Sights, sounds, touch, and taste are all important senses, but smell is especially helpful in our emotions and memory.
Certain smells can bring me back to my grandmother’s kitchen. Smells have a way of solidifying memories and then bringing them back. Some, like my grandmother’s kitchen are very positive, happy memories. Others can bring negative emotion. We can use this powerful sense to help us bring happy feelings or a sense of calm and peace.
Certain smells tend to lead to happiness. Citrus smells, such as lemon and orange, and peppermint can serve to pick up your mood. This doesn’t make you find happiness for life, but it can be a pick me up when needed.
Learn to be aware of all 5 senses. This is part of mindfulness and helps us in our awareness. There are many ways to learn mindfulness. Take some time and try some out.
A lot of people worry about medication side effects, want to be all natural, or just plain forget to take their medicines. What’s the harm in that? Is it really a big deal if we don’t treat ADHD? Dr. Russell Barkley has data to show why it’s a big deal!
A lot of people worry about medication side effects, want to be all natural, or just plain forget to take their medicines. What’s the harm in that? Is it really a big deal if we don’t treat ADHD? Is there risk of not treating ADHD?
I have had the privilege of hearing Dr. Russell Barkley, an internationally acclaimed expert on ADHD, speak three times about his research results showing the long term impact of ADHD on our lifespan. He came to Kansas City to present at a Grand Rounds at Children’s Mercy Hospital and again at the Midwest ADHD Conference in April 2018. He presented the same information at the 2018 International ADHD Conference in St. Louis this past November. During each of the the three talks he made big impressions in audience members.
Unfortunately, not everyone outgrows ADHD and many people suffer from untreated problems, especially when they’re young and haven’t learned to adequately manage the frustrations that ADHD can cause.
Dr. Barkley’s long term study has shown some very distressing results. Children with ADHD have a shortened life expectancy of over 9 years. Adults with persistent ADHD symptoms have an even more significantly shortened life expectancy of nearly 13 years.
Dr. Barkley has found that many risks associated with ADHD can lead to life problems, including premature death.
We all know that kids with ADHD struggle in school without proper supports. This is linked to lower educational success, lower paying jobs, and more family stress.
Many people with ADHD get anxious and depressed due to circumstances created by their ADHD. This can lead to more problems in school, interpersonal relationships, self medicating with drugs and alcohol, legal problems, and even death by suicide.
Inattention and impulsivity increase the risk of accidental injury and death. Other risky behaviors can lead to unplanned pregnancies.
Problems with executive functioning can lead to problems at home with significant others and in parenting. Many adults with ADHD show problems at work and in maintaining a consistent job.
Impulsive eating can lead to obesity, and all the long term health consequences associated with that. These include diabetes, heart disease, orthopedic problems, and more.
A public health problem
Dr. Barkley asserts that we should approach ADHD as a public health problem.
During his talk in St. Louis, one of Dr. Barkley’s slides proposed that “ADHD is a serious public health problem; it accounts for greater reductions is ELE [expected life expectancy] than any single risk factor of concern to public health and medical professionals, such as smoking, excess alcohol use, obesity, or risky driving among other widely accepted health risks.”
The good news
The good news is that many of these risks can be minimized with proper management.
If we support our students to help them succeed in school, they are more likely to continue in their education. When people attain a higher education level, they are able to get more fulfilling jobs and earn better incomes.
Proper management of ADHD and executive function problems can help prevent and treat depression and anxiety. With less depression and anxiety, parents can be better parents, workers better workers, and partners better partners. Self medication with drugs and alcohol will be less, resulting in fewer problems that are linked to those issues: less crime, healthier bodies, less risky behaviors and fewer accidents.
Encouraging healthy habits, such as regular exercise and proper nutrition, helps everyone live a longer, healthier life. This is no different for those with ADHD, so it is important to help them overcome poor dietary habits and inadequate exercise to improve their overall lifespan.
What can be done?
We can use behavioral interventions, training for patients and parents of children with ADHD, educational support, and medication to optimize management of ADHD.
When properly diagnosed and treated, individuals with ADHD can be very successful in life. That’s why ADHDKC was started… to help those with ADHD learn to thrive!
As we hear holiday songs of joy and cheer, it’s a great time to talk about the Joy of Missing Out: JOMO. This winter break don’t waste your time looking at all the great photos of what your friends are doing. Fear of missing out, FOMO, leads to depression and feelings of insecurity. Find your own fun. Learn to appreciate the joy of missing out.
FOMO is everywhere
We’re able to see what our friends are up to at all hours of the day and night. People tend to post pics of what they do when they’re having fun. It’s great to see them enjoying whatever that is, but a part of us tends to be jealous.
When we see peers over and over again having a blast and getting lots of likes, it appears that they’re always having fun and they’re very popular. We forget that they have moments when they’re sitting alone bored and scrolling through social media wishing they were the one in the photo. They also have times that they feel all alone.
The grass is always greener on the other side. Believe me. Everyone has down moments. We just don’t post to say we’re doing nothing. Unless we want attention – and there’s a problem there too!
FOMO is a big problem
FOMO leads to more time online checking and rechecking to be sure you’re not missing the latest and greatest.
Excessive social media use can lead to less sleep – which in turn increases anxiety, depression, risk of accidental injury or death, and more.
The drive to know what’s going on at all times can lead to checking in at inappropriate times:
In class. How many have had phones taken away?
While driving. This puts not only your life in danger, but also the lives of others. Not to mention that it’s illegal in many states – including when you’re at a stop light.
While in the presence of others. It’s rude to check your phone when others are trying to talk to you! You can make your friend feel insignificant if it’s more important to play on your phone when you’re spending time with them.
When you should be sleeping. Being on a screen suppresses your melatonin so you don’t feel tired. If you have to get up in 8 hours, you should be sleeping.
When you should be studying or working. How often do you stay up late to finish homework? Think about how much time you wasted while doing your homework and checking in. And how many hours you spend procrastinating doing what you should be doing.
When you could be exercising. Obesity is a real risk of too much sitting around looking at your phone. Get out there and move!
Today’s teen culture is built around how people appear online. The number of followers and likes seem to indicate how good or popular you are.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Generations of people were happy and satisfied, popular and self fulfilled without shouting to the world what they were doing.
Friends often have insomnia so reach out online. Don’t feel like you need to see their post immediately. It will be there tomorrow – you can see it when you have scheduled social media time.
What can you do to learn JOMO?
You might think it’s too hard to stay off line. How will you possibly keep up with the gossip and know what’s going on?
That’s the point… you don’t need to! Your real friends and family will talk to you about what’s important to them. You can share with them everything that’s important to you by talking with them and being with them.
FOMO is strong. Fear is a big driver of what we do and how we feel.
Find a passion
If you love a sport, art, music, or other activity, schedule regular time to do that activity.
Being with others who share the same passion will encourage you do do it even more and build strong connections with people.
Enjoy the moment
There’s a lot of research that show mindfulness helps to lower our anxiety and fight depression.
Keep track of how much time you spend online. Break that time into essential school and work related things and non-essential time.
Think about how much time you really should be spending online. Where can you cut back to give yourself more time to be with friends and family or to practice self-care tasks? Wouldn’t it be great to have more time for sleep?
For more on managing screen time, see Screen Time Limits. There are even some examples for apps that can help you track your time.
If you recognize that certain people trigger FOMO, unfollow them.
By unfollowing certain people you can still check on your friends and family who live out of town and stay in touch with them. But the people you don’t really care about won’t bother you. And you can look forward to catching up with friends who actually tell you what’s going on in their lives.
You won’t see all the people you don’t need to see, so you’ll not feel like you’re left out, but you can spend less time scrolling and more time doing other stuff.
Make connections IRL
Stop building your self image based on your online image.
If you feel compelled to check on your posts to see how many have liked it, you have a problem.
Be yourself. Don’t worry about how many likes you get. Think about what matters to you can get involved in that.
Enjoy friends when you spend time with them in real life. It’s okay to like their posts, but it’s even better to share time doing fun things together.
Let friends know you really care by asking them to do things. They’ll appreciate the effort because they’re probably suffering from FOMO too! Of course they could have conflicts, so don’t be offended if they can’t always be available.
Take a break
I’ve seen several people over the years share a “see you later” post on their social sites. They let friends know they’re going off line for a day, a weekend, or more.
While I don’t really think you need to publicize it, I do think taking a break and not checking any social sites for a specified time can help you find what you’re missing by being online all the time. It can take time away from our screens to appreciate all the other stuff life has to offer. This extra time forces us to think about what we can do with our time. Boredom can lead to finding ourselves and our passions.
Publicizing going off line has pros and cons. It can seem to be a way to draw attention to yourself, but it also can let people know that you’re not hurt or in trouble. Some friends might be offended if you don’t reply quickly to a post. This will let you know you’re not mad at them or ignoring them. If this is the only way you feel like you don’t need to check in, then let people know you’re checking out. That also might stimulate them to do the same!
Make yourself, not companies, happy
Social sites, such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter are businesses. They’re in it to make money.
The more you check your social sites, the happier those businesses are. They’re doing their job if they get you to spend time on their products. They make more money if you see their ads. The more time spent on their app, the better investment they are to their sponsors, which brings in more money to them. They use psychology to get users to use their platform more. They don’t care if it makes you less mentally and physically healthy.
Stop playing into their game. Resist the urge to hop online.
Make yourself happy by finding a passion off the screen and doing it. Don’t make your life about the right photo op. If you live life to its fullest, you’ll have the memories… which is infinitely better than the likes from people you don’t really care about!
I was excited to attend the 2018 International Conference on ADHD with a group of ADHDKC board members. I’ll try to recap some of the best information learned.
We were all able to make connections with people from all over the world who research and treat symptoms associated with ADHD and with those who are in various learning stages about their own ADHD. It was not uncommon throughout the conference to hear that people found their tribe…
Too much information
There were many simultaneous talks during the 4 day conference. I went to many great talks but missed others. I tried to tweet #ADHDcon2018 during the conference, but couldn’t pay attention and tweet at the same time, so missed a lot of points to share.
I was very fortunate to meet Marylin, a woman from France who is passionate about learning and sharing information about ADHD. She shared with me that ADHD is not commonly recognized in France and she is working to change that. Learn more about her organization at TDAH.
Marilyn recorded several of the sessions and uploaded them to her Facebook page. I’ll share these along with other information below.
Translation from Facebook:
If you thought ADHD was reserved for children…. If you thought that: in the same way as intellectual early, (fortunately less and less used) ADHD disappears over time…. If you thought ADHD was a bad education…. too permissive…. If you thought ADHD was a simple motor hyperactivity…. So…. it’s time to learn, to inform you to understand this neurobiological disorder that affects millions of people around the world: Children, adolescents, adults, men and women together. The symptoms differ, however, the disorder remains the same. ADHD is an invisible, ill-known, misunderstood handicap, particularly in France, where diagnosis and care have accumulated considerably harmful delays. 10, 15 (rather 20 years to be honest) compared to other countries of the world. ADHD is not happy with associated disorders (called morbid), dyslexia, dyscaculie, ect… anxiety disorder, disorder disorder with provocation. Non-diagnosed ADHD may also lead to adolescent-Risk Pipelines: Sexuality, driving, risk-taking, addictions, (drugs, tobacco, alcohol) unwanted pregnancies, and D after the latest research: a considerably reduced longevity. Are you ready to open your eyes and ears and change your states d spirits…
Dr. Russel Barkley
Dr. Russel Barkley is a world renowned expert on ADHD and was one of the keynote speakers. He spoke at the Midwest ADHD Conference sponsored by ADHDKC.org last spring, so you might recognize him and his message: untreated (and undertreated) ADHD has risks!
If you want to skip to Dr. Barkley, go to 8 min. To do this, hover over the bottom and click on the Facebook icon. It will bring you to the Facebook video, and you can scroll forward.
Unique Challenges Facing Mothers & Daughters with ADHD
Our own Jeremy Didier and her daughter were among a panel of mother/daughter pairs who talked about living with ADHD.
I was not in this session, but found a snippet on Twitter:
For those who don’t know her, she has made a name for herself making videos about ADHD. I’ve been a fan of her videos for several years, so seeing her live was awesome!
One of her first slides summarized the other three keynote speakers talks.
Marylin also caught this in full on Facebook live. Start at about 14 min in to skip all the conference acknowledgements if you’re not interested in those.
I was really excited to see that Coach Diane, from Odyssey Learning, was speaking at this conference. Since I won’t be able to make her local talk next month, it was fantastic to hear how she uses creative ways to help kids and teens learn executive function skills.
If you can make it to her local talk, please RSVP on SignUpGenius. Her ADHDKC talk will be geared for tweens and teens, but her slides are more for professionals working with people with ADHD.
She talked about how we’re wired to learn when we’re interested. Everyone, but especially those with ADHD, struggle to pay attention when they aren’t interested.
Fear, stress, boredom and anxiety of course make learning even harder, and these are common traits found in people with ADHD. When kids with ADHD are bored, they can suffer from agitation. This gets mislabeled as a behavior problem, but it’s a neurological problem!
Making new concepts and information interesting is one successful way to help people learn. She uses cooking, games, magic, and more to help kids learn.
Backwards planning is one strategy that helps kids complete tasks. Knowing where you want to end up, then coming up with all the steps that are required to get there, is backwards planning. She will use cooking to model backwards planning, then help kids learn to generalize the skill to real life examples.
Studies consistently show that people who know how to learn and have grit are more successful than people who are smart but don’t have resilience. That means we all need to learn how to learn and how to be resilient!
Let’s start with the basics and then review a few learning techniques that can help.
If you take a few minutes each day to fill out a planner and review what needs to be done, you will save yourself a ton of time overall. And have fewer periods of last minute anxieties!
There are many organization systems out there. Online planners and paper planners each have their pros and cons. The most important thing is that you pick one that works for you. Just search for reviews of planners, and you’ll find many suggestions.
There’s also the Google calendar or iCal – both offer the ability to keep track of things wherever you are! There are also many online apps for organization, most of which offer free versions as well as premium plans.
The most important thing about calendars and planners: put everything in them and use them regularly.
Of course you should put all your assignments in your planner. Also add in your extracurriculars. If you’re making plans with friends, add that in too. Don’t forget to add in time for exercise and sleep. Everything that’s important should be in there!
Don’t put it off!
It’s tempting to put off studying until the last minute, but don’t fall for the temptation.
Some people even say they do best at the last minute because of the adrenaline rush they get from the anxiety of the last minute. But chances are if you really look at it, you do a much better job and feel much better if you pace yourself and do a little each day.
If you finish parts of tasks on time at a healthy pace, you’ll have less time spent worrying about it. This leaves more time to enjoy life. You’ll probably sleep better and be healthier!
Your brain needs sleep to process and store information. All nighters will keep you from performing at your best.
Study in the evening, get a good night’s sleep, then review your notes a bit in the morning. This is a recipe for success!
There are studies showing that people who exercise right before a test do better than those who cram a little longer.
Exercise is not only great for your body… it’s also good for your mind!
If you get stuck in negativity, you’ll waste a ton of time and energy just being mad or scared.
It’s easy to fall into the trap. If you start to feel overwhelmed and frustrated that you won’t have enough time to finish a report, you will waste even more time not doing the report. It’s too easy to waste time worrying.
How do you change your mindset from, “I’ll never finish this,” to “I might have waited a long time to start this, but I’ve always been able to push through and finish it in the past”? See the “Related Posts” section at the bottom of this blog.
Write it down
Take notes as you study. The process of writing helps people remember.
Don’t simply re-write exactly what you hear in lecture or read in your textbook. Summarize the thought in your own words. This helps much more!
Writing has been shown to be more effective than typing to help with learning, so unless you can’t write, put the keyboard aside and use a simple pen and paper! (Maybe a pen on the appropriate screen would be okay… I don’t know if that’s been studied.)
Memorizing dates, words in a foreign language, and more can be difficult, but associating them with something else can make a big difference.
I still remember many of the mnemonics I used years ago….
Who else learned “Every Good Boy Does Fine” to learn to read music?
You can use images, songs, word associations and rhymes to help remember difficult information. This great video explains how to use several of the techniques.
Sing a tune – one type of mnemonic
Songs and rhymes help us learn. You know how you can remember all the words to your favorite song, right? Words in a song are grouped together more easily in our mind and are easier to remember than non-associated words.
Pick a familiar tune and put the information you need to learn in it. If you’re not that creative or short on time, search your topic with “music” or “song” and check out the results.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.