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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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 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.
Anxiety – recurrent thoughts keep popping up
Restless leg syndrome – if your legs just need to move when you lay down
Sleep apnea – pausing of breath, often associated with snoring
Medications that affect sleep cycles – stimulants are commonly used for ADHD and can affect sleep
Heartburn or acid reflux
Hormone imbalances, such as thyroid problems – you might sleep a lot but still feel tired and have other symptoms
Anemia, or low red blood cell counts
Depression – every teen should have a depression screen yearly, but if you think you might be depressed, talk to your doctor now!
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.
Infections – we all need more sleep when sick!
Celiac disease – talk to your doctor if you have chronic abdominal issues, such as diarrhea, vomiting, pain, or weight loss
Chronic pain conditions – if it hurts, you can’t get comfortable enough to sleep
Chronic sleep deprivation – I know this is counter-intuitive, but being tired can make it harder to sleep.
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!
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?
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 can we become resilient?
(Edited after our meeting to include things you can do.)
Moving out and starting your college career is exciting, scary, fantastic and intimidating all rolled into one. This is true for all teens, but especially those with learning differences or mental health issues. Many who have never had those issues can suddenly develop them during college. Leaving the comforts and safety net of home to be on your own and starting college can be very challenging. But not insurmountable.
It’s not college that’s the problem. The risk is the age of developing independence. Believe it or not, these statistics are higher for young adults not enrolled in college.
Talk about these statistics with your parents, therapist, and/or physician. Plan what you’ll do if you or someone you know starts to struggle. Thankfully, colleges offer a lot of support for their students.
It’s a great idea to keep the suicide hotline in your phone to use in case of emergency. Whether you or a friend needs it, you don’t want to be out of a service area and unable to search for it. Put it in your contacts now.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Know your personal and family history – and share it.
Ask your parents about any family history of mental health, psychological problems, and learning differences. Many mental health issues tend to emerge in young adults, so if there is a family history, you will want to be aware of it.
Beware: your parents might not really know the history. Historically we have hidden these. People felt mental health problems weren’t real. Learning differences were simply not recognized. Or they were a sign of weakness. A source of embarrassment.
We now know that these are real issues. Sometimes life events lead to mental health problems. Often there is a genetic component to mental health and learning challenges. Sometimes there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to mental health issues, they just happen.
What we do know is that they’re real.
And they’re treatable.
They are not the fault of the person. Mental health issues are health issues and can and should be handled medically.
Learning differences do not make people stupid. They do make it harder to learn in a traditional classroom, but people with them can benefit from accommodations.
What if no one talks about it?
Sometimes we don’t know that a person struggled with a mental health issue, but we know they drank a lot of alcohol or became addicted to drugs.
Many very smart people do poorly in school. If people in your family seem to not achieve what they should based on their intelligence because they failed at school, think about learning challenges they might have faced.
Personal history matters too.
If you have a personal history of ADHD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, autism, or anything else, make sure you inform the university’s health center.
Your parents might be hesitant to provide this information because they worry that it will look “bad” — but colleges use this to help, not hinder you. It’s important that they are aware so they can help make sure you’re safe while you’re away from home and your parents can’t see you regularly.
If you have a history of anxiety or depression, touch base with the student mental health center to learn how to schedule with them when needed.
It is just too overwhelming to figure it out when you’re struggling, so do it when you get to campus – or sooner!
If you are on medications for anxiety, depression, ADHD, or any other chronic issue, talk to your current prescriber to see how you can continue the medicine at school.
If you go to a school close to home, it might be possible to continue to schedule regular appointments with the same prescriber. Be sure to schedule in advance so you can coordinate appointments with your schedule.
If you go further away, you will have to really think about what will work best. If you are able to plan times to come home regularly, be sure to schedule appointments well in advance so you don’t miss the opportunity to go to your doctor.
If you aren’t coming home often or if your condition isn’t well managed and you need more frequent visits with your physician or therapist, finding a local provider is probably the best choice. This can often be done at the student health center, but may require a provider off campus.
You can also see if your therapist or physician can do telehealth visits. This can be difficult across state lines, but technology can help maintain the relationship you’ve built over the years!
Learning differences, such as dyslexia, difficulty with working memory, challenges with processing speed, ADHD and autism spectrum disorder, can all benefit from official academic accommodations in college.
To be in compliance with Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), colleges must provide students with reasonable accommodations. These accommodations are not meant to make college easier, they are meant to level the playing field so that a student’s disability doesn’t impact their ability to learn and be successful.
Common college accommodations are:
extended time on exams
being provided with written notes in class
separate testing locations
How many kids have learning differences?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 11% of undergraduate students self-reported having a learning disability. Enrollment statistics show that 20.4 million students attended an American college or university in the fall of 2017. This means more than 200,000 students entering college have some type of learning disability.
200 THOUSAND students have some type of learning difference.
You’re not alone!
Studies show that only 17% of college students with learning differences take advantage of learning assistance resources at their school. This of course leads to academic struggles and a much higher dropout rate than for students without learning differences.
What can you do if you have a learning difference?
When researching prospective schools, students with learning differences should pay attention to how they offer support.
What do they offer in assistive technology? Do they allow the use of a scribe or note taker? What seating options are available? Do they allow students to go to a separate classroom for taking examinations with less distraction? Could you be eligible to receive extra time for exams? Some schools even offer oral exams if the student responds better to this type of testing.
You won’t know what’s available if you don’t ask!
And you won’t get the help you need if you don’t apply for it.
These accommodations can be accessed through most college’s disability service offices for students with documented disabilities. Check out your prospective school’s website to see what they offer.
There’s often a temptation to view starting college as a fresh start, which it is. But that doesn’t erase the past.
Some students want to quit their current treatment plans before starting college. This can really backfire.
Any big change, such as starting a new school (or job), moving, or living with new people, is stressful. With the start of college you have many of these big changes happening all at once.
It’s a really bad time to stop medicines or therapy.
Please continue with your current treatments until you’ve settled into things at school.
Once you’ve gotten used to the new routine, if you still think you’re ready to stop your treatment plan, talk to your providers. You can work with your physician or therapist to come up with a plan to stop treatments if you all agree that it is safe to do so.
If your doctor or therapist doesn’t think it’s a good idea: listen to them. They have seen this before. Use their experience to help you. Please.
Know your resources
Colleges offer a lot to help support you, but they need to know your challenges and you need to know how to access services.
Most colleges offer mental health counseling at their health center. Don’t be afraid to use it. Learn what’s available and how to access it before you need it. Before you even move onto campus.
It’s too hard when you’re struggling to do the research.
As mentioned above, learning difference accommodations can be accessed through most college’s disability service offices for students with documented disabilities.
Did you know that helping others has been proven to make us feel better? This is the final post in a series of ways to gain confidence and feel better. It’s my personal favorite. When kids are little they often have a hard time believing that it’s better to give than it is to receive, but most of us learn that it’s true somewhere along the way.
Find ways that you can make a difference for someone else. It can be big or small. Everything counts.
The one caveat is you should do it to help others, not to help yourself. Part of the magic of how it works is that we’re putting someone else ahead of ourselves.
Find a cause you’re passionate about and work for that cause. There are many. If you aren’t sure how to commit your time, try a few short term commitments out to see how they work for you.
Another thing to remember is that everything should be done in moderation. If you overextend yourself with too much to do, you will become overwhelmed and be unable to do anything well. Make sure you reserve time to do the things you need to do: school work, eating healthy, exercise, and sleep.
Choose service opportunities that are important to you. Don’t do things just because someone asks you to do it. It’s okay to say “no” if it’s not the right thing for you to do. If you do things that are not right for you, you will more likely resent what you’re doing instead of enjoying the many benefits of it.
Stress management and resilience can be gained by helping those in need. When you see how others live, you have a better perspective on your own life. You can learn empathy, compassion and solidarity with others.
Once you learn first hand about others, you can help to dispel common myths and prejudices.
One of the big ways we grow through volunteering is through personal development. When you branch out and do something for others, you learn about yourself.
You may recognize how your actions impact others by seeing how they benefit from what you’re doing.
Sometimes you learn about resilience by seeing others in unfortunate circumstances being strong.
Leadership roles might need to be taken, which involves strong organization and communication skills.
You might need to use teamwork to finish a project. Many projects require problem solving skills – and people with ADHD tend to be great problem solvers!
Studies show that when we help others with their stressful situations, we help our own emotion regulation skills and emotional well being.
Whatever skills you learn in your volunteer work, you can bring with you. It might spark an interest for a career or just help you in your daily life.
Feeling of community.
When you volunteer with others, you may gain new friends and make connections with your community.
If you’re working in an area that interests you, you will find others with similar interests.
You will meet people you might otherwise not have the opportunity to get to know. Finding things in common or things to value about one another can help you learn about yourself and about relationships.
Being part of a group of volunteers can help you feel a part of the community. That connection can build self confidence and a feeling of belonging.
Helping others and doing good just feels good. It makes us happy to make others happy.
Volunteering means getting up and doing something. Too often we sit around and listen to music or play online. This isn’t good for our bodies.
Some volunteering is very active. If you’re cleaning an area, repairing or building a home or planting trees, you’re getting a lot of exercise.
Some volunteering is less physically active, but still active. Playing cards or bingo at a retirement center or stuffing envelopes is better than sitting in front of a computer.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. Please share it if you have, and comment on what you liked and didn’t like in it. What was missing? What has helped you the most over the years boost your self confidence?
Eat right, exercise, and sleep to keep up a healthy body and mind! I call these “The Big 3” things we all need to do to be healthy in mind and body. When we do The Big 3 properly, our self confidence and self esteem are improved.
What are The Big 3?
Eating right, exercise, and sleep.
Eat a nutritionally well balanced diet.
Malnutrition and hunger are not good for our focus. As if people with ADHD need any more problems with focus!
Start with a good breakfast. I know many teens aren’t into breakfast or just don’t have time for it, but make the time. Find foods that you can eat while getting ready or on the way to school. Examples are smoothies with yogurt, leftovers from dinner, a sandwich and a quesadilla.
Eat some protein and a fruit or vegetable every time you eat. Snack on baby carrots, bell peppers, or cucumbers with hummus after school. Or apples with peanut butter. Grapes and cheese. Strawberries with yogurt. You get the picture? A plant and a protein!
Many people feel that exercise helps their focus. Studies show that they’re right!
After sitting all day at school, do something active before you sit down to do homework. Your body needs the exercise and it will help make study time more efficient.
If you’re not into competitive sports, try other types of exercise. Go for a bike ride. Run. Dance. Swim. Just move!
Whatever you do, make it fun. Put it on your calendar and in your planner so it happens daily.
Sleep is under-appreciated in our society. It is not a time that you’re doing nothing. Your body and mind work hard while you’re sleeping to keep themselves healthy.
Teens need at least 8.5 hours of sleep each day. Even if you’ve reached your full height, your brain is growing until your mid-twenties. That means it still needs extra sleep compared to adults.
If you’re still growing, you might need 10-11 hours of sleep.
That’s hard when you also have activities, work, and homework. And when your circadian rhythm keeps you up until at least 11 pm but school starts at 7:30am. Not to mention the baseline problems people with ADHD tend to have falling asleep due to minds racing with amazing thoughts.
Exercise itself is one of The Big 3, but it also helps us sleep. Try to get your exercise in early in the day. Exercise can help tire your body so it can sleep well.
Avoid too much exercise within 2 hours of bedtime. This is not possible with some activities, I know. But exercising too close to bedtime can make it harder to wind down.
Avoid caffeine and stimulants too close to bedtime.
Caffeine is one of the most commonly used substances to help us stay awake and focused, but it’s not always safe. It is habit forming. It’s also a stimulant, so can be especially problematic if you take a stimulant medicine. The additive effects of the two together can cause problems in some people.
Stimulants like adderall and ritalin are commonly used to treat ADHD, but should be used under the supervision of your physician.
If you use caffeine to help your focus or to stay awake, be sure to talk about the use with your doctor. This is especially true if you use a stimulant medicine, but even if you’re not. Relying on caffeine can be an indicator that you are self medicating something that could be better controlled with proper sleep or a prescription medication.
If you take a stimulant medicine, don’t take it too late in the day. Long acting medicines can last 8-16 hours. Short acting medicines last 3-4 hours. Know what you’re taking and when they tend to wear off. It’s unique to each person, but you can usually feel the effects wear off. If you take it too close to bedtime, it can cause sleep problems. For many teens, they can’t take a long acting medicine after 10 am or a short acting medicine after 6 pm, but how your medicine works in your body will be unique to you. Pay attention to when you feel the medicine wears off each day to learn how long it lasts for you.
Turn down lights.
Turn down lights 2 hours before bedtime. Your body needs darkness to make melatonin. Melatonin makes you feel tired and helps you fall asleep. Artificial lights keep the melatonin level from increasing, so you feel less tired.
Fluorescent lights, televisions, computers, cell phones, tablets and all other lighted things can affect your melatonin level.
Check out f.lux, a free program for PCs, Macs, iPhones, and androids that changes the screen lighting prior to bedtime to allow natural melatonin to rise if you must be on a screen close to bedtime. Must means you have to finish homework that you couldn’t do earlier. It does not mean checking social media or texting friends. It also doesn’t mean putting off homework until later because you just don’t want to do it after school. Work and scheduled activities are a good excuse. Procrastination isn’t.
If you want to take a supplement of melatonin, talk to your doctor.
Watch out for late night munchies.
Avoid eating (especially large meals) before bedtime. Again, I know this can be hard, especially if you have after school activities that keep you busy and make you hungry.
This is even more difficult if your daytime medicine makes you not hungry at lunchtime. Of course try to eat at least something with good calories mid day, but if you don’t eat a typical lunch, you’ll need to make up the lost calories after the medicine wears off. Be sure to not eat foods that bother your stomach while laying down too close to bedtime.
Do relaxing activities as part of your bedtime routine. These can include reading, taking a shower, coloring or listening to soothing music.
If thoughts keep you up, journal before climbing into bed. Journaling can help focus thoughts and allow your brain to stop thinking about them.
Relaxation exercises or deep breathing can help. Put a hand on your heart and on your abdomen. Try to keep your heart hand still while you take in a slow, deep breath. While you inhale count 4 counts and while you exhale count 8 counts. The deep breaths can make you feel tired, and the counting slowly helps keep your brain from racing thoughts.
Practice meditation every day. There are many mindfulness apps to try – and most are free. Once you’re used to using the technique (it’s great before doing homework) you can also use mindfulness at bedtime.
Set the stage.
Make your bed a place for sleep. Avoid doing homework on it. Let your body associate your bed with sleeping.
Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Use a fan to keep it cool and as a white noise.
Keep pets out of the bedroom. They tend to keep you up or wake you too early.
Ideally you’ll charge your phone in another room overnight to avoid late night distractions. If you must have your phone in your room, make sure no notifications will wake you. Resist checking it “one more time” as you go to bed because you know it will be several minutes of scrolling through things…
Stick to a schedule.
Keep your bedtime consistent.
Even if you can sleep in on weekends, try to go to bed within an hour of your usual bedtime. This schedule is important!
Yes, even people with ADHD can complete tasks. When we finish whatever we start, we gain a feeling of accomplishment. It’s great!
Remember that procrastinating doesn’t get anything done. So stop talking about everything you need to do. Stop doing distractions. Start doing what needs to happen.
How in the world can someone who has executive functioning problems ever complete tasks on time… and remember to turn things in?
Keep a planner.
Yeah, I know. Your grade school teacher made you keep a planner and you hated it.
But they can help so much!
There’s something to a paper planner that helps many people organize more than the calendar in your smart phone. You can use that too, but putting things in your planner can help you visualize it better.
You can write all your assignments in your planner and even break them down so that different parts should be complete at different times. (Even if your teacher just has one due date – you can break it up and make it more manageable.)
Don’t forget to add all the other “stuff” you have to do, such as practice or work. And don’t forget leave out time for family, friends, exercise and sleep!
Put everything in the planner, so you can schedule time accordingly.
If you forget that you have late rehearsal on Wednesday and a big test on Thursday, that will put a crimp in study time. If you can see that on your weekly preview, you can put in a little more study time Tuesday and then a shorter study time Wednesday will be enough for the test.
Use a white board.
Some people like to also use a white board to keep the big assignments and important goals in one place.
It’s a visual reminder of the big things that need to get done. You can even make a place for goals and positive messages.
Color code things so you can easily see things that are related by categories you choose.
Some people like check boxes to be able to check off what’s done!
It goes without saying that there are a lot of distractions in our world. Many we can’t control, but there are some that we can.
If you’re a neat freak and your workspace is cluttered, quickly de-clutter it before you start to work.
Quickly is the key. Don’t use this as a means of procrastination.
Doing any task that is not interesting to us (and even some that are) is harder when our phone is around. Even if the notification sound is turned off, it’s a temptation to just check what people are up to. Or play a quick game. Or post a quick selfie.
They’re all really quick, right?
It doesn’t matter. They all interrupt our focus, so they need to not happen.
Put your phone in another room.
I know many will insist that they use their phone as an alarm clock or for background noise.
You know what?
You can buy a kitchen timer for under $5. Or you can get an alarm clock that you can use to get you out of bed for under $10 and use for both circumstances. Your parents might even have one on a nightstand that is in working order.
Turn off notifications.
If you’re working on your computer, turn off notifications so that annoying box doesn’t keep popping up telling you of a new message. No one needs that distraction! The message will be there when you’re done.
Reward yourself when you’re done by checking your phone.
It’s hard for anyone to stay focused for hours of anything.
Make a goal to work for 50 minutes (or whatever you can reasonably tolerate and still get things done). Set a timer to go off in 50 minutes. When your timer goes off, get up and take a break.
Set a timer for your break for 5-10 minutes so you can get back to work when it’s time.
Exercise is a great way to refresh your brain, so do jumping jacks, jog in place or do a little yoga.
Wow… all of that on negativity in Part 1 was a downer. Important stuff, but it can bring us down. Let’s turn to being more positive. The power of positive thinking is amazing! Many people with ADHD have trouble staying positive. They have so many struggles, they often find it hard to feel positive.
Turn that frown upside down!
That’s a popular phrase for a reason. When we act happy, it’s easier to feel happy.
Remind yourself to be positive.
If being happy isn’t your nature, give yourself some prompts. Put sticky notes around that remind you to be positive.
Some suggestions for your sticky notes:
“I’ve got this.”
“I can write this paper.”
“I’m a good friend.”
“I am smart.”
Basically whatever negative thoughts cloud your mind, counter them with positive words.
Just like when you’ve heard a million times that you’re not good enough, so you start to believe it, when you see these positive messages, you start to believe them.
Post positive messages. Read them. Start to believe them.
Do what you love.
Think about all the things you love to do. They are the things that naturally make you happy and put you in a positive mindset.
Whatever it is that you love, as long as it’s safe and healthy for you, schedule time in your day to do it. Sometimes we get so busy with the things we have to do, we don’t ever get around to doing what we want to do.
Schedule both. Get the things you need to do done, then do the things you want to do.
You know what’s great? Despite the fact that people with ADHD have a hard time focusing on many things, they can often hyperfocus on what they enjoy.
By doing the things you enjoy, you may benefit from being able to really focus. Doesn’t that make you feel good?
Surround yourself with positive people.
Surrounding yourself with positive people helps you stay positive. It makes sense, right?
When we’re around negative people, they bring us down. That’s why we try to avoid them. Their negative outlook and comments don’t help us and actually inhibit us from going forward.
The opposite is true. When we’re around positive people, their positivity can rub off on us. Let the power of positivity rub off on you!
Take a moment each day to think about what was good about the day.
Go one step further and write it down.
What should you write? Anything that you’re thankful about.
That person who smiled at you at just the right time today.
The teacher who hinted at a pop quiz to give you time to review notes.
Perfect weather for your outdoor adventure.
Why bother writing it down?
Writing it down forces us to think of something concrete rather than just the vague, “I’m thankful for stuff.”
This helps us really think about what is good in our life. You don’t want to write the same thing every day. Yes, I’m grateful that I have a warm home and food on the table, and I shouldn’t take those for granted. But writing things down will help me expand to the little things that might otherwise get missed.
It also reinforces the thought in our mind and strengthens it. Just like when you take notes while studying you reinforce that information, writing your gratitudes daily helps to reinforce them in your mind.
It’s also a great resource to review when everything seems wrong in our lives. If everything seems to be against you, take a minute to review your list of things you’re grateful for. That can be an immediate pick-me-up!
Go one step further…
Tell the people who helped with your daily gratitude that you’re thankful for them and why. It just might make their day!
This doesn’t have to be a long letter like people of generations past used to do. It can be a quick phone call. Or even a text. Just a word of thanks!
Stay tuned for next week…
Come back next week to learn how finishing tasks can help boost your self confidence. And more importantly, how to finish those tasks!
Do you feel like you’re the bad kid? Are you always getting in trouble for speaking out of turn or forgetting to turn in homework? Do you feel stupid because you make careless mistakes on tests? How can you boost your self-confidence? Negativity can get us down and hold us back, so stopping it is the first of the many ways we can boost our self-confidence and self-esteem.
Today is Part 1 of a 5 part series of how to build confidence. I hope you check back next week for more!
I’m starting with what many will find to be the hardest of the 5 ways to boost confidence. I like to get the hard stuff out of the way first. But I also think that negativity is one of the biggest problems for people with ADHD – and people in general.
Stop the Negativity.
Everyone says it, so it must be true?
When we hear over and over again that we’re not good because we forgot to do something or that we’re not doing a good job at whatever we’re supposed to be doing (like sitting quiet and still) we start to feel bad.
We assume everyone’s right that we’re not good enough or we’re stupid.
That’s human nature – we take on the beliefs of what we hear over and over again. People with ADHD are especially sensitive when it comes to things like this. Maybe it’s because it’s just the way they are. Or maybe it’s because after time and time of being told something, they just break down and start to believe it. It’s what everyone else thinks, so it must be right, right?
ADHD comes with many challenges, but most people with it are not bad or stupid. Some ADHDers try really, really hard… but it’s just too hard to stay focused, organized, still, and everything else that we’re supposed to do.
Stop the negative self talk.
When you start to believe in the negatives, you need to really consider if it’s true or not. Stop the negative self talk.
Pretend you’re talking to a friend instead of talking to yourself. We tend to be nicer and more forgiving towards others. We’re our own harshest critics. What would you tell a friend if you were trying to reassure him or her?
If you think ~
I’ll never finish this assignment on time.
I can’t write well.
Math isn’t my thing. I am never going to understand it.
Those kids will never like me. They won’t understand me.
Stop thinking those thoughts that you’ve probably had over and over in your mind. They aren’t facts. Think of the facts and what you can to about them.
Be careful. Feelings are much louder than facts. You really have to focus on what is factual and not just how you interpret things. This can sound really difficult, but try the exercise described in Don’t Think of Pink Elephants.
There are things that many of us tend to do that make us feel sad.
If we stay alone in our room, we tend to feel worse about things. I read this great analogy with a creaky house that helps to explain the issue. Read the whole thing from the hyperlink if you have time.
Depression is like a creaky house. It will creak and creak, no matter what you do. You’ll notice the noise more sitting quietly in your room. You’ll notice it less if you throw a party. Depression is similar – the feelings of sadness/guilt/apathy are likely going to keep on creaking (you can’t just “stop being depressed.”) However, you’ll notice them less if you keep yourself busy. And, sitting quietly in your room can make you feel even more sad/guilty – in this way, depression can be a vicious cycle. It can control your life, it can be a bully.
Instead of going to your room and closing the door, sit in the family room. Stay at the dinner table a little longer before jumping up to be alone. Make real conversations with people instead of texting. Connect with your friends and family.
When we complain about all the bad things (homework, that annoying kid in math class, how much work there is to do) we feel worse. Our brain is focusing on the negative, which just brings us down.
It also makes others not want to be around us. That adds to our low self-esteem.
Thinking and Rethinking what you did wrong.
We’ve all messed up. We do embarrassing things. Sometimes we fully intend to finish something, but then we’re distracted away and forget to return.
Use whatever the problems you’ve had as learning experiences. Stop blaming yourself. Don’t keep thinking on what you did wrong. Change the thinking into what you could have done instead to have things turn out better. Try that improvement next time.
Turning to negative habits.
Sometimes we feel so low that we want to try unhealthy ways to feel better. Some people try alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs. Others try cutting or other harmful behaviors.
Unfortunately people with ADHD are more likely to have problem behaviors with drugs, alcohol, and other dangerous behaviors. The impulsivity, low self-esteem and risk taking behaviors that are common among people with ADHD put them at risk.
If you find yourself struggling with these issues, please talk to a trusted adult. Once these habits start, they’re really hard to break. Don’t try to handle it alone! Help is out there.
If you ever feel like you’d be better off dead or want to harm yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for 24/7, free and confidential help. 1-800-273-8255
Tune in next week…
Next week will not be so much of a down topic! It’s all about being positive.
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Anger and ADHD: How to Build up Your Brakes: Jessica at How To ADHD has some great tips on learning to control your anger and emotions. From her summary: Impulsivity is one of the main characteristics of ADHD, and building up our brakes is one of the most important things we can do. Here’s the science behind it and 5 things that help.