JOMO: Joy of Missing Out

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!
Do you feel compelled to keep scrolling until you have seen posts from absolutely everyone? #FOMO #adhdkcteen #JOMO

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.

Studies show that social media use is linked to anxiety and depression. It might actually be hazardous to your mental health.

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?

Embrace #JOMO: the joy of missing out. Live in the moment and appreciate life. #ADHDKCTeen

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.

It’s not easy to learn, but there are many ways to be mindful. Start with an app or read a book. Attend a group session or class on mindfulness.

Manage time online

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.

Unfollow

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.

Do you feel compelled to check your posts to see how many likes you get? Does this help define your self image? #socialmediaproblems #JOMO #FOMO #adhdkcteen

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!

Genetics of ADHD

A new study shows 12 distinct areas in our DNA that link to ADHD.

I have recently written What is ADHD? Why do some develop it? and What does brain imaging tell us about ADHD? Both of these help to show that ADHD is NOT caused by bad parents, bad kids, or many of the other things that are blamed. It is a disorder of brain development that has a genetic basis. Today we’ll go into some of the genetics of ADHD. My hope is that by learning how and why ADHD develops, we can stop blaming people for acting the way they do and treat the symptoms to help individuals thrive.

A bit about studying genetics

Twins are often used to study the inheritance of medical conditions because they have similar genetics and environment. Twin studies have shown that ADHD has a genetic link 70-80% of the time, but we haven’t identified a specific gene previously. 

It has been thought that a range of small and hard to identify differences in the sequence of nucleotides, which are components of DNA, combine to increase the likelihood of ADHD. These single nucleotide polymorphisms are referred to as SNPs. Environmental factors play a greater or lesser role (or sometimes none at all) depending on exactly which genetic variations are present.

What are SNPs?

SNPs are commonly pronounced like the word “snips”.

They are the most common type of genetic variation among people. Each SNP represents a difference in a single nucleotide in our DNA strands. 

SNPs occur normally throughout a person’s DNA. They occur once in every 300 nucleotides on average.  There are about 10 million SNPs in the human genome. They can act as biological markers, helping scientists locate genes that are associated with disease. When SNPs occur within a gene or in a regulatory region near a gene, they may play a more direct role in disease by affecting the gene’s function.

Does this cause a problem?

Most SNPs have no effect on health or development.

Some of these genetic differences have been shown to be very important in the study of human health. SNPs that may help predict an individual’s response to certain drugs, susceptibility to environmental factors, and risk of developing particular diseases. SNPs can also be used to track the inheritance of disease genes within families. 

For an interactive way to look at SNPs, see Learn Genetics

What does the study show?

A new large study has shown 12 specific differences that link to ADHD. Size is important. If a study is of only 100 people, the results could be very skewed. This study included 20,183 people diagnosed with ADHD and 35,191 controls without ADHD. This large size increases the reliability of the study.

Twelve SNPs were identified that are linked to ADHD, but we must still learn what this means in terms of development of ADHD. Much like some people have a genetic predisposition to cancer but never develop cancer and others without a genetic risk still develop cancer, some people can have the SNPs without ADHD and some people without these SNPs can develop ADHD.

How can this help us?

ADHD is real

One important thing that genetic studies can do is to help people understand that ADHD is a real condition. It is not made up. Yes, it can be over diagnosed in some people and missed in others, but it is real either way. 

Learning about symptoms

Comparing this study with similar ones of related conditions can lead to new understandings of relationships of the conditions.

For example, one SNP pattern found overlaps with those discovered in a similar study of insomnia. Many people with ADHD suffer from sleep problems, so this might lead to specific treatments of sleep disturbances.

Limitations of the study

This is not a study that will help us diagnose ADHD. 

Specific ways that the genes lead to symptoms are not yet known. 

How other factors, such as prematurity, nutrition, and life experiences, interact with the genetic predisposition must be further investigated.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Diagnosis of ADHD requires that symptoms exist in at least two settings, such as home and school. 

Standardized assessment scales should be used to assess risk of ADHD. These scales are commonly done by parents, teachers, and others close to a child. Adult rating scales are available for adults with suspected ADHD.

Evaluation to assess for other disorders and conditions that can mimic ADHD, such as learning disorders, sleep deprivation and anxiety, should be completed.

Blood tests and brain imaging are not required to diagnose or treat ADHD.

Looking ahead…

Future research may help us learn to manage the symptoms of ADHD in new ways.

My hope is that learning the causes of ADHD will not only help us manage the non-desired symptoms, but also cultivate the beneficial attributes and decrease the stigma and misunderstanding so we can help people with ADHD learn to thrive.

My hope is that learning the causes of ADHD will not only help us manage the non-desired symptoms, but also cultivate the beneficial attributes and decrease the stigma and misunderstanding so we can help people with ADHD learn to thrive.

What does brain imaging tell us about ADHD?

We now are able to look at the brain in ways that show its development and function. Studies have shown that kids with ADHD have smaller brains than kids without ADHD. This does not correlate with the head size your doctor measures in infancy, and head size does not help physicians predict ADHD.

Last week’s post What is ADHD? Why do some develop it? introduced the concept that ADHD is a brain disorder, not a problem with parenting or other common misbeliefs. Today we’ll go more in depth into how brain imaging has shown differences when people have ADHD. Next week we’ll go further into the genetics of it. 

Brain imaging

There are many ways we can image the brain for different reasons. Single-photon emission computer tomography (SPECT), positron emission tomography (PET), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) are all being studied to show different aspects of brain function and development.

Some of the studies look at blood flow to various parts of the brain during different tasks to show which parts of the brain are triggered and how that differences among different groups of people. Others look at subtle changes in brain growth.

With vs without ADHD

Brain imaging comparing large groups of kids with ADHD to those without ADHD show significant differences. These are very subtle differences and are still considered investigational. The changes are too subtle to diagnose ADHD in any one person.

There are several areas of the brain that have been shown to be smaller in children with ADHD. At this time the specific areas of delayed growth do not correlate with specific treatments.

ADHD is a brain condition

It is not recommended to do imaging studies to diagnose ADHD, but the fact that large groups of people show differences highlights the fact that ADHD is a real disorder of the brain.

Hopefully as this information is recognized, the stigma of ADHD and other brain disorders will be lost. People will be able to understand that it is a real brain dysfunction.

The case for a clinical diagnosis

Studying brain differences helps us to understand ADHD, but imaging is less useful to any individual for diagnosis. We have a good track record for diagnosing ADHD with standardized questions and a clinical history.

Images capture a moment in time, but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story.

What happens to a brain in different circumstances? It can be very insightful to ask what happens when a child is doing a favorite activity versus when he’s stressed.

Clinical history can cover different situations over time. This cannot be captured in any brain image.

To be useful for diagnosis and management of a medical condition, a test must first:

  • Be reliable: The changes seen are very subtle, and results must be shown to be accessible and identifiable in individuals to be useful for diagnosis. If only a few trained people can identify the subtle differences, it will not be available or helpful to most people. 
  • Show safety: Everything we do in healthcare must be shown to be safe and effective before it’s used. Risks and benefits must be weighed. Risks of imaging must be considered.
  • Show benefit: If a clinical diagnosis can be made, what benefit would be attained by doing an expensive test? If it does not add to the treatment, it should not be done. Since the large majority of people with ADHD can be diagnosed clinically, we should not need to do studies that add risk and cost.

Back to the prefrontal cortex…

In What is ADHD? Why do some develop it? I mentioned that the prefrontal cortex and said that it was especially interesting. Let’s talk more about why.

Brain lobes serve different functions.  Learn more at www.adhdkcteen.com. #adhd #adhdkcteen #development

Studies have shown that the prefrontal cortex develops more slowly in children and teens with ADHD. This means that the areas of the brain that control executive functioning are thinner in children with ADHD versus those without ADHD.

Functional imaging shows that the frontal lobes in children function less during activities involving concentration, memory, decision-making and problem solving.

It’s even more than that. Those with worse outcomes as they mature have fixed thinning (it doesn’t ever normalize) but those who ultimately develop a normal thickness have a better outcome. 

A thinner brain cortex is not a damaged brain. It is an alteration in development.

Other parts of the brain are affected too

Our cerebellum helps us with movement and memory. Children with ADHD show slower growth of cerebellar white matter in early childhood, but faster growth in late childhood. 

The amygdala and hippocampus are also smaller in the brains of people with ADHD. These areas are responsible for emotional processing and impulsivity, problem areas for many with ADHD.

What does all of this mean?

You guessed it: it’s still being studied.

Studies continue to help us learn more about brain structure and function. We also continue to learn about the chemical interactions that happen while our brain is working. 

What all this information means and how we can use it to best manage the troubling symptoms of ADHD is yet to be fully uncovered.

It may be possible one day to predict which children will develop ADHD and change something in the early years to alter that development. But we’re not there yet…

Does a slower development of certain brain areas have an advantage? Maybe the slower development of the cerebellum is why kids with ADHD learn better when they fidget.

These are the things we still need to learn.

We don’t really know the full extent of it yet.

For more:

ADHD Neuroimaging: What’s New?

Coming up next:

What do we know about the genetics of ADHD?

What is ADHD? Why do some develop it?

ADHD was first recognized as a behavior problem, but now we know it’s a developmental disorder. Don’t worry though. Having a developmental disorder doesn’t make you stupid or damaged. It simply means that brain development is a bit different. We’ll tackle details here.

Typical Brain Development

Our brains have billions of nerve cells called neurons that start developing a few weeks after conception. Within 6 months after conception, there are even more neurons than are found in an adult brain. As we develop, neurons grow and make connections with one another. The number of brain cells decrease as unneeded neurons are pruned away.

Neurotransmitters help to communicate from one neuron to another. For more see adhdkcteen.com. #adhd #whatisadhd #braindevelopment

A network of fibers develops to connect the brain cells in order to interact with other parts of the brain and to perform complex functions. Neurotransmitters help send messages between nerve cells.

We’ll tackle neurotransmitters more in future posts. They’re important!

How long does it take for the brain to fully develop?

We might look pretty mature by our teen years, but our brain is still growing!

The first 3-4 years of life is a time of rapid brain development, but it continues for more than 20 years.

Brains don't stop growing when we do. Learn more at www.adhdkcteen.com. #adhd #adhdkcteen

Prefrontal cortex

The prefrontal cortex is especially interesting. It helps us plan, organize, make decisions, and maintain self control. These are considered executive functions and are often problematic for those with ADHD.

The prefrontal cortex typically doesn’t finish full development until mid-20s. That means our brains are still developing key areas into our early adult years!

For a fun interactive way to see all areas of the brain, visit Brainfacts.org.
For a fun interactive way to see all areas of the brain, visit Brainfacts.org.

How does ADHD develop?

There are many things that affect our brain development that can lead to symptoms of ADHD.

At this point we don’t diagnose the cause of the ADHD since treatment is geared toward addressing the symptoms, but it can be helpful to know that there are many reasons a person develops ADHD.

Genetics

Like many things, brain development is affected by our genetics. Genetics affects how we look, how tall we should grow, our intelligence, and risks of certain health problems – such as cancer or heart disease. Of course our genetics are only the blueprint. Our environment, nutrition, experiences, and much more also affect how we grow and develop.

If one parent has ADHD, a child is more likely to have ADHD. If both parents have ADHD, their child is much more likely to have ADHD.

Genes can affect whether or not we develop ADHD. Learn more at www.adhdkcteen.com. #adhd #adhdkcteen

Prenatal development

While a baby is still in its mother’s womb, it is considered a fetus. This is considered the prenatal time of development.

Many things can affect development during the prenatal time. Drugs and alcohol, illness, and other stressors affecting the mother can affect the baby.

Prematurity (being born before the due date) and being small at birth can increase the risk of developmental disorders, including ADHD.

Our brains develop for months before we're born. Learn more at www.adhdkcteen.com. #adhd #adhdkcteen #development

Illness, injury, toxins and more… oh, my!

The first few years of a child’s life can be complicated by illness, injury, nutritional deficiencies, and toxins. These can all affect brain development.

Even after the critical developmental years, injuries and toxins to the brain can change our brain function. Think of a teen or adult who has had a concussion. Their brain function can be severely altered. They might suffer from mental fogginess, fatigue, irritability, and more after the injury. In fact, sometimes people will be treated with medications commonly used for ADHD temporarily after a concussion. 

What it’s NOT:

ADHD is not due to bad parenting, poor discipline, or bad schools. 

ADHD is not from bad parenting. It is based in our brains and is neurological. For more see adhdkcteen.com. #adhd #whatisadhd #braindevelopment

Yes, those things can worsen a child’s behavior, but they don’t cause ADHD.

What about sugar?

ADHD also isn’t from too much sugar.

Studies have even shown that even when a parent perceives worsening of behavior after sugar, independent observers see no real change. For more on that and how diets affect ADHD, see Special Diets for ADHD.

There are many myths about why ADHD exists - and some even deny its existance. Learn the real cause of ADHD. #adhdkcteen #adhd

Coming up…

Tune in next week for information on brain imaging in ADHD that shows specific differences in the ADHD brain and then for information on what we know about the genetics of ADHD!

2018 International Conference on ADHD recap

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…

#ADHDcon2018 - Tribe talk

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.

International connections

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.

Marylin and speakers, Dr. Michelle Frank and Sari Solden.

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.

Hover over the bottom and click on the Facebook icon to be able to fast forward.

And yes, we were smitten with him being there… he’s that big of a deal!

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.

Our own Jeremy Didier and her daughter were among a panel of mother/daughter pairs who talked about living with ADHD.

Self care

I was not in this session, but found a snippet on Twitter:

Importance of self care. Thoughts on shame. Eric Tivers from Susie Sahim. #selfcare

Importance of self care. Thoughts on shame#adhdcon2018 #adhd@EricTivers talk on adulting pic.twitter.com/SeyAFIVXl1— Susie Sahim ➡️ #ADHDCon2018 (@bogusred) November 11, 2018

Jessica McCabe from How to ADHD

I was excited to be able to see How to ADHD's Jessica McCabe as the final keynote speaker.
I was excited to be able to see How to ADHD‘s Jessica McCabe as the final keynote speaker.

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. 

LeDerick Horne spoke of growing up with dyslexia and ADHD in a time and place that was not supportive, yet developing into a renowned poet and public speaker. Eduardo Briceno talked about having a growth mindset. Dr. Russell Barkley shared his 40+ years of research data showing that untreated ADHD has too many risks to ignore – they all culminate in a significantly shortened lifespan. 

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.

Coach Diane

Coach Diane from Odyssey Learning spoke about various ways to help kids and teens learn executive functioning.

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.

All of her slides are available from her website, Odyssey Learning.

What did she talk about?

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.

So much more…

There was so much that I have not been able to share. There are API handouts as well as general session handouts available online.

If you are able to make it to the next conference, it should be great!

Learn to Learn

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.

People who know how to learn and have grit are more successful than people who are smart but don't have resilience. Learn how to learn to succeed!

Basics

Organize

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!

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! #organize

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!

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. #organization

Sleep

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!

Dogs get it. Your brain needs sleep to process and store information. Get enough sleep to be the best you can be. #sleepmatters

Exercise

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!

Exercise is not only great for your body... it's also good for your mind! #exercise

Think positive!

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.

Learn to be positive by changing your mindset. It makes a world of difference! #growthmindset #powerofpositivity

Learning techniques

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.)

Writing has been shown to be more effective than typing to help with learning. Summarize ideas during lectures or while reading and write them down! #studytip

Mnemonics

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. 

Songs and rhymes help us learn. Words in a song are grouped together more easily in our mind and are easier to remember than non-associated words. #singtolearn

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.

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. #learntolearn More tips on www.adhdkcteen.com.

Singing is one type of mnemonic memorization. For more types and descriptors, see Try these 9 Types of Mnemonics to Improve Your Memory.

What’s your learning style?

You might have heard that everyone has their own learning style. It’s true. Some people learn from reading things best. Other people are more auditory learners – they learn from listening.

There are 7 basic learning styles. We’ll cover more of those in a future post.

See our related posts:

6 tips to de-stress

We all have stressful things happen, but what can we do about it? Learning to de-stress is possible with these simple tips.

We all have stressful things happen, but what can we do about it? Learning to de-stress is possible. 

1. Exercise

You’ve heard that exercise is good for your health, but you may not realize how great it is for your mind too. Or maybe you do realize it, but you feel so overwhelmed that you don’t think you have time for it.

Bill Phillips

Make the time. This one’s important enough that it should remain a priority when you’re busy.

Plus exercise has been shown to help clear your mind so you can focus and be more efficient at everything else you do. It helps you sleep better at night, which in turn helps you focus better and feel less stressed. 

2. Cut back to limit stress

If you’re overwhelmed, prioritize what is important.

If you have a ton of difficult classes, maybe consider limiting that next semester. Instead of taking all AP or IB classes, pick the one or two that you feel are best for you and then the regular level of class for the other subjects. Take a fun elective that won’t involve as much homework. That can help broaden your skills and still looks good on a college application if you grow from the experience. Remember that colleges want well rounded students, not those who only eat, sleep, and study.

If you have an after school job, volunteer regularly, and are in a sport, maybe that’s just too much to do after your school day. Think about what is important and limit the extras. That doesn’t mean you have to quit your job, but maybe ask to limit hours after school. If you volunteer, limit when you go. Depending on what type of volunteering you’re doing, see if you can arrange things to work with your course load. If you are doing a bunch of little volunteer experiences that aren’t really interesting to you, maybe find something you’re passionate about and spend time with that one thing.

Remember that if you take on too much, you can’t do everything well, so you will not be your best. Mental health is more important than doing it all. Cut back and focus on what’s really important to you getting where you want to be!

As you’re cutting back, be aware of what’s important.

You can’t simply stop doing coursework if you’re a student.

It’s not wise to cut back on the essentials of sleeping and exercise. These should always be entered into your planner so they get done.

You still need time to relax and be around your friends and family. Put that time in your schedule and make it happen. 

I strongly feel that giving to others helps us on many levels, so doing volunteer service is great – but it should mean something to you. Don’t just do something because you feel like you need to do it. Find things you enjoy and help others using that passion.

It’s all about balance.

It's all about balance. You can do anything, but not everything.

3. Eat healthy to decrease stress

We’ve all heard that we should eat healthy. It’s not new news at all that we should try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, and complex carbohydrates. 

Yet many of us fail to eat well for a variety of reasons. I know all the excuses, but we all need to problem solve to find solutions, not just grab another unhealthy snack and keep repeating the same mistake.

If you make a few adjustments each day, you’ll start noticing a difference in how you feel.  Start by choosing water over soda or juice. Try eating a fruit or vegetable with each meal and snack. Pass on the crackers, cookies, and other junk foods. Try a new healthy food if you’re picky. 

If you aren’t hungry mid-day due to medicine, be sure to eat a healthy breakfast. This does not mean cereal. Healthy breakfasts that will last through the day include protein and fiber. 

If money is an issue, talk to people who can help. Start with your school counselor.

Many of us fail to eat well for a variety of reasons. A healthy diet is key to being healthy.

4. Sleep

I can’t stress enough how important sleep is. 

We seem to underestimate the value and see it as time wasted. 

Time management problems all day do not give you the excuse to stay up finishing homework.

You should never stay up to do something you wouldn’t get up early to do. For instance, you would probably not set your alarm to wake up and watch a YouTube video, right? That means you shouldn’t stay up “just a few minutes” later to watch it. Go to sleep. It will be there later.

Sleep is a necessity. Make time for it.

Use all the night features your computer and phone offer.

Make sure your phone will never wake you if a friend tries to call or text in the middle of the night. Just because they’re suffering from insomnia doesn’t mean you need to be awake. Set the night mode. Tell your friends you won’t respond at night so they don’t keep trying. Blame it on your parents or your doctor. They won’t care. (And if your parents are following the standard recommendations, they will take your phone away an hour or two before bedtime…)

The blue light from your screen keeps the melatonin in your brain from rising. You need melatonin to feel tired. That means if you’re using any screen with normal lighting, you won’t feel tired and you’re likely to lay awake even if you go to bed. 

5. Screen time limits

This seems to repeat what I just said, but there’s more. So much more that it’s covered in Screen Time Limits

I covered this in detail, but want to remind you to check out some screen management apps that might help you take control of your phone and computer time.

  • Moment (currently iOs only, but Android version coming)
  • Forest is an interesting app that not only helps you stay on task, but you can earn points that helps to plant a real tree – helping our world
  • Flipped
  • Mute 

I’ll bet you underestimate how much time you spend online. Try the apps mentioned above. Use the knowlege gained about your use to adjust it to an amount that allows you to be productive and have time for the necessities of life.

It’s too risky to have full access to phones and all of their distractions 24/7. You’re fighting against an industry that invests in finding ways to get you hooked and wanting to spend more time on their content. We get dopamine hits each time we play online. Dopamine makes us feel good, so we want more.

It's too risky to have full access to phones and all of their distractions 24/7. You're fighting against an industry that invests in finding ways to get you hooked and wanting to spend more time on their content.

6. Take 5

Take 5-10 minutes each day just for you. It’s not much time, and if you make the time, you’ll find that it pays back!

Set a dedicated time to reflect: What did you accomplish – celebrate the big and the little goals met. Are there things that can be high priority tomorrow. What are you thankful for?

You can go one step further and also make time throughout every day to be mindful. I’m still in the learning stages of this, and experts always talk about practicing mindfulness. We can all practice it daily. Find something that you do every day and link it to stopping to be purposefully mindful. Start a morning routine.

For more mindfulness tips and several free apps to help guide your mindfulness, see my Pinterest Mindfulness board. If you use mindfulness regularly, you will notice less stress. 

My medicine stops working too soon! What can I do?

Teens have long days. The most common medicines they use to manage ADHD symptoms last 8-12 hours. It isn’t surprising that stimulants don’t last long enough, but that doesn’t make it okay. What can you do to get everything done if you medicine doesn’t last long enough?

Sleep.

It goes without saying that we all need sleep to focus. People with ADHD often struggle with sleep, but they need sleep.

If you struggle to sleep, check out How can you get better sleep?

Don't underestimate the power of sleep
Don’t underestimate the power of sleep!

Organize it!

Organization helps us all. If you can stick to a schedule an prioritize things appropriately, you can get a lot more done than you realize.

Taking a little time to make a schedule can save you time in the end so you’re not lost trying to figure out what to do next, especially if you start and stop projects often.

For more on scheduling, see 10 Secrets of Productivity.

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

Knock out the hard stuff.

Get the hardest task done first.

Try to get your hardest subject’s homework done in your spare time during school hours or right after school.

We often put off the hard stuff due to procrastination, but that comes back to haunt us later! Get it out of the way and check it off the list!

Reminders.

Set reminders to get back on track. If you get distracted easily, figure out what helps remind you to refocus.

Use post it notes where they will remind you when you need the reminder. 

For example, if you frequently stare out of a window, put a sign there to remind yourself to get back to work.

Turn off notifications.

No one needs an alert to know that they have a new social media message or email.

Yes, notifications and alerts can help you remember to do what you need to do, but only if timed properly. If you set an alert at the time you need to take medicine, that’s great! But random notifications that pop up when you’re in the zone doing something is distracting.

Schedule time to check  whatever will need to be checked, but don’t check them while doing other tasks.

Those notifications are simply too distracting. Turn them off!

Accountability partners.

Would you benefit from studying in a public place, where having people around will keep you from daydreaming?

No one wants to be seen drifting off… 

Or maybe you can simply invite an accountability partner to work with you. Ask a friend to study with you. Be each other’s accountability partner. Keep each other on track. Don’t talk and distract one another.

If your friend isn’t good at this, then have a heart to heart or find another study partner.

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

Move!

Exercise has been proven time and again to help us focus. Plus it’s just good for our bodies.

If you need a brain break, even a few minutes of walking around can help reset your brain.

Food!

We all have a hard time focusing when our bodies are hungry.

Grab a healthy snack to get recharged.

Healthy is not a sugar snack. Sugar might pop us up temporarily, but then we’ll crash later.

Think of snacks as mini meals. Eat something with protein and either a fruit or vegetable.

Good snacks are apples with peanut butter, carrots or cucumber with hummus, grapes and cheese, strawberries and yogurt.

Change your medicine 

If your medicine doesn’t last long enough and all of the above still doesn’t help you focus for the duration of your day, talk to your doctor.

Sometimes increasing the dose of your long acting stimulant can increase the time that it remains above your treatment threshold. This may or may not be tolerated, since a higher dose may increase the side effects. 

Some people will add a short acting stimulant in the afternoon. For instance, if you take a long acting methylphenidate in the morning, you could add a short acting methylphenidate in the afternoon. If you take a long acting amphetamine in the morning, you could add a short acting amphetamine in the afternoon. 

Other people benefit from adding a different type of medication, such as guanfacine or clonidine to their daily routine. These medicines can last longer and have a different side effect profile from the stimulants, so if the addition of a short acting stimulant isn’t tolerated or desired, it can be another option. 

Another long acting medication is atomoxetine. It also works differently than the stimulants do, so is an option for some people.

For more on ADHD Medications, see ADHD Medications: Types and Side Effects. 

Screen Time Limits

We all waste time on our screens. Companies pay to find ways to encourage people to use their sites. They use psychology to make you want to spend more time online. People with ADHD are at risk due to their executive management issues with time management, impulsivity, and more. Screen addiction isn’t an accepted diagnosis yet in the US, but excessive screen use certainly is a problem for many people. Learning to set personal screen time limits is one way we can make a positive impact on our own lives.

How much time do you spend?

See where you spend your time.

Do you check messages and notifications before you even get out of bed? Does that help or hinder you getting started in your day?

My guess is you could use that time for a much better purpose.

Mindfulness is a great way to start your day. Just getting out of bed and getting ready for your day will keep your parent off your back – which in itself is a better start to the day!

If you spend 3 hours a day doing mindless stuff online checking social sites, playing games, and watching videos, that’s 3 hours a day you could be productive. Limit it to a reasonable amount of time and then stop.

Take back your time!

Tracking and limiting time on your phone

Find an app that can help you track your time online. Many will work across several social site platforms as well as general browsers.

Some will allow you to set a daily reminder for a custom interval that pops up an alert when you’ve spent your chosen limit in the app for that day. It won’t lock you out, but sometimes we all need a gentle reminder to get back to real life.

Go to your app store and search “time on phone tracker” or “phone addiction” or check out these popular apps:

  • Moment (currently iOs only, but Android version coming)
  • Forest is an interesting app that not only helps you stay on task, but you can earn points that helps to plant a real tree – helping our world
  • Flipped
  • Mute 

I already have parents, why do I need this?

I know some of you will think this is too much like when parents set limits, but for many with ADHD, it is too risky to have full access to phones and all of their distractions.

Websites, gaming sites, advertisers, and more pay people to look into the psychology of what makes people want to play and participate.

We get a dopamine hit each time we play. We need to fight the urges that they’re trying to create.

In short, we need to stay in control of ourselves. You don’t want anyone or anything controlling your brain, right?

Bonus: If you show your parents that you are responsible in this (and all things) they tend to give you more freedom. It’s all part of growing up and showing maturity!

We are all at risk of wasting time online.  Learning to set personal screen time limits is one way we can make a positive impact on our own lives.

Schedule time 

Schedule time to check your messages.

It’s important to know what’s going on, but you don’t need to check every few minutes. People can wait.

Trust me, it was much better years ago when people didn’t have instant access to everyone and everything. People had less stress. Return to that mindset. There’s a time and a place for everything. Focus on what you’re doing at the moment, whether that’s talking with a real live person, paying attention to your teacher, working or studying. Especially if you’re driving. Messages can wait!

Ask your friends and parents to join you in this. You can set times to check in, then do other things at other times. If they know you limit your time checking messages, they won’t get as anxious when you don’t reply in 2.4 seconds… It’s that need for instant gratification and response that is a huge driver of anxiety in some people. Let it go…

Trust me.

Turn off notifications

If you get into the zone writing a paper and a notification box pops up, you’ve lost the zone.

You waste time responding to the message and your focus is gone.

You’ll have to get back into the paper writing mindset, which wastes your time and energy.

Use the online time management apps listed above to help with this. 

For more information:

How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions

Screen Addiction Among Teens: Is There Such A Thing? 

SPIN Cycle

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

Positive aspects of ADHD

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

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

Waterfalls and ADHD

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

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

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

What’s the SPIN Cycle?

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

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

Shame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pessimism and Negativity

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

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

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

Maya Angelou

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

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

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

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

Isolation

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

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

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

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

No Creative, Productive Outlet

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

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

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

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

How to stop the SPIN Cycle

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

Learn a few tips from Mary Poppins…