5 Self Confidence Boosters Part 4: The Big 3!

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!

Many of the medicines used to treat the problems from ADHD affect our appetite, so we must be careful to make the most of what we eat.

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!

Exercise.

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.

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.

But here’s what happens when teens are sleep deprived..

My favorite sleep tips:

Exercise.

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.

Relax!

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!

Still not sleeping?

For more on sleep, check out I Just Want To Go To Sleep! How to Sleep Better (According to Science) by “Hey Sigmund.”

Talk to your doctor if you’re not sleeping. Sleep deprivation can mimic ADHD symptoms, and you don’t need that additional problem!

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

Coming up next:

This is part 4 of a 5 part series.

Be sure to check back next week for one of my favorite ways to boost your self confidence: Help others.

Also look back at ways to boost your self confidence through:

 

5 Self Confidence Boosters Part 1: Stop Negativity

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.

Top 5 Self Confidence Boosters:

1. Stop Negativity
2. Be Positive
3. Finish Tasks
4. Self Care (The Big 3: Eat well, exercise, and sleep)
5. Help Others

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?

Wrong.

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.

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.

Practice.

It takes time, but it’s so worth the effort!

Try using this powerful trick.

Stop bringing yourself down.

There are things that many of us tend to do that make us feel sad.

Being alone…

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.

An excerpt from THE OLD CREAKY HOUSE: ONE WAY TO FIGHT DEPRESSION:

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.

Complaining.

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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Negative self talk can make everything seem worse. Learn to stop the negativity!
Negative self talk can make everything seem worse. Learn to stop the negativity!

Also recommended…

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.