What happens when we’re sleep deprived?

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

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

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

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

How much sleep is needed?

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

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

Find your specific need.

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

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

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

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

Problems of sleep deprivation

Hormone changes

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

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

Moodiness

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

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

Growth

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

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

Obesity

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

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

Diabetes

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

School problems

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

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

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

Injuries

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

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

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

Sports Performance

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

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

In short, sleep helps your sports performance.

Study of 18-27 year old males

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

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

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

Study of female university athletes

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

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

Illnesses

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

Risky behaviors

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

Next Up:

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

Why don’t teens get enough sleep?

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

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

So… why don’t teens get enough sleep?

Body clock.

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

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

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

It’s not your fault!

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

Screens.

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

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

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

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

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

Phones.

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

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

Take charge of your phone use ~

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

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

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

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

Indirect effects of phone use ~

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

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

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

School starts too early.

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

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

Unfortunately, those schools are still in the minority.

Activities are too late.

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

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

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

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

Activities start too early.

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

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

Medical causes of sleep deprivation.

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

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

What difference does it make?

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

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

How To Get A Growth Mindset

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

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

What’s a growth mindset?

You're in charge of your mind. Carol Dweck

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

Of course, Yoda knew this long ago…

Fixed Mindset

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

Some kids worry that they don’t have enough.

Not enough intelligence.

Or enough skill.

This is the fixed mindset.

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

Growth Mindset

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

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

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

Who succeeds in life?

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

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

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

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

How can you get a growth mindset?

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

Look at your way of thinking

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

Really stop and think.

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

This little voice is your fixed mindset.

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

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

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

Quitters never win. Winners never quit.

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

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Choose to ignore that little voice

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

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

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

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

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

Instead of saying…

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

Say…

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

Celebrate the hard work

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

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

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

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

Maya Angelou

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

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

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

Keep track of progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your best teacher is your last mistake. Ralph Nader

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

Exercise your brain

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

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

Want more?

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

This is a FANTASTIC inspirational video.

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

The Power  of Grit

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

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

Resilience?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happens without resilience?

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

Examples of unhealthy or self destructive behaviors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t they worry?

People who are resilient are normal people.

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

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

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

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

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

How can we become resilient?

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

How to Get a Growth Mindset

Learn the power of “Yet”

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

Celebrate ADHD

Watch out for Rejection Sensitivity

From the original version:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stimulants decrease brain function? Say what?

If you heard the recent news that stimulants decrease brain function, don’t freak out and immediately think you need to stop a medicine that helps you. The study was done in neurotypical (“normal”) people. There’s a big difference in what these drugs do in a brain that has imbalances of neurotransmitters and in a brain that does not, so don’t freak out. Read on to learn more!

If this is all too much information, you can jump to the TL:DR section, but it’s always good to learn the details!

What are stimulants used for?

Prescription stimulants are approved to use in the treatment of ADHD, narcolepsy, and obesity. They increase alertness and attention and often decrease appetite. Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin are considered safe for long term use in appropriate circumstances.

Stimulant misuse.

Misuse can lead to psychosis, anger, paranoia, heart, nerve, and stomach problems. Stimulants can cause heart attacks or seizures when used inappropriately. Misuse also can lead to addiction and tolerance, requiring higher and higher doses to get the same effect, increasing the risk of overdose.

Studies have shown that 20-30% of college students have taken a stimulant medication inappropriately within the past year.

The 2017 Monitoring the Future Report shows that 5.5% of high school seniors reported non-medical use of Adderall during the past year.

Adderall is the most commonly abused stimulant, but ritalin is used inappropriately too.

Why was this study done?

Many students believe that if Adderall and other stimulants help people with ADHD stay focused and perform better academically, it will improve their focus and make them smarter. Juggling school with all the extracurriculars, work and social life is hard. Many teens are sleep deprived and hope the Adderall will help them stay alert and study more effectively.

Since the use of stimulants by students without ADHD is common, many wonder if it’s true that they actually work to help focus in people without ADHD.

The big question:

Is Adderall safe and effective for those without ADHD?

What could be wrong with using it?

You might wonder why researchers care. Since many kids, teens, and adults are prescribed this medicine to help manage their ADHD, it should be okay for others to take, right?

Wrong.

There are many reasons to question the safety and efficacy of any medicine or supplement.

Drugs of abuse include stimulants but this does not mean they are dangerous for those who need them to treat a condition.
Source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs-charts#prescription-stimulants

Legality

First and foremost, it is illegal to use someone else’s prescription medicine.

All prescription medicines are to be used by the person who it’s prescribed for. Stimulants are controlled substances. This means they are monitored closely by regulating authorities.

Controlled substances fall into various categories, ranging from Schedule I through V. Schedule I medications are the most dangerous. They have no known medical use, are unsafe, and have a high potential for abuse. The least dangerous category, Schedule V, has a small amount of narcotic quantity. Schedule II-IV fall in between.

Stimulant medications are in the Schedule II class. This class is considered to have a high potential for abuse and can lead to dependence. Please note that studies show that when children with ADHD take stimulants properly, they have a lesser risk of developing drug and alcohol problems. Even though there is abuse potential, the risk of all medicines should be weighed with the benefits.

When used properly, stimulants have medical benefits. If the medicine is prescribed to you, it is perfectly legal to have them in your possession and use them according to your prescription. But if they are someone else’s prescription, they are illegal to have and use. It is also illegal for you to sell or give your medication to another person.

Because these medications have resale value, it is recommended to keep your stimulants in a lock box when you live with other teens and young adults in college and early adult life. You can take a few out at a time to use as needed.

Right medicine at the right dose.

Most students who take stimulant medications have titrated their dose with the help of their physician to find the right medicine at the right dose. This can be a time of trial and error and needs to be monitored by a professional.

When friends share medications or people buy or steal stimulants from someone, they get what they get. They may or may not get a dose that is safe for them.

There are also fake drugs that are sold as stimulants but can be much more dangerous. It can be hard to tell the difference, so getting your medicine only from a licensed pharmacy is important.

If someone else is taking it, the person with the need doesn’t get it.

Many people downgrade their problems associated with ADHD. They might think they can get by with skipped doses, but they often underestimate the many benefits of their medication. Stimulants are not just needed for school.

Dr. Russell Barkley has been researching ADHD for 40 years and has found that ADHD is the single condition most associated with early death.

People with untreated ADHD tend to live up to 25 years less time than people without ADHD or with treated ADHD.

That means ADHD leads to early death more than tobacco, obesity, heart problems, and other chronic diseases when it’s not treated appropriately.

It makes sense that the issues associated with ADHD can lead to early death.

  • People with ADHD tend to be less focused. They are involved in more accidents when not medicated.
  • Many with ADHD impulsively overeat, which leads to obesity and the associated problems. In fact, obesity is five times more common in adults with ADHD versus the general population.
  • Many will self medicate with drugs and alcohol due to the secondary low self esteem, anxiety, and depression that is associated with ADHD.
  • The suicide rate is much higher for people with ADHD. They tend to have more depression and impulsivity than people without ADHD.
  • Risk taking behaviors are much more common in people with ADHD due to their impulsivity. They have a higher risk of starting negative habits, such as smoking, which are associated with shortening lifespan.

In short: don’t give or sell your medicines to anyone else. You need them!

A new study

When headlines say something shocking, don't just believe them. Read critically. The study that shows adderall decreases brain function doesn't apply to those with ADHD.
Stimulants decrease brain function? Say what?

Lisa Weyandt, a professor of psychology at the University of Rhode Island, studied how students without ADHD responded to Adderall. She wanted to test if it was true that Adderall could make people smarter and study more effectively if they didn’t have ADHD.

Study set up

It was a relatively small study. This means it shouldn’t be generalized yet. Bigger studies should be done.

She recruited 13 students to participate. They took a 30 mg dose of Adderall before one lab session and a placebo pill before another lab session. They were blind as to which pill they took each session. During the lab sessions passages were read to them and they had to answer a series of questions about them.

Researchers looked at how well they performed, their alertness, and their ability to focus on the Adderall and the placebo.

Results

Students showed improvements in alertness and focus with Adderall. Unfortunately these improvements did not help them think, remember or problem solve. They did not improve their reading comprehension, fluency, or recall of facts when they took the Adderall versus when they took the placebo.

Even worse: The Adderall actually inhibited their working memory. This is the ability to remember and use information to solve problems. People with ADHD often have problems with working memory and Adderall and similar medicines help to improve it. It appears that if your brain has normal function in this area, the Adderall makes it worse.

This makes sense. If your neurotransmitters are off, giving a medicine to stabilize them helps. If your neurotransmitters are at normal levels, giving a medicine that changes the levels hinders.

They also had elevations in their heart rate and blood pressure. If a student has an underlying heart condition, it could cause serious heart problems. This is one reason doctors ask about family and personal history before starting a patient on stimulant medications. If there is an increased risk, an ECG is recommended.

Without a physician monitoring the medication use, the risk goes up!

TL:DR

Stimulants have been proven to improve focus, attention, and working memory in people with ADHD.

When a physician prescribes stimulants, doses should be carefully titrated and routine follow up is required.

It is illegal to take stimulant medicines without a prescription.

Giving or selling prescription medicines to others is illegal.

If people take stimulants that are not prescribed to them or get them from a non-licensed pharmacy, they are at risk of getting fake drugs. Counterfeit drugs can lead to serious consequences.

When people without ADHD take stimulants, they may feel more focused, but their working memory is worse. This hinders their ability to perform well. They also suffer from physical risks without medical supervision.

When people with ADHD go without their medicines, their risks go up. Untreated ADHD is associated with early death. The risks are real if ADHD isn’t managed well!

Today we have so much information available to us through the internet, but you have to be very careful when you read it. Always remember to think critically when you read. Look at the source as well as the content. Don’t jump to conclusions – especially after just reading titles! A great read on this is An invisible unicorn has been grazing in my office for a month… Prove me wrong, so if you have the time, check it out!

 

 

What You Need To Know Before Starting College

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.

The Risks

Based on surveys from the JED Foundation, it’s unlikely that you’ll make it through college without at least knowing one student who has a mental health disorder, has attempted suicide, abuses drugs or has experienced an unwanted sexual contact.

Scary statistics.

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.

Because mental health is not always properly treated, many people suffering will self medicate with drugs or alcohol. Being addicted to these is a strong indicator of some mental health issue.

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.

Plan ahead.

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!

Continuing medicines.

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

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.

Accommodations can help with college success!Common college accommodations are:
  • extended time on exams
  • being provided with written notes in class
  • separate testing locations
  • audiobooks
  • recorded lectures

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!

Ask for help when you need it!

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.

Fresh start!

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

Ask for help when needed!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.

Start accepting responsibility before college

As you approach the end of your high school career, talk to your parents about how you can develop healthcare independence. You’ll need to learn how to make your own appointments, take your medicine (and get refills on time), and so much more!

It can take at least year of practice before starting college, so work with your parents and physician on a plan.

Recognizing is hard…

Many college students only go for help when someone else tells them to. If your friends and classmates recognize you struggling and tell you to get help — get help.

Really.

If you recognize that you’re struggling before anyone says something, even better! Get help.

I know that calling to make the appointment is hard. The first step always is. Once you make the appointment, it all gets easier.

It’s Life!

College is such an exciting time. You’ll learn a lot about your academic studies, sure. But you’ll learn even more about yourself and other people.

Learn to live happily and healthily.

That includes taking care of yourself!

What to know before starting college.

5 Self Confidence Boosters Part 5: Helping Others

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.

If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else. Booker T Washington
Source: NewAfrikan77

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.

Chinese proverb- happiness

Gain perspective.

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.

Personal development.

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.

Social skills can also be developed when you’re volunteering. You will most likely need to interact with other people when helping others. While being alone can lead to depressive thoughts, being with others can help us feel better.

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.

Internal rewards.

Helping others and doing good just feels good. It makes us happy to make others happy.

Healthy body.

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.

Teenager Volunteer Demographics
Source: https://www.nationalservice.gov/vcla/demographic/teenagers

Need ideas to start helping others?

If you’re in the KC Metro and need help finding something to do, check out this Pinterest Board of KC Service Opportunities. Enjoy helping others!

5 Confidence Boosters:

  1. 5 tips for boosting your self confidenceStop the negativity
  2. Be Positive
  3. Finish Tasks
  4. The Big 3
  5. Help Others

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?

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 3: Finish tasks

Finish tasks?

Finishing tasks gives a feeling of accomplishment and raises our self confidence!
Finishing tasks gives a feeling of accomplishment and raises our self confidence!

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.

Finish the most important tasks first!
Finish the most important tasks first!

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!

Get in the habit of looking a week ahead and then refreshing your memory each morning.
Get in the habit of looking at your calendar for the week ahead and then refreshing your memory each morning.

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.

Using a white board is effective for many people.

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!

Remove distractions.

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.

De-clutter.

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.

The phone.

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.

Schedule breaks.

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.

You might also need a snack. Brain food! Try to pair a fruit or vegetable with a protein source each snack. High carbohydrate snacks and fatty foods can make you tired. Not good when you need to focus! Try an apple with peanut butter, carrots and hummus or cheese and grapes.

Be sure to keep track of your timer for each step and repeat until you’re done for the day!

Accommodations.

Use fidgets if they help you stay focused.

Stand at your desk if your focus is improved.

Sometimes even pacing while reading can help – unless you work better taking notes as you read.

Sit on an exercise ball or pillow to allow movement.

Swing your legs or do other movements that most likely come naturally to you.

Use a friend.

Ask a friend to be your accountability partner. You can really help each other out.

Text tasks to each other so you can ask if they’ve done their tasks and they can ask if you’ve done yours. Text each other when they’re done.

Make it a challenge to see how many days in a row you can keep it up. Challenges have a way to help us keep up with things!

When you finish tasks, send a quick pic of your successes!

Background noise.

While it isn’t good to have great tunes that distract you, studies show that background noise can drown out the distracting sounds.

When you’re studying or working on a project, use your ceiling fan, a white noise machine or music on low volume to drown out the other noises.

Break it up.

Big tasks are overwhelming. Break them into several smaller tasks.

Put each part of the task in your planner and stick to the mini-deadlines.

Give yourself kudos each step of the way. When you finish a section of whatever you’re doing, give yourself a little praise. At the end of the task, reward yourself with something you enjoy.

Don’t forget to check off completed tasks. It feels so good to mark things DONE!

Check back next week!

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Next week we’ll discuss self care and how that helps us keep up our self esteem and confidence! If you missed how to decrease negativity in part 1 or how to be positive in part 2, be sure to check them out.