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.
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?
There are many reasons to question the safety and efficacy of any medicine or supplement.
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
If you have a history of anxiety or depression, touch base with the student mental health center to learn how to schedule with them when needed.
It is just too overwhelming to figure it out when you’re struggling, so do it when you get to campus – or sooner!
If you are on medications for anxiety, depression, ADHD, or any other chronic issue, talk to your current prescriber to see how you can continue the medicine at school.
If you go to a school close to home, it might be possible to continue to schedule regular appointments with the same prescriber. Be sure to schedule in advance so you can coordinate appointments with your schedule.
If you go further away, you will have to really think about what will work best. If you are able to plan times to come home regularly, be sure to schedule appointments well in advance so you don’t miss the opportunity to go to your doctor.
If you aren’t coming home often or if your condition isn’t well managed and you need more frequent visits with your physician or therapist, finding a local provider is probably the best choice. This can often be done at the student health center, but may require a provider off campus.
You can also see if your therapist or physician can do telehealth visits. This can be difficult across state lines, but technology can help maintain the relationship you’ve built over the years!
Learning differences, such as dyslexia, difficulty with working memory, challenges with processing speed, ADHD and autism spectrum disorder, can all benefit from official academic accommodations in college.
To be in compliance with Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), colleges must provide students with reasonable accommodations. These accommodations are not meant to make college easier, they are meant to level the playing field so that a student’s disability doesn’t impact their ability to learn and be successful.
Common college accommodations are:
- extended time on exams
- being provided with written notes in class
- separate testing locations
- 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!
And you won’t get the help you need if you don’t apply for it.
These accommodations can be accessed through most college’s disability service offices for students with documented disabilities. Check out your prospective school’s website to see what they offer.
There’s often a temptation to view starting college as a fresh start, which it is. But that doesn’t erase the past.
Some students want to quit their current treatment plans before starting college. This can really backfire.
Any big change, such as starting a new school (or job), moving, or living with new people, is stressful. With the start of college you have many of these big changes happening all at once.
It’s a really bad time to stop medicines or therapy.
Please continue with your current treatments until you’ve settled into things at school.
Once you’ve gotten used to the new routine, if you still think you’re ready to stop your treatment plan, talk to your providers. You can work with your physician or therapist to come up with a plan to stop treatments if you all agree that it is safe to do so.
If your doctor or therapist doesn’t think it’s a good idea: listen to them. They have seen this before. Use their experience to help you. Please.
Know your resources
Colleges offer a lot to help support you, but they need to know your challenges and you need to know how to access services.
Most colleges offer mental health counseling at their health center. Don’t be afraid to use it. Learn what’s available and how to access it before you need it. Before you even move onto campus.
It’s too hard when you’re struggling to do the research.
As mentioned above, learning difference accommodations can be accessed through most college’s disability service offices for students with documented disabilities.
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.
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.
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!
Did you know that helping others has been proven to make us feel better? This is the final post in a series of ways to gain confidence and feel better. It’s my personal favorite. When kids are little they often have a hard time believing that it’s better to give than it is to receive, but most of us learn that it’s true somewhere along the way.
Find ways that you can make a difference for someone else. It can be big or small. Everything counts.
The one caveat is you should do it to help others, not to help yourself. Part of the magic of how it works is that we’re putting someone else ahead of ourselves.
Find a cause you’re passionate about and work for that cause. There are many. If you aren’t sure how to commit your time, try a few short term commitments out to see how they work for you.
Another thing to remember is that everything should be done in moderation. If you overextend yourself with too much to do, you will become overwhelmed and be unable to do anything well. Make sure you reserve time to do the things you need to do: school work, eating healthy, exercise, and sleep.
Choose service opportunities that are important to you. Don’t do things just because someone asks you to do it. It’s okay to say “no” if it’s not the right thing for you to do. If you do things that are not right for you, you will more likely resent what you’re doing instead of enjoying the many benefits of it.
Stress management and resilience can be gained by helping those in need. When you see how others live, you have a better perspective on your own life. You can learn empathy, compassion and solidarity with others.
Once you learn first hand about others, you can help to dispel common myths and prejudices.
One of the big ways we grow through volunteering is through personal development. When you branch out and do something for others, you learn about yourself.
You may recognize how your actions impact others by seeing how they benefit from what you’re doing.
Sometimes you learn about resilience by seeing others in unfortunate circumstances being strong.
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.
Helping others and doing good just feels good. It makes us happy to make others happy.
Volunteering means getting up and doing something. Too often we sit around and listen to music or play online. This isn’t good for our bodies.
Some volunteering is very active. If you’re cleaning an area, repairing or building a home or planting trees, you’re getting a lot of exercise.
Some volunteering is less physically active, but still active. Playing cards or bingo at a retirement center or stuffing envelopes is better than sitting in front of a computer.
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:
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. Please share it if you have, and comment on what you liked and didn’t like in it. What was missing? What has helped you the most over the years boost your self confidence?
Eat right, exercise, and sleep to keep up a healthy body and mind! I call these “The Big 3” things we all need to do to be healthy in mind and body. When we do The Big 3 properly, our self confidence and self esteem are improved.
What are The Big 3?
Eating right, exercise, and sleep.
Eat a nutritionally well balanced diet.
Malnutrition and hunger are not good for our focus. As if people with ADHD need any more problems with focus!
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!
Many people feel that exercise helps their focus. Studies show that they’re right!
After sitting all day at school, do something active before you sit down to do homework. Your body needs the exercise and it will help make study time more efficient.
If you’re not into competitive sports, try other types of exercise. Go for a bike ride. Run. Dance. Swim. Just move!
Whatever you do, make it fun. Put it on your calendar and in your planner so it happens daily.
Sleep is under-appreciated in our society. It is not a time that you’re doing nothing. Your body and mind work hard while you’re sleeping to keep themselves healthy.
Teens need at least 8.5 hours of sleep each day. Even if you’ve reached your full height, your brain is growing until your mid-twenties. That means it still needs extra sleep compared to adults.
If you’re still growing, you might need 10-11 hours of sleep.
That’s hard when you also have activities, work, and homework. And when your circadian rhythm keeps you up until at least 11 pm but school starts at 7:30am. Not to mention the baseline problems people with ADHD tend to have falling asleep due to minds racing with amazing thoughts.
But here’s what happens when teens are sleep deprived..
My favorite sleep tips:
Exercise itself is one of The Big 3, but it also helps us sleep. Try to get your exercise in early in the day. Exercise can help tire your body so it can sleep well.
Avoid too much exercise within 2 hours of bedtime. This is not possible with some activities, I know. But exercising too close to bedtime can make it harder to wind down.
Avoid caffeine and stimulants too close to bedtime.
Caffeine is one of the most commonly used substances to help us stay awake and focused, but it’s not always safe. It is habit forming. It’s also a stimulant, so can be especially problematic if you take a stimulant medicine. The additive effects of the two together can cause problems in some people.
Stimulants like adderall and ritalin are commonly used to treat ADHD, but should be used under the supervision of your physician.
If you use caffeine to help your focus or to stay awake, be sure to talk about the use with your doctor. This is especially true if you use a stimulant medicine, but even if you’re not. Relying on caffeine can be an indicator that you are self medicating something that could be better controlled with proper sleep or a prescription medication.
If you take a stimulant medicine, don’t take it too late in the day. Long acting medicines can last 8-16 hours. Short acting medicines last 3-4 hours. Know what you’re taking and when they tend to wear off. It’s unique to each person, but you can usually feel the effects wear off. If you take it too close to bedtime, it can cause sleep problems. For many teens, they can’t take a long acting medicine after 10 am or a short acting medicine after 6 pm, but how your medicine works in your body will be unique to you. Pay attention to when you feel the medicine wears off each day to learn how long it lasts for you.
Turn down lights.
Turn down lights 2 hours before bedtime. Your body needs darkness to make melatonin. Melatonin makes you feel tired and helps you fall asleep. Artificial lights keep the melatonin level from increasing, so you feel less tired.
Fluorescent lights, televisions, computers, cell phones, tablets and all other lighted things can affect your melatonin level.
Check out f.lux, a free program for PCs, Macs, iPhones, and androids that changes the screen lighting prior to bedtime to allow natural melatonin to rise if you must be on a screen close to bedtime. Must means you have to finish homework that you couldn’t do earlier. It does not mean checking social media or texting friends. It also doesn’t mean putting off homework until later because you just don’t want to do it after school. Work and scheduled activities are a good excuse. Procrastination isn’t.
If you want to take a supplement of melatonin, talk to your doctor.
Watch out for late night munchies.
Avoid eating (especially large meals) before bedtime. Again, I know this can be hard, especially if you have after school activities that keep you busy and make you hungry.
This is even more difficult if your daytime medicine makes you not hungry at lunchtime. Of course try to eat at least something with good calories mid day, but if you don’t eat a typical lunch, you’ll need to make up the lost calories after the medicine wears off. Be sure to not eat foods that bother your stomach while laying down too close to bedtime.
Do relaxing activities as part of your bedtime routine. These can include reading, taking a shower, coloring or listening to soothing music.
If thoughts keep you up, journal before climbing into bed. Journaling can help focus thoughts and allow your brain to stop thinking about them.
Relaxation exercises or deep breathing can help. Put a hand on your heart and on your abdomen. Try to keep your heart hand still while you take in a slow, deep breath. While you inhale count 4 counts and while you exhale count 8 counts. The deep breaths can make you feel tired, and the counting slowly helps keep your brain from racing thoughts.
Practice meditation every day. There are many mindfulness apps to try – and most are free. Once you’re used to using the technique (it’s great before doing homework) you can also use mindfulness at bedtime.
Set the stage.
Make your bed a place for sleep. Avoid doing homework on it. Let your body associate your bed with sleeping.
Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Use a fan to keep it cool and as a white noise.
Keep pets out of the bedroom. They tend to keep you up or wake you too early.
Ideally you’ll charge your phone in another room overnight to avoid late night distractions. If you must have your phone in your room, make sure no notifications will wake you. Resist checking it “one more time” as you go to bed because you know it will be several minutes of scrolling through things…
Stick to a schedule.
Keep your bedtime consistent.
Even if you can sleep in on weekends, try to go to bed within an hour of your usual bedtime. This schedule is important!
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!
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:
Yes, even people with ADHD can complete tasks. When we finish whatever we start, we gain a feeling of accomplishment. It’s great!
Remember that procrastinating doesn’t get anything done. So stop talking about everything you need to do. Stop doing distractions. Start doing what needs to happen.
How in the world can someone who has executive functioning problems ever complete tasks on time… and remember to turn things in?
Keep a planner.
Yeah, I know. Your grade school teacher made you keep a planner and you hated it.
But they can help so much!
There’s something to a paper planner that helps many people organize more than the calendar in your smart phone. You can use that too, but putting things in your planner can help you visualize it better.
You can write all your assignments in your planner and even break them down so that different parts should be complete at different times. (Even if your teacher just has one due date – you can break it up and make it more manageable.)
Don’t forget to add all the other “stuff” you have to do, such as practice or work. And don’t forget leave out time for family, friends, exercise and sleep!
Put everything in the planner, so you can schedule time accordingly.
If you forget that you have late rehearsal on Wednesday and a big test on Thursday, that will put a crimp in study time. If you can see that on your weekly preview, you can put in a little more study time Tuesday and then a shorter study time Wednesday will be enough for the test.
Use a white board.
Some people like to also use a white board to keep the big assignments and important goals in one place.
It’s a visual reminder of the big things that need to get done. You can even make a place for goals and positive messages.
Color code things so you can easily see things that are related by categories you choose.
Some people like check boxes to be able to check off what’s done!
It goes without saying that there are a lot of distractions in our world. Many we can’t control, but there are some that we can.
If you’re a neat freak and your workspace is cluttered, quickly de-clutter it before you start to work.
Quickly is the key. Don’t use this as a means of procrastination.
Doing any task that is not interesting to us (and even some that are) is harder when our phone is around. Even if the notification sound is turned off, it’s a temptation to just check what people are up to. Or play a quick game. Or post a quick selfie.
They’re all really quick, right?
It doesn’t matter. They all interrupt our focus, so they need to not happen.
Put your phone in another room.
I know many will insist that they use their phone as an alarm clock or for background noise.
You know what?
You can buy a kitchen timer for under $5. Or you can get an alarm clock that you can use to get you out of bed for under $10 and use for both circumstances. Your parents might even have one on a nightstand that is in working order.
Turn off notifications.
If you’re working on your computer, turn off notifications so that annoying box doesn’t keep popping up telling you of a new message. No one needs that distraction! The message will be there when you’re done.
Reward yourself when you’re done by checking your phone.
It’s hard for anyone to stay focused for hours of anything.
Make a goal to work for 50 minutes (or whatever you can reasonably tolerate and still get things done). Set a timer to go off in 50 minutes. When your timer goes off, get up and take a break.
Set a timer for your break for 5-10 minutes so you can get back to work when it’s time.
Exercise is a great way to refresh your brain, so do jumping jacks, jog in place or do a little yoga.
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!
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!
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.
Wow… all of that on negativity in Part 1 was a downer. Important stuff, but it can bring us down. Let’s turn to being more positive. The power of positive thinking is amazing! Many people with ADHD have trouble staying positive. They have so many struggles, they often find it hard to feel positive.
Turn that frown upside down!
That’s a popular phrase for a reason. When we act happy, it’s easier to feel happy.
Remind yourself to be positive.
If being happy isn’t your nature, give yourself some prompts. Put sticky notes around that remind you to be positive.
Some suggestions for your sticky notes:
“I’ve got this.”
“I can write this paper.”
“I’m a good friend.”
“I am smart.”
Basically whatever negative thoughts cloud your mind, counter them with positive words.
Just like when you’ve heard a million times that you’re not good enough, so you start to believe it, when you see these positive messages, you start to believe them.
Post positive messages. Read them. Start to believe them.
Do what you love.
Think about all the things you love to do. They are the things that naturally make you happy and put you in a positive mindset.
Sports… Dance… Art… Music… Reading… Writing… Running…
Whatever it is that you love, as long as it’s safe and healthy for you, schedule time in your day to do it. Sometimes we get so busy with the things we have to do, we don’t ever get around to doing what we want to do.
Schedule both. Get the things you need to do done, then do the things you want to do.
You know what’s great? Despite the fact that people with ADHD have a hard time focusing on many things, they can often hyperfocus on what they enjoy.
By doing the things you enjoy, you may benefit from being able to really focus. Doesn’t that make you feel good?
Surround yourself with positive people.
Surrounding yourself with positive people helps you stay positive. It makes sense, right?
When we’re around negative people, they bring us down. That’s why we try to avoid them. Their negative outlook and comments don’t help us and actually inhibit us from going forward.
The opposite is true. When we’re around positive people, their positivity can rub off on us. Let the power of positivity rub off on you!
Take a moment each day to think about what was good about the day.
Go one step further and write it down.
What should you write? Anything that you’re thankful about.
- That person who smiled at you at just the right time today.
- The teacher who hinted at a pop quiz to give you time to review notes.
- Perfect weather for your outdoor adventure.
Why bother writing it down?
Writing it down forces us to think of something concrete rather than just the vague, “I’m thankful for stuff.”
This helps us really think about what is good in our life. You don’t want to write the same thing every day. Yes, I’m grateful that I have a warm home and food on the table, and I shouldn’t take those for granted. But writing things down will help me expand to the little things that might otherwise get missed.
It also reinforces the thought in our mind and strengthens it. Just like when you take notes while studying you reinforce that information, writing your gratitudes daily helps to reinforce them in your mind.
It’s also a great resource to review when everything seems wrong in our lives. If everything seems to be against you, take a minute to review your list of things you’re grateful for. That can be an immediate pick-me-up!
Go one step further…
Tell the people who helped with your daily gratitude that you’re thankful for them and why. It just might make their day!
This doesn’t have to be a long letter like people of generations past used to do. It can be a quick phone call. Or even a text. Just a word of thanks!
Stay tuned for next week…
Come back next week to learn how finishing tasks can help boost your self confidence. And more importantly, how to finish those tasks!
Do you feel like you’re the bad kid? Are you always getting in trouble for speaking out of turn or forgetting to turn in homework? Do you feel stupid because you make careless mistakes on tests? How can you boost your self-confidence? Negativity can get us down and hold us back, so stopping it is the first of the many ways we can boost our self-confidence and self-esteem.
Top 5 Self Confidence Boosters:
Today is Part 1 of a 5 part series of how to build confidence. I hope you check back next week for more!
I’m starting with what many will find to be the hardest of the 5 ways to boost confidence. I like to get the hard stuff out of the way first. But I also think that negativity is one of the biggest problems for people with ADHD – and people in general.
Stop the Negativity.
Everyone says it, so it must be true?
When we hear over and over again that we’re not good because we forgot to do something or that we’re not doing a good job at whatever we’re supposed to be doing (like sitting quiet and still) we start to feel bad.
We assume everyone’s right that we’re not good enough or we’re stupid.
That’s human nature – we take on the beliefs of what we hear over and over again. People with ADHD are especially sensitive when it comes to things like this. Maybe it’s because it’s just the way they are. Or maybe it’s because after time and time of being told something, they just break down and start to believe it. It’s what everyone else thinks, so it must be right, right?
ADHD comes with many challenges, but most people with it are not bad or stupid. Some ADHDers try really, really hard… but it’s just too hard to stay focused, organized, still, and everything else that we’re supposed to do.
Stop the negative self talk.
When you start to believe in the negatives, you need to really consider if it’s true or not. Stop the negative self talk.
Pretend you’re talking to a friend instead of talking to yourself. We tend to be nicer and more forgiving towards others. We’re our own harshest critics. What would you tell a friend if you were trying to reassure him or her?
If you think ~
- I’ll never finish this assignment on time.
- I can’t write well.
- Math isn’t my thing. I am never going to understand it.
- Those kids will never like me. They won’t understand me.
Stop thinking those thoughts that you’ve probably had over and over in your mind. They aren’t facts. Think of the facts and what you can to about them.
Be careful. Feelings are much louder than facts. You really have to focus on what is factual and not just how you interpret things. This can sound really difficult, but try the exercise described in Don’t Think of Pink Elephants.
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.
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.
When we complain about all the bad things (homework, that annoying kid in math class, how much work there is to do) we feel worse. Our brain is focusing on the negative, which just brings us down.
It also makes others not want to be around us. That adds to our low self-esteem.
Thinking and Rethinking what you did wrong.
We’ve all messed up. We do embarrassing things. Sometimes we fully intend to finish something, but then we’re distracted away and forget to return.
Use whatever the problems you’ve had as learning experiences. Stop blaming yourself. Don’t keep thinking on what you did wrong. Change the thinking into what you could have done instead to have things turn out better. Try that improvement next time.
Turning to negative habits.
Sometimes we feel so low that we want to try unhealthy ways to feel better. Some people try alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs. Others try cutting or other harmful behaviors.
Unfortunately people with ADHD are more likely to have problem behaviors with drugs, alcohol, and other dangerous behaviors. The impulsivity, low self-esteem and risk taking behaviors that are common among people with ADHD put them at risk.
If you find yourself struggling with these issues, please talk to a trusted adult. Once these habits start, they’re really hard to break. Don’t try to handle it alone! Help is out there.
If you ever feel like you’d be better off dead or want to harm yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for 24/7, free and confidential help. 1-800-273-8255
Tune in next week…
Next week will not be so much of a down topic! It’s all about being positive.
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Anger and ADHD: How to Build up Your Brakes: Jessica at How To ADHD has some great tips on learning to control your anger and emotions. From her summary: Impulsivity is one of the main characteristics of ADHD, and building up our brakes is one of the most important things we can do. Here’s the science behind it and 5 things that help.
Ok, so I know most people will read this title and think I’m crazy. Celebrate ADHD? Really?
Problems are easily identified.
Adults with untreated ADHD fail to meet their own expectations, as shared by Jessica McCabe, and have problems at work and home.
Dr. Russell Barkley has studied ADHD for many decades. His research shows that people with ADHD have a shortened lifespan when ADHD is not well managed.
ADHD involves impairments in executive functioning. How can anything causing a broken executive functioning system be even remotely good?
How can something with so many problems be celebrated?
Because there are many positive traits that can be cultivated and celebrated.
- People with ADHD tend to think outside the box so are great problem solvers.
- They have lots of energy so can work tirelessly.
- Many with ADHD are very creative, so are gifted in the arts.
- They often have a great sense of humor.
- We all think of inattention and poor focus when we think of ADHD, but there is also hyperfocus. If people with ADHD become passionate about something, they can sustain attention and work on it for long periods of time. If they use this hyperfocus wisely (with setting time limits so they can do other daily activities) they can become an expert in that area. For young children the hyper focus tends to be on “kid” things, like trains or video games. As kids get older, they can experience activities that interest them. This gives the opportunity to find a life passion that could turn into a fantastic career.
Everyone has gifts.
ADHD has many variables in the way it shows up, so people with it also have many variations in gifts. But they do have gifts.
I want kids, teens, parents, spouses, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncle, neighbors, teachers, and more to understand the value of these gifts and recognize the benefits that people with ADHD can have.
“ADD people are high-energy and incredibly good brainstormers. They will often happily work 12 to 15 hours by choice. The business community should not fear ADD. Instead, they should see that they have a potential gold mine here.” – Dr. Kathleen Nadeau, psychologist
I’m not saying life with ADHD is easy.
People with ADHD struggle with many things other people can easily manage. But they still have gifts. I want kids to grow up building their confidence by using their gifts, not by measuring their failures when they don’t conform to norms.
Kids can lose their drive and ambition if they are not supported along the way. Depression and anxiety can easily develop when kids continuously fail to meet their potentials.
Proper management of problematic symptoms of ADHD can help kids grow into successful adults. Exercise, healthy eating, and sufficient sleep are essential for everyone to optimize potentials. Some of this management can be things done in a classroom to support learning and focus issues, such as fidgets and the ability to take tests in a quiet area. Medications are often very helpful in symptom management once the proper medicine and dose is found. Work with your physician and other ADHD professionals to be your best!
I love this photo from The ADD & ADHD Answer Book. It makes a great side-by-side comparison of these problems and gifts so you can easily see reasons to celebrate ADHD.
Role Models, Mentors, and Support
Consider finding a mentor who is successful but has the same diagnosis.
Read Percy Jackson (link to a book review). He’s a fictional character with ADHD and dyslexia that you can look up to.
Throughout history many successful people have had ADHD. People with ADHD can become leaders, inventors, artists, or otherwise excellent contributors to society. They give us great reasons to celebrate ADHD!
Teens in the KC Metro can benefit from joining ADHDKCTeen.
Teens can learn from professionals about various ADHD topics at monthly events. Being active in a support group of other teens who struggle with the same issues can help much more than working alone on troublesome issues – and much more than just ignoring things. You are not alone! Join ADHDKCTeen and participate in our monthly events to learn and grow!
Are you a teen with ADHD?
Do you like to speak in front of groups? Are you good with AV equipment? Do you want to inspire younger teens with ADHD and help them learn? Are there other gifts you have that could help our group become fabulous?
If so, we need you!
We’re looking for volunteer Teen Leaders to help in many ways. Fill out our ADHD Teen Leader Application and we’ll get in touch with you.
Some examples of what teens can do:
- Attend meetings to learn about the topic, then summarize the topic in a blog for the website.
- Record and edit the meetings so the video can be placed in a members-only section of our website.
- Design social media posts that can be shared publicly. These would be approved (and posted) by one of the ADHDKCTeen adult board members.
- Do you have other ideas of how our group could use your gifts? Let us know!
If you have questions, send them to Kristen@adhdkcteen.com.
Applications are currently being accepted. Please complete the ADHD Teen Leader Application.
Share with friends
Do you have friends with ADHD who would make a great leader? Please share this opportunity with them.
Do you have friends with ADHD who would benefit from a support group of others with ADHD? Share this with them too! Not everyone needs to help lead, but many can benefit from learning from the group.
Our meetings and events require adult professionals who can offer tips to our teens to help them become successful adults.
We have opportunities for ADHD Coaches, therapists, psychologists, yogi, and other professionals who have skills to help teens learn to manage their executive functioning and other ADHD related concerns.
If you’re a professional who would like to help our group, please see this SignUp or send a message to Kristen@adhdkcteen.com.
Other Ways to Help Us
Please help us continue to provide support groups and educational information with your small donation. We appreciate any amount you can give to help us cover our costs.
We accept donations through Paypal or with a credit card. As a CHADD chapter, we are a non-profit, tax-exempt [Section 501(c)(3)] organization providing education, advocacy and support for individuals with ADHD.