A Reminder: Slow Down

 

I am traveling this week with my family, and decided to re-run this post about taking time to slow down. It is from last October when during a pretty chaotic time.  The winter proved to be just as chaotic and stressful.  If you did not get a chance to read it then here it is:

Taking the Time to Slow Down

Spring! Ohio style.
I will be back next week with a brand new post.

Staying Focused Awash in Grief.

Over the last three months I have struggled with focus. Why? Grief.  In the last twelve weeks there have been eight deaths that have directly, or indirectly touched me. The last time I lost this many people, this close together, was in the middle of the AIDs epidemic.

Grief is difficult for everyone. For individuals with ADHD, it it compounded by behavioral issues. I wrote about keeping it together when a family member faces a health crises here.  Some of the same issues complicate grief for individuals with ADD/ADHD, impulse control, issues with substance abuse, the inability to be still, discomfort in your own skin, and an increased incidence of depression and suicide.

My tips for handling grief can be summed up in a few sentences.

1. Do not self-medicate. I am talking about the urge to binge watch/spend money/shop/drink/smoke/eat chocolate/ whatever your make-me-forget-not-feel drug of choice is, don’t do it. Feel your feelings no matter how uncomfortable they are.

2. Pay attention. Being sad is normal. Not getting out of bed for days is not. Get help.

3. Find someone to talk to about your feelings. A therapist, social worker, clergy, your best friend, your family.

4. If you are a creative, create. Do the thing that feeds your soul.

5. Give yourself time. So many times we think that we should be able to “just get over” whatever it is that is making us sad. A very wise woman once told me “some things you don’t get over, you just get through.”

6. Find a peaceful view. Just sit with it. This is mine.

Please give yourself time to heal.

If you are struggling with depression, please, please, get help, don’t make a decision in a moment that is permanent. This link is for the National Suicide Prevention Organization their number 24/7/365 is 1-800-273-8255.

How to Talk about Money: Ten Tips for Calm Conversation

Talking about money is one of the most difficult conversations that couples have. Statistics indicate that money problems are a primary reason for divorce. I have talked about the issues that make it difficult for ADHD individuals to manage their money here and here. Trying to explain to your partner some wacky impulse purchase that made total sense at the time is a set up for bad feelings, accusations, and disagreements.

Talking about how to spend money can be fraught with judgement, and if one partner has a higher income the conversation can be very uncomfortable. If you are going to survive as a couple, you have to find a way to talk about your money, how to spend it, what to save for, and how to handle debt. This is important even if you keep your money separately. Here are my top ten tips for a constructive money conversation.

1. Have the conversation in a neutral environment where each of you feels safe. Ideally the environment will not include children if you have them. You want to be able to focus and really hear each other.

2. Listen! Listen to each other without judgement. Listen, without forming your response in your head. The moment you start thinking of your answer/rebuttal you stop hearing what the other person is saying.

3. Keep the discussion in “I” phrases. For example : “I am worried that we are not saving enough to retire.” Do not blame. It is pointless. Remember that no one is a bad person because they have poor money management skills and focus on the now, not the past.

4. Bring all the numbers with you. Make a list of everything you owe and all your resources so that your are not talking about nebulous numbers. This is most important if one of you is the only one who pays bills and handles the banking.

5. There are always options. This is important to remember, as if your money problems are severe you might get stuck in a rut thinking there is no way out. There are plenty of options to research, but starting with debt settlement is a good idea. Research either on your own or as a couple depending on how conversations are going.

6. If impulse spending is the root cause of your problems, create cooling off mechanisms and spending agreements. For example: No one spends more than $100.00 on non-food items without discussing it with the other person first.

7. Agree to have regular meetings to discuss your money. Yelling at each other as you pass in the kitchen does not count.

8. If you find that no matter what you can not have a civil discussion about money, you may need to involve an outside party. This could be clergy, an accountant, or similar, non-family, neutral party. It is essential to have an individual present to help facilitate the discussion who is not invested in how you spend your money.

9. Remember to breathe. We do not come into this world automatically knowing how to manage money. It is a process. Take advantage of resources, many of them free, that are available to learn how to manage your money. Learn together.

10. The best way to start any money meeting is to remember why you became partners/spouses in the first place.

 

 

When it All Feels Like Too Much

My brain feels like this.

I often feel like this in February. The thrill of the New Year is over. It is usually so dang cold that going outside even for a few minutes feels overwhelming.  It is the time of year  when I start to question my ability to get it all done.

This is when it is time to step back, take a minute and remember the why of my goals. If you missed my post on setting goals, you can read it here .  Are you feeling the same way? Statistics suggest that at least half of the people that make New Year’s resolutions or goals abandon them after eight weeks.

Here are five tips to get back on track when you fall off the goal wagon:

1. Do one thing each day towards your most important goal. It does not have to be a huge thing, just do one small thing. Write one sentence if that is all you can manage, but do it. Set a timer for ten minutes and do as much as you can in ten minutes. If you are in a grove, set it for another ten minutes. The hardest part of momentum is getting started.

2. Get inspired again. Pick a theme song or make a play-list for working on specific goals. The play-list becomes your cue to get to work. I talk about the role of music in creating a habit of work in this post ,  and the prolific writer Megan Hart talks about the role music plays in her work habits here.  Make that play-list or pick the theme song. It will signal your brain that it is time to work.

3. Get off Social Media. You heard me. Take a break. Set limits. Do not compare your life/ achievements/ publishing record/ accomplishments to other people’s carefully curated life.

4. Review your goal plan. Do you need to rethink and re-plan? Has your life changed? Is the goal not important anymore?  Do you want to accomplish something else? Do not be afraid to abandon a goal if your life has changed dramatically. A new job, illness, birth, death, relocation, financial status changes may mean that you need to reexamine your goals and make a new plan.

5. Be gentle with yourself. Feel your feels, then get back on the bus and get going toward your goals.

When you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, frustrated, or confused : Jump into whatever creative thing feeds you with both feet.

Money for the Distracted: 10 Ways to Curb Impulse Spending

 

 

This is my second post in the money series. In my first post about money and ADD/ADHD, which you can read here if you missed it, I talked about how managing finances is difficult for people with ADD/ADHD.  A disclaimer, I am not an accountant, financial advisor, or economist, these are just some basic suggestions to organize your money life so you can feel more stable in how you handle money.

Many people struggle with impulse spending. It is even more difficult for people with ADD/ADHD, because we can jump into extravagant spending sprees, all in the name of a project related to house, food, kids, hobby, new job, etc. and be in debt up to our eyeballs before we know what the hell just happened.
I am not talking about a candy bar at the check out.  I’m talking about an entire library of books, a workshop full of tools, a new work-out wardrobe, a new house, kind of impulse spending. I talked about how hard yard-sales are for the distracted here.

So here are ten things you can do to stop impulsive spending:
1. Have a plan before you go shopping. Make a list. This is the hardest part: IF IT IS NOT ON THE LIST DO NOT BUY IT.  Really, do not buy it. Even if it is a great deal. Walk away. It is not a great deal if it was not on the list. This the only way to stick to your plan.

2. Take one-click shopping off of your phone. While you are at it, take the shopping apps off your phone. Randomly scrolling through shopping apps because your are bored, tired or can’t sleep is bad. It is the new version of infomercials that convince you that you NEED to spend $500.00 to loose weight/be a millionaire/ grow hair/ juice/ have a beach body, etc.  If you have to actually log in to a desk top computer or tablet to shop it will slow you down.

3. Delete your credit card information from the sites that are weaknesses, whatever that is, shoes, clothes, books, or the everything store. Again this will make require that you locate your credit card and then enter the information to make your purchase. This will buy some time for you to THINK about the purchase.

4. Before you spend anything that is not food or essential, ask yourself: Is this moving me closer to my goals? If the answer is no, the complete collection of the Crocodile Hunter on DVD is not going to get you closer, do not buy it. If your goal is to save money for a trip/vacation/emergency fund/house, etc, impulsively spending money will not get you there.

5. Find free alternatives to feed the need to acquire objects. Get a library card. Use it. Filling up a bag with books, Cd’s, and DVDs can feel like shopping.  The best part? You can take them back and do it all over again, for free!

6. Although some folks advocate cutting up all your credit cards, and going to a cash only system, I live in the real world, and I like to travel. Having a credit card makes it so much easier to travel. To curb impulse spending with your credit card, leave it home, (in a safe place where you can find it) when you are in your hometown. If you want whatever it is that you were going to buy bad enough to go all the way back home, find your credit card and then drive back to the store to buy the item, then you have given yourself some time to really think about the purchase.

7. Set a monetary limit for purchases that have to be discussed with another person. This person will need to be someone who will not get on the impulse train with you. It may seem silly for a grown person to have to talk to someone about their purchases but having to explain why you NEED the complete DVD collection of  the Golden Girls will make you think about twice about buying it.

8. Avoid the trigger stores. You know what they are. Bookstores, hardware stores, shoe stores, clothes stores, anywhere you could spend all day and your next paycheck. Do not go. If you do visit one of theses money-suck stores leave everything but cash you can spend behind. No debit card. No credit cards.

9. Write the word Think! on a sticky note. Place it on your credit card. Alternatively you could put a picture that represents you money goal on the front of your credit card, use whatever will remind you to stop and think before you spend.

10. Have someone else shop. This will not work for everything and every purchase but if your weakness is the grocery store, make a list and send someone else. Use an on-line service if you do not have a partner or friend who would do this for you.  if you are someone who routinely overspends at the grocery store, the money you would spend on the service will be off-set by the money you spend on impulse purchases.

I hope these help. The key in all of this is to find a way to give yourself time to think and decisions that support your money goals.  I have used each of these tips at one time or another. They do work. Remember to be kind to yourself. If you get discouraged go back and read the first post in this series.

 

Money Changes Everything: ADHD and Money

Money. The topic everyone wants to talk about and no one wants to talk about. There are many, many books on the market telling you how to handle, invest, save, spend and bank your money. Most of them assume that the individual reading the book has an attention span longer than a goldfish. Indivduals who have ADHD struggle with money managment for a number of reasons. Under-employment, inability to maintain a job/career, creative careers that pay irregularly, academic struggles that lead to low paying work, impulsive spending, forgetting to pay bills, lack of organization, and procrastination. This year on the blog I will feature one post a month about money. Money is difficult to discuss because so so many people equate their self-worth with their bank account. If you don’t get anything else out of this series know this: You are Not Your Money.  In an environment where we are constantly bombarded by messages to the contrary, it is often hard to remember this. Money is a tool, it provides opportunities and access. Money can not buy you happiness, or love.Money management is possible and it means you being in control of your money. I have been so broke I couch surfed before it was a thing, lived out of my car for six months, and ate a hell of a lot of rice and ramen noodles. When I finally was making money, I impulsively misspent and then spent 10 years paying it off. Did being broke make me bitter? Nope. I know that it won’t kill me. I know how to survive. I also know that it is so much better to be in control of money.If you are struggling with money management, I encourage you to take a deep breath, know that you can get it together about money, and that it is worth it. The first book that I recommend that you read is Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieveing Financial Independance by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominquez. Get it from the libray, borrow a copy, or buy it used, but read it. Some of it may seem dated but the exercises will help you get a handle on where you are right now in your relationship with money. My favorite exercise from this book is figuring out how much of your time you trade for things in your life. You will never look at material goods the same way after figuring out how much of your life you trade for things.I will leave you with my favorite  quote about money: “To walk in money through the night crowd, protected by money, lulled by money, dulled by money, the crowd itself a money, the breath money, no least single object anywhere that is not money, money, money everywhere and still not enough, and then no money or a little money or less money or more money, but money, always money, and if you have money or you don’t have money it is the money that counts and money makes money, but what makes money make money?”Henry Miller Tropic of Capricorn (1939) 

New Beginnings

Ha Long Bay 2009

Each  year I look back at the written list of goals taped to my desk. Some goals are always on the list. That doesn’t mean I didn’t accomplish them, some goals have no end point, such as being a supportive partner and a healthy person. Checking off a big goal always feels great. Looking back over the year and seeing check marks and lines drawn through a goal always makes me smile. I limit myself to ten big goals per year divided between Self, Family, Financial, Health and Community.

I don’t make resolutions, I make plans. Each goal gets broken down in to tiny little baby steps. I don’t get overwhelmed if I make tiny changes. I also know that small changes add up. Each day, I make sure that I have done at least one thing to move me towards my goals. It prevents me from becoming discouraged when life gets complicated. So many people say they want to write but don’t write down their writing goals, fail to make a plan, and then wonder why they don’t accomplish their goal.

If you want to accomplish a goal, make a plan. Break your plan down into small steps. Don’t discount the power of small steps. How small? When the kids were babies and I stayed home with them, if I managed to get 250 words written per day I was very happy. Even 250 words adds up, and keeps you moving forward. It can seem that life is conspiring with evil beings to thwart your best efforts to keep going. A parent becomes ill, a partner has surgery, your kids get sick, you get sick, the dog gets sick, and so it goes.

The key in all of this is to keep moving, as best you can. You might have to stop and take care of your family and yourself, but don’t stop forever. Pick up your notebook and get going again, don’t feel like you have to stop forever because you stopped for a while.

As part of my planning process every three years, my partner and I sit down with a bottle of wine and markers and draw a joint three year plan on poster sized paper. We dream, get silly, drink, and have fun. I post the picture behind the door in my office, right over my big calendar that I talked about in this post about how to keep track of multiple projects

It is not pretty to look at, but when we look back at the old one when it is time to do a new one, it is pretty amazing how much we have accomplished. Why? Because we verbalized what we wanted to do for ourselves and for our family, which means we work together to support each other in our adventures.
It also reminds us what our priorities are, which means we funnel our time, energy, and financial resources into our plans and dreams. Making plans is the difference between accomplishing anything and accomplishing nothing.

People get hung up making plans because they try and force themselves to conform and write a numbered straight list, editing themselves as they go, afraid of writing down what they really want to accomplish.

This year, loosen up, get out your big paper, markers, beverages of your choice, and have fun.
Dream big.

 Have a safe and happy New Year.

Keeping Track: Tips for Managing Multiple Writing Projects

It is not uncommon for me to have at four or five writing projects in progress. The gift of ADHD means that I always have projects. Some are large, long term projects such as developing my editorial calendar, manuscript drafts and edits, others are short such as website content and blog posts, and some fall in between, think short stories and journal articles. Although I love the reminder feature on my Google calendar, as a visual person I have difficulty conceptualizing time when it is represented by little boxes on a computer screen limited to a one month view.

 

Click here for my post on Creative Acts and Self Care

I need to see it all. My solution is a twelve month wall calendar. I like a Write on/ Wipe off type, ever so helpful if deadlines, or project details change.
I know some people are able to just work on one thing, and then move on to their next project, but my mind does not work that way. I need to be able to move to a different project when I get bored with what I am working on, and want to start something new (because new always feels good), going back to another project gives me the same feeling of doing something different, and yet it propels me forward in that task so in the end it all gets done.

Click here for my post on using flat files to keep my big projects organized

I also make notes in each file, listing the next steps to complete the project. For example, word count goals, scenes left to write or rewrite, necessary research, lists of of photographs/ images needed, correspond with a co-author, conduct an interview, follow up on an email, etc. I make these notes at the end of the manuscript and/or on the outline.  What, no outline? Read my post about outlines here. Outlines really are helpful.
I started keeping my Next Steps List when I was working on my master’s thesis. It kept me on track so I could finish my thesis on time, using every second of time I had to work effectively.
A Next Steps List helps in three ways:
1. You know what you need to do next to move toward completing your project and can get right back to work after a break in writing, invaluable with limited writing time.
2. A Next Steps List clears your brain so you can move on and work on other projects without the distraction and worry that you are forgetting something.
3. Crossing out tasks as you finish them is a visual reminder that you are making progress. A visual reminder of your progress helps maintain motivation on long projects.

In addition to my other writing projects, I write this blog and am starting another in February. (Stay tuned for details).  If you are a blogger, or want to be one, the best thing you can do for yourself is to create an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar is simply a calendar that you use to plan posts that you want to write, give them publishing dates and plan your posts. Keep it loose, give yourself permission to change what your post is about if you don’t want to write about that topic that week. Your editorial calendar allows you to plan in advance, gives you a place to park all your ideas for posts, and keeps you focused on your goals for the blog.

Most writers deal with deadlines, family obligations, work, holidays, and travel. Having a long term plan will help you stick to your writing schedule, turn projects in on time, and increase your productivity.  Make a plan. Hatch your dreams. Keep writing.

Zoë Kessler ADHD Accoding to Zoë _ A Year of Women’s Voices

Zoë Kessler’s book ADHD According to Zoë : The Real Deal on Relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (2013) is the first book I recommend to women with ADHD.

Ms. Kessler’s book offers suggestions for the issues that ADHD folks deal with everyday, and she does it with humor and honesty. Her poignant stories and examples of the effects that ADHD has had on her life left me laughing, and a little teary remembering some examples from my own life. She effectively articulates the belief that many individuals with ADHD have: everyone else must know some grand secret way to keep it all together AND remember where they put it.
Ms. Kessler’s book differs in her honest approach to how ADHD affects social relationships and sexuality, a topic that most books address fleetingly or not at all.  Ms. Kessler’s suggestions and tips are truly helpful. The solutions presented are things that folks with ADHD would able to accomplish, not some solution dreamed up by someone who has no idea what it is like to be wired 24/7/365 with a short attention span, unless we are hyper-focused.  Ms. Kessler’s warmth and genuine desire to help comes through in her writing. Reading this book is like having a conversation with a close understanding friend.
Ms. Keller also examines and addresses the stress that comes from being a woman with ADHD and the social construct that women are the center of the family, able to take care of everyone and everything else in addition to themselves, addictions, disorganization and time management,  sexuality, social issues, impulsiveness, the need to move, financial issues, creativity, and overwhelm. She encourages women to embrace their differences and find ways to work with who they are, instead of trying to force themselves to become the imagined perfection of everyone else.
Her message of hope that everyone diagnosed with ADHD treat themselves “with the respect, kindness and love that you deserve” is a welcome one.  If you only have one book on your shelf that deals with ADHD make it this one.
As a writer and fellow club member this is what I have learned reading  Zoë Kessler’s book and her very helpful blog ADHD from A to Zoe

 

 

1.  Tell your story honestly.
2.  Humor makes it easier to talk about difficult topics.
3.  Real life examples are an effective way to tell your story.
4.  It is possible to make writing about self-help FUNNY and helpful.
5.  Embrace you unconventional self, let it show in your writing.
Here a short bio and contact information for Ms. Kessler.
Zoë Kessler (http://www.zoekessler.com) is a best-selling author, journalist, and motivational speaker who specializes in topics relating to adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).
A top blogger at Psych Central.com, Kessler‘s blog, ADHD from A to Zoë has garnered a loyal readership from around the globe. Kessler also blogs for The Huffington Post, and is a frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine. She’s created radio documentary and standup comedy about being a woman living with ADHD. Zoë’s been interviewed on international radio, and has been featured in print media, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD, including Scientific American Mind Magazine.
Kessler’s most recent book, ADHD According to Zoë: The Real Deal on Relationships, Finding Your Focus, and Finding Your Keys has been described as a must-read, spellbinding portrayal of a woman with ADHD.

Holiday Hell or How to Survive the Holidays with ADHD

This is my face when I know that we are heading into the holidays. I am happy but cautious. I know that for me and folks like me the normal everyday distractions that cause us to wander off into our own little world multiply like rabbits gone wild.

 

 Many Christmas mornings I have felt like this, off center and out of focus,
 after having indulged in things like this,

 

and this.

 

I love the holidays, but I am easily overwhelmed by the lights, shiny objects, people, and activities that go with the holidays. Parties, gift buying, gift wrapping, kids off from school, travel, big family dinners, New Years celebrations are great and horrible at the same time. I loose track of everything, my routines are interrupted, and I get very little done. For many years it would take me until February to get back to center. Here are my top ten survival strategies to make the holidays less overwhelming

1. Plan some time each day to just sit. Even if it is just ten minutes, set a timer and forget about everything, let your brain and adrenal glands rest.
2. Limit or no alcohol.  I know it sounds harsh, and I know it is the season to be merry, but too much merry makes for a rough day the next day. ADHD folks often have issues with substance abuse, and the holidays make it so easy to over indulge. We like to quiet the noise in our heads with libations. Be honest with yourself about this.
3. SET A BUDGET for gifts, entertaining, and decorations. Really. Managing money is tough for folks with ADHD.  Impulsive spending feels good, and combined with the distractions of the season can cause debt to balloon to epic proportions. Do it. You will be grateful when you are not still paying for the holidays in July of 2018
4. Say No. You can do it. Say NO to those events, and situations that have caused you stress in the past. This will be impossible if it involves family. In family situations, if your really feel that you have to participate, set time limits. If you know that certain family members become total nut-cakes, and act out after a few glasses of eggnog, leave before it happens.  If this is you, see tip #2. Remember, their drama does not have to be your drama.
5. As hard as it is, keep up with your exercise routine. Be creative if you are traveling. Go for a walk, ride your bike, heck even shoveling snow is great exercise.  For folks with ADHD, some sort of movement each day is essential self care.
6. Eat well. Have some holiday treats but beware of the stress-eat sugar-max out my caffeine-screw it because it is the holidays trap. Loading your body with stimulants only exacerbates your impulsiveness and makes you do crazy things.
7. Avoid busy shopping times. I pretty much stay away from big box and chain retail stores from November until the middle of January. I shop local. Small stores are great, less overwhelming and have fewer choices. I also like supporting my neighbors and small businesses.
8. Go back and read this post about getting better sleep .  Really.
9. If other family members have ADHD remember that they are struggling too. Help your kids by modeling coping skills for sensory overload and situational overwhelm. Remind them that they can take breaks when ever they need to calm down. Help them moderate their sugar intake. Be aware that the stress of the holidays can make kids with no issues act out, ADD/ADHD just stacks the deck.
10. Enjoy yourself. Do what you need to do for your own self-care and your family’s well-being. If folks judge you for that, that is their problem, don’t let it be yours.

I hope these tips help.

My daughter trying to make the Grinch feel better.

My smirk, perpetuated by my son…