Courage and Radical Self-care

I’ve written before about how overwhelm can derail the best of plans. This past year I had a collection of short stories published (you can get them here) and I  signed a contract for a novel in January. In addition to writing I also teach cooking classes, work as a consultant, volunteer at my kids school once a week, work a day job, write this blog and another one, and I have kids and a partner, pets, etc.

Are you tired reading this? Or overwhelmed? I know I am. If you add in the current political climate I am beyond stressed. Like many people with ADHD I struggle on a daily basis with control and focus without outside pressures and demands. I have written before about self-care, here and here and I think that all of the ideas in those posts still work.

This post is about having the courage to stop doing things, in order to do the things that nourish your body and soul. For me that means letting go of my cooking blog for now, and more than likely letting go of this blog in the future. 

When I started this blog I did so because I needed a creative outlet, even if it seemed like I was shouting down a well most days. It was excellent writing practice. It gave me some positive feedback, and I made some amazing friends as a result of it. But with one contract signed, and wanting to publish more I’d much rather be working on my next book. I’m cutting back on my posts and holding on to this blog for now, because if life has taught me anything it has taught me that things change.

I’ve seen some snarky comments about bloggers staying on brand in the midst of the crazy, unsettling political and social upheaval going on right now. I have two things to say about that:

  1. Just because I don’t write about politics does not mean I don’t care. I am not unaware. Please do not suggest I am not sincere about my beliefs because I am not shouting them from this blog.  I am not a political blogger. I don’t plan on being one anytime soon. There are many many others more qualified than I am to do that. Go read their blogs. 
  2. In the midst of chaos a safe space that offers a peaceful place to rest your brain is necessary for survival. Stressing your adrenal glands long term without a break is a recipe for collapse. Life is a marathon not a sprint. I intend to survive this BS with my body and soul intact. 

Taking care of yourself enables you to cope with all the changes and stresses that come along and this is my message to you:

HAVE THE COURAGE TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

 Make a list of things you are no longer going to do. Then find ways to stop doing those things. Let go of what is not working, make space for what is. Post it where you can see it as a reminder in your calendar, or journal, or the refrigerator.  I’ll go first. 

I’m no longer going to stress over getting everything done because I’m putting myself, my family, and my creative projects at the top of the list.

I’m no longer going to work on any creative projects that I don’t enjoy. This may seem radical but it’s not. If you need permission I’m going to give it to you. If a project no longer makes you happy/satisfied/fulfilled, just stop. That novel you’ve been working on so long, you don’t even remember why you started it? Let it go. Write something that makes you excited to sit down and work. Write something that feeds you.

I’m no longer going to do exercise that makes me dread putting on exercise clothes. That gym membership you signed up for and don’t use? Let it go. Find an exercise program that makes you happy, walking, hiking, yoga, swimming, city- league hockey, slow pitch soft ball, whatever gets you moving and makes you happy do that instead. 

I’m no longer going to attend family gatherings/parties/social events that are stressful. That annual family thing that makes you want to scream and run from the room? Let it go. Politely decline. No explanation is necessary. “I’m sorry I will not be able to attend,” is a complete sentence.

The amazing Audre Lord wrote these wise words, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Caring for myself means staying on brand, staying positive and fighting in my own way for the things I believe in. 

Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to care for yourself. 

Holiday Hell, Part 2

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I wrote a post last year that talked about how to deal with the holidays and the stress and overwhelm that they can bring here , and I wrote about grief here. Today’s post talks about how to deal with grief at the holidays. I am not talking about the generic sadness that can strike because imagined holiday joy is offset by the reality of dealing with family, or work, or horrible happenings in the world at large.

I am talking about the kind of grief that comes from spending your first holidays without the best friend, the child, the mother, the brother, the son, the daughter, the husband, the wife, the partner, the father, the grandfather, the grandmother, the auntie, the uncle, or sister that has left this world.

I am talking about the kind of grief and sadness that sneaks up on you randomly and delivers a heart crushing pain. It can be little things that trigger it, a familiar smell, a place that reminds you of them, a store display, a gift that you might have bought, lighting the candles, a song that you hear, an ornament, or a tradition that now seems empty.

I have lived a bit at this point in my life, and have had my share of holidays that were about getting through them rather than celebrating. I know that I have been fortunate to have more years where I have reveled in all that is wonderful and good and happy about the holidays. I know that this year many of my friends are trying to find a way through the holidays. This my letter to them, and to everyone who is trying to support them.

  1. Take care of yourself. Do what you need to do to feel better, even if that means that you are doing something completely different.
  2. Let yourself be as sad as you need to be, don’t try and stuff your feelings because you are afraid of making others uncomfortable.
  3. Do not self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. As hard as it is, feel your feelings, masking them with substances is not good for your health.
  4. Let others do for you. If you cannot get it together to do what you have always done, let someone else do it.
  5. Surround yourself with people that love you, birth family, or made family, whoever it is, let them love you.
  6. If you are considering self-harm, please, please, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline   http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ . They have online services that are there to help.

If you are the one trying to help someone that is struggling here are your five tips:

  1. Ask what you can do to help, and then do it.
  2. Do not change the subject if the person grieving wants to talk about their sadness, let them express how they are feeling. Listen.
  3. If you are concerned about how someone is handling their grief, ask them. It is okay to talk about being sad.
  4. Love them, even if they are not themselves, even if they are angry, moody, or cry a lot, hold them if they need/want it, give them space to feel what they are feeling.
  5. If you are concerned that the person is at risk for self-harm, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ . They have many resources, to help you help the person you are worried about.

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Reentry: After Travel Self-Care

IMG_2538 I  spent last week in a fog after attending the Surrey International Writers Conference this year. Reentry into family/work/real life after travel /learning /inspiration/ and only having to take care of yourself can make the strongest among us freak out. Combine jet-lag, sleep issues, the time change, and all the stuff you did not do while you were gone and it can overwhelming and frustrating. All the ideas that you have for getting back to work to finish projects or start new ones can come to a grinding halt as your mind and body try to adjust, add a little ADD/ADHD into the mix and you have the perfect storm for feeling and acting like this:

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Here are five things that can help with reentry:

  1. Exercise. Walk or swim, or whatever it is that gets your body moving and rests your brain.
  2. Nature. Get outside, breathe, disconnect from electronics. Give your mind time to appreciate world without a screen.
  3. Eat well. Drink water.
  4. Be gentle with yourself.
  5. Be gentle with your family. Little ones often are sad/mad that you left them, they may cling or be difficult to let you know that they missed you, and are unhappy that you were gone. Sometimes big people behave the same way if they have had care and feeding of the littles. Remember that while a conference is work/career related, you were able to enjoy the company of other adults, and the parent at home was dealing with the fallout from your absence.

Conferences can be well-springs of information, inspiration, and support. Do not let after conference stress keep you from attending, try these tips after your next conference for a smoother reentry.

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Is It Worth It? Tips for Evaluating Creative Projects

 

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So I’m getting ready to go to a writing conference next week, and in the process of clearing my schedule, travel preparation, creating two editorial calendars, and meeting scheduled teaching obligations, I have been overwhelmed with new opportunities, and new project ideas. It often happens that when I am very busy and productive, my brain boils over with ideas for new projects. I like to take advantage of the times that my brain explodes with creative project ideas, storing them away like a squirrel storing nuts for the winter.

As a person with ADD/ADHD this is how my brain is most of the time, but some days it is worse. It can be overwhelming and frustrating. It feels like there is a tower of ideas in my head, each thought touching and building off other ideas and thoughts. It is a struggle sometimes to pull out the thoughts and ideas that best move me towards my goals, and not have everything come crashing to a halt because I choose the wrong idea to develop.

I never worry about running out of ideas, but I do worry about sorting out which idea/project/ new venture is best to pursue. After struggling to find a way to decide which ideas to take up, and which to let go, I choose this system. Any idea/project/venture that I choose to develop has to meet all three of these criteria:

  • It has to feed me creatively, or financially, preferably both.
  • It has to fit with my goals and it has be a step toward achieving an annual or lifetime goal.
  • It has to align with my ethics and my values.

You will notice I don’t include that it has to be feasible, practical, or sensible. I have found that if a project meets the criteria listed, than the project becomes achievable, and it is reasonable to commit energy and resources to the project.

If you have a creative idea/project/venture that you are struggling to get started or complete, back up and examine why. Ask yourself: Why this project? Why don’t I want to get started? Why don’t I want to complete the project? Take the time to examine the project using the criteria listed above to evaluate it.   Remember, it is perfectly fine to quit a project that does not move you towards your goals; it is okay to quit a project if it is not ethical and does not fit with your value system; and it is more than okay to quit a project that does not feed your body or your soul. 

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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.

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.

All I Want for Christmas

 Every year I find myself more frustrated with the rampant consumerism and ridiculous advertising messages implying that what you spend equals how much you love someone.  I have always hated that part of Christmas, and the pressure I see people put on themselves to buy the perfect gift, whatever that might be. As the Grinch said, and I am paraphrasing here: Christmas doesn’t come from a store.
As a nurse, I have spent many holidays at the hospital watching families get the best gift of all, a new person to love in their life. I have held hands as families have let go of loved ones too. Remembering friends and family no longer with us physically, I am reminded that each year is a gift.
This year, all I want is more moments like this,

 

and this.

 

Take time to enjoy your family and friends this holiday season whatever you celebrate!

Tips for Traveling with ADD/ADHD

Road Trip 2014

 

Traveling with ADD/ADHD feels like this.

 

Traveling means a change in routine. Change combined with sensory overload is a recipe for major distraction issues, anger management issues, and overwhelm. I love to visit new places and experience new things, but getting there is stressful. It was bad enough when I just had to worry about getting myself from point A to point B but with kids it is complicated.

Instead of just my own needs, I need to worry about two other people getting where they need to go, safely, and to have fun on the way. It is one thing to get lost, miss a flight, or forget items of clothing, when it is just you, it is very problematic with kids.
These are the things that we do at our house to make it easier when we travel by car, and when we take plane trips.

 1. DO NOT PROCRASTINATE! Sorry to be so shouty but if you don’t follow any of the other tips, please embrace this one. The sooner you get your tickets, plan your route, pack your bags, put in your mail hold, and make reservations, the less chance you have of screwing everything up beyond repair.
2. Set reminders in your phone or on your computer to remind you to do the things in number 1.
3. Take time to make a plan, using Who, Where, When, What and How for your trip. Think of this as an outline, not etched in stone.
4. Make a packing list. If your want to get fancy you could make a permanent one that you laminate and write on with dry erase markers.  If you travel a lot a permanent list that lives in your suitcase is helpful.
5. Make kids responsible for their own entertainment bag/carry on. Young children will need guidance, older kids should be told they are on their own, and that they will have to be responsible for carrying it and keeping track of what they bring. The rule for older kids is you have to be able to pick it up and run with it, in case we have to try to catch a connecting flight.
6. If you or family members take medications be sure pack enough for several days in your carry-on luggage in case your bags are lost.
7. I can not travel without music. It helps me relax and keeps me from being overwhelmed and aggravated by the noises on a flight. Although the last several flights I have been on have been really quiet. Thank you smart phones and tablets.
8. Pack healthy snacks and lunches. When we travel by car we always pack a picnic lunch. This saves money, time, and we are not forced to eat crappy fast food. This is more difficult traveling by air. On long flights, we pack healthy snacks, and sandwiches that do not need refrigeration.
9. Pack earplugs or noise canceling headphones for flights. Most ADD/ADHD people have sensory issues, and a plane flight is very difficult as we can’t move about, and we are overstimulated by all the people energy, and noise around us. If your kids have ADD/ADHD, find kid sized headphones for them. Understand that travel is hard on kids without sensory issues, it is magnified in kids with sensory issues.
10. Be understanding of yourself. If keeping track of the tickets is stressful and you have another adult or responsible older child with you, let them keep track of the tickets.
11. Breathe. Focus on the fun you will have when you finally get where you are going. Remember if it gets crazy it will make a great story later.
Peace and safe travels.
Why yes,  that is a giant bottle of ear plugs.

 

 

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.