ADHD and Resistance: Five Steps for Overcoming Resistance


Resistance is different than procrastination, but often they are linked.  Why do we put off projects, activities, phone calls, meetings, purchases, cleaning, laundry, exercise and a million other to-dos that will make our live easier, more organized and less stressful? Resistance. For individuals with ADD/ADHD what looks like procrastination is often linked to resistance. We may be discomforted by some aspect of the task, or have had poor experiences that we don’t want to repeat. Sometimes resistance for ADD/ADHD individuals is linked to sensory issues that are associated with the task, or past frustrations with tasks. Figuring out what you are resisting is one way to end procrastination and move forward.  Resistance can create very serious physical problems, particularly when it comes to things like health checkups and screenings, dental care, exercise, and self-care. 

Here are five tips to help you get past resistance.

  1. Step back from criticizing yourself about not doing whatever it is you are not doing. Ask yourself “why am I avoiding this task/event/work?” Make a list of the reasons for your avoidance, in a non-judgmental way. Do not discount any reason that occurs to you, no matter how trivial the reason seems. Be honest. Remember that there always has to be a reason: “I just don’t feel like it” is not a reason, there is always a deeper reason. Sensory sensitivities, a major component of ADD/ADHD are often at the root of resistance. Sounds, smells, and sensory overload associated with tasks and events can trigger resistance and procrastination. 
  1. Look at the list from step one. Ask yourself “What can I fix?” Be realistic here, if that six in the morning spin class is not working because it is too early, find a later one. If you can fix the issues, fix them. Is the mega-grocery store overwhelming? Find a smaller store or shop on-line. Be creative.
  1. Pay attention to the seasons in your life. Are you dealing with aging parents, young children, teens, transitions, health issues, etc. ? Maybe now is the time to drop activities that do not fit. Often resistance is your mind/body telling you that now is not the time for an activity. Be careful here. Do not stop self-care activities like exercise and time for creative acts. Stop doing things that are not contributing to your well-being. Learn to say no to things that do not feed your soul.
  1. If the task is something you can’t let go of, like laundry, bills, or cleaning.  Can someone else do the task for you? If you can afford it pay someone to do the tasks you hate. If you are in relationship consider working together, and each of you do the task the other hates, or do the tasks together so they don’t take as long. Sometimes resistance is really resentment masquerading as resistance. 
  1.  Do not be afraid to experiment. Resistance to change for ADD/ADHD individuals has much to do with our need for routine which I wrote about here.  If you are still resistant, start again with step one, it often takes time to get to the real reason for resistance.  

I hope these tips help. The next time you find yourself resisting, take the time to figure out why. It can make a very big difference in your mental and physical health. 




Money for the Distracted: Getting Off the Paycheck to Paycheck Merry-Go-Round

The paycheck to paycheck merry-go-round is a soul sucking ride that leaves most people feeling like this when it comes to their money.
So, how to get off? The B word. That’s right a budget, spending plan, or what ever you want to call it that does not give you  hives. A plan for your money, so you can see where it goes. Before you stop reading know that I understand that accidents, unexpected illness, medical emergencies, veterinary emergencies, and other acts of nature can shoot the best made budget out of the sky. How do you try to get out of a deep hole of debt? Here are seven tips to get started:
1. Stop. Just stop and gather all of your financial documents in one place. Figure out where you are. The library is full of books that will show you how to budget. Turn off the TV, shut down Facebook or Twitter, get off Pinterest and take an evening and sit down with your partner and lay it all out. Do it together. If you are worried about having the conversation or talking about money with your partner, read my post here for tips on how to talk about money.
2. Commitment to improving your financial situation.  Forgetfulness, procrastination, impulse spending, late payments, and general inattention cause problems with money management. Folks with ADHD/ADD struggle with all of the above. I once found a tax return that I was supposed to mail in my raincoat pocket two years after I was supposed to mail it. Why? Because in the two block walk to the post office on my way to work, I forgot to mail the tax return. Set up systems to help you keep your commitment and remember important financial dates.
3. Understand that there is a difference between being underwater because of poor money management, and catastrophic / unplanned life events. Do not see your situation as a symptom of poor character development.
4. Spending to save money is not saving at all. Too many people have bought into the whole coupons-stockpiling madness. Having thousands of dollars of food and household products in storage that rot before you use them is a waste of time and money. Yes, you can save money by stocking up when things are on sale and you have a coupon but only buy what you need/will eat, and enough to last until the next sale.
5. Figure out if you have an outgo or income problem. Do you not make enough to cover your basic expenses? If you can not afford food, housing, utilities, transportation, and medication costs on your income you have an income problem. Do you spend more than you make on non-essentials? That is an outgo problem.  No blaming here, just figure out what you need to work on, or if you need to work on both.
6. Take advantage of free resources to get help. The library is a great place to start. There are many free on line money management tools also. Check them out. Mint is a great place to start, and no they do not pay me to say that.
7. Getting out of debt is like losing weight, we all know that we should, how is the problem. Everyone needs to find ways that work for them, there is no one way. The keys for ADD/ADHD individuals is that the system needs to be simple, easy to remember, and automated as much as possible. Complicated systems that require large investments of time will be difficult for most people but for those of us with the attention span of a goldfish they are impossible.
Find a way to start your journey towards a place of calmness with your money. Financial stress can kill relationships and contribute to depression. Start where you are, be kind yourself, and believe that you can get off the merry-go-round.

Creative Acts and Self-Care

When I make time to write and create I feel like this 

powerful, strong, and alive. 
When I don’t take care of my creative needs I feel like this
 cranky, cantankerous, and bitter.  
Taking care of yourself by making time to do the things that you like to do is vitally important to your mental health.  If you have attention issues, and struggle with keeping up with day to day household activities, making time to write or draw, scrap book, or just sit and read a book may make us feel like we are cheating, because we are not doing the thousand and one other things we “should” do.   
The truth is it is okay, and very necessary to take of our creative needs.  Self care goes beyond exercise, eating well, and sleeping. Spending an afternoon writing, painting, drawing, or doing crafts is a way to get your brain to shift out of overdrive.  Sitting meditation is very difficult for ADHD individuals, although the benefits are fantastic, sitting still is so torturous that often we fail, and then feel bad about failing. Creative pursuits are a form of meditation. Getting lost in a project is soothing.  The problem for many people with ADD/ADHD and creative outlets is that we want to try and do everything, then we feel overwhelmed, and wind up doing nothing.  Here are five tips on how to balance creative needs and the rest of your life.
1. Schedule creative time at least once a week.
2. Limit yourself to three creative pursuits.  One that can be done indoors, one that can be done outdoors, and one to do when you are tired or need a break from the other two.
3. Set a budget! This is hard but necessary. By limiting what you can spend on your chosen creative outlet, you can cut down on the overwhelm that can occur with too many supplies.
4. Give yourself permission to be the creative person you are. If others do not understand your need/desire to spend an afternoon writing about your imaginary friends, or making scrapbooks, or painting, or making bird houses, find supportive people who do understand. 
5. Set a timer!  It is so easy to hyper-focus and lose track of time, a timer will keep you on schedule. I set a timer when I write so that I don’t forget to pick up my kids from school.  A timer is also useful when bargaining with kids/spouses around creative time as in ” please leave me alone until the timer rings”.
Make time to create.  Enjoy the process. Take care of yourself.

Embracing the Work of You: Ten Tips for a More Organized Life

Bucky 2009

Staying on top of your “to do” list. Being on time. Having clean clothes. Being able to find what you need when you need it. Staying on a task until it its complete. ADD/ADHD makes each of these tasks seem impossible at times. I often feel like Sisyphus, rolling that dang bolder up the hill just to watch it roll away again.

The truth is, no one ever has it all together. Everyone struggles to keep up with their lives. For those of us with distraction issues it feels like we carry extra weight on our journey.

I have a great brain for remembering every little bit of information that comes my way, but I still have to put the car keys away in the same place every time, or I can not remember where I put them.  I label the shelves in the refrigerator so I can remember to put food back where it goes, and my toothbrush has colored tape on it because I can’t remember which color toothbrush is mine. Silly? Maybe, but it keeps my from brushing my teeth with other peoples toothbrushes!

 When I get frustrated with myself have to remember that most people do not contend with a brain that will drop everything to watch, and perhaps follow a stray ant that happens along. Most people can filter out the unimportant from the important. Most people would comprehend that starting that wallpaper stripping project at midnight,  just because you notice that part of it is already starting to peel anyway, might not be a good course of action.

After years of being angry and frustrated with myself, I finally decided to make friends with my brain, and to find ways to work with what I have.  If you are struggling with organization, and keeping up with events in your life try these organization tips.

  1. Automate everything possible.  Sign up for E-Bills, schedule up automatic bill payments, schedule routine deliveries of household items (toilet paper, etc.),  subscribe to mail order/ automatic prescriptions refills.  Take advantage of services available. 
  2. Use labels on the outside, and on the inside containers, drawers, and cupboards to help you remember what goes where and where things are.  For young kids pictures work well. The inside label system  works well for chests of drawers and helps to keep clothing organized.
  3. Use a checklist for groceries. There are many free downloads on line. Find one and use it, or create your own. Train everyone to check things off as you use them.
  4. Create a landing zone and have a routine for entering the house. This works for kids and adults. Create a routine, such as: hang keys up, shoes off, coats hung, bags/ backpacks/ purses/ etc hung up, hands washed. Cubbies, hooks, key racks and shoe racks work well to keep things off the floor and where you need them when you leave. 
  5. Create a household task schedule. It can be a simple as knowing that every Wednesday and Sunday you are doing laundry, and cleaning the bathroom every Saturday.
  6. Clean the kitchen after each time you cook. This will 1) save you money as you will not be as tempted to go out to eat, or order a pizza, and 2) provide a sense of accomplishment because at least the kitchen is clean!
  7. Lay out out your clothes for the next day, have your kids do the same. This will save time in the morning, and prevent last minute scurrying around trying to find clothes that fit, and that are clean. 
  8. Have a place to open mail and pay bills. Do not open mail anyplace else. Train everyone to place mail in the same place.  This system will prevent lost misplaced bills, etc. 
  9. Have a main calendar for the family. Place it where everyone can see it. Use different colors for each person’s schedule.  REVIEW the calendar nightly!  If you don’t look at it you might as well not have one.
  10. Maintain a sense of humor. Everyone misses appointments, forgets things, has to find the cleanest dirty shirt to wear, or scrambles at the last minute to get things together.  Give yourself a break and go back to your system.
These are some of the things that I do to keep my life going on a somewhat even keel. I hope they help and if you have suggestions, send them along! 

Tips for Listening or “I swear we never talked about that!”

They are all ears!

Improving your listening skills may not be easy, but it should be a priority. Listening is the key to good relationships, following directions, understanding others, and success. It is a difficult task for those of us with ADD/ADHD.  Our minds pick up words randomly and start new lines of thoughts in our heads, while you are still talking to us. Our brains haphazardly latch on to phrases, we notice your sparkly jewelry, someone walks by, and we struggle to focus on what you are saying to us. If we are the middle of another task, and you talk to us, we will respond.  You will leave thinking we heard you, and we will be left wondering what it was you said to us.

Unlike people who struggle to listen because they are thinking of their response,  ADD/ADHD folks are trying to sort unimportant information from important information.  We are trying to reel in our brains that have gone on off on some tangent, provoked by a word, or phrase in the conversation.

Given our impulse control issues, this leads to us blurting out some truly off the wall comments in the middle of conversations.  This can cause people to  think that we are:  A) crazy,  B) rude, or C) all of the above.  Developing listening skills takes work.

If you struggle with listening try these three tips:

1) Speak up if you are having a hard time concentrating. This means admitting to people that you have no idea what they just said. Ask to move the conversation to a less distraction filled location.

2) Stop. If you are doing another activity, and it is safe for your to stop that activity, do it. Trying to listen while doing anything else is a sure way to fail.

3) Turn off, or put away electronic devices. Turn off the TV, stick your phone in your pocket, close your laptop, put down the game console, etc.  Screens are death to listening.

As hard as it is to listen in relationships and intimate settings, listening during lectures, and in classroom settings is more problematic. We are surround by other people, and not in control of the environment. An open window, a windy day, anything, and nothing can distract us from the listening. When we  are able to listen, our brains gobble up all material presented, often in no particular order.

 To improve your listening skills in lectures and classroom settings try these three tips:

  1) Take notes. If you do not have a system for taking notes, or if you have a young person who is struggling with how to listen and take notes, this is a  great link to PDF of how to use the Cornell Note taking system .   Over the years I have modified the Cornell System  to work with my visual style of learning.  In addition to using the Cornell system, I add flow charts and use sketches to define key words.

2) Limit distractions in your environment. Choose a seat that distances you from distractions. Sit in the front of the room,  try to sit with your back to windows,  and avoid sitting next to anyone using their computer to take notes.

3) It you feel yourself drifting, get up and stand at the back of the room. It may make it harder to take notes, but standing can help you focus. If you have hyperactivity issues, a fidget, aka a small item you can manipulate, can help improve your focus.  This article explains fidgets for ADHD ( .  I have used fidgets for years, and find it useful to keep my hands busy in order to sit still.   Fidgets like this can be a big help for adults,  for kids there are fidgets like these  .  If you want to send your child to school with a fidget, make sure to check with the teacher first, find a fidget that is quiet, to avoid distracting to other children.

I hope these tips help. For more information on how to improve your listening skills, I recommend  The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Your Relationships by Michael P. Nichols, PhD .  My copy is highlighted and underlined.  Although the book is does not specifically address ADD/ADHD issues and listening, it made a very big difference in my life.  Improve your listening skills.  The people in your life will thank you for doing it.

The bird is listening…