How to Control Your Emotions – Managing ADHD Symptoms

One symptom of ADHD is difficulty regulating negative emotions.

EmotionsEmotions such as worry, fear or anger can easily get the best of us unless we have powerful tools to stay in control of our emotions.

When gripped by powerful negative emotions, chemical and neurological changes occur in the body. These changes are often referred to as the “fight, flight, fright, or freeze” syndrome.

When our body goes in this state, our logical, rational mind is bypassed and the primitive survival areas of the brain take charge. Under these conditions, it is difficult to think clearly and stay in control.

With logical thinking stalled or blocked, we lose access to our productive coping strategies. When this happens, we remain stuck in a cycle of emotionality and struggle. We react from instinct to protect ourselves. Reactivity encourages poor coping strategies such as blaming, quitting and denying responsibility.

In order to get back in charge, we need to break the cycle of “fight, flight, fright, or freeze”. We need to regain control of our logical decision-making skills so we can make good decisions that will help us met our goals.

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Sleep Strategies for Adults With ADD and ADHD

sleeping womanEveryone and every “body” is unique. Finding the right combination of approaches is the key in discovering how to get to sleep if you have ADHD/ADD!

Adults with ADHD often deal with several sleep issues. These include:

  • difficulty falling asleep at night,
  • struggling to wake up in the morning and
  • trouble remaining alert during the day.
  • Many also struggle with sleep-related disorders such as restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy.

Circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle

One key factor in figuring out how to get to sleep, wake up refreshed, and remain alert during the day, is the Circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle.

Over an approximately 24-hour period, two hormones engage in a dance that regulates our alertness and produces sleep.

Cortisol is the hormone that creates alertness and wakefulness.

Its level should peak during the middle of the day. However, for individuals with ADHD, cortisol levels peak later in the day. This can cause individuals with ADHD to have more energy in the evening when the body should be preparing for sleep.

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Turn Up The Volume!

volume maximumOne of the easiest and fastest ways to get a new habit established is to create a story around it. That’s why I love metaphors so much!   They make it really easy to explain stuff to people, they are easy to remember, and they make changing habits so much smoother.

Metaphors make intangible things like “focus” become more “real” in a unique and practical way.

So here is one of my favorite metaphors for improving your focus and concentration!

Think of the amount of focus you give to a task as being comparable to the volume setting on a radio which can be adjusted anywhere from “0” to “10”.

A setting of “0” indicates you have the volume turned down so low you can’t hear what’s being broadcast.

A “10” indicates you can loudly, clearly, and comfortably hear everything coming through.

Having a reference point – particularly one that stimulates one of your senses, in this case hearing – will give you a way to monitor your level of focus and more easily recognize when you need to make adjustments.

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Concentration and Attention Tips for Adult ADD/ADHD

DopamineDopamine dosers to your rescue!

Brain chemicals called neurotransmitters play a key role in concentration and focusing. One of these neurotransmitters is dopamine – the major chemical that regulates focus, motor movements and feelings of pleasure.

You can use some clever tricks to capitalize on and “control” the dopamine system in your body.  Here are three quick ways to get your brain to “dose you with dopamine” and increase your ability to pay attention and concentrate!

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Non-Medical Treatment of Adult ADHD – Exercise to Focus, Follow-through, and Feel Good!


“A bout of exercise is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin.”
– Dr. John Ratey

And Dr. Ratey ought to know! The illustrious neuropsychiatrist from Harvard Medical School is the author with Dr. Ned Hallowell of the “Driven to Distraction” series and is one of the world’s leading authorities on the brain-fitness connection!

Exercise elevates your mood – which antidepressants such as Prozac do – and improves attention and concentration – which Ritalin does.

More and more professionals are recommending exercise as a treatment for mood and attention-related challenges such as ADHD, depression, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.

Benefits of Exercise

Physical activity turns our brains on! Our brains are more active during exercise than any other activity we engage in. Exercise is natural way to trigger the brain chemicals so helpful in managing the symptoms of ADHD.

The executive area of the brain – the part that controls activities that people with ADHD often find challenging such as planning, prioritizing, breaking down tasks into manageable steps, organization, memory, mood, motivation and follow through – is switched on during exercise, and the effects last for some time after we stop moving.

Physical activity keeps our brains young and perky by slowing down the process of degeneration that can result in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It improves our memory and helps our brain learn new habits, routines, and facts. Exercise promotes sleep and is a natural depression fighter.

Exercise makes your brain better in so many ways, so it’s a “no-brainer” decision to find ways to work more physical activity into your day!

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Adult ADHD, Carbs and Mental Clarity

carbs“When you feed a person with ADHD, you are feeding the brain and not the stomach.”

– Anonymous

Everything we consume has an intimate connection with how our bodies function – you can’t get away from that eternal truth! Nothing in the world will completely reverse the negative effects of a “horrible” diet. Nothing.

No one understands that better than I do.

When I was 29 years old I had a complete immune system breakdown. I developed so many severe health problems that I couldn’t leave the house for 5 years…I couldn’t work for 10 years.

The list of physical problems that I had to contend with reads like a horror story:

Irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, myofascial pain syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, hepatitis, systemic candidiasis, and 25 knee dislocations (have you ever tried to take a shower when you’re on crutches – not fun).

I went from doctor to doctor, treatment to treatment, and yes, diet to diet! One doctor put me on a bland diet, another a gluten-free diet, a third a macrobiotic diet. And lots and lots of nutritional supplements and herbal medicines, of course.

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The Hardest Part Is Getting Started

task– Techniques for People with ADHD to Get Started and Keep Going on Any Task –

How do we get started when we have a task we want to – or need to – complete?  Well, the hardest part is getting started. Once we actually get started, it’s a lot easier to keep going.

But oh, my goodness! Getting started can really suck sometimes, can’t it!!

It’s a lot easier to get going when you “set the bar low” and here’s what I mean by that. The principle is to set small, very achievable goals, and chain them together, one after the other.

Why is “goal chaining” so effective?

First of all, it’s a lot easier to deal with feelings like dislike or boredom if we tell ourselves we only have to put up with it for a very limited amount of time.

Secondly, every time you achieve one of your small goals, your brain rewards you with a pleasant hit of dopamine. Not only does dopamine feel yummy, it is the neurochemical most responsible for motivation – making it a lot easier to keep going! And as an added benefit, dopamine regulates our motor movements making it easier and smoother to “do” anything! And it improves attention too! Dopamine ROCKS.

Ridiculously Simple Step Strategies!

I call the little “micro” goals in the goal chaining process, Ridiculously Simple Steps!

Because of our natural processing style – the unique way we make sense of the world – one of the following ways of thinking about Ridiculously Simple Step strategies may resonate more easily for you, and therefore it will be more likely that you’ll remember it and use it make your life easier. So here are several ways to think about using Ridiculously Simple Step strategies:

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Staying Organized for Adults with ADHD

When you look around your home, or office, or car…how do you feel inside –



…  or Satisfied?

Does it seem that getting organized and clearing the clutter is an impossible dream, never to be? Take heart! You can get organized when you take it step by step and focus on a powerful and effective process.

Reality check

Your clutter didn’t arrive last night by special messenger. It’s been accumulating little by little for some time.

So… New strategies for getting rid of the clutter will take time to get in place. And de-cluttering will also occur one step at a time.

Don’t rush it and don’t beat up on yourself for not moving quickly enough. You only need to take small steps, one by one – but you need to take these small steps consistently!

If you do that, if you can commit to that, your clutter will eventually disappear, and it will not return! That a nice thing to look forward to, isn’t it?

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Wake Up Your Brain and Get More Attentive – Use the Gross and Sexy Factor!

iStock_000005396412_Double Balloon Head_2Maybe you’re reading this because the title “caught your eye!”  Actually it wasn’t your eye that got caught – it was your Reticular Activating System (or RAS for short).

Humans have a sort of “Beat Cop” in their brains – the RAS – a bundle of nerves in the brain stem that controls what you pay attention to.

Learning how to take charge of your RAS will give you tremendous benefits in your ability to focus, pay attention and get more accomplished.  You’ll be able to concentrate, keep going when tasks are difficult, and you’ll feel better about how much you get done!  You’ll be more “present” during conversations and more aware of your surroundings.

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Focusing on Your Goals

Women who want to achieve their goals need to be focused and on target.

  • But are you on target or is your life out of control? 

  • Do you have so much to do you can’t decide where to start? 

  • Do you begin a task and then abandon it? 

If any of this sounds familiar, you may be wondering what you can do to improve your focusing. 

Dr. Kari Miller shares Part 1 of her post on how you can take control, get on target and focus.

Focusing on Your GoalsFocus

Maybe you have so much to do you can’t decide where to start.  Maybe you begin a task and then abandon it.  If any of this sounds familiar, you may be wondering what you can do to improve your focusing.

If you’ve ever said to yourself, “I wish I could just focus!” you know it’s not so simple. To become a focusing super star, the first step is to understand what focusing really is.

It’s hard to take control of something you don’t fully understand.

“Focusing” is actually a combination of five related skills: attention, concentration, persistence, comprehension and memory. So let’s dive in!

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