Quit “Shoulding” On Yourself!

How often do you think that you should be able to accomplish a particular task? Or that you should do….insert activity that might be good for you but that you don’t currently do?

Here are some examples:

I should be able to figure out my monthly expenses, what is wrong with me?

I should go to the gym more, what is wrong with me?

Everyone else remembered to call Sue on her birthday, I should be able to remember something that simple, what is wrong with me?

My mentor coach would call this “shoulding on yourself.” 

The word should, per the Oxford English Dictionary, is “used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.” In other words, should is a judgment word. To “indicate…correctness” implies that if you don’t do what you should, you are incorrect. In the wrong. Even the definition tells us it’s used typically to criticize.

And for ADHDers, there can be lots of shoulds. And lots of self criticism.

But wait a minute, you say. Aren’t there things we really should do?

Of course there are. We should drive sober. We should pay our taxes. We should call our mothers on Mother’s Day, and dads on Father’s Day.

So when SHOULD we use should? And when is should akin to a four letter word?

The way I look at it is this: I feel that should can be reserved for absolutes. For rules, laws, socially acceptable customs – in other words, situations where there is no judgment involved, because it’s pretty black and white.

But when it’s not a rule, using should kind of makes it a rule. And then if we don’t do something, we’ve broken that rule-and we go down the rabbit hole of shame.

How about, when it’s not a rule, we use “want?” Let’s try it.

I want to be able to figure out my monthly expenses, but I’m not sure how. Maybe I’ll ask someone for help.

I want to go to the gym more, what can I do to get there consistently?

Everyone else remembered to call Sue on her birthday, I want to be able to remember something that simple. What can I do to make this happen?

“Should” makes it a rule, and invites embarrassment and shame. “Want” makes it a desire, and invites action.

So here’s a little assignment: try to notice when you say you should do something. And if you do catch yourself, replace should with “want to,” and see how different that vibe is.

It will probably make you want to stop shoulding all over yourself!

If You Don’t Know The Basic Science Behind ADHD, You Need to Learn It

When I do an initial intake with a new client, one of the questions I ask is “What would you like to learn about your ADHD?”  It’s a pretty broad question, and most responses center around wanting to learn how to be more productive, or how to organize their lives.

At that point, I ask, “How much do you know about the brain science behind your ADHD?”

The majority say they don’t know anything, or very little. The word dopamine is bandied about a bit. And most surprisingly, when I ask if they would like to know more, most say, “I don’t really need to.”

Oh, but you do. You really, really do.

I’m not talking about becoming a neuropsychologist, or obtaining the knowledge that your psychiatrist has. But having a basic understanding of what physically makes your brain different, and how that impacts your life, is, in my opinion, essential. 

First, it is vital to understand that there are physical differences between the ADHD brain and the neurotypical brain. It is not being lazy, or dumb, or anything behavioral. Comprehending that concept opens up an entire world for those of you who have been chastising yourselves about not trying harder. Or just not getting over it.

Would you berate yourself because you haven’t tried harder to see better, if you are a glasses wearer? Of course not. And just because this is a brain related disorder does not make it any less physical.

Repeat that to yourself a few times.

Secondly, I’m not sure how one can make a well informed decision about symptom management if they don’t understand what is causing the symptoms to begin with.

Let’s take an example from my running life. Let’s say I have a pain in my knee. In order to decide how to handle that, (Rest? Ice? New running shoes? Surgery?) I need to understand what may have happened that resulted in this pain before I can decide what I need to do next.

With ADHD, having a working comprehension of what is causing symptoms can help us to make solid treatment decisions. Knowing that my brain has lower dopamine might lead me to use medication to offset that. Understanding that the areas of my brain that control my emotional responses are different than those belonging to neurotypicals might convince me to try meditation to help with regulating my responses.

Deciding on one’s symptom management without having a basic understanding of what is causing the symptoms is like wearing a bikini on a sunny day…in February. You just don’t have all the facts to make an informed decision.

Finally, having a basic working knowledge of how your brain is different enables you to set up your life in ways that support you.

Dopamine low? Let’s make things more fun to get us going! Executive functions negatively impacted? Maybe an accountability buddy or group can help keep us on track. Fight or flight activated quickly? Perhaps I need to let my significant other know this can happen.

I don’t mean to imply that the ADHD brain is wrong, or broken, or just not effective. Not at all. But it IS different. And providing yourself with that knowledge is a gift of self awareness, and part of the ADHD toolbox for living your best life.

How Body Doubling Is Changing My Life!

That sounds awfully dramatic, doesn’t it? But it’s the truth!

I have a project that has been sitting on my back burner for so long, it’s blending in with the decor. It’s a terrific project, a great idea, something that, if I can get it off the ground,will enable me to help people make major positive changes in their lives…

But, there it sits.

And the thing is, I already started it, awhile back. So it’s not about starting this project, and feeling overwhelmed. It’s about starting AGAIN.

It’s that same feeling you get when you’ve been going to the gym consistently, and then life happens, and you miss one workout, and another, and another. It’s almost harder to go BACK to the gym than it was to start in the first place.

What’s up with that?

When we are starting something new, there’s excitement. There’s anticipation. Using the gym example, there are so many possibilities-feeling great, looking chiseled, meeting new people.

But that excitement isn’t really there when we go BACK to something we’ve done in the recent past. Sure, we know it’s a good idea, we looked and felt much better when we were working out often, but it’s really hard to drum up that “new” feeling that kicks our enthusiasm-and our dopamine-up several notches.

And that’s exactly what I have run into with my project. I know it’s a great idea, but I also can’t garner that “Yahoo!” feeling. The newness isn’t there. Plus I also know about the downside-that I actually have to do work to make it happen!

Enter body doubling. Body doubling is when we work alongside someone, as opposed to with them. It is a great way to keep working-you’re not going to start playing on your phone when you’ve committed to working and your body double can see you. So it works fantastically well for distractions.

But as an incentive to start a task? Yup!

A friend offered to body double with me while I work on this project. She had some work to do as well, so we would both benefit.

And suddenly, the newness was there! I was going to work with my friend! And be able to share my progress! 

This new twist made all the difference.

So far, we’ve body doubled once, and now, I’m working away on my project even when she’s not around, so I can tell her how far I’ve come since I saw her last. Accountability is built into the process, along with having a work buddy.

Now, there is actually hope of completing this project in the foreseeable future, which could really be a game changer for me, and others. 

The project is off the back burner. In fact-it’s got a hell of a fire under it. Thanks to body doubling.

If you are interested in body doubling with me, you can register for my weekly Monday afternoon sessions-FREE! Here’s the link:  https://calendly.com/constellationadhdcoach/body-doubling

The One Hack You’re Probably Ignoring To Get Things Done

ADHDers don’t just love novelty – they need novelty. If something isn’t interesting, or new, or about to burst into flames, it’s just not on the ADHDer radar.

So when boring tasks need to be tackled-folding laundry, sending thank you notes, responding to emails, paying bills-the neurodivergent ADHD mind says “No thank you. That is incredibly dull, so I’ll just ignore it.” Which can cause a whole big set of problems.

The solution is to turn boring jobs into…less boring jobs. Finding ways to have cleaning the kitchen become even the slightest bit enticing. Because once we start, we most likely will keep going, right? 

There are many ways to add some spice to tedious chores. Put on music. Watch TV. Listen to an audiobook or podcast. Promise yourself you will work for five minutes and then take a break.

But there’s one hack that you, as a responsible adult type, are probably turning up your nose at. And you shouldn’t.

It’s gamifying.

“Sure,” you say, “I gamify tasks for my kids all the time. They’re kids though!”

I’m here to say it-gamifying is for adults too. It is the secret sauce that makes an otherwise deadly dull task-dare I say it-fun. Which means you’re more likely to actually do it.

Here are a few ideas on how to gamify grown-up jobs:

Beat the Clock – Set a stopwatch, and see how long it takes you to empty that dishwasher. Write it down, and then see if you can beat it next time. Turn it into a family competition-give those kiddos a reason to help out with chores!

Snowball Fight – can be played alone, or with others. On small strips of paper, write down each task you need to accomplish that day. Crumple each up one, and throw them into the air! Then pick one up, and complete it. And another, and another.

Trashketball – works for anything involving paperwork. When you have read/dealt with any paper, crumple it up and try to toss it into your trash can from a distance. Keep track, and reward yourself after 5 baskets.

Card Catalog – For jobs with several steps, write each step on an index card. Then, write 1-5 prize cards that say “take a break” or “dance to one song” – whatever works for you. Insert the prize cards randomly into the deck, and when you hit one of those cards, follow the directions. The anticipation will keep you going! This is also a fun one for family chores.

“But wait,” you say, “I’m going to feel really silly doing this.”

Yup, you might. But you know what won’t feel silly? Getting things done. That’ll feel great. And I truly believe, we could all use a drop more silliness in our lives.

So get a little goofy. And get that stuff done.

How To Stop Sending Hidden Negative Messages To Your Kid

Let’s start with the basic premise that you love your kid. Let’s also recognize that if you are raising a kid (or kids!) with ADHD and other challenges, parenting is hard. The frustrations and worries one has as a parent of a neurotypical kid is multiplied by 1000.

As loving parents, we try our best. We not only make sure that our kids have what they physically need, but we also work hard to nourish their self esteem. We praise them. We spend time with them. Some of us even volunteer on teams and in classes, to show them how much we care.

But…somehow, our kiddo still thinks they stink. And still has a completely messy room, and flips out when we ask them to start their homework, or get ready for hockey practice.

Why?? Why are they not getting the message that we are sending, that they are just the greatest?

I am going to quote one of my mentors, and the founder of the Chaos Free Family program (for which I am an affiliate), Mary Smith, and talk about “leaking negativity.” 

When we think about negative reinforcement, we tend to go to punishment, yelling, or even physical consequences. And so if we aren’t employing those tactics, we think we are not engaging in negative reinforcement, right?

Guess again.

There are other more subtle disciplinary tactics many parents employ that are pounding our kids with negative messages that impact your child’s self esteem, and, as you’ve probably seen, aren’t effective in changing your child’s behavior.

Here’s an example of “leaking negativity.” Your child played in their softball game. They had a decent game, although if they had practiced their skills with you between games, as you’d suggested, they might not have missed that ground ball in the second inning. So you tell them how great they played, praise them about all of their highlights-and then, in an effort to help them improve their level of play, you mention that if they’d only practiced more, they could’ve played even better.

“What’s wrong with that?” you say. “I just want to help my kiddo be the best they can be!”

Here’s the issue. Your positive message is followed by “this is what you did wrong.” Your child will come to expect that, so that the impact of the positive message is completely wiped out; in fact, when they hear praise, they are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. No matter how well you tell them that they performed, they will only hear what they did wrong, from you-not their coach, but the person who is supposed to be their biggest supporter.

It’s no wonder they dawdle when it’s time to get ready to go to the ballpark.

It’s important to recognize that many of the ways in which we discipline our kids are negative reinforcers. And that emphasis on negativity can snuff out the ability of the brain to recognize positive reinforcement, causing the reward circuit to weaken, and motivation to decrease.

And your kid’s self esteem to plummet.

So let’s watch out for “leaking negativity.” It’s a sneaky little devil-and our kids deserve to have it removed from their lives.


For more information on leaking negativity, positive reinforcement, and ways to help you have a Chaos Free Family, reach out to me here for a Discovery Call:  https://calendly.com/constellationadhdcoach/30min

ADHD Books That I Love!

As promised, here is a list of some of my favorite ADHD books, just in time for Prime Days on July 11 and 12. Here we go!

Your Brain’s Not BrokenTamara Rosier

If you are only going to buy one book from my recommendations, this would be the one I would say is a must. I have been fortunate enough to attend a few webinars held by Tamara Rosier, so I was excited to read her book-and it did not disappoint! Your Brain’s Not Broken has user-friendly explanations of ADHD brain differences, including examples. Additionally, the strategies presented, which take the emotional dysregulation ADHDers can experience fully into account, are explained so well that they can be put into action quickly and easily.

What I love about this book: I love everything about Your Brain’s Not Broken! First of all, the notion of motivation being determined by emotions is so thought provoking; it makes so much sense, but this is the first time I’m seeing it spelled out so clearly. Also, Rosier’s presentation of different clients, and her own ADHD, makes this book so relatable. I couldn’t put it down! https://amzn.to/3NF0YzH

ADHD 2.0 – Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey

Dr. Hallowell could be called one of the Grand Poobahs of ADHD research, treatment, and writing. ADHD 2.0 is an update to Hallowell’s original book, Driven to Distraction, which was (and still is) the ADHD bible. ADHD 2.0, in addition to explaining the brain science behind ADHD, also discusses different ways to enable ADHDers to thrive (such as exercise and connecting with others).

What I love about this book:  Dr. Hallowell’s approach is strengths based, meaning that rather than focus on what one has difficulty with, ADHDers are encouraged to lean on what they are great at. Dr. Hallowell is such a positive force in ADHD treatment, and that shines through in ADHD 2.0. https://amzn.to/44EculN

how to keep house while drowningKC Davis

This book, and the YouTube and TikTok videos that KC Davis has created, are legendary among ADHDers. Ms. Davis has developed Struggle Care, a very basic plan for keeping your house in some form of order, based on the (very true) concept that having a messy house is not a moral failure, it is simply a functional challenge. how to keep house while drowning has suggestions for housekeeping that take into account ADHD, depression, anxiety, postpartum…basically, life. You can use the 31 day plan that is presented, or just read through and choose what you’d like to work on.

What I love about this book:  Throughout how to keep house while drowning, one feels like you are sitting and schmoozing with a friend who is telling you that it’s all going to be okay, and that you’re being too hard on yourself. It’s a comforting little booklet. https://amzn.to/46EJfAY

Smart But ScatteredPeg Dawson and Richard Guare

Smart But Scattered is a great book for parents who are looking for practical advice on how to help their ADHD child work with their challenged executive functions. There is a terrific explanation of what the executive functions are, with examples. A section on general strategies to employ when dealing with your child follows. Finally, there are suggestions (with implementation plans) and examples relating to a variety of issues that any ADHD parent will recognize.

What I love about this book: The approach that is presented in Smart But Scattered towards working with your ADHD child is on point. Dawson and Guare tell parents to “modify tasks to match your child’s capacity to exert effort,” and “begin by changing things outside the child before…strategies that require the child to change.” In other words, work with your child, not against them. Doesn’t sound terribly profound…but it is. https://amzn.to/3O4zUuR

All Dogs Have ADHD – Kathy Hoopmann

All Dogs Have ADHD is a picture book full of dogs doing, well, dog things. But what makes this book special is that the pictures tell the story of ADHD. So, a dog jumping into a lake is “diving straight into a situation without thinking about the consequences.” You get the idea. This book is great for kids who have ADHD, and also those who don’t, but spend time around ADHDers. The photographs are beautiful, and the pups are adorable.

What I love about this book: Parents often want to sugarcoat for their kids. All Dogs Have ADHD doesn’t do that-while the book does end on a very positive note, the positives and negatives are given equal time. Also…dogs. Need I say more?? (PS-there is a companion book, All Cats Are On The Autism Spectrum) https://amzn.to/46RhntE

I could go on and on..but I’ll save some of my faves for another post down the road. Happy Reading!!

Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate, and have an affiliate relationship with Amazon.

This Can Help You Win The Fight Against Procrastination!

Procrastinating. We all do it – it’s not just a neurodiverse activity. It’s just that ADHDers seem to do it more often.

Choosing to delay action, even though this delay will have negative consequences, is the working definition of procrastination. So, for example, putting off paying my bills is a form of procrastination, because I know that if I pay late, I will have to pay interest, and late fees. Yet I still choose to put it off, because ugh, bills.

There are many reasons we procrastinate – fear of doing the task incorrectly, lack of interest (and therefore no dopamine hit), needing “just right” circumstances, disorganization, feeling overwhelmed…the list goes on.

Is there anything can we do to successfully battle procrastination??

Enter Piers Steel, and the Procrastination Equation. Steel developed this equation to explain the components of motivation:

Motivation = Expectancy X Value/Impulsiveness X Delay

So, being a former Math teacher, I’m kind of partial to equations…but that’s me.  Before you shriek “I hate Math!” and run away, let me try to translate this. What Steel is saying is how motivated you are depends on four components: expectancy, or how confident you are that you can complete the task; value, or how important completing the task is to you; impulsiveness, or how easily you can be distracted from the task; and delay, or how short or long the timeline is.

So, in order to increase motivation, per Steel’s equation, you need to increase confidence or importance, or decrease distraction or the timeline, in order to increase motivation.

Here is an example to make this even clearer.

Let’s go back to my procrastination relating to paying my bills. If I can increase my confidence that I can pay my bills correctly, and/or feel the value to me of paying them, I will be more motivated. So, using autopay can help me to feel confident, and recognizing how good it feels to have it done raises the value of doing the task.

Decreasing distractions, and shortening the timeline can also help curb procrastination. So I can pay my bills with my phone in Focus mode, and can break the task into smaller parts so that I have a “completion” more often.

What I love about this is that it’s ACTIONABLE. There are four different areas where you can make changes, and motivation will increase. This equation gives you a starting point.

Think about something that you have procrastinated on in the past, or are even avoiding right now. Can you make a change to one of the four components in Steel’s equation that will help lessen your desire to put something off? Even just tweaking one component-promising yourself a treat if you start the task will add some value, right-can make a difference.

I’m off to pay my bills. I’ll let you know how I do.