The Holiday Gift of Letting Yourself Off the Hook

We are in the midst of the holiday season-which, by the way, seems to have started in September, but I digress-and with every gift we purchase, every party we attend, many of us can’t help just raining down criticism. On ourselves.

“They’re going to know I didn’t spend a lot. Why didn’t I save more for gifts? Why can’t I control my finances? What is wrong with me??

“If I could only get organized, I wouldn’t be shopping at the last minute. I’m just a mess!

“I can see that they hate my gift. If I could only pay attention better, I would’ve had a clearer idea of what to get them. They must think I just don’t care!

And on. And on. And on.

It’s not just ADHDers who have this anti-self patter reverberating in our brains-neurotypicals are prone to it as well, especially during high pressure moments. But for ADHDers, the negativity is often a way of life, with negative messages shooting like arrows at them since their youth.

How about giving yourself a little gift this holiday season? How about letting yourself off the hook?

When you start to think, “wow, I just suck,” how about a little self compassion? 

So you didn’t save more for gifts. Okay, maybe that’s something to work on. But the fact is-you’re giving gifts. Which is a really nice thing to do.

You’re shopping last minute. But hey-you’re getting some great markdowns!

They might not like your gift. But you did give something-again, very nice. Next time, maybe a gift card?

You get the idea.

And while you’re at it-maybe let your spouse, children, or parents off the hook, just for a bit.

It might be the best gift you ever give to them, or to yourself.

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy 2024!!

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.

What’s The Deal With Gratitude Journals?

I’m not sure how many of you are from the New York City area, or have been there, or have just seen it on television. However, I think it’s fair to say that most people, when they think of New Yorkers, think of tough, unfiltered, often rude people, who do not tolerate B.S. ever.

Not only am I a born and raised New Yorker-I’m from Brooklyn. Telling this fact to my former students on Day One of school prompted good behavior for at least a few days.

So when Oprah started talking about gratitude journals, and stopping to notice the birds and flowers, I thought that the idea was ridiculous. “Who has time for that?” I thought. “Sure, I’m grateful for a lot of things and people in my life, but can’t I just be grateful and not make a big deal out of it? I know that I’m grateful, no one needs to tell me how to do it.” 

And there’s no way I needed another item on that to-do list, right?? It’s overflowing as it is.

Of course, as with most things, Oprah actually had it right. Especially for someone like me.

You see, having that tough Brooklyn persona requires keeping your feelings hidden-with the possible exception of anger. The whole premise of being a New Yorker is being unflappable. Add ADHD into the mix, and there can be the guilt and shame associated with missing deadlines, etc.-being tucked away where no one can see.

However, being that stoic, unaffected human doesn’t just keep you from getting carried away when something bad happens. It also prevents you from getting pumped up about the good, particularly the little things that can go unnoticed. In fact, not only can you miss acknowledging them-it might, in fact, be uncool to do so. Who stops their day to note their gratitude for the technology that lets you pay your bills online, and therefore on time?

Well…now I do.

I don’t know what possessed me to start my gratitude journal-I think I was given a really nice notebook, and wanted to use it. I try to take note of the small things-my dog’s soft ears, talking to my kids, having a productive day.

Having this become a habit has trained me to notice things I’m grateful for during the day, so I have something to write about. I consistently notice the good things in my life, which in turn lifts my mood.

When one is dealing with ADHD, finding that little kernel of happiness in a day can sometimes be the key to persevering. To saying, “Okay, I paid that bill late. But I’m not a loser. I’m grateful that I only paid it two days late, and that I’m smart enough to find a strategy to help with this.”

Plus anything that helps one focus on something is always a good exercise for ADHDers.

Perfectly Imperfect

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

When I first saw this quote from one of my favorite authors, it really hit me between the eyes. I’m sure there are many interpretations of it, but to me, it meant that now that so much energy and worry and thought didn’t have to go into perfection, one could actually just be good enough. And that’s okay.

Many ADHDers struggle with perfectionism-something that those who don’t have a personal knowledge of ADHD probably find counterintuitive. How could anyone who can’t/won’t/doesn’t pay attention/do things on time/stay organized actually care about being perfect??

But in reality, all of those years of mistakes, and late assignments, and impulsive actions can add up to a lot of fear and anxiety that is expressed as perfectionism.

This tendency can lead to procrastination, feelings of failure that then cycle into more perfectionism, and just a general lack of motivation and positivity. Because if your standard is that you must be perfect, who wouldn’t dread attempting a task??

In other words, perfectionism is bad for your health, mental and otherwise.

So, how to break that pattern? Here are some ideas:

1 – Develop Mantras – “Done is better than perfect” or “Good enough is good enough” are two ideas. Practice repeating these to yourself; also pop them on a Post-It on your laptop or desk, and other places you can see it.

2 – Use a timer – For tasks that should be simple to complete (writing an email, wrapping a gift) determine how much time it should take (perhaps time it once before using this strategy), and set a timer. When the timer goes off, it’s time to stop.

3 – Keep a “done” list – keeping a list of what you were able to accomplish makes you feel good. Bonus points for things that were complete, but they weren’t 100% perfect.

4 – Name your Perfectionism – find a shorthand way to name your perfectionism, so that you can easily become aware of being held hostage by it. Awareness is the first step to change! It’s also fun to say “Shut up, Penelope Perfect” when you’re hearing that voice in your brain.

5 – Practice doing things imperfectly – no, I’m not saying ruin all of your clothes by washing your wool sweaters in hot water. But little things-leaving autocorrected texts alone, sending an email without re-reading it more than once, quickly-and seeing that the world doesn’t end when you do that, can be a good way to get accustomed to imperfections.

It’s not easy to break the perfectionism habit. Your brain has been telling you that everything must be just so for a long time. It takes time and practice, so be gentle and patient with yourself. Getting to the point where you can giggle a little at your perfectionism seems to be a place to aim for.

Because, as Steinbeck said, now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.