Time to start thinking about ADHD Awareness Month – October, 2014.
October, 2014 is ADHD Awareness Month. What can you expect this year from TimeSavor Coaching, LLC?
First: Check out Dr. Virginia Hurley on the Guest Expert Blog. Go to ImpactADHD ( impactadhd.com/guest–experts/)
Then: Listen to Dr. Virginia Hurley and host Linda Roggli on Wednesday, October 8th, on the up-coming ADDA webinar: http://www.add.org/?page=webinars
For right now: Let’s consider the theme for this year’s 25th Anniversary ADDA Conference, “ADHD Awareness is a Year Round Effort.”
One way to consider ADHD Awareness all year long …
… is to promote understanding of how things work for people with this kind of brain wiring. Not everybody has enough information on ADHD. Other people have too much mis-information on ADHD.
For those times when we ARE considering “Awareness” as sharing good, current information…
… here are some ideas that should get around.
- People with ADHD have a brain that evolution has wired differently for the survival of humankind!! http://www.amazon.com/The-Edison-Gene-Hunter-Child/dp/1594770492
- It’s not “bad” to be wired differently. It’s just part of “neurodiversity”!! http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-life-aspergers/201310/what-is-neurodiversity
- ADHD is not a moral failing!
- People with ADHD are just as smart as everybody else, that is, the “neurotypicals.”
- They often find certain tasks more difficult, boring, or frustrating than most do
- They often find other tasks very easy and absorbing, more than most do
- People with ADHD can be creative, whole, decisive, curious, courageous, and productive
- They can be good employees and managers, good teachers and students, good partners and parents, and successful at many professions
- Adults, not just children, can have ADHD
- There is help available for times when individuals and families struggle with ADHD symptoms (for example, ADHD Coaches Organization, www.adhdcoaches.org/
BUT —There are other ways to consider the meaning of “ADHD Awareness” all year long…
Besides sharing good, current information, “awareness” also means …
“Mindful Awareness of the Present” for People with ADHD
- People with ADHD can BUILD their capacity for FOCUS through mindful awareness of the present. Yes, this is for real!
- People with ADHD can relax their over-worked brain, (check out “amygdala”) through mindful awareness of the present
- People with ADHD can BUILD their sense of gratitude and happiness through mindful awareness of the present.
- Learning about being in the present moment can keep chaotic thoughts about the future off the brain’s “clip board” for a while — a very good thing
- All the above OPENS the mind to a less stressful mental state
- A more open mind leads to more activation of the thinking-judging-doing part of the brain, called the “Prefrontal Cortex” – the brain’s CEO!
AND THEN, THERE’S THIS…
Mindset for People with ADHD
Mindset is another important concept for people with ADHD. The simplest way to talk about mindset is to say, once upon a time, an understand of how your world operates worked for you. Accurate or not, you bought into it completely, and that’s the way it is now. It’s reality for you. It’s set in your mind. And for a while, maybe for always, it helped your ability to survive in your own personal circumstances. The understandings about the way things work that you bought into as a child with ADHD may very well hold you back as an adult with ADHD. When these understandings stop being helpful, don’t match your current reality too well, you have conflict in your mind, and stress within your body. Not so good for ADHD-wired brains. What are some common ADHD-mindset stuck thoughts? The following is a stuck mindset “Credo” that may have a familiar “ADHD” ring to it: “I believe…”
- …I’m stupid and can’t do well. My teachers all told me so.
- …I’m lazy. My parents told me so.
- …I have a bad character because I’m always late.
- …I’m a poor employee. My manager told me so.
- …That the following words are my destiny: “never will change,” “can’t focus,” “can’t be on time,” “no hope for me,” “all alone.”
When people with ADHD becomes aware of there own stuck thinking, they take the first step in getting “un-stuck.” It IS possible to change the narrative that goes on inside us. Mindful Awareness, and Mindset are two ways to think about how to make life easier for people in the ADHD community.
These are two of the major features of the TimeSavor Coaching approach to Life Coaching and specialized ADHD Coaching. To find out more contact: email@example.com *
Heidi Grant Halvorson and Carol Dweck really go into this in very helpful detail. For more, please see: Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D. et al. Link: http://amzn.com/0452297710 and Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck Link: http://amzn.com/0345472322
* Look for TimeSavor Coaching’s Mindfulness and Mindset webinars during ADHD Awareness Month, October, 2014.
For more information and for individual coaching, please contact Virginia at
If you have ADHD, would you like to know how mindful awareness can help you focus?
First, what is mindful awareness and what does it have to do with ADHD focus problems? Psychiatrist and adult ADHD specialist Dr. Lidia Zylowska http://lidiazylowska.com/about/mindfulness-for-adhd/ describes it as the
What Scientists Say About Mindfulness and ADHD
Over the past several years, scientists like Dr. Kelly McGonigal, (http://kellymcgonigal.com/), Dr. Rick Hanson( http://www.rickhanson.net/), Dr. Kristen Neff (http://www.self-compassion.org/), and Dr. Richie Davidson (http://richardjdavidson.com/), among many others, noticed that those who lose focus are good at learning mindful awareness practices. That’s interesting news for adults and children with ADHD focus issues.
Benefits for Those with ADHD Focus Problems
They underscore the BENEFIT of being aware of distracting thoughts that inevitably come during periods of noticing the present moment. Re-focusing thoughts to the present builds the capacity within the structures of the brain to re-focus during other every-day tasks, like work, school, even communication and relationships. It sounds odd, but the more a person loses focus in present moment, the more that person can learn how to re-focus.
Other Benefits of Mindfulness
In addition to improving attention and focus, mindful awareness training also:
- Reduces stress, anxiety, depression
- Supports a healthy brain
- Improves impulse control
- Promotes positive emotions
- Helps with making positive relationships
- Opens up awareness of personal strengths
- Helps with making better choices
Who should know about Building Mindfulness?
- Parents of children with ADHD
- HR professionals working on ADA compliance issues
- Mangers with employees struggling with work-place productivity
- Adults with ADHD struggling at work
- People with communication and relationship issues
- Students challenged by deadlines and projects
Developing this brain capacity through even short periods of practice is not that difficult. Even children can learn.
Try This 8-Step Experiment
So, “mindful awareness of the present” is what puts the “savor” in TimeSavor Coaching. Try this 8 step experiment:
- Allow yourself to feel calm and safe
- Take some slow, deep breaths to help this feeling take hold
- Now: Notice a common object in your environment — a book, a throw pillow, a flower, a blade of grass — anything that catches your attention
- For the next two or three minutes, look at that object as if it were the very first time you ever saw it
- Get curious about it — curious like a little child, or like someone from another distant, very different place
- Imagine how you might tell someone else who has never seen this object before
- Imagine that this might be the last time you see this for a very, very long time
- If you get distracted with thoughts of the past or future, gently bring your attention back without judgment or self-scolding
You can try this with your other senses, too. You are not at all limited to “savoring” only through vision!
I’d like to help
If you’re curious about how mindful awareness works with ADHD coaching, please contact me for a complimentary session. http://www.timesavorcoaching.com/contact/
I’m still in the spirit of October, ADHD Awareness Month, remembering especially the message promoted by the first ADHD Awareness Campaign: “It’s Real. There’s Hope. There’s Help” in my webinar presentation tonight at 9:00 p.m. EST.
The part about the “hope” and the “help” is sticking with me, even into November, the month in which we give thanks! People with ADHD had some difficult experiences around the notion of willpower. Too often, willpower was connected with strength of character. But that is not so. People with self-regulation issues, (i.e., using willpower), are not bad. They need a little hope and a little help to get more successful.
The important thing to note at the start here is that to everything we can now say about the brain’s efforts at survival, willpower, and self-compassion, we can add the phrase, “…and even more so for people with ADHD.”
I found out that recent neuroscience research, particularly the work of Dr. Kelly McGonigal (The Willpower Instinct), Dr. Roy Baumeister (Willpower), and Dr. Rick Hanson (Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence).
This research gave me hope that we can “change our brains,” develop a new approach to willpower, and take a deeper look at the relationship between evolution and self-compassion, and what we have learned about the prefrontal cortex.
EVOLUTION: Avoid, Approach, Attach
Join me tomorrow, November 6th, at 9 p.m. EST for the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) Webinar, “An Evolutionary Idea: ADHD Willpower.”
During the webinar I will look at the three distinct sections of the neocortex and discuss how these relate to ADHD, willpower and wellness.
For some background, read my recent blog on ADHD and the Three Legged Stool. I hope you will all join me tomorrow for an interesting and engaging conversation as we look at two familiar concepts – ADHD and willpower – in new and helpful ways.
My point of view on ADHD coaching is one that integrates several researched methods of coaching to best serve people with the unique brain wiring associated with ADHD. This style of coaching is like the famous “three-legged stool.”
One leg comes from Change Theory and Co-Active Coaching, with its emphasis on client readiness and client ownership of the most important goals and values that need to be addressed. Another leg comes from the science behind Positive Psychology, with its focus on people’s strengths and what matters most deeply. The third leg is wellness and nutrition that supports a balance of hormones, improved sleep-wake cycles, brain-healthy mindset, and improved nourishment of the brain cells.
Three important things come to mind when I think about the unique brain wiring of people with ADHD. It’s like a second “three-legged stool” set up side-by-side with the first. First is the neurotransmitter “dance” that occurs in the structurally different pathways in the ADHD brain. Next is the relationship of the prefrontal cortex to focus, sequencing, starts and finishes, and comprehending the passage of time. Finally, there is the abundance of stress hormones present in the brains of those with ADHD, as managing an abundance of attention, (sometimes called “distraction”), in a very linear-sequential focused world is very difficult.
Here’s what’s important to remember:
In my previous post, we talked about adult ADHD and willpower, including the challenges for ADHD adults who are told to “just do it.”
In order to move beyond the “Just DO it” association with failing will power, people with ADHD especially can pick up some good strategies from Kelly McGonigal’s 3-Part model of will power, “I Will Power, I Won’t Power, and I Want Power.”
Try to re-imagine willpower as a cooperative effort of three parts of the prefrontal cortex. A consideration of health and wellness make this re-imagining preferable to the Self and others yelling, “Just DO it” time and time again.
Here’s one advantage:
The Wellness Advantage – There is no “yelling” in using will power when the prefrontal cortex is engaged and has access to sufficient glucose.
Glucose can be easily depleted by distraction, repression of impuslivity, fear of failure and other stressors. Roy Baumeister tells us, in Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, running out of glucose exhausts the capacity to use willpower.
People with ADHD, then, are at a disadvantage here, being frequently distracted, prone to impulsivity, fearing judgment and other failure possibilities.
- If there’s no yelling, there’s less stress.
- If there’s less stress, there’s more glucose available to the prefrontal cortex to use for willpower.
- If there’s more glucose and less stress, the parts of the brain involved in willpower have a much easier time communicating and synchronizing.
- If the brain has better access to neurotransmitters that engage focus and concentration (like dopamine and norepinephrine), and feelings of safety and calm, (like serotonin and oxytocin), the stress hormones (glucocorticoids) are suppressed throughout the whole body.
- If there are fewer stress hormones coursing through the rest of the body, there is less inflammation and less need for insulin to spike.
- Less inflammation and fewer insulin spikes reduces the risk of metabolic syndromes (high blood pressure, high triglycerides, elevated levels of LDL cholesterol, diabetes, and coronary artery disease).
Wow! Better pick up some tips and hints on how to engage “I Will Power, I Won’t Power, and I Want Power ” for wellness’ sake alone.
Next time: A Plan for What to Do
Not in the Content of Your Character…
Many, many people with ADHD have been accused of just plain lacking the character strength of willpower. How many of these people have heard these words spoken through gritted teeth: “Just DO it”?
Here’s how willpower relates to ADHD: It’s not in the character of the person, but in the brain.
…in the Structures of Your Brain
The willpower sections of the brain get short-circuited by anxiety. And that’s true for everyone. But this short-circuit occurs even more frequently because of ADHD brain wiring.
In people with ADHD, the “channels” that send helpful brain hormones to brain’s willpower sections are constructed differently than those of “neurotypical” people. The difference makes the willpower parts – attention, focus, and decision-making – pushed off-line, or “dysregulated” more easily.
The main culprit: stress hormones. The main casualty: willpower.
The older brain, located in the brain stem and mid-brain, evolved in vertebrates and in mammals to support the prime directive, survival. It did’t have much use for wasting energy on decision-making or self-regulation.
To do this in the simplest, most energy-effective way, the older brain developed a bias toward paying attention to negative experiences.
The brain learns about dangerous things very quickly, and associates any similar sights, sounds, smells, or experiences with a powerful release of stress hormones (called “glucocorticoids”), whether or not the threat is any longer right at hand.
Dr. Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist, writes about this. He notes that the “lizard brain” –the brain stem and limbic system – “…is very interested in self protection. Its motto is: “Eat lunch, Don’t be lunch!” This part of the brain gives us a powerful negative bias: rigid and anxious.”
The old brain was efficient at communicating with the whole body by releasing what became known as the “fight, flight, freeze, and play dead” hormones, sent forth from the mid-brain and brainstem!
Willpower is a comparatively recent evolutionary development of the brain. It emerged along with the “neo-cortex,” or “the new brain.” It added a very profound capacity to the survival prime directive: that of thinking and deciding: of choosing to do, or not to do.
Very recent research seems to strongly suggest that willpower resides in three distinct areas of this new brain: The Right Prefrontal Cortex, The Left Prefrontal Cortex, and that Anterior Cingulate Cortex.
The Prefrontal Cortex, (PFC), sends out brain hormones, or “neurotransmitters,” that help us think deep thoughts, be discerning, be decisive, focus and re-focus, plan for the future, recognize ourselves in time and space, filter out distractions, and many other functions grouped together as “higher order thinking skills.”
Dr. Kelly McGonigal, neuroscientist at Stanford University writes about this in The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It. She calls these areas the centers for “I Won’t Power, I Will Power, and I Want Power.”
More about how this works, and what people with ADHD can do about it, next time.