Working with middle age women, it’s not surprising when I have a middle-aged mom come in and say, “I’m ADHD.”
Of course, you are! We all are.
It is more surprising when someone is not. We live in a world ripe for distractions. Social media, simple carbs, sugar at every turn, and the need for speed – we glorify going fast and being productive. I had that same thought, but I had coached enough women to know that the cure was not necessarily in a pill.
Please don’t hear me say don’t take medicine for ADHD. That is NOT what I’m saying AT ALL. I’m saying in addition to your ADHD meds, you need to begin practicing lifestyle medication. You are not helping your cause with yours lifestyle.
I teach basic principles learning to pause and breathe. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy. It’s not easy to show up consistently for yourself, especially if you are ADHD. No one talks about pausing. The pause, learning awareness of what’s coming up emotionally, time management, how to start your day with intention, and thought management. I teach specific tools to help you manage all 70,000 thoughts you have coming at you daily.
How do I know it will work for you? Because the pause is an example of engaging and overriding the automatic brain, to pause and pay attention to what you are thinking. Those with ADHD have difficulty putting on the brakes so they can ask themselves, “what are all my options?” I promise a little break from all the thoughts in your head. I promise you will become less reactionary if you decide to show up and keep the promises you make to yourself. Consistently. Not just once.
Around age 47, I thought I was ADHD too. I talked to Dr.’s, counselors, therapists. Everyone was pretty much all agreeing that it could help me feel less frustrated with myself and give me more focus if I were to look at going on some kind of medication, but no one was in agreement which would work better. I read the side effects and thought “surely there is a better way.”
I had followed Dr. Daniel Amen, who is a brain disorder specialist on social media. He does fascinating work with the brain and believes in a brain scan before prescribing medication. I even signed my kids up for his brain health course for teens. No – they didn’t do it…
I did decide to go to Atlanta to have my brain scanned. I wanted to see what was going on in my brain.
Turns out I was not ADHD, but I did have a lot of activity around amygdala – the limbic system, actually. There are parts of my brain that were consistent to others with childhood trauma. It’s really not uncommon – there are quite a few of us that grew up with that kind of thing, but it did give me perspective. It actually gave me permission to slow down.
I got really serious about time management. I have always like a good adrenaline rush. I loved nicotine, sugar, or caffeine – anything that just tickles all those little neurons. Why wouldn’t I? When you grow up in a home that is always on edge, that has an alcoholic in the midst, your home base feels like chaos.
That is normal, and you will recreate that (unconsciously) in your own adult life. I did that. I did that a lot. I still have a hard time grasping the fact that I craved an adrenal rush and didn’t even know it. I unintentionally made my life harder than it needed to be. I was an over-scheduler, a people pleaser and guess what? It led to lots of frustration and yelling at my kids which was NOT my intention at all.
I lost site of what my priorities were, what my values were. This is not uncommon – I see it time and time again. I didn’t know! And that’s okay. I had to work a lot on forgiveness, and that started with me. I picked up all my little pieces one by one. I had to get real quiet before things got clear, and that is SO hard.
I encircled myself with a team of people to help me learn how to coach myself and how to relax. They held me accountable and I kept showing up for myself even when I didn’t want to. I cried unapologetically. I kept coming back home to myself and asked, “how ya doing?”
The day did come when I was able to say, “I am really good…and mean it.”
Manage your time well. It’s not one and done. It takes consistent work to deal with characteristics of ADHD. A routine is your best friend. You will have to learn to sit with uncomfortable emotions like being bored, or possibly feeling restricted. That’s when you have to understand your compelling reasons for change. What is it you are looking to create in your life?
What are my top 3 things I would suggest for someone struggling to stay focused or calm their mind?
Forget the judging. Forget the black and white thinking. Forget being perfect. EMBRACE THE WHY. When you feel the need to resist a new concept or idea, ask yourself WHY?!? a lot. Why am I doing this? How will this help me in the future? Is this helping my brain or hurting my brain?
Plan to feel uncomfortable emotions
Middle age is riddled with change. A lot of change. Hormone shifts, kids growing up and leaving to parents aging. The word overwhelm comes up a lot. You have to learn to take responsibility for your health. Your emotions. We have been sold the idea we are supposed to be happy all the time. Its just not so. In order to have this big beautiful life, you are going to have to deal with uncomfortable emotions. If a routine feels boring what can you do to infuse it with more joy?!? You have to become good at failure.
What are you going to make failure mean? Failure is just feed back. It is one less future mistake, it builds resilience. When we look at failure as some catastrophic event that shouldn’t have happened, it gives you no place for growth. Mastering your thoughts is essential for growth. You have to learn to empower yourself.
Feed your brain well
If you don’t feed your brain good foods, it’s going to be really hard to think good thoughts. Begin to get really curious about the foods you eat and how they affect your mood, energy level, and focus. Keeping a food and mood journal is so helpful for progress. You want to give yourself evidence for continuing to eat nutritious food, otherwise you will always feel restrictive.
Top foods that are high in the glycemic index have a tendency to spike a person’s blood sugar, leaving them low in energy and mood. Foods like bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, sugar, and fruit juice.
Start with seeing how you are contributing to your own unease and overwhelm in your life. There are so many things you can do to help you focus better and help you make friends with ADHD. It’s easy to want to do ALL the things, right now, but that leads to burnout out and overwhelm. We want to keep you at the right amount of whelm. Start small and build from there. Build trust with yourself that you can set goals and intensions and follow through with them.
You will still be productive, but you will be less frustrated and be able to show up better for you and the people you love.