ADHD Self-Help 2

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Since my "Self-help # 1", I have read some more (Barkley, 2010), tried some more and like to share my journey with you.

From Russel Barkley's book, followed from the research results, I've used these 5 steps. Please buy the book as your day-to-day reference - its worth it.

  1. Get Diagnosed taking charge
  2. Change your PERCEPTION
  3. Change your BRAIN
  4. Change your LIFE
  5. Change your SITUATION

1. Get Diagnosed

By knowing if you indeed have ADHD (or NOT), you know what to deal with and can learn HOW to deal with it. You know where to focus your attention, what skills or traits to work on to improve your productivity.

2. Change your perception

Know your ADHD. Exactly what is it and how does it affects you? Basically it comes down to 3 things:

  1. poor inhibition (e.g. difficult to wait, make impulsive decisions, speak without thinking)
  2. poor self-control (e.g. difficult to keep going when the reward is too far in the future, doing without considering consequences)
  3. problems with executive functions (e.g. poor sense of time, forget things, difficulty comprehending)

These 3 things causes the following 5 problem areas in your life:

  1. Poor self-management relative to time, planning & goals
  2. Poor self-organisation, problem solving and working memory
  3. Poor self-discipline (inhibition)
  4. Poor self-motivation
  5. Poor self-activation, concentration and alertness

Self control is one of the basic skills any human being should learn; its probably the first thing which is learned from birth through adulthood. Yet, ADHD has difficulty in exactly this; and the consequences are obvious and robs your freedom. The capabilities that assist us in learning and having self-control is called Executive Functions; mental functions which directs our thought and actions. Besides inhibition, we have at least 4 executive functions:

  1. Non-verbal working memory (e.g. foresee consequences of our actions, self-awareness, managing time, etc.). Lacking in non-verbal working memory will result in you having difficulty in completing long complicated sequences of behavior, reliving pasts events (and thus not learning from them), the lack of vicarious learning, little foresight, quick reward, lack of keep going when the gratification is in the future.
  2. Verbal working memory (e.g. ability to contemplate the nature of a situation to be able to make the correct decision, problem solving, formulate rules and plans, follow rules, reading comprehension, moral reasoning). Lacking here will present in the lack of self-talk to control yourself or solve problems, let events and environment around you determine decisions, trouble setting and following your own standards, violate ethical codes and/or laws.
  3. Emotion regulation (e.g. control your actions, motivate without external rewards, ex[press emotion in a socially acceptable way, choose and moderate emotional reactions etc.). Lacking will cause you to have impulsive emotional reactions, disproportionate, inappropriate emotional reactions and difficulty to energise yourself to do what you have to do.
  4. Planning / problem solving (e.g. considering all options, help in deciding best sequence of actions to reach a goal and creativity, innovation to reach a goal). Lacking in this executive function will result in not being able to "think on your feet", difficulty in being organised and difficulty to set and follow the best sequence of actions.

Ultimately, there are strategies to assist in making up for these deficiencies of executive functions like externalising information (post-it notes), externalising incentives to keep you motivated, externalise your rules and moral code, break large tasks in smaller units etc.

If this information makes you "depro"; hold on; you can be helped! ADHD is not an excuse; nbut at least an explanation. Accept responsibility for the consequences and implement strategies to minimise or eliminate the actions that prevent your from being ineffective.

3. Change your brain

This is all about medication - altering the deficiencies in your brain. Research shows that medication is better than anything else in effectively helping ADHD coping. It doesn't mean you don't have to eat a balanced diet, or implement CBT (cognitive behaviour training) to change. They might help, but medication is still the most effective and as an ADHD, you can experience significant improvement by using medication because it corrects or compensates for the neurological imbalances. Why keep on struggling if there is help available!

4. Change your life

Changing your life is about learning new strategies to change the way you act. Medication can make a big difference (but not magic), but changing, actually improving your executive functions is always a good choice and will compliment the medication. Implement these rules (it might not be easy, but its worth trying!):

  1. Rule 1: Stop!!!! Resist the impulse. Buy time to evaluate, think.
  2. Rule 2: See the past.... and then the future. Use imaginary vision to activate your mind's eye and recall the hindsight to give you foresight. Is there a past experience that you can apply here....?
  3. Rule 3: Say the past... and then the future. Self-talk in order to weigh the pro''s and con's of a situation in order to make a informed decision, or better response. Discuss the options, even aloud if necessary, as if you need to convince "someone else" why you've made this decision. Think about your answer if someone would ask why have you decided so...?
  4. Rule 4: Externalize key information. Use external cues, like notepads, iPads, sticky notes; anything to help you be reminded. It assist your "shaky" working memory.
  5. Rule 5: Feel the future. Its a way of dangling a carrot in front of you to make up for the "time blindness" of ADHD. Use self-talk, visual imaging of past events and their emotions to help you trigger the emotions which will motivate you now. Visualise, verbalise, imagine the positive sense of accomplishment..... I remember doing a 6 year degree - kept motivating me to keep on with the feeling of having to earn my first salary and being independent. That kept me going.
  6. Rule 6:Break it down ... and make it matter. Break down longer-term tasks into bite size chunks. Don't look at the big report at the end of the month, look at section for today; or even break things up in hour chunks; whatever suits your need. And then, reward yourself and take a short break.
  7. Rule 7:Make problems externally, physical and manual.
  8. Rule 8: Have a sense of humour.

5. Change your situation

Take cognisance of the life areas which adversely affects an ADHD and work on improving those areas. The life areas Barkley (2007) has found to be most negatively affected are:

  • academic achievement
  • social relations
  • work
  • driving
  • finances

In his book, these areas are addressed with strategies in improving these areas.

more detail is available in Barkley's book.
Barkley, RA (2010). Taking charge of ADHD


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