3 Tips For Improving Impulse Control at the Grocery Store

Grocery shopping is one of those things that everyone assumes is easy. But people with ADD can have a lot of trouble with impulse control, which can make a simple trip to the grocery store a whole lot harder. Sometimes I really struggle with shopping for food – I wander around aimlessly for extended periods of time getting distracted by little things in each aisle. If I don’t go into the store with a plan, I end up buying random foods that don’t mix. And worst of all, I spend too much money on things I won’t eat and don’t need but couldn’t help but impulsively buy (I’m lookin’ at you Gushers). I really am ashamed to admit how much food I waste when I impulse grocery shop. This is partially because I get caught up in the moment and buy silly things but also because I buy so much that I end up forgetting what I bought and it goes bad.

So while I have certainly not yet perfected the art of grocery shopping, here are a few ways I stay on track.

  1. Be sure to make a list of what you need before you go in and do not deviate from it. Try to get everything your list as quickly and efficiently as possible so you don’t get super distracted on your way to the next thing. If it helps you, you could even make it a game by timing yourself to see how quickly you can get in and out, limiting your exposure to things that will distract you.
  2. Don’t impulse buy perishable items. They will go bad and you will regret it.
  3. Go shopping with a friend! It’s helpful to have a voice of reason to dissuade you from buying expensive and unnecessary stuff.

How do manage impulse control when grocery shopping? Let me know in the comments!

I Can’t Focus: Now What?

I knew I needed to post something today so I tried to start writing last night. But as per usual, I got distracted in minutes and ended up getting nothing done. So I planned to get writing today after a morning meeting. Instead, I stayed to socialize and then went shopping for things I didn’t need.

When I finally got home, the day was almost over and I had nothing written. I felt too scattered to even come up with an idea and any kind of advice blog I thought of felt insincere since I was struggling so much with my own ADD today.

To be honest, even when I feel or look like I am thriving, my ADD never goes away. It’s not something I will ever cure (and I wouldn’t want to) — it’s something I sometimes can embrace and sometimes have to really fight and work around.

Today is one of those days where my ADD makes it feels like a challenge to do normal things like homework, cleaning and keeping up with my schedule. And I think it is crucial that those of us with ADD can admit that when it happens and ask for help when we need it.

I try to remember that it’s important not to shame myself on days like today, but I always feel really defeated if I realize at the end of the day that I got nothing done. So here are some things I’ve found to do when I really can’t focus on the task at hand.

  1. Get out of bed. The longer you lie there, the more time you really will waste, which can leave you feeling guilty and ashamed.
  2. Go for a walk and clear your head.
  3. Try a guided meditation for focus.
  4. Run errands. Even if you’re not doing the most important thing on your to-do list, it will feel good to get something done.
  5. Clean and declutter your workspace as much as you can. Set a tone of positivity and efficiency.
  6. Call a friend for a pep talk.
  7. Take a shower.
  8. Avoid falling down the social media rabbit hole.
  9. Read an interesting book if you can focus on that.
  10. Cook or bake something.
  11. Write a letter to a friend.
  12. Go to a park.
  13. Use an energizing essential oil if you’re into that.
  14. Go to a coffee shop to get your work done. The change of scenery may be what you need.
  15. Have a little grace with yourself. You are enough and you’re doing your best.

Yes, in some capacity all of these are just distractions to put off what you need to do. But sometimes, we need a little time doing something else before we can settle down to do what’s important. And if nothing else, you will feel a little better at the end of the day knowing you at least used your time to achieve or create in some way.

What do you do when you can’t focus? Let me know in the comments!

Taking Time To Breathe: A Work In Progress

Breathing exercises have been a part of my toolkit since high school when I first began dealing with severe anxiety. If nothing else worked, my last resort was to close my eyes and just try to breathe through my panic until I felt normal again. Some days it worked better than others but if I didn’t have a panic medication on hand, breathing was really all I had. One exercise in particular really helped carry me through high school – breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 7 counts and breathe out for 8 counts. (I later learned that tapping your leg along with the count in your head can really help as well!) But as I got older and my problems seemed to get bigger I began to minimize the value of breathing exercises to combat anxiety. They were so simple that it started to feel like using a glass of water to put out a forest fire. But in the last few months, I’ve tried to reconnect with the power of breathing exercises and meditation and it’s been a game changer.

I have a hard time remembering to carve out time to breathe and sometimes my brain feels so busy I can’t will myself to slow down for a few minutes. But I learned from my doctor last year that, in order for breathing exercises to really work when I am in the middle of panicking, I have to practice them when I am feeling more neutral. So one easy way I implement this without having to carve out time is using my commute as a time to breathe. I’m not trying to talk to or impress anyone in the car, so I can easily sit at traffic lights and focus on breathing – typically breathing in for 4 counts and out for 6 until I reach my destination or feel a bit of release. When I lived in New York, I even did this on the subway to pass the time.

Making time to meditate is a little trickier but try to get in the habit of avoiding excuses. It’s okay to forget sometimes when the idea of sitting outside and resting your brain feels impossible. I definitely struggle with remembering and making time for meditating, but when I remember to include it in my day, I always notice a difference. My focus is improved and I feel more centered, which can really make a big difference when my ADD feels out of control.

Do you take time to breathe? Have you found value in meditating? Let me know in the comments!

Finding The Perfect Backpack For Easy Organization

After years of rampant disorganization and an inability to keep track of important papers, pencils or anything else, I have come to find that there are several keys to effortless organization in school. One of these tricks is finding the perfect backpack.

Getting and staying organized with or without ADHD is hard enough. So why not find something that can help do it for you? The easiest way to do this is with a good, simple backpack. I try to avoid unnecessary frills as it makes it more confusing for me. But once I realized I could leverage the simple way my backpack was constructed, I became a lot more organized by nature. For example, I used to try keeping a pencil pouch but usually ended up just stuffing pencils in the front compartment of my backpack. So I leaned into that. I made the first pocket of my backpack my pencil pouch since I do that naturally. I keep snacks, gum, deodorant and all other slightly bigger things in the medium compartment. It’s not perfect but I know where it is and I know I’ll put it back there.

A backpack with a designated computer pouch is an absolute must for built-in organization. So the toughest part of this is what to do with loose paper. I have struggled for a long time with this but I will share the best solution I have found with you. Get a simple folder and when you get papers, put them right into the folder – don’t worry about organizing them then. When you get home and have a few minutes, then you can take the time to put them in a binder or file cabinet that you will be able to find again later. If the folder is too much for you to deal with – and believe me, I’ve been there – then slip the papers into the computer pouch so at least they are all in one place and not being crunched up at the bottom.

How do you keep your backpack organized? Let me know in the comments!

Confessions Of A Chronic Procrastinator

I knew when I decided to start Sara Simply that I needed to write a blog about procrastination, so I started working on this post in July.

And then I literally put it off for six months. Oops.

I have been a chronic procrastinator for a long time. Not only did I procrastinate writing this post, I procrastinated putting together this blog as a whole. I procrastinated getting ready this morning and was almost late to class. I think I procrastinate something every day.

But my procrastination isn’t always caused by disinterest or boredom with the task at hand. In fact, I have always been very excited about this blog and quickly and creatively brainstormed tons of ideas right off the bat. But then there was a disconnect when it came to following through.

It seems like some of us with ADD are just hardwired to procrastinate and that means I can own that I will never be the student who does the reading the day it’s assigned. But there are a few things I do to try to manage my inevitable procrastination.

Some people crave crunch time and need the thrill of the last minute to motivate them. So try to back up what last minute means for you instead of the day before, maybe 2 or 3 before. Trust me, once you get started you will likely feel the same time crunch with just a tad less anxiety.

It’s also important to do something (literally anything) to start the project on the day it’s assigned to you. Even if you just open up and label the word document, having already started makes it easier to go back later and work on it, now that you are over the large hump of starting it.

I’ve also found it helpful to find fellow procrastinators so that we can hold each other accountable. Make a timeline for a project and share it with a friend so they can check in on your progress.

I’m not going to lie and say that I’ve solved my procrastination problem. My classmates and friends can attest that is far from the truth. But with these strategies, I am able to work on trying to build habits to start projects earlier and avoid the anxiety later on.

What have you procrastinated lately? Let me know in the comments!

A Plea To Parents: Be Proactive in Your Child’s Learning

In elementary school, none of my teachers realized that I had ADD because I wasn’t bouncing around the room. Few understood that ADD can manifest in subtler ways, so none of them knew I spent all day, every day completely spacing out in school. I would have conversations and walk away having no idea what I had just talked about. I wasn’t hyperactive, but I couldn’t focus or pay attention to anything.

Thankfully, my mom noticed what my teachers did not. After paying close attention to problems on my homework and my distractability, she decided to have me tested for learning disabilities and ADD in fifth grade. I am eternally grateful that she did.

Becoming informed on how I learn at such a young age allowed me to develop crucial strategies to work around my learning disabilities and thrive in school going forward. It completely saved my confidence in the classroom. It gave me the opportunity to seek the right help when I needed it. But it also taught me how to advocate for myself and my needs before I had even reached middle school. This ability has served me in every facet of my life and is one of the best accidental gifts my parents gave me.

So my plea to parents is this: be proactive in your child’s learning. Pay attention to their strengths and weaknesses and dig deeper into how they learn best. Instead of writing me off as bad at math, my mom looked through each math problem I got wrong to realize I was actually mixing up numbers as a result of visual processing issues. In fact, my parents even switched me to a more understanding school when my elementary school dismissed my ADD diagnosis, saying I was just “too social” and that I would “grow out of it.” Watching my parents stand up for and support my learning differences kept me loving school even when I struggled in class.

If your child has no learning disabilities, helping them figure out how they learn is still one of the best ways you can can prepare them for a successful future. I have gone on to do well in school and in the workplace, but I owe it all to my proactive mom.

Bipolar II: How to Control Hypomania

The first time I experienced hypomania (the kind of “high” that comes with bipolar type II) I honestly thought I’d hit the lottery. All of a sudden I was finishing projects I’d put off for months, organizing everything around me without being prompted to and sleeping less but feeling more alert during the day.

I honestly thought I’d been cured somehow. I’d kicked ADD to the curb!! Woohoo!

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for the fun to stop.

I couldn’t turn my brain off. It felt like I was chasing a tennis ball around my brain about 100 times a minute. I was so scattered I didn’t even make sense half of the time. I made spreadsheets to organize everything in my life. And I hate spreadsheets.

Thankfully, my therapist identified my behavior as hypomania and diagnosed me with bipolar II – a really important breakthrough in my mental wellness.

(If you are unfamiliar with bipolar or would like to learn more, I suggest reading “Bipolar Breakthrough” by Ronald R. Fieve.)

So after going through spurts of hypomania a few times, I figured out the signs that I’d missed going in. So last week when I stopped sleeping and started rampantly cleaning, I knew I was headed back down the rabbit hole. While in some ways I know I have to let it run its course, here are three tricks I’m using to try to keep it from growing into buying-wifi-on-a-plane-because-I-cant-handle-being-sedentary-for-more-than-20-minutes (true story.)

  1. Sleep, sleep, sleep.

This has been the most important thing for me in combating hypomania. If I work to get my sleep schedule really regular it noticeably calms down the circus in my brain and gets it out of my system faster. Check out my sleep blog for my full list of tips on how to get to sleep faster and stay asleep.

  1. Take time to breathe.

Since my brain is so scattered I have a hard time calming down in any capacity. So it’s been really important for me to designate time to breathe and not fixate on getting anything done. If meditation is the trick for you – the Headspace app has proven to work well for me. If you have an Apple watch, the breathe function is also a great way to discretely pause your brain whenever you need it.

  1. Time yourself when working

Being so scattered, I can’t help jumping from project to project. So my therapist suggested I set a timer for 20 minutes and make sure I work on the task at hand exclusively for that time. After my timer I can jump around for a little while and then need to set another timer to work on another project.

How do you deal with hypomania? Let me know in the comments!

3 Tricks to Surviving a Long Class

It’s 3:30 p.m. and, just half an hour into class, I’m already shuffling around in my seat. Knowing that I will be stuck here for two and a half more hours is torture.

It seems like every year, I end up stuck in one class that really challenges my ability to focus – a once a week course that lasts for three hours.

I’ve had to take several once a week classes throughout my time in college and each one has truly pushed my ADHD to its limits. Even for those without ADHD, sitting and trying to focus for such a long period of time seems unreasonable.

So here are a few ways I manage to survive each week.

  1. Try to come prepared so you can be engaged.

I’m willing to admit that sometimes I don’t do the reading for all my classes. And unfortunately for my professors, I know I’m not alone (sorry!). But I’ve found that if I can’t engage with the discussion in these long classes, it becomes infinitely more unbearable. Getting involved in the class can help combat distraction and restlessness, so be sure to come prepared.

2. Get up

It sounds (and looks) a little ridiculous, but I have left class to go to the bathroom and done jumping jacks in the hall to get some of my extra energy out many times. Even if it’s just for a minute, get up to stretch, bounce around and reset for the rest of the class.

3. Get a good fidget

Occupying your hands while you listen will help dispel some of that extra energy too. Check out my fidgeting post for suggestions.

If you feel comfortable, I also recommend discussing your ADHD with your professor and explaining to them that your distraction or restlessness is not a reflection of the class.

2 Self-Help Books That Will Actually Change Your Life

I used to feel a little lame rushing to the self-help section every time I went to a bookstore. Cliché titles turned me off and I worried people would judge me for being so obsessed with trying to better myself. But it continued to be my favorite section so I’ve learned to embrace my love for the sometimes cheesy genre.

I will be the first to admit that a lot of self-help books are garbage nonsense. But here are two I’ve read recently that have actually impacted my life in a tangibly positive way.

“The Healing Self: A Revolutionary New Plan to Supercharge Your Immunity and Stay Well for Life” by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tansi

This book found me right when I needed it most — when my stress was taking a serious, visible toll on my health. “The Healing Self” offers the perfect balance of simple tips and science to back them up and inspired me to take charge of my health today in order to help shield me from diseases like Alzheimer’s later on. The book not only helped introduce me to meditation but also gave me practical ways to change my thought processes to avoid stress and chronic inflammation. If any of you tend to be compulsively stressed like I am, this book will be a game-changer for you.

Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential AND HOW YOU CAN ACHIEVE YOURS” by Shirzad Chamine

I was skeptical of “Positive Intelligence” when I began reading because it seemed too simple. But the huge endorsements of some of America’s biggest leaders and Fortune 500 CEOs on the cover were too intriguing to resist. And I’m glad to say that “Positive Intelligence” really did allow me to dramatically shift my perspective. In fact, I loved it so much I frantically called my family to tell them to read it. I begged my friends to grab a copy. In an unusual way, the book tackles self-sabotage and helped me identify my biggest weaknesses so that I can really leverage my strengths. It allowed me to name my saboteurs so that I could recognize them in action and prevent myself from getting in my own way. It also offers a number of incredibly tangible strategies to help strengthen a more positive thought process going forward. “Positive Intelligence” was a huge catalyst for inspiring me to really improve myself.

It’s always a good time for self-improvement. So why not start now with these great reads? Comment what books have helped you grow!

“You are so lucky” – My Biggest Pet Peve

In fifth grade, I was diagnosed with several learning disabilities that — even as a young adult — continue to affect my visual processing abilities, my handwriting and my focus. Because of these challenges, I have always been a little slower in certain classes, which, before I understood my learning style, felt incredibly humiliating. I kept thinking, “what is wrong with me? Why can’t I learn like the other kids?”

So my diagnoses changed a lot for me. Once I was given the appropriate accommodations, I was able finally to demonstrate my knowledge in class because I now had the resources to succeed on the same level as my peers.

But every so often when I mention my (much-needed) accommodations, I received a comment that drives me insane: “oh you are so lucky you get extra time.”

If you have said this to someone this before, I don’t blame you. I understand how easy it is to think about how much better you would do on a test if you had an extra 30 minutes or could use a laptop. But it’s important to realize that because of my learning disability, I need an hour and a half in order to perform at the same level another person can in an hour. I study hard and I work to thoroughly learn the material in all of my classes. So I deserve the opportunity to be able to show that. Disability accommodations are not a gift or a cheating tactic that some people are lucky enough to talk their way into. They are the only opportunity I have to flourish in school the same way my peers can.

And there are times when I do feel lucky for having learning differences. I am gifted at thinking outside of the box. I am extra creative. I have an even bigger appreciation and understanding of my true strengths.

But accommodations are not something to be jealous of, because they were created to compensate for a disadvantage. And if I could choose to have perfect visual processing and not need accommodations, I certainly would.

So you’re not wrong — I am lucky in some ways — but not for an extra 30 minutes.