Rediscovering Creativity

When I came to college as a songwriting major, I considered creativity to be one of my biggest and most valuable traits. During that period I wrote almost every day, constantly re-arranged my room and proudly wore bold (and at times cringe-worthy) clothing.

But over the next few years, school began to break that creativity down. My learning differences made classes harder, so I needed to follow the instructions closely to get A’s on my projects. I had to maintain conventional methods of organizing and discussing so that I didn’t stand out in the wrong ways. I needed to tuck away my creativity to read the textbook, regurgitate the information the next day, then forget it. My writing became formulaic; it had to be to fit all the requirements on my papers.

In retrospect, this weakening of my creativity was one of the reasons that I eventually switched out of my songwriting major, which I once loved. Creativity is one of the biggest gifts for those of us with ADD and is part of why I innitially loved writing music so much. But challenging, conventional schooling can damage those of us who think differently into forfeiting that gift.

After I changed majors, I didn’t pick up a guitar for a long time. I focused on journalism, which often let me go into writing with a universal blueprint. But after a year of freelancing, I started to get bored with the formulas.

Today I wrote a song for the first time in a while. I don’t feel any pressure to play my songs for anyone anymore, so it finally felt expressive and cathartic again. The song may be terrible, but I’m learning that with creativity, it’s more about the process than the end result.

At risk of sounding preachy, we were born to create something beautiful. So let go of the rules you’ve been taught and go get started.

Learning Disabilities: When Nobody Notices

What would you do if it suddenly felt like your brain stopped short and your eyes blurred over in the middle of class?

For most people, the video editing class I am in was no problem once they learned the software basics. However, for someone like me with visual processing issues, the class felt nearly impossible. Visually overwhelming material like a complicated computer program just doesn’t seem to register in my brain, no matter how hard I try.

At first, the beginner editing skills were manageable and I got off to a good start in the class. But when I tried to open the tab for more advanced editing and suddenly hundreds of options appeared before me, I completely froze up. It felt like my eyes had disconnected from my brain and I just sat there for a minute unable to readjust. I didn’t know how to fix it or make the new options go away — all I knew was that the program had become too visually overwhelming for me to even interact with it.

But my peers all kept working happily. The new features didn’t affect them in the slightest, so they didn’t notice what a hard time I was having. And why would they? Since they never struggled with the seemingly simple ability to process what’s in front of them, there was no reason they would guess how much I was suddenly floundering.

So I swallowed my pride and I asked for help.

I’ll admit that asking for help can be incredibly tough sometimes. Owning up to needing assistance with an “easy” task can feel embarrassing or demeaning. It can make my differences feel unsettlingly public and occasionally make me feel stupid. But I try to remember that my learning disabilities are part of what make me me and there’s no use in being ashamed of them. Everybody needs help sometimes, you just happen to need it in the classroom and that’s okay.

What do you do when you need help in class? Let me know in the comments!

Are You Addicted To Your Phone?

Lately I’ve noticed that I feel more and more addicted to my phone every day. I deleted the Facebook app a long time ago because it felt like a time suck and that helped me detach from my phone for a while. But now, I’ll find myself scrolling through Instagram for far too long, closing out of it and almost compulsively, unconsciously opening it again a few minutes later without even realizing what I’ve done.

Sometimes ADD can come with an addictive personality, but I think many of us struggle with an uncontrollable fixation on our apps.

But the last time I updated my phone, I found a new screen time function that measured how much time I spent on my phone per day. And the results were frightening.

It reports that in the last seven days, I’ve spent an average of 2 hours and 40 minutes on my phone per day. In the moment, I never really feel like I could have spent that much time texting, scrolling through Instagram or checking the news. But it seriously adds up. And the even scarier figure is that over the past week I have spent a cumulative 18 hours and 42 minutes on my phone. Just writing that horrifies me when I think of all the actually constructive things I could be doing with 18 whole hours.

So I have a few goals for this next week to cut down my phone time and I would love it if you would join me!

  1. Turn my phone off or put it far away from my bed before I go to sleep.
  2. Limit my Instagram use to 20 minutes a day (the screen time functions lets you set limits for each app!)
  3. Limit my time on news apps to 15 minutes a day. It all depresses me anyway.
  4. Try to only open my phone when I have received a message, not just to compulsively swipe around.
  5. Lastly, when I feel the need to scroll through my phone for no reason, I will try to fill that time with better things like going for a walk, writing a song, cooking or journaling.

How do you detach from your phone? Let me know in the comments!

Overcompensating Organization

On the outside I can appear very, very organized. So frighteningly organized that it has become my identifier at times. My Google calendar is color coded to the extreme with everything on my schedule neatly laid out. I have an additional paper planner where I list everything I have to do for the week. I label everything I possibly can. I love to put papers in perfect piles in my office.

But at home, the organization all falls into total chaos (my blog header is a good example). While my planner looks great, I sometimes still have papers secretly crumpled all around the bottom of my backpack. And it took me a long time to realize how much I was organizationally overcompensating at work and at school.

This partially comes from the need to go overboard to keep myself on track, since I can be so distractible and frazzled. But I’ve come to realize it’s also a coping mechanism to hide from those around me how bad my ADD really is. It’s a way to prove to myself and everyone else that I am still smart when I’m feeling self-conscious. But sometimes when we try to overcompensate for our organization, we exhaust ourselves doing things that don’t ultimately make us more organized. Color-coding my planner in great detail is surface level and is more to impress those around me than it is helpful.

Those of us with ADD are bound to struggle more with organization. So I encourage all of you to try to embrace that and focus your energy organizing the things that really matter.

How do you stay organized? Let me know in the comments!

Five Minutes Or Less

I wrote about the incredible impact “The Healing Self” had on me several weeks ago. But recently, feeling particularly disconnected with my health, I decided to pick it up again to remind myself of what it taught me. I wanted to share one lesson in particular with all of you today because I really do think it is a simple game-changer. Those of us with ADD tend to procrastinate, so little tasks that shouldn’t be problematic grow until we are insanely overwhelmed. This passage from the book is a solution to that:

“To stay in the present moment, don’t let small demands pile up. Immediately take care of anything that takes five minutes or less. If you make this a habit, your time management will improve, sometimes dramatically, and you won’t get to the end of the day complaining that you didn’t have enough time to do everything you needed to” (The Healing Self, 41).

I will admit to being particularly bad at this by nature. When I get a bill, sometimes it gives me so much anxiety that I don’t deal with it for several days or even right up until the due date. This obviously creates even more stress.

The same principle applies to daily tasks like keeping my room clean. The longer I put off folding a few things, the bigger the pile gets, until my room is a total disaster zone that keeps me distracted all day. If I take the few minutes to put away my clothes immediately, it saves me so much trouble later.

So try adding in this five minute rule this week and leave a comment if it helps you!

ADD And The Curse of Forgetfulness

Well friends, I am here today to share a very embarrassing story from yesterday that those of you with ADD may relate to. I’ve been a bit MIA on the blog this week because unfortunately, my computer crashed. So I made an appointment at the Apple store to have it looked at. But when I got to the store, I reached into my bag to discover I had completely forgotten the computer. Not my finest moment.

Lot’s of people forget things from time to time. But those of us with ADD tend to be way more prone to forgetfulness by nature. A learning specialist once described this to me by saying our memory is like a bucket, and sometimes people with ADD have a few more holes in the bottom for things to fall through.

It can be easy for those of us with ADD to feel stupid in moments like mine at the Apple store. And I know that being forgetful certainly hurt my confidence growing up and throughout high school, especially when people got angry or shamed me for it. But we need to remember that we aren’t forgetful because we are dumb, we are just wired a little differently.

If you have ADD, cut yourself a little slack when you find yourself thinking, “wow that was an airhead move.” Forgetfulness is just part of the package and that’s okay.

If you know someone with ADD, please give them grace when they forget where their keys are or lock themselves out of their car or forget an important email or forget to blow out a candle (yes, I can admit to all of these things and more.) Our brains are preoccupied with so many things that sometimes little details slip through. But it’s not worth getting mad about because you can’t change us. And because we are so creative, maybe the reason we forget the little things is because we are distracted by crafting something truly genius in our busy minds.

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!