Family ADHD Life Coach

ANXIETY IN KIDS AND ADULTS

A little over a year ago I had a day of what I believe was anxiety. Looking back it had been building for some time. Upon waking that day I felt an unsettled and anxious feeling for no reason. I do not remember many details about the day. However I do remember thinking “I just have to keep going”. Almost visualizing lifting my heavy leg and clunking it down to keep moving forward.

As I stood at the gas station for gas, I could not remember my password for my debit card or even which card to use. Meeting a friend for lunch, I was very unfocused but I did tell her what was going on. Though I remember little, the things I do remember I remember quite vividly. Each thought was just to make it through the next moment.

The kids came home from school and I remember hoping my husband would be home soon. Every movement, every thought took effort. When he came home he talked about his day, I remember working to keep calm . Almost too calm! I told him I wasn’t well, my head felt funny. He held me and he prayed for me. I felt exhausted that night.

I went to see my doctor and she has kept a close eye on things. Occasionally I have similar feelings though none are as strong or as controlling as that one day! Partly because I have learned to recognize some signs. That day last March I felt as though I had been sideswiped. I didn’t see it coming. I am very careful now in my self care as well as my mental health care.

What is Anxiety?

Thick, knotted sea rope.  Showing what anxiety feels like within a person

Anxiety by definition is, “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” Worry is how you think about something. On the other hand, anxiety is a physical response to a trigger that affects your body. It can affect anyone and everyone.

According to Statistics Canada’s 2002 Mental Health and Well-being Survey, 4.7% of Canadians 15 years of age and over reported symptoms of anxiety. 50% of adults with ADHD suffer from anxiety disorder and 30% of kids with ADHD have anxiety. ADHD symptoms that coexist with an anxiety disorder may significantly impair their ability to function (psycom.net). Also, ADHD challenges in and of themselves can make kids more anxious. ADHD kids are at higher risk of having anxiety.

Symptoms of Anxiety in Kids

Picture of girl with depth in her eyes.
Look of worry or anxiety

Anxiety and ADHD can both be easily diagnosed. This is list not intended for making diagnosis but to be aware. For correct diagnosis please see a neuropsychologist. (list from Psycom.net)

  • Difficulty falling/staying asleep
  • Increased irritability
  • Argumentative
  • Withdraw from peers
  • Refuse to go to school
  • Clowning around in school
  • Hair twirling, skin picking

Anxiety can be helpful when used as intended as it initiates fight or flight. Therefore when you are camping and see a bear this anxiety starts up the fight and flight! The problem is when the reaction is bigger than the situation calls for.

My daughter does not have ADHD but we have been watching her anxiety for some time. A few weeks ago, her brother caught a cold which turned to pneumonia and he was quite sick. At the smallest hint of a sore throat she began to panic. She couldn’t sleep and told me she was worried about getting pneumonia. She told me, “I can tell my brain this is different but it just won’t listen to me.” It is an awful feeling to be so out of control of ones feelings and emotions.

Symptoms of Anxiety in Adults

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense.
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom.
  • Having an increased heart rate.
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling.
  • Feeling weak or tired.
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.

Managing symptoms

Avoiding activities that bring anxiety on may feel good at the moment but in the long run it makes the anxiety stronger. Instead learn how to talk back to your feelings and recall times in the past that you used your resources to over come what was scaring you. Changing how you respond will give you a sense of control and will decrease the intensity of it.

Steps to take:

Thermometer for kids to monitor anxiety levels
  1. Keep track of triggers. Write down what causes anxiety. Name the negative thoughts that come up. Now write the worst thing that could happen in that situation. Usually our thoughts are large and over exaggerated. FOR KIDS: Give them a picture of a thermometer to take to school. When they feel anxious the can write on their picture how “hot” the anxiety felt and what triggered it. Could also get the teacher involved if the child is comfortable with that.
  2. Learn thought stopping. Tell your brain, “No. Stop telling me that, worry brain. I can do this”. This interrupts the worry cycle and keeps the brain from flooding with anxious thinking.
  3. Deep breathing. This will slow down your heart rate and begin to relieve muscle tension. There are lots of deep breathing techniques. Find one that works for you. FOR KIDS: Visualize blowing up a balloon. Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4.
  4. Muscle Relaxation. Make a fist really tight and hold for 5 seconds, slowly let go and feel your muscles relax. Tighten each muscle in your arm all the way up to your head in this manner. Tighten face muscles as well or any other muscles in the body. Some people work through many muscles. If I am out and about, I will focus on 1-3 muscles until I feel in greater control of myself.
  5. Speak it out loud. There does not seem to be any research necessarily showing this to be beneficial. However, I have found it to be extremely helpful. Each time I have voiced it I have felt the intensity to decrease. It is amazing how much our inner thoughts affect us. Bring it out in the open.

DON’T IGNORE IT

Anxiety is a serious matter and not one you want to leave unassessed. Please seek medical attention if you or your loved ones are affected by anxiety. It is like a weed that grows and takes over all the beautiful growth. If unattended it will continue to take over.

I make sure to keep in check with my loved ones when I feel off. That’s all I say to my husband sometimes. “I feel off”, or “I have THAT feeling again”. He doesn’t always know what to do with it. But just the fact that I’ve brought it to light often eases the hold it has on me.

From my family to yours,

ADHD Coach Laureen

ADHD PEOPLE ARE… Energetic, Spontaneous, and Imaginative

Every person, ADHD or not, has gifts and talents that are sometimes obvious and other times covered over with self doubt, perfectionism judgments, or others opinions. Therefore these gifts and talents need to be uncovered and dusted off. ADHD is often looked at in terms of symptoms to be fixed. All people have things to work on there, but sometimes ADHD people are suffocated in their things to fix.

In an effort to re-frame your ADHD symptoms, we are going to look at how ADHD people are energetic, spontaneous and imaginative. In a previous blog, I looked at ADHD as people who are willing to take risks, are resilient and creative. All of these positives need to be in balance and focused in the right direction. For example, an energetic person who stays up till the early morning hours working on a fun project should have thought about needing to be at work at 9am.

1. ENERGETIC

Not all ADHD people have an excess of energy. It is primarily those who have the hyperactive part of ADHD. (For types of ADHD see this blog post). These are the people who are ready for action! When their energy can be channeled toward sports, school or work they can have great success. Often these are the researchers and innovators who continue working even after their peers have given up. They often have an outgoing, spontaneous, and passionate personality. Michael Phelps and Simone Biles are both examples of famous people with ADHD.

2. SPONTANEOUS

There are some situations where being spontaneous is advantageous and needed. Playing sports, interactive games, outdoor activities, and traveling all benefit from being able to be spontaneous. Living life spontaneously leads to a more flexible style of living. It also leads to creativity as there is a willingness to try something new. Spontaneous outings, unstructured afternoons can be rewarding and pleasantly surprising! Ty Pennington seems like the kind of guy who is quite spontaneous!

3. IMAGINATIVE

“Our imagination is our greatest ally…Imagination is a very, very powerful thing. It literally invents the path before you.” ~Glen Hansard            Imagination piques curiosity, allowing the individual to think about things others would not spend the time on. Imaginative people are inventive thinkers who see the world in a different way. They come up with unconventional ideas that can lead to creating new things. It also allows for unique problem solving as they are more apt to think “outside the box”. For this reason, Robin Williams and Jim Carrey could be referred to as imaginative!

THE GREAT ESCAPE

When my child was a toddler, his energy and spontaneity caused some panic moments. One day while shopping in Costco, my mom and I were wandering the aisles looking at things. I always had him hold my cart if he was down. In a split second of me looking away and back again he was gone. GONE! It was a long aisle and yet he was no where to be seen. I saw a bit of commotion from adults and began running in that direction. I turned a corner and there he was running while adults turned and watched him! Thankfully a young mom stopped him and I was able to scoop him up. There was nothing he was running to he just saw open space and thought it looked fun!

SAFETY AND WISE DECISIONS

While this is a childish example there are important lessons in it. Energy and spontaneity, while fun need to have some control behind them! There needs to be some thought towards safety and making decisions that are not harmful to yourself or others. As a result of my sons spontaneity he now umps baseball where quick calls need to be made. He solves problems that his siblings may have with his out of the box thinking. Because he has energy, he can keep up as he serves with younger kids at day camp.

What difficulties do you face with your ADHD? How can you turn them into positives? Do you need to learn to pause so that you have time to think through consequences? Do you need to set a bedtime routine so your energy and focus doesn’t keep you up to late? Often we need support and encouragement to learn what we need to do as well as follow through in it. If you would like to learn more about how to make some of these ADHD traits work for you, let me know. Email me anytime at adhdcoachlaureen@gmail.com

Family ADHD Coach Laureen

ADHD PEOPLE ARE… Risk Takers, Resilient,Creative

ADHD people have many positive qualities that often go unnoticed. In an effort to correct behavior and identify ways to help we focus on the negative. ADHD people are more willing to take risks, more resilient and tend to be more creative. These are just a few of the positives of ADHD. More will be covered in another blog post.

When a person is diagnosed with anything, often one of the first things they do is look up what that means for them. Typically the things that pop up are a list of ailments, or negative markers for that diagnosis. We do need to know these markers so that we can see them in our lives and learn to adjust or accommodate for them. That being said it is important to recognize our good qualities as well. Especially when the diagnosis encompasses who we are, like ADHD does.

I am going to clarify right now that not every ADHD person has the same traits or characteristics. You may not see yourself at all in some of these. Others you will relate to 100%. Everyone has unique gifts and talents that show up in a variety of ways! ADHD people tend to remember the negative but I want to remind you that there is always “2 sides to a coin”. Meaning there is often a positive side. ADHD people are more willing to take risks, they are resilient, and tend to be more creative.

1. WILLING TO TAKE RISKS

A picture of downhill ski equipment,

I am not talking risky behavior here. Risky behavior are things that bring negative impact to your life. For example, drinking and driving, driving super fast, gambling, doing drugs. What I am referring to is the ability to see and take positive risks. Things like creating a unique project idea that your company puts into action, or public speaking may be a positive risk.

ADHD people can “push the envelope” in a positive way. The lack of inhibition and impulsivity brings a way of thinking differently. These are the people who speak out new ideas with out being worried about what others think. They are less likely to second guess themselves carrying a confidence with them. Albert Einstein took risks. He didn’t care if people thought he was crazy on his 1000th try on the light bulb. In fact he said, “I didn’t fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps.”

2. RESILIENCE

A brick wall representing resilience

According to the dictionary, resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” Adults with ADHD are often more resilient than their neurotypical peers. Now unfortunately, this resilience is formed from the obstacles they have had to overcome. In school ADHD children learn about setbacks and disappointments more so than their peers. They also learn how to adapt new strategies in order to move forward. All of these things create a more resilient person.

Linda Roggli says of ADHD people, “We see the light at the end of the darkest tunnel. We pick ourselves up off the sidewalk when we fall. We smile through the tears.” As a mom of an ADHD child, I will say, that it is hard watching this resilience being built in your child. It has created in my son a drive and a tenacity that would not otherwise be present.

3. CREATIVITY

2 girls walking down the road.

Studies show that on average, ADHD people, are more creative. NOW LISTEN... I hear some of you saying, “oh that’s not me!” In fact, maybe you stopped reading! Some of you have creativity that you are not recognizing as creative. Hairdressers, woodworkers, bakers, chefs. There is an element of creativity in many jobs and it may just be that you have taken that for granted.

There are some, maybe many of you that have creativity in you that you have pushed down and discounted. You may be a bit perfectionistic and nothing is ever good enough for you. Or you have been told over and over that something wasn’t good enough so you stopped trying. STOP letting other people have that kind of control over you. Don’t be afraid to be you, to be different in your creativity. Embrace your uniqueness and stop listening to whomsoever’s voice you have been listening to. Jamie Oliver is an ADHD and known for his creative meals.

DON’T LET OTHERS HOLD YOU BACK

A few months ago my coach asked me what I did for fun. I had difficulty coming up with something that didn’t involve my kids or husband! Like a good coach does she pushed me further. “What did you use to enjoy?”, she said. As I thought back I realized there were some things I use to enjoy. It wasn’t lack of time or resources that made me stop. I use to enjoy drawing and wanted to paint. (Though the process of buying brushes, what kind and where do I start, stopped me from painting.) I distinctively remember my art teacher CONSTANTLY criticizing my work. Now maybe she felt she was helping me learn the details. Nonetheless, I stopped all drawing after that class and never picked it up again. It wasn’t until my coaching session that I remembered the joy that drawing use to bring me.

Many times the positive attributes that make us unique are colored by our experiences and others opinions. Whether it is taking a risk, being creative or even our resilience, we have final say in what we are going to believe. I want you to think back to something you use to enjoy. Dust off the negative thoughts and beliefs that have built up, and allow yourself to enjoy the memory again. We have the power to re-frame or choose to remember the experience as it was, or colored with someone else’s opinion. Let your gifts shine through!

Family ADHD Coach Laureen

What is Executive Function

There are many terms in the ADHD community that can be confusing when just beginning to explore ADHD. Executive Function is one of those terms that are tossed around but sometimes not fully explained. It is an important term to understand because research is showing us that executive function is the main issue surrounding ADHD.

Executive function is what allows people to make plans, organize, and execute tasks. Thomas Brown refers it to “the CEO of the brain, organizing and timing brain functions to work together”. I’ve also heard of it referred to as the conductor of the brain or the brains management system. I like how Seth Perler say it, “Executive function means being able to get stuff done“.


The frontal lobe is not fully developed until around the age of 25 and it is responsible for most of the executive function. They compare ADHD brains with those of the same age to determine that the executive function in a ADHD brain is delayed. Executive function is naturally learned in most people as skills are built while they mature. Therefore, neurotypical adults don’t realize how much they have developed in this area and thus find it extremely difficult when “Johnny” can’t remember to turn in his homework.

Executive Function Characteristics

Various experts break down what is involved in executive function differently. Some say there are 3 core areas, others categorize them in 7 or 8 sections. They may look like the following:

  • Impulse Control
  • Emotional Control
  • Flexible Thinking
  • Working Memory
  • Self-Monitoring
  • Planning and Prioritizing
  • Task initiation
  • Organization

The important thing is to understand what this may look like in your child. They may have difficulty with a combination of the following:

  • Unable to start a project,
  • Staying focused,
  • Shifting focus,
  • Managing emotions,
  • Poor short term memory,
  • Impulsive,
  • Planning ahead,
  • Evaluating the past (learn from the past),
  • Identifying problems and finding solutions.

For Example

Think about this for a moment. Your ADHD child has been asked to do a project to see who can make the best floating object. Lets say they have talked about it enough in class that they don’t have to do any research.

First they need to get a paper and pencil,

(their pencil lead is broke and they need to sharpen it. On the way they look at there friends drawing and its really cool) Executive functions used: ORGANIZATION,PLANNING AND PRIORITIZING

they need to make a plan,

(starting a task is really difficult and with so many kids are moving around their mind wanders from noise to noise) Executive function used: TASK INITIATION, SELF-MONITORING, IMPULSE CONTROL

recall which materials float well,

(working memory is a challenge so they can’t remember what the teacher told them) Executive function used: WORKING MEMORY, PLANNING AND PRIORITIZING, SELF-MONITORING

decide which materials to choose,

(identifying problems and solutions can we difficult) Executive function used: WORKING MEMORY, FLEXIBLE THINKING, PLANNING AND PRIORITIZING, TASK INITIATION

find a way to attach materials together,

(has difficulty planning ahead) Executive function used: ORGANIZING, PLANNING, TASK INITIATION

test it on water,

(is watching everyone else to see how theirs is working) Executive function used: IMPULSE CONTROL, SELF-MONITORING

and then write about it (which includes a completely new list!) You get the idea I hope!

Understanding Deeper

For most of the above steps there is more than one executive function that they may struggle with. Impulse control and emotional control are needed in each step. Each child may not struggle with the same functions and they may struggle to different degrees. This is why it is so important to discover what your or your child’s ADHD and executive function looks like. If you know short term memory is poor then you build strategies, like writing things down, to help you remember things. Combine poor memory with difficulty learning from the past and it is no wonder that many ADHD children have poor social skills. It takes them much longer to learn what their peers learn just by being in social situations.

Now here is where parents and teachers find it confusing. There are times that the executive function struggles do not show up! When their brain is engaged, they can do the above listed project with little or nor difficulty. It is NOT a matter that they need to try harder, or apply themselves more. Their brain, if not connected to the project, will have difficulty completing the task.

Further Support

Recognize that your child (or maybe yourself) may be a bit slower at developing some of these skills. In fact, they will need more support in some or all of these areas. When my son was younger and had difficulty with a friend we would role play how to act in certain situations. Now that my son is in his teens we are working at building habits with looking at the week ahead and planning for homework or activities. We are also working at staying on top of emails from his teachers and keeping his back pack organized. Some kids figure this out naturally, my son needs this assistance and repetition in order to develop these skills to be more automatic.

I hope that you are able to walk away from this post having a better understanding of executive function but also an understanding that this is not bad or wrong. We all have areas we have success in and areas we need support and having difficulty with executive function is no different.

Family ADHD Coach Laureen