It’s Not About Willpower

by Diane McLean

At 53, my life started to make sense. Overwhelmed, anxious, and error prone, I felt completely inept. Then I was diagnosed with ADHD. I was also diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, obesity and other ailments. I was a mess. It was a relief to know my scatterbrained-ness had a biological basis. But I was also pretty hopeless about my health. I hired a health coach and learned a lot about diet and exercise. I made some great plans. Then failed to carry out any of them.

Words like exercise, nutrition, sleep hygiene, diet, workout, etc. make most of us run far, far away. All the way to the sofa to binge on the latest Netflix series and a bag of chips. Most of us want to live a healthy lifestyle and make healthy choices. But that’s easier said than done, especially with ADHD. You impulsively grab something to eat. It feels you’re pulling 3 Gs of gravity when you try to get off the couch for a walk? You plan time to meditate, go to the gym or get more sleep. But the day slips through your fingers.

There are many, many reasons for these struggles. None of those reasons are a lack of willpower. We have plenty of willpower. We WANT to be healthy. We even know what we need to do to be healthy. But we fail, over and over again. Our unique brain wiring gets in the way. But it can also be our greatest strength.

My dad is 83 and he does not have ADHD. He got a bike for his 50th birthday to help him improve his health. Every day, until his recent knee replacement a few months ago, he rode his bike 10 miles. Every. Single. Day. To me, that is nothing short of miraculous. But when I asked him how on earth he did it, he said, “I just wake up and ride.”

Our brains have unique wiring. Understanding how ADHD impacts our brains is critical to our success. Not only the area of wellness, but other areas of life as well. The part of our brain that powers our executive functions is sluggish. That’s the part that helps us get things done. So it’s hard to control our impulses. It’s tough to start something that isn’t interesting. It’s a struggle to manage our time, or keep long-term goals in mind.

The reward center of our brain that fuels our motivation is also wired differently. When others want to do something, they do it. Completing something feels rewarding. For my dad, it feels rewarding to take care of himself. For those of us with ADHD, getting something done doesn’t register. The reward has to be bigger and way more interesting than that.

Interests and strengths fuel our brains. These are powerful stimulants. They amp up our executive functions and help us move forward toward what we want in life. We are very successful when we can put some fun into what may otherwise be boring. And when we have the support of others who understand us, we gain confidence and begin to shine. Combine interests and strengths, a love of fun, and a supportive tribe and we are unstoppable.

That why we created ADDA’s support group, Healthy Habits for the ADHD Brain. (The former ADDA Easy Wellness with a makeover!) We create a safe environment. Join nonjudgmental, supportive ADHD peers. We bridge the understanding of ADHD and the practice of self care. If health advice isn’t working for you, it might not be the advice. It might be your ADHD. Our group has an amazing collective expertise about the impact of ADHD on wellness. We look at our health through an ADHD lens, and we learn how to overcome many obstacles to improve our health. We connect with others and we share our experiences. We provide each other with gentle accountability and above all, hope.

Our four facilitators bring a variety of experience to the group.

  • Annette Tabor, is a retired educator. She’s also an ADDA Board member. And she brings years of experience as an advocate and volunteer group leader in the field of ADHD.
  • Mel McDonald is a young, energetic, and passionate facilitator. She also happens to be great at keeping us connected on social media.
  • Kenny Neice is a certified Holistic Health, ADHD, and Life coach. He brings a wealth of knowledge in the areas of nutrition and exercise.
  • And I’m Diane McLean. I’m a certified ADHD and Life coach. You’ve heard my story. I bring everything learned to the group. My passion is for helping people discover and harness their strengths, and I know I can help you.

If you have attended the ADDA Easy Wellness Club, we invite you back. We restructured, re-focused and reinvigorated the group.  Our new group will be more helpful than ever. Healthy Habits for the ADHD Brain Support Group launches Monday, January 6, 2020 at a new time, 8:30 p.m. ET. We are so excited about the changes and we can’t wait to re-connect! Want inspiration? Encouragement? We’ll empower you to make positive changes in your health. See you there!

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    1. Reply

      This was so timely. I turned 72 in November. I was diagnosed with ADHD in August. Talk about understanding my life experiences up until then…I was also saddened by so many missed or screwed up opportunities. Now most people would say, well you can relax and enjoy your retirement now. But NO! I am working and struggling towards my masters in forensic psychology. A group like this sounds like something that might help me. I really have supportive friends but they have nothing to compare my experiences to. Will consider joining one of the groups.

        • Diane McLean
        • January 3, 2020
        Reply

        We would love for you to join us on Monday, Dolores! We have all “been there, done that” and now we are all moving forward…together! Hope to see you soon!

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