Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Self Management of a Scattered Mind

This article is about self-management and self-organization. I'velinked my two favorite, "general", original printouts for managing myscatterbrain-self HERE. They're 100% free and available for anyone who would like to try them. They're not specific to any individual needs, just general categories. Please also feel free to share your own favorite tools, and/or critiques on those I've made. 

The Value of Planning:

Implementing daily goals and plans helps us to better achieve our plans and goals, both big and small. Behavioral research supports that writing down plans helps us: (1) better outline and commit to goals and (2) greatly increases the probability of meeting those goals. Establishing implementation intentions (when, how, where, etc.) of our plans has a significant effect on whether we meet the goals we have, big or small (Gollwitzer, 1993; Gollwitzer & Sheeran, 2006; Scholz et al., 2007; Stizmann & Johnson, 2012; Rogers et al., 2015) . In summary? When we specify our plans, it helps us to prioritize and follow through!

What does this have to do with me?

I openly preach how much I benefit from the act of physical writing and actively thinking through my schedule, needs, goals, etc.. The act of writing my plans is integral to me being able to meet them. A less commonly known fact about me, is that I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 5, again at 14, and again at 18, 20, and 25. So, five times in total. Some of these assessments were for self-confirmation, but I also grew up at a time where many were still convinced ADHD was not real, or that it did not affect girls much, and/or that everyone 'grows out of it'. I can say this much--I did not grow out of it, and I am not alone in that (Kessler, et al., 2006). 

ADHD is really a cluster of different 'executive function disorders', which means it's a broad term for people with neurological issues that impede the structures/functions of attention, motivation, planning, and executing behavior. In layman's terms? The command center that controls conscious thought/planning works a bit different. Different researchers might disagree in the different sub classifications of ADHD, or what causes it, or why it resolves for some and not others. But I'm not going to talk about that. I'm going to talk about why my ADHD forced me to develop seriously structured self-organization and self-management skills. Because they are certainly not something my brain does on its own!

What I Have Learned, From ADHD:

I do not see my struggle with ADHD as an objectively good or bad thing. ADHD is a facet of myself and my personality. What makes it a 'disorder' is not that it's a problem alone, but that it makes functioning in a modern society geared toward the efficient 'average', a bit problematic. So I work hard to make it less problematic. I majored in neuropsychology and did my thesis on ADHD treatments, and I have a passion and fascination for the multi-modal approach (multiple disciplines for management). For my own self-care, I practice meditation, utilize numerous cognitive behavior treatments (CBT) and applied behavioral analysis, do yoga, use medication, and routine, routine, structure, and routine.

Dealing with illness and the demands thereof, ADHD could and does sometimes make self-management more frustrating and difficult. A lot of my differences were/are taken for granted; I lack some abilities that are seen as defaults for most adults. And, for most of my life, there was not much available for someone missing those defaults. I did not have resources to cope, and it made a difficult situation harder to manage. At the height of my sickness and the resultant complications, I was at a doctor's at least five times a week. I was in pain, tired, and filled with anxiety and depression. Remembering all the extra things I needed to do, learning new diets and daily routines, getting to all the appointments (especially on time), and regularly following through with all the therapies and medications, was hard. Hard for anyone, truly. But if I wanted to overcome the beast of unmanaged chronic illness and live, really live, I had to figure out a way to make it work. And I needed to learn how self-manage first (Lorig et al., 1999).

So I sat down, and I made plans. Plans and lists. And strategies. Coping methods to try. I looked at what I struggled with most and came up with countermeasures to make them more manageable. I studied. The amount of articles, books, and reviews I acquired could fill a trunk. Reading became a second job. I spent months and months trying and scrapping new approaches and methods.

Sometimes it felt like a waste of time. I already felt a cold reality of having zero energy and zero time, so I could not understand why I was pouring so much effort into organizing that mess. But I also understood that part of that zero time and energy was due to my inability to make use of the mental and physical resources I had. And I needed to change that. Really, it was part of who I am: I love brains, and I knew mine was not operating at its full potential. I knew I deserved better. 

All that study and my education helped me arrive a lot of conclusions. I need structure. Strict structure. A regular routine. I have to regularly condition my mind to work the way it works best. I cannot just expect my brain to work differently than it does. I have to honor the needs I have and work with them, not against them. I need to be willing to spend time managing myself, not criticizing myself. Slowly, I came up with the methods I use today to make myself the most functional me. And I can 100% say that they are some of the most critical changes I made for making the moderately healthy person I am today.

Why I am Sharing

For a site dedicated to educating and supporting those with illness, I am guessing this may seem like a rather self glorifying and self-focused post. Maybe it comes across as breaking away from the new mantra of this site--to focus less on myself and more on all sorts of people. However, I chose to write this with myself as an example, because I want to be blunt with how critical self-management has been in living a more efficacious and happy life (Wagner et al., 2001). I wanted to be honest with how hard I have struggled to incorporate these valuable changes into my life. Such changes and adjustments did not come easily, and they are still a daily effort. They cannot be an afterthought, or something to deal with once 'everything settles down'. Learning to self-manage is instrumental in establishing a gradual, if tenuous, settling. 

For myself, dealing with my ADHD, anxiety, etc., has been just as important for healing as directly treating physical illness. Self-management is critical for managing illness, and it also does not come easily for everyone. And I want to remind people that it's okay if it's a struggle, it's okay if they need tools and help, it's okay if it does not come easily or quickly, and it's okay if you're not sure where to start. I certainly did not. I felt weak and stupid for not knowing what to do. Through all my struggling, I realized I was wrong; I was anything but weak. That real strength is in pursuing a goal and working towards it, not starting out with everything in hand.

If sharing my journey in learning self-management helps others feel a teeny-bit less alone, I am okay with the possible downside of shining a spotlight on my less-than-perfect self. If it helps motivate just one person to give some resources and tools a shot, then I am happy, and hopefully they will be happy too :).

My Hopes for Sharing Self-Management Resources

I wrote about myself because I also to share some of my self-organizational tools, in hopes that they may be of help to others. Some may find them helpful, and I want to earnestly endorse trying different tools and resources for working out a method for better self-management. My printouts might perfect for one person's self-management toolkit, and absolutely mismatched for another's. People have different circumstances and benefit from various coping methods for dealing with the incessant demands of life!

Additionally, in recognition of the variations in circumstances and needs, I am starting by sharing some of my most general tools: my dailyto-do list and daily schedule printouts. 

I'm not a graphic designer, and these tools can take me a while to make in a general, useful format! So, I will start with sharing my general ones, and then work towards more circumstance-specific versions (e.g., sleep diaries, treatment records, etc.). They're free for any personal use. Try them out, print them, copy them, share them, do whatever you like! (Except trying to charge someone else for them--that's not nice). Also, feel free to share any resources and tools you already like!

I hope you can give daily planning and goal setting an earnest try. They have been an invaluable coping method for myself, and truly help my daily life. If an absolute scatterbrain like myself can eventually make use of some sort of routine and planning, I can't help but have faith in the potential for us all!

  • Gollwitzer, P. M. (1993). Goal achievement: The role of intentions. European review of social psychology, 4(1), 141-185.
  • Gollwitzer, P. M., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Implementation intentions and goal achievement: A metaanalysis of effects and processes. Advances in experimental social psychology, 38, 69-119.
  • Kessler, R. C., Adler, L., Barkley, R., Biederman, J., Conners, C. K., Demler, O., ... & Spencer, T. (2006). The prevalence and correlates of adult ADHD in the United States: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. American Journal of psychiatry, 163(4), 716-723.
  • Lorig, K. R., Sobel, D. S., Stewart, A. L., Brown Jr, B. W., Bandura, A., Ritter, P., ... & Holman, H. R. (1999). Evidence suggesting that a chronic disease self-management program can improve health status while reducing hospitalization: a randomized trial. Medical care, 37(1), 5-14.
  • Rogers, T., Milkman, K. L., John, L. K., & Norton, M. I. (2015). Beyond good intentions: Prompting people to make plans improves follow-through on important tasks. Behavioral Science & Policy, 1(2), 33-41.
  • Scholz, U., Sniehotta, F. F., Schüz, B., & Oeberst, A. (2007). Dynamics in SelfRegulation: Plan Execution SelfEfficacy and Mastery of Action Plans. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37(11), 2706-2725.
  • Sitzmann, T., & Johnson, S. K. (2012). The best laid plans: Examining the conditions under which a planning intervention improves learning and reduces attrition. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(5), 967.
  • Wagner, E. H., Austin, B. T., Davis, C., Hindmarsh, M., Schaefer, J., & Bonomi, A. (2001). Improving chronic illness care: translating evidence into action. Health affairs, 20(6), 64-78.


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Contact me at bedhead@bedriddenhead.com

About The BedRiddenHead

I want to be happy. And this site is about that chance. How to strive to thrive in the body I've got and maybe turn my experiences into something worthwhile.

This site aims to help educate and reach out to people all over that struggle with pain or illness. To try and make something helpful. I work as a medical research writer, my background is in neuropsychology and biology, and I want to share what I learn in a way that is easy to understand. I am not a doctor. I'm definitely not your doctor. I am just some lady who wants to make someone's (anyone's) life a little bit better. Whether you have endometriosis, a chronic injury, a struggling friend, or just want to learn something new, I hope to make a place that has what you are looking for.

Thank you for stopping by, I wish you strength in your health and happiness.