ADHD · fitness · health · meditation

The effect of music on Christine’s brain: A (very) small sample experiment

As someone with ADHD, I am always looking for ways to improve my ability to focus. My medication, my planning, and environmental cues all help but it can still take a lot of energy to keep myself on task, so when I came across some music that made it easier to stick to my work plan, I was delighted.

I’m not sure how I happened upon Greenred Productions ADHD Relief Deep Focus Music (embedded below) but I can only assume that it was something the algorithm churned up after I watched a How to ADHD video at some point.

Embedded YouTube video from Greenred Productions called ‘ADHD Relief Deep Focus Music with Pulsation, ADD Music for Concentration, ADHD Music’ The video includes 12 hours of music but there is a single still image on the screen for the whole video. The image is of a mystical looking stag with antlers that look like gnarled tree branches. The stag is standing in light that seems to be shining through the trees that surround it. There are broken tree stumps, plants, and a large rock near the stag.

Maybe there is a scientific reason why this music works for me or maybe it is a coincidence but, either way, playing this video helps me to focus. And the fact that it is almost 12 hours of music means that I won’t lose track of time while selecting music or creating a playlist.

I don’t always have music on when I am working but it has been great to have this on hand when I need a little extra help to focus.

A couple of weeks ago, I was returning to the video over and over throughout the week but, for some reason, I wasn’t resetting it, I was just letting it play from wherever I had paused it the session before.

So, even though it is a 12 hour video, I eventually reached the end and THAT’S when I found the best meditation/relaxation/body-calming music (embedded below) that I have ever encountered.

Embedded YouTube Video of Greenred Productions video “Deep Cello Meditation Music: Dark Meditation Music, Relaxing Music, Dark Cello Music for Relaxation” There is two hours of music but there is no actual video just a still, black and white image of a person with shoulder length hair playing the cello outside a stone house with a set of double doors and a window set in the front of it.

It turns out that I find cello music incredibly calming. In fact, when I listen to this music, I feel the same kind of sensory-soothing calm that I feel when I put on a weighted shoulder wrap or lie in my hammock. Something in the music just really grounds me and puts me at ease.

I have been playing it while I meditate, draw, colour, or read and I swear I can feel myself sinking deeper into those relaxing activities as a result.

Do you find specific types of music help you to focus or to relax?

Does music contribute to your peace of mind?

Did YOU know that cello was so relaxing? Am I the last person on earth to discover this?

Tell me all about it in the comments. Pretty please!

PS – I really wanted to call this post ‘Cello, it is you I’m looking for’ but then the first embedded video wouldn’t make any sense and besides, I wasn’t sure if the Lionel Richie reference was too much of a reach for the joke to work. 😉

ADHD · fit at mid-life · fitness · planning

Another Week, Another Countdown for Christine

I saw a tweet a while ago about how one of the disappointing parts of adulthood is the fact that no one asks you about your favourite dinosaur.

Image description: three wooden dinosaurs standing on a stack of books.​
Image description: three wooden dinosaurs standing on a stack of books.

And that is sad (mine’s triceratops, by the way) but you know what else is sad about adulthood?

Hardly any grown ups add a fraction to their ages. 

We all just go for the whole number. That’s kind of dull, don’t you think?

I mean, what’s more fun? 

Christine is 49 

or 

Christine is 49 and A HALF!

I think the answer is clear. 

49 and A HALF has way more pizazz.

Now, as you probably know, Sam and Tracy started this blog because they wanted to talk about the Fittest by 50 challenge that they were both working on. They took a long term approach to it (2 years), had a solid plan, and tracked their progress.

(And, in a cool coincidence, Sam posted on Monday about being 2 years away from 60, so this is around 10 years from when the initial ‘Fittest by 50’ plan started.)

I’m a bit late and a bit too me-ish for that sort of long-term, methodical approach (even six months is a bit too far into the ‘not-now’ for my ADHD self, frankly) but it’s not too late for me to become fitter by 50. And that’s what I plan to do.

: A woman with short hair​, who is wearing exercise clothes, has her arms outstretched and she is holding a large blue exercise ball in her hands. Her upper body is slightly twisted away from the camera.
Image description: A woman with short hair, who is wearing exercise clothes, has her arms outstretched and she is holding a large blue exercise ball in her hands. Her upper body is slightly twisted away from the camera.

Just to be clear, I’m not really viewing my 50th birthday as a deadline. I’m not planning to get fitter and then give up once my birthday rolls around. And I am not labouring under the assumption that it is now or never. 

I’m just taking advantage of a milestone birthday to give me some focus, to help me direct a little more time and energy into my fitness plans.

I’m not entirely sure what those plans are yet but I have some thoughts:

  • Six months is too long for me to think of all at once so I have to break it down into 6 week sections and just think about one of those at a time.
  • My first six weeks will be focused on my preparations for my belt test, so that’s a good start. 
  • My second six weeks will be during the summer, so that gives me lots of different movement options.
  • My word of the year for 2022 is spaciousness and last year’s was consistency. I think both of those concepts can be useful for my plans – I want more room for fitness, I don’t want to feel like I am adding yet another thing to my to-do list. And I know that going for the consistency is the only way that I will make progress. After all, if there was a way to make erratic exercise session pay off, I would be the fittest person on earth right now.
  • I need to keep the bar low to encourage consistency and I need to keep my intensity high to maximize my interest in the project. I don’t know how to balance those things yet.
  • And, finally, I need to figure out what ‘Fitter by 50’ actually means for me: What criteria will I use? What will I measure? What aspects of fitness feel tangible for me? What do I care enough about, fitness-wise to stick with for the next 6 months?

Anyway, stay tuned while I fine tune my plans and make my way from 49 and ½ to 50.

PS – Anyone want to keep me company?

a GIF of a tortoise moving slowly across a patio. Text beneath reads ‘Here I come…’
I’m not slagging myself with this GIF. I’m trying to inspire myself to be slow and steady on my way to be fitter. Image description: a GIF of a tortoise moving slowly across a patio. Text beneath reads ‘Here I come…’
ADHD · fitness · martial arts

Upcoming: Christine’s 4th Degree Black Belt Test

Sunday, June 19th!

That’s the big day.

I’ve been preparing in a low key way for ages but being only 6-7 weeks out puts my test into a time frame that my brain will accept as ‘real.’

And that means that I can prioritize project Earn My 4th Degree Belt and focus more effectively on the things I need to do to prepare for my test.

Here’s what I am working on:

Fitness

Obviously, improving my fitness level is an ongoing project but with a little over six weeks before my test, I have a very clear short term goal to work toward.

Six weeks is a bit of magic time frame. It’s a short enough time that my brain will buy into pushing myself a little harder – after all, six weeks isn’t forever. And it’s a long enough time that I can actually make some small improvements in my fitness level.

A little girl striking a body building pose.
Borrowing some of Michelle Tanner’s determination for my fitness plans. Image description: Michelle Tanner, the youngest sister from the 80s show Full House, is staring intently forward as she curls her arms down in a pretend bodybuilding pose. This is a joke about a teeny person imagining that she is muscle-bound, but she looks fierce.

I’m in good enough shape to pass my test now if I had to but after six weeks of TKD-focused exercise, it will be just a little easier. And since I want to improve anyway, my impending test gives me a bargaining chip to use if my brain starts chiming in with objections.

Theory

Part of my testing involves being able to complete written and verbal exams about different aspects of TKD, ranging from the technical specifications of movements to historical details of the sport.

I always find this tricky even though, in other contexts, I am perfectly ok with written or verbal tests. I think that having to connect the physical movements of TKD with the surrounding theory trips me up a little.

I have done ok with my theory in the past so it has never been a major crisis but it has made me nervous.

I think this time will be different though because the improvements in my medication, combined with some changes in my day-to-day obligations, has increased my capacity to structure my thinking around TKD.

And, having this capacity six weeks out means that I can also structure my study plan more effectively.

 a person unrolls a set of elaborate plans on a wooden desktop
My plans are a little less complex than this but I like the spirit here. Image description: a person unrolls a set of ‘battle plans’ drawn in crayon.

Patterns

Improving my meds and changing my day-to-day obligations also means that the process of learning my new patterns has been more straightforward this time. I seem to be able to grasp the flow of things more easily and I am holding on to details with far less work than I have had to invest in the past.

This may not all be attributable to the changes mentioned above, it may also be related to the fact that I have been training for a long time and some key elements may finally be firmly in place. (Being a martial artist is a commitment to continual learning so I imagine that I will experience this same sort of feeling again, just on different level, as I progress.)

So, I had three new patterns to learn for this test. I am very confident in one, pretty confident in another, and building my confidence in the third. Six weeks is more than enough time to bring all three up to the same level of confidence.

Three people standing side by side with text below reading ‘Way too many patterns for one person.’
Okay, not toooo many patterns but there are A LOT of things for me to learn and remember. Image description: three people standing side by side, there is a string of lights behind them. Text at the bottom reads ‘Way too many patterns for one person.’

Board Breaking

This is where I really want to do some extra work.

Even though board breaking is the most impressive-looking part of a belt test, it is really a tiny aspect of the process. And because there are a variety of elements involved, no one fails a test if they can’t break one of their boards.

BUT

It still bugs me when I can’t do it.

I struggled with my spinning hook kick break for years but I finally managed it on my last test. And I am not too worried about having to repeat the process with that kick and others for this test.

Three people wearing doboks during a martial arts belt test, two are kneeling and holding a board and one is in mid-air for a kick.
I don’t have a photo of my spinning hook kick but this is me during my last test, about to execute a flying side kick. Shoutout to Mr. James and Mr. Dyer for holding the board for me and to Ms. Zurel for the video I clipped this from. Image description: Me, in my dobok, in mid-air at the edge of a gym mat. Mr. Dyer and Mr. James are kneeling on the mat holding up a board for me to kick.

This time my personal marker of my skill will be to finally break a board with a punch.

I have used a variety of other hand techniques to break boards but I have never managed to break a board by punching.

There are a variety of reasons this could be happening. I know that one of them is that I don’t use enough speed but I may also be pulling my punch a little (I don’t think I am afraid of hurting my hand but perhaps I am, subconsciously.) And I may not be coordinating my movements effectively.

Luckily, I have lots of help to work on this and six weeks is enough time to figure out what’s going wrong and how to fix it.

Focus and Perseverance

Test preparation is not the only thing on my agenda for the next few weeks but I have lots of time and (mental) space to dedicate to the project.

I’m not sure how often I will check in about it because it’s hard for me to figure out which milestones will make sense to other people but you can be sure that I am going to be mentioning some details as I go along.

And I will definitely be asking for good wishes on my post right before my test.

I am focused and I will persevere.

KI-YA!

dogs · fitness · walking

April is Active Dog Month: Who knew?

Yes, it’s true.

April IS Active Dog Month.

And, yes, there is truly a month or a week or at least a day for everything. Maybe that fact makes you a bit meh about all of these sorts of declarations (and that’s fair!) but I kind of like the idea of finding something to celebrate on any given day.

Maybe I am not going all in for National Garlic Day today, I haven’t planned any celebrations for Coin Week this week, and I don’t even think I have the required millinery to celebrate Straw Hat Month but I *am* strongly pro-fun so I vote yes on anything that brings a little levity to your day-to-day.

ANYWAY, back to the celebration at hand.

Apparently Active Dog Month was started by Natasha at Om Shanti Pups but I didn’t delve too far into the history of this auspicious month, so I can’t be sure of its origins. However, I do know that she has some good posts on keeping your dog active so check those out for some ideas.

As you know, our dog Khalee is my constant companion and she and I walk every day. I’m not really sure if I am keeping her active or if she is keeping me active but it seems to work out, either way. And if I ever forget that I need a daily walk just as much as Khalee does, she reminds me.

a light-haired dog stands on a sidewalk next to snow covered grass and trees, she is looking back towards the camera and one of her front paws is lifted off the ground.
I love how Khalee looks like she has quite enough of my lollygagging here. Image description: My light-haired, medium sized dog, Khalee, is standing on a sidewalk next to some snow -covered grass and bushes. She is wearing a harness that is attached to a neon yellow leash. Khalee’s left side is toward the camera and she has turned her head to look at me while raising her left front paw off the sidewalk.

There’s a fair amount of dog talk here on the Fit is a Feminist Issue blog (a while ago, Sam compiled some of them into a post here) so I thought it would be fun to get a few of our bloggers to chime in about dogs and exercise.

Diane:

I no longer own a dog. I like being able to travel and not worry about boarding. When I had a dog, I always resented having to take him out for long walks when I was trying to get ready for work, or it was time for bed. But I love dogs, and enjoy a moment of interaction as many as possible while out walking, even if it is just a quick whispered “who’s a good pup?” as we walk in opposite directions.

A white poster from a prank website called Obvious Plant, poster is trimmed in green and lists joke dog commands.
This poster from Obvious Plant (a satirical/joke social media account from a person who also places posters and products in public places as a prank) always cracks me up. I have yet to teach Khalee how to hover ominously but we’re working on it. Image description: a white poster trimmed in green with a list of joke dog commands. The poster heading reads ‘Most Common Dog Commands’ and the list reads ‘ Sit, Stay, GLOW, Hover Ominously, Resurrect a fallen ally, Split yourself into two so I have more dogs to pet, Seal the portal, Shoot lasers, Channel the fire breath of a mighty dragon, Spread love, destroy evil. ‘

Elan:

I do not have a dog, but I walk/hike semi-regularly with two friends’ dogs, Ellie and Ricky. I notice a heightened, vicarious enthusiasm for walking while with a dog. With a dog, the walk seems more interesting, perhaps because humans and dogs find different things interesting while walking. There is a sense of companionship and satisfaction when walking with a dog that even some non-dog owners notice. Is there a difference between dog walking and walking while with a dog? Dog owners probably know.

Sam:

Cheddar is around the blog a lot. The blog turns 10 this summer and Cheddar is 7 so there’s a lot of overlap! These days Cheddar is the reason I’m out walking at all. While waiting for total knee replacement, both knees, I’m not a fan of walking even though it’s good for me. It hurts. But Cheddar gets me out there three or four times a week. He’s lucky that I’m not the only person who walks him. I’m lucky he’s excellent at adjusting his pace to the person walking him. He’s also a most excellent yoga dog, though unlike Adriene’s Benji he’s not good at staying off the mat so he gets his own.

a dog is resting on a pink yoga mat on a wooden floor, a grey yoga mat is next him.
Cheddar has obviously grasped the essentials of a good yoga practice: get on the mat, find ease. Image description: Cheddar, a light-coloured, long-haired dog is resting on a pink yoga mat on a wooden floor, his rope toy is next to him. A grey yoga mat is next to Cheddar’s mat, and the wheels of an office chair can be seen in the background.

Nat:

Walking Lucy has become my partner and my touch point time before work, on our lunch break ,and after dinner during the week. Our youngest kid is 20 and regularly takes Lucy out solo but also subs in for one of us if cooking, work or other exercise needs my time.

Since the walks have to happen I’m out way more consistently and for longer than I’ve ever been before.

a dog sits in a porch waiting to be taken for a walk
Lucy seems to think that it is time for the humans to hurry up a bit. Image description: Lucy, a light-haired dog whose ears stand up straight, is sitting down in a porch looking expectantly up at the camera. Two rugs can be seen on the floor behind her and someone’s foot and leg can be seen on the left side of the photo.

Back to Christine:

Whether we are walking our dogs or they are walking us, at least everyone has the chance to get some movement into their days.

I am intrigued by Elan’s comment about companionship and about the difference between walking a dog and walking with a dog. When my kids were small, I used to love going for a walk and pushing the stroller – more often than not I would be yammering away to them and they would be asleep! And as much as I enjoy walking on my own, I had missed the feeling of pushing the stroller.

I thought that I was missing the extra effort that the stroller required, that my brain needed the extra work to calmly stay on task instead of filling up with other ideas about what I should be doing. (ADHD brains have a knack for that kind of thing.)

I don’t think that I really considered it before now but I think that walking Khalee gives me a lot of the same feeling that walking with the stroller did. There’s a larger purpose to my walk and I have company (which, as many people with ADHD will attest, makes almost any task more doable.)

So, now that I think about it, I definitely know the difference between walking a dog and walking with a dog, and I am doing the latter.

I’m not walking Khalee, we are walking together. I do most of the talking and she does most of the sniffing – everyone working to their strengths, you know?

And maybe her blog posts are all about hoping that I am getting enough exercise this month.

ADHD · fitness · self care · yoga

Go Team! How are you taking care of yourself today?

Thanks to a bit of over-enthusiastic scheduling, I have three back-to-back Zoom meetings this morning and then I have a lot of routine tasks to do this afternoon.

Yesterday, when I realized what my Tuesday schedule looked like I had a moment of feeling completely overwhelmed and my brain scrambled to figure out if I could reschedule something.

Then I took a deep breath and realized that it would actually be better to get all of these things done in one day so I didn’t have meetings scattered throughout my week.

And, secondly, that the schedule was doable as long as I took good care of myself before and after that string of meetings and that list of tasks.

So, that meant making a really clear list of my planned Tuesday afternoon tasks so I could be sure I had included everything and that I had time to get them all done.

And it meant getting to bed a bit early on Monday night so this morning would be easier.

And it included taking time to do yoga first thing today so I would be starting my day calmly.

And it definitely means making a pot of tea, grabbing some snacks and setting up my notebook for doodling * before that first meeting so I could feel more relaxed all the way through.

And I’ll definitely be taking a walk with Khalee after lunch but before the admin gauntlet in the afternoon so my brain is at ease before digging into detailed work.

By the time you start reading this on Tuesday morning, I’ll be on my mat finding some ease before my day begins.

You may not have the head start I had (I am writing this on Monday evening after all) but you still have a good chunk of your Tuesday ahead of you.

How can you plan to take good care of yourself today?

When can you add some movement into your schedule?

When would you like to feel more calm? How will you help yourself relax?

When will you need a snack? How can you make sure you have one available then?

Even if you can’t make your day totally relaxing, any effort to take good care of yourself is going to help, at least a little!

Speaking of efforts, here’s a gold star to celebrate the work we put into making things a little easier on ourselves.

A gold star ornament rests on a white surface.
This gold star is covered in little bits of shredded foil, it’s not as muppety as this photo makes it seem. Image description: a gold star ornament covered in little bits of shiny gold foil is resting on a shiny white surface.

*Doodling during meetings helps me focus. 🙂

ADHD · ergonomics · flexibility · health

At a desk? On the floor? Where is Christine working?

In an effort to spend less time sitting in a chair, I have been experimenting with standing, sitting on the floor, and lying down while I work, read, or watch TV and as I was going through all of those different positions while writing the other day, I reminded myself of this improv game:

Link to a video from the UK version of an improv TV show called ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ The image shows three men in blazers on a TV set, one is sitting, one is lying down, and one is standing.

I think I was less awkward than that but I can never be sure. 😉

Once upon a time, I had a standing desk. This was before my ADHD was diagnosed and I did find it quite useful because I could fidget a fair bit while doing my work. However, once I really dug into what I was working on, I would end up standing in the same position for long periods of time and my body was not a fan of that. 

In fact, I would actually end up with most of my weight on my right leg, my right hip jutted out a bit, with my left foot only lightly touching the floor to give me balance. I’m pretty damn sure that standing habit contributed to my overall challenges with my right hip. 

a flamingo stands on one leg in a wetland, the other leg is slightly raised and it’s knee is bent. ​
Fairly accurate depiction of my standing desk days. My office wasn’t quite as damp as this, though. Image description: a flamingo stands on one leg in a wetland, the other leg is slightly raised and its knee is bent.

I kept a standing desk for years but at some point, I realized that having to stand up to work had become one more obstacle between me and my tasks. It was mostly subconscious. It wasn’t like I was thinking ‘UGH! I have to stand up? Blech.’ But, over time, it was becoming harder to get started and once I dug into that feeling a bit I realized that standing up was part of the problem. 

So, I went back to a sitting desk but whenever I thought of it I would stand up to do voice dictation or I would prop my keyboard on something so I could type while standing. This, combined with a timer app that helps me focus for short periods and then take a break to move around a little, has helped me get important things done without sitting still for too long.

Then, last year, I started incorporating more squatting into my daily routine and I do a supported squat sometimes when I read or when I watch something.

And I often bring my yoga mat down to the living room when my husband and I are watching a show so I can do stretches or just sit on the floor while we watch. 

In January, once they went on sale, I bought a reading mat and bolster cushion so I could be even more comfortable lying or sitting on our laminate floor while I read, watch TV, chat with my family or even attend webinars where I don’t have to be on camera. 

So, I was already open to the idea of spending more time at floor level when I came across a video (below) a few weeks back from someone who always works from the floor. I have occasionally done some journaling or drawing while sitting on my mat but I hadn’t tried doing any extended work from the floor. If it did cross my mind, I probably dismissed it because I didn’t want to spend any extra time hunched over during the day. 

Before you watch this, I want to be clear that I am not necessarily endorsing the claims they make about the benefits of floor sitting and that I really wish they had said ‘dawn of humanity’ instead of ‘dawn of man.’

Link to video from a company called Plant Based Partners. The video is about the benefits of sitting on the floor to work and the still image shows a person with long hair sitting on the floor with one leg curled into a cross-legged position and the other folded into the position your leg holds in a squat. The person is sitting on a mat and is surrounded by low office furniture – a table, a credenza and a printer table. A small dog is also sitting on a soft mat nearby.

Once I saw the video though, I clued into the fact that I had more options besides hunching over or lying on my stomach to write in my notebook like a movie teenager –  I could raise my work surface to create a more comfortable working position.*

So, now I have a whole variety of ways to get comfortable while I work or relax and I feel better  for it. Switching positions during the day gets me moving but even when I am staying still I don’t end up holding the same posture for an extended period of time. 

My body likes that and so does my brain. 

Do you alternate positions during your work or relaxation time? Which ones work best for you?

Since all of our bodies work differently, I know that my options may not work for you but I would be interested to know what does. 

Do you schedule a time to shift? Do you choose positions based on task? Or do you just move when you get uncomfortable? 

I can’t rely on noticing that I am uncomfortable, sometimes ADHD hyperfocus gets the best of me, so I make a plan for what tasks I am going to do where, and I use a timer.

PS – In trying to find the link for the video above, I also found this very useful video for getting used to sitting on the floor. Tips for sitting on the floor – The Floor is your Friend: Comfortable sitting positions on the floor

*Meanwhile, if I had consciously decided to work on the floor, I would have had a full brainstorm of ideas about how to make it more comfortable. I hadn’t chosen to focus on it so my brain had just dismissed it without further consideration. Brains are such pests sometimes!

ADHD · fitness

Audience Participation Time: How do you reset?

I had a very careful plan for my Monday, some writing, a few administrative tasks, outlining, and organizing details for an event next week. But instead of doing all that perfectly reasonable and very doable stuff, I fell into a trap composed of inertia and ADHD hyperfocus and spent most of the day organizing notes and info from a few of my files.

 a tidy stack of groups of white papers held together with paper clips are sitting next to pair of glasses, the corner of a silver and white keyboard can be seen on the right. ​
Obviously, my stack of papers would never be this tidy, this is a stock photo. Image description; a tidy stack of groups of white papers held together with paper clips are sitting next to pair of glasses, the corner of a silver and white keyboard can be seen on the right.

Those are useful things to have done and they will be helpful for me in the long run but I wish that I had broken that task down in a half hour sessions throughout the week.

Instead, I spent most of my day sitting down, poring over papers, making all kinds of small decisions about what to keep, what to scan, and what to recycle.

It was only when I started to get annoyed with myself for not wanting to deal with the last two papers in a folder that I realized that I was tired and that I had spent too much time doing this one thing. (For the record, I did stop for lunch and for several cups of tea, I wasn’t that far gone.)

At this point you may be thinking, “Yeah Christine, that sounds frustrating but what does it have to do with fitness?”

That’s where the audience participation part is going to come in, hang on a sec.

You see, when I pulled myself away from the papers, after finishing those last two, I realized that I needed to do something. I needed to move in some way but damned if I could figure out what it was.

Did I want to stretch?

Do some yoga?

Go for a walk?

Practice my patterns?

Do something a bit more intense?

I wanted to do all and none of that.

I actually wanted a magic wand to give me my day back and take this meh feeling away but I guess my fairy godmother is on holiday today because she didn’t answer. Everyone needs their rest, right?

Anyway, I decided to start with a few stretches and then I headed out for a walk. Seeing as my fairy godmother was incommunicado, I figured that hanging out with Khalee was the most practical magic I could access.

A light haired dog in a red sweater covered in white hearts stands on a sidewalk looking toward the camera.
Khalee, a light-haired dog wearing a red sweater covered in white hearts, stands on a sidewalk with snow next to her. She is looking toward the camera and I swear she looks impatient. She is wearing a blue and black harness and since I am holding her neon yellow leash, you can see it extending from her harness toward the camera.

But, I’m curious, what do YOU do when you find yourself feeling all meh and grumpy?

Do you need gentle movement to ease your brain and body back into gear?

Or do you go for something more vigorous so you can get a jump start?

Do tell!

PS – For the record: I was a bit cranky about losing my day to sorting papers but, ultimately, my effort will be useful. I wasn’t hard on myself about it. ADHD is tricky and being mean to myself about my symptoms and tendencies won’t make it any easier. You may not have ADHD but I hope you can be kind to yourself about the detours your brain takes too. We’re all just doing our best out here, right?

ADHD · goals · martial arts · planning

Christine’s TKD Pattern Check-In: That Didn’t Go As Planned (But It Turned Out OK)

So, it turns out that I can’t really learn a new pattern in 5 minute sessions because my brain does NOT like it.

I can do 5 minute practices of a pattern that I already know or I can practice one specific technique for 5 minutes but my brain refuses to believe that 5 minutes of learning a new pattern will add up to me being able to do it. 

I have it a good try for the first 10 days of my plan, though.

I would practice a few moves one day and really feel like I was getting it. But, by the next afternoon, it was like I had wiped my mind clear of the previous movements entirely. It was taking me almost the whole five minutes to remind myself of what I had been doing the day before and it was so awkward and frustrating that I was getting really discouraged.

a GIF of a ​light brown dog slowly shaking its head back and forth. It has a resigned expression on its face and the caption beneath says ‘Really?’
This pup knows my frustration. Image description: a GIF of a light brown dog slowly shaking its head back and forth. Its mouth is curled into a resigned expression and the caption beneath says ‘Really?’

I know, of course, that learning takes time and that I have to be patient with myself and with the process.

BUT, on the other hand, I know what I am like and I know what my brain is like. And, I know that that specific kind of frustration can lead to me unconsciously putting something aside for later – and not a specific time later but that murky ambiguous time that I refer to as the ‘the not-now.’*

Change in Plans

In order to protect my pattern practice from falling into the not-now, I had to course-correct.

I changed my daily practices to focus on patterns I already knew, cycling through them one at a time. 

As for learning Yoo-Sin, here’s what happened:

Luckily, we went back to having classes in person so I had the chance to work with Ms. Reid and Mr. Dyer a couple of times. That really helped. It’s great to have two very different people to work with – they both help me to understand different parts of the movements and understand how to bring the pieces together.

A GIF made by animating the images from a Simplicity brand pant suit sewing pattern so that the figures on the front dance.
This is not the kind of pattern I was working on at all but this GIF makes me laugh every time I see if. Image description: A GIF made from the the sample image on a Simplicity brand sewing pattern. A woman in a black yellow, plaid bell-bottom pant suit dances from side to side in the foreground while a woman in a black bell-bottom pant suit nods her head to the same beat in the background.

And, at home, I dedicated longer periods of time to learning my new pattern so I had time to get into more of the movements in each practice.

I started by writing out the 68 movements in my own words so I could reference them more easily. I’m sure official instructions will never include phrases like  “X punch down, X knives up, then sneaky punch” but I make it work. 

Then I broke the movements into sections that made sense to me – separating sections when I had to change directions or when a set of similar movements were completed and another set was starting.  

I worked on the first section until the movements had a bit of flow to them and then moved to the next section, adding a little bit at a time. This is what I was hoping to do with my 5 minute practices but 5 minutes wasn’t long enough to make things stick.

I could feel that I was starting to grasp my pattern** but I couldn’t always bring my knowledge with me to class. It always takes a while before my home practice shows up at class with me but at least my brain was more willing to focus on the details of the in-class practice because the movements were at least vaguely familiar. That let me retain more information about the details of the pattern because I had a mental ‘container’ to put them in.

Let’s Call It A Success

I’m going to call my February plan a success even though I had to change it part way through. (Hmm, does it count as changing it if part of the plan was that I could change it if I wanted? Ha! )

Trying to work for 5 minutes a day wasn’t a direct path to learning my pattern but it did set me on the right path. Realizing that 5 minutes a day wasn’t going to work led me to find something that would and now I am doing pretty well with my pattern overall.

I’m pretty confident with the first 50 of the 68 movements and I am feeling ok about the last 18. And I’d be feeling more confident about that last 18 if I could magically face the right direction for each movement instead of having to remind myself each time.

A determined-looking cheerleader in a huge hairbow holding pompoms.
Given her determined expression, I can only assume she is personally cheering me on. Image description: a cheerleader in a huge hair bow and a black and red jersey that says ‘Beauties’ is holding a black and white pompom slightly behind her while she holds a red and white pompom toward the camera. She has a determined look on her face and she is standing in a field with a tree and parked cars in the background.

When I started this plan for practice I wasn’t sure if I *could* learn my pattern in a month but apparently, the answer is yes – as long as I was working with my inclinations instead of against them. 

I think I just coached myself into a corner with that last bit, hey? 😉

*Long before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I would tell people that, for me, time only came in two forms ‘now’ and ‘not-now’ and if I put something into the not-now it might never resurface. It took me years to find out that dividing time like that is common among people with ADHD. I don’t know how many people use the definite article though – ‘the not-now’ has a certain gravitas to it that works for me.

** I have a very specific feeling when I know a pattern is starting to come together. It’s not exactly visual but it is the mental equivalent of watching film develop or watching something move toward you through fog – I can ‘see’ it there, recognize its shape, even if I can’t quite identify/describe it yet.

ADHD · fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 21: Support Systems

As yet another alarm went off on my phone this morning, I started thinking about our support systems and how you might make good use of them as you build your practices.

Note: every time you see the words should or shouldn’t in this post, please imagine me rolling my eyes and sighing it out as if I am fed up with the very concept of it. Because I am.

Story time

(There is no escape from my stories.)

Because I have ADHD, I use a lot of external cues to help me do the things that I want to do. I have umpteen timers, reminders, and alarms. I make good use of the timer on the stove when I am in the kitchen. I try to shape my environment by putting things in the place where I will need them – like putting my meds on the kitchen table before I go to bed so I will see them first thing in the morning. I have routines and checklists. I ask other people for reminders and I have accountability partners for all kinds of tasks. *

Before I was medicated (and especially before I was diagnosed), I tried to get away without using most of those things. I felt that, as an adult, I shouldn’t need so many reminders to get through the day – especially since, in many contexts, I have a good memory. I tried to fake my way along – this is called masking, by the way – and I did ok sometimes, maybe even most of the time, but with A LOT of additional stress and worry.

It was MUCH harder for me to manage the details of my life and to follow through on my plans without those things. Once I was diagnosed, I gave myself ‘permission’ to use any supports that worked for me and life got a bit easier. Once I was medicated, I could make even better use of those supports, and every increase in my medication makes them more and more useful to me.

Accepting that it was ok to have that support system in my days made a huge difference in my life. I could use more of my mental energy to actually do the things I wanted to do instead of using that energy to try and remember to do them.

And the really annoying thing is that I could have been saving that energy all along by just letting myself do things the way that I needed to do them. I could have had those supports in place all along and felt much better every day.

Instead, I fell victim to our cultural message that if things are difficult it is because we aren’t working hard enough. From that perspective, my reminders and notes and systems would be a sign of being inept or being weak, or being stupid.

What a load of crap, hey?

Now that I am aware of that whole set of messaging, I am so annoyed. I am annoyed with the message and I am annoyed that I was stuck in that mindset for so long.

Find/create/use your support systems

Maybe ADHD isn’t an issue for you but I’ll bet that you have other things that get in your way as you try to build your new practice.

You don’t need a reason or an excuse to seek support. I know it can be hard to seek support or help but don’t let the idea that you shouldn’t need it be part of the challenge of asking.

If you need a reminder, a pep talk, or some sort of tool in order to remember/start/do/complete your practice, then please seek those things out and use them.

Please don’t should yourself out of making your own life a little easier.

Try to think in terms of solutions instead of whether you should need support.

Use the timer on your phone, your watch, your stove, or your computer.

Stick notes all over the place. I often write notes in dry-erase marker on my bathroom mirror and I frequently attach sticky notes to my kettle. I have also been known to put a sticky note on my phone, which I find hilarious – a literal note to self on my phone!

If you need a pep talk, ask your friends for one or look up pep talks on YouTube, TikTok, or on a podcast app.

If you need an accountability partner, check for online groups who are doing a similar practice to yours. Or ask on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram or via text for someone to check in with you after a certain amount of time.

If your arms are strong enough to lift some weights but gripping them hurts your hands, could you wear gloves? Could you put the weight in a bag that is easier for you to lift?

If you don’t want to get on your yoga mat because it is hard to get back up off the floor, what can you use to help yourself up?

In fact, yoga can be an excellent example of how to casually allow yourself to use the supports you need. In yoga, you are supposed to meet yourself where you are today. If you can’t reach the floor with your fingertips, you put a block down and touch that instead. If you are struggling with a pose, you either adjust it to meet your needs or you use a strap, a bolster, a blanket, or a block to support your efforts.

Today’s Invitation

I know that it is hard to ask for support, even if we are just asking ourselves to use something that makes our lives easier.

This whole cultural thing we have around independence and how we should be able to operate with out support is a racket but it is a pervasive one. It keeps us all stuck and prevents us from getting the help to manage all kinds of situations.**

Today, I’m inviting you to seek and use supports for your practice, whether those supports are post-it notes or a friend to walk with you. Let yourself make your own life easier whenever possible.

And here is your gold star for today’s efforts, whatever they entail.

Your efforts matter. You matter. And it is ok for you to ask for help, to use supports, and do the things you need to do in the way that you need to do them.

Sending you ease.

a small drawing of a gold star surrounded by black dots
It occurred to me that I should try to make my star drawings connect to the topic of the day but then I noticed the word ‘should’ in that sentence. Should is always a sign that I need to reconsider. If I start trying to connect my drawings and my topic, it will box me in and make it a bit harder to do my drawing (and my writing) and that goes against my big picture plans for spaciousness. Sooooo, I’ll just stick to drawing whatever star shows up when I start moving my pen. Image description: a drawing of a gold star surrounded by tiny black dots on a white card. The edges of the card are outlined in a wavy black line and the card is resting on a black computer keyboard

*Because of how the huge variety of ADHD traits work in each individual brain, all ADHDers will have some traits in common with others and also have their own unique spin on the condition. Most of the time, my reminders, timers, and environmental shaping works for me but for other people with ADHD, these things may not work at all. Please DO NOT use me as an example of why someone else should be able to use these things effectively.

**For this post, I am generally talking about some pretty straightforward things, small supports that we can use to expand toward our new habits. But, I want to acknowledge that this same thinking trap extends in all directions and has all kinds of deep implications for vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our society. Vulnerable and disadvantaged people are discouraged from asking for the things they need. If they do ask, they are criticized, judged, and put through all kinds of extra work and invasive questions to try and get it. And many of us with privileges and advantages are encouraged to think of this as ‘the way things are’ because we are used to the ambient sense that no one should ask for support and that becoming an independent person who can do everything on their own is the ultimate goal. Obviously, this post about supports for the practice you are building isn’t going to create social change but I didn’t want to pretend that the need for support in our society stops at a pep talk or putting a chair next to your yoga mat.

ADHD · cardio · fitness · goals · health · motivation · self care

Christine is aiming for better than average

I have picked a word for the year – spaciousness – but I hadn’t really settled on a fitness goal until this weekend when I found a new category of information in my Fitbit.

In my average week, I’m moving a fair bit. I take the dog for a walk or two each day, I usually have two TKD classes in a week, I do a bit of yoga and some stretches and a bit of strength training.

A light haired dog rests on bedsheets folded back from where someone got up.
Here’s Khalee supervising while I do yoga. She has such a hard job! I am really a lot of trouble. Image description: Khalee’s head, shoulders and front pays can be seen as she lies on the crumpled top sheet and blankets from my bed. She is facing the camera and her chin is resting on the blankets where they were folded back from when I got up. Her eyes are half-closed and she look looks restful but observant.

Lately though, I have come to realize that I am not really moving the metaphorical needle on my fitness level. I’m maintaining what I have but my efforts are not particularly focused and I’m not feeling any sort of expansion in my capacity.

Part of this is due to my issues with my toes/heel/calf/knee, of course, and luckily that situation is improving steadily. And, up until now, I have been juggling about three things more than I had capacity for at any given time – I could manage to hold most things in the air most of the time but that was it.*

However, some combination of ADHD and personality also factors into this. I never really know when and how to push myself, it’s tricky for me to judge my capacity and energy levels at any given time, and I am never sure if and what I should measure.

I’ve been keeping an eye on my resting heart rate over time but since I don’t wear my Fitbit when I sleep, apparently that’s not a very accurate measurement.

And I check off the box for daily movement but my effort levels vary from day to day. I’m not criticizing myself for that but it does mean that I am maintaining rather than expanding my capacity.

However, this weekend, I accidentally nudged a different part of my Fitbit screen and discovered that I can get more information about my cardio fitness above and beyond just my heart rate.

This puts my numbers in context. I LOVE context!

Fair to average isn’t bad but I’m sure with a little more focused effort, I could get to good and maybe even beyond.

So, in a move that is probably startlingly obvious to anyone who doesn’t live in a ADHD time/pattern soup, I looked up how long it takes to improve cardio fitness and what kinds of exercises will help me see a little progress ASAP. (I know that you can’t rush results but I also know what my brain needs.)

So, now I know that I need to make some of my workouts HIIT workouts and, in about two months, I should see myself inching toward that next blue bar.

In the meantime, I going to try not to check this screen every day hoping for a magical shift. I’ll post about it once a month though, just to keep myself on track.

A screen capture from a Fitbit app showing that the user's cardio fitness is between fair and average.
Image description: A screen capture from my Fitbit app that indicates my cardio fitness on a multicoloured bar with numbers ranging from 24.6 to 39.5. My fitness level is indicated at Fair to Average 27-31 and is in a blue segment of the bar. Text at the top of the image reads: Heart Rate. Cardio Fitness. Your estimate is between Fair and Average for women your age.

PS – I undoubtedly knew some or all of this before. And I may have put some pieces together before. If you had asked me, I probably could have told you that improving cardio fitness is a good idea and that things like HIIT would help. However, when I want to take things on for myself, I always need to have proper context in order to hold on to or apply the information I have. For some reason this chart gave me the right container for the information and let me make a plan. The new level of ADHD meds I started in early December are probably helping this whole process, too.

*Yes, I know that is not an idea situation to be in but I knew it would be relatively short-lived and the effort to juggle was far less than the effort to adjust all my other routines so I just got help where and when I could, took breaks whenever possible, and just juggled the heck out things the rest of the time. And, finally, as of mid-December, a few things finished up and I was back within my capacity and mostly in charge of my schedule. YAY!