In this episode, Bri Plyler, a certified ADHD Life coach, discusses signs you may have ADHD, tips for teachers who are struggling with ADHD, how to manage it in the classroom, and work environments that are good options for neurodiverse people.
Daphne’s ADHD diagnosis
In late January of this year, after about a month of testing, I was diagnosed with ADHD. I am 38. I have always had anxiety. I struggle with being a workaholic. But early last year, my therapist suggested I get tested for it and it really caught me off guard. This was never on my radar ever. The more I started to learn about it by reading a book or two or listening to some podcasts, I realized I checked like every box of symptoms of ADHD. I kept it in the back of my mind that I was pretty sure that ADHD was describing what I was feeling to a T, but as we tend to do, I put off doing anything about it until I really hit a rock bottom last year.
As I shared on a previous episode, I hit some pretty big mental health lows through the last few months of 2022, and I’ve been starting to feel better and making the necessary changes to my life. But navigating all of this, learning this about me, it’s really new to me. And as I’m recording this, I’m in the middle of learning about myself and how I can better navigate some of the overwhelm and the challenges that I’ve been facing and feeling.
Briana Plyler talks ADHD and your career
It’s always really important for me to find ways to make every challenge a learning lesson because I have built an audience and I want to be able to show you that we can turn our roadblocks into successes. But I don’t have the answers right now. Which is why I am so grateful I was able to get Bri Plyler, a certified ADHD Life coach, on for this episode on such short notice. We’re going to go through some of the topics that I wanted to ask her about, so signs, you may have ADHD, tips for teachers who are struggling with ADHD, and how to manage it in the classroom and types of careers, and work environments that are going to be great feds for neurodiverse people.
So while I know that not everyone is going to relate to this episode, I hope that it can help some others in this audience.
Hi, Bri. Thank you so much for being here today.
Thanks for having me.
I found you, I don’t know, is serendipity even the perfect word to say, but I found you at the perfect time and I started going down this Instagram rabbit hole of watching all of your videos to see if you’d be a perfect guest for this show. But for anybody who is listening who is not familiar with you and your work, do you mind sharing just a little bit about yourself?
Sure. My name’s Bri Plyler. I am a certified ADHD life coach. I use the term certified loosely because life coaching is not formally regulated yet, but there is a governing body and there are courses and steps I have to take. I’m a life coach for adults with ADHD.
Yeah, and that’s something I’ve talked about actually on the podcast before, is anybody can change their LinkedIn title to say that they’re a career coach. That does not mean that they have any experience in recruiting or hiring or have actually written professional resumes before. It’s not something that’s regulated, and I’m happy that you called that out, because life coach is also something that could potentially cost you a lot of money and you want to make sure whatever you are doing is a good fit for you and the person has some sort of qualifications. What got you interested in becoming a ADHD Life coach?
Yeah, I think we could do an entire podcast just on this topic, so I’ll try to be brief. The long and short of it is I wasn’t diagnosed until my early thirties, and so I lived most of my adult life undiagnosed and bouncing from job to job and career to career, looking for that perfect place for me. Everything would fizzle after a little while, be like, “This is the perfect career,” and then it would fizzle. And the one thing that I latched onto was a passion for mental health and serving people. My mom was an addict and my dad passed away young, and my mom ultimately died of an overdose. Looking back, I can pretty well attribute that to mental illness, undiagnosed ADHD, untreated mental illness. As a result of that, I really had a fire for serving people in the mental health community.
My plan was to go back to school and become a therapist when my daughter finished college. Along the way, my therapist said to me, “I don’t think you want to be a therapist. I think you want to be a coach.” I kind of laughed it off, because I viewed life coaching as knockoff therapy as therapy, for people who didn’t want to go back to school. But she encouraged me just to look into it. I did, and I was like, “Oh, there’s really something to this.” The goals of a coach are more aligned with how I’d like to serve people. My husband and I both hired coaches after my diagnosis and it really flipped our worlds on its head. And so I pursued coaching school and the rest is history.
We share somewhat similar experiences. I also come from a family of addiction and mental health issues, and I also personally struggle with addiction. I’ve talked about it on the podcast before that I am a little bit over a year, almost two years of no booze on my end. But also in addition to that, I did not get diagnosed until actually this week. And I am 38. Before last year, never would’ve even considered having ADHD. It was completely off my radar. My therapist was the one that within a few weeks of working with me, she said, “I think you should get diagnosed for this. I think you should seek a diagnosis, because I think that it’s not just anxiety that you’re struggling with.”
This was completely something that surprised me, and the more I looked into it, the more I read about it, the more I realized that I was marking all the boxes of classic ADHD, even though I had this perception of it should have impacted how I was doing in school or it should have impacted my ability to focus on things, because I got really super hyper focused, and I can build a company, I can be a high achiever when I’m working for other types of companies.
Briana shares some common signs you may have ADHD
My question for you is what are some signs that you’ve seen that are pretty common, because I think that this is something that is starting to be more recognized, that there are a lot of people who are potentially undiagnosed that had no idea.
The first thing that I’ll say to this, and it’s always the disclaimer, there are a ton of conditions that present in similar ways. If you have access to care and access to a diagnosis, please pursue it. Because I tell people on my Instagram account all the time in any podcast I’m on, just because you resonate with a couple of things that I might share doesn’t mean that you have ADHD, it just means that maybe this is something worth considering. Some of the things that looking back for me that really stood out, the first one that comes to mind is oversharing. And we talked about interrupting in conversations. I’m talking about how it manifests in my life. Right? It looked like bouncing from hobby to hobby or job to job and being so excited and the ability to really dive in.
I said it’s like Mario Star Power at the beginning of something, when it’s new and novel and we’re excited about it, those dopamine hits are high, and it’s like we have that Mario Star power. We are invincible and fast-paced, and we can go, and everything’s amazing, and then all of a sudden it fizzles and we stop. So a few weeks or months into a new job or into a new hobby, it would just fizzle. I would just die. And looking back, a lot of that was related to the fact that I would start to get behind and I would feel ashamed. And so then I would want to leave the job or leave the hobby or whatever the case may be, so the inability to initiate tasks. The way that I would describe it is it was just like my brain and my body weren’t communicating. I could be thinking, I want to do this thing, I want to do this thing, I want to do this thing, and my body just would not respond. And that was so confusing for me. That task initiation, constant procrastination, that’s one that shows up frequently.
Women are often diagnosed inattentive ADHD, what used to be ADD. Some of the common symptoms of that are forgetfulness. So working memory, where did I put my keys, what did I come to the store for, what did I come in this room for? Or the inability to maintain your focus or regulate your focus. Just as you described, hyperfocus is something that we can certainly experience. It’s not that we have a deficit of attention, it’s that we have an inability to put it where we want it, right? Let’s say you sit down at your computer and you want to do some lesson plans, but then you have this magic idea that you want to plan a Disney trip over spring break, so you could spend the next six hours intently focused on planning this Disney trip. You just can’t move that focus to the task that you would prefer to be doing in that time.
Those are some of the big ones that I see come up really frequently. The inability to initiate tasks, the inability to put your attention where you want it. And also one that people don’t often know about is emotional regulation, so the ability to shift from one emotion to another or becoming increasingly frustrated. The example I use so often, even into adulthood, if I would go to a restaurant because they had this sauce that I really loved, and then I got home and realized I didn’t have that sauce, I would literally break down and cry, heartbroken at this disappointment. I never understood why my emotions were so big. Right? Coming back from some of those emotions, even when the situation is resolved, can be really challenging if you’re not aware of what’s going on.
That piece definitely resonates with me. What I would notice was the longer I was going without alcohol kind of numbing me, not that I was drinking heavily every single day, but I think during those moments of uncomfortableness in my brain, I would have a glass of wine or I would have a cocktail at dinner, and then it would kind of numb it and feel a little bit more normal. So when I was sitting at tables with my loved ones having meals, I started to notice that after a certain period of time, if I had not rushed through and eaten food as quick as possible, I would be sitting there and they’d be having a normal conversation, but my brain would be like, “I’m ready to get up and go.” And it was almost anxiousness of I hear all these people talking, and how are people even sitting and having this conversation and focusing on it.
At first I was talking it up to, okay, you’re just getting comfortable sitting and this is what not having a glass of wine does. But the longer I noticed it, the more I realized I would be completely pulled away based on just noises. I can sit in a very quiet room and if my sweet, wonderful husband just opens the door so quietly to say, “Hey, I made you lunch because I’m here and I just know you haven’t eaten yet,” but it pulled me away from writing a podcast episode, my emotions would go from zero to 10, and I wouldn’t take it out on him, but I’m sure he knows. I’m sure he could see it on my face. But I’d be like, “Now I’ll never be able to focus again.” But it was such big emotions.
Briana sheds lights on the different types of ADHD
Then I realized that my brain, I always described it as I wasn’t able to turn off the tabs of work. I would always have too many tabs open, and then I would ultimately feel very foggy. What they just diagnosed me with was the over-thinker over-focused type of ADHD is what the psych told me yesterday. I don’t know if that is an actual diagnosis or just. . . Have you ever heard that before?
Nope. As far as I’m aware, in the latest DSM-5, which is the diagnostic manual, that psychologist, psychiatrist, et cetera use, there are officially three types of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive, and combined.
And combo. Yeah. It was the combo, and then she just put the notes next to it. This is one of the reasons why I am coming on and just putting out this disclaimer, this is why I’m having you on here, is I’m learning about my own diagnosis. I’m still having follow-up conversations with my general practitioner, and I want to make sure everybody knows I’m not the expert to ask these questions to. Because that was something that I found on Instagram when I let people know that I was diagnosed. Immediately, there were so many people struggling that they said, “Oh, tell me everything that you know about this.” My biggest concern was not being able to better help them. This is a clear example of why you should seek expert opinion and not someone who has just started figuring it out.
Briana shares ways to manage ADHD in the classroom
The first thing that I really wanted to talk about, because with my own diagnosis, it started to help me really understand where I struggled in my past career and my past career as a teacher. It started to make a lot more sense why I was so overwhelmed as a teacher. And so I wanted to go through some of the current situations that teachers may find themselves, if they are struggling with ADHD, overwhelmed with in that work environment to hear your recommendations of what they may be able to do to find a little bit more comfort through these last school months. The first one that I know I very much struggle with then and I struggle with now is in teaching, there is this never ending to-do list, and they keep piling on more and more and more and more, but nobody is actually specifically telling you what needs to be done, what order things need to be done. That decision fatigue and overwhelm was something that just constantly made me feel terrible as a teacher.
A couple things come to mind as you’re saying that. One, it makes perfect sense, because part of our executive functioning challenges mean that prioritizing and decision-making are especially challenging for us. And if you pair that with our, I’d say, impaired ability to perceive time correctly, it can certainly lend to overwhelm, because when we look at this never ending task list, our brain perceives we have to do all of this right now, and all of it is most important. That is overwhelming, because I intellectually understand that all of this at one time is physically impossible. I always like to say to folks, and use this myself, what you can see, you can manage.
The name of the game is to create visual tools. So if you have a task list that’s super long, for example, getting really clear, maybe it’s a color-coding system, maybe it’s breaking it into separate lists, but getting clear on what is actually important for today, for example, and what is on this list because I need to remember to take action on it. So, some sort of visual tool to break it down in a way to help your brain understand or conceptualize all of this doesn’t have to be done right now in this moment. So that’s one important thing.
The other thing that’s really important is to look at your list and clarify that you have tasks on your list and not projects. An example of this that I use is laundry, right? Forever if I had laundry on my list, nothing would happen, because laundry does not have an end, laundry’s a project. My brain doesn’t naturally break down projects into tasks, so I have to do that manually. Once I started adding things like put laundry in the washer, move it to dryer, fold a load of laundry, those things suddenly became possible. So if you have lesson planning on your list, for example, your brain may resist and feel overwhelmed because you don’t know what that means. Obviously intellectually what it means, but your brain is like, “How do I do it?”
You would want it to be lesson planning for Monday for this specific subject instead of just an ongoing project?
Well, certainly that. Certainly specific lesson planning so that your brain understands this ends. Even though lesson planning is something I’ll have to do over and over again, yes, I need to lesson plan for this particular class. The other piece would be like what does it mean to lesson plan? If you were teaching a new teacher how to build a lesson plan, maybe some of those steps are a way that you could create a template so that each time you see lesson plan for this class on this day on your list, your brain doesn’t have to recreate or reremember or redecide how to do that work. So having specific steps as opposed to the total project. I’m not sure what lesson planning looks like. I’m not a teacher. But I can imagine there are ways that you can break it down, identify target objective, identify exercises, write problems, or whatever that may look like.
I’ve found that that’s such a super helpful thing. I’ve been going through executive function coaching with my therapist since we started the process of diagnosis on the side. She’s like, “I can tell that you need this. Even if you don’t get a formal diagnosis, this is some area where you can improve.” But one of the things that you mentioned was just having a visual of what is the most important right now. Because my brain naturally, it feels good to write the 50 things I want to do on a to-do list, and then I just sit in overwhelm and look at that list. It brings up a lot of emotions. I don’t know where to get started. And it felt productive for a minute and then it spirals into shame and a lot of really big emotions over the fact that I’m not getting all 50 things done.
What I’ve done is I’m using Notion is the online planner that I like, the online app that I like to use for keeping my notes and everything like that. But I’ve built it in a way where I can just filter of what is due today and all of the other ones disappear. That feels really good. I also need to continue to stare at that list, maybe write it down on a post-it note. This is the thing I promise I’m working on for this hour. Put a Pomodoro Timer and keep actually visually looking at that time. That’s really helpful.
Then another thing that you mentioned that I think it sounds so silly, but if you hate something and you don’t want to do it, for some reason you’re having really big emotions about doing a task, whether it’s paying your bills or figuring out your taxes or lesson planning or grading everything, writing down the very small actions that you need to take and then starting to check those off one at a time builds momentum towards getting it done. That’s a step that I was missing. Because I’m smart. I know exactly what needs to be done, so I’m not going to write it down, but my brain needs it if I’m already in that procrastination cycle. Have you found that there are people that did not realize how much they needed that part of the process?
Absolutely. I say all the time that the debilitating piece of ADHD is the shame in the “shoulds.” It’s not ADHD itself. Because what you just said, I hear so frequently. “I shouldn’t have to write these tasks on my list.” It’s so interesting for me being this far into it for myself, I can’t even fathom not doing those things anymore because they’re so effective and they’ve made my lives so much easier. But I often have to work with my clients on understanding, that absolutely you’re allowed to do whatever it takes to make this stuff easier on you.
Briana discusses some executive functioning tips
So breaking down tasks, like you were describing it to a five-year-old, is an incredibly effective tool. And can I share another quick prioritizing tool? This is something that I learned early on in the process, and I call it 101.
I don’t use it anymore. But so many of us, like you said, you need the whole list in front of you because that’s what makes you feel safe. That helps that you’re not forgetting anything and that you’re accounting for everything that’s important. But it is very overwhelming and there’s a lot of things that you can do, like you were saying, to get only what you need in front of you, but first you have to decide what it is you’re supposed to be working on today. Right? There’s an ABC list. You make this whole long list and you give everything either an A, B, or C. An A is the task that you perceive if this task is not complete, the world is going to burn. Everything is over. Right? The Bs are the tasks that if you get these tasks done, you’re going to sleep better tonight. But nothing bad happens if they don’t get done. And the Cs are those tasks that are on the list because you don’t want to forget about them, but they aren’t important for today and probably not tomorrow.
In theory, today’s Bs will become tomorrow’s As and so forth and so on. In the beginning, what will happen is you’ll have like 75%, 20% Bs and 5% Cs, but pretty quickly you’ll recognize that you’re not going to get these As done and the world’s not burning. Right? It’s an exercise in helping you to feel more comfortable really understanding what is super important for today. And then you can also go ahead and strike off the Cs on those days to do what you’re saying and give you a little bit of momentum. They’re still on the list, but they’ve been checked off, because you don’t have to think about them today, and you can move on. That really served me in beginning to get comfortable making some real choices with prioritizing.
That’s such a good example. I just finished reading Your Brain Isn’t Broken, and there’s something that they talked about that really resonated with me that’s pretty similar is how you were saying that everything you’re going to try and tell yourself that everything’s urgent at the beginning. On the opposite end, I would kind of procrastinate those things that I was like, “I don’t have to do this right now because I know that I don’t like it,” and I don’t want to perceive myself as lazy, so I would make all of these other things more important, but the things that I knew I needed to get done at one point were urgent. It was a big stack and I had made a big mess because I had not prioritized getting them done in smaller chunks of time. It was a big, “I hate my life.” Yeah, absolutely. I created it over and over and over and over again because a deadline does come up with these things eventually.
Is there anything for those things that don’t have a time-sensitive date in the future but should probably be prioritized as little tiny chunks to get it done? How does that fit in this A, B, and C world?
The A, B, and C is not necessarily, and so this is the other thing that happens. We tend to naturally only prioritize something if it feels urgent or has a hard deadline. Right? The As don’t have to be things, the world burning can mean if I don’t get this done this week, then my vacation is going to be ruined or I’m going to be thinking about it nonstop. The task doesn’t have to be a hard deadline or severe implications for it to be an A. Does that make sense?
Briana shares ideas on how to cope with ADHD hyperfocus and lack of interest symptoms
And then to build on that, one thing that we haven’t really talked about, but why I guess I never really imagined myself to have ADHD is I sure as heck don’t have a hard time focusing on things that are interesting to me or that I’m obsessed with in that moment. This was something that I think I could struggle with a lot as a teacher also, but definitely now that I have the ability to create my own schedule and to work on whatever I want as a CEO, is I can become hyper fixated on something and just sit and work for eight hours without a break. Sometimes those things really aren’t priorities and I’m ignoring the things that are the biggest tasks that I actually should be working on. What would you recommend for people who are struggling with that?
The first thing that I would say is to name it. That’s likely related to transitions. Er? One of the things that’s really hard for us is transitioning from one task to another, and that can be especially challenging if we are hyper-focused. Again, it goes back to the ability to regulate your attention. To shift your focus from the thing you’re currently doing comfortably to a new thing, that’s the part that’s hard. So naming it as a transition is important. And then thinking about we are an interest-driven nervous system. That’s how our brains operate, and so if you can attach it to something that is of value to you or is of interest to you.
It could really suck If you’re like, “But I love marketing and this is what I want to be working on and I hate my taxes and this is not what I want to be working on.”If you can and attach it and say like, “Well, if I don’t do this particular task that’s related to my taxes, I won’t get to do any more marketing.” Right? Or attaching it to a core value. For example, my core value, one of them is security. If I don’t do this, I am no longer safe or secure. I have this worry. That’s one strategy.
Another thing is to use external accountability. Use body doubling, or like you said, a Pomodoro technique where you use a timer to create a sense of urgency where it doesn’t necessarily exist. But the real crux of what you’re talking about there is that transition piece. Right? It’s transitioning from this task that you’re on to another task, so naming it and thinking about, okay, I’m going to count down five to one and then I’m going to walk away, and when I come back to the computer, I’m going to work on a different tasks. Because it might be really challenging to sit at the computer and just automatically shift. First of all, recognizing what’s happening and then naming it is going to be a really important piece of the puzzle.
Absolutely. That body doubling piece is huge, and that’s something that my therapist just brought to my attention, when a task feels really big, even we did it live on a session where she just said, “Write down the to-do list. Let’s think out loud on how hard it really is but with me being on the call,” and it made it so much easier. Looking back at what my teaching career, so there’s one task that I absolutely hated, grading papers. It was boring.
Every client has said that.
It’s just repetitive, it’s not creative for me, and it feels big. It’s hard for me to understand how long it’s going to take is it’s going to take 15 minutes to go through this stack of papers or two hours. I have no concept of that until I get started. But looking back and learning about this body doubling piece, is I could have instead of trying at 3:00 PM to do it on my own, but instead I ended up like, “Let me create a lesson plan from scratch or let me do something else,” and then I’m there at 5:00 PM and I never finished the grading lesson plan, so I take it home with me and then I’m overwhelmed and working at home, I could have potentially asked one of my friends who was also working there to sit in the classroom and say, “Hey, between 3:00 and 3:30, do you want to grade lessons, just sitting at the same desks and working on this together? It would help me stay accountable and on task.” Just having that vulnerability I think would have actually helped me now knowing what I know about myself.
For sure. Another thing that came up as you were saying that, specifically around grading and something that I’ve seen with a lot of my clients who are teachers, one is sometimes there’s, there’s an emotional component to the grading, and that’s a whole different conversation for not now. But the other thing that comes up is all or nothing thinking. Right? That’s something that 100% of my clients experience. And anyone can experience this thought pattern with or without ADHD, so this can serve anyone. But you have this stack of papers and like you said, I have no idea how long it’s going to take me to get through this stack of papers. That also most people will assume that if I start this, I have to finish the stack of papers. Whereas in reality, you could say, “I’m going to grade five of these tests right now.”
You have a clear completion. Your brain knows now when you get to stop and you’ve made progress. Whereas if you look at it and you’re like, “Oh my god, I don’t think I have time to grade all these right now, so I’ll come back to it later.” And then suddenly it becomes the fire that we’re talking about. Being able to do things in chunks and getting comfortable with that is another huge piece of the puzzle. Likely oftentimes it isn’t an option or doesn’t feel like an option because our brains perceived, “No, I have to do it all or I can do none.”
Yeah, that’s me. You just described me. I put it off until it’s a full day’s worth of a task. Another thing that I recognize in myself now knowing what I know is that noise and stimulation can become overwhelming and escalate my own emotions. In a classroom with fifth graders that get really excited or they interrupt me when I’m trying to give a lesson, I would start to feel escalated. I would start to have a really hard time focusing or getting back on track, and it almost would ruin my entire day if that happened multiple times.
It just wasn’t something that I recognized until I removed myself from the situation and then started to recognize it in a more manageable environment. That, oh, that’s the thing that was upsetting me, that noises upset me. I am the type of person that even in a movie theater, if someone’s whispering, I stop listening to the movie and I’m like, “Oh, how dare they? And now I need to try and focus on what they’re saying that’s so important,” when everybody else is probably like, “I hear it, but I can drown it out and listen to the movie.”
Briana talks about dealing with an environment that exacerbates ADHD symptoms
What suggestions do you have for people who are unfortunately in an environment that is escalating their emotions, like a really noisy one?
Probably in those situations, the harsh overhead lighting contributes as well. Think about what you can control. Right? If you have sensory issues related to noise or light, you also might have sensory issues related to clothing, for example. So making sure that your clothing is comfortable, that your bras not bothering you, your pants aren’t too tight, your sock doesn’t have a funny seam, or your shoes are too tight, so thinking about what you can control from that aspect. There’s a great tool called loop earplugs. They’re noise dampening earplugs, so maybe they wouldn’t work while you were actively teaching, but you can still hear what’s going on around you. Someone can still talk to you, it just reduces the decibels that you’re hearing. That’s a great tool.
Also, I’ve talked to a lot of teachers about this, be honest with your students. Can you imagine having been a fifth grade student who was also feeling overwhelmed by the noise and the lights and the things that were happening and have a teacher say like, “Gosh, this noise level is really starting to get to me and I’m kind of feeling it, so I’m going to ask that we play the quiet game.” I don’t know what you do with fifth graders. Somehow just be really honest with them and intentionally bring the noise level down, even if it’s only for a minute. And kind of explain, let’s give our nervous systems a second to calm down. Right? Just be honest and transparent. Step out of the room if that’s an option. One or two minutes of calm can calm your nervous system if it’s related to sensory stuff, right, so if you can just find some ways to navigate that.
And then also find grounding exercises that serve you. Quick breathing exercises. We’re on podcasts, so I guess I can’t show you, but there’s a couple of mindfulness techniques you can do with rubbing your fingers together, for example, that can help you become more grounded and calm. Yes, exactly. There’s a lot of different grounding exercises, so finding something like that that works for you. Just keep experimenting until you find ways to find your calm and your center.
What you couldn’t see is I was tracing the outline of my hand, so as your students may draw that cute little turkey for Thanksgiving, how they trace the outline of their hand, my therapist has me do that and take deep breaths every time I go over a brand-new finger, and that’s really helpful. But anyone who’s listening to this, I actually talked to Ashley Lagro on episode 100, and she talks specifically about how she had sensory issues. And I know this is something that she shared on her Instagram before, is she did have these conversations with her students about her overwhelm and that she found some of her students really were very grateful to her and would come up and say, “I get overwhelmed during these times, too. Thank you for bringing that up. It makes me feel a little bit less lonely, or a little bit understand what it is about this environment that is triggering to me.”She said that her students were actually pretty receptive to it and it was helpful once she was able to identify it.
I would also see if even having classical music in the background of your classroom can help. That’s something that I’ve realized helps me feel a little bit more focused and productive is just having some light music that’s calming, not like Megadeath or Metallica in the background, but just something that feels a little bit soothing and can bring my brain to a happy place.
Moving into it, for many of the teachers who know that teaching was just not a good fit for them for a variety of reasons but now because of potentially having ADHD or just all of the things that we had talked about, they might be starting to feel a little bit concerned about what does this mean for the next career? Is the next career going to be a good fit for me? What parts am I going to struggle with? How do I make modifications to help myself thrive wherever I go? I’d just love to learn a little bit from you.
Briana discusses career ideas for those in the neurodiverse community
What would you suggest that they do to evaluate new career options that are just better fits for neurodiverse brains?
Yeah, I love that. This is another one that could be an entire episode, probably. The first thing that I would say is take some time to reflect on what is it that you like about your current role? What are the tasks that light you up, that you’re able to hyper-focus on, that you don’t procrastinate? And maybe even take that a little bit deeper. What about these tasks make them possible for me to complete? And then of course, conversely do the same thing. What are the tasks that I always put off? What are the parts that make me dread going to work? So getting clear on that. I also recommend doing core values exercises. Brene Brown has a great one. You can find tons of them online. And also strengths assessments, but honestly, those are probably a little less important. It’s about finding something that you’re passionate about.
Unfortunately, I wish there was this magic list of careers that would work for all folks with ADHD, and that’s just not reality, because it’s more related to your personality. And remembering that we have interest-driven brains and we are really fired up by novelty, so having a position that is something that you’re passionate about that feels fulfilling for you is going to be critical. Hopefully going into an environment where you can have really honest conversations about what type of accommodations or modifications serve you. If that looks like, “Sometimes I need to change my environment and I can’t sit at the same desk all day, I’ll be more effective if,” being able to have those conversations.
And looking for things that you can connect to your values. Again, a couple of my top core values are authenticity, community, and security. If I were to pursue a new career working for someone else, which good lord willing I’ll never have to do again, I would look for a place where I could really tap into community, because that’s really important to me, a place where I can be completely authentic. I don’t do well in a box. Don’t tell me what to do. Don’t tell me that I have to do this task at this day, at this time. That doesn’t serve me. But for some people, that is exactly what they need. “Please tell me exactly what to work on, start to finish.” So, just taking time to get clear on what you’re passionate about and what pieces of the job that you’re currently in don’t feel terrible.
Yeah, I hate all of the parts of the career change process where I have to give that it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, because people want someone to just say point blank, it’s this, but not everyone is going to thrive in a remote environment. Some people are going to really want to have that body doubling all the time so that they feel productive, they know what they’re working on. I’ve worked in a tech office that was amazing because it would have all these cool different work stations, so I was either sitting next to my teammates or I would go upstairs and be able to look at all these really cool plants, or I would go over away from the ping pong table because the ping pong table or someone playing acoustic guitar. It was a very legit tech office.
ADHD nightmare or dream.
Yeah, a little bit. Well, there were sound booths where I could sit in and just have a completely quiet environment or I could go and sit and work with other people and be next to them. I loved working in an office. I hated the commute for that particular one, but I absolutely loved working in an office. And then I also like working from home, but there are some people that are going to really lean towards one or the other, and it’s finding out how you work, how you thrive, and if you are on your own, working flexible, how to be more gentle with yourself and how to actually accommodate those different types of struggles that you may have with prioritizing the right tasks and staying efficient so that you don’t struggle in your next career on being able to, these are the three things I’m doing for myself today, these are the three things I’m doing. And then relaying any struggles you’re having with your managers and trying to find ways to better support yourself.
Yeah. You used the word efficient, and I love that. I think it’s important to recognize that efficiency is going to look different for everyone. I think so often one of the things that my clients struggle with is this idea of this is the efficient way, this is the most efficient route to this outcome. But if that route means that you procrastinate a task or whatever, then it’s not the most efficient route for you. Right? Your most efficient route might not be a straight line, but you might get to the outcome faster. That’s what you have to evaluate.
Briana shares how to get tested for ADHD
I love that. I wish that I could talk to you for two and a half hours clearly, but I have two big questions that I want to make sure to answer, because when I put this out on Instagram, one million DMs, one million questions. First being, okay, this has been on my radar. I think I might have ADHD. How do I get tested for this? With my own experience, my therapist told me that she thought that I should, and then she hand-delivered a package of here’s all the places you can get tested. Even that was challenging on my end, but I know that not everybody will have that experience.
Depending on where you are in the world, the path is going to look different. It’s also going to look different based on what your objectives are for receiving testing. So for example, in some places your therapist can do a screening and formally diagnose you, but they can’t prescribe. You may not be able to get certain accommodations and that kind of thing. I always tell folks the first thing that you can do is talk to a therapist or a doctor that you trust. Have that conversation with them initially and say, “What does this process look like here? If I want to explore this further?” Because there are a ton of different types of doctors that can actually diagnose depending on where you are in the world. Of course, it’s going to depend upon your insurance if you’re looking to pursue medication and all that jazz. So you can talk to somebody that you trust.
If you don’t have an existing doctor, in many countries, but definitely in the US, psychologytoday.com is a great resource, because you can filter therapist or psychologist or psychiatrist and you can filter for that they work with adults and you can filter that they specialize in ADHD. That’s a great resource as well if you don’t have a doctor or a therapist that you trust to give you a referral. That’s another great place to start.
The other thing that I would say is attitudemagazine.com, I think is their website, so it’s just Attitude Magazine, has a link to a beautiful self-assessment. The reason I love the one that they share is because it doesn’t just screen for ADHD, so it makes it challenging for folks who maybe have a preconceived notion that they have ADHD to click the right answers to get the answer they’re looking for. It builds in screenings for some other conditions that may look the same, and then they give you some direction at the end of that.
There’s also a couple of self-assessments that you can do, and I always recommend taking notes of the things that have made you suspect this might be true for you. Because when you get to that initial conversation with your doctor or specialist, it’s possible that that’s going to feel really scary, and all of the reasons that you believe that you might have ADHD will fall out of your brain. Spend time reflecting on those and maybe doing a questionnaire ahead of time. This is also because the paperwork for medical diagnoses is a pain in the butt, making the calls. This is a great opportunity to utilize body doubling, right? If it’s important to you, reach out to your support system, or if you don’t have a readily available support system, Focusmate. ADHD actually on Instagram has a body doubling membership. I think it’s $11 a month. There’s resources, so utilize those resources to get back up if you need to.
It definitely took me, I would say, probably a month of emailing different people to make sure that they worked in my timeframe and at least felt like 20 different tests and then a good three days, no caffeine in-person test, so it takes a while. But having the clarity of this is what they are diagnosing, and then this is what my next steps are based on their diagnosis, and then talking to my general practitioner. I’m very hopeful with that, and I hope anyone who is listening can start to make the progress towards learning about themselves and what they need.
The next question that everybody is asking, already, I got so many, “Medication, medication, medication. What is it? Did it work for you?” I personally actually have to call with my general practitioner to make sure that everybody’s aligned on what the medication recommendations are. But what my first suggestions that everybody had were some holistic recommendations. That was omega-3 folic acid and zinc. Real funny, I’m a vegan, so I’m curious how much my diet and not taking these vitamins have been impacting my mental health in a way that I did not realize.
Briana talks about ADHD supplements and medication options
But what would be your suggestions for holistic recommendations of support, and then also anything that you have on medications?
In terms of supplements and diet and those sorts of things, the jury’s still out. If anybody tells you they found the perfect supplement, maybe it helps and maybe it doesn’t. That’s going to be a personal choice. But those that you listed, as well as magnesium for sleep, have had positive results for some people. Movement exercise, the things that serve us most are the things that are hardest for us to incorporate. But there have been several studies that show that 20 minutes of HIIT exercise before a task that requires sustained attention significantly improved focus. That is a natural thing that you can do to help man manage your adventure brain.
As far as pharmaceutical medications, that is a conversation for you and your doctor. There are so many options now for medications that are safe and extremely effective, but everyone’s biochemistry and background is different. So you want to make sure that you find one that works for you. It’s just like, I used to work in footwear training for REI and people would be like, “What shoe, what brand do you recommend for running?” It’s like, “I have so many questions about your feet before I can answer that, right? Finding a doctor that you can be really honest with and trialing medications is going to be the key there.
But medication is only one tool. I tell people this all the time. If you expect that medication is going to, quote-unquote, fix your brain, then your expectations are you’re going to be sorely disappointed. But medication is an incredible tool and especially if you pair it with creating an environment that serves you and developing systems and strategies and habits that work for your brain, then you can see a real lifestyle improvement.
Thank you so much for everything. That also in retrospect, I do think that I have been self-medicating for undiagnosed symptoms of ADHD with a glass of wine every afternoon back when I was drinking. I’ve started to look into a lot of the different research people have done on ADHD and addiction, and it’s been really eyeopening. Thanks so much for bringing that up. Bri, I could talk to you for forever and I’m so grateful for you coming on here. I know that there are so many people who are listening right now that are dying to learn more from you or just whatever they can do to even potentially work with you as a coach. Do you mind sharing where everyone can find you and what you have going on your end?
I’d love to. I show up most frequently on Instagram. I’m Current ADHD Coaching, same name on Facebook and TikTok as well, but my biggest presence is on Instagram. My website’s currentadhd.com, so you can find Current events, ha ha ha, there and other opportunities to work for me. Work for me? Nope. Work with me. I have small group coaching starting this Wednesday, but there will be a session starting every month through probably October. That’s eight or 10 women. It’s just an incredible opportunity. And of course, one-to-one coaching. You can find me currentadhd.com. But come hang out with me on Instagram and see if we vibe and then we can chat and see how we can work together.
Bri, thank you so much for coming on and helping me learn a little bit more about myself and also just everyone in the audience I’m sure is just so grateful and excited to have someone with your qualifications share just more about how to better support them and nurture them through some seasons of stress that may be coming up in the future. Thank you so much for being here.
Thank you for the opportunity.
I want to give a huge thank you to Bree for coming on as an expert on this subject.