37: the one about a dopa menu

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Description:

If ADHD is more about losing interest and motivation than it is about attention and concentration what does that mean for living with ADHD? Everyone uses dopamine for motivation, experiencing pleasures and rewards, but it works differently in ADHD brains.  Understanding our dopamine differences and what our options are can help us on one level–to feel good and have more fun, on another it could be life-changing to be able to know what to do when we need more dopamine to get and stay motivated or ways to deal with being overstimulated. We are going to explore the idea of a dopa menu, popularized by Jessica McCabe of How to ADHD and Eric Tivers of ADHD reWired.  Moira shares extra tips, ideas, and strategies for creating your own dopa menu.  

Welcome to the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle Podcast, for those of us with ADHD, who have had enough of trying harder and want to live a more comfortable, healthy, and happy life with less frustration and overwhelm. It’s time to get rid of guilt and shame–around having ADHD, our needs, and challenges through stories, knowledge, and humor to speak up about the experience of women, moms, and being late diagnosed with ADHD. 
 
We can build acceptance and growing our self-compassion over time, to help us take care of ourselves, ask for help when we need it, and be comfortable with who we are. Join me, Moira Maybin, as I share knowledge about ADHD to make your life easier, and what choices you have to make your tomorrow a more ADHD Friendly day.
 
Thank you for being part of the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle, hosted by Moira Maybin. Subscribe to the show on iTunes and leave a rating and review. Join the conversation today!
 
Have a question suggestion or want to reach out? Email Ask@adhdfriendlylifestyle.com

Show Notes:

Topics discussed in today's episode:
What is a Dopa Menu? 02:53
  • Jessica McCabe of How to ADHD and Eric Tivers of ADHD reWired coined the term in the May 2020 video How to Give Your Brain the Stimulation it Needs
    • They shared a flexible, guided process for a “menu” of doing things that make us feel good and helps us to get things done
    • it included ways of remembering, choosing, and removing barriers to doing things on our menus.
    • In her example, Jessica focused on activities that excite her and make her feel alive
  • Moira reminds listeners of:
    • Tamara Rosier’s concept that those with ADHD typically sort things into two groups—Fun or NOT Fun
    • P. I.N.C.H.: when we combine these elements it’s easier to get going; It stands for Play, Interest, Novelty, Challenge or Hurry up (meaning to engineering urgency for things you enjoy but might not otherwise do because there’s nothing pressing about doing it)
    • Moira needed to engineer some urgency if she was ever going to complete her dopa menu—it’s taken her 15 months for what took her about 1-2 hours when she combined how long she spent on each stage.
  • A dopa menu can be a great tool for us because it helps us cope with motivation, getting started, continuing, and stopping as well as the under or over stimulation we feel on a regular basis
Dopamine and the ADHD Brain 04:14
  • “ADHD is more about loss of interest and motivation than it is about attention and concentration” Dr. Russell Barkley
  • The neurotransmitter dopamine helps regulate emotional responses and is responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward
  • Scientists have established that levels of dopamine are different in people with ADHD and that dopamine functions differently too:
    • When we do something boring or that we have little to no interest or motivation in, and are rewarded in some way upon completion
    • Compared to a neurotypical brain in this situation:
      • ADHD brains will make less dopamine
      • The dopamine gives less of a feeling of reward,
      • The dopamine doesn’t last as long
    • Next time a neurotypical does a similar task:
      • Neurotypical brains draw from the previous experience and releasing dopamine during the tedious task, in anticipation of finishing the thing, and getting a positive outcome
      • Our brains, not so much!
      • This partly explains why we struggle with motivation, procrastinate, or avoid certain tasks
      • We can use this to help us support our dopamine stimulation levels

      Stimulant Medications and Dopamine

      • work by increasing dopamine and stimulating focus
      • increase dopamine levels in the brain by targeting dopamine transporters
      • 2 classes of stimulant medication each use a different approach:
      • Dosages of these medications that are too high for an individual does not lead to greater focus and attention
        • If your dopamine levels are too high, this can make it difficult to focus
        • If you have a hormonal cycle involving estrogen, progesterone and testosterone a medication that may be effective in the second half of your cycle may feel too strong in the first half (and vice versa, if the level seems optimal in the first half, but ineffective in the second half—check out my episodes on hormones and cycles)
Our struggle with acceptance and accommodating our needs 06:52
  • Everyone with ADHD, struggles with regulating their dopamine levels, with or without meds—it’s an inherent part of having ADHD
  • we struggle to give ourselves permission for something that impacts our whole being.
  • Giving ourselves permission to have more dopamine stimulating experiences helps us feel good and do more of what is important to us and that may include:
    • allowing ourselves to switch what we’re doing in the moment
    • to do something from our dopa menu to take care of ourselves and increase our capacity
  • Having and practicing using a dopa menu can help us:
    • pay more attention to our internal awareness
    • build greater trust in our innate wisdom to know what we want or need
    • Listening to ourselves, having self-compassion
    • Recognizing that even if we don’t get it perfect this helps us manage and meet our needs
    • Being able to provide ourselves with a boost or mitigate overstimulation
  • We all have regular, quick and easy sources of dopamine to get through the day
  • Our choices may not be meeting needs
  • Understanding our dopamine needs is a very important part of understanding our ADHD
  • We either consistently seek stimulation (the opposite of boredom) or we can suffer from over-stimulation
  • A dopa menu can be a tool to help us recharge or restore our level of stimulation.
Structure of a DOPA menu 09:00
    • Jessica based dopa menus on her experience working in restaurants
    • There are alternatives: grouping by how long or where
    Appetizers or starters: things that can give us a quick boost of dopamine and without getting stuck there
    • to make it easier to start something, a brief reward for doing a thing, or for pleasure during a short break Moira’s include dog cuddles, singing, a quick chat with a friend, and playing wordle
    Sides: are things we can add on, to make something less boring and increase our motivation or interest enough to get the job done
    • They might target a different sense than the one you are needing to use
    • Moira uses a diffuser, changing the location of the activity to a more preferred ones, changing clothes, music, having a drink.
    • the only way Moira can fold laundry is also have the TV on
    • Sides can be enjoyed on their own, and work as an accompaniment for other tasks.
    Mains: activities that we enjoy and are good for us
    • Moira’s include cutting the lawn (?), stand-up comedy, playing with Lego, and shooting hoops
    • She noted that playing cards and board games, something she did A LOT as a kid, only became possible again once she was on stimulant medication—the interest and motivation were too low to deal with when adding in waiting for her turn as well
    Specials: things we can do occasionally and will take more time, money, and effort to make happen.
    • Moira needs these written down to remember that she LOVEs doing these things
    • Travelling, camping, Musicals, Live Stand up, Pro Sporting Events, Museums, Art Galleries
    Desserts: (Jessica) describes these as things that she might overdo and aren’t as fulfilling to her
    • This identifies things she may get stuck on or give her a dopamine boost in a less healthy way
    • For her this includes scrolling through social media, texting, ruminating, or playing video games by herself
    Desserts: (Moira) a special category of special, they are as not as time consuming as a true special, like say a vacation might be but they are something that I am giving myself permission to have, to truly savor and enjoy, without any guilt or shame
    • from an intuitive eating for people with ADHD and disordered eating background approach
    • They are things that will give her an extra boost and help deal with emotions or thoughts with kindness
    • Her list has facials, massages, a completely free and unplanned day, pedicures, and spending time playing with home décor
    • They are both restorative and dopamine boosts for her
    Add other categories:  Consider adding sections for dopa menu items that will increase your dopamine and make things you struggle to do regularly easier, like getting to, or out of bed
D.O.P.A. Process of creation 12:51
  • Design:  Start with capturing things you love to do
    • Brain dump
    • Google dopa menu ideas
    • Talk to others
    • Moira’s 3 lists: pleasant activities list, an interest checklist and a guide to different types of rest
    • Moira put hers in an excel spreadsheet—you do you, do it in a fun way for you!
    Omit: any options that are unrealistic right now
    • To make different choices requires figuring out if they are currently feasible
    • Moira will have paddle boarding on her dopa menu but not in the North Pacific Ocean in March
    • remember that this is not a to do list–things we want to do
    • Put them in the category they might fit in
    Prep: make it easier to do by separating the planning from the choosing, reduce EF drain when already drained
    • make it as easy as possible to get going, if we can decrease the number of steps we are more likely to do it
    • Try out your choices, when you don’t need a boost, looking for ways to reduce, or eliminate as many steps as possible
    • Write down or take pictures of what set up or getting started involves to avoid using that Executive Function each time
    Advertise: include enticing descriptions, make it pretty or funny, or keep it simple.
    • Moira likes her Excel Spreadsheet Dopa Menu
    • put the Dopa Menu where you will see it when bored, need a break, a dopamine boost or rest
    • the fridge, the lock screen on the phone, a screen saver on the desktop, bathroom mirror
    • if you have a hard time deciding—create a way to decide NOW–flip a coin, use random choice generators online, really anything that works
    • Moira’s hardest part will be remembering to use it
    • put a reminder about it on your task list, or weekly calendar
    • Scheduling a reminder for 4-6 weeks after starting a dopa menu to circle back
      • consider tweaking it for what is working
      • what isn’t
      • add some new or seasonal items for novelty and interest

    When something doesn’t work right away, it doesn’t mean it’s a failure, we can be curious about what could happen differently to improve it.

Potential Roadblocks 21:45
  • These can include:
    • too many I don’t knows
    • feeling like it is too hard do something new
    • struggling to start it, but also how to stop it
  • Options to consider:
    • Increasing roadblocks and barriers for the things you want to spend less time on
    • Are you giving yourself any time to do things you enjoy—without guilt or shame?
    • Do you stay up late at night to try to fit these things in (and it backfires on you)
    • Have you restricted yourself to the point that you want to rebel or binge on things you enjoy?
  • When we allow ourselves to enjoy pastimes, and have enough of it in our life, it isn’t as hard to stop it. You know that you will have it again.
  • In tough times, transitions will be harder too, can you give yourself a variety of dopa menu choices to try and avoid ones that are stickier or harder to stop when your time is limited?
  • Give yourself permission, time and space to enjoy your pleasures:
    • Our time awareness is often off—how long does it take to play that game? If it’s 4 hours what needs to happen so you can treat it like the special it is—maybe it’s not an entrée during a work week, but what could replace it?
    • Can you set aside other responsibilities or block of time to be able to enjoy the experience?
  • Plan for the best, but expect that there will be difficulties
    • remember that it is perfectly okay, it’s not all or nothing, pass or fail we can either hulk smash internally or externally, to use Brendan Mahan’s Wall of Awful analogy or we can start again, be curious and try to collect information without judgement to consider what we’d do different next time we are in that same situation
    • and by preparing and advertising menu in advance, we’ll have more options available to us when we need them
Recap: 24:52
  • Understanding our dopamine needs is a very important part of understanding our ADHD,
  • ADHD brain produce less dopamine and it doesn’t last as long or register as strongly as it does for neurotypicals because of this, we either consistently seek stimulation, or we can suffer from over stimulation.
  • Creating a dopa menu gives us a tool for the times we need to recharge or reset our brain using the idea of creating a menu with a variety of activities that we love to do and brings us joy.
  • We outlined a process to create a dopa menu using Design, Omit, Prepare and Advertise with strategies to make it easier and have these things in our daily life.
  • When we start to think about our challenges as being related to our interest and motivation levels, it becomes easier to notice and become aware of what’s causing our struggles and potential solutions
  • All the specific details and information about this episode can be found at ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com.

Resources:

Transcript:

Moira Maybin  00:00

I acknowledge with gratitude that I’m a settler who lives in creates on the unceded traditional territories of the Semiahmoo First Nation, which lies within the shared territories of the Kwantlen, Katzie, Tsawwassen, and Sto:lo First Nations.

Lead ADHD expert Dr. Russell Barkley has said, “ADHD is more about a loss of interest and motivation than it is about attention and concentration.” When we start to think about our challenges as being related to our interest and motivation levels, it becomes easier to understand some of our struggles. Knowing that all humans use dopamine to get things done and feel good and ADHD brains have less dopamine, it makes sense that we need help in achieving an optimal level, both when we’re under stimulated and overstimulated. Today we’re talking about how dopamine works in an ADHD brain. What a dopa. Menu is, why you might want one and how you can get one in less than 15 months, from idea to reality, like it did for me.

 Welcome to the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle. I’m your host, Moira Maybin a woman, mom, educator, and I have late-diagnosed ADHD. This is the place to practice getting rid of guilt or shame and spending more time with our strengths and passions. There are things that I wish I had known about my ADHD sooner that is allowing me to make different decisions to make my life more ADHD friendly, and I want to share them with you. For show notes, including next steps, resources, and articles on this topic, visit ADHD friendlylifestyle.com.

Moira Maybin  01:40

I have always loved music and singing, I can count on music to improve my mood. I have diverse musical interests and make choices that help my emotions and attention too. This wasn’t intentional but now I turn to music when I need it. I am not a confident singer and rarely sing in front of others, but I love it. There are many talented musicians in my family. And when asked what instruments I play, I used to quip that I play the stereo. I have so many memories of listening to and singing along with songs on the radio records, cassettes, CDs, and now streaming. My love of music and singing and the enjoyment I get from it is exactly the type of thing for dopa menu. Another item on my dopa menu is singing karaoke. Last summer, I got to rock out with one of my dearest friends. She is an exceptionally talented performer. And because it was just her, I felt comfortable enough to give it a try. She told me repeatedly that I can sing when I came home from that trip, I bought a karaoke machine. It was such an amazing feeling for me that I wanted more of it. I knew this was a great addition for my dopa menu. By then creating a dopamenu had been on my to do list for seven months.

Moira Maybin  02:53

The term dopa menu was coined by Jessica McCabe of How to ADHD and Eric Tivers of ADHD reWired in their video from May 2020. A time everyone was in need of ways to lift our spirits and have positive things to do. They shared a flexible, yet guided process for creating a menu of doing things that make us feel good and help us to get things done. An added bonus is that it includes ways of remembering, choosing and making it easier to do the things on our menu. In her video and examples, Jessica focused on activities that excite her and make her feel alive.

Moira Maybin  03:29

Back in the episode about time and energy I shared Dr. Tamara Rosier’s concept that those of us with ADHD can pretty easily sort things into two groups, fun or not fun. From that vantage point, only things that are fun would go on our dopa menu. And going back to one of my earliest episodes, we can also look for things that involve some combination of the acronym P.I.N.C.H, P.I.N.C.H stands for play, interest, novelty, challenge, or hurry up, meaning to engineer some urgency for things you enjoy, but might not otherwise do because there’s no pressing need to do it. Maybe a really good example is committing to this episode that finally got me to finish creating my dopa menu.

A dopa menu can be a great tool for us because it helps us cope with motivation, getting started continuing and stopping. We come by these difficulties honestly, mainly due to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine helps regulate emotional responses and is responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. Scientists have established that levels of dopamine are different in people with ADHD and those without there are some important nuances too.  Say we are doing something boring, like filing a document for work. It’s something we’ve done in the past and got great feedback on. Compared to a neurotypical brain, we generate less dopamine in these situations. It doesn’t last as long and here’s the kicker-the next time a neurotypical brain has to do that boring task, they are able to use that previous experience to start releasing dopamine during the tedious task, in anticipation of finishing the thing and getting a positive outcome. Our brains not so much. When we look at it this way, it makes sense that we can struggle with motivation, procrastinate, or even avoid certain tasks. It also means that we can use healthy things to stimulate our dopamine to have ways to get and keep going.

Moira Maybin  05:33

A piece to add to the puzzle is that stimulant medications for treating ADHD work by increasing dopamine and stimulating focus. These medications increase dopamine levels in the brain by targeting dopamine transporters and increasing the levels they fall into two classes. Each group of medications use a different approach. The amphetamine class increases the amount of dopamine released in our brain. While the methylphenidate last slows down the absorption of dopamine, so it is available to us for longer. Some people believe that taking a high dosage of these medications will lead to greater focus and attention. This is not true. If your dopamine levels are too high. this can make it difficult to focus, I was better able to understand the scientific findings when I heard from people who describe that while they’re able to motivate or follow through more easily at a particular dosage of a stimulant, that they can find it more difficult to think clearly or learn. In those cases, they shared that information with the prescribers to tweak either the dosage, or the stimulant choice.

Not everyone takes meds and even when we do, we can still struggle despite the increase dopamine medication can provide. Even though we may be able to compensate to a point, there’s often a cost to our mental and physical health. To avoid that we can turn to developing strategies to use and tweak for years to come. Even knowing how our brains make and use dopamine differently from neurotypicals, we can struggle to give ourselves what we both need and deserve. If you had a friend or loved one that had an iron deficiency or a vitamin D deficiency, I doubt any of you would question their need or right to get what they need to have optimal levels. And yet, we struggle to give ourselves permission for something that impacts our whole being. Giving ourselves permission to have more dopamine stimulating experiences in our life not only helps us feel good, but it also helps us to do more of what is important to us. This may need to include allowing ourselves to switch what we’re doing in the moment to do something from our dopa menu to take care of ourselves and increase our capacity overall.

Moira Maybin  07:45

Having and practicing using a dopa menu can help us pay more attention to our internal awareness and build greater trust in our innate wisdom to know what we want or need. Listening to ourselves, having self-compassion, and recognizing that even if we don’t get it perfect, that all of this helps us manage and meet our needs. In the short term, it’s being able to provide ourselves with a boost or to mitigate overstimulation. We all have regular go-tos for quick and easy access to dopamine to get through the day. Some may be healthier, or more helpful than others. Often, we may find that our choices don’t do enough to meet that need. Understanding our dopamine needs is a very important part of understanding our ADHD. We either consistently seek stimulation, the opposite of boredom or we can suffer from overstimulation to achieve an optimal state. Creating a doper menu gives us a tool for the times we need to recharge or reset our brain. It’s an idea. A dopa menu isn’t going to change everything but what I’ve heard from those who are using it, it’s making a significant difference. And I know my dog is pretty pleased that getting cuddles is on my dopa menu.

Moira Maybin  09:00

Jessica created a structure for her dopa menu you based on her experience working in restaurants. For those of us who have, let’s say a complicated relationship with food. There are alternatives to using a menu approach. Some people group theirs by how long or where the activity will take place. There are countless visual examples and templates available online. Most dopa menu start with appetizers or starters, things that can give us a quick boost of dopamine without getting stuck there. I know I know you are already thinking about Yeah, but what if I get stuck? Wait for it. I’ll get there. We can choose appetizers for a variety of reasons to make it easier to start something a brief reward for doing a thing or for pleasure during a short break. Our starters give us some level of stimulation we need or are looking for. Two quick ones for me are those dog cuddles and playing WORDLE I don’t know why, but I don’t get stuck on my phone with Wordle.

Second sides are things we can add on to make something less boring and increase our motivation or interest enough to get the job done. The only way I can fold laundry is to also have the TV on. In looking at my list, I’ve realized that many of them involve appealing to a different sense than the one I’m trying to use. I will put on a diffuser, change location of where I’m doing something to one, I like better change my clothes, put on music, or make myself a drink. Sides can be enjoyed on their own, and they work as an accompaniment for other tasks.

Moira Maybin  10:36

Next, we have mains or entrees,  activities that we enjoy and are good for us. Mine include cutting the lawn, I don’t know why, stand-up comedy, playing with Lego, shooting hoops. Something I found interesting, one that has only rejoined the list since I started taking stimulant medication is playing cards or board games. Until now my interest and motivation was too low on its own to find an activity that I did a lot as a kid enjoyable.

There are both desserts and specials on a dopa menu. Specials are things that we can do occasionally and will take more time, money and effort to make them happen. I don’t know about you, but having them written down somewhere will help me remember that I love doing some of these things. Like going to concerts, musicals and plays. Even before they were put on hold for the pandemic, I would simply forget how much I enjoyed them. Okay, now for desserts. Jessica describes these as things she might overdo, and that they aren’t as fulfilling to her. In setting it up that way she’s identifying the things that she may get stuck on or give her a dopamine boost in a less healthy way. For her, this includes scrolling through social media, texting, ruminating, or playing video games by herself. I’ve taken a slightly different approach coming from an intuitive eating for people with ADHD and disordered eating background. For me desserts are a special category of special, they are not as time consuming as a true special, like say a vacation might be, but they are something that I’m giving myself permission to have to truly savor and enjoy without guilt or shame. They are things that will give me an extra boost, as it will help me deal with my emotions or thoughts with kindness. My List has facials massages, completely free and unplanned days pedicures and spending time playing with home decor. These are both restorative and dopamine boosts for me. We can add other categories to struggle to go to bed or get up in the morning. Consider adding a section for dopa menu items that will increase your dopamine and make getting to or out of bed easier.

Moira Maybin  12:51

Now that we have a general idea of the categories of things that can go into a dopa menu how do we make one in less than 15 months? Creating a dopa menu has four parts and to help us remember them Jessica created an acronym D.O.P.A even with it being so you know aligned with everything, it took me a long time to remember what they stood for. And make sure you check out Jessica’s How to ADHD video, How to Give Your Brain the Stimulation it Needs. Okay, D in D.O.P.A. stands for Design, start with the things that you love to do. When I first tried, I had 10 that I wasn’t too excited about like a cup of tea. I’m not one of those people who will sit down with one and it gives me enough dopamine to work on taxes. Next, I turn to three lists. I am nothing if not thorough. So please you do you with this. One is a pleasant Activities List. Another an interest checklist. And the last was a guide to different types of rest. Because I believe we don’t have to wait to feel bad to do these things. I was able to immediately find 66 more things I like to do. I dumped those in an Excel spreadsheet, because that’s how I get creative. My next step was to have a conversation about this with other ADHD brains that was fun and inspiring. The first one out of the gate said I need ideas my go to is food. I would love to practice new ideas. Then a bit later she followed up with I loved riding my bike and pretending My bike was my car. And I was taking my kids to ballet lessons. I loved playing outside and pretending I was lower angles. Side note. I don’t know if I love playing Little House on the Prairie or Star Wars more. That led to someone else chiming in. Ooh, I love driving to my favorite field with a beach chair and a big towel setting up a spot to read than an overworked lawyer. I know asked anyone have ideas on getting emotional rest somewhat quickly. My heart went out to her. At the same time this gem was shared. I leave the yoga mat out and then I stopped seeing it I think we can reliably predict that these things become scenery to our brain, and we no longer notice them within a few weeks, definitely by four to six weeks. When something stops working, it’s time to change it up. The last question we turn to was, what did you do for fun as a kid, I was a tree climber. I sang, made art. And most importantly, I think I was either unaware or unfazed at my mediocrity at things one of the women added. Some of this process may involve going back to a time when you allow yourself to experience pleasure, just for the sake of pleasure. We also tend to process ideas more easily verbally. So having a chance to have some fun and talk about it out loud may help. Going back to my karaoke and singing now that I have it in my house. I rarely used it. That’s a roadblock we can address. Part of the process does include figuring out how to reduce barriers for something we want to do.

Moira Maybin  16:01

Once we have a bunch of options on our menu, the next step in D.O.P.A is O for Omit, we can omit any options that are unrealistic right now. To make different choices requires figuring out what the options are, if they’re currently feasible. I am not going to be paddleboarding in the North Pacific in February. We also want to remember that this is not a to do list. We want these to be things we want to do. Well, I was sorting through mine thinking about what part of my menu they might fit in. I was also mulling over how I could make it easier to do. And that leads to step 3 P in D.O.P.A that stands for Prep our ingredients. As Jessica says restaurants know that when people are hungry, they don’t like to wait so they prepare everything they reasonably can ahead of time, we can do the same. Our goal here is to make it easier to do by separating the planning from the choosing.

Often when we need something, be it dopamine, food, rest, or water. We’re already past the threshold, we are overdue, overdrawn in the need it now. So it’s like the difficulties we have making good food choices or getting to bed on time. When you are not just only hungry, but starving, it’s really hard to make good choices. When we look for things to take care of our brains and bodies and our executive function capacity is already tapped out it adds more stress. The more satisfying dopamine options usually require more of us to get ready and that may be enough to kill the idea. And when we are already low in dopamine, we turn to the easy and familiar ones that tend to not quite hit the mark either.

Moira Maybin  17:54

The solution is to prepare ahead of time, figure out the steps involved in your dopa menu if you’re like me, you might even want to write some of them down or take pictures of what a setup looks like so you don’t have to redo that executive function every time. Then take some time or practice your choices. By paying attention to what you do to start the thing. We want to make it as easy as possible to get going. If we can decrease the number of steps, you’ll be more likely to do it more often. This is where my love of music and singing had hit a roadblock. I don’t listen to music as much as I used to and I sing even less. Why? Well back in the old days, the way that we access music actually made it more ADHD friendly for me. I curated my collection belong to the Columbia House CD of the month club and was able to create mixtapes, then either burning CDs, or having multiple CDs on a carousel player, I can have enough variety to not get bored, but a limited enough supply that decision making wasn’t overwhelming. Now, although there are so many options for what to play, how to play it, and where to listen to it, that I get lost in the choices. So I don’t make any. I’ve tried to limit some of those choices, say by only using one streaming service, the one that also stores my digitized CD library. But even then I need to choose if I’m going to listen to my library or there’s the thing is when I’m trying to figure this out, it’s when I know I need music to help me. Just like when we’re overtired, or very hungry, it’s not the time to be problem solving. So preparing means I’m separating planning from choosing of listening to music, singing or using my karaoke machine. Part of it is eliminating the decision making and having readily available options for my different moods. A decision I can make right now is that when I listen to music, I’m always going to use my phone as the source. If I do that, it will make it easier to become more familiar and at ease with my options. I will also find some time when I’m happy to chill out and spend some time learning how my music provider curates and organizes music so I can set it up to work For me. Lastly, I’ve set the karaoke machine in a place that it can stay set up. With all the things needed to run it. The only barriers left are remembering an option and allowing myself time for my dopa menu.

Moira Maybin  20:12

That brings us to the last letter in D.O.P.A. We have designed, omitted, prepared and now we need to advertise. To advertise our menu, we can include enticing descriptions make it pretty or funny. There’ll be people who will love this stage. To be honest, I love my Excel spreadsheet dopa menu, I use some bold, some underlining, I even filled some cells. That’s how I roll. The last step is to put the dopa menu, where we will see it when bored, need a break, a dopamine boost or a rest that could be on the fridge, the lock screen on a phone, screensaver on your desktop, or on the bathroom mirror. For some people who struggle with making choices, you can flip a coin, use a random choice generator, really anything that works. For me, the hardest part will be remembering to use it. So actually putting a reminder about it on my task list, or weekly calendar will also help me remember to put some more fun into my day. Speaking of calendars and reminders, I would encourage scheduling a reminder for about four to six weeks after starting a dopa menu for a checkup. This is a chance to circle back and consider tweaking it for what is working, what isn’t. And maybe we’ll be far enough into spring to add some new items for novelty and interest. When something doesn’t work right out of the gate, it doesn’t mean it’s a failure, we can be curious about what could be done differently to improve it. I haven’t forgotten about those thinking, there’s too many, I don’t know, or feeling like it’s too hard to do–something new to the point where it can stop us in our tracks. There are also those who are wondering about getting stuck with an activity, struggling to start it but also to stop it.

Moira Maybin  22:03

There are a few options for you to consider here. First of all, if there are things that you would like to spend less time on? Then instead of looking at ways to make it easier to do the thing, come up with ways to make it harder to do the thing. One that I like to use is turning off autoplay on YouTube and Netflix, any of those that makes it a little harder, try to create barriers to spend less time on the things that you want to decrease time on. But here’s something to consider. Why do we get stuck? I can’t count the number of people with ADHD, who realize that part of the problem is that they don’t have any time that they allow themselves to enjoy their pastimes. For those of you who stay up late doing things you like to do, why then can you give yourself permission to include those during the day, sometimes we struggle to stop things, because we’ve been restricting them so much that it becomes like a binge. When we allow ourselves to enjoy pastimes, and have enough of it in our life, it doesn’t become as hard to stop it, you know that you will have it again, we also need to consider how we are doing overall.

If we are struggling in general, then we can expect we will struggle with transitions too. Can we create dopa menus that have a variety of choices so that we can choose one that is more likely that we will be able to transition out of? Now, I think we all know that I’m not a gamer. So I have a wise friend who shared this advice that continues the idea of giving yourself permission. This can be true of other things that take huge chunks of time, like maybe sports fans. If there’s a big event coming up, say the release of a new game. And also knowing that playing a game does take up a big chunk of time, why not accept that? And set it up to enjoy that? Can you take the day off work and play the new game? Can you set aside other responsibilities or block off time to be able to enjoy the experience? I do have a gamer in my house. And I think this might be a conversation we need to have.

Moira Maybin  24:04

Lastly, yes, we can try to avoid difficulties, but when difficulties happen, because they will, remember that it’s perfectly okay. This is not all or nothing, pass or fail. And that we can either hulk smash internally or externally to use Brendan Mahan’s Wall of Awful analogy. Or we can start again. Be curious and try to collect information without judgment. To consider what we would do differently next time we’re in the same situation. And by preparing and advertising our menu in advance we’ll have more options available to us when we need them.

Moira Maybin  24:52

OK, you’ve done the hard work by staying to the end. Here’s your reward. Here are the main takeaways from today’s episode:

  • Understanding our dopamine needs is a very important part of understanding our ADHD,
  • ADHD brain produce less dopamine and it doesn’t last as long or register as strongly as it does for neurotypicals because of this, we either consistently seek stimulation, or we can suffer from over stimulation.
  • Creating a dopa menu gives us a tool for the times we need to recharge or reset our brain using the idea of creating a menu with a variety of activities that we love to do, and brings us joy.
  • We outlined a process to create a dopa menu using Design, Omit, Prepare and Advertise with strategies to make it easier and have these things in our daily life.
  • When we start to think about our challenges as being related to our interest and motivation levels, it becomes easier to notice and become aware of what’s causing our struggles and potential solutions
  • All the specific details and information about this episode can be found at ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com.

Moira Maybin 26:04

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s show. And we’d love to hear your thoughts. To get in touch you can write me an email at ask at ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com. Connect with me on my website, Instagram, and Facebook at ADHD Friendly Lifestyle, or Twitter at ADHDFL. Every episode has a website page, show notes, transcripts next steps resources, and articles related to the topic. To get these visit ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com. If you’d like to support the podcast, the best way is to subscribe to the podcast player of your choice and by taking the time to rate and review it there. There are other podcasts for your listening pleasure. On Hacking your ADHD Will Curb gives Tips Tools and insights. Brendon Mahan hosts ADHD Essentials focusing on parenting and education.  Thanks for listening. See you later.

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Moira Maybin, M.Ed. (EdPsy.)

Moira Maybin, M.Ed. (EdPsy.)

I help people with ADHD who are tired of trying harder and are ready to give up the struggle. This is the place for the late-diagnosed, women, moms, professionals, those who want to understand ADHD, be heard, and know they are not alone. An ADHD Friendly Lifestyle builds our ability to take care of ourselves and use our unique strengths and talents to create a life that works for us.

Moira Maybin, M.Ed. (EdPsy.)
Moira Maybin, M.Ed. (EdPsy.)

I help people with ADHD who are tired of trying harder and are ready to give up the struggle. This is the place for the late-diagnosed, women, moms, professionals, those who want to understand ADHD, be heard, and know they are not alone. An ADHD Friendly Lifestyle builds our ability to take care of ourselves and use our unique strengths and talents to create a life that works for us.

I help people with ADHD who are tired of trying harder and are ready to give up the struggle. This is the place for the late-diagnosed, women, moms, professionals, those who want to understand ADHD, be heard, and know they are not alone. An ADHD Friendly Lifestyle builds our ability to take care of ourselves and use our unique strengths and talents to create a life that works for us.

Moira maybin, M.Ed. (EdPsy.)