Mindfulness.
Is.
Tough.

I realize this is the case for just about everybody, even those without ADHD. My friend Scott posted on Facebook a couple days ago his own need to become mindful again—a thought that many of us appreciated him sharing. Because mindfulness is hard, anyways.
And THEN, ADHD is like
T-REX.
Or whatever.

Yeah, mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword—to me, that means mindlessness has become a prevailing approach to life, and the majority of us need to make a more conscious effort toward mindfulness. Which is simple.

Mindfulness is simply (per definition 2 on Google): 

a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

To dig deeper, the mindful approach means acknowledging and accepting feeling, thoughts and so forth without judgement, embracing that it is okay to feel the things you are feeling—even if you want to change your reaction or the situation you are in.

I read an article yesterday from ADDitude that explored emotions and ADHD. Emotions are hard to quantify, so guess what? They’re not included in the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, despite how common overly-intense or difficult to navigate/manage feelings are for people with ADHD—which, the rest of the world might interpret as overreactions or meltdowns. Another interesting fact from the article is how sometimes people with ADHD simply cannot articulate or identify how or what we are feeling (more here) and that it can be hard for us to interpret how others feel, especially when we are overwhelmed.
These are things that I definitely experience, and find that regular mindfulness practice can help immensely with: when I’m in a more mindful headspace, I pause to think—and breathe—before I react.

For me, this is what mindfulness is about: the pauses. They do not have to be long, but they have to be enough to plant me back where I am—to ground me—to reclaim a sense of calm when my mind is in the past and future simultaneously and not in the place I can control: right now. It’s about taking a few moments to hear the leaves crinkling along the sidewalk in the breeze and feeling my feet hit the sidewalk. It’s about remembering that my body exists and dropping the tension in my shoulders when I’m working. It’s about actually hearing the music I am listening to, picking out something new I hadn’t caught before. It’s about pausing to actually recognize the emotions I am experiencing before they are able to take over too much. It’s about the pauses.

When I am meditating regularly, I take these lessons out into the world with me. I am much better for it. It is still super hard, but, it helps. That’s where I’m at: I’m not about to trade my ADHD meds for mindfulness, but in tandem, they’re a solid pair helping me tackle the chaos that can be the ADHD life. Yeah, I’ll mess up—both in general, and with the mindfulness—but I’ll be able to tackle the obstacles better if I’m checked in to a more mindful space.

—–

Day 2 Challenge Update:
Plank:
 65 seconds. The foamy tiles in my office are quite rad for this.

Meditation: I think midnight meditation’s going to be a thing (though I do want to try to make it a twice-daily activity); I used the Smiling Mind app again and did the 10 minute Breath and the Body meditation but I think I didn’t pay attention to half of it because I was relaxed nearly into sleep. (Not quite the intent, but I’ll take it).

Neurodiversity Tree, inspired by my new blog layout for ADHD/LD Awareness Month

Sticking with the blog theme, here’s a tree I made today on Procreate for iPad.

Day 1 Challenge Update:
Plank:
 55 seconds. I could have held longer but my app counts down, not up. I’m going to use the “rest” days in the 30days app to instead see how long I can hold the plank.

Meditation: I don’t know if it counts for my yesterday meditation or my today meditation but at like midnight I did the Exploring the Breath meditation from Smiling Mind. 

Most people that know me are aware that three (and a half) years ago I was diagnosed with ADHD and learning issues primarily affecting my visual memory and processing speed. Since then, I’ve tried to engage with as many other adults with learning and attention issues as I can. For girls especially, it’s common that ADHD especially is missed, since we present differently than boys—more often we have the inattentive subtype, so we are less noticeably hyperactive!

October is ADHD and Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. You may also notice that things look a bit different around Kerri on the Prairies in celebration of neurodiversity—which is just the cool way of saying that everybody’s brain is different, whether you have ADHD, learning issues or autism… and that it’s okay to not be “neurotypical”! 

But hold up, that’s not all! A guy named Jesse d’Eça from Quebec is taking ADHD Awareness month one step further, and he and the Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada (CADDAC – don’t get thrown off, they probably existed before all ADD became ADHD) have come together to get Canadians doing things to raise awareness of what ADHD really looks like. Challenges can be whatever you dream up: CADDAC recommends: a) Something physical—like exercise, daily b) Something cerebral—like meditation or mindfulness practice for a predetermined amount of time once or twice per day, or c) something educational, like reading or writing.

Here’s my challenge:

Planking. Opting to follow Jesse’s lead, I’m going to be trying a plank challenge for October—the app I did the initial test on today (where I made it 55 seconds… just couldn’t make a minute!) claims I’ll be able to sustain a plank for 3 minutes and 25 seconds (or 205 seconds) by the end of the month. While I understand the whole rest day thing, I’m going to try to skip the ones the app requires taking because part of the whole challenge thing is to do something every day! Unless I like, injure myself.

Blogging. Hi there, people reading my blog. I’ll be here every day in October blogging for ADHD/LD awareness month. I even have a plan for this! Some days will be longer posts, some will just be pictures, but hopefully everything will share a bit of my story of living with ADHD.
I mean, look, random t-rex pictures? Yeah, that explains my ADHD life pretty well, right? 😉

Okay and you know what, since we’ve got column A – something physical and column C – something educational(ish) covered, let’s set the bar high.

Meditation. I meditate using the Smiling Mind app. The fact that they are led by an Australian dude does not hurt the app one bit. It’s something I’ve been trying to get into a habit about, so… Let’s do this. (I’ll give myself bonus points if I can manage to get in all 42 of the remaining meditations in the Adult track ;).)

Want to support the challenges I’ve set up, and support the Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada?
The site is quite non-intuitive, so you’ll have to go here, select your donation amount, and then search my name (Hi, I’m Kerri MacKay if we’ve never met and you’d like to donate money. Thanks! How are you?). Want to do something yourself? Register your challenge here.

And as always, have questions for me about my ADHD, the challenge, or about anything else? Drop me a comment or e-mail me at KerriOnThePrairies [at] gmail.com.

Today my friend Sara asked me about my favourite asthma tracker app. If you’ve read my post, Technology, Self-Tracking and Asthma on Asthma.Net you’ll know that answer. (Disclosure: they pay me money but don’t influence my views, which is a sweet gig).

Pretend spoiler alert: I don’t like any asthma apps out there. (If you’re looking for one, though, read the article. I tried to look at a variety of aspects from price to what data was collected to design/user friendliness.)

So, with no coding skills what-so-ever, I set out to build my own solution. (I seem to do that.) I’m still working on it, and it’s far from perfect, but here’s what I’ve got so far. Keep in mind, I’ve got dozens of hours of trial and error behind this, and once I got it down, I used it (in the fragments created to that point) for maybe about six weeks before I hit a lapse, or burned out on it. I think, also, it will be easier (maybe not as effective, but easier) when I’m not at the cabin every weekend.

Element One: Google Forms/Google Sheets.
I started this whole thing off with a simple form for myself to fill out regarding my asthma symptoms (1-5 scale) and meds, trigger exposure, as well as my peak flow, FEV1, and oxygen saturation (cause why not?). I tried to tie symptom logging to taking my meds, as well as when I felt an increase in symptoms, so that it wasn’t biased by only reporting increased symptoms (which it still is, of course) and attaining a “baseline”. Unfortunately, I started this project when I was having a bit of a struggle with my asthma control (thanks a lot, rain and humidity).

I also used DO Button from IFTTT for a time to log my Ventolin use. Then I realized this was complicating things as I had to log each puff separately. This is where I began using QR codes.

Element Two: QR Codes.
I usually do not like QR Codes for whatever reason. I really would have preferred to use NFC tags, but, the iPhone 6 doesn’t feature a NFC tag reader like Android does (and whatever future iteration does, it’s ApplePay specific). So, QR Codes have to suffice.

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I created individual, colour coded (note the border) QR codes for each of my inhalers (and my Concerta bottle. And the nasal spray I realize I haven’t taken in forever). I made them small enough and simply attached these to my inhalers with tape (I had to scratch the shininess of the tape away but it worked okay after that, and after I learned not to put the codes on curves in the inhalers, which is difficult with Qvar). The QR codes link to individual Google Forms for each medication. I hit the corresponding button for the number of puffs taken (or, in the case of Concerta, one pill), and then hit submit.

My Ventolin (the blue inhaler above) you’ll notice has two QR codes attached. the one on the cap is for the Ventolin itself, the one on the side is for the symptom logging sheet. The peak flow meter has the link to the sheet to log PEF and FEV1. I also have the symptom barcode by my bed (where my peak flow meter usually lives and where I usually stand to take peak flows).

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It’s not perfect, but it’s kind of fun. And fun, in a twisted, nerdy sort of way is the motivator here. If it’s not nerdy fun, on my terms, it’s not happening. I log for myself, and my doctors don’t really pay much attention to my PEF/FEV1 results, nor do they ask I take them. Which I am okay with, since it lets me not get burned out on numbers.

I got Launch Center Pro for iOS for this reason, so I can swipe down from the Today(/Notifications) Panel and hit one button to launch NeoReader (my favourite of the free QR code scanner apps I’ve found), which I outfitted with a cute pink rocket ship icon thanks to Launch Center Pro. Because I have to make it fun, of course. What’s not fun about a pink rocket ship?

NeoReader also has a history option, so if I’m somewhere the code isn’t reading well (like the cabin), or the light is dim (sometimes with the tape the bright iPhone light doesn’t help) I can pop it open from history. Usually the code works and is faster, though. But, like all QR codes, sometimes it just doesn’t scan. I also had to cover the pharmacy provided barcodes with tape because often NeoReader tried to pick up the pharmacy barcodes instead of my QR code.

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I now have all of these QR codes importing data into different pages on the same Google Sheet.

Element Three: IFTTT.
For like, years now, I’ve had weather pushing itself to Google Drive for this reason. I also, I think, have humidity reports going there so I can correlate my asthma symptoms with humidity percentages and temperature.  

What I’d like to add.
A better summary of what I’d like to add next will be in an upcoming Asthma.Net post called “Quantified Asthma”. However, aside from NFC tags (which is kind of impossible unless I get my hands on an Android device—if anybody has one kicking around they want to send my way for Quantified Self purposes, let me know ;)), I’d like to be able to pull pollen counts automagically from somewhere but that looks impossible from Canada (I don’t have pollen/mold allergies per my testing, but it would be interesting to see if these have any impact on my breathing anyways, like particulate matter). 

Finding trends.
Like I said, I had a pretty crappy bout of breathing going on when I started this project. But, I’d like to grab a week or two a month where I log (since I can’t expect myself to do it all the time without burning out) so I can see differences between seasons. I used Datasense, Sheets and Excel to play with my data, but Datasense is hands down my favourite. I haven’t taken a single data analysis course, so, this aspect has got to be pretty user friendly for me, and, Datasense is a lifesaver for that. Thanks, Intel!

So, that’s it for now. 

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1:12 am | kitchen. Felt like making something around 11:45. Still making something.

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1:19 am | kitchen. And this is where I stop for the night. Pleasantly surprised with how the hair is coming. (I’m responding to the “draw a song” art journal prompt I saw online, using Feels Like Forever by Lacey Sturm.)

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2:00 am | bedroom. Tweet – “1:58 am seems like a good time to buy the @Smiling_Mind book right? Yup. Now to use the app and go to sleep.”
I did not end up using the app before I went to sleep, but I did almost also buy the November Project book… I restrained myself.

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10:17 am | Perkins. Sam and I went to Perkins to plan practice, because my Starbucks card reload failed during the upgrade to #Crybucks Rewards. Starbucks is refunding it, but why would I go to Starbucks with it not resolved? So, Perkins. And these delightful crepe things filled with strawberries and cream cheese.

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12:23 pm | Kitchen. I should really just start saying office instead of kitchen. I started the process of checking off many things from my to-do list with “file taxes”. As you may recall, they’ve been done since March 12… Submitted.

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3:39 pm | Kitchen. After filing my taxes and scheduling my tooth extraction (being a grown up is AWESOME. Like I wrote the other day, I’ve got a cavity in a wisdom tooth so it gets to get pulled out. Which is better than getting it filled, really.) I got a 20 minute dance workout on. Except I did it wrong and ended with a peak heart rate… Poor music choices (actually due to the song linked above)…
Anyways, yeah, I then did another grown up activity and did some work, which involved writing a blog post about why warming up and cooling down is important, and how despite having a degree in kinesiology I’m not smart sometimes.

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6:54 pm | Special O. Sometimes, we play games like Capture the Chicken that the parents are more intense about it than the kids (it does get the athletes stoked though..!). Yes, this guy is also my sport medicine doctor. 😉

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 9:31 pm | kitchen. 4 things checked off the month’s to-do list today.

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9:49 pm | kitchen. This is my buddy Guide Dog Murray, aka Steve’s guide dog. You should vote for him in the Guide Dogs for the Blind photo contest. He’s raised $25 so far, because he’s cute (and because humans are nice).

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11:00 pm | kitchen. I had a bath, and then put on clean socks… except I have no idea why there is red on this clean sock or what it is… Obviously I was like whatever and did not like, put other socks on or anything. Maybe it’s from that string anklet I’ve got on, but I’ve had that on for, like, months.

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11:34 pm | kitchen. Classic. Cookies and milk. (There was another cookie but you don’t expect me to, like, save them both to take a picture of, right?)

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12:38 am | kitchen. Technically no longer the 12th. But still within 24 hours and back to creating stuff. Because it’s like, therapeutic or something.