Does Your Child with ADHD Need Help with Homework?

Are you looking for ways to help your child or teen handle the daily struggle with homework? The struggle (theirs and yours) is real. It may look like a lack of motivation, or defiance, forgetfulness or even a learning disability but in reality, it is probably their Executive Function skills.

The Homework Help for ADHD covers seven Executive Function skills that have the biggest impact on homework and includes information on what to look for and plenty of strategies to help compensate.

Laine Dougherty - Notebook - Homework Help for ADHD - blue #1

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Due to the current circumstances and requirements for social distancing, our classes and individual services will be conducted via Zoom, Google Meet or Phone.

Reduce the Stress in Your Home TODAY!

Monthly vlogs and blogs on what to declutter seem to be “trending” these days so let’s talk about what you can do in September. Now that the kids are back in school it is important to put structure and routines in place to reduce the stress of this transition. No matter what your “pandemic” situation has been, this is a chance to get back some normalcy. That often starts with decluttering.

Where did this clutter come from? Was it impulsive buying for that quick shot of dopamine – felt good in the moment and now you trip over it every day? Was that what you wanted? Or was it to quiet the kids you had to take to the grocery store? Look around – what is this costing you? And I don’t mean moneywise, but emotionally, socially, psychologically, physically and in your relationships with your loved ones. Clutter makes you grumpy.

WebMD says, “Researchers have found that being around disorganization makes it harder for your brain to focus. It can be especially tough for people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).” “Some people who live in cluttered homes have a poorer "working memory," according to research. Your brain is wired to be able to keep track of only a few details at once for a short period, so it can get overloaded when there’s too much going on.”

Clutter causes stress and conflict and undermines the lessons you want to be teaching your children and worst of all it takes up your time and mental bandwidth even if you do nothing about it. Constant stress reduces your lifespan according to researchers at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare by 2.8 years.

More research: Children who live in homes that are “chaotic,” that are noisy, overcrowded and have a lack of order, have significantly more challenges than kids who don’t.  Research has found that kids who had homes like this, “tend to score lower on tests of cognitive ability and self-regulatory capabilities, have poorer language abilities, and score higher on measures of problem behaviors and learned helplessness than do children raised in less chaotic environments” (Jaffee, S., Hanscombe, K., Haworth, A., Davis, P., and Plomin, R., 2012).  They also have, “lower expectations, a lack of persistence and a tendency to withdraw from academic challenge” (Hanscombe, K., Haworth, C., Davis, O., Jaffee, S., and Plomin, R., 2011).

So, can we agree clutter is bad?

Baby Toys

Let’s start by clearing one category of toys – baby toys. By baby toys I mean all those toys, books and games that are no longer age appropriate for your children. Electronic toys that make sounds or have lights but otherwise don’t do much were meant to help stimulate a baby’s brain while it was in its early developmental stage.  It is through play that children learn, explore, use their imagination and problem solve. (If you don’t have kids, then look around at your own “toys” and hobbies – what have you outgrown?)

Start collecting the baby toys and those odd little things that have been randomly picked up while out or only served their purpose for a short time. Anything that your children played with before kindergarten and no longer play with REGULARLY. Things that are not really toys but mementos from events. Really how many foam fingers and blown-up superheroes do you need? Push or beginner ride on toys, chubby crayons, finger paints and stuffed animals are in this category as well. Legos and building blocks are not.

Are all the pieces together? (Puzzles, games, stacking rings, etc.)
Is it in good shape to donate? (Cradles to Crayons, Big Brother Big Sister)
Was it a gift? (No obligation to keep it)
Is it sentimental? (Create a time capsule to save it out of the mainstream)
Is it broken?
Can it be recycled?
Is it really just trash?

Once you have collected all of these and decided what you are going to do with them – get them out of the house. Not in a closet or in your trunk but delivered to their final destination. According to Joshua Becker of becomingminimalist.com, with fewer toys your kids may “ learn to be more creative, develop longer attention spans, establish better social skills, learn to take better care of things, become more resourceful, and less selfish. He also says, “True joy and contentment will never be found in the aisles of a toy store. Kids who have been raised to think the answer to their desires can be bought with money have believed the same lie as their parents.”

Wouldn’t you rather spend time playing a game, then clearing a space to play?

Your September Mission:

  • Collect and remove all age-inappropriate toys
  • Trash, recycle, repurpose or pass on
  • STOP the inflow of new toys and trinkets

Habits:

  • Spend more time with your children
  • Help children put toys away before bed
  • Make a space for storing like toys together
  • Contain what you can

 

Five Super Strategies to Knockout Stress

Good habitsThis September, especially after last year, may be a bit more difficult to manage because we are all out of practice. Sure, some students continued to go to school and maybe you had to continue to go to work. For many, last year was a combination of situations with a few extra pivots thrown in just to keep us on our toes.

Last month we talked about your systems and took a look at them to see what was working and what was not working. If you missed it, you can check it out here. Dealing with a system that doesn’t work adds extra stress and the transition back to the “real” world will be stressful enough. Let’s take a look at 5 simple things you can do to keep those stress levels down as we transition back to reality.

Five Super Skills

  1. Make time visual – ever notice how time seems to slip away and all of a sudden you are hurrying and wondering how did it get away from me? Keeping analog clocks in certain areas (especially the bathroom) will make you more aware of the passing of time. Make sure your children have a clock in their room as well. It’s never too early to start becoming aware of time.
  2. Routines and habits allow the brain to operate on automatic pilot. Automatic pilot frees up brain energy for more important tasks. Creating a morning and evening routine (and a homework routine, if you have kids) will make your life easier and less stressful. If you plan it right, it can also help you get out the door faster and less stressed.
  3. Keep it simple – the number of steps it takes to do anything should be the least number of steps it takes. If your routine or your habit has very detailed steps then it is probably more work than it is worth. This is often why kids do not put their clothes away in the dresser drawers as it is too many steps – same for the closet. Hooks, shelves and bins work better.
  4. Organization – probably the most important habit to reduce stress and frustration. Making sure everything has a place and that everyone knows where that place is makes it so much easier to find what you are looking for. Ever have to search for the scissors or your car keys?
  5. A weekly reset – will give you a chance to take care of last weeks to dos and challenges and to start fresh for the next week. Simple things like looking at the calendar and seeing what is coming up. Maintaining your systems (maintenance keeps you organized) by putting things back in their places. Preparing for the week ahead helps you stay on track. How would that feel on Monday morning?

If you struggle with any of these super skills and would like some help – let me know. Coaching can help you design the systems that will work for you.

Are Your Systems Working For You?

All systems go?Have you ever been frustrated with something that you knew wasn’t working for you, yet didn’t take the time to fix it? Often, we tolerate those “niggly” things that we should just take care of because we think they will take a long time or at the moment we don’t have the time to fix it. So, let’s put together a list to see what you have been tolerating and what it is time to deal with.
Your Systems - You will need to schedule some time to deal with anything that needs tweaking, but let’s start looking around first.
  • How is your mail system? Do you keep it all in one place or is it on the counter, on the table or in several piles somewhere else? Are your bills in all of those places as well?
  •  Do you have a bill paying system? Many bills are automatically paid online these days but there are still some bills that must be paid “manually” do you keep up with them or have you had to pay late fees?
  • Where do you charge your devices? Are you often searching for the charger? Or the device?
  • Do the dishes seem to pile up or do you need to move things around on the counters in order to have space to work?
  • Are your shoes piled up near the door? Do you really need all of your shoes there? What needs to change here?
  • How about your clothes? Is your closet stuffed or your drawers overflowing? Is your laundry system working for you or do your clothes stay in the dryer (or hamper) until you need them?
  • Are your meals planned ahead or do find yourself running to the grocery store with everyone else at 5pm?
  • How is your car running? Do you keep up with car maintenance and regularly fill your gas tank?
  • Is bedtime a struggle? Or do you go to bed around the same time each night?
  • Do you exercise/walk regularly?
Now What Do I Do?
There are ten (easy to fix) systems that keep your home (and you) running smoothly and prevent unnecessary stress. How many of them do you need to work on? As a coach, I have learned that everyone needs to find what works for them. What works for one person might not work for another. Pick one system at a time and look deeper into what it is that bothers you about it. Is it a matter of storage or placement or do you need to containerize something – whatever it is, you know best what will work for you.
For those of you that aren’t sure, I hesitate to say, check the internet because that can be rabbit hole you may not ever get out of. Think minimize, containerize and plan ahead instead of jumping on the web. Sometimes your system just needs some maintenance. Put things back the way they were and see if that helps. Systems cannot maintain themselves so. a weekly reset will keep things running smoothly. Remember, the more you hold onto, the more you have to take care of. Simplify, simplify, simplify!

Pandemic Paper Purge Part 2

Last month we talked about cleaning up some of the paper piles that you have been collecting and reducing the amount of paper you hold onto “just in case.” I hope that you are feeling lighter by now and can focus on reducing the number of places you keep the remaining papers so you can find what you need when you need it. If you didn’t finish, that’s okay but try to deal with all the paper that is coming into your home each day. Don’t wait until you have cleared out the backlog as that is an ongoing process, not one that can be done quickly.

Three Kinds of Paper

  1. The first group of papers are the irreplaceable ones. The social security cards, the deed to the house, the title for your car, your marriage license, passports, etc. Sure, you could probably figure out how to get a replacement but it wouldn’t be easy. This can include sentimental memorabilia and specialty items. Not photos though, they have their own storage needs.
  2. Then there are the bills – if anyone except me still gets paper bills - that need to be “touched” at least monthly or quarterly in the case of property tax or water bills. These are short term papers. The receipt for those gloves you bought but haven’t worn them enough to know if you really want to keep them. The utility bills, receipts for things you have purchased or papers from school. This category also includes the things you are thinking about purchasing and the fliers you want to review before recycling. Keeping magazines and catalogs in this category avoids the year long pile up that can occur.
  3. Lastly, there are long term storage These papers don’t need to be accessed for a year or more. This is where tax records, and warranty information and manuals live (if you tend to keep that kind of stuff).

Where to Store?

For Irreplaceable Items: These items should be stored in a fireproof, waterproof, portable container in case you need to leave your house in a hurry. You might want to put copies of your credit card information, your license and health care cards, doctors’ names and contact information in there too. Think of the things you would need if you had to leave your home and make sure those things (or copies of them) are in there.

Short term papers: I am sure you have one spot for all the bills – you do, don’t you? It can be wherever you want it to be, but all bills and short-term papers need to go there and no where else. No one wants to scour the whole house looking for that property tax bill that came two months before it was due. Some clients have set up “command centers” using a hanging file box and different folders for action, bills, school schedules, receipts, etc. I have a set of cubbies over the desk in the kitchen – best idea ever! Wherever you decide to keep them, keep all of the papers there so you only need to look in one place. If you are crafty though and keep a lot of ideas for future projects, you might want to set up a space to keep all that stuff together as well. Take the time to label things in broad categories so you don’t need to go through the whole drawer to find one pattern. Magazines and catalogs you want to go through can also be contained in a basket or bin. When the next one comes in – the first one goes out.

Long term Storage: This storage should be out of the way but still easy to get to. You don’t want it taking up valuable space in a closet when it can stay safely in a plastic box in the attic or a dry basement. As your kids grow, this may also be the space you put there most treasured items. Be sure to use an archival box to protect them. I hesitate to even mention warranty booklets – most are available online so there is no need to hold onto them. Think about how many times you have actually had to use one of them. Was it worth holding onto? The biggest problem with long term storage is it mostly likely will not get looked at again. Every year though when you go to put your tax documents away you can take out the documents from 4 years ago and shred them. If you are getting electronic copies, you can delete them too. The records your computer is holding also need to be gone through and/or put into folders that have broad categories with very specific file names. Computer documents are a whole newsletter on their own. I mention them because the push now is to scan copies and shred the paper copies in order to reduce the paper in your home. If you do that, be sure to tag them and use specific file names so you can find what you are looking for.

How Much is Enough?

You will need to decide how much paper you feel you “must” hold onto. Ask yourself can it be replaced, what is the worst that could happen if I don’t have this and seriously will I ever get to this project? Then decide where to keep it. If you have storage already set up, be sure to go through and purge what you can before adding in the new.  (Photos and memorabilia should have their own home). It is an investment in time for sure, but when you need something and can go directly to the cabinet to get it – you will feel so proud of the effort you put in.

Get started now – don’t leave it all for your kids to go through😊

PS Don’t forget to shred anything with your name or identifying information on it. Identity theft happens. Good luck!

Clutter Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Pandemic Paper Purge Part 1

Last week we gathered together all the papers needed to fill out the tax organizer we received from our tax accountant for filing our Income taxes. You know the property tax receipts, the charitable giving receipts, the tax documents that come in the mail, etc. All of it pretty well categorized and easily accessible. Then it happened….I needed one receipt from a purchase two years ago that I hoped was in the supporting documents from that year-but it wasn’t.

The Search Begins

Being somewhat organized I first searched Quicken. If it had been charged, it would have shown up there – but it didn’t. Not in the receipt file either and that got me thinking (and fuming) about all the places I tend to keep “important papers.” How about you; do you keep papers “just in case” or “to read later?” Take a look around, how many different places do you have for those papers? Often, we tend to hold onto papers just in case we might need them later. I don’t believe we will ever be totally paperless but I am sure if you took a look at the papers you are saving – you may find some that can go.

What to Look For

Only you know where you have been “storing” paper so look around and check for:

  1. Warranty and Instruction manuals (still own it? Is the manual online?)
  2. Recipes you will never try (If you haven’t made them this year, what are the odds?)
  3. Helpful articles (health, organizational, inspirational, etc.)
  4. Bill receipts (the last year or more is available online – once it’s paid let it go)
  5. Tax records and supporting documentation from 2012 or earlier (CPA told me keep for 7 years)
  6. Kids’ artwork (can’t save it all be selective)
  7. Coupons – be serious will you use them?
  8. Junk Mail and Flyers (immediately into the recycle or shred)

Once you get rid of the backlog of papers you no longer need, you will want to focus on what to do with the important papers. Any system should follow the KISS philosophy of Keep it Super Simple. The first step is to consolidate those papers into categories. Some possible categories might be: taxes, reference, memorabilia, long term storage (birth certs, SS cards, titles, etc.) and of course your “might want this later” pile too. You’ll need to do the same thing with your digital files. Set up folders with specific names so there is no question what belongs in each folder. What can be scanned and kept rather than physically kept?

Look at all the places that you keep paper and try to decide the fewest number of possible places to store them. Just because you have a file cabinet, doesn’t mean it needs to be full. All the important (difficult to replace) papers need to be in one place – just in case you need them in a hurry. So, spend some time purging and grouping and then next month we will discuss how to retrieve this info you are saving.

As for me, I am still searching for that receipt – stay tuned.

Where Oh Where Is My Motivation?

Motivation is that “intangible thing” that drives us to do something willingly. I’m sure you have felt it when you get into a project and the time flies by and you are making great progress. You may also have experienced motivation’s evil twin “procrastination.” That’s when no matter how hard you try you cannot seem to make progress. It is often accompanied by feelings of guilt, frustration, stress and anger.

Motivation has been defined as the purpose one has for taking action. It can be an internal or external push but many people believe that you either have motivation or you don’t. What do you think? On a scale from 1-10 how would you rate your level of motivation for the next “to-do” item on your list?

If you don’t have it, then what can you do to get it? It is not like you can order it or buy it at your local motivation store – although that would be sweet. No, you have to dig deep or figure out some strategies that will work for you. Everyone has to find what motivates them but there are some strategies that everyone can benefit from.

Know Your Big Why

“Motivation is a set of habits and routines, guided by your values and your identity, that you carry out every day.” “When you combine purpose, energy and small simple steps, you get sustainable motivation.” says Jim Kwik, author of Limitless (the book I am currently reading).

It seems that knowing your purpose or your big WHY for doing “x” plays a big role in your motivation. If you don’t know why you are doing something or it is not important to you, then it is no surprise that you cannot get motivated to do it. I am thinking of all the students that get “busy” work to fill their time without ever being given the reasoning behind the work. No wonder it is so challenging for students to do homework.

Once you understand the purpose (your purpose) for doing the task then Jim Kwik talks about managing your energy. It is easier to be motivated if you are feeling your best – but what does that entail? Kwik talks about…

  • the 10 healthiest foods for your brain
  • the importance of sleep, water and exercise
  • controlling those automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) that tend to sneak in when things aren’t going well.

When you are motivated – extremely motivated, it is often referred to as being in “flow.”

Find Your Edge

Another author, James Clear (of Atomic Habits fame) also mentions that whatever you are working on needs to provide a certain amount of challenge – but not too much. He refers to the Goldilocks rule this way, “humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities – not too hard, not too easy, just right. Now look at what you are trying to do, is it within that range?

Make sure that you are not losing motivation because you are looking at a “project” with multiple steps vs. just the next step in the process. The smaller the step, the more likely you will be motivated to do it. James Clear also suggests that you schedule when you will work on it because you are more likely to work on something that has been scheduled rather than waiting until you feel motivated to work on it. Waiting for that feeling – rarely happens but you can help encourage motivation by setting up a routine that tells your brain it is time to get working on “x”. Clear calls it a “pregame routine” where it starts a series of motions that are simple to do but moves you in the direction of actually working on whatever it is. It’s a bit like Newton’s law of a body in motion stays in motion. So, once you get moving on it, make sure you are getting some feedback about the progress you are making. Look for successes in the smallest bits of progress so that you can feel good about the action you are taking. This will help feed your brain the dopamine it craves to keep working.

Motivation then becomes more about something you DO, rather than something you need to FIND. It’s not missing – you had the power within you all the time Dorothy.

What Can You Do in 100 Days?

January 20, 2021, Inauguration day, was the start of President Biden’s term as the 46th President. He has mentioned that he has  an ambitious plan for his first 100 days. That got me thinking why not create my own 100-day plan? Think of all that you could do/change/create or improve in 100 days. What would that feel like?

What better time to start fresh, clean out the clutter, establish new healthy habits, add some volunteering time or just add some structure back into your day than January (which is officially Get Organized Month).  We are still in the midst of the pandemic and many of us are spending more time at home. We all have our own burdens and losses but today I felt a sense of hope and a pervasive calm that I haven’t felt in a long time. If you are not feeling it maybe it is time for a change. Change starts small and builds. Everyone can take baby steps in the direction of their dreams and it can start today.

Step 1: What is your intention for 2021 (or more manageably) the first quarter of 2021? An intention is defined by Google as, “a thing intended; an aim or plan.” Living with intention means living a more balanced “on purpose” life that you are directing. It is turning off the autopilot and making conscious choices about how you want your life to be. Or an intention can just be the state of mind you want to focus on.

The cover of my new planner from (www.plumpaper.com ) says “Make today count” and I picked it because it was the message for my year and also because I could create the calendar part to work for me. (You can design your planner to fit your needs.) It has places for the top two priorities for the day and a space for the goal for the week. I added in a habit tracker where I can check off the days, I keep that intention.

Step 2: If organization has been a struggle for you then start by creating routines. If your routine includes emptying the sink of dishes before going to bed, then you are building your organization muscle at the same time that you are managing your time and energy. Soon you may discover the dishes go straight into the dishwasher and don’t collect in the sink. Adding a 10-minute pick up to your evening routine can help make your mornings run smoothly. No more searching for the car keys or important bill because they are in their places. What would make a successful routine for you?

Step 3: Choice Architecture. I love that term but it doesn’t really seem to mean what I think it should. Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by too many choices and as the day wears on our decision-making power can get used up, making it more difficult to make decisions. Choice architecture is about designing the environment so you don’t have to choose. Setting up things so you have no choice like workout clothes on the end of your bed or that big project laid out on your desk or connecting new behaviors to already established habits so that when you brush your teeth you also drink a glass of water (or whatever it is you want to do).

Start small and just keep moving in the right direction. Keep your intention in focus, keep tweaking your routines until they REALLY work for you and set your environment up for success. If you miss a day, forgive yourself and start again. The new research says it takes 66 times of doing something before it becomes a habit. If you need ideas or strategies to help, I will be posting to FaceBook daily tips for the next 100 days so check us out there.

Finding the Magic

Magic, to me, is that unexpected, out of the ordinary happening that brings forth surprising emotions of joy and delight. Sometimes we can get so caught up with what is happening in the world that we don’t notice the magic that is all around us. This month, the most magical month of the year, we may need to look closer for it, create it on our own and take time to appreciate it more.

The holidays have always had a certain magic to them. You can see it in the eyes of children, feel it in the air and notice it in the kindness of people around you. I’m not talking the “magic” of turning down an unexpected aisle to find a display of toilet paper or paper towels although that does bring a sense of wonder. I’m talking about letting go of the stresses that we have no control over and focusing on what we can control.

There’s magic in the holiday celebrations and traditions that your family keeps. It’s in the decorating, the baking, the games you play and the things you do together. Some things may need to change this year, but you can decide on what and how. Are there new traditions you want to start?  Need to reaffirm some of the old traditions? It is up to you and your family. Do those things that “spark joy” as Marie Kondo would say and do them with enthusiasm and drop the things that don’t.

There’s magic in the family connections. Seeing your kids close up without the hustle and bustle of going here and there may help you “see” them more closely. Maybe you’ve seen how they persevere with school work that is not easy – how dedicated they are to their homework and how resilient they are as they adapt to the changes that keep happening. Or maybe you have watched them struggle and see where they need help. You can secretly help by playing games together that build on those weak skills or by baking or creating things together. Encourage their interests and help them connect with their friends (in a safe way) and focus on the positives (ratio of 5:1 positives to outweigh one negative). Value the relationship above homework.

Magic can be found in the friendships that have prevailed during these days. The connections that have grown and continue to feed your soul even though you may be separated by distance.

Maybe you’re finding magic in remembering what it is like to cook/bake. Making something with your hands be it baking, sewing, building or creating – following your heart to find your passion or a hobby that excites you and appreciating the everyday things you might normally take for granted. It feels good and there is magic in that.

There’s magic in giving. Giving of yourself, your time or your resources. Maybe it’s a toy drive donation, or a pair of gloves for Cradles to Crayons via Amazon, food for the food pantry or picking up groceries for your neighbor that can’t get out. Volunteering or helping those around you whether you get to see the smile on a child’s face or not, you know you “did good.”

As a certified organizer coach, I have to also mention the magic in an organized home. Maybe it is in the taking care of those things you have tolerated for so long but now could be solved with a simple solution like a well-placed hook or container. Move those things you rarely use so that the everyday items are front and center. That feeling that you can actually find what you are looking for, and know that nothing important has slipped through the cracks, can save you time and stress. The magic in decluttering opens up your life for new possibilities when you are not struggling to keep up with the daily “grind” or wasting time searching. Create some habits and routines that will keep the whole family organized and less stressed and relax into that magic.

Lastly, there is magic in the new year. Life is short and unpredictable as 2020 has taught us so let’s do what is important and meaningful. Find the magic in the little things and begin the year filled with hope. Wishing you a healthy, safe new year filled with love, hope and magic. Welcome 2021!

Hey Students! Organize Yourself for the New Learning Environment (Whether it is Remote, Hybrid, In Person, or Combined)

Back to schoolThere is so much to think about as the new school year begins. With the pandemic continuing, each town has devised its own plan for what “school” will look like this fall. For some that may include half or full days, or a combination of two days in school and three remote or every other day or every other week. So many options, I cannot begin to cover them all. However, many of the schools are starting two weeks later than usual. Don’t let that fool you. It’s time to get organized! Where to begin?

The toughest part of any hybrid learning model is going to be staying organized. There are in person assignments to organize and remote work as well. Fluctuating schedules to keep track of, technology to keep charged and log in information to organize. Then of course there is organizing oneself for this new method of learning. Whew!

Let’s start with the easy stuff. Where will you work? You want to have one place to work where you have all the supplies and space you need. It needs to be comfortable, but not too comfy. Make sure the lighting is good and that you are not working in your own shadow. Get a comfortable chair where your feet can touch the floor. Keep it distraction free – but hang photos that make you feel good. How will you keep track of everything? Do you use your phone or a paper planner, or sticky notes? The best one, is the one that works for you. Make it a habit to put everything in it though, so nothing can fall through the cracks.

Next organize your technology. Make sure you have all the log in information for the websites you need to log onto and the password information. Set up folders for each subject on your device. Create a reminder for turning assignments in as that is often a step that can easily get missed. If you have a way to track what is passed in, then if it “gets lost” you have proof. Move the chargers to your new space so that your equipment does not have to be moved to be charged. Turn notifications off by putting privacy settings on while you are doing your homework. You can spend all night working or you can get it done effectively and have some well-deserved downtime for yourself. Which would you rather do?

Now your materials will need to include hand sanitizer and masks as well as all the standard stuff. Chances are you will have less paper to keep track of this year so why not go with a small notebook or binder that has room for all your classes. If you keep it cleaned out of the completed topics you should easily be able to fit a full term’s worth of papers in a 1- or 11/2-inch notebook. That should hold between 200 and 300 pages. That does include the necessary weekly clean out of papers no longer needed. Maintaining your supplies is important too. You may need reminders to carry a spare mask or two with you or weekly refilling of your hand sanitizer and a disinfecting spray of the backpack and wipe down of your tech.

To organize yourself, may end up being the most challenging part of this school year. You have an obligation to yourself and your family to do your best to stay healthy. That requires regular health habits including sleep which can be difficult for teens. It will mean keeping your materials clean and switching out your mask daily. Students need to find time to be active, whether it is playing a sport or shooting hoops in the driveway, something that keeps those synapses happy.

You will need to realize that this is probably not the way your teacher had hoped the year would start out either. Teachers are working extra hard to juggle all the pieces of the hybrid plan and have to be flexible enough to adapt if things should change. They have families too and may not be as available as they would normally be for providing extra support. You will need to take that responsibility on yourself. Make sure that you understand the concepts that are being presented and don’t wait to discover you did poorly on the exam before looking for help. Can you explain the key points of the topic to yourself? Then spend time studying what you DON’T know. Take good notes in case you need to use them to teach yourself.

How much time do you spend doing your homework? If you allow distractions to interrupt you, you are taking away from your focus and adding about 20 minutes more to your work time to regain that level of focus. Take short breaks in between assignments and give your brain some nourishment and process time. It will thank you by working more efficiently – saving you time and energy in the end. Also take five minutes to put everything back where it belongs when you are done working.

Good luck, stay healthy and stop the spread by doing your part. This will be a year unlike any other!

5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Stress Level

Anytime during this Covid-19 pandemic seems like the perfect time to discuss stress. On a scale of 1-10 (with 1=lowest and 10=highest) how would you rate your level of stress?

Just so we are clear, “Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts.”1

I cannot imagine all the possible variables that you and your family may be experiencing now but I hope that by providing some simple strategies you can reduce that stress and improve your health.

5 Keys to Reducing Your Stress Level

  1. Create routines
  2.  Get organized
  3. Connect with loved ones
  4. Reduce your work load
  5. Take a break
  1.  Create routines – Have you heard of decision fatigue? It’s real and neuroscience tells us that each day we start off with a set amount of decision-making power. The more we use it – the less we have as the day goes on. Have you struggled to decide what to have for dinner? It’s possible your decision-making power is at its lowest, making even the simplest decisions challenging at the end of the day.

By creating routines and limiting choices you can “save” some of that decision-making power for the more important things. A routine is something that can be done on automatic pilot and doesn’t use much decision-making power at all. Having a morning, afternoon (returning home) and evening routine that works for you and reduces the number of decisions necessary is a great way to start. Having routines around sleeping, showering and eating are great for kids too as they often don’t check in with their bodies to know what they need.

Is it really worth it to use your decision-making power on your breakfast choice, or what you will wear today or when you will exercise? It makes more sense to save it for important decisions at work, helping your child with their homework or deciding where to vacation. Having routines that work, saves the decision-making power for the important things.

  1. Get organized – Along with creating routines that work for you, getting organized can also reduce your stress level. Estimates range from 2.5 days per year to 5,000 hours a year as the amount of time Americans waste looking for misplaced items. What would it be like if you never had to search for your keys or the TV remote again? Tired of paying late fees because you missed the payment reminder in among those 1000+ other emails?

Have a place for everything and put everything in its place, is what my mother used to say. That works for many things like hooks for keys, baskets for mail, and snacks in the drawer. The other thing to watch for is if you have too much of something. De-cluttering and getting rid of excess makes it easier to find what you are looking for. Having less, means it takes less time to “take care of” things, less time to find what you need and saves money because you didn’t have to go out and buy a new one.

Find a way to keep track of important dates and set the reminders on your phone when necessary. Don’t wait for the last minute. As we have seen with shipping delays, Prime has spoiled us, we no longer want to wait for deliveries. Think ahead.

  1. Connect with loved ones – You don’t need research to show that the pandemic and its social distancing has affected our stress levels when it comes to missing our family and friends. The fear/stress of not knowing who might have Covid-19 is keeping many people housebound for safety. We are keeping away from family for fear we could bring it unknowingly to them.

Thanks to advances in technology, it is easy to connect with friends and family via video. It might not feel the same as an in-person hug but sometimes just seeing your loved one’s face and hearing their voice is enough to reduce your stress and theirs. Set reminders to connect regularly for your health and the health of your loved ones.

  1. Reduce your work load – If you’re working from home you may be putting extra pressure on yourself to get “more” work done to keep your boss happy. However, if you have kids or pets or both, it is impossible! Be realistic and set 1-3 priorities for the day. Work in short blocks of time and batch your activities putting similar things together. Stay off social media and email unless your job is dependent on it.

Spend time with your kids throughout the day. This situation is stressful for them as well. They need guidance to get their school work done (or to have some learning time) and in how to use their time for work and play. Kids are used to having others provide the activities that keep them busy (think after school care, camps, etc.) so take time to encourage their creativity and imagination.

Routines and organization are important for work too. If something isn’t working, take the time to figure out why and then fix it. No one knows how long this situation will go on, so it’s important that it “work” for you now. The same thing applies to all the home stuff too. Create a schedule that works for you and the family and keeps things running smoothly. Get everyone involved. Even a three-year-old can match socks. Working and playing together as a team benefits everyone.

  1. Take a break – Everyone needs some “downtime.” Make sure to take time for yourself and provide breaks throughout the day in order to recharge. By creating “margins” around your activities and allowing for time in between tasks you are also allowing your brain to process what you have just done. The brain uses the most energy of any organ in the body and a stressed brain cannot think. Even as little as 5-10 minutes can recharge your brain. Snacks and movement can also help your brain.

Take time for fun too. Fun helps reduce stress and builds relationships. It raises the dopamine level in the brain which makes us feel good and think better. Your kids will be happier too and that can also reduce the stress in your life.

The pandemic has provided each family the gift of togetherness I hope you take advantage of it and don’t let the added stresses of what is happening in the world effect your health, your family or your home life.

1 my.clevelandclinic.org › health › articles › 11874-stress