- Kristen Stuppy, MD
5 Self Confidence Boosters Part 4: The Big 3!
Updated: May 15, 2021
Eat right, exercise, and sleep to keep up a healthy body and mind! I call these “The Big 3” things we all need to do to be healthy in mind and body. When we do The Big 3 properly, our self confidence and self esteem are improved.
What are The Big 3?
Eating right, exercise, and sleep.
Eat a nutritionally well balanced diet.
Malnutrition and hunger are not good for our focus. As if people with ADHD need any more problems with focus!
Many of the medicines used to treat the problems from ADHD affect our appetite, so we must be careful to make the most of what we eat.
Start with a good breakfast. I know many teens aren’t into breakfast or just don’t have time for it, but make the time. Find foods that you can eat while getting ready or on the way to school.
Examples are smoothies with yogurt, leftovers from dinner, a sandwich and a quesadilla.
Eat some protein and a fruit or vegetable every time you eat. Snack on baby carrots, bell peppers, or cucumbers with hummus after school. Or apples with peanut butter. Grapes and cheese. Strawberries with yogurt. You get the picture? A plant and a protein!
Many people feel that exercise helps their focus. Studies show that they’re right!
After sitting all day at school, do something active before you sit down to do homework. Your body needs the exercise and it will help make study time more efficient.
If you’re not into competitive sports, try other types of exercise. Go for a bike ride. Run. Dance. Swim. Just move!
Whatever you do, make it fun. Put it on your calendar and in your planner so it happens daily.
Sleep is under-appreciated in our society. It is not a time that you’re doing nothing. Your body and mind work hard while you’re sleeping to keep themselves healthy.
Teens need at least 8.5 hours of sleep each day. Even if you’ve reached your full height, your brain is growing until your mid-twenties. That means it still needs extra sleep compared to adults.
If you’re still growing, you might need 10-11 hours of sleep.
That’s hard when you also have activities, work, and homework. And when your circadian rhythm keeps you up until at least 11 pm but school starts at 7:30am. Not to mention the baseline problems people with ADHD tend to have falling asleep due to minds racing with amazing thoughts.
But here’s what happens when teens are sleep deprived.
MY FAVORITE SLEEP TIPS:
Exercise itself is one of The Big 3, but it also helps us sleep. Try to get your exercise in early in the day. Exercise can help tire your body so it can sleep well.
Avoid too much exercise within 2 hours of bedtime. This is not possible with some activities, I know. But exercising too close to bedtime can make it harder to wind down.
Avoid caffeine and stimulants too close to bedtime.
Caffeine is one of the most commonly used substances to help us stay awake and focused, but it’s not always safe. It is habit forming. It’s also a stimulant, so can be especially problematic if you take a stimulant medicine. The additive effects of the two together can cause problems in some people.
Stimulants like adderall and ritalin are commonly used to treat ADHD, but should be used under the supervision of your physician.
If you use caffeine to help your focus or to stay awake, be sure to talk about the use with your doctor. This is especially true if you use a stimulant medicine, but even if you’re not. Relying on caffeine can be an indicator that you are self medicating something that could be better controlled with proper sleep or a prescription medication.
If you take a stimulant medicine, don’t take it too late in the day. Long acting medicines can last 8-16 hours. Short acting medicines last 3-4 hours. Know what you’re taking and when they tend to wear off. It’s unique to each person, but you can usually feel the effects wear off. If you take it too close to bedtime, it can cause sleep problems. For many teens, they can’t take a long acting medicine after 10 am or a short acting medicine after 6 pm, but how your medicine works in your body will be unique to you. Pay attention to when you feel the medicine wears off each day to learn how long it lasts for you.
Turn down lights.
Turn down lights 2 hours before bedtime. Your body needs darkness to make melatonin. Melatonin makes you feel tired and helps you fall asleep. Artificial lights keep the melatonin level from increasing, so you feel less tired.
Fluorescent lights, televisions, computers, cell phones, tablets and all other lighted things can affect your melatonin level.
Check out f.lux, a free program for PCs, Macs, iPhones, and androids that changes the screen lighting prior to bedtime to allow natural melatonin to rise if you must be on a screen close to bedtime. Must means you have to finish homework that you couldn’t do earlier. It does not mean checking social media or texting friends. It also doesn’t mean putting off homework until later because you just don’t want to do it after school. Work and scheduled activities are a good excuse. Procrastination isn’t.
If you want to take a supplement of melatonin, talk to your doctor.
Watch out for late night munchies.
Avoid eating (especially large meals) before bedtime. Again, I know this can be hard, especially if you have after school activities that keep you busy and make you hungry.
This is even more difficult if your daytime medicine makes you not hungry at lunchtime. Of course try to eat at least something with good calories mid day, but if you don’t eat a typical lunch, you’ll need to make up the lost calories after the medicine wears off. Be sure to not eat foods that bother your stomach while laying down too close to bedtime.
Do relaxing activities as part of your bedtime routine. These can include reading, taking a shower, coloring or listening to soothing music.
If thoughts keep you up, journal before climbing into bed. Journaling can help focus thoughts and allow your brain to stop thinking about them.
Relaxation exercises or deep breathing can help. Put a hand on your heart and on your abdomen.
Try to keep your heart hand still while you take in a slow, deep breath. While you inhale count 4 counts and while you exhale count 8 counts. The deep breaths can make you feel tired, and the counting slowly helps keep your brain from racing thoughts.
Practice meditation every day. There are many mindfulness apps to try – and most are free. Once you’re used to using the technique (it’s great before doing homework) you can also use mindfulness at bedtime.
Set the stage.
Make your bed a place for sleep. Avoid doing homework on it. Let your body associate your bed with sleeping.
Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Use a fan to keep it cool and as a white noise.
Keep pets out of the bedroom. They tend to keep you up or wake you too early.
Ideally you’ll charge your phone in another room overnight to avoid late night distractions. If you must have your phone in your room, make sure no notifications will wake you. Resist checking it “one more time” as you go to bed because you know it will be several minutes of scrolling through things…
Stick to a schedule.
Keep your bedtime consistent.
Even if you can sleep in on weekends, try to go to bed within an hour of your usual bedtime. This schedule is important!
Still not sleeping?
For more on sleep, check out I Just Want To Go To Sleep! How to Sleep Better (According to Science) by “Hey Sigmund.”
Talk to your doctor if you’re not sleeping. Sleep deprivation can mimic ADHD symptoms, and you don’t need that additional problem!
Coming up next:
This is part 4 of a 5 part series.
Be sure to check back next week for one of my favorite ways to boost your self confidence: Help others.
Top 5 Self Confidence Boosters:
1. Stop Negativity 2. Be Positive 3. Finish Tasks 4. Self Care (The Big 3: Eat well, exercise, and sleep) 5. Help Others