ADHD Acceptance Month – Order from Chaos

ADHD Butterfly Source

A lifetime of hacking together solutions

I asked people if they thought they would benefit from knowing how I manage a lot of issues I have so I will endeavour to answer or provide solutions I have found work (some of them only temporary) for common ADHD challenges based on the responses to this Tweet:

A lot of the solutions will be more fleshed out where I think it appropriate but I will also bullet point for techniques you can Google easily.


Developing Self-Compassion / Undoing Internalized Ableism

I’m going to suggest a lot of techniques but I think in order to truly create order from chaos, one of the most important steps, if not the most important step, is to love what is already there. In all it’s flawed glory. Hating parts of myself is something I did consistently for pretty much all of my life up until the last few years when I learned about internalized ableism.

This might sound ‘defeatist’ but it’s not been so much about overcoming every weakness I have, so much as leaning into the fact I have them, and then not wasting time hating myself that could have been spent on other things.

There are a couple of resources to challenge expectations that you have which are out of line with the reality of what is achievable. This blog is my go-to guide:

INTERNALIZED ABLEISM: HOW TO OVERCOME IT

Just recently Jessica McCabe (HowToADHD) put out this brilliant video on this same topic:


Perfectionism

I can’t explain how important it is to practice failure or not being good enough for your own standards. The method I used is from CBT and is one of the few things I absolutely recommend it’s called Exposure and Response Prevention. I used to be a massive perfectionist and I have all the learning disabilities that made my life hell to actually ever achieve perfection. I found one area of my life to allow myself to fail – tweets with errors in them – and from that I realised that the world didn’t end if I failed a little. I just kept practicing not having things go right – because in my life they barely ever have.

I now embrace being a failure, I don’t run from it. I always aim to improve and do my best, but I don’t hold myself to unreachable standards. This in combination with undoing ableism are my biggest tips. Perfectionism sabotages every part of your life if it gets a hold, it prevents you from experiencing joy when you need to.

Burnout

Recovery from burnout with either being ADHD or Autistic unfortunately requires a few things:

  • Commitment to resting whenever possible
  • Enlisting outside help as much as you can

If you absolutely can’t take time to rest there are a few things I do that I recommend:

  • stimulate my vagus nerve – one of the easiest ways to do this is breathing exercises. There’s a lot of science recently on the importance of breathing, and I am going to suggest it a lot – the reason I do this is because few things have helped me more than properly breathing when under extreme strain.
  • if you can handle the sensory element / don’t have fiscal or water constraints – a bath or long shower helps me – getting the motivation to do this can be hard, but putting on relaxing music or my favourite music, even a podcast in the right circumstances and spending time in water somehow helps me a lot with extreme fatigue
  • spend time in nature – there’s a lot of evidence for being somewhere surrounded by nature being good for relaxation. If you have trouble resting at home, a nice park, or beach, or any other greenspace can help to allow your body to unwind.
  • demask – find somewhere you can be yourself, however you need to be. Fidget, stim, flap, yell, cry, be angry. This will release stress and pent up energy – challenging internalized ableism is important to assist here.

Procrastination / Task Overload / Accountability

One thing I was told somewhere is that ‘procrastination is a pain avoidance defence’. It’s true been true for me. Procrastination can be for a number of different reasons. Identifying the root cause is sometimes extremely difficult alone – so having someone who can talk to you and ask you questions about anxieties, fears, blocks, feelings that are associated with this can help you become more adept at becoming a CSI: Procrastination expert. Here are the most common causes I had to work on:

  • Fear of Failure
  • Fear of Success
  • Lack of Interest
  • Starting Difficulties
  • Task Overload
  • No accountability

These all require different solutions:

Fear of Failure

A job that is done poorly is better than a job not done at all. One common technique I have now come to love from my time in Game Development is ‘Minimum Viable Product’. What this means in practice is that make the worst version that gets you over the line, and then build on that. I start always from a position now of I am going to fail and that is ok – which ties back into self-compassion development. In most cases I don’t fail, and I am happier now always with the result – leaning into my fear rather than running from it was the solution to me personally.

Fear of Success

This sounds odd, but some of us are terrified of things going right. Maybe you’ve just been told you did a great job at something – instantly your mind goes toward how it’s going to go wrong – this used to happen for me. I have to now ignore feedback while still needing it at times. There’s a lot of trial and error getting this right. Maybe you are scared of something you did in your past where if you are too successful you will get ‘cancelled’ for it because someone will bring it up. My philosophy – assume that will happen, I’d rather be accountable when it does – and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to control that – worrying won’t help. Again finding the root cause of these issues can take a lot of processing.

Lack of Interest

The hardest one to overcome. I use two main tools here. Anger about the task to get mad at it or finding a way to make it interesting to me. Sometimes that looks like mocking the task with a friend while we do it, other times listening to podcasts while cleaning, or outsourcing accountability by making it become a way to surprise my wife (I do this for cleaning tasks a lot). Focus breathing (4in / 4out) can help reset your brain.

Starting Difficulties

It seems ridiculous in context but sometimes to start all I need to do is just say “Fuck It!” really loud and then engage my body. I used to supress anger, and internalise it into self-hatred, now I harness it for frustration at having to do things I hate to do.

The only other thing that might be causing this is that the task is too big – it’s multiple steps, progressive task chunking is a lot better.

This guide by @jessejanderson on Twitter (Website: jessejanderson.com & book coming soon* – Refocus) is also incredible for breaking down massive tasks – highly recommend a follow as there are a lot of resources offered that have been super useful to help me explain things.

Task Overload

If my to-do list was too long in the past, and I was still dealing with perfectionism issues – It never got started. I would look at the complete list and just error out, my brain would stop working it was too daunting to get started. Then someone suggested that I just make my to do list one item. Any one item I needed to do, and then build on that. So I did, now I don’t get upset when I don’t do everything, my task list has some stuff that has been on it weeks, but I can deal with it.

No accountability

If you have a lack of trust in yourself, which is a common thing in late identified neurodivergent people as a trend, it can be hard to keep to internally motivated deadlines or to work by yourself. There are many ways to create accountability – either find a friend who can hold you accountable while also understanding you. Start a group in your time zone (I did this personally) where you list what you did the day before – if you failed what got in your way, and what you are going to do today.

The SORCERY OF BODY DOUBLING

Body doubling is literally just having another person in the room with you while you do things – want to know an incredible hack I just learned recently – they don’t actually need to be there in person! You can do this over zoom with a friend but there is also a free service (3x a week) that connects people to do this together called ‘FocusMate‘ – I have not used it personally but I know other people who have. All the benefits of an office with none of the noise.

Organising my life

MoleskineJourney – this is like a bullet journal with habits, it’s great for routines and tasks, events, reminders – it’s really easily customisable. I paid for it for a full year and at the time it was $24.99 NZD (which is roughly 0.70c to each US dollar). I have tried a lot of tools but this one I really like personally. I can’t use bullet journals because I hate my handwriting and it hurts. It syncs with google calendar which is also something I use. It’s available as an iOS, Android, and web application which means I can access it anywhere. It has some usability bugs, but I am ok with it.

My routine stopped working – I can’t make it interesting

Ok so the biggest hack I have for this because I absolutely need routine is to randomise the routine. Do it in a different order each day if you need to or every few days, but keep the same tasks on it. Some I still group together (like brushing my teeth and having a shower). This also applies for kids, if you can find someway to make the tasks interesting by setting timers to try and achieve stuff and doing things in a different order it can make getting up more creative and engaging. I try and include a ‘fun’ task that includes using my strengths – for me my biggest strength is that I love to learn – so I start each day by reading a few pages of a new book in my routine.

Communication Tips for NTs

I have seen a couple of requests for what I do for communication issues with neurotypical people. I had a book recommended to me by someone I have always admired as a researcher – Dare To Lead by Brené Brown – it’s aimed at leadership but it has so many amazing tips for general communication strategies – it also has a ton of stuff that I absolutely love for cultivating trust such as the BRAVING technique which can be used to develop trust in yourself again.

Other useful apps

BalanceApp – currently has a free year (remember to cancel as soon as you subscribe in case you don’t use it). This has amazing standalone breathing graphics for the four main breathing techniques. I use it every day – I also use it for meditation which I don’t recommend people do without understanding the relationship between meditation and trauma. So maybe avoid that feature unless you’ve got a good understanding. I spent 3 months trapped in permanent hypervigilance due to breaking compartmentalisation from meditating. I had to revisit all my mistakes on a 24/7 loop. I am planning to do a blog on meditation soon.

Forest App -one I like for timing – it’s useful for doing a Pomodoro timer which can work incredibly well for helping you manage your time. The basic idea being that you do 25 mins of work to 5 minutes of unrelated stuff. You can adjust up or down depending on your attention span.

Chaos Mind – AKA Rumination

When stuck in a negative thinking rut I used to be utterly powerless. Tackling perfectionism as I talked about earlier and stimulating my vagus nerve are my secret weapons against this one part of my existence that was absolute torture for most of my life.

Here are the tools I use for this:

  • Deep Breathing: When you enter a fight/flight mode your brain tries to conserve energy – doing so actually cuts off oxygen supply used for higher order functions in the brain which give us the ability to reason well. Below are a number of methods to help aid you in this – use whichever one works best for you. There are a number of free apps that do this on phones/tablets too.

Box Breathing:

4-7-8 Technique – lung capacity needs to be good here:

Equal:


  • Activate your vagus nerve: I have written about this as it’s one of the most promising new areas of mental health science in the last few years. The vagus nerve is located in your parasympathetic nervous system which modulates the flight/fight response. Here are some easy ways to activate it:
    • Cold Water – run your hands under a cold tap, or fill a sink and run your hand through the water for about two minutes. Alternatively – take a 30 second cold shower if you can handle it (I make the last 30 seconds of my showers cold each time).
    • Singing – either in the shower, or somewhere where you wont cause more stress by annoying lockdown bubble mates if you can. There’s a reason that a lot of us sing in the car alone or with people we trust – it’s actually incredibly good for us.
    • Conversation with a friend – Yep, it can be as simple as talking to a friend – it does need to be vocal in order to activate the nerve – and I’d try and think of good non-stressful topics to talk about during the conversation if you can avoid it.
    • Body Tapping on a Full Breath: Basically take a deep breath in – hold it and tap your body all over – the vagus nerve is attached to so many systems including our gut/kidneys/bladder – a video on how to do this is here:

  • Listening to music – Music is incredible – there’s a significant amount of positive benefits to listening to music. Honestly throw on some music, listen to the lyrics, really focus on the different layers and how they are combined to enhance your focus. Try and identify each instrument alone through focus, and then think about how brilliant it is how these each combine.
  • Write your thoughts down: The reason we have them rattle around in our heads so much is that we do not process them properly – one good method that has worked for me (and actually helps me get out of having Autistic meltdowns) is to write down the things that are upsetting you. There are a number of ways to do this – I just write down my chain of thoughts as they come – I always try and end my writing on a positive note for my private stuff.

Daily blog challenge

October is here usually known as ‘ADHD Awareness Month’ – but IMO we ADHDers deserve more than that – we deserve acceptance. We need to be listened to, we need realistic accommodations, and help. We need to start moving toward ADHD Pride Month. People should be able to feel proud of being ADHDers, because the alternative is shame.

For 31 days I will be writing every day on being an ADHDer using this list of prompts:

Published by roryreckons

I am an ADHD/Autism Coach as well as ADHD/Autism/OCD/CPTSD advocate and independent ADHD/Autism researcher. I am an ADHD/Autism Coach who trained through the ADD Coaching Academy. I write mainly about ADHD/Autism/OCD/Mental health issues, but will also discuss morality, abolition, and current affairs occasionally.

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