ADHD and Uncertain Times: How to Get Things Done Now!
In these uncertain times, it’s tough to manage our work, our families, and ourselves. Add the extra layer of living with ADHD and related challenges, and it can be overwhelming to problem-solve, make decisions, communicate and follow-through.
Emotional Dysregulation and ADHD
You’ve most likely experienced the rollercoaster of emotions that can take over when living with ADHD. Reactions may escalate when things don’t go one expects. There can be a tendency to overreact to irritation or criticism, only to feel deep regret afterward.
During times of stress, the brain goes into “flight-or flight mode,” releasing stress hormones to prepare us to react quickly to imminent danger. This fast reaction mechanism shuts down the brain's regulation center, where we manage, plan, and organize. To release ourselves from fight or flight mode, and regulate ourselves, we calm ourselves. Some ways we do this is by taking a few deep breaths, sipping a glass of water, pausing, or getting outside.
In the ADHD brain, the regulation center or "executive functioning area" experiences acute peaks and valleys. It’s common for individuals with ADHD to have significant trouble managing these high's and low's. Strong emotions go with intense vulnerability to well-meaning feedback, criticism, and rejection. What results is a harsh internal dialogue that "I'm not measuring up."
Add uncertainty into the picture, and the “fight or flight” reaction literally floods the brain with stress hormones, resulting in a sense of overwhelm and a feeling of being powerless. This is further compounded when there's a need to adapt to unexpected situations and disappointments. For folks with ADHD, maintaining a sense of constancy can be comforting, while transitioning to unexpected changes in environment, activity, or even what's expected for dinner can be unsettling and perplexing.
Here are three ways to gain back control in times of uncertainty, stress, and unpredictability when living with ADHD.
Reduce Decision-Making Overwhelm
• Reduce overwhelm by identifying the specific problem.
• Consider your values and needs in making a decision.
• Identify the cost of not making a decision.
• Consider, what would it take to give yourself permission to make this decision?
• Ask yourself, what would you love to do if there were no consequences?
• What if there’s no wrong decision?
Especially during unpredictable times, following through can be overwhelming for the ADHD brain. This is because of challenges with executive functioning that make it difficult for individuals with ADHD to organize, prioritize, stay on task and regulate emotions. When it can feel nearly impossible under stressful conditions to meet these demands, the result can be feeling mired in self-defeat.
• Focus on the big picture. What’s the most important goal? Make it SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable (possible to attain in the time allotted), Relevant (to you or your work and mission) and Timely (with a start and end-date in mind)
• Plan on what, where, when, who is going to be involved.
• Break down your tasks into manageable bite-sized steps.
• Decide on a time and location and set up a workable (remote) space free of technology distractions.
• Take care of yourself by asking for help. Involve family members, colleagues and employees by collaborating with them so they can contribute.
Communicate with Transparency
Working memory, the ability to hold onto multiple pieces of information and use those ideas effectively, can get into the way when it comes to communication and living with ADHD. You may be swamped by your own ideas, as well as the thoughts and messages from your family members and colleagues. You may have difficulty keeping a broad perspective of your business as you get bogged down in the details during stressful and unstable times.
• Pause. Let yourself be OK with uncertainty.
• Gather the facts and communicate openly.
• When your extended family or co-workers want answers, try to be OK with communicating to them that you don't know everything. At the same time, try to communicate the attitude that "We're all in this together."
• It’s Ok to explain to your children that you don’t have all the answers. Modeling for them how you’re exploring solutions is a life skill you’re teaching them.
• Encourage open communication through words, art, humor and play.
• Communicate honestly and lead by example with integrity. Your family, co-workers and/or employees will appreciate your transparency.
To summarize, to get things done when living with uncertainty and ADHD,
• Reduce Decision-Making Overwhelm
• Follow-Through Effectively
• Comunicate with Transparency
Experiment with some of these and see what works best for you.
Wishing you all the best in these uncertain times.
PS. For more assistance getting things done during stressful times, I'm here to support you.
Feel free to Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we can talk about some immediate solutions to put into place for you now.
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