The brain of a person with ADHD can be compared to a Formula 1 car.
The car races around the track at an amazing speed of around 300 km/h. At this speed, the surrounding environment is blurry and objects become invisible to the driver. Each race demands an enormous amount of resources both physically and mentally. The good thing for the driver is this experience stops when the race finishes; however it’s not the case for people with ADHD.
It can be incredibly challenging to reduce the speed of thoughts and get more focused on one activity at a time. Slowing down for the ADHD person’s brain may feel very unnatural, to the point of great discomfort.
People with ADHD perform well when they are excited about a specific area and/or activity; on the other hand, if the topic and/or activity are “boring stuff”, productivity declines, time seems to stop and intense discomfort can be experienced.
Even the simplest everyday tasks such as dressing for work, packing lunch, making it on time to meetings and appointments, paying a bill, remembering to respond to messages from loved ones etc can be very challenging for people with ADHD.
The Demands of Daily Life
The balance of daily activities is demanding and can be overwhelming for people with neurotypical brains, let alone folks with a Formula 1 brain. If you throw family responsibilities into the mix, it generates am “atomic bomb effect” (as one of my clients with ADHD described it).
Personal self-care goes to the bottom of the priority list and contributes to the overload and eventual explosion of emotions. Given that individuals with ADHD are already struggling with emotional regulation on a good day, it can be very overwhelming and confronting for both the person with ADHD and the people around them.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting social, political and practical changes in people’s lives have been reported to be an “absolute disaster” by many of my clients with ADHD.
Being confined to the home office has meant they aren’t able to get out and engage in their usual activities that helped them regulate and manage their symptoms. Many of my clients have reported that they have felt stuck with and overwhelmed by the never ending demands of professional and personal lives!
This situation can be seen as being in direct opposition to the ADHD nature and needs, as usually folks with ADHD need to have freedom of movement and expression.
Many of my clients who were previously coping well with their symptoms have reported that they are feeling overwhelmed and experiencing burnout, painful feelings and thoughts, and exacerbation of previous symptoms. These challenges are not unique to the COVID-19 era, but to many other challenging periods in a person’s life.
Nevertheless, human beings are highly adaptable and resilient in nature. It is important to remember that there are always things in our control, things we can do to help ourselves manage the challenges in our life better.
Here are four tips to help you shift from surviving to thriving in your professional career and personal life:
1 – Be your own Advocate for your Wellbeing
It is a personal decision whether to disclose your mental health diagnosis or not, so consider your personal situation, needs and work climate.
However generally speaking, many workplaces nowadays are recognizing the importance of mental health and the productivity impact it may have. It is quite acceptable to apply for sick leave / a mental health day to get re-balanced and recharged (which is a win-win really, because they increase worker’s creativity and productivity). Schedule these days in advance on a regular basis (for example, once a month), depending on the urgency of your individual situation and other commitments. The main thing is to focus on your wellbeing.
2 – Family vs Personal Time Balance
Families where at least one person has ADHD (especially if you also have children with additional needs) are very mindful of the energy load and the demand on each of the partners.
This situation requires a creative approach to maximize recharge time. Develop and implement activities for partners to connect (ie having regular opportunities for connection, outings, date nights, walks, quality time together etc) and have individual time as well (ie downtime to recharge, connect with friends, engage in hobbies etc). Discover your hobby, commit to self-care and follow through with it.
Three things to consider:
- Plan these opportunities in advance
- Leverage external resources as much as possible, such as: after school/child care services and babysitters.
- Ask for help. Do not feel bad reaching out to your family and friends for support, to help you plan and commit to these activities.
3 – Build your Support Network
Research and reach out to the various support groups available on Facebook, Meetup etc, that bring people together to share the burden of the career and life juggle. Search online, ask questions and look for what resonates with you and makes you feel better after the connection.
It is very important to share and participate in discussions and conversations. Some groups organize get togethers where people with ADHD can share and discuss topics which are relevant in their lives, helping them to feel connected and understood.
4 – Set SMART Goals
It’s very easy to get lost in the rat race, therefore setting SMART goals is absolutely important for healthy regulation of career, family and personal commitments. The SMART acronym stands for:
An example would be to focus on a specific goal or positive intention for your life.
- Make the goal specific (ie get more rest by going to bed one hour earlier each day).
- Plan a way to measure your success (ie assess your energy/productivity levels after implementing the chosen strategy).
- Make sure you make the goal possible, small and achievable to start with (do not set up goals you will not be able to achieve such as going to bed too early, that may not be practical in your life)
- Make sure the goal is relevant for your bigger goals and has the positive impact you desire (ie “If I’m more rested and recharged I will have energy to spend more time with friends/kids etc).
- Finally, set a time frame for achieving the goal (ie commit to practising the chosen strategy for two weeks/month, then re-assess and make appropriate adjustments if needed).
It can be confusing, overwhelming and lonely at times when people go through life with additional challenges and/or difficult chapters; but there is help. There is hope. We do not have to do it alone.
We also do not need to re-invent the wheel. Lots of strategies, therapeutic styles, mental health professionals, life and career coaches, websites, self-help books etc exist to point you in the right direction and guide you towards a more meaningful and rewarding life.
Author: Ilana Gorovoy, B.Arts (Psych), B. Arts (Hons.)(Psychology), MPsych (Couns.)
With a Master’s in Counselling, Brisbane Psychologist Ilana Gorovoy draws on therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Existential and Strengths-based approaches, Person-Centred and Positive Psychology, to assist her clients to become conscious of their strengths and difficulties, design and reach their goals, live a life of meaning and purpose, and reach their full potential.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Ilana Gorovoy, try Online Booking – Wishart. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology (Wishart) on (07) 3088 5422.