My fellow Distractoids —
Are you down on yourself? Are you constantly telling yourself what an ugly, horrible, no-good person you are? What about rejection? Does rejection (and perhaps perceived rejection) throw you for a loop? Do you stay in your comfort zone to avoid situations where you might be rejected? Do you try to avoid rejection by ingratiating yourself with others, people-pleasing, and sacrificing more than your fair share? If so, you are not alone. ADDers on average are highly sensitive to rejection, overly sensitive, sometimes to the point of Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria. Let’s take a closer look.
Distractoids are full of unexamined negative self-talk, negative self-judgment, and shame. Fear and negativity are like invisible bars that hold them in place. Masters of Distraction, on the other hand, have learned how to practice positive self-regard no matter what, to deploy courage in the presence of fear, and to see the world’s feedback simply as valuable information that points to a next step forward. What’s their secret sauce that makes such a difference in life?
Here’s the good news: the change is your choice. It’s up to me to determine how I see myself — or rather my Self. Behind all the ever-shifting thoughts and emotions that come and go, behind the choices I’ve made and consequences I’ve suffered or rewards I’ve enjoyed, and behind all the things that have happened or been done to me, there is the Self. The Self enters and leaves this world as it is — wise, loving, worthy of love, and free from judgment of any kind. The value and goodness of the Self, which is the Real Me, is not contingent on anything: the value of the Self is inherent, and does not depend on what I have or have not done or won or achieved. It is what It is, and It is good.
How do I know this is true? It doesn’t matter for our purposes today. That’s a different conversation and debate. For now, all I ask you to accept is that we know the value of a thing by its fruits — that what produces good results is good. If I adopt the unshakable belief that, behind the ever-changing surface features of life, that I am fundamentally good, loving, and deserving of love — that my essence is good, loving, and deserving of love — then I will be invulnerable to the poison of negative Self-judgment, shame, and fear of rejection. If I reject no part of myself — my Self, nobody can make me suffer the pain of rejection. It’s all in my hands. How does that affect my behavior? It allows me to live more freely and to become more of the person I am meant to be.
Nobody can make me feel ashamed or rejected without my consent. I remember once when I was just out of film school I wrote a screenplay that I had invested with all the value of my Self-worth. I gave it to someone important to read, hoping they might buy it, and soon heard back they thought it was great. I was elated, to say the least. A huge rush of euphoric emotion flowed through my body like a surge of electricity. But that was a false alarm. A few days later when I heard it wasn’t being bought, I suffered an equally major surge of negativity. Instantly, I was filled with self-loathing and anxiety. I wasn’t myself for weeks and weeks.
But what had really happened? Nothing. I was the same person whether the script was bought or not. That’s not what I told myself, though. And not how I reacted. I told myself I was a superior being and felt on top of the world before I told myself I was worthless and should never write another word of anything ever again. Both things were equally untrue.
This kind of thing happens all the time with clients. If they get the job, or an A on the test, or accepted into the school: elation. If they don’t get the job, or the grade, or the school: despair. The emotions come from attaching one’s Self worth to this or that outcome rather than sticking with who you really are — the fixed, unchanging self or consciousness behind all those results. Instead of looking at a yes or a no as some kind of true judgment of you — validation or rejection — look at yes or no simply as information that says nothing about the real you. Yes you can do this thing or no you will be choosing something different. Information, and that’s it.
But having a big emotional reaction to rejection is not the only flawed way relate to rejection. I’ve had clients who would rarely leave the house because outside those safe confines they might experience the word “no”. I remember many times in my life when I was too afraid to ask for help, take a chance, or put my hat in the ring. I look back and wonder what in the world I was afraid of. I was afraid of activating the harshly negative thoughts in my head, that’s what. I must have seen myself as a fragile, powerless, unworthy — because I was not thinking of the real me, my unchanging, original Self.
Sadly, we take other self-defeating, self-limiting actions to avoid rejection. We become people-pleasers so everyone, we hope, will like us. We sacrifice our needs and desires in relationships in order to please or appease our partners. We cut off parts of ourselves that we judge to be intolerable or unacceptable, rejecting ourselves before we can be rejected. Do any of these behaviors spare us from the pain of rejection? Of course not. They just take us farther away from who we really are.
Okay, you might be thinking that it’s easy to talk about rejection in this way, but not so easy to deal with rejection in real life. I agree, letting go of our ideas and attachments to rejection is often times a process. It’s something we are working on. But even a little shift in the way that we relate to our True Self goes a long way in how we experience “no” when we are hoping for “yes.” The shift allows us to look at and consider what has happened with more perspective and nuance, and that’s a good thing. So good luck in your efforts to consider the words yes and no as information ….
My Fellow Distractoids,
Let me guess. There are certain tasks in your life the doing of which causes a feeling of major mental resistance, physical weakness, deep annoyance, resentment, frustration, anger, and pain. There’s a name for this collection of tasks:
Examples of Kryptonite ADDers have reported: making the bed, loading the dishwasher, unloading the dishwasher, cleaning out the cat-box, flossing one’s teeth, organizing a closet, making small talk, folding laundry, doing detailed clerical work like budgeting and taxes, and on and on.
Distractoids are demoralized and defeated by ADHD Kryptonite. They’ve got no shield, so to speak. So they procrastinate and try to avoid exposing themselves to the Kryptonite’s powerful soul-sucking action. Masters of Distraction, on the other hand, have learned how to handle the Kryptonite in safe and effective ways.
And that turns out to be a pretty big deal. Why? Because a lot of ADHD Kryptonite consists of routine, repetitive tasks — i.e. a big part of life. It turns out that how I’m dealing with Kryptonite reflects how I’m dealing with life, which in turn reflects what kind of handle I have on ADHD.
One way to think about it: dealing with Kryptonite requires mental and physical energy. If I’m taking care of myself overall — eating well, sleeping well, getting plenty of exercise, keeping other sources of energy depletion under control, staying out of chronic overwhelm — the Kryptonite is more manageable. Ergo life is more manageable. If I’m not taking care of myself, the Kryptonite is overpowering. Ergo I am overwhelmed and maybe even defeated by life. Distractoids operate with a deficit of mental and physical energy whereas MODS have more to give.
Another factor that can greatly improve one’s ability to deal with Kryptonite is medication. That might not be a solution for everybody, but for many medication can be life-changing; and one of the reasons is the way it greatly lowers resistance to Kryptonic routine tasks. I’ll talk about why that’s the case another time…
In addition to overall self-care and medication, there are some other useful strategies for facing the mighty “K” and making Kryptonic tasks more palatable. I will give some examples, with one caveat. As with many things ADHD, “tips and tricks” are highly individual. Therefore an important part of being a MOD is learning how to come up with individual solutions. That said, here are some ideas you might want to consider:
— Create less Kryptonite. An example, immediately wash and dry any glass or dish that can be taken care of in a matter of seconds, so far fewer dishes ever pile up.
— Play music or listen to a podcast to shift you into a more energetic, positive mood.
— Share tasks or get a “body double”, which just means having another person present to be with you when you do your thing.
— When possible, choose times of the day and week when you are freshest and most energetic to get your stuff done.
— When possible, reduce resistance by making the task easier to do: for instance, by removing any impediments or reducing the number of “steps” it takes to do. One example, I used to have a top sheet, blanket, and multiple pillows on my bed. Now, I sleep under one light comforter with just a couple of pillows. That may not seem like a big difference, but for me it’s the difference in doing or not doing — all the difference in the world.
— Delegate or get support for the things you find most depleting and hardest to face.
— Use grit to take the first step, which often times is the hardest. I try and reserve grit, willpower, determination etc. for when there is no other alternative, because I find that kind of mental heavy-lifting to be a finite resource. But there’s no getting away from this pesky truism: You can’t spell integrity without “grit.”
As always, good luck in your efforts to minimize the way ADHD Kryptonite drags on life and sucks away energy. The better you get at dealing with Kryptonite, the better off you will be.
My Fellow Distractoids,
Studies show that coaching is very effective in helping people with ADHD minimize the harmful effects of the condition. For instance, a recent ADDitude Magazine study showed that it was the most effective treatment besides exercise: i.e. more effective than medication, therapy, neural feedback, etc. In fact, I consider anyone who has not at least tried medication and received coaching from a trained professional very likely to be seriously under-treated.
So what are some of the biggest benefits of ADHD Coaching?
- Education: A good ADHD coach can look at your life through “an ADHD lens” and help you understand all the ways ADHD is playing out in your life. It’s hard, maybe even impossible, to make positive change if you don’t understand the nature of the problem.
- Accountability: Whether it’s a weekly coaching session or a quick text, coaching provides structure and a place to be accountable. In essence, it is a form of “external motivation” many of us need to get and stay on track.
- ADHD-Friendly Solutions to Common Problems: A coach can help you identify and implement practical systems, habits, behaviors, methods of support etc. designed to help with various symptoms and impairments of ADD.
- Feedback On Your Diagnosis and Medication: Coaching can help you through the often daunting process of getting a proper diagnosis and deciding how to handle issues of medication.
- Making Plans, Pursuing Goals, and Getting Stuff Done: Making smart goals, motivation, procrastination, prioritizing tasks, following through, getting distracted, wasting time, and on and on: these are all issues for ADDers. Coaching provides a framework to pursue and achieve what otherwise might take more time or even never get done.
- Improve Relationships: All too often ADHD is a relationship killer. Mitigating the harmful effects of ADD on relationships is one of the most beneficial functions a coach can perform.
My Fellow Distractoids,
One main attribute of an unreconstructed Distractoid is frequent payment of the “ADHD Tax.” Masters of Distraction (MODS), on the other hand, rarely have to pony up to “The Man.”
At this point you might ask, “What the hell is the ADHD tax?” Answer: it’s the price you pay for costly mistakes due to symptoms of ADHD. Some obvious examples are parking and traffic tickets, late fees, high interest debt (i.e. credit cards), and low credit score (leading to higher interest debt, inability to get loans, problems renting apartments and buying cars, etc.). Sound familiar?
But get this: those are only perhaps the most common examples. The hidden ADHD Tax can be much much higher. In fact the hidden ADHD Tax is not measured in dollars: it’s measured in wasted time, physical well being, mental health, personal freedom (vs. incarceration), and — yes — years on your life.
Here’s a statistic that got my attention: People with ADHD have a lifespan that’s up to thirteen years shorter than people who don’t have ADHD.* Given that perhaps 5% of the population in the US has ADHD, this constitutes a national health crisis.
Why is this the case? Part of the answer is a higher prevalence of accidents, like fatal car crashes and workplace mishaps. But another reason is long-term behavior that people with under-treated and untreated ADHD are prone to: poor diet, poor sleep, lack of exercise, neglect of health and dental care, and so on. This population has higher rates of diabetes, obesity, smoking, use of drugs and alcohol, and so on. I don’t know for sure, but I’m making an educated guess that ADDers also pay consequences for things like neglecting preventive care — timely colonoscopy and Pap smears, for instance — and failure to take important medications to prevent things like heart disease and stroke.
When looked at from this perspective, it’s clear that ADHD is a much, much more profoundly destructive condition than generally understood. Let me say it another way: ADHD is a killer.
So, I say know the price of remaining a Distractoid. Know that the ADHD Tax is no laughing matter. The ADHD Tax is very high indeed.
It’s beyond the scope of this post to go into all the ways of living ADHD Tax-free. For now, take a few steps to avoid the really harsh versions of the ADHD Tax. Be sure you are current with doctor and dental appointments. Address any minor health problems that have the potential of growing into something much worse. Remember, the ADHD brain favors what is interesting and urgent over what is important. And what’s more important than your health?
And as always …
My Fellow Distractoids,
Are you living in a state of Chronic Overwhelm? That’s when the tasks of normal life — not some acute, temporary situation like losing your keys, phone, and wallet all on the same day — are too much to manage. It’s when our executive functions don’t have the bandwidth to deal day-to-day. The result: high levels of anxiety and frustration, the constant feeling of always playing defense, the constant fear of something falling through the cracks, loss of confidence, and the sense of being ground down and defeated by life.
Often, Distractoids have been experiencing Chronic Overwhelm for years, without recognizing the seriousness of the situation or figuring out how to get a grip on life. Masters of Distraction recognize Overwhelm and know how to get relief.
Think of Overwhelm as like a juggler keeping a number of balls in the air. Say this juggler can keep seven balls going. But what happens when the the eighth ball is added? The juggler doesn’t just juggle a little worse: no, the juggler is suddenly overwhelmed, and all the balls go everywhere. Being in Chronic Overwhelm is like living with balls going in every direction.
So, what can we do about Chronic Overwhelm? Here are eight things to consider:
1. Reduce commitments and responsibilities by cutting out non-essential actions unless they are joyful and fun. Until you get a handle, things like coaching little league baseball or volunteering to be treasurer of the local Girl Scouts are probably not good ideas.
2. Become very mindful of any time you are making an agreement that commits you to future actions. Until life settles, answer any claims on your time by either saying “no” or “let me check my schedule and think about that.” Banish the word “yes” as an auto-response to all agreements.
3. Recognize when you are letting perfectionism slow you down. Do you need to spend thirty minutes making a routine email sound “just right” when doing an adequate job only takes five?
4. Reduce procrastination. Are you procrastinating a lot? Recognize that ADD people procrastinate for different reasons: for example, not knowing where to begin, lack of interest in routine tasks, perfectionism, and waiting for pieces of the puzzle to line up exactly are examples. Figure out how you procrastinate and take steps to get more efficiently into action.
5. Put more focus on the nuts and bolts of time management and planning — making sure essential tasks are accounted for and put on your calendar; and, looking at your calendar frequently to help ground you in time. If planning and making a schedule is too difficult or boring to do on your own, get help from family, a friend, an organizer, or coach.
6. Consider the big picture and be realistic. Are there stress factors in your life that are not going away and not sustainable for you to cope with? Are you in a job that overtaxes your executive functions and depletes your energy? Is a toxic relationship at home or work putting constant strain on you? Are there things in your life that you definitely don’t want to be doing for another year?
7. Seek support and broaden your support system. Would hiring a tutor, cleaning lady, professional organizer, assistant, financial manager, or coach make a difference? Too often, ADDers act like the Lone Ranger. Why suffer alone when you can get help?
8. Don’t forget about the importance of fun and relaxation. Chronic overwhelm tends to crowd out fun and leisure. Life is reduced to frustration, anxiety, and soldiering on. And that only makes ADHD symptoms worse. It might be counter-intuitive, but if you feel chronically overwhelmed, life might be telling you that what you really need is an occasional break or even a vacation.
Sometimes, getting out of Chronic Overwhelm is in itself overwhelming. I hope these tools make the process easier. If you try these techniques but still feel like life is out of control, it’s probably a good time to hire a coach. Let’s face it. The stress of being chronically overwhelmed is miserable and debilitating. It’s one of the worst things about out-of-control ADHD.
Taming Chronic Overwhelm is one of the biggest steps a Distractoid can make on the road to becoming a Master of Distraction. It’s not always easy, but you can do it! Good luck!