The ADHD Homestead

Building a good life with ADHD.

Tag: exercise

Derailment, ADHD, & the Pit of Domestic Despair

Toward the end of March, my immune system sabotaged all my good habits. My son brought home a bug that hardly affected him, but — like the evil kid illness it was —  gave me 12 days of low-grade fever. I muddled through. Mostly. But I didn’t exercise, hardly set foot in my office, and got off track with my daily habits. Clutter piled up and projects stagnated. I lost sight of wellness and productivity and couldn’t imagine either being part of my life again.

I was headed straight for the Pit of Domestic Despair.

Fortunately, I’m aware of ADHD’s time blindness. Though it wasn’t deeply reassuring, I told myself I wouldn’t be sick forever.

I also repeated, over and over, “it’s okay. You’re okay. We’re okay.”

Habits break, systems break, and it’s not the end of the world — or even the good habit.

Or, rather, it doesn’t have to be.

Derailment,ADHD,& thePit of Domestic Despair

“No, thanks” to self-loathing. “Yes, please” to equanimity.

ADHD does more than make it tough to stay on course. Through years of repeated failure, we teach ourselves that failure is inevitable. New habits and projects excite us, but only to a point. By adulthood, our cynicism always lurks in the shadows, reminding us that success is fleeting. Yes, we’re doing it, but only for now. Only until the next time everything falls apart.

I’ve spent years learning to stay organized and form intentional habits, but my most important lesson has been in accepting failure. Everyone gets off track sometimes. Even people without ADHD. The key isn’t staying on the wagon, it’s knowing how to climb back on.

When a habit breaks or a project stagnates or a deadline gets missed, it’s not a confirmation of all my self-doubt and self-criticism. Letting the house get messy one week doesn’t signal a return to my “real” (i.e. unhappy, unfocused, disorganized, unproductive) self. It means I messed up. Or I had a fever for 12 days. It’s just a thing that happened.

This brings me to my favorite word: equanimity. It means remaining neutral in the face of life’s gains and losses, and it’s a skill I’ll be honing for the rest of my life. In this case, it means looking at my messy house and my broken habits, saying, “okay,” and moving on without much fanfare.

There’s usually something beyond Right Now (even if we don’t believe it).

I eventually felt better — obviously. And for the first time, I didn’t spend my first day on the mend beating myself up or lamenting the impossible task in front of me. I just got up and kept going. Slowly.

With the energy I saved by not spinning myself up to a state of intense despair, overwhelm, and self-loathing, I started to dig out of the Pit of Domestic Despair. I (finally) changed the sheets on our bed. I spent a week chipping away at my overflowing inbox. I attacked the accumulated clutter, bit by bit. I refused to start on any projects until I’d gotten back to a workable baseline. I spent my energy getting to a place where I could feel good again.

It’s taken me a long time to learn this. To learn, for example, that instead of sitting in the house and complaining about my bad attitude, I should put on my shoes and go for a run. ADHD is often a problem of inertia. Overcoming inertia, even if we only take one itty-bitty, tiny step, is half the battle.

Everyone gets stuck. The more gracefully we can accept this and move on, the better. ADHD tempts us to believe Right Now is all there is. That makes messy surroundings and broken habits feel overwhelming and permanent. The Pit of Domestic Despair becomes a black hole. It’s taken me almost 32 years, but I’ve finally taken a leap of faith. I don’t always believe something better is waiting around the bend. I’m  just willing to inch my way over there and find out.

Share

Conquering the automatic “I have ADHD & I suck” response

I love using the line, “I’m bad at that” (or some variation thereof). The underlying message being, funny story: I have ADHD and I suck at some things.

I’m not proud of this.

In all fairness, it’s true. However, I suspect many of us use this mentality to avoid certain tasks and responsibilities. We use it as a reason not to challenge ourselves.

For years, I’ve proudly labeled myself “not a runner.” Though I might give you an excuse about sore joints, or a proclivity for excessive sweating, or the fact that running in hot weather makes me feel puffy, the biggest obstacle is in my head: I’m bad at creating and sticking to habits. I’ve long thought I could only maintain a running habit by running every day.

 

trail runner photo

I never called this perfectionism because I thought it was just the cold hard facts. The first missed day marks the beginning of the end, and I don’t run again for years.

Then I picked up Stephen Guise‘s new(ish) book, How to be an Imperfectionistand it opened my eyes to perfectionism’s toxicity for ADHD adults.

ADHD’ers seem like unlikely perfectionists. Our lives are swimming in imperfection, littered with screw-ups. And yet, perfectionism gives us an excuse, a reason to stay paralyzed.

Guise describes three primary ways perfectionism can paralyze us. All apply to my aversion to running.

  • Context: without the perfect context, we can’t possibly succeed.
    “Running before breakfast is best for me, but it’s dark outside! Maybe after daylight savings time ends…”
    “I don’t own any running pants — only yoga pants.”
  • Quality: we must make sure we’ll be able to do it exactly right.
    Couch to 5K is embarrassing — there’s so much walking, I don’t even feel like I can say I went for a run.”
    “I don’t think I can commit to daily runs right now.”
  • Quantity: we define success only as meeting or exceeding an arbitrary numeric goal.
    “I bet I can’t even run a mile without stopping anymore.”
    “If I don’t elevate my heart rate to 120 beats per minute for 30 minutes, I shouldn’t even bother.”

imperfectionist cover artQuantifiable goals — like “I want to run for 30 minutes without stopping” or “I want to run every day” — give us something concrete to shoot for, but they also quantify failure. Not meeting your goal discredits all your hard work.

In the end, it’s easier to cling to my identity as someone who’s “not a runner” than to figure out how to make regular exercise work for me long-term.

Running, even under the guidance of a program like C25K, requires major league habit-forming skills. ADHD’ers endure constant blows to our self-image, and many of us will choose the couch as our fear of failure kicks in.

Guise points to insecurity as a major precursor to perfectionism:

Those who are secure in themselves are less perfectionistic because they have a positive affirmation bias, which means they’ll assume good things about themselves before considering negative things.

We’re so beaten down by a lifetime of failure, of broken (good) habits, of disappointment in ourselves. Why wouldn’t we turn to perfectionism for protection? Why wouldn’t we seek out explanations for why our failure — or failure to even try in the first place — was preordained, out of our control?

A week ago, I bought the C25K app. I went running in my yoga pants (a surprisingly good stand-in for running pants), in the dark, and I obeyed the app’s commands to walk and run in short intervals. I succeeded in running three times in one week, which is both trickier and more sustainable than running every day. I promised to be kind to myself, to accept any small step in the right direction as better than nothing.

Because it is. Even if we know we’re going to mess up, it’s okay to try. When we do mess up — and we will — it’s okay to try again.

I challenge you to do something, anything, that you’ve been avoiding due to the kinds of perfectionism listed above. Give yourself permission to do a crappy job. Get out there and take one step closer to where you want to be. Eventually, you’ll get there, but only if you have the courage to start — and restart — an imperfect journey.

Share

How yoga makes me a better parent (and everything else, too)

As a stay-at-home mom, making time for my own mental and physical health is a challenge. However, nothing is more important for an ADHD parent than taking care of yourself — and keeping your symptoms from ruling the day.

The benefits of a regular yoga practice extend far beyond the mat, making me a better mom (and person) all day long.

Here are just a few ways yoga has changed my life and helped me manage my ADHD.

yoga

I can find stillness anywhere

ADHD predisposes me to overwhelm. I tend to freak out if there’s too much coming at me at once. Not exactly Parent of the Year material, right?

Yoga has taught me to accept myself and find a strong, steady place within.

I’m finally learning to achieve a state of calm independent of what’s happening around me. After years of practicing yoga, that moment still feels precious and fleeting, but at least I know it exists. I know which mental muscles I need to strengthen.

I can regain my balance after a fall

As my favorite yoga teacher once told me, falling is great. It’s how we learn our limits

Yoga has taught me not only how to fall, but how to get up, regain my balance, and try again. Even if I don’t look good standing on one leg.

Family life with ADHD — especially when more than one person has it — creates an ideal space for chaos and blame. Sometimes we mess up, just like sometimes we fall out of a balancing pose in yoga class.

I can be strong and good, even when I’m overwhelmed, even when I’ve lost control. Knowing this gives me the strength to forgive myself and move on.

I’m more mindful

If you’re looking for some all-natural relief from your ADHD symptoms, this is it. Yoga combines exercise with mindfulness meditation, both proven to improve brain health.

Yoga allows me to inhabit my body 100%. It quiets my ADHD brain’s frantic activity, if only for a moment.

From this place of calm, I’ve learned that yoga — and, by extension, life — is as much about holding back as pushing forward, as much about staying in the moment as it is about flow. When we’re mindful, we observe our current state. When we advance in yoga practice, we push ourselves to our limits, but not too far.

Cultivating this awareness and control has improved so many aspects of my life, especially those hit hardest by my ADHD.

I’m becoming okay with discomfort

I describe my ADHD as the “ping pong” variety: I rarely fully experience one thing before bouncing to the next.

It’s tempting to shy away from intense, uncomfortable sensations in our minds or bodies. We may even do this to cope with ADHD’s hypersensitivity.

Once, I attended a somewhat unconventional class that overwhelmed my heart, mind, and body with sensation — I couldn’t shy away. I breathed, sank deeper into the stretches, and felt my body open up in ways I never knew it could. I stayed in one place and paid attention to my feelings. Eventually, I cried.

Yoga teaches us surrender and not hesitation; strength and stillness and not fidgeting or running away. It broadens the ADHD brain’s horizons. As a result, I’m more present in my everyday life, not just on the mat.

I know tiny adjustments change everything

ADHD’ers tend to think BIG, even though “big” usually translates to “impossible to execute” in the real world. Lasting change needs to be sustainable, not sparkly.

Sure, my academic mind has learned this through reading Mini Habits, among other things, but in my heart I’ve learned it through yoga. Specifically, those moments when a good teacher gives me a tiny adjustment that changes everything. A challenging pose suddenly feels strong and effortless and right, thanks not to brute force, but a deceptively simple tweak.

An important lesson for every ADHD household, don’t you think?

How about you? Do you practice yoga, or have you tried it in the past? What keeps you standing on solid ground?

Share

Don’t forget to play

It’s no secret that physical exercise provides acute relief from ADHD symptoms. While it probably won’t replace stimulant medication for most people, it provides many similar effects.

So why aren’t we all in great shape?

Well, exercise can be boring. It’s another habit to maintain, task to complete, and commitment to fulfill. It requires motivation to do something that’s good for you, but not necessarily fun or easy.

That is, unless you’re a kid.

adult playground photo

Get in touch with your inner child (in a good way)

For all our foibles, many ADHD folks are described by friends and family as fun-loving and spontaneous. It’s time to (for once) use those qualities to your advantage.

It’s time to go out and play.

Yesterday morning, I exhibited some childish and embarrassing behavior that, much like bad behavior in actual children, was remedied by a trip to the playground. And coffee and breakfast, but that’s another post.

If you’re having a rough day — or if you just want to be at your best — find fun, spontaneous, playful ways to get some exercise. This is especially important if you also have active kids in your life. Follow their lead once in a while! Some of my favorites have included:

  • Climbing walls or practicing pull-ups/bar hangs at the playground with my kid
  • Throwing a tennis ball against the house and catching it until my heart rate is elevated
  • Running up and down the stairs when I feel restless (this is a variation on my toddler’s habit of running laps around an area rug, something that makes most adults too dizzy)
  • Playing Just Dance or Dance Dance Revolution on the Wii/Playstation
  • Going to the rock gym with my husband

You don’t need to join a gym to increase your overall health and mental well-being. You don’t even need to put on your running shoes. Start by remembering what it’s like to be a kid. Go out in the sun, run around, and get your blood flowing, even if you’re just jumping over obstacles in the yard.

Oh, and be sure to ignore any funny looks from neighbors. They’re the ones missing out!

How do you trick yourself into being more active? Please share in the comments!

Share

© 2017 The ADHD Homestead

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Share