The ADHD Homestead

Create the life you want with the mind you have.

Tag: yoga

How I take productive breaks with #AdultADHD

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the value of breaks. On one hand, I’ve had to train myself to pay attention for long enough to make a dent in one task. Mindfulness meditation and stimulant medications have helped me do that. Then there’s the other side of ADHD: learning to pull away at the right time. Here are some of my favorite strategies.

Pomodoro(ish)

If you’re not familiar with the Pomodoro Technique, here’s the gist: you set a kitchen timer for 25 minutes and dedicate those minutes to only one task. This unit of time is referred to as one Pomodoro.

I’m not strict about using the Pomodoro Technique all the time. I do find it especially helpful for my weekly review, when I get sidetracked easily. I use a timer to rotate between emptying my inboxes and completing other review steps every 10-25 minutes. The timer, which sits right beneath my computer monitor, provides some healthy anxiety. The prospect of a forced break keeps my eye on the prize and I’m more conscious of interruptions and tangents.

Boundaries

I’m useless in front of a screen after 9:00 p.m. I’d love to say I “moonlight” as a fiction writer, but I don’t work well that way. I never have. If I’m looking at a computer screen after nine, I’m wasting more time and getting less done than I would at 2:00 in the afternoon.

While it’d be great if I could change this, I don’t think that’s possible without a brain transplant. I now try to avoid screen time at night. Sometimes, this means leaving a project before I’ve reached a good stopping point. This can feel impossible for some people with ADHD. It takes a lot of practice, and it will always feel uncomfortable, but it’s a rote learning process.

Self-observation

If work is going poorly, it can be best to step away. Remember my physics teacher and his beanbags? Sacrificing a time block I intended for writing, bookkeeping, or email can pay huge returns later in the day.

Nowadays, when I feel myself floundering, wasting time, and failing to settle down, I get up. I do a quick office yoga podcast. I set a timer and work for 20 minutes on a physical task like sewing, washing dishes, or organizing my basement. Even when I worked in a more traditional office, I had opportunities to get up: I could check stock for my office supply order, or go to someone’s workstation to address an IT trouble ticket.

Obviously, there’s a risk of ADHD-fueled avoidance and procrastination. The key is timing these breaks and pushing myself back to my desk when they’re over. Not only that, I know there are some tasks I’ll never want to start. In those cases, another break won’t help at all.

Podcasts

When a break won’t help, I try to make an otherwise unpleasant chore seem like a treat or a break. Podcasts can work wonders to reduce dread and reluctance. If I’m dragging my feet on chores, I turn on a funny podcast, like Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids. For longer projects, I use the podcast as a makeshift Pomodoro timekeeper. I tell myself I only need to work for the length of the podcast, then I can take a break.

In a similar vein, I generally only watch television when I fold laundry. This limits my unscheduled television “breaks” and gives me a more positive attitude about laundry. Laundry day means I can sit down and treat myself to my favorite shows!

What about you? What strategies have you discovered to disengage for a healthy break?

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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?

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Don’t break the chain (literally).

In last week’s link roundup, I promised to elaborate on my plans for this article about Jerry Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain” approach to creative habits.

Well, today I’m diving in. I’m expanding Seinfeld’s idea beyond the realm of writing and creative work and turning the chain into a tangible object, not just crossed-out days on a calendar. I wonder: will bringing my habits and goals into the physical world increase my odds of success?

I have a theory that a big red X on a calendar might not be enough for some ADHD’ers. Personally, the idea of creating a big, long paper chain — one that would outgrow all the places I found to store it — is much more exciting.

Habit challenge: from 30 days to 60

I had great success with a 30-day yoga challenge this summer. A long-distance friend joined me. We texted often to check in and share yoga podcasts and YouTube channels. My daily practice enriched my quality of life dramatically, to say the least, but I still fell away from it once the 30 days were up. If you have ADHD, this probably sounds familiar.

There must be a way for even the most habit-challenged among us to reroute our neural pathways — to make our desired habits stick.

In the interest of making progress toward permanent habits, I want my paper chain to do the yoga challenge one better: I want 60 days unbroken.

Choosing a chain (just one)

Speaking of habits, I have a bad one: leaping headfirst into too many projects at once. Toodledo is my preferred method of self-medication. I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering, do we need to work on just one chain at a time?

Yes. The ability to prioritize is a critical skill, and one worth practicing. Not to mention dividing your focus leaves fewer mental resources for each goal.

Faced with choosing just one habit to strengthen over the next 60 days, I’m going with meditation. Meditation is scientifically proven to strengthen focus, willpower, and executive function. Hopefully, meditating daily will give me across-the-board benefits.

I’ll post updates as I build — and try not to break — my chain.

Does technique sound like it would work for you? Why or why not? Interested in joining me? I’d love to hear about your goals and habits in the comments.

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