ADHD · fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 21: Support Systems

As yet another alarm went off on my phone this morning, I started thinking about our support systems and how you might make good use of them as you build your practices.

Note: every time you see the words should or shouldn’t in this post, please imagine me rolling my eyes and sighing it out as if I am fed up with the very concept of it. Because I am.

Story time

(There is no escape from my stories.)

Because I have ADHD, I use a lot of external cues to help me do the things that I want to do. I have umpteen timers, reminders, and alarms. I make good use of the timer on the stove when I am in the kitchen. I try to shape my environment by putting things in the place where I will need them – like putting my meds on the kitchen table before I go to bed so I will see them first thing in the morning. I have routines and checklists. I ask other people for reminders and I have accountability partners for all kinds of tasks. *

Before I was medicated (and especially before I was diagnosed), I tried to get away without using most of those things. I felt that, as an adult, I shouldn’t need so many reminders to get through the day – especially since, in many contexts, I have a good memory. I tried to fake my way along – this is called masking, by the way – and I did ok sometimes, maybe even most of the time, but with A LOT of additional stress and worry.

It was MUCH harder for me to manage the details of my life and to follow through on my plans without those things. Once I was diagnosed, I gave myself ‘permission’ to use any supports that worked for me and life got a bit easier. Once I was medicated, I could make even better use of those supports, and every increase in my medication makes them more and more useful to me.

Accepting that it was ok to have that support system in my days made a huge difference in my life. I could use more of my mental energy to actually do the things I wanted to do instead of using that energy to try and remember to do them.

And the really annoying thing is that I could have been saving that energy all along by just letting myself do things the way that I needed to do them. I could have had those supports in place all along and felt much better every day.

Instead, I fell victim to our cultural message that if things are difficult it is because we aren’t working hard enough. From that perspective, my reminders and notes and systems would be a sign of being inept or being weak, or being stupid.

What a load of crap, hey?

Now that I am aware of that whole set of messaging, I am so annoyed. I am annoyed with the message and I am annoyed that I was stuck in that mindset for so long.

Find/create/use your support systems

Maybe ADHD isn’t an issue for you but I’ll bet that you have other things that get in your way as you try to build your new practice.

You don’t need a reason or an excuse to seek support. I know it can be hard to seek support or help but don’t let the idea that you shouldn’t need it be part of the challenge of asking.

If you need a reminder, a pep talk, or some sort of tool in order to remember/start/do/complete your practice, then please seek those things out and use them.

Please don’t should yourself out of making your own life a little easier.

Try to think in terms of solutions instead of whether you should need support.

Use the timer on your phone, your watch, your stove, or your computer.

Stick notes all over the place. I often write notes in dry-erase marker on my bathroom mirror and I frequently attach sticky notes to my kettle. I have also been known to put a sticky note on my phone, which I find hilarious – a literal note to self on my phone!

If you need a pep talk, ask your friends for one or look up pep talks on YouTube, TikTok, or on a podcast app.

If you need an accountability partner, check for online groups who are doing a similar practice to yours. Or ask on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram or via text for someone to check in with you after a certain amount of time.

If your arms are strong enough to lift some weights but gripping them hurts your hands, could you wear gloves? Could you put the weight in a bag that is easier for you to lift?

If you don’t want to get on your yoga mat because it is hard to get back up off the floor, what can you use to help yourself up?

In fact, yoga can be an excellent example of how to casually allow yourself to use the supports you need. In yoga, you are supposed to meet yourself where you are today. If you can’t reach the floor with your fingertips, you put a block down and touch that instead. If you are struggling with a pose, you either adjust it to meet your needs or you use a strap, a bolster, a blanket, or a block to support your efforts.

Today’s Invitation

I know that it is hard to ask for support, even if we are just asking ourselves to use something that makes our lives easier.

This whole cultural thing we have around independence and how we should be able to operate with out support is a racket but it is a pervasive one. It keeps us all stuck and prevents us from getting the help to manage all kinds of situations.**

Today, I’m inviting you to seek and use supports for your practice, whether those supports are post-it notes or a friend to walk with you. Let yourself make your own life easier whenever possible.

And here is your gold star for today’s efforts, whatever they entail.

Your efforts matter. You matter. And it is ok for you to ask for help, to use supports, and do the things you need to do in the way that you need to do them.

Sending you ease.

a small drawing of a gold star surrounded by black dots
It occurred to me that I should try to make my star drawings connect to the topic of the day but then I noticed the word ‘should’ in that sentence. Should is always a sign that I need to reconsider. If I start trying to connect my drawings and my topic, it will box me in and make it a bit harder to do my drawing (and my writing) and that goes against my big picture plans for spaciousness. Sooooo, I’ll just stick to drawing whatever star shows up when I start moving my pen. Image description: a drawing of a gold star surrounded by tiny black dots on a white card. The edges of the card are outlined in a wavy black line and the card is resting on a black computer keyboard

*Because of how the huge variety of ADHD traits work in each individual brain, all ADHDers will have some traits in common with others and also have their own unique spin on the condition. Most of the time, my reminders, timers, and environmental shaping works for me but for other people with ADHD, these things may not work at all. Please DO NOT use me as an example of why someone else should be able to use these things effectively.

**For this post, I am generally talking about some pretty straightforward things, small supports that we can use to expand toward our new habits. But, I want to acknowledge that this same thinking trap extends in all directions and has all kinds of deep implications for vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our society. Vulnerable and disadvantaged people are discouraged from asking for the things they need. If they do ask, they are criticized, judged, and put through all kinds of extra work and invasive questions to try and get it. And many of us with privileges and advantages are encouraged to think of this as ‘the way things are’ because we are used to the ambient sense that no one should ask for support and that becoming an independent person who can do everything on their own is the ultimate goal. Obviously, this post about supports for the practice you are building isn’t going to create social change but I didn’t want to pretend that the need for support in our society stops at a pep talk or putting a chair next to your yoga mat.