In last week’s post, I told you I was starting a meditation experiment. The plan was to try reframing my meditation as if it were one of my medications – something I ‘take’ regularly that provides benefits over time. And, hence, to anchor my meditation practice to taking my other meds each morning.
How did that go?
Let’s say results were mixed.
The reframing part, the *idea* of meditation as medication is a good approach for me.
Considering meditation as a necessary component for my well-being is really helpful. With this approach, embracing meditation as a self-prescribed medication, the practice becomes less of a ‘task to get done’ and more part of the foundation of my daily life.
Yes, it has only been a week but I can feel the shift in my own perception and it feels good.
I’m not feeling a lot of the ‘give myself some extra brainspace’ benefits yet but it has only been a week.
I am, however, finding that it is much easier to actually start a meditation than it was at the beginning of last week. AND my meditation itself feels a bit better, a little more breath-focused, a little less scattered.
So, from that perspective, my experiment results are very encouraging.
However, the second aspect of my experiment?
Not so much.
In fact, trying to link the practice with my tangible medications was an abject failure.
As I had guessed, that part of overall my day is a little too unpredictable to include meditation.
And in attempting to link my meds to my med, I found myself taking my doctor-prescribed meds a bit later. Taking them later is not only less-than-ideal for my health and concentration, it increases the risk that I will forget them entirely.
After 3 days, I reassessed and decided that the link in timing was not all that important to me, but the change in perspective was vital.
So, I abandoned the idea and just included my meditation whenever felt best each day.
In fact, after a very busy day on Friday, I ended my meditation at 11:59PM. Just under the wire for a planned ‘daily’ practice, but it still counted!
Overall, this approach is working – it’s easier to start meditating each day and the practices themselves feel pretty good. I know the mental-space-at-other-times part will arrive whenever it gets here, so I’m not trying to rush it.
And I’m actually pretty proud of myself for not stressing about the ‘failed’ part of this experiment.
There was a time when I would have had to scrap the whole thing, convinced that I was missing some key piece of information and hence doing the whole thing wrong.
That instinct still pops up for me from time to time but it rarely details me any more. Apparently, the work I have done on that sort of stuff is really paying off. 😉
(This is a little stream-of-consciousness because I’m not really finished thinking this through. Please bear with me.)
So, I’ve been carrying around some ambient stress again.
I’m not feeling stressed about anything in particular. There’s no overwhelmingly stressful thing going on.
In fact, my *brain* doesn’t feel stressed at all.
My body, however, is telling me otherwise.
My first response to recognizing that stressed out feeling was ‘I need to meditate.’
And meditation does help me release that feeling in the moment, which is great, but reactive meditation is not nearly as helpful as regular (preventative) meditation would be.
See, I know that when I meditate regularly, I get a little more space in my brain.
And that space helps me make better choices about how to spend my time and my energy.
Last fall, I had a month or so when I meditated daily and I really found it beneficial. But then something came up, I couldn’t meditate at my regular time and I got off track. I’ve had a few short streaks of practice since then but it hasn’t really stuck.
However, once again, I am determined to find my way back to that daily practice.
On Monday, I was trying to figure out a good time for my practice when I (once again?) made the connection that meditation is similar in one way to my ADHD medication – it gives me a little space between my thought and my action so I can choose to be more effective, to be kinder to myself.
So then I thought ‘What if I put meditation in the same category as my meds?’ – that is, something that needs to happen daily, at the same time, in order to have the best effect.
And then I considered whether I could meditate right after I medicate.
I went back and forth on that for a few minutes because mornings can be a tricky time to find quiet minutes to myself but maybe I can take my meditation and my medications at the same time and it will work out just fine.
I’m going to give it a week and see how it goes.
I’ll report back next Tuesday with the results of this utterly unscientific experiment.
I’m sure that, by now, we all know what my brain is like.
It either wants me to do all of the exercise things or none of the exercise things. It either thinks that I can’t possibly do enough or that there’s really no point in doing just a little.
Even though I know better, my brain gives me pushback on these things every damn time.
Recently, I’ve had some successes.
Last week, I wrote about how I managed to reframe my muscle soreness into a positive sign.
This week, I wanted to tell you about how I have coaxed my brain into believing that mobility exercises “count.”
Obviously, intellectually, I know that mobility exercises count. Everything counts when it comes to movement (and to building new habits!)
But I’ve always had a lot of trouble making myself do them because there’s no immediate payoff – they don’t FEEL like they count. They’re annoying and they are boring and it takes a lot of work to make myself stop what I am doing and start those exercises.
Now, despite all that, I’ve actually done pretty well for the last couple of months with doing one hip mobility drill before bed. And most days in March I’ve managed to do one shoulder mobility drill in the morning. A good start but it has often taken way more energy than I’d like to make myself do the drills.
And while my hips and shoulders have shown a little improvement, I knew that I needed to do more if I wanted a bigger improvement.
So I needed to figure out how to make it easy to get started, how to do enough to give me more results without wearing myself out. And I needed to find a way to make sure that I could tel that my exercises counted.
So, I have been doing the good habit-building technique of adding them to something I’m already doing. i.e. I’m doing my mobility exercises before or after my Fitness + exercise sessions each day.
So that’s one part of the trick – I am already in exercise mode so it feels pretty easy to add in my hip circles or foot stretches or whatever.
The second part involves making sure those exercises feel like they count…or at least, making sure they are counted.
I hate counting reps (it makes everything feel like it takes waaaaaay longer) so I usually set a timer for anything I need to do over and over. Using a timer didn’t help me convince my brain that the exercises counted though, because I was still only seeing a few minutes here and there.
But tracking with the fitness app on my watch has let me overcome that issue. Now I choose a video of the kind of exercises I want to do, I tell my watch that I’m doing a workout in the ‘other’ category, and it starts recording my minutes.
This makes all the difference in the world for my brain because the video length lets me know that I won’t actually be stuck doing these exercises forever (even if it feels that way) and using my watch to track it as an ‘other’ workout means that I can see how the short sessions are adding up to something bigger.
At the end of the day or the end of the week, I can see how much time I spent doing ‘other’ workouts and it feels tangible and useful instead of piecemeal and pointless.
By using my watch and a video, I can spend less time thinking about when and how to do these exercises and more time actually doing them. This process is way less frustrating because even though I have described this as tricking myself, I am actually working WITH my brain instead against it and that means I require far less energy to get each exercise session started.
Do you have any tricks you use to get your exercise sessions started?
Do you also have trouble making yourself do mobility or rehab exercises?
Do you have a favourite YouTube channel or Instagram account for these kinds of exercises?
Last Wednesday, I bravely embarked on a ‘6 weeks to restart your fitness’ plan in my Fitness + app and by Saturday my legs were so sore that stairs became a major annoyance.
That would usually be the point when I would take a few days off and then forget to come back to the program but something about the little check marks on each completed workout drew me back and then something made me think about my sore legs a little differently.
When I started the workouts last week, they seemed relatively easy – 10 daily minutes of strength training or HIIT or 5 minutes of core work – for two weeks and then I would move on to 20 minutes of daily work. My brain tried arguing with me that there was “no point” in starting at 10 minutes, I might as well dive in at 20.
(I don’t know why my brain tries that kind of crap, I know that’s not how habits work. Brains are very annoying creatures.)
By the end of Friday’s workout, I was well aware that 10 minutes of these kind of workouts were definitely enough of a challenge for me. By Friday night, despite my cool-down and stretches, my legs were kind of cranky.
On Saturday morning, I was pretty sure someone had replaced a few of my muscles with some sort of cement-based pain generators. I considered skipping Saturday but it was a core workout so I told myself I could stick with the program one more day before taking a break.
It was a good decision – I learned two new core moves and I liked the workout way more than I thought I would.
With my core solidly worked out, I was wincing my way through any leg-related movements for the rest of the day and I started to think ‘Why am I doing this to myself? This program is too hard for me, I need to find somewhere easier to start.’
And maybe that is the case, maybe I should have started with something else.
But, that being said, I did enjoy the workouts while I was doing them, I don’t have anything to prove so I chose any adaptations that I felt needed during each set of exercises, and I did feel drawn to return, so this program definitely has appeal for me.
Perhaps I was looking at this the wrong way.
Maybe the fact that my legs were so sore meant I was actually working the muscles that I need to strengthen. Maybe I was sore because my exercises are targeting the exact right spots.
So, perhaps my muscle soreness wasn’t a sign that I was doing something wrong or that I had taken on too much. It was a sign that I am on the right track.
I’d love to say that my legs stopped hurting then, some sort of miracle of mind over matter, but that’s not the case. As I’m writing this on Monday afternoon, my legs are still a bit sore but I feel better about that fact.
And my brain is much more willing to stick with the plan now that I have proof of the program’s effectiveness (long before I would have any other evidence that it is working.)
I don’t know why I haven’t made this explicit connection before but, like I said above, brains are annoying creatures. However, I can’t really blame my brain for trying to hurry the process by coaxing me to start at a higher level and I definitely can’t blame it for all the times it has advised me against sticking with a program that’s making my muscles sore. After all, pain is usually a warning system, isn’t it?
This time however, I think I have brought my brain onside. And I am going to work to keep it here.
After a couple of months of external stresses, I’ve been feeling extra worn-out lately.
Not an incredibly serious type of worn-out, not burnt-out or done-in, just an ordinary sort of worn-out. Maybe frayed at the edges but still functional and repairable.
Everything I have to do is not staying done (more details and questions pop up after decisions have been made), or it’s more complicated than it seems, or I need information/resources that aren’t available yet.
And on top of that, some of the stuff my past-self scheduled for the not-now turns out to be happening in my now.
Even though it is only March 14, I kind of feel like I am Ron in this episode of Parks and Recreation:
My ADHD instinct is to put my head down and keep trudging through task after task until stuff gets done. My brain tries to convince me that if I just work hard enough – no breaks, extra effort, work all the time – I can do AllOfTheThings and then I can have a nice long break.
Of course, if I fall for my brain’s nonsense I will be working extra hard for an extra long time on this stuff and then other things will pile up.
By the time I get thorough this stuff, those other things will have become urgent and my brain will be telling me to ‘just’ get those things done and THEN I can take a real break.
You can see the pattern, right?
Instead of getting a long break, I’ll just be in an endless cycle of working hard to catch up.*
I’m getting tired just writing about it.
So, instead of trying to work extra hard, I’ve decided to be extra kind to myself.
I wrote down everything I could think of that I felt like I needed to do.
I took out everything that could be done by someone else or be done later.
I scaled down as many things as I could.
And then I added in extra kindness for myself.
I have been choosing to pause for an extra cup of tea.
I have been setting my timer to remind me to stretch.
I have been taking time to journal.
I’m choosing to meditate a few minutes at a time throughout my day.
I’m taking time for exercise, for yoga, and for lying on my mat staring at the ceiling.
And choosing the path of extra self-kindness is making a difference in how I feel overall.
I no longer feel like bedtime is me skidding to a stop.
My shoulders have moved down a little from my ears.
I’m seeing spaces in my day that are about taking care of myself instead of getting stuff done.
I know, you’d think I’d be better at this by now.
After all, I am fully aware of the dangers of overscheduling, and of the way that all the things I need to do get in the way of the things I want to do.
I am a cheerleader for self-kindness but, still, I forget.
And I bet you do, too.
I think it’s because sometimes we all have extra-busy weeks, or times when things are complicated, and we do just need to push through, put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, and forge ahead. In those weeks, we might put aside some of our usual self-kindnesses in favour of getting through a rough spot.
But, if we have a few weeks like that in a row, it starts to feel like ‘this is my life now’ and it is tricky to take a step back and reassess. It’s way easier to put those self-kindnesses into the not-now and assume we will get to them when we have more time.
We don’t need to blame ourselves for falling into the busy trap – our whole society is set up to lure us into that one – instead, we need to notice when we have fallen in and be extra kind to ourselves as we make our way out.
So, Team, if you are feeling worn out and frayed at the edges, I invite you to think about these two questions:
1) How do you *want* to feel right now?
2) What self-kindnesses can help you feel that way?
I know, there may be lots of things in your life that you can’t change right now. There are probably all kinds of difficult things that you can’t avoid.
I’m not saying that self-kindness is a magic cure that will make those things go away.
However, if you can do a few things that help you feel better, that help you feel more like yourself, whether that is exercise, rest, time with a friend, writing in your journal, watching a favourite show, listening to a novel while you drive, it will be at least a little helpful.
You will take up more space in your own life, you’ll remind yourself that you matter, and you will feel a little more prepared to take charge of the other things that you have going on.
So, Team, even when time is tight, please go ahead and set up your mat, boil the kettle, put on your sneakers, find your knitting, or whatever the hell else you like doing. You don’t need to wait until you have everything else done and you don’t need hours of time.
Even a few extra minutes of self-kindness can make a big difference.
Here’s your gold star for your efforts:
*that presumes that there is actually such a thing as being ‘caught up’ but that’s a whole other discussion.
Note: I am reserving judgment on April though. Who knows what might come after March? Could be anything, really. It’s the very distant future, extremely Not Now.
Before we dive into super-real, and definitely happening right now, March, let’s roll back to the very distant and hazy past and see how the ancient month of February went. (ADHD time is a bizarre and fluid thing, no?)
My plan for the month was to extend my walks a little, to follow my meditation program, and to do at least one hip mobility exercise before bed.
I didn’t extend every walk but I extended as many as I could. We had some especially erratic weather in February – lots of snow storms, some warm(ish) temperatures and some ridiculously cold temperatures. The pathways and sidewalks and streets have varied from clear and easily-traveled to hellish landscapes of lumpy ice and deep patches of softer snow. Between temperatures that were too cold for the dog’s safety and terrain that was too uneven for my safety, it was tricky to be consistent with longer walks. But, that being said, when things were safe for me and for Khalee, we added a little extra time to our adventures.
I managed to meditate fairly regularly but I didn’t follow the program of daily meditation I had planned. BUT because my plan was short-term, it felt easier to keep course-correcting towards meditating daily and, as a result, I meditated more often than I have in the past. Also, I became more aware of when stress was making me breathe shallowly and took conscious, slow, ribcage-expanding breaths to help myself feel better. Those breaths aren’t meditation per se but it is a mindful style of breathing so I’m counting them as part of my meditation practice overall.
The hip mobility exercises are where I really shone in February. I didn’t use a tracker but since I stacked the exercises into my bedtime routine I was able to do them at least 20/28 evenings. I found a big difference in my hips and lower back as a result.
So, as I think back on the ancient history of February 2023 I am comfortable with declaring it a success. And I think I owe that success to two things: 1) only planning one month at a time 2) reflective journaling.
A Short Reflection on Reflective Fitness Journaling in February
I wrote in it for the first two Sundays but then I had two busy Sundays in a row. Logically, I should have moved my journaling plan to a different day but I didn’t.
Because the first two weeks were so helpful, I was in reflective mode even though I didn’t always write things in my journal. So, I was still getting some of the benefits even with a less structured version of the practice.
And being in reflective mode really helped me to be kinder to myself about how I approached my other practices and it guided me to spend a little extra time figuring out how to fit movement and meditation into my daily or weekly schedule.
My conclusion? Even imperfect reflection practices are extremely beneficial.
So, obviously I am going to keep up my reflective journaling plans but I am going to aim for 4 written reflections – one each Monday.
I’m keeping my evening hip mobility exercise but I am going to add in a shoulder mobility exercise every morning when I take my meds (or at least when I get my reminder to take my meds.)
I already get at least 20 minutes of movement every day but for (the rest of) March, I’m going to aim to do that movement before noon each day. Might be yoga, might be a walk with Khalee, might be strength training, but the goal is to have it happen earlier in the day.
And I’m going to keep working on that daily meditation practice – even if it is ‘just’ that mindful breathing I described above.
Despite my best intentions, I never quite got a grip on Planuary.
At the end of December, I really thought that I would be able to take my time throughout January and slowly build a plan for my year. Alas, life got in the way and I ended up taking January pretty much day by day.
That was ok, especially since it was the only possible way for me to proceed at that point.
Basically, I spent January puttering along in all areas of my life.
On the well-being side of things, I did yoga when it felt right, meditated when it felt right, took walks, did some stretches, and, last week, I did some rowing. Those things were all pretty good and I am happy about trusting myself to do what I needed to do on any given day but it did feel a bit aimless.
I’m not judging myself there, aimless worked for me this month but, of course, being aimless didn’t give me the cumulative-work-toward-a-goal feeling that I was looking for.
I really wanted January to feel like I was solving a puzzle, like I was figuring out what I wanted to do and creating a plan for doing it. Instead, metaphorically, I gathered a bunch of jigsaw puzzle pieces, sorted a few of them and then went on to a logic puzzle before dropping that in favour of a riddle. All of those are good things, all of them are useful and enjoyable, but they didn’t come to any sort of satisfactory conclusion.
So, here I am at the end of January without a plan for the rest of my year.
And I know that I still can’t wrap my brain around ‘things I want to do in 2023.’
I also know that I don’t want to just keep wandering aimlessly.
So, I’m picking a middle ground and looking at February as a self-contained unit in which I can work on things that will add up throughout that month but that may not extend into March and may not even be part of a bigger project.
Sidenote: In my current approach, March doesn’t even exist yet so I can’t possibly plan fitness things to do in a possibly fictional month.
A month is really tangible for my ADHD brain, I can see how things might play out in that period of time and, barring a catastrophe, I usually have a good sense of what is coming up for me in the next month. A year, on the other hand, feels like forever and like no time, all at once and my brain gets lost in the simultaneous limits and possibilities.
So, while I usually have a good sense of things I want to have in my life in ‘the future’, I struggle to scale things and plan them out over a year. I end up either creating a plan that is too rigid or too flexible and I end up spending waaaaaaay too much time recalibrating.
(In retrospect, I guess I have always thought that this issue was one of imprecise planning (hence the Planuary plan) but now I’m wondering how much time-perception factors in.)
So, instead of thinking of something I want from this year and then breaking that down into monthly pieces, I am approaching this year from the opposite direction.
I’m going to choose some appealing activities to work on during February and I’ll keep track of how much I do and how I feel about them.
Once March feels a little less fictional (I mean, assuming it ever does 😉 ), I’ll see if I want to keep going with those activities or if I want to move on to something else.
Right now, my thinking is going a bit like this, “I want to meditate regularly so, for February, I’m going to follow the program in the journal I got for Christmas.” “I want to go on longer walks so, for February, I am going to take a slightly longer route.” “I want more hip flexibility so, for February, I am going to do a hip exercise before bed.”
I’m not trying to work up to a certain level. I’m not trying to accumulate a certain number of steps, a certain number of meditation minutes or days, I’m not trying to be able to measure up to a certain level of hip-flexibility. I am not considering this the groundwork for doing the next stage of anything.
I am taking February as a self-contained, measurable, tangible period of time in which to try some specific things. I don’t have to wonder about the next steps. I don’t have to think about how those things fit into the greater context of my year. I just have to focus on February and trust that what I need in March will become apparent as time goes on.
Again, assuming that March actually becomes real at some point. 😉
Thanks to some combination of ADHD and personality, I often have trouble getting started on things. Whether it is starting a project in the first place or starting my work on it for the day, I find it really challenging to begin – no matter how much I want to do the thing.
This executive function ‘task initiation’ problem gets even more tangly if the thing I am trying to do feels important (to me or to someone else), if it involves many steps, or if the task is not clear.
Starting new habits often involves all of those things and the only way I have found to counter my inertia is by setting a limit – in time, task, or effort.
So, I agree that I am going to do just one task, or to work on the project for 10 minutes, or I am going to go gently.
And that can usually* help me find a way to get started.
If you are having trouble getting started with any habits you want to plan or develop, maybe setting a limit will help you, too.
Note: I’m NOT suggesting that having trouble getting started automatically means that you have ADHD/executive function issues. But, hey, you might as well borrow a technique from someone who has a lot of practice with the problem.
If you are having trouble getting started with your habit-related task for today – try setting a time limit or choosing a version of the task that feels accessible to you today.
If you are having trouble making a plan at all, try choosing a time limit and low-key task for this aspect of the plan. For example, you could say something like ‘I can’t set a plan for the whole month, that’s too big. I’m going to do 1 minute of meditation each day for the next 3 days and then reevaluate.‘
If you have repeatedly had trouble getting started, with your plan or with your habit tasks, the problem is not you – it’s a mismatch between your plan and your capacity. I’ll get into that in tomorrow’s post but in the meantime, please be kind to yourself about the whole thing.
And, of course, I have a gold star to offer you for your efforts today – no matter what they are.
Good luck out there!
*Not always, unfortunately, sometimes ADHD wins. I just have to be kind to myself about that and try again another time.
I’m trying to figure out what to include in a fitness journal.
I love the idea of recording my plans and ideas and then writing my reflections on my practices but I know better than to try to put all of that onto a blank page.
If I have an open-ended journal, I will feel like I have to write AllOfTheThings AllOfTheTime and I will start avoiding journaling.
I looked for a fitness journal I could buy – thinking that a structured set of questions would be like ‘containers’ for my thoughts – but mostly I found fitness trackers.
Keeping track of the details may be part of my journaling but what I am really interested in is recording and reflecting on my physical and emotional experiences.
So, I am taking a DIY approach – choosing a set of 3-5 fitness-related questions to put on an index card that I will use as a bookmark in a regular journal.
I figure that if I have a set of questions ready it will not only help to structure my thoughts but I can also just number the answers in my journal and not create any obstacles for myself by having to rewrite the questions each time I journal.
I’ve found lots of suggested questions online (see links below) and I am mulling those over – not looking for perfect questions, just seeing what feels interesting to me.
But, speaking of interesting, I’d be interested to know what *you* think would make a good reflective question for a fitness journal.
What do find useful to consider about your fitness practices?
What do you wish you had made note of when you started something new?
What kinds of feelings or experiences do you think I should reflect on?
If you’re interested, here are some of the articles I found online. (I think Sam suggested the first one in a previous Facebook post.)
TL/DR: Resting when you are sick is a good thing but it is very complicated when many of your roles are responsive rather clearly defined. It would be helpful if people acknowledged how complicated it can be instead of just telling a sick person to rest.
Truth be told, I had a pretty good run of luck but, alas, all good things must end and last week, despite my various precautions, I came down with Covid.
(And, subsequently, despite our in-house precautions, so did my whole family. Thankfully, none of us took any scary turns for the worse and we are all improving slowly but it was overwhelming and difficult and worrisome.)
So, I guess that means that my resistance to (and reluctance about) going out last Monday was probably part and parcel of having a virus attacking my system, not just a case of garden-variety I-don’t-wanna.
Now, I know that the key to recovery from any illness is rest and that that goes quadruple for Covid. The internet is full of advice about just how much and how long you should rest during and immediately after a bout with the virus.
But, frankly, it feels a bit like when I was a new mother and I was told to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps.’
Just like back then, the advice is good and so are the intentions, but…
HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO PULL THAT OFF?
Who is coming to step into my (metaphorical) shoes?
I‘m pretty good at the physical aspect of resting. I can take to my bed like a Victorian lady, surrounded by tea, snacks, books, and tissues.
However, even in the midst of all kinds of practical and moral support, it is damn hard to step back from the mental work of the things I do day-to-day. So my bedside accoutrements also include my phone and a notebook and some lists so I can deal with the things that are too complicated to hand off to someone else.
I am definitely not trying to claim that I am indispensable or any other nonsense like that but I am *used* to the things I have to do on a regular basis. I have practice. I am well-trained for my roles.
I’d need to be able to download the entire contextual net of my thoughts to be able to hand this off easily.
Now, to be clear, my paid work as a writer/coach/storyteller can largely be rescheduled. However, my family and volunteer roles, those can’t be handled the same way.
And a lot of that work can’t wait. I can’t, for example, put off groceries until I feel better. Normally, I would just go once a week or so and pick up the usual stuff and while I cook most of the time, any of us are capable of cooking.
But, I can’t just drop that task. We have to eat, even if we’re sick.
And since our existing system hinges on how my brain works, I have to be involved in the process of reassigning those tasks. Even if I am not going to be the one going to the grocery store, even if I am not going to be the one generating the list, I’m going to be consulted on the details. And since the default system (me going to the supermarket) won’t be happening, we need to figure out who is going to go and when they can go, and so on. Instead of an automatic system, it has become a series of plans and decisions.
That’s just one small part the various details I generally handle for my family.
For my volunteer work, often a lot of things can wait, but my work last week was related to upcoming public events that cannot be rescheduled. Yes, I have a team but I’ve been the person putting all the pieces together to make the big picture and it’s a bit late in the process to plop someone else into that role.
And I know some people reading are probably thinking things like: “Well, if you delegated the work in the first place…If you didn’t gatekeep…If you didn’t try doing everything yourself…If you trusted other people to do their work…If you insisted that other people take responsibility for things at home…”
I get why you might think all of those things. It’s a natural response to wonder if I have had a hand in creating this problem.
However, this isn’t about me trying to be a martyr and it’s definitely not about me gatekeeping or not holding other people responsible to do their part. It’s way more complex than that.
It’s about the roles I have ended up taking on in my life – by choice, by default, by societal expectation. It’s about a series of things going slightly awry and things coming to a time crunch. And it’s about someone with ADHD just doing the best she can most of the time and then not necessarily being able to ‘show her work’ so someone can take things to the next step.
Because of my ADHD, I struggle with creating systems. I have trouble seeing the bits and pieces of a project. I appreciate when I can delegate things but I’m not always conscious of the steps involved in my work until I am in the middle of them so it’s a bit hard to help someone else know what to do.
In fact, I often say that it is only when I am working on step one of a project that step two will float up out of the fog and reveal itself. It’s like one of those adventure movies or video games where the heroine has to be brave enough to step toward the chasm in order for the first part of the floating platform to appear.
So, as a result, way too much of any project I am involved in is in my head. I am working on documenting more of my routine activities but since that is exactly the kind of work my brain hates the most and since I don’t have someone willing to follow me around and take notes, it will take a while to make that happen.
So, while I am not a Type A person and I am not obsessed with work, when I am resting I have extra trouble giving away the tasks I usually take on.
Don’t get me wrong, I would happily hand them off. I don’t even need them to be done ‘my’ way. I’m just not sure what tasks I usually do nor am I necessarily sure what needs to be done next.
And even when I do know what to do next, I find that the coordinating tasks that usually fall to me take a lot of work to pass along to someone else. In fact, it is less stressful to do the thing than it is to to figure out how to share the information that I am waiting on a call from person A and if they say yes then tasks 1, 2, 3 need to happen but if they say now, then task 1 can happen but we need to call person B for task 2, and skip task 3, and do 3B instead.
(Meanwhile, if I do continue with a few tasks, I give the impression that I’m not all that sick or that it is business as usual, and then more work comes my way but that’s a whole other thing.)
Even if I were to try to explain that collection of tasks and what-ifs to someone who has offered to help, it’s likely that they would get completely overwhelmed because it is too much all at once. And since they couldn’t possibly pick up a month’s worth of details in a single conversation, I would end up with umpteen texts and emails to confirm bits and pieces of information.
So, instead of having one set of tasks to do in bits and pieces as I felt able, planning for the kind of complete complete rest that we’re advised to do would actually involve multiple levels of new tasks.
I would essentially be choosing between 1) doing the tasks as they showed up for me or 2) a) struggling to identify the tasks I unconsciously do for a given project b) connecting them to their relevant information in my head and typing that out somewhere c) putting both of that in some sort of timeline d) figuring out who the best person is to take the next steps e) hoping it isn’t too much to ask f) responding to the person’s (completely justified) questions at random intervals.
Which sounds more like rest to you?
In the end, I’ve been doing a hybrid sort of thing.
I typed out as many things as I could think of that needed to be done and added any context that occurred to me.
I farmed out any urgent things to people who had capacity to handle them (and, to be clear, I had lots of offers of help and support and I took people up on them as often as was feasible.)
I did (and continue to do) any things that I could manage, whenever I felt up to doing them.
And, annoyingly, I’ve dealt with some of the same sort of pushback I had when I was a new mom who couldn’t rest when the baby rested because it was my only chance to get something to eat, to put in a load of laundry, or to pick up the things that were cluttering the room and making me feel overwhelmed.
I’m not ignoring good advice.
I’m not pretending that the world can’t get along without me.
I’m not refusing to let other people help.
I’m trying to recover from an illness while I balance my needs against my responsibilities.
And while I could, in the long run, develop systems to make the delegate process easier, for right now, I am doing the best I can with the resources I have and getting grief for that just makes things harder.
So, can I ask you a favour?
If you are advising someone to rest, could you be respectful about it?
Maybe say things like ‘Are you getting enough rest?’ or ‘Is there anything I can take on that would help you to rest?’ instead of ‘The world can get by without you for a few days.’ or ‘You’ll never get better if you don’t rest.’
It’s all well and good to tell people to rest so they can recover but the process way more complicated than them just switching off their lives and heading to bed.
Let’s not pretend otherwise.
PS – I am deeply grateful for all the help and all the offers of help we have received this week. My friends and family have made things a lot easier and I have been well taken care of.