In the last year, thanks to the makers of my anti-depressant medication, my depression is more under control. What’s emerged as my depression subsided, is that I have significant attention deficit tendencies. I was tested for ADD/ADHD and I’m not ADD enough for a formal diagnosis, but without deliberate external forces, I am ADD-esque. My psych nurse calls it “ADD lite.”
Being ADD-esque can be problematic since I also have anxiety. I can be easily distracted and too much stimulation is overwhelming. I have a low threshold for large crowds, rush-hour traffic, and shopping malls. I mentally and emotionally short circuit if I’m in an environment with too much input.
I’ve noticed that I already employ several behavioral techniques recommended to people with ADD. Last year, Peter Shankman did a webinar called ADHD Superpower about how he uses his ADHD for professional and personal success. This was eye-opening to me towards acknowledging that I can be somewhat ADD when I don’t manage myself.
Peter compares ADHD to the engine in a sports car. It can be a lot of fun when you know how to use it. When your brain is faster than the average person’s, you have to harness that power to use it to your advantage or it will cause problems. Here ae some of the techniques I use to manage my ADD-esque life: Here are some of the tricks that work for me.
I’ve always struggled with indecisiveness. In high school, I burst into tears on two occasions buying sneakers because of the internal pressure around picking shoes. Now I eliminate choice whenever possible. In regards to my clothes, I decide what I’m going to wear that day before I get out of the shower. That way, I can walk into my closet, grab what I need, and get on with my day.
When it comes to what I eat, I cook on the weekend and that’s what makes up the bulk of my meals throughout the week. My meals are redundant, and I don’t care. Many nights, I pre-pack my lunch so everything is portioned out before I go to bed. If I’m going to a restaurant, I look at the menu online and decide what I’m going to eat in advance. Otherwise, there’s a high probability that I’ll hem and haw over choices, and it’s agonizing for me as well as my dining companion.
For me, not exercising is not an option. I shouldn’t skip a workout unless I’m sick, injured, or too tired to the point of exhaustion where working out will cause more harm than good. I suspect my years of being a gymnast, training three hours a night plus my perfectionistic nature, kept my ADD tendencies under control throughout high school. I’ve seen a running shirt that says, “I run to keep the crazy away” and I get that. If I go more than two days without doing cardio, I start to feel “off.” It helps burn off the excess energy so I can sit down and focus.
I don’t always like going for a run, but I see it as important as taking my medication.
I wouldn’t get half as much work as I do done if I didn’t have lists. I have a goal list for the month that breaks down into to-do lists for each week and each day ends with me writing my list for the next day. Lists give me a visual reminder of my goals, they help me break down big projects into manageable chunks (or else I’ll freeze up with anxiety), and I get the validation of crossing the item off when it’s done. Lists are a big part of what keeps me productive – it’s not that I don’t have goals, but I need reminders to keep myself on task.
Peter Shankman started a podcast called Faster Than Normal where he interviews all types of successful people who have ADD or ADHD. They talk about their stories and the tips and tricks they use to unlock the secrets of the ADD/ADHD brain. I listen to it during my workouts and I love it. Every episode has useful suggestions and validates my ADD experience. I recommend it if you have ADD/ADHD or want to understand it.
And definitely check out the ADHD Superpower webinar if you want to hear what Peter does to make his ADHD work for him.