Remembering what’s important to me

After such a solid run of ADHD/mental health posts, this week I fully intended to switch topics – but apparently my brain had other ideas.

This past Sunday I crashed hard. Without warning, I suddenly couldn’t find it in me to even get out of bed. Everything in my life felt meaningless. My emotions retreated, leaving me with flat, grey nothing.

It’s hardly the first time I’ve felt like that. I would call it depression, except that the clinical description of depression requires those feelings to go on for at least two weeks. In me they rarely last more than a day or two – as suddenly as they arrived, I’ll wake up the next morning ready to get up and face the world again.

So what’s going on when I get like that? Now that I have the added perspective of my ADHD diagnosis, I think I might finally have the answer – and maybe even a solution.

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Surviving self-isolation part 6 – making sense of big goals with Trello

Here we are: the final post in my series on looking after my ADHD brain and still getting things done during self-isolation.

While I have no illusions about being my best or most productive self while living through a literal pandemic, the wonderful thing about these techniques I’ve been putting into practice is that none of them have to stop there. If I can make them my new normal, even as we all collectively figure out the world’s new normal, then I hope they can keep on helping me to be healthier, happier, and better able to get things done.

If you’re reading this, I hope some of them can help you too.

Anyway! Last week I wrote about using daily lists to keep myself focused on my the tasks I want to accomplish today, without becoming overwhelmed by options. But how do I know what tasks those are?

Tasks that are simple, or at least familiar – whoops, I need to get to the supermarket again before we run out of milk! – are easy enough to add to a daily list, get it done, and tick it off. The same can’t be said of the tasks required to achieve longer-term goals, or goals that take me out of my familiar routine. Those big goals, like move house or learn to make my own clothes contain far greater complexity than my daily lists can encompass.

For big goals, I need something more – that’s where Trello comes in.

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Surviving self-isolation part 5 – daily task lists

We’ve nearly reached the end of my series on how I’m keeping my ADHD brain (relatively) healthy and productive through self-isolation.

That’s not to say that the isolation itself is, or should be, ending – even here in New Zealand we’re far from out of the coronavirus woods, and we’re doing a whole lot better than certain other nations. We still need to do everything we can to slow the virus’s spread, to reduce pressure on our medical systems, and to keep each other, and especially our most vulnerable, safe. And that means staying home as much as humanly possible.

But as far as this series is concerned, this is my second-last post. I’ve already talked about how I get myself going in the morning; how I keep the stress of a messy home at bay; the importance first and foremost of being kind to ourselves right now; and how I use scheduled check-ins to combat loneliness while keeping myself on-task and on time.

To finish off, this week and next week I will be looking at two techniques I use, in combination, to combat the biggest challenges of trying to be productive while self-isolating with an ADHD brain: overwhelm, difficulty getting started, difficulty finishing, overwhelm, lack of deadlines/priorities, and did I mention overwhelm?

This week, a strategy I’m really excited to talk about: daily task lists.

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Surviving self-isolation part 4 – setting up scheduled, external check-ins

In a weird twist of fortune, I actually spent the last few months before everyone got serious about coronavirus getting extensive practice at being cut off from people.

My most recent job – the one I had right up until everything went into lockdown – involved involved living and working by myself in a national park for ten days each fortnight. I wasn’t alone – it was literally part of my job to chat with the park visitors and overnight campers (nature nerd heaven!) – but my bosses were based in town, and it wasn’t unusual for me to not see another staff member the entire time I was there.

I absolutely loved being in the park, but that doesn’t change the fact that I struggles with working alone. My ADHD brain is not well set-up to stay on-task, let alone on time, when left to its own devices.

Fortunately, my job also came with something that turned out to be vital to managing those challenges: scheduled, external check-ins.

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Surviving self-isolation part 2 – targeted tidying

As I said last week, I’m focusing my next few blog posts on strategies that help me cope with being an ADHD brain stuck at home, trying to minimise my stress while also maximising my ability to actually get things done.

This week: self-care through targeted tidying.

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Surviving self-isolation part 1 – building a morning routine with Brili

We are living through some very strange and scary times right now. Like many people, I am staying home – compulsorily, since New Zealand has entered total lockdown as of today. The good news is that I do still have a job; but since it’s a non-essential, outdoor job, for now I have no actual work.

Like many ADHDers, I find the complete freedom to do what I like with my time a bit of an executive dysfunction nightmare. It’s all too easy in this situation to end up doing nothing, while thinking about everything.

Luckily, I have some experience with managing long periods of unstructured time. I’ve developed a few tools and tricks for such situations, to help me stay sane and even get things done. So I’m going to devote my next few blog posts to sharing these, and hope that they help other people too.

First up: using Brili to get going in the morning.

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Forget habit tracking – ADHD brains need habit-rewarding apps

I’m pleased to report that my efforts to write a minimum of 200 words every day continue strong. I haven’t managed to write every single day, but I have managed to be forgiving of my slips, and to pick up where I left off after only a day or two. And that in itself is a big deal for me.

Still, I’m aware that like all habits I try to develop, the hardest part will be keeping myself motivated when I’ve been doing this long enough that the novelty factor of “I’m actually writing nearly every day!” wears off.

Continue reading “Forget habit tracking – ADHD brains need habit-rewarding apps”

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Learning lessons from my bad days

As you may have gathered from my last update and from the lack of blog posts generally, the brain weasels have been biting hard.

Stepping down off Effexor has been a painful process. At the higher doses, it was mostly a case of waiting out the first week of adjustment: the dizzy head-spins, the oversleeping, getting motion sickness from something as minor as looking at my phone while walking. As I’ve hit the lower doses, though, I’ve started to experience effects that don’t go away as I adjust.

It’s been hard – but it’s also been instructive.

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Clearing out the mental clutter (without going on a four-day hike)

I recently returned from a four-day hiking trip. Hiking is an activity I don’t undertake often – it usually takes a year or so for the memory of the aches and pains, poor sleep, and lack of refrigerated food to wear off to the point where I start yearning for the positive aspects of a long hike.

Besides the beautiful scenery, one of the elements that keeps bringing me back is the amazing sense of mental clarity hiking produces in me.

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The horror of small habits: handling habit overload

Some years ago, I went to see a physio about recurring headaches brought on by neck tension. When he was done poking and prodding me, he taught me a set of neck stretches. “Do these for five minutes every day,” he told me, “and you shouldn’t have to come back here.”

Years later, I still do those stretches religiously as part of my morning routine and my neck is much happier. In theory, it would be brilliant if all my problems could be solved this way: take up some small, daily habit and never have to worry about mess, stress, health or happiness ever again.

And yet.

Recently I went back to the physio with lower back problems. But this time, when he finished up with, “Let’s look at some simple preventative exercises…”, my heart sank. The very thought made me want to execute a hard reverse out the door.

So what’s changed? Simple: I’ve hit habit overload.

Continue reading “The horror of small habits: handling habit overload”

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