Blowin' in the Wind
When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills
I have always aspired to be a person who “builds windmills”. I do not “build walls”, but like many of my fellow ADHD adults, I do have trouble adjusting to new situations. Yes, I love new stimuli, but it is still very difficult for me to adjust to new environments or any major changes in routine. For example, I tend to stay too long in jobs and neighborhoods, clinging to the familiar for fear that major change will do me in.
Writing in PsychCentral, Laurie Dupar notes that she has noticed a pattern in her clients that she terms the “tipping point”, a change in their lives when the strategies they have been using to compensate for their ADHD challenges no longer seem to be working. Before reaching a tipping point, people are often able to balance their known or unknown ADHD challenges with strategies they may not have even realized they were using; they are able to adapt and cope well. But then a life change renders the current strategies ineffective, and over time there is a sense that life is suddenly falling apart.
Some people experience their first tipping point after a significant life change, even a positive one such as getting married, having a child, or moving homes. These changes can often upset an unknown balance. Another tipping point can be a promotion at work, with changes and expectations that can throw us off, or physical injury or illness which cause our activity levels to decrease and take away much-needed structure and boosts of dopamine to our brains.
The current Covid-19 pandemic has been a huge tipping point for many of us, with the massive changes it has brought to how we work, attend school, shop, exercise, socialize, get together for our holidays, or even leave our homes. I notice that I am becoming more of a hermit than I would like to be, and I’m driving myself crazy trying to figure out how to safely see my grandkids in the midst of ever-changing positivity rates and restrictions.
Clearly there are many reasons, several of them outside of our control, that might lead us to a tipping point. When at this crossroads, we need to determine how we will react -- build a wall and hide from the chaos and overwhelm, or build a windmill and relearn ways to cope with the changes to get back on track.
In addition to the changes that are out of our control -- the actual winds of change -- there are changes that we wish to make for ourselves, to make our own lives happier or more productive. These may be in response to external changes, or may develop from within as we contemplate whether our current life situation still suits us.
Susan Lasky, writing in ADDITUDE Magazine, writes that self-awareness is the key to effective action and change. She notes that ADHD brains often rely on magical thinking -- we want things to be different and we hope that change will happen without sustained effort on our part. Or, we battle with our ADHD brains, “denying and fighting a lifetime of truths about how we do and do not function well”.
Lasky believes that recognizing our ADHD differences, understanding ourselves (self-awareness) and appreciating our true selves (self-acceptance) are the keys to unlocking real change and progress. She suggests 5 ways to begin that process:
Self-awareness starts with determining our own strengths and challenges, like how we work vs how we wish we worked, and then developing strategies to boost our strengths and compensate for our ADHD challenges. For example, once we understand what recharges our energy, we can commit time for that on our schedule.
Self-acceptance involves letting go of how we think we “should be” to accept how we actually are, how we think, and how we get things done.
3. Trust in our own ability
Yes, trust yourself to do things differently but still successfully.
4. Give our brains a roadmap
Change happens when strategies are clear and realistic, goals are achievable, objectives are specific.
5. Take action.
Be prepared with counter-strategies for the external events or internal concerns like avoidance or lack of energy that can derail us. Always be kind to ourselves, because knowing and understanding our ADHD brain is the best preparation for making wanted changes and getting things accomplished.
Personally, I hope to utilize some of Lasky’s suggestions, as I fully acknowledge that my current response to the winds of change is neither windmills nor walls, but more like a dandelion of sorts, just blowin’ in the wind and hanging on by a thread…
“The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind” … Bob Dylan