Task Paralysis is the sensation of knowing you have something to do, wanting to do it, and absolutely not being able to move your body to get started. This is a real experience even though people who don’t struggle with it really can't understand it.
Hyperfocus is getting in the zone, being in flow, achieving a zen state. It’s magical and creative when it doesn’t conflict with other activities. The downside is that sometimes we hyperfocus to the exclusion of self-care, time frames, and others’ expectations.
Procrastination for AD/HDers creates a state of urgency that allows us to tackle an unpleasant task and power through to get it done. Our high intelligence and competence shine through in these moments, but the toll these bursts take on our energy, health, and mindset is significant.
The AD/HD nervous system likes novelty, fun, and creativity. These qualities can initiate hyperfocus, whereas tasks lacking these traits can lead to paralysis and procrastination.
PRESCRIPTION #1: Make it fun! Find a way to inject a bit of fun, silliness, or creativity into a project. Put dance music on to clean the kitchen. Eat three M&Ms after each small computer task. Use stickers or emojis to decorate your daily schedule.
Breaking away from a hyperfocus can be a supreme challenge. It requires extraordinary amounts of executive functioning to stop when in the grips of an engaging activity. Sometimes we may intensely focus on something challenging, to the point of frustration and dysregulation. Or we may unintentionally ignore people or tasks that also need our attention.
PRESCRIPTION #2: Rip the Velcro! This is my analogy for the feeling of pulling yourself out of a hyperfocus. How many times and in which situations do you say to yourself “Just one more”? Each one of us needs to find our own method for breaking the spell. Changing your body state is a good start.
People who experience these challenges are not lazy or careless. These are real neurological phenomena that we can work to manage, but which are deeply ingrained in our nervous systems’ design and function. Tending to our health and wellbeing provides us with the highest energy level with which to address these challenges. Following a routine that incorporates all the basic self-care categories provides a solid foundation for daily functioning.
PRESCRIPTION #3: Sleep, hydrate, exercise, and eat well. Review each of these areas to ensure you are doing them well every day. Resolve any issues that get in the way of:
Mistakes happen. All the time. We tell our children that it’s ok to make mistakes because that’s how they learn. But we don’t always extend ourselves the same grace. For some reason we believe as adults we’re supposed to know everything and not mess up anymore. Ha! What a bunch of hooey!
You can change your self-talk around mistakes or missteps. Instead of calling yourself names and assigning mean adjectives to yourself, say “Doing ____ was a mistake and I will keep trying to do better”. Spend a short period of time planning for how to avoid the same mistake in the future and then let it go. You don’t deserve to carry around bad feelings because of a human foible. Everyone has them.
For more support with AD/HD and other mental health topics, visit Humanest.