Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cookie Time: ADHD Distractions as Therapy

Some distractions are tasty

As you may have noticed, I have ADHD. One of the ways it manifests itself in my life is something I affectionately call Multi-Irons Syndrome. This means that as I get bored, I have a tendency to abandon one task to pick up another. The shinier the better! Over the years I have trained myself to control that. This is how I was able to finish my book. (I'm afraid I'm so pleased with my accomplishment that I'll be touting it for awhile.) The key to my success, however, was that I didn't expect myself to stay on task 100% of the time. I gave myself mental breaks.

Putting ADHD in a full Nelson may seem like the best way to wrestle control of your life, but the effort can be exhausting, and I question whether it is healthy to always control our ADHD so tightly. Increased stress levels and feelings of failure are bound to arise because adult ADD and ADHD defies such constraints. This is why it is important to recognize that ADHD is not always a detriment. It can be a source of joy.

To maintain positive self-esteem and mental stamina, I have allowed myself a few distractions to cycle through. I consider it a release valve that lets my mind spin freely before wrestling with it to be on task again. For example, I am simultaneously practicing the ocarina, the soprano & tenor recorders, the pennywhistle, and the clarinet. I started to pick up the melodica, but that was too much even for me! But oh, does it beg to be played! That's OK. I allow myself to have music time so that I enrich my life. What does it matter if I pick up yet another instrument? I do realize that if I want to master an instrument, I need to focus on that instrument, but I'm already focusing on being a full-time dad, a freelance writer, and now, an author.

Video games used to be a favorite distraction, but became a source of addiction. I went cold turkey years ago. Now I can let myself play games again without the binging problems I used to have. If I need to unwind, and the impulse leads me there, I just set a timer.

My favorite distraction of all, however, is baking. Here NEW is allowed to reign as I let myself experiment with new recipes. Sometimes, I experiment with old recipes. If I fail, then whatever. I go wherever my whims takes me, even if the results are less than pleasing. The pumpkin pie cupcakes I made two weeks ago were gooey and gross. I burned 3/4 of the crumpets I made last week before I figured them out. I wasn't worried a single bit. In fact, I posted pictures of my failures online and laughed. Last night, I felt like baking cookies, so bam! Out came the KitchenAid. Cookies are a specialty of mine, so these came out perfect. But whether they are perfect or pathetic, the experience brings me joy.

You may be used to AD/HD ruining your life because you zig when you should zag. Impulses may even frighten you because they mean you can lose hours, days, or weeks pursuing your new pleasure when the project you were supposed to finish languishes in the back of your mind. The harder you push yourself, however, the harder you seem to fail sometimes, I know it can be frustrating. First, try accepting that you will likely be distracted again. Then learn how to manage your distractability with a list of authorized distractions that let you feel free, but which don't take over your life.

Do you already employ this technique? Got some questions about the process? Leave a comment below.