Monday, February 24, 2014

Get Rid of ADHD Boredom Once and For All

Bored of Being BummedMy fifteen year old daughter, the Leprechaun, has ADHD. She can't be medicated for it because she inherited my dangerous hypersensivities to medications. My Leprechaun may be like me and also have the comorbid condition of Depression. As a parent my heart aches to help her. I wish there was a safe, magical pill that would fix everything for her. Instead, I teach her the coping strategies that I have learned so that she can live a life in control of her mental health.

Does getting bored depress you?

Today she confided in me that when she gets bored she becomes depressed. I let her know that I understood how she felt because I struggled with boredom, too. If anything could be blamed for our flighty attention, it is our aversion to boredom. I don't know about you, but boredom for me is painful. I mentally—and even physically!—squirm and experience great discomfort. The moment boredom begins to encroach on my thoughts, my mind flings its focus far and wide for stimulation. I have written about Boredom & ADHD often. My blog has been filled with many suggestions on how to constructively avoid it, some more clever than others. However, I haven't focused on what happens once boredom settles in and how to fight it. This made me marvel at the individual way that ADHD affects us. Did I once have this problem and overcome it so long ago that I don't have issues with it anymore, or was my Leprechaun experiencing ADHD in a different way than me? Maybe the answer is a little bit of both.

The ADHD Mind Can Flounder After Losing Focus

There is a thing that adults with ADHD experience called “Depression after Success”. When we find ourselves happily in the zen of hyperfocus, we get so much done. Hyperfocus gives us clarity where there is usually confusion. For somebody who spends their days groping for a hold in a thick mental fog, hyperfocus is like a windturbine that not only blows the fog away, but lets us take focused flight on the air currents. We know what to do; we aren't distracted; we become productive; and most importantly, we feel fantastic. Then the project ends and the mental fog returns. Our mind flounders for focus and we slump into a funk. This is the low that follows the high of hyperfocus. For those of us who have comorbid conditions with Depression, this “slump” can trigger a major depressive episode. Very similarly, allowing ourselves to settle into boredom can sometimes trigger Depression as well.

What Steps Can We Take To Deal with Boredom?

Here is a case where an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. Depression is difficult to shake off once it settles in so the key is to not let yourself get bored. Good thing you have ADHD, huh? You're brain is mostly wired to loathe boredom. Here are some things I do to give myself a nudge when I need it:

  1. Determine to not get bored. Think of this step as a frame of mind. Boredom prompts our minds to wander when we're supposed to be focusing. I was the kid teachers called on to answer questions when they knew I wasn't paying attention. That was embarrassing, but you want to know what was more embarrassing? Not being able to deliver what I promised because I got bored and wandered off without finishing. That means that boredom is my enemy, so I must be determined to manage it.

  2. Decide on three tricks to help you stay focused during tedious tasks. If you need to focus in class or work, or in daily life in conversations & household projects, giving into boredom lets you become unreliable in other people's eyes. Each task might require its own set of tricks, but you're clever. Use trial and error to figure out what helps you jumpstart your attention so that boredom doesn't settle in. Tap a pen on your knee under the desk. Doodle on a line in your notes, then return your attention on the next line. Study the speaker's facial features or manerisms to watch for microexpressions. Anything that helps keep boredom from anchoring your brain with melancholy. I offered seven tips for focusing in meetings and class recently.

  3. Have a bag of productive activities on hand. If I am ever stuck anywhere away from projects such as in a doctor's waiting room, I have my Boredom Survival Kit™ In it I have a written journal, an art journal, various pens & pencils, my iPad Air filled with eBooks and Instapaper articles for news reading, a keyboard, a penny whistle, and an asortment of connection cables to plug my iPhone/iPad into ANYTHING. I have no excuse to be bored. When the Internet goes down and my iPhone can no longer tap into the vein of global online information, I still have things to do.

Keep Fighting

Whatever I do, I force myself to stay focused. Boredom breeds mistakes. Mistakes cost us friendships, jobs, assignments, and grades. Fortunately, our ADHD minds find boredom uncomfortable so staying bored is not usually a problem unless we are in a stuffy environment. Preparing beforehand can help us channel that boredom into productive avenues of distraction that benefit us.

Got a tip on fighting boredom? Share it in the comments!