There will be Flowers! ADHD and the New Year

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Welcome to 2020.

Once again, the New Year has come and gone without any action on my part to name any “resolutions”. My ideas for goals are still rolling around in my brain with no specific starting date, commitment, or accountability. I’ve decided that’s okay with me.

I saw a cartoon last week with two characters talking. The first asks, “Why do you think that 2020 will be better? The second answers, “There will be flowers.” The first retorts, “There are always flowers. What makes this year any different? Looking over the other’s shoulder, he then asks, “What’s that you are doing? Our optimistic fellow simply answers, “I’m planting flowers.” And therein lies my both my dilemma and my hope.

Imagining how the “flowers” or goals for my life might look like is just the first choice. They need to be something I can get excited about, invested in SO MUCH that I will not have to depend on “shoulds” or shame to create a PLAN for positive action. For now, my hope sustains me.

There will be flowers! (Flowers to be named later.)

I’m taking my own advice again this month. Better late than never. Moving towards those yet unnamed resolutions, I look to my best tools for success in the past, using small and sustainable actions to create habits and build routines that move me forward. As Darius Foroux says in “Stop Trying to do Everything ”, “Success is sequential, not simultaneous.”

“Things add up. You learn one skill. Then another. You finish one project. Then another. Over time, your accomplishments add up to form an impressive feat.”

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Once I identify those “things”, that are creating problems in my life, I can try out small changes, usually by linking them to already established habits. When they work, they will eventually create routines to make larger changes a reality. My reward comes as each day goes a little smoother and I begin to string a series of successes behind me.

It’s not just getting things done that matter. Many of us fail to meet such basic needs as eating, sleeping, or resting. Your brain is already hampered in its ability to perform the necessary executive functions of the brain, those skills whose development is delayed – that give us the ability to coordinate actions needed to effect positive change for the future. The ADHD brain struggles with the ability to plan, keep items in working memory, move past procrastination, overcome overwhelm, or succumb to perfectionism. We rush towards productivity without the self-care we need to sustain progress.

I recommend 16 Steps to Better Self-esteem with ADHD by Kari Hogan for an easy to understand process to help you meet your basic needs and progress towards feeling whole and successful. ADDitude Magazine just put out an article by Michelle Novotni with more specific “ADHD Hacks” that can be helpful when “tweaked” to work for you.” My 25 Rules for Life: A Practical Cure for ADHD Shame and Stagnation.

“Think of ADHD as a marathon, not a sprint”, she says. “To be a successful marathon runner, you have to conserve your energy, pick your battles, and pace yourself. You have to plan for the long haul.”
Her first tips include:
1. “Celebrate Progress, Not Perfection. As long as you’re making progress toward your goals, I encourage you to consider your efforts a win. Be kind to yourself.
2. Value the Power of Praise. Praise is a way of sharing love and building self-esteem
3. Quiet the (Inner) Critic.”

Like anyone, and especially if you are a child or adult with ADHD, we need to feel loved and accepted before we can keep our feelings under control and move forward towards our goals. This control is also known as self-regulation. Children need acceptance from their parents and adults that guide them, but so do grown men and women. Adults may need to “re-parent” the wounded part of themselves – to connect with and work on accepting that inner child who bears the scars of being misunderstood and misjudged in childhood.

To help you with this, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits wrote about the art of Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself. He writes:

“What if we applied unconditional acceptance of who we are? He says. “What if we took a good look at ourselves, our body, our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and said, “You are perfectly OK. You are perfectly good”?

“What if instead, you loved yourself, fat body and all? What if you loved yourself, laziness and all? What if you loved yourself, all that is ugly and incompetent and mean, along with the beauty and brilliance and kindness?”

Acceptance isn’t stagnation — you will change no matter what. You can’t avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction. I vote for unconditional love.”

Coming from a place of love, you can work towards better within your own values and interests. The more you can put boring, mundane, or difficult duties on automatic, the less time you have to spend trying to manage the most damaging aspects of ADHD. You can live and work more “in the flow”, using the way the ADHD brain is motivated, not by importance but by interest, challenge, and deadlines, and in ways that match your most treasured values in life.

Your routines provide the structure to do what you “need to do” but are not necessarily inspired or motivated to do. Habits and routines help you get to what you WANT to do by handling those necessities of life that may not even be on your radar otherwise. Your routines should not look like anyone else’s. They should reflect your own values, your own minimum standards of “good enough”, and the ease of following the steps necessary to complete the routine.

For instance, I hated cleaning the bathroom, but having a clean sink with polished chrome is something that is important for me. I started using the toilet paper method of cleaning the bathroom. Now, every time I use the restroom, I grab some tissue, clean up the sink, spot clean the counter top and polish the chrome. When I see hairs on the floor or in the tub, I scoop them up. If these areas look fine, I’ll take a minute to address the toilet, getting dust and hair off the seat and tank top and doing the floor around the toilet too. Same for the tub and floor, spot clean and wipe up hairs.

By doing these small tasks throughout the day, I seldom have to deep-clean. Even the tub and shower are easy. I have a soft toilet bowl brush that looks like a mop. I just spray Awesome cleanser with bleach that I get from the dollar store, wait a minute and wipe down with the “mop”. I don’t even have to get on my hands and knees.

Honestly, how many of you now feel that the toilet paper method the best way to keep YOUR bathroom clean? But it works for me. And that what is important.

You will need to develop your own habits and rules. Ask yourself, what is the “least thing that I can do” that will move me towards my goals or projects. If you have a busy work and home life, I love the Next Action List planner by Learn, Do, Become: Printable and podcast with directions. For a less –structured planner, you can download a weekly planner from Emily Ley. Choose the Simplified Weekly Planner. Use 2 pages to make up a week – Just split the bottom sections of the second sheet for Saturday and Sunday. You can also find a daily planning sheet among her other printables.

For those of you collecting more “hacks”, I wrote about more resources for planning and household tips that I’ve used with success in this newsletter, “Manage your Life, House, and Home with ADHD.” See these 9 tips to build routines. A good starter article would be The Quick Start Guide to a Decluttered Home that Leo Babauta has so generously shared.

For hundreds of extra ideas, I also have three Pinterest pages, House, Home, and ADHD, Habits, Routines, and Systems for ADHD, and Basic Self-care for ADHD.

Through all my years, my biggest struggle remains learning to accept and value myself just as I am. I am sure that I am not alone in this.  Writing these newsletters, long posts full of resources to explore has never been easy for me nor really very popular,  but ADHD advocacy is what gets me up in the morning and collecting information, sharing, and offering support is what I do best. Turns out there’s even a name for it. Curation. Google definition: cu·ra·tion – /kyəˈrāSHən/ – the selection, organization, and presentation of online content, merchandise, information, etc., typically using professional or expert knowledge.

I was recently inspired by the lyrics to a simple song from the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I’ve also included a video of the more well-known song “It’s You I Like” that includes Mr. Rogers’ conversation with his guest Jeffery Earlinger.

I Like You as You Are
Lyrics by Josie Carey | Music by Fred Rogers

I like you as you are
Exactly and precisely
I think you turned out nicely
And I like you as you are
I like you as you are
Without a doubt or question
Or even a suggestion
Cause I like you as you are
I like your disposition
Your facial composition
And with your kind permission
I’ll shout it to a star
I like you as you are
I wouldn’t want to change you
Or even rearrange you
Not by far
I like you
I like you, yes I do
I like you, Y-O-U
I like you, like you as you are

It’s You I Like (7-minutes)

Until next month,

With hope, but no hurry, for the new year.
Take care,

Joan Jager

Photo by Shelby Miller on Unsplash

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