ADHD / ADHD and the Workplace / Adult ADHD / Anxiety / Coping Strategies

Adult ADHD & Workflow: The Fear of Letting Go

I’ve heard that there is a fantasy world out there, where people focus on their work, then take a break, then focus again. One of the most persistent ADHD-related behaviors that I have worked to curb is my workaholic tendencies.

I guess curb isn’t the right word, perhaps modify is a better one. Because I want to be productive and busy, but I have learned a few things:

1) If my brain just isn’t cooperating, it usually isn’t worth forcing. You’re not proving anything to anyone by sitting there getting frustrated and not focusing.

2) Nobody can just work all the time. (My response to this used to be “oh yeah, watch me”.)

3) If you have moments when you are not working..it’s OK.

Many tentacles wove together to create a situation where I felt like I had to work during every moment I wasn’t sleeping. We all know that when you have ADHD, you sometimes have to spend time making up for lost time. I’ve had many days where at mid-day I can’t focus but when everyone else is ready to go home, my brain fires up and while everyone else leaves. (And there’s no denying it’s often easier to work when nobody else is around to create distractions.)

And then of course there’s that feeling that if you do find your focus, you’re so afraid of losing it that you don’t want to stop. That’s the one that’s bugging me lately. It’s one part terror and one part practicality. Sometimes hyperfocus comes along and befriends you for a handful of glorious hours (or in my case…like 12 hours)…sometimes you’re just in a groove. But every adult with ADHD knows that feeling of finally getting focused, when someone walks in and starts talking, or asks you a question, or does a cartwheel on your desk, or offers you and when they leave, you just can’t find it again. You’re done. Quite possible for the rest of the day.

There is always this fear that I’m not getting enough done and that because I can’t trust myself, or others, to leave me alone when I’m focused, that the work can never stop.

That’s why, recently, I have been consciously allowing myself to take breaks. I have to trust myself as I tell myself, over and over, that no disaster will occur if I stop “working”. Now…sometimes not working looks a lot like me doing the dishes. But that’s okay. That’s what I call life balance. The dishes need to be done and that’s actually a more relaxing activity for me (I know it isn’t for everyone, but I like activities that involve physical movement and little thinking, even if it involves cleaning). Sometimes not working looks like walking dogs. Sometimes not working looks like vacuuming the livingroom. Sometimes it looks like planting myself among the kids on the couch and watching tv with them.

And interestingly…everything I need to get done has been getting done, bit by bit…and more easily than usual. I mean I do have a notebook that I write important things in, and a calendar and I’ve gotten pretty good at checking it (most of the time). If I’m worried about forgetting something I can check them as many times as I want to.

My life doesn’t even feel the same. Rays of calm seep in. AND my house is cleaner. And the dogs are happier. And so are the kids. And…so am I. (I’m sure Sonny is too, but he’s working on his own ADHD flow.)

I did not anticipate that result.

I know that this will be something I have to remind myself of, pretty much forever, that I can still be effective, and sometimes MORE effective, when I take breaks from work. I still have the same brain. But I learned something new. And it helped me feel better. And it’s making my whole life better. And it was easier to do than I thought it would be.

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