How to Combat Inaction When You Have ADHD

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Living with ADHD can be exhausting. It requires a lot of mental effort to do things that other people find quite simple, such as opening mail, keeping track of your keys, focusing on a conversation, and much more. As a result, when you are working hard to appear ‘normal’ it is very disheartening when you are criticized.  

Ever since childhood you probably got feedback such as ‘‘Bob is a smart kid; if only he would try harder." The annoying thing was, you were trying very hard!  Yet that effort wasn’t acknowledged because your behavior didn’t match what is generally recognized as trying hard. However, you might still have been the most active, talkative or daydreaming person in class. 

As you got older you might have worked on an assignment, but then received a failing grade on it because you forgot to hand it in. Or perhaps you weren’t allowed to go out with your friends because your bedroom was untidy.

It is demotivating to live like this, and you might have found yourself thinking, "Why bother trying?" and gave up. To an outsider, not trying can look like you don’t care, are procrastinating or even lazy when in fact it is a clever coping strategy to protect yourself from hurt and disappointment of life.

The people who love you might get annoyed or frustrated with you, but that seems better than experiencing another failure and disappointment.

You might find that your inactivity causes big problems, like being evicted or getting in trouble with the tax department. Or you might do the bare minimum to scrape by or to avert a big problem. This might not get you the best feedback at work; however, you take comfort in knowing it was because you left it until the last minute or you weren’t giving your best.

It might feel like you are stuck; however, change is always possible. Here are 5 suggestions to get you out of inaction.

  1. Start treating your ADHD
    1. This is the most important thing you can do for yourself. Everything is easier when your ADHD is managed. 
  2. Work with a therapist
    1. Find a therapist who is knowledgeable about ADHD and can help you process past hurts and failures. It can be hard to make changes in your current behavior if you still are hurting from the past. 
  3. Practice extreme TLC
    1. If you have become sensitive to failure, it can take a lot of courage to try new strategies. It requires that you to take a leap of faith and hope that things could be different. The potential pain of being disappointed again might feel like it would be too much for you to handle, and you would rather not try anything new. As you are breaking out of your inaction cycle, be extra kind to yourself and practice extreme tender loving care. Every time you do something that feels scary, congratulate yourself for your effort rather than the outcome.
  4. Notice your successes
    1. Your mind is probably programmed to notice what goes wrong rather than what goes well. No one’s life goes completely smoothly. For example, people get wet in the rain because they forgot their umbrella; however, when you are sensitive to failure and something goes wrong it feels like more evidence that nothing ever goes your way. As you are moving through your day, shift your focus and start to notice everything that does go right. 
  1. Work with your strengths
    1. It is easy to forget that even you have strengths, but you do!  If you can spend as much time as possible using them, rather than trying to compensate for your weaknesses, your life will be transformed.
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