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Zebra Stripes for ADHD

A monthly newsletter of stories tips and news for those concerned with ADHD, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, No. 10

Sarah Jane Keyser : ADHD Coach

Have Ogre Routines Taken Over Your Life?

For those with ADHD who have difficulty meeting commitments,  building
routines is the oft recommended method to gain control of your life.

The purpose of routines is to automate procedures for managing all the
boring stuff. To create a routine like the Getting-out-of-the-House
routine you make a list of all the jobs that must be done before
leaving in the morning. You conscientiously follow this routine daily
until it becomes automatic.

I see another side to routines. A routine is any behavior which is
automated; it has a life of its own. It's  hardwired into the brain and
continues whether or not it still serves a purpose. It may feel like
someone else is at the controls. I sometimes feel hypnotized.

Procrastinating may reveal some hidden routines gone berserk. By
definition procrastinating means avoiding something. The experts will
tell you that it is about fear of the task to be done. I agree it is
necessary to consider the task being avoided, but lets first take a
look at the activity being used to do the avoiding.

Every morning I prepare my breakfast, feed the dog and sit down to eat
and read the newspaper; at lunch, it's the crossword puzzle; at 4
o'clock, it's a cup of tea and the newspaper to read whatever I haven't
yet read. That has been the routine for years- very automatic.

Yesterday, exceptionally, I was putting some dishes in the dish washer
actually cleaning up a bit. I became aware of a force sucking me away
from the dishes toward the table where my breakfast was ready and the
newspaper  waiting to be read. My routine was jealous; it wouldn't
allow me to be distracted.

Walking the dog or riding the horse has the same sort of magnetic
attraction, it’s a visceral necessity. That’s the way a routine should
work. You need to feel that you are compelled to do it- like checking
the agenda frequently to be sure you haven’t forgotten the next

The real ogre of a routine is computer solitaire. Once a week I do some
volunteer work. When the computer was first installed, I started
playing an occasional game, but it quickly became more and more
automatic until now it’s an addiction. As soon as I arrive I start up
the game and play a few rounds.

Usually I bring something with me to do when there are no clients like
a bag of papers to sort, but the game takes over. I say to myself, "
Ok, last game. then sort some of the papers”, but the next game is
started without a pause. The momentum is compulsive, there’s no place
to stop between the end of one game and the click to start the next
game. This is Hyperfocusing. It's what keeps people at the roulette
table, one more spin, or the slot machines one more pull or taking the
next drink just one more.

For me, at least. the solitaire game is not life destroying (I don’t
play it at home), but it is unpleasant. It doesn’t feel good. It feels
like I’m being sucked into a black hole.

Let’s look at these different routines. The newspaper routine
structures time, it provides a moment when I don't have to decide,
plan, or do; it is an escape mechanism and a tool for procrastinating,
but it keeps my internal clock synchronized with the outside world and
helps to recharge my batteries. So  this is positive with a
recommendation to cut back on the hyperfocusing.

The dog and horse routines provide fresh air, exercise and time with
charming beings. While sometimes I think there are other things I could
be doing in this time, I always decide that they are too important to
give up. They have a positive effect on other tasks that need doing.

Instead of structuring time, the computer game kills it. It creates a
sort of paralysis. The body is stuck in autopilot disconnected from the
brain. Mental orders don’t get through to the muscles. Just saying
“Stop!” doesn’t work. This is a bad routine. If you have such a problem
and it seriously affects your life, you should get professional help.

How can you reprogram your brain to eliminate or tame ogre routines?

Following Dr. Hallowell's comments in his latest book “Delivered from
Distraction”, I've been experimenting with some exercises designed to
stimulate brain body communication.

The theory is that the brain and body operate in a loop. Usually, we
think, the brain gives orders and the body executes, but in fact the
body also generates feedback which can alter the brain.  Dr. Hallowell
gives some exercises for improving focus and organization. He also
mentions Tai Chi and Brain Gym . These methods make use of slow
movements which promote awareness and body brain communication; they
are not exercises for fitness or a marathon. The connection with ADD is
still very tenuous but suggestive. The problem, as usual, is the lack
of money to do clinical trials

I’ve been trying some Brain Gym exercises. I think they  have helped to
break the compulsive game playing and help with focusing. This is a
work in progress. I’ll tell you more as I find out what works.

Adventures of Joey the ADHD Zebra Who Has No Stripes

Joey, my little zebra with no stripes, wasn’t interested in routines. As an impulsive hyperactive he likes to do different things. Routines are too boring! Ok, he says, I know I should look at my agenda to see what I should be doing for school… later.

Right now he is off with his monkey friends, Chip and Chap, having a good laugh. He sent me this joke to lighten your day. Well maybe it would be an “oh no” groan, but that could still lighten the day.

Zebra Tips : Have a great laugh today.

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

For more about me, Sarah Jane Keyser, About Sarah Jane

Do you need a safe place to talk?   email me today for a free coaching session.

You May Use This Article In Your Ezine Or Web Site

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