|Home||About me||About ADHD||Coaching||Stories||Resources||To do||Services||Contact me|
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 meeting. 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.
Copyright© 2003-2005, Sarah Jane Keyser, all rights reserved.