By Michelle Frank, Psy.D.
On a recent camping trip to enjoy the Fall colors, my
cousins and I were searching for games to play around the campfire when we
stumbled upon a friend's old deck of Wilderness Survival Tips cards. I'm not sure if they were meant to be funny
but they entertained us for hours. The
tips and tricks were not so tricky, after all.
Some were nearly sarcastic in their simplicity; others hyperbolic,
catastrophic and generally gloomy.
Did you know, for instance, that necessary camping
supplies include a space blanket, barometer, weather computer and avalanche
pick? Otherwise, good luck to you. If your friends get lost, secure a six mile
perimeter, and perform a grid search.
Despite such efforts, the prognosis seems to be: "Outlook not good"! (So much for my mother's advice to "Stay
put and wait!")
For all its outrageousness, some of the best advice
was so obvious it was nearly insulting, albeit valid.
- How to Survive a
Bear Attack? Do not go where bears may
- What Do You Do If
There's An Avalanche? Do not go where
there may be avalanches.
- What To Do If You
Spot a Mountain Lion: You shouldn't be wherever there may be mountain
Slightly offended by the lack of complexity this
"guide" had to offer, I credit it for its honesty. It made me think how we often overlook our
own simple needs. We complicate things
unnecessarily and fight the path of least resistance. We work through lunch, ignoring hunger to
ride the hyper-focus wave and push through the workday as painlessly as
possible. We over commit for a plethora
of reasons. We do not follow the most
basic strategies because they seem simplistic and therefore insulting, or
because they are just too annoying to implement.
Adults with ADHD have a particular need to be mindful
and intentional about setting themselves up for success. They work harder to get focused, complete things
and remember where they put their keys.
They may need more reminders than others, be easily overwhelmed and
regularly feel scattered. The ADHD brain
needs more breaks and routine periods of downtime to de-stress than a
neurotypical brain, simply as a by-product of the way their brain works; which
is often brilliantly but not always efficiently. The ADHD brain has difficulty tuning out
stimuli, deciding where to focus its attention and regulating start-stop
mechanisms. It can be tiring.
Surviving in the wilderness, or anywhere, comes down
to prevention; setting boundaries and making purposeful, compassionate
decisions to commit to helpful behaviors.
We cannot prevent inclement weather or wandering bears, but we can
identify and anticipate our challenges.
We can, at least in part, prevent or minimize the overload, the
distracting environment, the opportunity to procrastinate or avoid, the crash
of motivation and the inevitable moment of self-contempt. Stop creating your own avalanches!
The most important boundaries are those we set for
ourselves. Some call it discipline, but
this carries a negative connotation.
Instead of seeing limits as an external mandate or "should,"
think of your commitments as a personal choice to care for yourself... as
"could." Choose to set
yourself up for success. Decide to stick
to a schedule for the day and prioritize just three tasks or commit to a
regular physical activity three times per week for one month - these have
nothing to do with discipline and everything to do with making a commitment to
your own wellbeing. If the commitments don’t
work, the mindful thing to do is ask why and make adjustments. Maybe you're still thinking
"should" and trying to commit to something that just doesn’t work for
you (like those 5 am workouts!)
Ultimately, the message is this: Make choices to
protect and care for yourself. Do not over
commit, do not say yes when you mean no and do not "Follow the
Rationalization Train to Avoidance Town."
Do commit to a structured schedule, speak your mind (just pause first to
be sure!) and choose to surround yourself with positivity.
Do not forget your materials and supplies. No space blanket needed... this time. Use your planner, electronic or paper, every
day. Consider medication. Talk to a
coach or therapist. Rejoice in the
plethora of smart phone apps with reminders, To Do list guides and timers
galore. Use accountability partners to
keep you on track with commitments.
Break down tasks into the simplest parts, and then break them down
again. Reconsider your To Do list. ALWAYS have a place to jot down ideas or
thoughts and consider voice activated dictation software. Keep your keys next to the door and, for the
love of all that is sacred, use automatic bill pay!
And if you suddenly find yourself interested in
camping (at least some of you reading this have already acquired all of the
necessary supplies and keep intending to go), I highly recommend Indiana's
Shades' State Park. Keep it in mind for
the moment when you commit to doing something for yourself and following
through on a passion not yet pursued.
After all, as Tolkien wisely bemused, "Not all
who wander are lost." Enjoy your
everything for avoiding wilderness (read: life) catastrophes.
matter. To avoid an avalanche, walk away
from where avalanches occur. Start
small. What is one tiny, realistic, and
time-limited behavior you could commit to this week to set yourself up for
success? What is one small thing that
always makes you feel good, inspired, relaxed, confident or organized? Do that.
Do not forget your
supplies. Outsource. Establish an external hard-drive by using
systems, technology and a lot of "Notes to Self."
Don't forget to
pause and enjoy your trip.
Dr. Michelle Frank is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist
located in Chicago, IL. She specializes
in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD and related challenges. Dr. Frank understands ADHD and takes an active
and empowering approach in helping clients live successfully in spite of
challenges. Learn more at: