Part 2: Why Getting Started is Difficult with ADHD (and what you can do about it)
Updated: Aug 14
Why do we avoid starting with ADHD?
Whether responding to an email, phone call or initiating an administrative task, we often experience a pattern of resistance. For me, it looks like this: I will tell myself that today will be the day I will get it done. Instead, I'll make my bed, throw in a load of laundry, or clean my kitchen until it sparkles. I will involve myself in getting other things done, which is productive, but it's not what I set out to do.
In my previous post (read it here!) I discuss common emotional obstacles that get in our way of starting tasks. Now I will share some of the science behind it.
According to scientific research, individuals with ADHD are wired to seek rest and comfort. As soon as we anticipate work that makes us uncomfortable, we naturally want to escape it and do things that feel easier on our brains.
So we gravitate toward checking our emails, watching YouTube videos, or playing games on our phones. We immerse ourselves in what's known as pseudo-productivity, where we seek to temporarily escape the feelings of frustration associated with work that feels difficult for us to begin.
It's very challenging to access any motivation when we are anticipating a level of discomfort. So how do we turn it around and change the pattern? Below are five tips that will help.
5 tips to make it easier to get started
1. Exercise first.
ADHD brains have a deficit of dopamine, a chemical that helps us with motivation. Aerobic exercise helps boost the dopamine levels needed to get started with mental tasks, increase brain power, and give us energy. As little as 10-20 minutes can help us get things rolling!
2. Change your environment.
Research shows that people with ADHD are "hardwired" to seek novelty. Changing our environment adds interest to our tasks, which engages our brains and helps us activate. Try starting your work in a coffee shop, library, or even somewhere more adventuresome, like a canoe on a lake!
3. Incorporate music.
We derive pleasure from listening to music, and it helps us feel more positive. When we can change our emotional state like this, it helps us break down that brick wall in our way of starting. Many of my clients have had success listening to classical music (without words) to get started with administrative work, and more upbeat music with lyrics while they do laundry and cleaning.
4. Flip your self-talk.
With ADHD, we tend to shift to negative self-talk when we can't start, like "What's wrong with me? Why can't I get stuff done like everyone else?" but this doesn't serve us well. Pay attention to your inner voice and ask yourself what thoughts would give you more self-compassion and encouragement. Positive self-talk helps us self-regulate and feel positive energy toward reaching our goals.
5. Partner up.
Who can you enlist as an accountability partner? This is someone to whom you announce that you're starting the task, that you have completed it, or both. Getting support from another person helps us feel more optimistic and incorporates more interest into the task.
If you found these tips helpful, make sure to check out part one in my series, and stay tuned for part three! Do you have any tips you’d like to share? What are your thoughts on this topic? I'd love to know. Shoot me an email at Julie@jadhdcoach.com
All my best always,
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