ADHD and Transitions

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The definition of a transition is to “change from one activity or place to another”. Some adults with ADHD have no problem with change. In fact, for them, it's the spice of life. They are the people who love the excitement and adrenaline of deadlines, and thrive on multi-tasking and the unexpected.

However, ADHD shows up for everyone differently and while a lot of people enjoy surprises, there is a portion of the ADHD population who really dislike them.

Navigating through a day with change and the unexpected is disconcerting and uncomfortable. If this is you, don’t worry!

In her book, ‘The Disorganized Mind’, Nancy Ratey explains that adults with ADHD, who have problems transitioning, are stuck in the current moment. So transitioning from one thing to the next is very difficult and stressful. They interpret new stimuli as a threat and this results in a mini-panic. That new stimuli might be something ‘fun’ like a vacation, or more mundane such as moving from meeting to meeting, or having an unexpected request made on their time. In order to not have that mini-panic, they need time to mentally disconnect from one task before starting on the next.

If you have difficulty with transitions, you might also feel embarrassed because you might wonder why these seemingly little things make you irritable, anxious and angry at those people around you.

You would prefer to be able to adapt to change quickly and with a smile, than be rattled and flustered by it. But it's in no way a bad reflection on your character. It’s just that your brain works differently.

Here are 10 suggestions to help you with transitions:

1.     Planning and structure is key for you!

Make planning your month, week and day a priority. Don’t  just write a to-do list, plan when you will do those items on your calendar.

2.     Be sure to schedule time in between your appointments, so that you can disconnect from one thing before engaging in the next task.

3.     Create and use checklists for all your tasks. This will help you to engage with a new task quickly and also help you when it's time to complete a task and bring it to a finish.

4.     Don’t have your email open all day long. Incoming email will constantly interrupt you. Instead, create 2 or 3 times per day when you check your email. Perhaps at 8.30am, 1pm and 4pm. Not only does batching help you from being interpreted, it will also help you be very productive.

5.     Batch your phone calls too! Unexpected phone calls can be very intrusive and disruptive for you. Switch off your phone or turn the ringer volume down. Then, check your messages and return calls at set times during the day.

6.     Have a plan B. It’s great to plan, though even the best laid plans can fall through.

Having a backup plan that you have given some thought to, will help.

7.     Explain to the people in your life that you don’t like surprises! Then, you can develop strategies together so both your needs can be met. For example, you might have scheduled set times to do the housework, or have date nights.

8.     Use technology to help you. Apps like ‘Our Groceries’ and ‘Any.Do’ help you to stay organized.

9.     When you are working on one task, set a timer to give you a count-down. Have it ring 15 minutes before it’s time to wrap up, then 10 minutes prior and then 5 minutes prior. When it rings again, it means it’s time to stop and move on to the next part of your day. By using the timer in this manner, you have primed your brain and you are expecting the transition.

10. Visualization. During your shower in the morning, visualize your day and particularly the transitions from one activity to the next. Picture yourself leaving your home for work and heading out of your meeting for lunch. Visualizations can really help prep your brain for when it's for real.

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