Like many of you, I'm slightly agog at the new reality many of us are facing for at least the next two weeks. I am also sensitive to the profound impact this change has had on many folks with ADHD, as well as parents who have children with ADHD or who are parents with ADHD. Most people rely on the structure of work, school and daycare for their day-to-day life operations, but we ADHDers rely on them to help us define and move us through our motivation to accomplish that which we need to day to day. Without getting ready for work in the morning, there's no guarantee that the dog will get walked, or even fed. Without after-school pickup, you might completely forget to do your jog or drink enough water for the day. We use structures to attach our habits and routines to, and remembering (and having the motivation!) to still adhere to those daily habits we need for self-care or for work may be thrown into disarray.
I wish I could give you a silver bullet that would fix all this, but I can't. What I can tell you/remind you of, is that the ADHD brain is fueled by dopamine. Less dopamine = Less motivation. More dopamine = More motivation for everything. And when I say your brain is fueled by dopamine, I mean that it's fueled by fun.
I often see clients getting into a self-punishment cycle; they don't get their work done, so they restrict their ability to engage in behaviours or hobbies they enjoy until they do, the work continues to pile up, the motivation continues to lag, the fun continues to get "put off" and they wonder why they hate their lives and aren't getting anything done. Y'all, if you have ADHD, please eat your dessert before your dinner! It won't spoil your appetite; it will actually spark it.
Our brains are intrinsically motivated by whatever they find fun, interesting, challenging, novel. So let's use these two weeks to pump up the fun jams as much as we can, for the purpose of getting the things we need to get done, done (and also just surviving!) If ever there was a time to give yourself permission to do the project you've been putting off or dreaming of, now is that time. I suspect many ADHDer's may not even need help right now - they might be chomping at the bit to finally get their basement reorganized or do that painting they've been thinking of. But if you are despairing or worrying, fret not! I have come up with a 'scavenger hunt' or rather a 14-day 'Fun' List to keep you occupied. Enjoy!
14 DAY ADHD FUN CHALLENGE
1. Find a creative way to connect to your neighbours, whether you live in a house or an apartment. Get curious about them - do you know them? WHAT do you know about them? Can you have a skype date? Can you shout through a window? Can you talk over the high fence a la Tim Allen and Wilson from Home Improvement? Are you daring enough to make a tin can phone like a bored kid in the 1950’s? What can you learn about your neighbours?
2. Become an expert in something local that you can learn about without having to expose yourself to others. What are the local birds in your part of the word? Become a bird or local wildlife watching expert, or educate yourself on the local history or landmarks in your area. The next time your friends come to town they will be impressed with your knowledge and you might find something new to love about where you live!
3. Give yourself permission to finally start that new hobby. Yes, I know. You have a million hobbies; you may need to also give yourself permission to *end* one. I’m going to get rid of the sewing machine and fabric I’ve been dragging around for 11 years but have yet to use! Don’t put pressure on yourself; just do as much as feels fun.
4. Start a Rainbow List. A Rainbow List is a great tool for ADHDers. It is a list of all your specific accomplishments and moments in your life that you felt proud - or in the case of some ADHDer’s, when you can at least objectively recognize that you *should have* felt proud. Organize your life by decade and write down moments that you did something worth remembering. It can be as big as “I won an award” or as small as “I had a nice visit with my sister and didn’t get in a fight with her”, or “I rearranged my closet and it’s been organized ever since”. Try to get your whole life down. Start using it moving forward to jot down moments that happen each week or month that are worth remembering and celebrating.
(Addendum: avoiding “clumping” your accomplishments into one - if you bake your significant other a cake every year for their birthday, and you’ve been together five years, that’s five items, not one! Each moment was its own separate moment worth celebrating!)
5. Do just a little bit of that thing you’ve been avoiding: maybe it’s cleaning the basement. Maybe it’s sorting through photos or doing your taxes. Don’t overwhelm yourself with feeling like you need to tackle *all* the boring stuff, but set a timer for twenty minutes or one hour and give yourself permission to just get started. Often starting is the hardest part for ADHDers; the task might actually finish itself if you just start, but at the very least there will be slightly less to do even if you just chip away at it!
6. Bone up on pet care or self care: So there’s this magazine, right? Modern Dog Magazine. Every few months, it comes out and has some truly creative tips for how to play with your dog. I also learned that there are numerous Facebook groups for cockatiel ownership and man do those people love their cockatiels! There are lots of ways to interact with, care for or engage with your pet that you may not even know. Don’t have a pet? Go down the rabbit hole on skin care, gut health, how to dress so that your socks match your tie - whatever! Your body is a weird and fascinating thing. Learn more about it!
7. Get down with yourself (or a friend). Perhaps in a creative fashion.
Yes, you read that right. I am advocating for you to put time aside for yourself to masturbate or at least think some sexy thoughts. I mean, we’re talking about bumping up dopamine here right? Got someone else you can get involved? Now’s the time to try out that freaky thing you’ve always been a bit shy to try. Use this time to level up in healthy, consensual sexual empowerment.
8. Find a thing you lost: Go through a messy closet or box but HEAR ME OUT! Do *not* have the intention of ‘cleaning up’ or ‘getting more organized’. Set your goal as finding the most interesting thing in that clutter pile. Go on a true scavenger hunt for the item most interesting. It may be a $50 bill you misplaced, an old photo, or a gift someone gave you that you forgot about (or perhaps a gift you meant to mail once and now it’s five years later and that gift is just something you’re going to keep for yourself now!). Take a photo and post it and tag me on Twitter (@dustyexner) so I can see what you found.
9. Make a bucket list: Use your imagination and dream about all the things you can’t do right now. Set long term goals, dream about things you’d like to someday do, write them down on a list and share it with me!
10. Cook or bake something way too elaborate (even if it sucks!). Hey, you’ve got time, right? Tackle something you’re not even sure you can pull off and if it’s awful, throw it away. If money is a restriction, stick to things made of flour and sugar so that you can use bulk items without having to invest a lot of money. Money and time not an issue? Try French Onion soup, it’ll keep you busy for a long time and it’s hella satisfying if you can pull it off.
11. Write a book. Seriously. Write a frickin’ book. Even if it’s a children book.
12. Read the endings of all the boring books you’ve been putting off reading. Let’s be honest; you’re not going to read them, AND because you feel obligated to read them, they’re getting in the way of all the more interesting books you’d like to give yourself permission to read. Skip to the end, read what happens so you can get rid of those books with a sense of finality. Alternatively, re-read the endings of all the books you’ve already read.
13. Find a broken thing in your home that you’ve been putting off fixing and watch a YouTube video about how to fix it. I’m not going to insist that you *actually* fix it but let’s just see what happens when you watch the video. Please note, I am not suggesting that you go on a massive fixing spree of everything in your home, I am suggesting you pick *one* thing that you have been putting off fixing and make that your scavenger hunt item for the day. Again, tag me on Twitter (@dustyexner) and tell me about it!
14. Go clean your car! Okay this one isn’t that fun but trust me you will feel amazing after you do it, and it’s an excuse to get out of the house. Bonus points if you pay for the ridiculously fancy drive-through carwash with the colors and the foam and fanciness.
All right, that's it for me. If you try this list out, tag me and let me know how you went, or what amendments you would make to it. Happy surviving!