An ADD Case Study: When the Pace Picks Up, Learn to Slow Down

The fall season signals a shift in most people's minds. The summer is coming to a close, and it's back to school, work, and the other things that we haven't put as much effort into since Memorial Day. Many ADDers welcome this shift, as boredom sets in around August and we long for something bigger to keep us occupied. But while the opportunity to dive into new projects and situations is exciting, it can also become quickly overwhelming.

One way to avoid becoming overwhelmed by all the extra activities that September brings is by remembering to schedule in personal "down time." This means taking a chunk of time for yourself each and every day to relax, unwind, and plan.

"Anna" is a client of mine who has given me permission to share her story. I've been coaching Anna for a while, and we just resumed our work together after a month off. Anna owns a business selling her own artwork. She also has a husband, two kids, a dog, a cat, and a parrot. Her business, like many, is slow in the summer months, which works out well for her because she can spend extra time with her kids. Just two weeks ago, though, she started to see more orders coming in from her website for custom-made designs, and she panicked.

"All of a sudden, I realized that I had just one week to take my kids school clothes shopping AND school supply shopping, get Butter [the dog] to the vet because he can't seem to stop scratching his ear, meet with the new web designer and get him the materials he's going to need, and find the time to make and ship two products which I wasn't expecting orders for. This is in addition to all the OTHER stuff I have to do, like grocery shop, cook, clean up, and spend time with my family.

So what did I do? I freaked out. Instead of getting to work, I sat on the couch and watched talk shows."

Although the details and tasks will be different for everyone, this is a familiar tale for ADDers. Life seems to be rolling along fine and then, out of nowhere, the to-do list seems too big to handle. Overwhelm sets in, and it's easy to shut down under the weight of the pressure.

Anna and I discussed this challenge, and the fact that she's dealt with it before. In fact, every year at this time, she finds herself even more overwhelmed than usual. When I reminded her of this, she responded with amazement. "You know, you're right! And when this happened last year, what helped was taking time out for myself."

It did help. I remember talking with Anna and encouraging her to slow down and take care of herself. She protested, like many ADDers do, "How can I possibly slow down when I have so much to do?"

But the truth of the matter is that slowing down helps an ADDer get centered, de-stress, and gain control. So Anna and I worked out some ways that she could slow down, and make life about more than her to-do list, even though there was a lot to be done. We decided she would:

Go to the gym in the morning, because she likes to work out and she finds it helps keep her stress levels down

Find a babysitter and go on a "date" with her husband one night a week, because she likes to spend quality time with her husband

Take 15 minutes every evening before bed to plan out the tasks that she can reasonably accomplish the next day, because she likes to feel in control of her time

"It really helped," Anna said as she remembered her life at this time last year. "I was having fun so I wasn't so stressed all the time, and so all the things I had to do seemed more manageable. And once I established a planning routine, I didn't feel frustrated or surprised by new things when they came up."

Anna decided that she needed to implement this "slow-down" time once again. It's only been a day, but she went back to the gym, scheduled lunch and a movie with her husband for Sunday, the kids have their school supplies, and Butter's itchy ear has been treated!

When I asked permission to share her story, Anna offered this tip: "Tell your readers that planning is the thing that really makes all the difference! Sometimes I need to slow down in order to speed up."

© Copyright 2004

About The Author

Jennifer Koretsky is an ADD Management Coach who helps adults learn how to manage their ADD and move forward in life. She offers individual and group coaching, workshops, and skill-building programs. Her work has been featured in various media, including The New York Times Magazine and The London Times. Subscribe to Jennifer's free email newsletter, The ADD Management Guide, by visiting http://www.ADDmanagement.com/e-newsletter.htm.

[email protected]

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