Basic Instinct (and How to Manage it!)

Verbal Diarrhoea
A series which focuses on some of the common traits of ADHD, how to recognise them, support them and thrive.
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Emotions for people with ADHD can become very overwhelming and if we are not careful they can control us, instead of us controlling them.

  One thing that a lot of people don’t tend to talk about is the impulsiveness of ADHD. True it can give us fast reflexes and make us better drivers but there is also a lot of difficult stuff that comes with that too. For example, the fact that we feel the need to act on intense emotions straight away or that we say things before we have time to really think about them. These things combined are sure to get us into quite a bit of trouble.

As a woman, one technique that I used to use accidentally, which is possibly linked to masking, is I would disassociate and go numb to stop myself from feeling anything at all in situations I just couldn’t deal with. This meant I then had a lot of regret later about things I should have said or could have said in my defence later on when I’d had time to process. In other words, it didn’t really work out for me too well.

“Not many people talk about the impulsiveness of ADHD, because it’s not as obvious as other traits. However, the impulsive means we sometimes put ourselves in danger, act without thinking and hurt those around us with our words”

ADHD Girl

Emotions can become very overwhelming all too quickly when you have ADHD, and it can make holding warm friendships or positive family relationships incredibly difficult. Who wants to be friends with somebody who explodes when you give advice? Perhaps says hurtful things without thinking? It requires a lot of love, patient and understanding that not everybody has. The biggest way people can help us is by being forgiving and learning coping strategies alongside us, which they can use to prompt and support us. As I’ve said in previous blog articles; I may not have lots and lots of friends, but the ones I do have are amazing and accept me the way I am while helping me to grow.  

Fortunately, there are quite a few coping strategies to combat the impulsiveness of ADHD, but a lot of them do require time and patience to master, because in some ways they rely on retraining the brain to think differently. Don’t get me wrong; we ADHDers have impulsive brains; there is no getting around it as we can’t change our brain chemistry, but it we can change that automatic thing our brain jumps to on impulsive so that it works for us, instead of against us.  

Managing emotions is difficult for many people, even those without ADHD, but you add impulsiveness into the mix and it can almost feel near impossible”

~ADHD Girl

I know I’ve said this before but this time I mean it in a different way. Writing down how you feel is not only a great way to get things out in a healthy way, but sometimes it can help you to understand how you feel better too. Of course, this is easier said then done when you are trapped in a difficult situation with no paper, but if you can train your thought process to remind you that you can always write it down as soon as you’ve left the situation then it can become a good emotional support. 

Screaming into a pillow is the oldest and cleverest of solutions. Well I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who carries a pillow or even a cushion around with them at the best of times. So instead of screaming into a pillow, how about just giving yourself time to breathe and respond? We sadly live in a society that teaches us that we need to answer a question, give a reply, and speak before we’ve actually had time to process and think. For someone with ADHD, that’s already extremely difficult due to our impulsivity. The most important and precious thing we can give ourselves is the time to process and think, even if that means saying “Can you give a moment to process that please?” or “I’m feeling rather overwhelmed, do you mind if I take a few minutes?”

That brings us on to my next coping strategy, learning to be articulate. It’s actually a pretty great life skill and can be hugely beneficial to someone with ADHD, because the more we can get people to understand us and where we are coming from, the more they can help us to navigate the things we find difficult. Articulation is a difficult skill to master because it actually requires a lot of confidence; it’s the ability to say things are going well, to disagree with someone and to stand up for what you need. So how does somebody develop it? Well it’s not an easy process, but certainly practicing writing letters, expanding your vocabulary, and boosting your confidence can help. Mostly, it’s about challenging yourself to say what you really want to say, even if you have to go back to somebody and say, “Look this is what I really meant.” It’s not easy, but more you do it, the easier it will become.

“Making positive associations really is the key to dealing with the impulsivness of ADHD, because we can’t stop our brain from jumping about at 100mph, but we can change what it jumps to.”

~ADHD Girl

Aside from training yourself to react in a different way we can also regulate our emotions so that they can become more manageable. There are two easy ways to regulate emotions; making sure you can express your emotions in a healthy way and doing things that helps your bodies biochemistry. Basically making sure you’re not exploding at the wrong people and helping your body to feel good enough so that it doesn’t want to just snap at a moment’s notice. So how can we do either?

Expressing yourself in a healthy way differs per individual and you’ve got to find something that works well for you and with your lifestyle. My healthy expression is writing, and it manifests in different ways. If I’m angry I write song; if I’m in a good mood, I write a poem etc. Just to clear up any confusion expressing yourself isn’t just being listened to while you moan. It’s the way in which you pour out your emotions and make sense of them. The most common idea that springs to mind when you hear this is art forms. Some people say they just aren’t creative, but art can come in so many different forms; it’s not just painting with a brush, singing, or dancing. Art can be a craft or hobby, something you do when you’re alone to gather your thoughts, that quiet time that you never get to have, it might even be as simple as writing a few lines in a diary.

“For men and boys with ADHD, in many ways managing emotions is made harder by a lot of social stigmas. Men or boys are in subtle ways encouraged to be strong and not express themselves in healthy ways.”

~ADHD Girl

So how do we sort out our bodies biochemistry? There are only two fast and effective ways to do this; the first one is what we eat and the second one is what we do. In other words diet and exercise. It’s not pretty and it’s incredibly frustrating, but what we put into our bodies is what we get out of it for the average person. There are exceptions to this and envy all those slim girls who can eat take out night after night, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy. Let me tell you a story; a little while ago I had an interview for my teacher training (I say a little while ago, we’re talking around 4.5 years ago now). I was fairly pleased with how it had gone, thanks in part to the lovely lecturer who interviewed me and decided to grab something to eat. I can’t really remember what I ate; I think it may have been something along the lines of doughnuts. About an hour later I felt really frustrated and couldn’t understand why. Then I realised; the doughnuts had given me a sugar high and what comes up, must come down. These days I try not to eat or drink things that have a high sugar content because well I’m on a diet, but also it makes me feel so rubbish afterwards.

Though I really hate dragging my bum to the gym, when I am there I really enjoy it and feel the massive boost it gives my mental health. Over the summer when I had the kids at home and couldn’t really get to the gym as much, I started to feel like the incredible hulk; ready to lose it a moments notice, but when I’ve been the gym I feel calm and collected. Of course, the gym doesn’t suit everyone’s life style and again you’ve got to find something that works well for you; that might be going for a walk, run, swimming or just doing some Pilate exercises at home. Whatever, the exercise, giving your body the care and love it deserves physically can mean you don’t constantly walk around in a state of rage.

Well I hope you find at least one of these strategies useful, but everyone is different and the more time we spend getting to know ourselves, discovering what works for us and what doesn’t then the more we can combat the difficult aspects of ADHD, even the ones that people don’t talk about as much.

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