Now Presenting: ADHD

Conscientious Self Care

May 30, 2023 Jaye Lin Season 1 Episode 10
Now Presenting: ADHD
Conscientious Self Care
Show Notes Transcript

Is this something you resonate with? Doing self care, and not having it make an impact? Feeling burned out on a regular basis, but not being able to find anything to remedy the situation? If you do resonate with this, you’re not alone.


Now Presenting, ADHD, and Conscientious Self Care

If you have questions or would like to give suggestions for future episodes, send us an email at info@npadhd.com. To listen to all episodes, view show notes and transcripts, or learn more about host Jaye Lin, visit our website at www.npadhd.com. Follow us on Instagram @npadhdpodcast and @adhdjaye.

Hi. This is Now Presenting ADHD, where we look at common ways Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can present in individuals, explain what the root causes can be, and connect the experience to real humans. I’m your host, Jaye Lin. I’m an ADHD coach, instructor, and generally nice person.

Someone recently asked me when I took my last vacation. I thought about it, and initially said March, because that’s when the Starboard cruise was, but then realized it was a work trip, since I was the co-organizer of the event. And then I said December, because that’s when I took a trip to the bay area to visit my family, but I realized I worked for the entire trip. And then the conference in Dallas, which was another trip I worked through the entire time. “I guess the 5-day trip to Hawaii in August” I eventually replied. I didn’t work that entire time, and just spent the trip being my excited and slightly annoying self with one of my best friends.

The person I was talking to said that it’s been awhile, and I really need a vacation so I don’t get burned out. After pondering that thought for probably too long, I replied that I don’t think that I do need a trip. I haven’t really been too close to burnout in a long time, and I have given myself a reasonable workload and self-care structure. I think I’m doing ok. They were surprised at that, and so was I, because it was so different from how I used to live.

Historically, I’ve been the queen of burnout. I used to find myself tired all the time, and unable to do anything, because I was always driven to do too much, and give until my cup was empty. I eventually found it hard to recover from being burned out, and spent every week just trying to make it through. I would indulge in self care, but it never felt impactful to me.

Is this something you resonate with? Doing self care, and not having it make an impact? Feeling burned out on a regular basis, but not being able to find anything to remedy the situation? If you do resonate with this, you’re not alone.

Now Presenting, ADHD, and Conscientious Self Care

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Self care has definitely had its moment in the last few years, but it’s nowhere near a new concept. The basis of it, taking care of ourselves in order to ensure longevity, is something that has existed since the times of the world’s first health practitioners and philosophers. Our modern understanding of it, however, was first put in practice by the medical community in the 50s, before the Black Panthers popularized their use of it at the height of the Black Power movement in the 60s and 70s.

The reasoning for self-care is self-preservation and sustainability. For Black Panthers at that time, and also activists of current-day, the movement can only go on for as long as activists stay healthy and striving toward the cause, and have communities strong enough to sustain it. If the rough conditions with what that activism entailed were not supplemented with wellness and recovery, it would lead to burnout, and a disillusioned, beaten-down community that would suffer as a result. So, they invested time in emotional, mental, and physical health for themselves and their communities, to make sure the movement continued strong.

These days, especially during the COVID pandemic, self-care is a trending topic across social media and other content. Rightfully so. I don’t know if I knew of anyone who was truly thriving during the pandemic, and self-care was definitely needed across the board. But as with all trends, capitalism seemed to have skewed the concept. I see the term self-care used by companies to sell luxury products, and I see the self care hashtag applied to lots of consumerism and indulgences. That’s all fine and well, in theory, as long as it’s within someone’s means to practice that kind of capitalistic self-care.

But I see a lot of the people who show off their self-care practices functioning in a highly dysregulated state, especially those of us in the ADHD community. This is especially prevalent in the ADHD coaching community. I would say that the majority of my ADHD coaching peers are in a constant state of frantic anxiety. Despite providing services to others encouraging them to live fulfilling lives, they can’t seem to put their own oxygen masks on.

You’ll notice I didn’t use the very common saying of “put your own oxygen mask on first”. It’s because a lot of people don’t put their own proverbial oxygen mask on at all. In this scenario, they’re not only helping others put their oxygen masks on, but they’re applying makeup so they will look attractive to first responders. They’re packing up their bags so they can exit the plane sooner. They’re putting on their travel neck pillows so they will have a more comfortable nap due to passing out from low oxygen.

I see a lot of parents, caretakers, and partners who do everything for those around them, even without being asked, even when the people they are doing everything for want them to stop so they as individuals can make their own decisions, mistakes, and experiences. But they can’t stop, even as resentment of doing everything for everyone takes over their mood, because they are in a frantic state.

While this is something that can something occur with all humans, when we have ADHD, this pattern can get pretty destructive very quickly. With ADHD overwhelm, emotional dysregulation, and adrenaline-fueled anxiety, we aren’t always able to automatically take a step back to evaluate what is going on with us, the way some neurotypicals can. So when we are in a state where things feel like they’re going awry, we’re behind on getting everything done, or we feel a loss of control over the situation, our frantic, negative states can go into overdrive. And if we’re not in the practice of remedying that state, it becomes our new normal.

Are you feeling like you’re constantly on the cusp of burnout? I know I did, before I started taking care of myself after my diagnosis 3 years ago. I would go too hard too fast everyday, then race toward a long vacation. Now, these vacations would take lots of planning. I had to get everything set up at work for someone to take over. I had to pack. I had to contact people I was visiting on the trip. I had to research what I wanted to do on the trip, so I wouldn’t waste the money and PTO I was spending to go there. I had to coordinate schedules and itineraries with other people on the trip. And you know what? By the time that trip finally came? I was ready to quit my job from all of the stress, and usually spent half of the trip miserable, completely burned out, and unable to enjoy anything, which, unfortunately, was another thing I had to feel bad about.

But it wasn’t that I wasn’t giving myself self-care with this long trip. It was that I wasn’t giving myself regular self care, and even the right self care for where I was.

To me, there are two main types of self care. There’s preventative, or maintenance self-care, and there’s burnout self-care. One is what we do when our energy levels are still fairly high, so that we can maintain that high energy level, and one is done when our energy is completely shot. Let’s talk about preventative self care first.

It’s easier to find activities that will give us more life when we are in energetic states, because we already have the energy to do things that will bring us even more energy. Like when we are crushing our week, and we are pumped. Or when we are on a winning streak. Often times, we don’t think to do these preventative self-care measures, because it doesn’t feel like we “need” to do them, but we actually do. If we’re constantly filling our tank to 100%, it’ll take much more to bring it down to 0. So when that winning streak is over, and there are setbacks, we can manage that much easier when we have enough in the tank. Also, with ADHD, we have energy when we have high adrenaline moments, but that adrenaline isn’t sustainable, so it’s common to crash once the urgency is over. Consistent preventative self-care helps us dip instead of crash.

Now, throw away everything you’ve heard about what a self-care activity is, because we are all different people, and one person’s self care is not the same as another person’s. It’s important that your self care is restorative to your energy and spirit. That can vary from person to person, and one person’s energy restoration can be another person’s energy depletion.

For example, if you are an introvert and being around crowds of people is something that takes energy from you, going to your friend’s birthday party and meeting with a whole bunch of people you don’t know will likely not give you energy to put in the bank. Or, your friend might find traveling to be a fulfilling self-care experience, but if you’re like me, and are driven to plan and optimize all of these trips, it can actually deplete the energy you have when the trip is on the horizon. I’m not telling you to not go to your friend’s birthday party or go on trips, by the way, even if those things are energy depleting. I’m just saying that they don’t count toward recovery, and you might need to have other activities to supplement them if you do those activities.

Think about the things you do that do one or both of these two things. Lower your anxiety to return you to a calm baseline, or give you lasting energy. For the calm baseline, one of my activities is to take a really hot bath. Like so hot that I have to get in when the bath is half full and crank the heat up, because it would be too much of a shock to go directly into a bath that hot. Another is to give myself a face massage with my fingers, or to do neck and shoulder stretches.

The examples I just used are forms of active recovery. They are things that lower my anxiety levels relatively quickly, and get me back to baseline without much time. A common thing I see others doing is passive recovery. These are things like watching TV, laying around in bed, and doom scrolling. These can lower our anxiety, mostly because of the absence of doing an activity that raises our anxiety. But because these aren’t active recovery, it can take a significant amount of time for our anxiety levels to get down to baseline doing these things, and for many of us, there just isn’t enough time to recover from an anxiety-filled day when paired with passive recovery. Plus, while we’re passively recovering, we’re not doing any of the other maintenance things that ensure we will have a successful day later, like doing the dishes, laundry, or cutting our toenails. Again, I’m not telling you not to do passive recovery. I watch TV everyday after I’m done working, while I eat my dinner. I’m just saying that if it’s not enough, pair those with active recovery things.

For activities that give me energy, I go to trivia once a week at my local indoor dog park and craft beer counter. My team has been crushing trivia lately, and it feels good, but even when we weren’t, it was a very safe activity to go to, since the dog park closes at 8pm, and I know that I can get human connection and creative brain-work without tiring myself out. I also try to cook something creative every week or two, so I can have some form of creative output outside of work. I like to chase my tiny dog around my apartment and play with him, which makes me super happy, and makes him happy, too. And I do my VR exercises that allow me to play a fun game while getting in some cardio, so my nervous system gets used to returning to baseline.

All of those things are activities that give me active energy for my weeks, and ensure that I can dive head-first into work things, like this podcast, without feeling burned out.

But what happens when I do start to feel burned out? What are signals you can observe for when that happens?

For me, I pay attention to certain scenarios when I just can’t use my brain. When I can’t think about what to make for dinner, and decide to just go through the Taco Bell drive thru, it’s an indication to me that I am overextending myself, and I need to give myself the night to recover. When that happens, I clear my evening, draw myself a bath, listen to my favorite music, snuggle my pup in bed, and give myself a hefty dose of passive recovery, along with some active recovery.

This is because when we are feeling burned out, the activities we normally do for active recovery don’t hit the same way. When we are feeling depleted, doing those active recovery activities might feel like more of a chore, or obligation. Being a creative cook and going to trivia goes from being fun and energizing to something I don’t have the spoons to do. That’s a really good indicator of our energy levels, and it’s important to listen to them.

When we are burned out and our motivating energy is low, we tend to need more passive recovery. Or active recovery that feels like a low lift, as mentioned in one of my favorite books, Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski. These are long snuggles with our loved ones, deep belly laughs, cathartic cries, and more. As mentioned in a previous episode, when I’m feeling burned out and emotionally dysregulated, I watch a movie that will make me cathartically cry. Everything Everywhere All At Once. Encanto. Coco. I snuggle my pup. 

This is very important. Don’t push it when you’re in burnout. Don’t force yourself to do an active recovery if it will deplete you more. Listen to your body when it gives you signals, and respond accordingly.

Another thing to watch out for is mistaking an indulgence with consequences for a self care activity. I see this a lot. Someone will get into fights with their partners over spending beyond their means, because they justify their spending spree as self care. But the result is that now there’s tension in the relationship, and it leads to higher anxiety and lower energy. Or for someone who is trying to lose weight, having a binge-like meal for self care, only to descend into self-loathing. Self care is meant to be uplifting, recovery-based, and fulfilling. If it is leading to negative results, consider another activity.

Finding the right balance of self-care is a process, and it can help to sit down and brainstorm what fills you up and what depletes you, and to do this semi-regularly, as the effect activities can have on us can change throughout our lives. Then, go and do them, even if you don’t think you need to at the moment, because that’s how we can have more sustainable energy levels. Because you’re powerful, and I want you to stay that way.

You’ve made it to the end of the episode on Conscientious Self Care. To recap, self-care is necessary, even when we are in current states of high energy. There are active self-care things we can do to lower our anxiety and boost our energy in short amounts of time, and passive recovery things we can do when we don’t have the energy to do active recovery, although passive recovery tends to take longer. Supplement your high energy days and weeks with active recovery as much as you can, but don’t push yourself too hard when you’re in a state of burnout and your energy levels are low. Find activities that don’t create negative consequences for yourself, and identify when you are crossing the threshold into burnout, so you can recover before hitting rock bottom. A robust self-care practice can keep you in a powerful state sustainably, so you can keep crushing whatever comes your way.

If you found this episode enjoyable or informative, please tell your friends and family members with ADHD, and/or give us a review wherever you get your podcasts. If you want to read transcripts or show notes, find out more about me, Jaye Lin, or give suggestions on future episodes, please go to our website, npadhd.com. That’s the acronym for Now Presenting: ADHD, npadhd.com. Or you can follow us on Instagram, at NPADHD. Thanks for listening, and we hope to see you again soon!