Decision making, stress & ADHD

What led me to finally allow myself to get diagnosed with ADHD several years ago, was stress. I was so stressed out all the time that I couldn’t sleep without sleeping pills. Not being able to sleep increased my stress which fueled my anxiety and made sleep time feel like a living nightmare. After fifteen years of living like this, I was a hot mess.

Fear of dropping dead from a stress generated heart attack by 40 and the very real thoughts of suicide I was having more frequently was the wake up call I needed to reach out for help. Help came in the form of answers.

As Dr. Christina Zampitella and I sat down to review the results of the 5 hour ADHD assessment I had taken, she began to explain me to me in a way that no one else had. A way that made me feel a lot better about myself and not the stupid, spacey, failure I had believed myself to be. It brought me understanding which brought me peace and gave me permission.

Permission to allow myself to finally accept that what I was living and dealing with was very real. This was the key to finally learning how to work with my ADHD and not against it. I quickly understood that the first place to start with managing it was to reduce my stress.

From that place, I started by asking myself one life saving question,

“What stresses me out?”

I found that there were many things that stressed me out and lack of sleep and dehydration made any stress I was under much worse. But the most interesting thing I found that causes me a great deal of stress is making decisions.

When I feel stress start in my body, I apply what I call my “Stressed? Stop and Sort” strategy to take a moment to figure out what is stressing me out. I have become so adept at doing this that it now only takes going back about five thoughts to see which thought triggered the stress. It almost always goes back to a decision needing to be made.

That discovery inspired the commitment to become a more effective decision maker. Learning that decision making is an executive function in the frontal lobe that is impaired in the ADHD brain, I quickly understood the only way to get through this with the least amount of stress is to learn how to be patient with myself.

I could of never imagined all the strategies and systems that would come from the one simple decision of committing to becoming a better decision maker. Ironic right? Strategies like:

Think in Threes
The 5 W’s
Forward think and backwards plan
If/then
At least

Practicing these strategies daily for years, I believe, has rewired my brain. I now can make lightening fast and confident decisions. Much to my surprise, I’ve also become a planner. People assume that because I’m a Professional Organizer that planning comes naturally. Being that planning is also an executive function that is impaired in the ADHD brain, it does not. But I’m much better today than I was before and I’ve learned that is all I can ask of myself.

The best part about all of this, is I have reduced my stress and now I sleep just fine and somehow life feels easier. Which makes this girl a much happier person.

You can find more strategies like “Stressed? Stop and Sort and If/Then” in my new book, “If Clutter Could Talk…The Stories It Would Tell” available on Amazon now.

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