Full disclosure: I have been trying to write this blog post for TWO MONTHS now. I have been majorly procrastinating (one of the challenging symptoms of ADHD). Don’t get me wrong… I’m not procrastinating because I don’t want to write this post! I am so excited to write this post that I have been having a hard time writing it!.. Huh?! If I’m so excited to write this post, then why can’t I just write it?! It’s because there is SO MUCH that I want to write and I am unable to organize my thoughts. This is where Executive Functions come into play! So far I have mentioned two challenges that accompany ADHD. But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself here.. I’m going to backup a bit:
Today we’re talking about strengths and challenges!! Everyone has their strengths and challenges – this is not unique to ADHD or any other neurodivergent condition. That said, ADHD can add a plethora of challenges to our everyday lives. Not only does ADHD bring challenges but ADHD can also exacerbate the magnitude of our challenges.
“In my experience, one of the most important pieces to ADHD treatment is identifying our unique challenges that ADHD brings and tackle them using our strengths.”
Before I dive in and talk about the strengths and challenges that accompany ADHD, I’ll give you a little history about myself
In high school I was plagued by anxiety; my hands would have a constant jitter and I was constantly worried that I was going to be called on in class. My self-confidence was next to none. Little did I know that inattentive ADHD was lurking in the background. I call myself Missleadingly ADHD.
“My ADHD diagnosis completely changed my life! Why?! My diagnosis allowed me to see that I did not have character flaws; they were actually symptoms of my ADHD.”
I had a lifetime of not feeling good enough; comparing myself to others who were able to “do the things”. People around me weren’t battling overwhelm, procrastination and meItdowns. They were able to break down homework assignments and actually do the darn things the night before they were due. My biggest revelation since my diagnosis: I am not stupid: I can have difficulty paying attention (sometimes hyperfocus comes in for the win!).
“The biggest change since my ADHD diagnosis has been addressing my strengths AND bringing them to the surface. In the process I squash out my challenges by identifying them, being mindful and creating action steps around them. I then started to focus on my strengths and consequently my anxiety started to subside; I no longer focus on my detriments!!”
Challenges that accompany ADHD
Impulsivity – acting without thinking about future consequences.
Self-regulation – Russell Barkley who is one of the leading ADHD researchers shares that “Self-regulation involves:
(1) any action an individual directs at themselves so as to
(2) result in a change in their behavior (from what they might otherwise have done) in order to
(3) change the likelihood of a future consequence or attainment of a goal.”
I’ll give you a scenario to better explain: Nancy would like to go on a diet in order to lose some weight and she knows that eating a donut will not help her reach her goal, yet we she eats the donut anyways. This is a self-regulation issue.
Hyperactivity (both mental and physical)
Inattentive – In my experience I was diagnosed “inattentive”. What I actually experience is mental hyperactivity. Yes, I may not be paying attention to what you are saying but that doesn’t mean that my brain is quiet; it’s actually the opposite! My brain is bouncing all over the place!
Executive Functions difficulties – this is a big one for us with ADHD! If you have never heard this term, please look into it! I am biased to Thomas Brown’s model:
“As with anything in life you can flip these challenges on their head! Someone who is impulsive can be seen as spontaneous or a risk-taker (in a good way). This could look like someone who is willing to take a leap of faith.”
The key is to manage our challenges and keep them under control! Once we can identify our weaknesses we can then come up with solutions to avoid them!
Just because one person has ADHD it doesn’t mean that they are going to be the same as the next person with ADHD. It doesn’t matter if someone is neurotypical or neurodivergent, every single person is unique!
Focus on your unique strengths!
As I mentioned, everyone is different so here are a few options to get at your strengths. Pick whichever speaks to you!
Option #1: VIA Character Strengths
If highlighting your strengths is new to you I recommend taking the VIA character strengths survey to find out your strengths! Funny tidbit: It is very common for those of us with ADHD to have “Self-Regulation” as one of our weaker strengths. Self-regulation and perseverance are my weakest strengths… maybe Dr. Barkley is onto something! I would love to know – what is your greatest strength and where does self-regulation land for you? Click here to take the survey yourself!
Option #2: Start a success journal for yourself.
You will begin to see your natural strengths shine and see common themes within your successes. These are your optimal strengths that you can use for tough situations!
Option #3: Brainstorm your own ways to figure out your strengths or work with someone!
Everyone is unique – yes, there are commonalities in ADHD but everyone’s strengths and challenges are unique to the individual – just like your fingerprint! I invite you to get curious and discover your own strengths and challenges!!
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