What are you worrying about right now? Take a moment to think about it. Ok, now that you’ve given it some thought, think about what you are doing with this worry.
We all worry. It’s part of human nature.
But because it is hard for adults with ADHD to transition — switch gears — you may get stuck in unproductive worrying. Like a needle stuck on record (remember those?), the worry keeps on playing over and over in your head, making the grove — worry — more and more pronounced.
Some call it ruminating or perseverating. Whatever you call it you can’t afford to:
- rent out the valuable real estate in your head.
- devote your time and energy to just worrying.
There is too much you want to accomplish.
Following the steps below can help you to stop allowing worry to hijack your brain.
#1 Worry With Someone Else
You may or may not be ready to take proactive steps in finding a solution to address your worry. Change happens in stages, and wherever you are is ok, really.
But, whether or not you want to find a solution, it is still important to get out of your head by talking with someone about your worry. Because talking with someone will:
- help you feel less alone.
- reduce the overwhelm you feel from the onslaught of thoughts.
- allow you to process your thoughts, rather than ruminate.
So, whether it is a friend, professional or family member, find someone who you feel comfortable with, someone who will keep what you say in confidence. And let them know whether you just need to talk or you need help finding a solution.
Above all, take the time you need, and don’t short change yourself. Talk, talk and then talk some more.
Then, when you are ready you can decide what you want to do next.
#2 Figure Out If Your Worry Is “Real”
Because of the challenges with emotional regulation it is also easy for Adults with ADHD to get stuck worrying about something that is not, well, real…
It is possible you are worrying because you have fallen into a negative thinking traps, such as:
- black and white thinking
- disqualifying the positive
- emotional reasoning
- jumping to conclusions
When your worry is due to the above types of distorted thinking you can learn to manage these thoughts in order to minimize your worry. If you are would like to learn how to do this, you can get started by checking out ADHD and Avoiding Negative Thinking Traps – Part 1 and ADHD and Avoiding Negative Thinking Traps – Part 2.
#3 When Acceptance Is the Best Way to Address Your Worries
Sometimes you may decide the best solution for your worry is acceptance, especially in situations where:
- you really have no control over changing the situation.
- you decide you don’t want to spend the time or energy necessary to change the situation.
In either case, choosing to accept a situation as it is does not mean you like it or want it to be that way. It just means you are choosing to recognize that it what it is and you can’t control everything.
For example, rather than trying to change someone, you may choose to accept them with their flaws and limitations. After all, we all have them, right? Accepting others as they are, rather than wanting to make them to be different, might improve your relationships, as well save you time and energy fighting what is.
Acceptance can also be the best antidote when you are worrying about past choices. You can’t change the past, of course. But you can practice compassion by reminding yourself you made the best decision you could at the time. And you can decide to make different choices going forward.
While the above are just two examples where acceptance might be the best way to address your worry, I’m sure you can think of more.
And as you practice using acceptance as means of addressing your worries, try also using this adapted version of the Serenity Prayer from Dr. Hallowell below:
What situations are you worrying about, but either can’t change or choose not to try to change because it is not worth your time and energy?
Ready to practice acceptance?
How to Decide If You Want To Come Up With a Solution to Your Worries
You are probably also worrying about situations you may want to and can change. But, before investing your time and energy into trying to make a change, make sure the change is one you really want. Answering the questions below for a problem you currently have can help you make this decision.
To illustrate how you might do this I’ve included sample answers from Herb, who has a colleague, Dorothy, he thinks is not pulling her weight or doing the work the way he thinks she should.
- Why is it a problem for you?
I don’t think it is fair that I have to bear such a heavy burden of the workload because Dorothy is not doing her part. I also really want balance in my life, and I don’t have as much time to do what I want outside of work because I have to do more than just my work.
- If it is something negative, what are you trying to get rid of? If it is something positive, what are you trying to achieve?
I want to get rid of my current heavy workload and get more time to spend outside of work.
- If you could achieve this change, what would be different for you?
Where to start?! If I could make this happened, I wouldn’t use so much of my time and energy being angry about this. I would get more sleep, for sure. I would also be more content and happier at work. And, if my workload was more doable, I could enjoy my time outside of work. I’m sure I could think of more…
- On a scale of 1-10, how much do you want this change?
What Happens When You Just Stew About Something You Could Change?
At the onset Herb focused only on what was wrong. Makes sense. After all, it was a problem for him.
But, though he wanted the situation to be different, when he was only concentrating on what was wrong, he:
- indulged in non-productive ruminating about how angry he was at Dorothy.
- left Dorothy out of the loop when communicating about their work to other colleagues.
- distracted himself at other times by focusing on anything else but his project with Dorothy.
- avoided Dorothy.
Obviously, this was not a good work environment. And Herb’s problem with Dorothy persisted… In fact, it was hard for Herb to come up with a solution when all he could think about was how Dorothy was screwing up.
I bet it is also hard for you to come up with a solution when you are only focused on what is wrong about a situation you are currently worrying about.
#4 How To Use A Solution Focused Approach to Creating Change
The alternative to focusing on what is wrong is to take a solution focused approach and focus on what you want to achieve. A subtle, but very important difference.
Answering the questions below for a problem you currently have will help you focus on the solution you would like to achieve. Again, I’ll illustrate by using answers from Herb.
- What do you want instead of the problem? That is, what do you want to achieve?
I want a fair workload.
- Write out what the solution will look like. Include as much detail as possible.
Dorothy and I will agree on a fair distribution of tasks. We will meet each week to check in with each other to ensure we are both following through on our commitments. We will agree to renegotiate if down the road either of us feels that the workload is not fair.
- What is it about having this solution that is important to you?
Like I said before I want the workload to be fair and I want to be able to spend more time doing things outside of work.
- How will things be different when you arrive at this solution? On a scale of 1-10, what will 10 look like when you have what you want?
I can stop worrying about this, for sure. And I’ll feel better while I’m at work and be more productive. When it is a 10 we’ll all be pulling our weight, following through on our commitments and renegotiating when necessary.
- What are the steps you need to take to accomplish this?
Here are my initial steps:
- I’ll come up with a suggested breakdown of our tasks.
- Then I’ll email Dorothy to ask to meet.
- I’ll email her my suggestions before the meeting so she has time to think about them
- We’ll meet, and go from there…
Working toward a solution definitely takes time and effort. But so does worrying, right?
How A Solution Focused Approach Will Help You
As you take the spotlight off the problem you are worrying about and focus instead on the solution, you will notice a difference in how you feel and act.
Specifically, you will likely be more optimistic about the possibility of getting what you want as you create a plan that seems realistic and achievable. And, as a result of being able to envision a path to the solution, you will also feel more in control of the situation.
These feelings will motivate you to act. And, as you take concrete steps toward what you want to achieve, your feelings of optimism and control will only increase.
Better than letting the thoughts of the problem swirl about in your head, right?
Give it a try.
Next Steps For You
Don’t just let your worries rattle about in your brain, taking up your time and energy.
Follow these 4 steps to put your worry to work:
- Talk with someone.
- Decide if your worries are ”real.”
- Decide if acceptance is the best way to address your problem.
- If you want to change the problem, use a solution focused approach.
Are you ready to get out of your head?