ADHD and worry go together like peanut butter and jelly. Sometimes you are worrying about an issue you can’t or choose not to try to change. And in Part 1 I explored strategies to use in these instances. If you haven’t read that article yet, go ahead and check it out before continuing.
Then come back here.
And we’ll continue exploring strategies to help you minimize your worrying. But now we’re going to turn our attention to situations where you can and choose to act on your worries. The key, just like with situations where you have no control, will be to not stay stuck in worrying.
Ready? Read on….
Get Outside Your Head!
Unless it’s an emergency, you don’t need to act right away. In fact, for adults with ADHD, it’s probably better to take some time to think. But it is still important to get out of your head. Because you know ruminating doesn’t help the situation and just causes you more stress.
Take the example of Herb, who has a colleague, Dorothy, he thinks is not pulling her weight or doing the work the way he thinks she should. 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 important work communications.
- procrastinated on working on his project with Dorothy.
- even avoided Dorothy.
Obviously, this was not a good work environment. And Herb’s problem with Dorothy persisted. Because he was only thinking about how Dorothy was screwing up, rather than trying to come up with a solution.
One option is to talk about your worries with someone you trust. This will help you feel less alone. And the right person can also help you clarify the thoughts and feelings swirling about in your head. In turn, you’ll feel less stress and be in a better position to come up with solutions.
Another option for getting outside of your head is writing. While you don’t get the benefits of interacting with another person, writing about your worries can also help you clarify your thoughts and think about solutions. And the advantage of writing is you can do it anytime.
Figure Out If Your Worry Is “Real”
Then, before you turn your attention to finding a solution, make sure you identify the right problem. Because you don’t want to make the all too common misstep of trying to solve a problem that is not, well, real. You might make this mistake if you have fallen into one of the following negative thinking traps:
- black-and-white thinking
- disqualifying the positive
- emotional reasoning
- jumping to conclusions
For ADHD adults negative thinking is all too common, for sure. So, is important to figure out whether your worries might be “exaggerated.”
What is something you are worrying about right now? Curious whether your worry is due to distorted thinking? Check out ADHD and Avoiding Negative Thinking Traps Part 1 and Part 2 to learn more. You can learn to manage these thoughts and minimize your worry.
Then you decide what it is you really want to change.
Decide What You Want to Change
Once you’ve identified the problem that is the source of your worries, it’s time to decide what you want to change. And answering the questions below can help you do this. I’ve included sample answers from Herb about his problem with Dorothy.
1 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.
2. 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.
3. If you could achieve this change, what would be different for you?
Where to start?! If I could make this happen, 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…
4. On a scale of 1-10, how much do you want this change?
Now you are ready to find a solution.
How A Solution-Focused Approach Will Help You
Okay, you can really see the change you want now. But how do you make it happen? The key at this point in your journey is to take a solution-focused approach and focus on what you want to achieve, rather than what is wrong. A subtle, but very important difference.
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? Ready to try?
Putting a Solution-Focused Approach into Practice
If you’re ready to try, answer the questions below for a problem you currently have. Again, I’ll illustrate by using answers from Herb.
1. What do you want instead of the problem? That is, what do you want to achieve?
I want a fair workload.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. What are the steps you need to take to accomplish this?
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? So why not put your worry to work instead, right?
Solutions for ADHD Worry – Ready to Put Your Worry to Work?
If you’re worried about a problem that you want to and can change, 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:
- Get out of your head by talking to someone and/or writing about your worries.
- Identify the problem and make sure you haven’t fallen into a negative thinking trap.
- Decide what you want to change.
- Use a solution-focused approach to bring this change about.
Are you ready to get out of your head?