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The Game I Play to Do Household Chores With ADHD

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When I was growing up most people thought of ADHD/ADD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) only as bouncy little boys who can’t sit still.  We’ve come a long way from that time, but for those of us with adult ADHD/ADD, there are still so many misconceptions we deal with every day.  One that often is a great struggle in my own life is related to boredom.

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I like to think of my brain as anaphylactic to boredom.  Doing a simple task like hand washing dishes can truly feel like the most difficult task in the world, and my brain will do anything to get out of it. I experience an achy fog in my brain and time slows to a crawl. This makes keeping up on housework next to impossible. If you were to pop into my house on a random Tuesday evening, you would likely be surprised by the things that were undone. They are the simplest, but also the most boring for my brain. When my brain is bored, it does not produce the chemicals it needs to stay on task.

Through much trial and error, I’ve discovered a strategy that actually works; not only do I get the task done but it’s with minimal discomfort. I’ve learned my brain works best by adding a sense of urgency, which triggers it to produce the cocktail of chemicals it needs to get through tasks from beginning to end. I’ve learned to make it into a game. For example, let’s say I need to unload and reload the dishwasher. I’ll set the timer on my phone for 3 minutes and then race the clock. Not only do I distract myself from the task by racing the timer, but I give my brain the chemical boost it needs to actually get the job done. It also helps me not feel so overwhelmed. I’ll look at a job like unloading and reloading the dishwasher and be paralyzed by a deep sense of overwhelm. But when I know it’s only going to be 3 minutes, I know I can do 3 minutes.

I always pick a time that is a little bit less than it likely will take, so there is pressure. Many people with ADHD speak about working best under pressure, about being procrastinators because with an impending deadline they do their best work. This is taking that principle and applying it to mundane chores. It also helps my sense of overwhelm by encouraging me to break down large tasks, like doing a big clean of the house on Saturday morning, into smaller bits that are much more manageable.  This may not seem logical to neurotypical folks, because the idea of adding a false sense pressure to reduce overwhelm does not make logical sense. But it is part of the magic of this dynamic and interesting brain I have. Nothing is typical or expected.  The more I learn about my brain, the easier and more enjoyable my life has become as I harness all its power to work for my benefit.


Getty image by Igzz.

Originally published: March 12, 2018
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