Many of us with ADHD tend to use avoidance as a coping mechanism. If we think of a task as too hard, stupid, boring or scary, we will avoid it like the plague. Unfortunately, the things we find the most difficult, stupid and boring might be homework or studying if you are a student or working on long term projects if you are an employee and that is when avoidance gets us into trouble. Consistently avoiding doing homework or working on that term paper usually means a failing grade at the end of the semester and painful discussions with disappointed parents. Avoiding work tasks often ends in reprimands or termination.
Avoidance can sometimes be helpful and is often self-protective such as when you avoid driving in a snow storm, or avoid people who always make you feel bad or using alcohol on a work night. But when you consistently avoid things like getting out of bed in the morning and going to work or school, socializing with friends, taking care of household tasks or paying your bills you experience the negative effects of avoidance.
Become aware of what you are avoiding. Start by making a list of all the people, conversations and tasks you are avoiding and figure out what you need to do to make that list shorter. Is there one thing you’ve been avoiding that you can take care of today even if it is a little scary and you don’t feel like doing it? Think of the smallest step you could take. Don’t worry about taking a perfect step, all you want to do is take a small step in the right direction. This is where you might think to yourself, “I just don’t have the motivation.” Motivation tends to be highly overrated and not necessary to begin anything. Sometimes you find motivation half way through a task. Getting started and getting past avoidance is the hardest part.
If you feel hopelessly stuck and the only strategy you are using is avoidance you could probably use some help in establishing new skills. Help is available, you can ask for help from a friend, family member, ADHD coach or mental health professional.
Kathy Sussell is an ADHD coach in Brooklyn, NY. She helps teens, college students and adults with ADHD with time management, planning and prioritizing, getting started with and finishing tasks, organizing paper and objects and improving social skills. She is the organizer of the ADHD Women’s Meetup Group that meets every month in downtown Brooklyn. For more information visit her website: www.bravolifecoaching.com or email Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org