Coping With ADHD Challenges Is a Lot Like a Hard Hike: You Need Good Tools

Ah, the first backpacking trip of the season. The weather was perfect. The trail was uncrowded. Metaphors and similes about gear and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) strategies floated through my mind like sparks from the campfire.
ADHD Coach Blog | posted by Beth Main

I realized how hard life with ADD/ADHD can be. I got to thinking that there must be an easier way. I started with one little strategy that changed my life: I bought a planner.

Beth Main, ADHD Coach Blogger

What’s in your gear closet?

I have never really been a tool person. It used to be there wasn’t much I couldn’t repair with duct tape, a kitchen knife, and a high-heeled shoe. When I started hiking many years ago, part of the allure was that I didn’t need any special equipment. I could just get up and go. Since then, however, I’ve amassed several thousand dollars' worth of backpacking gear that I have no idea how I ever lived without.

ADHD coping skills are like hiking gear.

At first, you think you don’t need anything special. You can hike just fine in a pair of sneakers as long as you don’t go too far, or attempt too rocky a terrain. But then you try to go a little farther. Rocks and roots press into the soles of your shoes. Your feet start to hurt. So you bite the bullet and buy a pair of hiking boots. They’re a little uncomfortable at first, and you think, is this really any better? But then you start to get used to them. Oh my! What an improvement.

Your new footwear enables you to hit steeper and more difficult trails. Being the adventurous type, off you go and you notice other more seasoned hikers using fancy aluminum trekking poles. You laugh at them -- what the heck would anyone need all that for? The first time you twist an ankle, fall in a creek, or slide down an incline on your back, however, you begin to understand the value. So you try out a pair. Like the boots, they’re a little hard to get used to. But soon you don’t know how you ever lived without them.

You are now a gear junkie.

It’s the same with ADD/ADHD coping strategies. A long, long time ago, I used to just get up and go, not worrying about how my day went. The farther I got from home, the steeper the hills were, the more I realized how hard life with ADD/ADHD can be. I got to thinking that there must be an easier way. So I started with one little strategy that changed my life: I bought a planner. At first it seemed cumbersome. I had to carry it around with me, remember to write stuff in it, and look at it regularly. It was kind of a hassle, to be honest. But before long I was relying on it more than my left arm. How do people live without these things?!

Over time, I added more strategies to my ADD/ADHD gear closet. Now I am functioning quite well. It’s been years since anyone called me a derogatory name like "ditzy." But just like backpacking gear, there’s always some new tool I’d like to acquire. I hear about a new technique, wonder how I could possibly use it, decide to do something similar, figure out how, and integrate it into my life. Then it’s on to the next challenge. My next conquest is figuring out how to finish a book that I really wanted to read but lost interest in halfway through because something else looked even better. I haven’t seen the solution for that one yet.

Where are you on your ADD/ADHD journey? What’s on your coping-skills gear wish list? Leave me a comment.

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