Ask the Experts

Q: “Is It Laziness? Or a Smart Reset for My Tired ADHD Brain?”

“Some say laziness is an absence of action. I disagree. I feel laziness is an action, as you choose to do one thing (or nothing) vs. another.”

I have a love/hate relationship with sleep. My body craves it at the end of an exhausting day, but I find it sometimes impossible to transition into stillness. The slower my body moves, the faster my mind revs into high gear. When afternoon crash time rolls around (usually at 4 p.m.), I’ve learned that no amount of caffeine works better than a power nap. Sometimes all I need is a few minutes to refresh my mind.
I have a love/hate relationship with sleep. My body craves it at the end of an exhausting day, but I find it sometimes impossible to transition into stillness. The slower my body moves, the faster my mind revs into high gear. When afternoon crash time rolls around (usually at 4 p.m.), I’ve learned that no amount of caffeine works better than a power nap. Sometimes all I need is a few minutes to refresh my mind.

Q: “I’m a 45-year-old woman with ADHD. My husband and kids are high-energy. They move quickly and get things done. I can’t keep up with them. I just can’t be busy all the time. I get tired. When I sit down to take a break, I feel they think that I’m lazy. I want to be able to do nothing without feeling bad about it. Help!” — TiredMom


Hi TiredMom:

I hate the word lazy. How does such a small word carry so much gravitas? It produces ADHD shame. Guilt. Competitiveness. We live in a culture that awards busyness; we wear it like a badge of honor. Because being busy must mean you are being more productive.

Not true!

Laziness: What It Is (and Is Not)

Lazy isn’t curling up on a comfortable chair and reading. Lazy isn’t taking a nap. Lazy isn’t going for a walk to clear your head. Nor is it just being.

[Read: The Antidote to ADHD Fatigue and Exhaustion? Stacking Habits (and Spoons)]

I also don’t believe that anyone is truly lazy. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t all have lazy moments. There is always some conscious thought and self-perception going on underneath the surface that produces that feeling of laziness.

Some say laziness is an absence of action. I disagree. I feel laziness is an action, as you choose to do one thing (or nothing) vs. another. A wise man once told me that not planning to do something is still decision-making. And, therefore, you’re taking action.

So, let me help you change the narrative. When done right, laziness is good for the body and mind. We all need time to repair and renew. To put gas back in the tank. To sit with our thoughts. Create. Reflect. Dream.

Laziness: Scheduling the Unscheduled

For the longest time, I felt that if I wasn’t in constant motion, I would be perceived as lazy, unproductive, even unworthy. But keeping up that pace depleted me completely. It was essential for my well-being and productiveness to allow me to schedule my lazy time. Or, as I like to call it, “scheduling the unscheduled.” And I encourage my student coaching clients to do the same.

[Self-Test: Do I Have ADHD? Symptom Test for Adults]

Here’s an example: When I first met Ethan (a second-semester freshman in college), he was pretty beaten down. As we dug into the details, his self-proclaimed laziness and procrastination were a constant throughout our conversations (even though he juggled fifteen credits, a part-time job, and other activities and responsibilities). He equated doing nothing with being lazy. So, I asked him to share his schedule with me and specifically how he juggled his responsibilities and where he “slacked off.” His term, not mine.

I learned that Ethan had no structure or routine in place or any scheduled downtime. He worked whenever he could. Since he felt that he needed to activate constantly, he burned out quickly. I worked with Ethan to add unscheduled time to his schedule each week. He gave himself permission to take off Saturdays entirely and do whatever he wanted on that day. The “scheduling of the unscheduled” completely changed Ethan’s mindset and productivity. Since Saturday was his day to do whatever he desired, he could activate and stay motivated at other times during the week.

Unscheduled Saturdays, as he called them, were his much-needed mental break.

So my advice to you is to bubble wrap your downtime. Protect it. Make it intentional and guilt-free. You’ll be better off for it.

Laziness or Smart Reset? Next Steps


ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!


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