The Buddy System
Easy ways to stay connected with the important people in your life when you have adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Those of us with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have the best of intentions to keep up with old friends or to make room for new ones. But managing the stress in our lives — helping a child study for a test, organizing a week’s worth of meals, making sure medication has been taken — can easily derail those worthy goals.
When we get busy, we often put our friends and relatives on the back burner, figuring we’ll see them next week or next month. Six months go by, and we still haven’t had that cup of coffee or gone to that movie together.
Well, you’re missing out on more than you think. Studies show that talking or spending time with friends reduces stress and keeps you healthy by lowering blood pressure and stimulating the immune system. Friendships may actually add years to your life.
I had a friend, Judy, who learned about the importance of friendship while battling cancer. During her struggle, we got together each week. She wanted me to help her write her eulogy and to deliver it at her funeral. The lesson Judy wanted to convey was that when all the busyness of our daily lives stops, we have control over what is really important: faith, family, and, yes, friends.
Maintaining friendships can present a challenge to adults with ADHD, many of whom have a difficult time with routine. A plan will help. I realize, of course, that I’m probably preaching to the choir. I’d bet that no one reading this article has jumped into action without first developing a plan. Right? Remember that, in friendships, as well as in business, front-end planning produces back-end results.
Here are some of the best tips I’ve come across to help you build, or rebuild, relationships ADHD style:
Set aside 10 minutes a day to connect with friends and relatives. When I coach people, we use “chunking,” or breaking larger tasks into smaller, more manageable ones, to help them organize their lives. Well, why not use chunking to stay in touch with your friends each week? Don’t feel guilty about all the calls you haven’t made, just make one to a friend. Try to call three a week.
Doing two things at once is an ADHD strength. If you’re short on time, consider double dipping – calling a friend while attending to something else on your to-do list. Talk to a friend on a speakerphone or a headset while doing the dishes, walking to an errand, or even commuting on a bus or train to work. Plan a breakfast or lunch with friends. You need to eat anyway, so why not invite an old friend along to the restaurant.
Just as we need reminders to take our car in for service, a reminder system to keep us in touch with our friends is invaluable. Some of my clients are structured, and they have a “tickler” system in their computer to alert them to contact people at set intervals.
In coaching we refer to this as creating a link or hook. In real life, we refer to it as maintaining a friendship.
If you don’t have many friends, make a commitment to find one in the next three months. Start with your place of work or other areas where you spend time and run into the same people. A gym or the library offers good opportunities. And remember: Plan it into your day.