Best of 2018

Nov. 19th, 2018

People talk about how time changes as you age. They say it speeds up. I’m beginning to feel the reality of that perspective. I also think as our species ages, the pace of life, at least where I live, increases.

Haste doesn’t bring out the best in everyone. The last-minute scramble is familiar to so many of us with ADHD, but do it too often and burnout is unavoidable. I feel a bit like the whole world is running either in or one step away from burnout.

I texted a friend the other day “Where did September go?” And the seasonal depression that can be a comorbidity of so many mental health challenges is not a huge help.

Nonetheless, there were many things that changed in my life during 2018, for the better.

1. Getting Things Done

I read up on the task management system created by David Allen and I’m so glad I did. The system as is isn’t a perfect fit for me, but the underlying principles definitely have improved my life.

If I had to pick the one fundamental thing that I love about GTD, it’s that the system wants you to use your brain for having ideas, not remembering them. That’s a concept I can get behind.

2. Knix bra

My mother put me on to this company and while this mention isn’t making me any money, I’m still happy to talk about the bra I bought to anyone who will listen. It’s the bra you won’t want to take off at the end of a long day.

Given how stressed, busy, and overwhelmed the average person is, let alone if they are struggling with ADHD or another mental health challenge, the last thing anyone wants to do is fight or put up with their clothing. Knowing what I’m wearing will be comfortable and do its’ job, day in and day out, is paramount for me.

I wish I had a recommendation for other intimates companies since this one deals in the female form. So if you know of one, preferably Canadian, like Knix, shoot me an email. I want us all to comfy in our clothes, no matter what’s under them.

3. Sensory breaks

A fast-paced world and a tendency to tip into overwhelm easily are not a good mix. Add ADHD’s propensity to seek out more and more stimulation, in whatever form that takes, and you’ve got a big problem.

And while I’m the first person to advocate fidgeting and listening to music in order to concentrate, this year I began to take a different approach. It’s a technique I’ve known about a long, long time, but only recently came back to.

When I was in preschool, I had a teacher who was beyond wonderful. And she knew children well. She could tell when I was getting overloaded and instead of punishing me, she’d invite me to take a break, to be read a story, or just sit quietly for a while, to decompress. That’s what I’m doing now, decades years later.

A brilliant friend of mine, with a degree in cognitive neuroscience, told me that there’s a difference between how the brain hears nature sounds versus nearly anything else. On her advice, I take a few moments, go into a quiet room, play nature sounds (from YouTube), and just allow my thoughts to drift where they will. It’s not the same as meditation, it’s just allowing myself to be, with no agenda, no effort being asked of me. Just stillness for a short time. It helps bring me back from overwhelm.

4. Day off

I’m lucky enough to have a life that not only allows me a day off each week, but to have a day off where I don’t need to schedule anything. For a long time, I fought it, feeling it would be self-indulgent to just allow my business to not exist for a whole 24 hours, four times a month. It slowly dawned on me, though, all the reasons it was foolish to expect myself to never have a scheduled break.

Don’t get me wrong, I still text and email clients on Fridays, but I don’t schedule client sessions, personal appointments, or even socialization. Fridays are a day of nothing planned, at all. I’d advise anyone with mental health challenges who is able to take a similar day for themselves.

5. Diet

One of the reasons 2018 won’t go down in my books as the best year is my months-long struggle with tinnitus. It began in March of this year and I can hear the ringing as I type this.

One of the things I’ve done that’s gotten the tinnitus to a manageable level is my change in diet. You can read more about what I changed and how it also improved my mental health here. It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I’m so glad I did it.

6. Personal projects

I started to give my personal projects more weight in 2018. If you want to build a whole fictional world from scratch in less than five years you kind of have to. I gave myself permission to prioritize the things that enriched my life. I also spent time giving that work as much structure as my work projects. This made them much easier to do and more enjoyable.

7. Messaging

I’ve always given of myself to those I care about. It’s who I am and I’ve never had cause to regret it, except when I allowed it to spill over boundaries. Of course, in order for people to step on your boundaries, you have to actually have them. This isn’t something those of us with ADHD are typically great at. Some are, but that can also run to the opposite extreme where the boundaries are so ridged and distant that no one can even approach.

This year I overhauled how I handle messaging, which is where a lot of my boundaries were unknowingly trampled. I placed a lot of messaging apps on silent and implemented a once-daily check of them all. This has revolutionized my stress levels, my focus, and the weight of self-imposed worry. I no longer feel I’m “on call” to help everyone I know at a moment’s notice.

8. Social media

I also 90% gave up social media. I used Stayfocused to limit how long I could be on (5 minutes per 24 hours), and found myself just not bothering after a while. I still use Facebook messenger to keep in contact with people, but as with item 7, that has also been less.

I’ve tried to put an emphasis on seeing people in person or at least speaking over the phone or voice chat. (This also has the added bonus of allowing me to get things done while I speak to friends. In fact, it’s happened more than once that the person I was speaking to was also cleaning or cooking at the same time.)

9. Routines

Routines have been an important part of my life and my ADHD/mental health management for a long time, but recently I’ve learned to change how they manifest in my life. I still have rough times when each chunk of my daily routine happens, but they’ve become more flexible of late. There’s the “when my feet hit the floor” routine, the “after I exercise” routine, the “whenever, but earlier the better” routine, and the “stuff directly before bed” routine. All the stuff I need and want to do every day in a relatively efficient order.

It was in the past few months that I realized the middle routine could happen literally any time, not just at 3PM when I had been doing it. I mean duh, right? It took me a while to learn it, though.

So there’s my year’s roundup of things that were helpful to me and my mental health.

What helped improve your mental health in 2018?