Resilience Practices with ADHD

Episode 91

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Hosts Shelly and Cam continue to explore the concept of resilience and focus on resilience practices. Episode 60 laid out the ‘valley’ experience – getting stuck and not finding a way out. In today’s episode we explore practices to manage those valley moments. We share more examples of challenges when we are ‘deep in the emotion of an event’ like ‘blame sponge’ and our old friend from Episode 4, Adrenaline Response Cycle.

Cam shares a  humorous “brain under assault” story and Shelly does a little spot coaching to reveal how Cam used resilience practices to help him manage the stressors. Other concepts and practices to manage valley moments discussed include body awareness, elements of Cam’s Emotional Health Ladder, the power of a reflective practice and Cam and Shelly’s own Triple 10 Ascending practice and Disrupt, Pivot, Activate, Explore sequence.

Emotional Health Ladder Levels (Episode 78):
Level 1 Present and Calm
Level 2 Attending to…
Level 3 Auto-pilot
Level 4 Survival
Level 5 Delusional

Episode links + resources:

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Episode Transcript:

Shelly: Hi, I’m Shelly. 

Cam: And I’m Cam 

Shelly: And this is translating ADHD. This week we’re going to dive into resilience. So on our last episode, we talked about these five areas that have our attention in terms of what really forms the body of work that we do with any given ADHD client. And the first one and the one we’re going to dive into today is resilience.

Before we do that, just a reminder that our next round of group coaching courses are now open for application. Relevant here because one of the two is on the topic of resilience and the other is another one of those areas that has our attention, which is self-care. Now we design these so that you can take them in any order.

So if you’re not sure which one to apply for, pick the one that has your attention. Pick the one that the timing works better for you. It’s okay. And if you want to take the other offering later, there will be an opportunity to do that as well. So Cam resilience is a big topic for ADHD people. Where do we dig in here?

Cam: It is. And it’s so important. I think Bob Brooks, a psychologist. Boston years ago. Talked about resilience in children. He talked about islands of competence last week. In the episode, we talked about like the valley experience, then resilience is about going in and being able to get out of that situation.

I think the analogy I used is the wheels come off our wagon. As soon as we go into a valley experience when the brain is under assault. Run our survival brain mode and it’s just, again, we’re at our limits and then something trips us into valley experience. So this is not about staying out of your valleys, the valleys are a part of your life. Life is unpredictable, but if we can equip ourselves with tools and strategies, and practices that are going to help us around the valley yet. And when we do fall in and we’re able to self recover or let a resource know. This goes back to that flu analogy that we did back in season one, right. Of that pool awareness and falling into the deep end of the emotional pool. So yeah, I’m looking forward to it today. Shelly. 

Shelly: Me too, so Cam, You know, How much I love irony and. Very ironically, your morning, this morning is a perfect example of what we mean by resilience.

Cam: Yeah. So I’m gonna, um, holding my hand up so shall I can see it? And there’s a little, a 

Shelly: Yeah you had a little wobble going on there. 

Cam: I got a little wobble here, people. Again, that, that whole idea of life interrupts. I just sent my oldest to college for the first time. That’s a new experience for my wife and I and just sent our second child to eighth grade for the first time in 16 months.

And so I’m out this morning, you know, we’ve already got some things going on right. Already kind of like. dabbling in survival brain. And this is back to that cultivating emotional health ladder of, again, those three middle levels of autopilot below that as survival and above autopilot is attending to being a choice.

I think it might be a nice little model for today. So I’m walking the dog and I’m just going down and actually, you know what I’m doing, I’m listening to the podcast. What I tend to do is listen to the podcast, just to prime my brain for what are we going to do today? And I’m walking down and meet the new neighbors and they’ve got their dogs and I got my dogs and all of a sudden their dog.

A little Benji with an attitude. Yeah. His collar and goes after my nine-year-old sweet black lab, just like right at him. And I’m like, whoa, what’s going on here? So we pull them off my guys. Okay. It’s got some scrapes on his ear. Well, He’s got a big shaggy neck, you know, protect.

Again, it’s like, didn’t expect it elevated me up and took me to a potential valley moment. So I keep going on my way. Right. We say our things and it’s okay. Doggy dynamics and whatnot, and they’re apologetic and we go on but it got me thinking about it.

The brain under assault, that those of us with ADHD, we tap into our survival brain so much, arc pony, right? The adrenaline, adrenaline response cycle, right?

My adrenaline is going and I’m sharp and I’m focused, but now I’ve got this port is all leftover and I’m a little bit, Ooh, but also coming back to, I’m not a fall asleep this week. We’re doing a podcast. It’s rebounding coming back to. Some status, That’s resiliency. I think there was a time in my life where that situation would have tripped me up for the better part of a day.

Shelly: So before we talk about that previous time in your life Cam, I’d actually like to talk more about today. What went into what you’re calling resilience. What enabled you to be resilient, to be sitting here with me, recording our podcast rather than canceling. Blowing off your morning, rather than losing a week.

Cam: Hmm. That’s a good question. You know, I think that we always talk about doing your work. Right. And this goes back to last week with the other 167 hours in the week now. So both of us have done a lot of work inside ADHD and outside of ADHD. And I’ve been working on resilience for the better part of 20 years.

it’s been a struggle at times, but also developing some practices. In a situation where I would have been flooded in the past, I would have been flooded. I would have been on guard and like the world is collapsing. I mean, I can tell you a time when someone cut me off, I flipped them off.

And then we were jockeying around in traffic the rest of the day. I’m just like that dudes coming through the door. I know it

 Heightened and being able to step back what matters here. First of all, is my dog. Okay. My dog was fine. The situation was unfortunate. And so being able to regroup, reframe step back and breathe. We talk about body awareness. We’ll talk a little bit about that today. I was so much in my head for so many years.

That it was like, I never really connected to my body and what my body was trying to tell me. Our bodies are like giant and for our brain, all that nervous system connected to the brainstem. And so feeling the tightening and like, oh, you’re stressed, take a breath, relax. I went on my way to keep walking.

To work that stress out. And so that’s what was different. The other thing was I would have in the past, got ahead and jumped on my call with my client, jumped on the podcast with you, and not told my wife who was sitting in a long line, dropping my child off. I was like, hey, here’s the situation?

Because she would’ve come in and pet the dog and found blood on his ear. And so that kind of like, oh, let me let the people know who matter, and then cleaned up the dog. The dog is fine. Everything’s good. We’re on our way. And getting back to some kind of a centerline.

Shelly: I’m going to add one here, you access to resource in me. You asked to bump back the time that we met this morning, knowing that we build in extra time, knowing that I know that when you make a request like that, it is because you need to make a request like that. So you didn’t have to stop and explain the whole situation to me.

I think I got a text that said. A new time followed by dog. Kerfluffle

Cam: oh, wait a sec. It was dog scuffle. 

Shelly: Dog scuffle. So now I think it would be interesting to look at. How this experience might have gone differently with an earlier version of Cam. 

Cam: Yeah. I think a earlier version of Cam would be again, that highly contextual brain we’re wired for association. And so if we’re not tethering to positives, we’re going to tether to negatives. And that’s that when the brain is under assault when we’re fully in our fight flight center of the brain and in, an arc situation, we’re tethering to negative emotions. Right.

 We use those negative emotions to overcome an activate for task and get things done. So it’s helpful. It’s useful, but it’s also tethering to that inner critic, the inner critic, and how this is going to play out. And so let’s just say a Cam 15 years ago or 20 years ago, and that situation I would have gone to this.

Oh my God. I’ve destroyed any kind of relationship with these neighbors? Or excuse me, not that I have, but it’s been destroyed right. That I can’t be. it’s just, it’s a non-starter right. So taking that signal, that big signal, and playing it out. Into this colorful disaster scenario, that’s my idea, generator generating a story last week, we talked about Loki, weaves the story. So I would have been this sort of yeah, this is how it is. This is how it always is for me. Little victimy.

No victim here. No victim this time. So all this energy and bandwidth people, right? This is about protecting your bandwidth. Your executive functions are working overtime to construct these stories that will never play out. And that’s that again? What’s on the movie screen down in the valley plane. It’s got our attention.

Shelly: Another thing I want to notice here is that… In the past, this not only would have affected your day, potentially your week, potentially longer with this ruminating and catastrophizing. It also likely would have had long-term impacts on the relationship with these neighbors, whatever that ends up being because you have already got a story.

That is going to affect how you show up what your behavior is. 

Cam: Can I say something really quick? I just want to insert something. The other fascinating thing was I would have made this my fault. So. That’s the other thing I would have got, is it somehow I was at fault, even though their dog slipped out and it was an accident.

I just want to insert that there that’s how devious that inner critic can be of like your, the one to blame and, oh my goodness. Yes, you’re right. It would have just been consumed. 

Shelly: I want to come back to that. It’s my fault statement because I’ve got something to add there, but before I do, I want to describe to our listeners what we just did.

We did a little bit of coaching and what we were really doing there is what Cam and I called developing a reflective practice. How we learn in coaching to show up differently and to create change is by developing this reflective practice. Even today, 20 years into doing this work, it’s helpful to step back and look at a successful outcome and evaluate, how did I get here, and to measure progress by looking at how might I have shown up differently?

Or what did my previous behavior patterns here look like? This is why we talk so much about having a different experience. One of those ease and REBEL, exposure to different experiences, Cam has years and years of exposure to different experiences here, but it didn’t start there. It started with one exposure then another and not just exposure, but then reflecting on what happened. What enabled me to show up differently here? How was I able to have a different experience? Because when we’re able to name those things, they become easier to tap into the next time we find ourselves in a situation like this in a valley experience that could completely derail us.

Now, I want to take a brief aside to talk about this. It’s all my fault statement. I did a Twitter thread on this a month or two ago, right after a client session. That was really tough. Because that’s where my client was. And that’s where the work ahead of us was, is shifting his perspective there, around it’s all my fault.

And I came up with a term that people really seem to like, and that’s the blames sponge. Those of us with ADHD, we receive more negative messages than neurotypicals. Our behavior is confusing and confounding to the people around us. So what happens there? We end up poising ourselves to prevent any crisis, any disaster, anything going wrong.

We make it our job to sort of prevent. Anything happening where anyone might be critical about us and when things don’t go right for the people around us, even if it has nothing to do with us as it did in this case, we just assume the blame we’re blamed sponges. We just soak it all. 

Cam: Can I add something there because that’s again, one side of Mount Rainier, that’s one manifestation of assuming call or rejecting. All right. There’s the other side of Rainier in the sense of no blame, right? The bull in the China shop, manifestation of ADHD, the fast brainers, typically it’s like their out running that emotional piece. But do you see that both are extremes and that’s the constant here that black and white that all or nothing?

So just again, to balance that as if that’s not your experience, it could be this other experience too, or that you have someone in your life who is not taking responsibility for something at all. So I just want to throw that in. 

Shelly: Hat. So the way in which past Cam might’ve completely catastrophized, this situation might have become the blame.

Sponge might have had a very altered week and a permanently altered relationship with these new neighbors. This really highlights how distorted things. Get in the valley, in our limbic brains, how, when we’re deep in the emotion of events as ADHD people, we can’t see the situation as it is. We see this hugely distorted version.

And so the reason Cam and I are back on the valley again today. And we keep coming back here is because this is a big piece of the work that we do with our clients. Learning how to have a different experience by first learning how to step back a little in that valley and not let things get so distorted.

Last week we brought in Loki, which was one way that client was able to have a different valley experience by naming that voice, giving it a character and personality that helps that client. Take a pause, evaluate and have a different experience with his dilemma. Naming things like catastrophizing or being the blame sponge can help create a little distance from the emotion so that you can again, get some perspective on what is reality here and back to what we’re really talking about today.

How do you do this? It starts with getting some resilience, having some agency in your valley, which is possible. 

So Cam let’s pivot last week, we talked about. The be more overt with our listeners about what’s the practice. What can you take out of this 30-minute episode into the rest of your week?

So let’s pivot here and talk about resilience building in the valley. 

Cam: And that keyword right there, pivot is instrumental here. So the thing with ADHD is we tend to get into a mode. It’s an inertia problem in the sense of we go and we’re in our rut where you’re not our way of being.

And when you go into the valley, it’s just reinforced, it’s emphasized, it becomes this surround sound experience with Technicolor, and remember that seeing yourself in the picture starts to fade the deeper you go into the valley. And that’s what happened with me. Is that I would lose myself.

That’s the difference here with the dog experience? Today is a self-concept of, oh, it’s okay. I’m okay. We’re okay. And that there’s this constant there that I remember, but disrupting patterns right in the other 167 hours a week is to disrupt the pattern of the way it is. If you’re in your head if you are stuck if you are overwhelmed to disrupt and pivot, activate and explore. I’ll say those four again, and we have a little tool for you to share, disrupt and pivot, activate and explore.

So to pivot and activate is to just push off in a different direction. This is that, step back often we get into a situation where like I got to push ahead. We got to push forward. Not thinking that taking a step back, taking a breath, letting go releasing is an option. We don’t see that option. So when you slip down to survival mode on that ladder, right?

You’re in autopilot, you dropped survival. You need to reach. Up to attending to right choice. And like I’m at choice. I can be at choice here. And here’s the thing that we want to introduce. It’s called triple ten ascending. Triple ten ascending Is sending us something that we introduced in one of our group coaching classes.

It’s a really simple concept that brings in several different learnings that has a lot of great evidence.

Over contextualize, triple 10 ascending is something that we brought into one of our group coaching efforts and it was just received so well. So we’re going to share it with you here. And so it’s this 10 seconds, 10 minutes, 10%. What we mean by that is that disruption you can disrupt. In 10 seconds, you can disrupt the current way you’re being with a ten-second gesture of breathing, pushing on a doorframe in that 10 seconds.

When you do something that is really focused on senses. The five senses, it disrupts the signal to the negative neural pathways and the amygdala, it quiets down the amygdala in 10 seconds. You can also do 10 seconds with I’m doing it with my spouse. Don’t tell her. Okay. Don’t but I’m like, I can give 10 seconds of attention and it counts.

The cool thing about this is I always thought of I need to attend all the time. But 10 seconds is a worthy amount. 

Shelly: So what Cam is talking about with this 10 seconds is this is the pause we keep referring to and adding a physical component to that pause can be grounding. It can help you really stop. And when we’re able to stop and disrupt, that’s where change starts to happen with ADHD. My clients, especially newer clients, those that haven’t gotten into the groove of coaching yet, they want change now and they can get a little frustrated with the process.

 And I find myself, not just reminding them that, developing this reflective practice, starting with pausing, starting with catching yourself. In the unwanted behavior in the valley and being able to stop and name it. If that’s all you can do, guess what? You’re already having a different experience and you’re having the most critical part of a different experience for change because until we can do that, we can’t disrupt the behavior, but once we can do that, the possibilities from there.

Are endless. Now it’s just about finding that point in which we can pivot and move in a different direction. And what’s going to work for that individual and their uniquely wired brain in this scenario. So talking about listeners, what’s the practice this week before we talk about the next two tens, it’s okay to start with justice 10.

This is the critical ten.

Cam: That’s great. I love that So the 10 minutes, this is this sort of again after you pivot inactive, we think in wholesale changes like I need to change so much. It’s reinforced in our messages. You get a list from somebody of like, you know what this is where it needs to change.

Think big, Think big. And with our brains, we’re thinking wholesale. But if you think about the other 167 hours, a couple of 10-minute increments. So this is the 10 minutes of practice. So walking mindfulness, journaling speaking with a friend, something that is different, it’s going to help you develop some resiliency.

This is in the realm of self-care typically, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be self. But it’s 10 minutes of self-care, whatever that is to put it in your calendar, to put it in your phone, to put it in a place that you see it 10 minutes. That 10 minutes make a huge difference. I’m in a program right now where the daily practice is 15 minutes, total of engagement with this program.

And it’s a big difference. It’s proven, people that did 30 minutes of mindfulness for eight weeks. We’re starting to change the gray matter in their brain. It’s very real.

Shelly: Cam. I just want to tack on specifically to the talk to a friend suggestion. We’ve noticed something really interesting and really powerful in our coaching groups. And that’s that valley experiences are incredibly isolating. That seems to be nearly universal when we are in our valleys.

It’s lonely and it’s isolated. And there’s real power in breaking that isolation. I noticed this with my private clients too, and once we’re able to name a specific valley experience, I invite my clients to reach out to me the next time they’re there. And here’s the thing they think they’re reaching out for a lifeline or for help or for some coaching to get them out of the valley.

But nearly every time, what they discover is that act of reaching out itself is a form of self-care because now they’re not in it alone. So in your 10-minute practice, who can you share a specific valley experience with so that when you find yourself in that valley, they know what that is. They know where you are, so you don’t have to send them the whole story just as Cam sent me a three-word, text message this morning to push our meeting back.

And I knew exactly what that was because we’ve been working together for a long time. I knew that there was something going on for him that he needed to take care of, and I got all the context I needed in three words. So with my clients, whatever language we’ve developed around their valleys, that’s usually what they share.

I’m stuck or I’m in Hoff or I’m in the valley, or I’m having this specific experience that we’ve talked about, sharing that in advance with somebody makes it. Easier still to then access that resource as a potential way to pivot, to not be so isolated because you don’t have to give all the context. You just have to say I’m in the valley, I’m in Hoff.

I’m in this experience, that’s it. 

Cam: And that’s translated. 

Shelly: Absolutely. It is. 

Cam: This is translating. This is part of our model of understand, own and translate. And also, this is why we’re, so big on this group. Coaching effort is because we’re seeing when you’re able to help someone else and just listen to them and help them with their challenge.

It gives it a what’s called psychological distancing, It’s a distance where you’re able to help. It’s similar. It’s not your dilemma and helping others first can actually make your own dilemmas much more approachable. So we’ve done 10 seconds, right? That disrupt and pause. Then the 10 minutes of practice.

And finally, the last one is 10%. And so this is out there the 10% solution or again. Thinking that back to this idea of wholesale changes. When you focus on just 10% increments of change, what is a 10% increment? We do this all or nothing. We’ll do the all or nothing thing we thinking about what is 10%. So I’ll be an IC is, it’s helpful in like relationships and the group coaching I do with Melissa or lobbyists. You know, just assume that your partner is at least 10% right.

It gives you a place to launch from, of we, can build off that 10%. So any way that you want to interpret 10%, but it’s just taking a thin sliver as opposed to, and what is 10% of the thing you’re trying to do? 

Shelly: I really like 10% for organizing tasks as well. We talked about my client with the home office who wanted to be able to work in his home office.

As a self-employed person. And when we initially talked about. Organizing that home office as a part of our coaching work, it was, I have to clear off the desk, but in order to clear off the desk, I have to deal with the papers. And in order to deal with the papers, I have to go into the closet and I have to deal with the filing system.

And I also have to deal with all the miscellaneous things that have been dumped on my desk, which means I have to find homes for them, which means I have to organize the guestroom closet and the basement and so on and so forth. All of those things may need to be done in order for this client to get to his version of quote-unquote organized.

But all of those things did not have to be done to get to the point where he could comfortably work in his home office. So slicing off 10% in the context of organizing can help you get to the heart of what matters in this moment right now, what matters for the outcome I’m looking for. Doing this organizational task, the basement doesn’t matter.

Just take the stuff down there. The stuff that doesn’t belong in the room, doesn’t matter. Just take it out of the room. The old paperwork doesn’t matter. It can be dealt with later. What did matter for that client was clearing off the desk, clearing off the floor so that the visual landscape was uncluttered.

And pleasant to look at and be that’s 10%. 

Cam: Yeah. I’m like over here going, woo Shelly. Woo. I got things, I got things, Shelly. This is completion, right? We’ve been talking about completion. This is melons and landings people. It’s that identifying that. And what’s the next step? The 10% to, figure it out and to overcome that inertia or overwhelm and activate for task what’s that small win, right?

10%. So this sort of, again, that the triple 10 ascending. Triple 10 descending. Was that a sending part, but yeah, it goes from seconds to minutes to this percentage thing, the concept of rows, the ascending part is just, again, the way our brains are wired, we are wired for the exponential experience. As we go out contextually, we’re not thinking linearly, one thing after another. We’re thinking in the sense of a seed, that blossoms into something magnificent and bigger and growing exponentially. I do the same thing with Gantt charts or kind of timelines instead of looking at it like linearly in the sense of this Thursday block is exactly the same as a Thursday, three months from now.

That’s ridiculous. This day, this week, this month, this quarter, this year, and let it expand out that way. That’s more in tune with how our brains work. So that’s the idea behind the ascending element. So put this into practice any way you want listeners, you can go with the 10% part. You can go with ten second.

It doesn’t matter which order you do them in. I do think though that the pause that disruption is a key piece there. 

Shelly: With my client. When we’re getting to the point of the session that we start to design actions or strategize based on our learning, I always like to ask them what’s the practice this week.

So, listeners, I’m going to ask you that same question before you stop listening to this episode before you turn it off because you’ve heard our outro enough times. Answer that question for yourself. And don’t answer it based on what you think you should do. Don’t try and pile on more and more and more. Pick the one thing, that you can commit to. The one thing that has your attention and make that your practice. Because again, this is a learning action model. How do we get the learning? You go out, you have your experience, you try something. So commit to the thing that you can try and whether or not it goes. Really well, or really poorly, or somewhere in between the fact that you’ve tried and you’ve made an attempt means that there will be learning there for you.

You can evaluate and reflect on that experience, learn from it and try it again. That’s why it’s so important. nobody’s trying to be the teacher’s pet here. Don’t pile a bunch of homework on yourself because you feel like you out to, or because you want to get there faster. Pick that one thing.

What is the practice for you this week? 

Cam: And when you evaluate, be super extra kind to yourself. Cause another thing, reason, why this whole learning process gets disrupted, is because we pile on at that moment, we evaluate with extreme criticism and so go easy on the performance part. Right? Focus more on the learning piece.

What have I learned and how can I build a better mousetrap next week? 

Shelly: Well Said, Cam. Now, before you tune out. We have a new editor and the show sounds a little different. If you have feedback to share about that, we’re here to listen. Because we want to make sure that the show is still working for those of you that have been with us for so long.

So you can always hit us up on Twitter @translatingadhd or email us at If you’re a patron, you can message us through Patreon or on the Discord server. We’d love to hear what you all are thinking about this new style that we’re going with for the show moving forward. So until next week, I’m Shelly and this was Translating ADHD.

Thanks for listening.

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