Enduring COVID Stressors with ADHD

Episode 93

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Continuing the theme of resilience, Shelly and Cam revisit COVID as a topic, discussing the stress of living with an ongoing pandemic. They share personal stories and stories from clients and how the current uncertainty in daily life creates additional stressors. Building effective resilience is about identifying and managing stressors, distinguishing what we can and can not control.

With ADHD we can diminish or downplay negative inputs and just try to ‘soldier on’. Acknowledging the stress and impact is a first step in processing feelings and moving through their Understand, Own, Translate process. Shelly and Cam share the SCARF model from David Rock as a useful tool.

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Episode Transcript:

Shelly: Hi, I’m Shelly

Cam: And I’m Cam, 

Shelly: And this is Translating ADHD. Before we dive into this week’s topic, Cam has some information about our upcoming group coaching offerings. 

Cam: Yes, Shelly, I do. And I’m fired up because usually, you do this. And so, I’m like, give it to me, give it to me and I can look people I’m looking over and she’s like, I don’t know.

I don’t know. Pressure’s on, but I’m gonna rise to the occasion. All right. So, a couple of weeks ago we introduced these five areas, these sort of five cornerstones of what we see are key to the work that we do. And that is resilience, self-care, agency working on what matters and purpose. So, we’ve got two of those rolling out the door in the next couple of weeks. Resilience is September 29th at 10:00 AM Eastern. That’s for our international crowd that we’re asking for a different time, other than our regular evening time. On October 20th, we roll out.

Self-care. And that’s again at our regular time, 8:30 PM Eastern. Go ahead and take a look at those descriptions. The one that fits best for you. We do have a couple of questions that we ask you. we want to look at that dialogue with you and get people ready to go for those two events.

So, take a look and they’re really. 

Shelly: To find more information and to apply for either group visit the website, translating adhd.com, and click on group coaching. 

Cam: Was that okay? Shelly, did that work? Yeah. Good job. 

Shelly: you certainly 

Cam: Did better than me today. think what I’m doing is delaying a little bit because of our topic today.

And we talked about, resilience. Yeah. something that we’ve been talking about off-mic is what’s coming up in our coaching and that’s this COVID thing. In September of 2021, and we’re still dealing with this thing. A lot of us were sure that we wouldn’t be dealing with it.

Now. You have a child; I have two children. We’re rolling back into school. And we’ve got distancing and masking and a lot of upheaval and uncertainty and stress. And that stress is wearing on us, it’s wearing on our clients, we think it’s wearing on you listeners. And that as we talk about resilience and self-care, yeah we can put our heads down and plug away and not be aware of everything that’s coming mean into play. What are the stressors at play? And just last week, Shelly was like, I think that one stressor that’s at play that our people are not necessarily acknowledging the impact.

Is this ongoing challenge living with COVID 

Shelly: Yeah, Cam, I actually had an experience a few weeks ago where it came back into my awareness, how much this is impacting me and causing me stress under the surface. And it was an important thing to remember because things were a skew for me at that time. And I couldn’t put my finger on why.

 And that was really bothering me. And here I was dismissing this bigger context of what’s going on in the world and how that is impacting me in ways that I’m not always aware of because I’m pretty fortunate that my job is pandemic friendly. And was before this pandemic hit, I’ve always met with clients virtually.

So being able to keep on keeping on to socially distance to be safe at home has always been possible for me. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t impacts. And now what I’m noticing with my clients is they’re facing transitions at times when the rules are less, certain than they were before. So, I’ve got a client who teaches as part of her overall role.

 And she’s planning to go back to school, which is something she would normally be looking forward to. Now, granted, she’s had some other life transitions this past summer, but she was pinning not wanting to go back to school on those. And my hunch was, it was something else. So, we kept digging.

 Little by little and eventually out comes the phrase I just don’t want to teach. And when we start examining what’s going on behind that statement, a lot of it had to do with uncertainty. Number one, I haven’t been on this campus in over a year. I’ve been teaching virtually since then. Number two, I don’t know about teaching with a mask on and how that’s going to affect me.

 Now number three, all of these other logistical things with my family are made more difficult by this ongoing situation in the world. Once we started to realize what was going on behind that statement, it was really clear why this client who would normally be happy to be going back into the semester.

 Was really not looking forward to teaching. And most of it had to do with this ongoing pandemic. And the uncertainty is that creates. 

Cam: That’s a great example. When you said teacher, it just hit me in such a soft spot because was a teacher for 13 years. And what we have asked our teachers to do.

 Like what we’ve asked our frontline healthcare workers to do has been just above and beyond. I had a teacher come to my front porch this morning, dropping off some stuff for her kid. Who’s a classmate of my son down at Virginia tech I just didn’t see the spark there. I think that this is just weighing on this population, we’re trying to impart information and a love of learning and doing it in a way where you said it it’s this, uncertainty. I think uncertainty can really impact those of us with ADHD. You also said something else, something that we do that I actually ask my clients every week, what are you downplaying?

 What are you dismissing? I think we can do that. It’s we’ll get locked into our thinking our way. And as you said, you were dismissing what was going on in the bigger world, and yet it’s coming in and having an impact. So, what kind of self-select. A way of adapting and coping, but then we shut down that channel, and then we don’t process those emotions. With ADHD, this emotional dysregulation element I’m liking the term now, emotional accessibility that making emotions accessible.

 Being able to sort of acknowledge the stress or the uncertainty. It’s a start last week, we talked about the pool, the emotional brain, and moving from an awareness state in the deep end to safety, to mobility, and getting to that safety starts with the awareness of I’m in the deep end. And I don’t like it.

 But just having that full keen observer experience and noticing if you are dismissing, if you’re down. And to recognize what are the different factors that are coming in that are impacting how I’m feeling about the situation right now. And last week, what’d we talk about, we talked about reflective practice.

This is where reflective practice can be so beneficial. What are those feelings? What are those thoughts? Am I making meaning from that? And what can I do? To move forward here. There’s another thing at play is that we have a hard time distinguishing what we can and cannot control.

So, what your neighbor is doing about COVID is beyond your control listener, right? What people out in the world are doing and not doing that is beyond our control. And that distinction is really tough for us. So, it’s, again, we read about something in social media, someone doing something ridiculous, not science-based.

And again, it pulls us over there and creates again, the froth, the agitation, the frustration. So, this is a great opportunity to do some pool work, to do some reflection. And to first of all, just acknowledge how you’re feeling to notice if you are dismissing or downplaying, to soldier on, there’s just going to soldier on and get through this.

It’s still going and it’s still gonna keep going. So how do we develop resilience? How do we practice self-care as the world is, as it is right now? 

Shelly: So well said, cam, and especially the notion of putting your head down and soldiering on. I think that’s where I was at for a long time. Just keep doing your work.

It’s easy for you to stay quarantined. It’s easy for you to stay socially distanced, and eventually, this will resolve. And so, as this keeps dragging on, I think that lack of resolution is what’s starting to get under my skin more than anything, and it’s having an impact. And I think that was an interesting realization because overall I am less impacted by COVID than most, but I am impacted.

 Particularly, my daughter is not old enough to be vaccinated. So, we made the tough decision to keep her in virtual school for another year. And as a parent of an extrovert, no less, that is very much a rock and hard place decision. And again, I’m just starting to see this, not just in myself, but in my clients too, where this topic that we haven’t touched on in months, that was so prevalent at the time, this all started is kind of coming back around again.

 Because we feel like our ability to be resilient is starting to wear down. That’s troubling. And that’s why I wanted to bring this topic here today to talk about what do we do with this. 

Cam: You know, we, did, we did, back in March, April of 2020, we did about three or four COVID episodes.

I remember we did it. And then we’re like, okay, what now? I guess we just keep going here, right? Because we still have ADHD and ADHD coaching podcast, but we just felt like here we are a year and a half later, and it’s still a big factor and it’s weighing, us and that identifying stressors and being able to live with the stressor.

 Do your part, what you have control over. And what’s the word here? Compartmentalize the rest. want to tell story, a personal story here. I think that it’s, a good example of again, how to process, how to move forward, how to get back to a resilient mindset. I think that what COVID is doing also is like straining relationships, 

You think someone’s a certain way. And then because of their decisions, you really start to question that individual and then the relationship and someone near and dear to me. Was making a decision that I just, couldn’t square with it. couldn’t understand the decision they were making. And I was really at an impasse of communicating, someone in my life. And just to go text or pick up the phone, couldn’t do it because. Of this basic decision, you thought this person was, somebody and they make a decision that feels like 180 degrees of who I thought they were and what mattered to them. And it was really impacting my ability to just engage with them.

So, I didn’t, and in a way, Shelly was I don’t know if I necessarily dismissed, but I certainly did avoid. It was kicking the can down the road and like, you know what, going to deal with my own stuff, what I have control over. And avoiding that. and I finally reached out to someone else, a third party that knows both of us.

Well, I was just like, how are you connecting with them? how are you engaging with them? Cause I can’t. do it right now. And I think it was very helpful just to have that conversation because not so much about what they said it was helpful, but it was me and my ability to put the dilemma into language right.

In a way kind of owning and translating to translate that. Frustration and this emotion into language that I could articulate to someone else. And back to me, what am I feeling here? Where do I stand? This is boundary work. This is identifying needs and doing so helped a great deal. I still haven’t spoken with that individual, but I’m prepared to do so. and I’m making steps in that direction. The interesting thing with ADD is I was just thinking about this last night, this term came up of extend your stay,

extend your stay, I talked last week about it’s a mode we get into these modes. And I think with ADHD, we can get into away, and then we extend our stay there, right? Whether it’s agitated or depressed or anxious, heightened. And we’ll just carry that out because we haven’t found that pivot point.

We haven’t found that mechanism to bring closure to that completion if you will, and either activate them. Resolve it right. Somehow move forward there that will keep carrying on in a certain way, rumination We’ve talked about your experiences in Hoff, right? And like getting locked in Hoffman, staying there deep in the valley, get locked down in the valley and unable to come out of that valley experience.

Shelly: I also think, at least in this case, in this world we live in right now, ADHD can make us holy unaware, that something is having an impact. Even though it’s having an impact and with the state of the world right now, there’s a lot that can be having an impact. So, it’s like those old cartoons, you know, were characters walking along, and then they drop into an open manhole because they weren’t paying attention.

That’s been my emotional experience these past few months as the fatigue. Of living in this higher stress world is starting to impact me differently I will think my mood or emotion is about one thing or I’ll just dismiss it entirely as I’m just a little off today. It’s okay. But when I really started to look around and examine where I was, it became clearer why it was there.

And again, seeing that with my clients too, back to our teacher who started off the session with sort of the surface level reasons why teaching was going to be hard. And I know her better than that. I knew that that wasn’t what was getting her emotional to the point that she was in that session.

I knew it wasn’t the stuff she was listing off. And when we started digging, we found out what it actually was.

Cam: I love that about the cartoon, because we talk about that, with ADHD. It’s like finding that river rock or that next step. It’s the same thing with the gaps too. We don’t see those holes as we’re walking along and right. Just drop right through like Wiley coyote. then we are on guard in a stunned place.

So, if when’s that gonna happen again. So, then we’re reluctant to take a step because it might not be that we’re not finding a river rock or a step stone or the next step, but it’s like, I might fall into one of these holes again.

Shelly: Yeah. And you know, I don’t want to be all doom and gloom here. wanted to bring this topic to the show today because I’m seeing this in myself and in my clients, this difficulty, this emotional dysregulation. When we dig to what’s going on beneath the surface for a lot of my clients right now, this is what we’re finding is we’re finding unresolved or unmanaged or dealt with emotions around the way the world is right now.

But I think it’s also, we’re saying that in this same period of time, a lot of my clients are thriving. The forced slower pace of life has created a lot of space and opportunity for my clients that may not have existed otherwise. And I’m certainly noticing that for myself as well.

Cam: Last, week you talked about the power of showing up. my kid has had two successful weeks at college. I went down and picked him up, brought him home and we’re trying to create as much normalcy as possible, where we can, and going through the motions and, soldiering on, but with eyes open. And observe it, right? There’s that keen observer there, but what can we do here? I think this is the pivot point in the episode today it’s not about bombing out and doom and gloom about COVID and where we are now.

It’s what can we do with this? What can we do? Back to resilience and self-care. I want to bring in a model I’m surprised that I haven’t brought in before and it’s not ours. it’s the SCARF model. Like the scarf that you will wrap around your neck and the winter scarf. It’s from David rock.

Who’s a coach and he’s at the Neuro leadership Institute. And so, what he’s found is that when these five areas are impacted when there is an impact or a stimulus coming in and it threatens it will threaten these five areas like a physical pain, really fascinating. So, the five, this Status.

 Certainty Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. I’ll say them again, Status Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness. So, when those are challenged in any way, our brain will perceive it as a physical threat, like a physical pain. So again, back to the pool and developing awareness of where you feeling the threat, we’ve talked about the uncertainty of COVID. I talked about relatedness that I’m not feeling related to someone very close to me and then fairness right back to the teachers and the health care workers. What’s fair for them.

And so, taking that and just assessing autonomy is another one, I’ve been able to keep going and working. But that ability to have autonomy in your life and agency has really been impacted by this ongoing challenge. The interesting thing with scarf just goes ahead and Google it.

 David rock, R O C K scarf. You’ll find some great YouTube explainer videos. There Then if you start to think of incentives or positive outcomes in those five areas that works really well for the brain, right? To look at how can we improve status or certainty? How can we create more autonomy more relatedness?

 More fairness and back to that idea of serenity prayer, part four of coming back to, what do I have control over? That’s a really important distinction, distinguishing what you have control over and what you don’t have control over. 

Shelly: I wouldn’t even say it’s not necessarily. About creating more of something. For me asking the questions of where do I have autonomy right now and putting my focus there or.

Who can I have relatedness with in a way that works for me and works for my worldview and is a positive outcome rather than thorny and focusing on those relationships and fostering those in this time have been immensely helpful for me in navigating this period of time.

Cam: That’s a great distinction. Thank you. It was really great. Yes. Just acknowledging what’s there because with ADD it’s about focus and we can be focused on what we don’t have. We’re focused on the negative signal and what’s all wrong versus what’s right and what can be right. Where can we put our attention? 

Shelly: Well said Cam, and I’m appreciating your noticing of that all or nothing thinking, because I think that can be our experience with this pandemic has ADHD people either it’s immediately in focus because we’re going through something that’s so related to it that you can’t not see it like your relationship challenges, or we tend to not notice the impacts too. Keep our head down soldier on, try to pretend like it’s not there.

 And so, this pendulum swings back and forth, or at least that’s how it felt for me right this week. I am just so worked up and irritated about all things COVID and then the next week, the pendulum swings the other way and I’m keeping my head down and doing my work and. Not thinking about or noticing what’s going on there for me.

And it’s been important to figure out what’s going on in the middle rather than having these wild swings back and forth what’s going on and all that gray space in between. So, Cam, what’s the practice for our listeners this week? 

Cam: Well, I love that. image of the pendulum. And I imagine that our listeners are just nodding their head with feeling like it’s too much or This swing. And that’s that emotional piece is we will swing emotionally because of that executive function piece there around regulation. Equanimity is really, tough. And so, start with. Not trying to stop the pendulum.

I think it’s sorta like, okay, pendulum, you just lock in and I just need to have equanimity start with the keen observer and noticing the swing, be with the pendulum and be aware. So, eyes open noticing objective and don’t judge. Don’t assign fast, meaning to it, of oh, that’s terrible. Look at you.

You’re all over the place. Just go ahead and notice it. Notice the swing of that pendulum of how you might be swinging. It might be locked in place and not swinging at all. But just noticing how that experience is happening. And then what are the different factors that are contributing to the swing?

tell my clients that I’m not a psychologist, I’m a mechanical. It’s about the mechanics of these executive functions around stopping pivoting, starting. That pendulum swing again, that takes me back to physics that I taught in high school. There’s different factors that contribute to that.

And just, as you said last week with noticing the animal, right? The field biologist. Is it step back and notice yourself, how is COVID impacting you? Right. To take it and either share it with somebody else, write it down and just move on from this avoidant or dismissive place to more of a acknowledging the impact.

I think that’s a really good starting place right there. Yeah. It’s just to realize, yeah, it’s here and it’s impacting and how it’s impacting what you said earlier about coming back to those five areas, of the scarf model of to start to really focus more on where do I have this A gratitude exercise.

Status is not about power status is just again That seeing yourself in the picture, with agency and advocacy just play around with those five areas to acknowledge where you have that

Shelly: Well said, Cam, I think this is a good place for us to wrap for today. Just a quick reminder. If you’re interested in the resilience coaching group, please apply now. That one starts on September 29th so time is running out to get your application in before we start forming that group. If you like what we’re doing here on the show, and you’re interested in other ways, you can help us out.

There are two big ones. Number one is to leave a rating or review wherever you listen. This helps other people find the show. The second one is to become a show Patreon. For $5 a month, you are financially supporting Cam and I, and helping to cover all of the costs of running this show and bringing this content to you every week, and you also gain access to our discord community. Where our listeners are working together to do their own, understand, own and translate work, and where you can talk directly with Cam and I, with your questions about the show, digging into metaphors and what they mean to you or anything else that has your attention.

You can do that by visiting the website, translatingadhd.com and clicking on the Patreon link. So, until next week, I’m Shelly 

Cam: and I’m Cam. Shelly: And this was translating ADHD. Thanks for listening. 

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