Safety ADHD Needs: Creating Relief from Daily Stressors

Episode 150

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The hosts continue to explore distinguishing ADHD needs using Maslow’s Needs model as the inspiration. Cam and Ash jump right into how daily stressors can directly impact needs regarding safety and security. The challenge here is that those of us with ADHD use stressors like an urgent crisis to create enough stimulation to take action and get things done. When we react and respond our way through our day it can take a collective toll.

Asher observes how different needs levels are linked together, especially how the bottom two of physiological and safety are connected. Interestingly, clients often come to coaching when stressors become too much, and they realize a need for change. In coaching, we address self-care needs while identifying stressors to mitigate so we can start to help our clients move up the pyramid. Cam identifies the concept of ‘drama chasers’ – those who actively address others’ needs before addressing their own.

Finally, Ash shares a great metaphor to illustrate how one can shift their perspective on reacting to a need (bracing for the storm) to moving to a place of choice (watching the storm while eating popcorn). The hosts leave listeners with a few exercises to identify stressors in their lives.

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Episode Transcript:

[00:00:00] Ash: Hi, I’m Ash.

[00:00:01] Cam: And I’m Cam

[00:00:01] Ash: and this is Translating ADHD. 

As a reminder, we have two group coaching courses that are open for registration right now. Agency begins Tuesday, January 17th, and purpose, which is a course just with me, begins Monday, January 30th. Both courses meet at 8:30 PM Eastern for eight weeks. For more information on each course and to apply, visit the website translatingadhd.com and click on the group coaching tab.

So Cam, this week we’re gonna continue talking about your ADHD hierarchy of needs, and we’re moving on up the hierarchy to safety.

[00:00:40] Cam: Yeah, so last week we made that distinction with physiological ADHD needs. In order to have good brain management, you have to start with good brain awareness, and here Maslow’s original intention was around safety needs and personal security. The distinction here for those of us with ADHD is really looking at daily stressors.

How do we create relief from those daily stressors? Ironically, This is often why our clients pull the trigger to reach out about coaching is that they’ve had enough, right? They’ve, I’ve had enough of battling fires, I’ve had enough stained at work so long, and I need to have some normalcy, some agency in my life.

And so looking at stressors is really a good place to begin. Now here’s the interesting thing is like structure. We have a love hate relationship with stressors. you know, stressors can be stimulating. So we have this sort of stimulation stress response, and we’ll operate and jump from one stressor to the next and get through our day and activate adrenaline response cycle we talk about in episode four. 

[00:01:57] Ash: Cam, we’ve talked about this a lot on this show, but in the context of this model, these safety needs are where our clients show up. For coaching, they’re in this reactive mode or otherwise unable to break free from a cycle of urgency in order to attend to what really matters to them. And interestingly enough, most of the time a new client is not even thinking that far ahead.

You know, you and I talk about journey thinking on this show all the time. Clients are not usually on the journey yet. When they first come to coaching, they’re looking at what’s right in front of them. How can I stop firefighting all day every day? And so this is the stuff of an early coaching relationship. And not just in terms of the topics that we’re talking about, but it’s also the place that we as coaches start to cultivate safety and trust with our clients, which is such an important thing in any coaching relationship, but is particularly critical with ADHD clients because with a brand new client, they might very well be feeling heard for the first time ever in the context of a coaching relationship.

To have ADHD is to often be misunderstood, and so it’s a new experience to be with someone who meets you where you are, and who listens to you articulate your ADHD and leads with believing your lived experience. 

[00:03:40] Cam: Ash, I really appreciate you bringing in the coaching aspect of cultivating safety and trust. Trust is such an important part of the coaching work and about change It’s not just about trusting. The processor trusting the coach. It’s also trusting oneself, and this is going up the hierarchy.

Higher up to esteem and self-actualization, right? Acceptance, trusting I can be who I am in this world and feel safe. You can’t have trust without that basic need of safety. And when we’re battling fires and kind of on the edge all the time in this crisis state reacting and responding, in a position to build these positive emotions. Trust, hope, curiosity. Last week we talked a lot about being curious to generate that awareness. We were talking about before the episode today how the physiological ADHD needs and our focus on self care goes hand in hand with cultivating safety in the coaching relationship. Right? That when they come, we can’t really start working on the important work until we address those daily stressors with the clients. So we’re addressing those daily stressors with them, right? How to identify those firefighting situations and to take the fire fighting hat off. But also how do we bring in self care practices? Because self care is fully outside of that realm of reacting and reactivity.

It’s a great muscle to build to get this exercise in or practice in, in areas that are not urgent whatsoever. So this is important foundational work that we do in coaching that then allows us to have stronger connections and better boundary work at the next level up. Love and belongingness and starting to work on the things that we wanna work on and build that sense of esteem sense of success and fulfillment all the way up to self-actualization.

[00:05:56] Ash: Cam, building on what you just said, here’s a great place to let our listeners know that this model is not intended to be a accomplish this one first and then move up the pyramid, but rather that these interplay with one another. And I’m noticing particularly this safety one. In order to get to safety, to get out of reactive mode, we have to take care of some of those physiological needs.

We have to put something back in the tank in order to have a different experience with daily stressors and. We often have to start practicing setting boundaries. So safety interplays with the one below it and the one above it in terms of how the coaching work plays out. And I can give an example I see often, which is clients who stay late at work.

Whether they have a traditional job or whether they’re self-employed, chaining oneself to the work because of what they’re not attending to and feeling like until they’re caught up, they can’t set a boundary or show up differently. But oftentimes the solution there is around good boundary management. Being able to disengage from work at the end of the day to set it down wherever you are and whatever has happened, whether you were incredibly productive or not. Being able to leave work at work at the end of the day so that you can come home and do. Take care of some of those physiological needs. Make space for some of those other things.

[00:07:51] Cam: That’s a great example. And the flip side of that is where there’s an avoidance happening where the personal side is complicated with emotions and personalities, family members who you know, don’t fit into titles and roles, and you don’t have, you know, the objectives that you have at. So this is something I see is that individuals will focus on work because outside of work gets messy.

So then you get this avoidant behavior, all these stressors, and it’s like where to begin. So they take refuge, right? They just sort of hold back and not go venture in to address those stressors in a proactive fashion.

[00:08:39] Ash: Cam, to put what you said another way, we tend to stay where we feel safe. Where we know our role, where we’re in our wheelhouse. And interestingly, and I wanna see if you agree with this, it’s often when safety starts to fall apart in the areas that we consider to be our wheelhouse. That’s where we’ll see a client show up because that has their attention.

[00:09:06] Cam: You’re so right there, Ash. It gets their attention. I think the other thing we can do is we can tolerate. challenge, sort of, we will find our wheelhouse and stay there. As you said, it’s comfortable, it’s safe, but then if you stay there, change doesn’t necessarily happen. As you said, if they have an impact in their own wheelhouse, it gets their attention and motivates to initiate change. So this is really about starting to dabble in discomfort to start to identify these stressors.

Last week we talked about sampling the tempest and just not jumping right into the VOR to see, or the vortex or the whirlwind, but to get close to it and start to notice. Develop some awareness. Where are the stressors? Who are the individuals that create stress? What are the environments or situations that are more stressful? What are the areas that are safe, and what are the qualities of those environments and people that lay and nurture safety.

[00:10:19] Ash: So what does it look like to start to have a different experience with this relentless cycle as an ADHD person, again, we go down the pyramid and up the pyramid, depending upon where the client is. Down the pyramid to check in on where can a physiological need support here?

What’s missing there? If you’re not getting enough sleep, how are you going to attend to your daily stressors? For many of my clients exercise, either first thing in the morning or as a midday slump break. Is a great way to put some executive function and focus back in the tank to again, start to deal with daily stressors, but also moving up the ladder, setting boundaries.

Putting a hard boundary around work and figuring out how to disengage and not just disengage physically, not just get up from the computer and say, I’m done. But for many of my clients, how to disengage mentally how to not bring those daily stressors and what’s not being attended to into the rest of their life.

And so we practice with this until our client starts having a new experience. And what happens when they start having a new experience? There’s a little more acceptance of who they are because here they are doing something in a way that works with their brain. Versus the way that they ought to be doing it, and they’re having a new and positive experience there.

[00:12:02] Cam: And they start to see themselves in their picture. Right? Moving from that one down position or imposter syndrome to, yeah, I deserve to be here and I deserve to put forth my agenda if that is in conflict with someone else or something.

So Asher, guess what? I’m gonna make a few people very uncomfortable right now, but we’re calling you out to, again, create awareness of your situation. So this is going out to those drama chasers that are listening right now. What’s a drama chaser? Moving from one drama to the next through your day, you’re getting pulled into someone else’s drama and pleasing in some way, or rescuing.

This is another thing that the way that needs show up is we don’t see our own needs, but we see others. We can see it so well. And so you’re out there saying, no, Cam, no, it’s my job. My friends need me. This is what I do. Well, it’s in my wheelhouse to help others. So helping is one. But continuously addressing others’ needs ahead of your own is classic ADHD because just as I was saying before, we go to what is easy and simple, and when we try to kind of unravel and unpack our own stuff can get complicated and overwhelming very quickly.

It’s also just more exciting. It feels good to help others. I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying looking for some balance there that if you’re gonna give to others to give to yourself, what would that gesture be to yourself because you are worthy. But I just wanted to bring that in.

[00:14:00] Ash: We had a great metaphor come out of the last group coaching course around this. As I was coaching this individual, what she brought to the table was she could see a couple of places, one with one of her children and another with a very close friend where she was anticipating that showing up or that need to show up. And even that, just the anticipation and the bracing for it was consuming a lot of time, energy, bandwidth and executive function. And I don’t quite remember how we got on the metaphor of a storm, but she was talking about, it’s like I’m preparing for a storm. I’m battening down the hatches and preparing the house and maybe I don’t need to do that. Not every storm threatens me or my house. And for this client, when it comes to actual storm, if it’s not a threatening storm, she really enjoys watching the storm roll by. So we came up with a new way of showing up, metaphorically, of distinguishing when do I need to be preparing for the worst, preparing for a tree to fall on my house, and when is it okay to grab my metaphorical popcorn and sit down and watch the storm roll.

And that right there is breaking a cycle of reactive mode. This anticipating bracing for reacting, followed by this previous pattern of just jumping right into it without distinguishing, without putting herself in the picture. So the popcorn place is a place to pause and look at the storm and see do I need to be bracing and preparing. Is this a storm for me to be involved in or not?

[00:15:54] Cam: That’s a great example of pause, disrupt, pivot. That’s a great metaphor. And again, the energy expenditure that can happen, right? So there are three different options there for that client. One is to jump right in that middle ground is to brace, and I remember that. I remember the, language around that. The energy it took to brace for anticipating this storm. And finally this third option of to distinguish and is this a storm I can watch from a safe distance from behind the glass door, bring out the popcorn and be entertained to be amused.

So listeners, as we finish up today, a great way to identify stressors, be them environments, be them obligations or commitments, be them bills that come in late, be them individuals is notice your energy expenditure. How much energy is going into these stressors? Can you create some safety and security here for yourself to take that pause and just notice.

[00:17:06] Ash: Another thing that that example highlights is the importance of safety and trust in the coaching relationship or in any other relationship where you’re examining something like this. because where that client started was, here are these two people that are massively important to me and they need me to show up.

And by the way, we’re not just talking about this privately in a coaching session. We’re in a group coaching course with nine other participants listening to the coaching. Nine other participants that we’ve done some work to cultivate safety and trust within that community. And the moral here, listeners, is not about coaching, or not coaching or community, or not community, what it’s about is this client feeling safe enough to.

Just play around verbally with some other ways of showing up. Even though that initially felt so counterintuitive, these people matter to me. I need to be bracing. I need to be preparing, I need to be showing up where I’m needed, whatever the costs. So sometimes just trying on. A solution verbally playing around with a metaphor as this client did can help shed light on what the answer really looks like.

But it can also be really scary in a place like this where it feels like we don’t have the room or the ability to show up differently, or that it’s not okay to set a boundary or to be different in this situation. That’s where safety and trust with another person can be so valuable, is being able to say things out loud without being attached to them.

If we took everything our clients said as absolute truth, we’d never get anywhere. Right? And that’s not to say we don’t believe our clients lived experiences. That’s part of safety and trust too. But there’s this space where we invite them to hear what they’ve said. Ooh, you just said this. Let’s examine that and look at that. Is that true? Is that real? Without attachment to the outcome? Either way.

And that’s something that we teach all of our group coaching participants to do for each other. That people in our Discord community are doing for each other. Again, you don’t need a coach to do this, but that safety and trust element is about holding space and not attaching to someone else’s outcome, believing their lived experience and giving them some space to articulate what’s either hard to put words to or hard to say out loud.

[00:19:58] Cam: And so we’re getting into, again, back to the edge of comfort and discomfort. And being uncomfortable. Being vulnerable. This is where courage lives. 

[00:20:09] Ash: So letting it be easy this season with quick and easy outros This week, the way you can help us out is share us with somebody new. Somebody you know that’s neurodivergent, maybe on social media, maybe in your neurodivergent support group at work. Don’t keep us a secret. Most of our listenership comes by word of mouth, and we appreciate all of you who take the time to share us with your friends, family, your colleagues, and particularly for those of you who work with ADHD folks professionally with your clients. That’s just such a high compliment to our work here.

So until next week, I’m Ash.

[00:20:51] Cam: And I’m Cam.

[00:20:52] Ash: And this was the Translating ADHD podcast. Thanks for listening.

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Episode 150