top of page
Search

A Common Sense Strategy for Anxiety and ADHD

Updated: May 31

“I’ll exercise tomorrow. My anxiety is just a little high today, that’s all. I probably need to exercise, but I’m not about to start any outdoor projects! I’ll be fine. Maybe I need to scroll on Facebook or look up some random videos on YouTube. That’ll fix my anxiety. Maybe I’ll read some blogs! I’m certainly not going to actually do anything, though…”

Have you ever felt this way? Have you caught yourself talking yourself out of actually doing anything that would use your extra energy and get some helpful things done? I'm guilty as charged. Motivation experts tell us that we generally have 3-5 seconds before we talk ourselves out of doing helpful things once we think of them. They’ve found that we have to actually physically move toward doing the thing that we know we need to do within 3-5 seconds once we think of it. This usually means getting out of bed or up off the couch or closing our social media apps to get started. If we don’t, we’ll wind up perpetuating our anxiety cycle by delaying beginning what we know we’ll inevitably have to do.

A particular sound byte on the topic of self-improvement and motivation has become quite popular on social media. You’ve probably heard it. It starts with “The problem isn’t that you’re poor, it’s just that you suck at being poor.” It continues “If you wan’t some nice [stuff], you’re just going to have to take some old [stuff] and make it nice [stuff]. Being completely useless is a luxury of the rich, and you’re not rich, you’re poor. …If you’re able-bodied and broke, that’s nothing but opportunity. If you’re like ‘but I don’t know how to fix stuff,’ then yeah, no one does, until they do. Have you ever met a baby that knew how to do flat roofing?…” [Note: In the context of this statement, “poor” refers to anyone who isn’t independently wealthy.]

My father ran the local mom-and-pop hardware store in the small town of Nahunta, GA. (Go Stet!) All of my life, I watched him take on side projects to support our family of four. Beginning life as a farm kid, he leaned in to his talents as a woodworker and do-it-yourself-er to make a name for himself early on. Those talents lead to the job at the hardware store, where they multiplied his recognition. Pretty soon, the whole county knew that if you go to Farmers and Builders Supply and ask for Steve, you’ll be given good, practical advice on how to fix whatever you’re working on. Heck, if you caught him when he was bored, he might even have come out to your property to teach you how to do it in person. He was the ultimate do-it-yourself boot-strapper. He died early, unfortunately, but his funeral saw about 300 people come out to tell stories of how he had advised or even personally helped them through a repair project in a critical time. He had truly become the county’s go-to fix-it man.

Here’s the thing about Dad, though. Great as he was, he admittedly sometimes had a hard time listening and remembering to do things. If you wanted to hold a conversation with him, you had to do it out in his wood shop. He could focus to talk about difficult things and complex problems as long as there was a saw in his hands or the intermittent interruption from a sander (or sprayer, or planer, or...). Otherwise, the conversation simply wasn’t going to hold his attention long. Only a few topics would. Today, I understand this perceived "lack of focus" as possibly being from unrecognized anxiety overriding his thoughts and shutting down his ability to communicate well. It happens, especially if ADHD is present. But put a tool in that man’s hand, and it was on! Dad developed an active, self-stimulating, self-driving skill set to manage his focus to the point that he very positively impacted his community.




I've noticed a definite trend. The folks diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety who seem to do the best managing it are the people who stay physically active, particularly by improving their environment. This effect is dramatically increased when the activity helps another person. This is just my observation, but it comes from several years observing the complaints of individual clients with ADHD and/or anxiety. This is why it’s so important to re-arrange your room, landscape your yard, cut your grass, prune back that tree you hate, build that shelf, assemble that bookcase, build a garden with your neighbor, or do whatever physically demanding yet creative activity you can think of. Your high energy level is your body telling you to go do those things. So spend it! If you don’t, that energy will stew and fester inside of you, creating more anxiety.


How It Works (The simplified version): Many factors are at play neurologically, but at least one is cortisol. Cortisol is a stress-related hormone that is produced in your brain when you are under stress. The stress doesn't have to be from an actual danger or threat, just any significant stressor. Cortisol prepares you for fight-or-flight responses by preparing your muscles to engage in movements that correspond to these impulses. If you get to engage in these movements, your body uses up that cortisol. If you do not engage in the movements, though, your body holds on to the cortisol's energy and you become depressed and/or anxious. Movement is key! For us ADHD'ers, we may have to have a creative inspiration driving our movement. It likely can't just be a routine chore, it has to be novel or interesting. But the more you create in your outdoor space, the more you can find this energy inside you and engage it. Pretty soon, you'll find yourself more fit than you've ever been, happier than before, and your yard will look great, too. Lastly, you probably don't even have to spend too much money to do it! A LOT can be accomplished with what you already have on hand. You'll be surprised to see how much you can get done with a pole saw, a rake, some pine straw, a good trimming, or some affordable landscape timbers.


If you'd like to discuss this further, or if you'd like to do some more intense internal work, let's schedule a session. Call me at 770 615 6300 or email martin@altmancounseling.com You can view my availability at www.altmancounseling.com . I hope to speak with you soon.

7 views0 comments
bottom of page