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Managing Conflict with ADHD

By now unless you are a saint you will have probably felt some strain of relationships with your cat, spouse, children, partner, housemate, even folks on the other side of the screen. No one is perfect and after seven weeks of confinement and loss of regular escape routes its only natural to feel a tad trapped. It’s not easy to live with people at the ‘best of times’, let alone the ‘worst of times’. Being in each other’s spaces 24/7 means we cannot rely on our usual avenues of refueling, whether that’s travel, leisure pursuits or whatever floats. For most, we have to rethink how we maintain the equilibrium. The recent change in the lockdown guidelines has provided some relief and a (flickering) light at the end of the tunnel, but with no definite resolution in sight we’re thrust upon each other for an indeterminate amount of time with fears of lockdown ending only to return at a later date. The natural trajectory of knowing when a particular situation will reach conclusion has been lost and the uncertain abyss is laid out before us. How can we choose the appropriate ‘pace’, if we don’t know how long the race will last? This uncertainty intensifies the pressure and can lead us to feel anxious and out of control. If you are in a bad head space, this can easily affect the relationships you have with those around you. We all have a responsibility to be extra vigilant about our own mental wellbeing and more tolerant of everyone else’s. Not an easy feat for us ADHDers. Now is the time for self-compassion though - the whole world is struggling - you are not alone! Everyone is bubbling over in one-way or another (some with positive acts of kindness, others in fear, often manifesting as frustration and anger). Thankfully, we are not entirely hopeless in this situation. We may not be able to change other people's actions but we can control our own (or at least try!). Instead of reacting in our usual way, we can choose to respond and take pro-active steps to avoid conflict as much as we possibly can.

You may have heard of Dr Ed Hallowell’s “Ferrari Brain, Bicycle Brakes” analogy: the ADHD brain is like a Ferrari – it is very fast and very powerful and burns rapidly through fuel (that fuel being authentic interest). It is when there isn't enough fuel in the tank that things tend to go wrong for us. We lose interest, motivation and we struggle to stay emotionally regulated. This is why its so important that we keep ourselves fuelled. It is crucial that we know where our next fuel stop will be and ensure that we have enough fuel in the tank to get us there. Fuel stops are what we need in order to load up on our own positive ‘I’ve got this’ energy, to help us recognise our boundaries and protect our own moods and ways of coping with new stresses. Your regular fuel stops may be inaccessible due to access limitations or the premium fuel that you need may just not be available. So it is important to recreate or reinvent that which will keep you in best form. It is similar to self care, but focusing primarily on what you can do to keep yourself interested and identifying any habitual behaviours you may need to change to ensure you're not running on fumes... These will be as individual as we all are.  For instance, it might be the need to recharge and distance yourself from others daily, giving yourself "freedom to flow" (time for doing exactly what you want whether that's reading, walking in nature, listening to music, drawing, gardening, cycling... anything that fills up your tank). You might need to ramp up the daily meditation practice in the morning, helping you to clear your head and create that much needed space to increase your patience and tolerance levels so that you can stay "cool and collected". You might be doing all these things and yet it is the never ending "groundhog day" that is really starting to get to you. In that case, its time to mix things up. Add some variety to your routine or set yourself a challenge -  a new fitness goal, complete an online course, learn an instrument (that may well be the source of new conflict so maybe not...) or go crazy and host an online (silent) disco on Houseparty...! Whatever it is... the old saying "put the oxygen mask on you first" definitely applies.

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