Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Freedom from Frustration

by Terry M. Dickson, MD, ACG, CPCC
Ever have one of those ADHD moments when there is a lot of overwhelm? Those moments when, feeling intense emotion, tension, and helplessness, we are unable to remain calm and collected?

It can begin when we believe we need something and there doesn’t seem to be a way to fulfill that need. Of course, everything should run smoothly, but in reality, it doesn’t. And when we can’t seem to achieve what we want right away, if things are chaotic and we get into overwhelm mode, frustration and sometimes anger can set in. We don’t always get what we want, and we are often out of our routine. Frustration is a common emotional response to being out of sync with what we want or expect to happen.

What kinds of situations leave folks with ADHD vulnerable to frustration, anger, and overwhelm? There are so many: we’re sitting in traffic, our kids are out of control, our spouse criticizes us for something after we’ve had a difficult day at the office, we’re trying to do something that just doesn’t seem to work....

Frustration isn’t just external irritation. It goes beyond that. When needs, goals, or expectations are not met, we typically experience anger, disappointment, dissatisfaction, or discouragement.

Frustration saps our energy. It can make us tired, feeling helpless, or even resentful. If that stress continues, we may feel like we have nothing left to give and begin to push others away.

Often people with ADHD impulsively express their frustration inappropriately and may feel embarrassed or regretful afterwards. They often express anger or make rash, reactionary statements toward others. Even though these responses may help release a bunch of energy, other people can get very hurt, and a lot of misunderstanding can result.

It is well known that folks with ADHD often suffer overwhelm and that frustration is a normal consequence. But what is most important is how you handle that frustration.

Are there self-empowering ways of handling frustration? Sure. You can learn new coping strategies. You don’t have to take it out on others. Identify when you are being judgmental or having unrealistic expectations of others. Here are some tips.

1. Be aware of ADHD moments. Learn what situations tend to make you most vulnerable. When you notice you are getting frustrated, stop for minute. Take a deep breath. Closing your eyes and deep breathing are often helpful. Ask yourself, “What is it that I am frustrated about?”

2. Give yourself a time out. Go jogging, go for a walk, or exercise on the treadmill. Try to dissipate that stress. You may feel more relaxed and refreshed. It’s hard to be your beautiful, creative self when you are in survival mode. You may experience a new resourcefulness. Practice relaxation techniques.

3. Remember, you have choices. Try stepping back from what is frustrating you and look at it from a new perspective. Are you able to step back and look at the situation as an observer on the outside? Get a metaview of the situation from a curious perspective. When you are not in the thick of the problem, but looking at the whole picture as an outsider, you have a whole new vantage point to see other possibilities and solutions.

4. Avoid taking on a victim mentality. Don’t give up or quit. That victim mentality will leave you with poor self-esteem and even more anger or frustration. Frustration does not need to leave you collapsed with doom or feeling like a failure. Don’t go there! If things seem too difficult to handle, ask yourself, “Who do I need to be to accomplish ___________? What knowledge or skills do I need to accomplish_________?

5. Use this experience as an opportunity for new awareness and learning. What possibilities you might discover! Frustration and overload present opportunities for self-empowerment, discovery, and forward action. When you are able to be in control and redirect that energy, you are able to be more connected with others. You are free to be your wonderful, creative self.

6. Imagine a positive outcome. What did you learn from your frustration? What can you celebrate about the learning? Imagine yourself being successful and that others around you are winning, too.

7. Stick to a routine and work in an environment that is friendly to your style.

8. Make sure you get plenty of sleep.

To your success!


Terry M. Dickson, MD, ACG, CPCC, is the founder and director of The Behavioral Medicine Clinic of NW Michigan that has served and supported children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD for over eleven years. He has been a principal study investigator for several clinical ADHD medication trials. A Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, he is a graduate of the ADD Coach Academy and the Coaches Training Institute. Diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, Dr. Dickson speaks regularly on ADHD and has been interviewed locally and nationally on radio, television, and CHADD’s Ask the Expert online. Dr. Dickson and his wife of 32 years have two teenage children, both of whom have ADHD.