- Kristen Stuppy, MD
Updated: Apr 3, 2021
Dr. Ed Hallowell is a well known expert on ADHD. He often talks of the SPIN Cycle and how people must learn to harness energy from their ADHD to learn to thrive. It’s natural in all aspects of life though to have periods where we excel followed by times that seem stagnant or even time where things worsen.
Positive aspects of ADHD
When ADHD is well managed, we can learn to improve upon our skills. We can work on our organizational skills. Our time management can improve. Sitting down and staying on task is possible. We feel more successes than failures.
I’ve written before about all the reasons we should appreciate ADHD, including creativity and extra energy. The problem is getting to the point where we can recognize the benefits of the ADHD mind – the negatives easily get in the way.
Waterfalls and ADHD
Dr. Hallowell compares ADHD to a waterfall in his blog on the SPIN Cycle.
He goes on to say, “This waterfall is an insurmountable obstacle if your goal is to paddle. But, if you will change your plan, I can show you how you can turn this waterfall into something wonderful. This waterfall can generate enough energy to light up millions of homes. People will pay you for all that electricity. You just need to throw away your paddle and build a hydroelectric plant.”
What’s the SPIN Cycle?
During the spin cycle we get stuck in a period where we seem to stop progressing in our self improvement. Sometimes we even seem to slip back into old habits. The negativity weighs us down and can make us want to stop trying.
It’s not uncommon for people with ADHD to feel ashamed due to their inabilities to sit still, stay quiet, turn in assignments on time, and the myriad consequences of the executive functioning struggles they have. This can lead to Rejection Sensitivity, anxiety, and depression.
Until we learn to love ourselves and look at ourselves in a positive light, it is impossible to function well. Negative self talk keeps us from being productive. It inhibits our sleep. We start to give up.
We all tend to be our harshest critic. Learn to look at yourself as you would look at a close friend. You’re probably able to accept that a friend forgot to reply to a text or showed up late. Don’t beat yourself up over the same issues. While it’s not good to do those things, you can use failures to learn instead of to fall into the trap of negative self talk.
Focus on the positives in your life, not the negatives. Look at everything you have accomplished. Write accomplishments down as they happen so you can easily review the list to give yourself a boost when you’re feeling down! Don’t wait to solve the world hunger problem to consider something an accomplishment. It can be the little mundane things that we need to do every day but struggle to do.
Is it hard to remember to feed your pet without your mother reminding you? Today you remembered. Write that down!
A great way to block the shame is to focus on gratitude.
Each day take a moment to think about why you’re thankful. This can be things you’ve accomplished as well as people and things in your life you appreciate. It’s also a great time to set goals for the next day. Don’t forget to include doing things for others. There’s no better way to feel better about yourself than to help others!
Pessimism and Negativity
It’s easy to fall into pessimism and negativity, as discussed above. Sometimes we feel like nothing will work out, so why bother even trying.
We can’t control what other people say or do. The weather is beyond our control. A classmate might say something really hurtful. Natural disasters happen. All of these things can bring us down. Or we can change the way we think about them.
We can learn from things that go on around us. If we don’t like the way we feel when people say certain things, we can learn to not say those types of things and hurt others. We can practice responses to say or how to leave the situation when people say things that cause us to hurt or feel angry.
You might know someone who simply gives up. They stop trying to do homework because they get so frustrated that they make silly mistakes or they don’t understand the assignment. Maybe they can do the work but they always forget to turn it in. Why even bother doing it in the first place if you don’t get full credit, right?
That’s negative thinking. The glass is half empty. With this type of thinking, it’s less likely that you’ll get anything done.
Focus on the positives and stop the negativity. Learn to control what you think. To learn more about this, read How to Get a Growth Mindset.
Dr. Hallowell writes, ” Isolation is often the by-product of shame, pessimism, and negativity. It intensifies the shame and negativity, and can lead to depression, toxic anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and generally poor performance in all aspects of life.”
It can feel easier to simply avoid being around people if you worry about what people will think of you. While it might seem to decrease your stress if you avoid a stressful situation, it can lead to new worries that you have no friends. It also leads to a weak support system, so when you need a friend to lean upon, they aren’t around.
It might take working with a friend to draw you out and into situations. Some people need to work with a therapist to learn how to socially interact.
Jessica from How to ADHD has some great social skills tips in this video:
No Creative, Productive Outlet
When we’re stuck in a negative mindset, we lose our creativity. Productivity goes out the window. That leads us to more frustration and despair.
We need to get out of the rut and do something productive to regain some self esteem and feel good.
Try to make tasks fun. Think of Mary Poppins… she helped Jane and Michael clean the nursery by making it into a game. Granted, she used a little magic, but you can sing a tune or find another way to make chores fun.
I sometimes listen to an audiobook while I clean. It makes the task more fun while I listen to a book I enjoy. You could get more creative and pretend you’re in a movie and act out what the character would be doing. If nothing else, focus on a positive aspect of whatever chore you must do as you do it.
How to stop the SPIN Cycle
When you get stuck in the SPIN Cycle, you can find a way out by simply playing. Have fun. Clear your mind of the negative thoughts. Be around positive people. Do something nice for someone else. Think positive thoughts.
Learn a few tips from Mary Poppins…