There is a behaviour among ADHDers that I haven’t heard being talked about much, but it’s actually quite wide spread. In fact, it’s so common that I have given it a name: Hibernation.
When things get stressful, ADDers retreat from life and…hibernate. They withdraw into the safety of their homes and don’t answer the phone, respond to emails or engage in any productive activities. They might do activities that calm them and block out reality, like lie on the sofa and watch back-to-back movies, hyper-focus on video games, read mindless novels, etc. This time isn’t pleasant though, because there is a huge amount of anxiety, fear and shame about the issues being avoided.
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Unlike animals who hibernate in the winter months, ADHD hibernation is not weather related. It can happen any time of the year. It is also different from being an introvert and taking time away from people to recharge your batteries.
The hibernation this article is about is triggered by a stressful situation that the ADHDer wasn’t sure how to handle. It is often related to a simple ADHD behavior, like sleeping through an alarm clock and missing an appointment. The trigger event itself might be small; however, the shame and embarrassment feels so great that hibernation seems like the only solution. If the person feels they let someone down they love or respect, the greater the shame and the deeper the hibernation.
When the person in hibernation feels strong enough (after a few days, or weeks), or when life responsibilities leave them no choice, they re-emerge. They apologize to everyone they were out of touch with and feel completely awful about themselves. They promise it won’t happen again both to themselves and to others.
If hibernation was a successful life strategy, I wouldn’t be writing this! However, it causes a lot of pain to everyone involved. And rather than making the situation better, the problems that triggered the hibernation in the first place have grown much bigger.
Not all ADDers hibernate…but if you do, here are some suggestions.
Create a Damage Limitation Plan
If you are prone to hibernation, it’s unrealistic to expect it to magically stop, even though you really want it to. Instead, create a damage limitation plan. This is a plan that you create when you aren’t in hibernation. It includes the actions you will take to stop sinking into hibernation when you feel it coming on or limit the time you are there.
1. Talk to Someone
Share with another person about what is going on in your life. It could be a close friend, your ADHD coach, or therapist. This is the most important action, but is probably the one you will least feel like doing.
2. Actionable To-Do List
Write a list of actions that address the problems which scare you. Break each action into tiny steps, so that it’s less overwhelming. You could even do some of the actions in the company of your trusted person.
These actions will mean facing problems head-on, which again are the last thing you want to do. However, by facing them, they will shrink back into proportion.
EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique is a great way to reduce your anxiety. It only takes a few minutes and is highly effective. You can follow this video and do it whenever you feel anxious. Go to: https://untappedbrilliance.com/adhd-anxiety-strategy
4. Rescue Remedy
Rescue Remedy is a homeopathic treatment and is readily available in health food stores, pharmacies or on the web. It helps you deal with stressful situations by giving you a sense of calm and peace.
Hypnosis helps to reprogram your subconscious so you can take actions on the things you are feeling resistance to. You can download them onto your ipod and listen as often as you need to. My favourite site is:
and these are great choices when you are in hibernation mode
6. Talk Kindly to Yourself
Pay extra attention to how you talk to yourself during this time. Be as kind and compassionate as you possibly can. No situation, no matter how bad it feels, is worth punishing yourself for.
All of these suggestions help you before or during your Hibernation. Use as many as you need, as often as you need, until you feel like your usual self again.
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