What are transitions and why does it matter?
Transitions are the “times between” – after you know something is changing but before you know how it turns out.
For example, if you’re moving to a new home, the transition time is from when you know you’ll be moving, through packing and relocating, until you feel settled in the new home.
Transition times can be triggered by something external. Moving from high school to college; changing job; illness or injury; relationships changing or ending – those are events that create big changes. During the transition, we have to let go of one reality and adjust to a new one.
Transitions can also be triggered by something internal. For example, in adolescence, the transition from childhood to adulthood triggers physical, emotional and mental changes even if nothing changes in the child’s outer world.
Why this matters is that, during times of transition, we can expect more chaos and confusion, more volatile emotions, more difficulty thinking. We often face situations that are not just out of our comfort zone but out of our competence zone – we really are out of our depth for a while.
Why it matters is that, despite the stressors, times of transition can be times of greatest creativity, when new opportunities emerge and we discover gifts and talents we didn’t know we had. The core opportunity of transition times is that we move to a new level of development.
What does this have to do with ADHD?
- Those of us with ADHD tendencies may experience frequent transitions. We have a tendency to flit from one thought to another and one activity to another. With the best of intentions, we may forget important things like where our keys are or that it’s time to pay the phone bill. Because of those tendencies, we may experience more career changes, more relocations, and more crises caused by forgetfulness. All of those may create more transition times than many people experience.
- We may not realize we’re in a transition time. Some of the symptoms of ADHD – forgetfulness, difficulty focusing, losing track of time – can also be indicators that we are in a transition. Since we’re used to chaos, we may not even notice that something is different. Or, if we notice more ADHD-like behaviours than usual, we may think we are regressing. In reality we may be transitioning to a new level of development and just haven’t adapted yet to our new self.
- Transitions may interfere with ADHD coping strategies. We all have routines that help us with ADHD tendencies – using a timer to snap us out of hyperfocus; making sure we always put the keys in a certain place; asking other people to help us organize. In times of transition, when much is changing around and within us, we may not be able to use these routines. That can throw us off our stride.
- We may be more adept than others at dealing with transitions. On the flip side, we ADHD people may have an advantage during times of rapid change. Compared to people who are used to an organized life, a certain amount of disorganization and stress feels “normal” to us! We may be better equipped to roll with chaos.
Four tips if you know you’re in a transition.
- Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect yourself to be as good at anything as you usually are. (Don’t worry, your skills will come back.) Be even more attentive to the basics: diet, exercise, sleep, all the things you know help your ADHD symptoms.
- Create temporary ADHD coping strategies. Think of routines that are going to be disrupted (for example, during a move you won’t have the same place to put your keys). Then think of how you can accomplish the same purpose in a different way.
- Ask for help. Ask those you trust for a little extra support when you’re in a transition time. Of course, you will provide extra support to them when they are in a transition time.
- Laugh. We quirky ADHD people often have wicked senses of humour. No matter what, laughter always makes whatever is happening easier, and maybe even fun.
ADHD tendencies and transition times both come with gifts and challenges. When they happen together, it may intensify the challenge – but also the opportunity for our brilliant gifts to shine!
Bonnie Hutchinson is the author of Transitions: Pathways to the Life and World Your Soul Desires.
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