When you are living with ADHD, it can be hard to know what is normal for you and what is ADHD related.
Mail is a good example.
If you have piles of unopened mail, you might feel embarrassed or get frustrated with yourself. Yet when you know it’s a common ADHD ‘thing,’ it feels better.
Your piles of mail are still there.
But now you know it’s not personal. There is a reason why this is hard and knowing that gives you permission to find practical solutions.
Having piles of mail can cause 2 types of problems.
On a practical level, bills go unpaid, parking tickets and taxes start to gather interest and credit ratings go down. Services can get cut off and wedding invitations missed.
Perhaps the greatest cost though is how it makes you feel. Every time you see that stack of unopened mail, there is a sense of dread. Also it nibbles away at your confidence and self-esteem as you ask yourself questions such as, ‘Why can’t I do a simple task like open my mail?’
If we untangle why mail is hard for ADHDers, we realize it isn’t just a question of opening an envelope. Rather, it is due to a set of complex issues.
8 Reasons Why Opening Mail is Hard When You Have ADHD.
1) Daily Maintenance
Mail involves daily maintenance. Doing any task with regularity doesn’t come naturally for people living with ADHD, which is why a feast and famine approach is common. Ignoring the mail box for months and then catching up all at once.
2) Dull and mundane
Mail isn’t that interesting. Focusing on dull, mundane tasks is very hard for ADHDers. Interesting and fun tasks are always going to win your attention over boring ones.
3) Involves Reading
Once you have opened the envelope, reading is involved.… not everyone with ADHD finds reading easy, plus learning disorders often co-exisit with ADHD .
4) Anxiety Trigger
The letter contents might trigger anxiety, which ADHDers are already prone too. If you are already feeling anxious, it makes sense you would want to void anything that could increase your anxiety levels.
5) Decisions, Decisions.
Letters involve decision making, which is something else ADHD find difficult. The decision might be a rather simple one, like, ‘Should I keep this letter or put it the garbage?’ Or it might involve more complex decisions based on the contents of the letter.
6) Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Some ADHDers are concerned that if they open a letter, they will forget to do the necessary actions that go along with it. For example, a wedding invitation requires a RSVP, booking the hotel room and buying a present. These ADHDers would rather keep the envelop unopened as a visual reminder that those tasks need to be done…even though it might mean missing the wedding.
7) Multi-Step Process
Any task that involves a multi-step process has the potential for distraction. The more steps there are, the greater the chance to leave a task unfinished. Since opening and sending letters have many steps, procrastinating when starting a multi-step task is normal.
8) Requires Action
The letter might involve doing a task that is unpleasant. For example, picking up the phone and talking to someone (which is difficult for an ADHDer with social anxiety) or addressing a topic that you feel behind with such as finances and taxes.
3 Steps to Mastering Your Mail
1. Create a Mail Opening Station
Create a mail opening station! It’s a grand name isn’t it? It really is just an area in your home where you open your mail. Your station should include
- Recycling box
- Pin board
- Filing cabinet
- Other mail related items, such as stamps (local and international), address labels, envelopes, pens, address book and
- cheque book
- Kitchen timer
Having everything in one place limits distractions and makes sending and receiving mail easier.
2.Create a Daily Habit
Pick a time of day where you will open your mail for example, when you come home from work. Then make it a new daily habit so the task never becomes huge.
- When it is ‘mail time’, get your letters and head to your station.
- Set your timer for 10 minutes.
- Put the junk mail in the recycling.
- Open the first envelope, read the letter inside and ask yourself ‘What action do I need to take?” Perhaps you need to file it for your records, pay a bill or run an errand.
- The next question is, ‘Can I do it now?’ If the task takes less than 5 minutes do it right away.
- Otherwise, pick a day and time and write it down in your agenda.
- Pin the piece of mail that still needs action onto your pin board so it’s safe and visible.
- Open the next envelope and repeat until all your mail has been opened.
- Shred anything that has your name on it to protect against identity theft.
You are all done for another day!