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Resetting with Neurodiversity - Reset button

Resetting with neurodiversity

Have you ever experienced one of those days when everything seems to go wrong, and all your well-laid plans and good intentions fall apart? It can be incredibly frustrating and challenging, leaving you feeling utterly overwhelmed. That’s why I find it crucial to have a strategy in place to get back on track during these moments. I refer to this process as “resetting with neurodiversity” and it holds particular significance when dealing with a neurodivergent trait such as ADHD.

My need for resetting varies throughout the day, depending on my fluctuating energy levels. Designing a flexible plan that can adapt to your current state is crucial. Here are several methods I use to reset and realign myself to get my day back on track:

Resetting with Neurodiversity often involves taking a break:

In most instances, when you find yourself overwhelmed and unable to make progress, the best course of action is to take a break. Taking a break entails stepping away from your current task and engaging in a different activity. It’s essential to have a plan in place during this break to avoid potentially engaging in self-destructive behaviours.

So what to do after you’ve taken a break?

Controlled breathing: I know it’s a bit faddy, and yes, I know we’ve all heard about it, but the reality is, if we focus on our breathing, it takes our mind off other thoughts. We don’t need to do it forever and don’t need to do some cool yoga pose at the same time, but just thinking about breathing and focusing on it is often enough to help our minds reset.

Prioritise:

When you are overwhelmed and when life seems to be weighing you down, it can be beneficial to prioritise the most crucial task at hand. By focusing your efforts on accomplishing one thing at a time, you create an opportunity to experience a sense of achievement. This, in turn, stimulates the release of endorphins, making you feel better and enabling you to select your next undertaking. Prioritising doesn’t require reassessing your entire to-do list; rather, it involves determining the next significant task and progressing accordingly.

Skipping:

I’m a big fan of skipping, it was my lockdown saviour, and it kept me focused, kept me fit and above all it gave me something to do when I was verging on doing all the things that aren’t good for me. I’ve kept this going and it’s part of my everyday life. I’ve found it particularly useful around resetting because it’s tough to think of other thoughts while skipping. It lets you clear your head and look forward to the future. I wouldn’t recommend doing too much to start with; two to three minutes is fine, but it can be enough to reset and work out what to do next.

Reach out:

I’ve discovered great value in reaching out and conversing with others, especially while working from home.

A SIMPLE CONVERSATION CAN PROPEL ME FORWARD whenever I encounter a challenge or feel stuck, offering fresh perspectives and guiding me towards the next steps. To make this approach effective, fostering meaningful relationships with individuals is crucial, enabling mutual support and an open line of communication. I also wonder whether this strategy resonates specifically with me as I’m an external processor. It’s essential to consider your processing style and identify the relationships that best assist you in navigating difficult situations.

Network:

One of the most powerful tools I’ve discovered for resetting is having access to a network of individuals willing to offer assistance when needed. It’s not about receiving continuous support, but rather having the right support available at the right time. This enables you to effectively reset your current situation and progress, potentially benefiting from expert advice. To illustrate, there was a time when I encountered significant difficulties with my accounts, which caused a lot of stress and hindered my progress. However, a brief conversation with someone knowledgeable and experienced in that field provided the necessary guidance to help me reset, determine my next steps, and move forward successfully.

Looking after yourself while resetting with neurodiversity:

While the concept of being kind to yourself may seem overused, it remains crucial and arguably the most essential aspect of showing up well in the workplace. This applies not only to individuals with neurodivergent traits but to everyone else too. By taking care of ourselves, we position our bodies to support our mental well-being at work effectively. Numerous studies have demonstrated that nurturing our physical health directly benefits our mental state. As a result, we experience greater satisfaction and clarity regarding our work and its purpose. Establishing healthy boundaries regarding when we start and stop work and how much we take on becomes possible. Moreover, prioritising self-care equips us with the reserves and resources necessary to go above and beyond when the situation demands it.

As you can see, resetting with neurodiversity can involve various elements. However, the key is to create a personalised plan and document it. Consider this blog the starting block of your resetting toolkit. Having a well-defined plan allows you to navigate challenges and perform at your full potential rather than feeling lost and struggling to find a way to reset.

If you’re interested in further exploring the topic of resetting and discovering more effective strategies, feel free to reach out. I’m available for a conversation to provide guidance and support.

neurodivergent traits are strengths

What are neurodivergent traits? – How do we retain and empower them?

So what are neurodivergent traits?

Based on statistics from the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) it is estimated that at least 15% of the working population have some neurodivergent traits. Neurodivergent traits are those associated with conditions like dyslexia, ADHD, ASC along with medically diagnosed and acquired conditions like PTSD and migraines. These traits are likely to appear in different combinations in each individual. This is supported by research carried out by Professor Amanda Kirby that shows it is more common for individuals to have co-occurring traits from several different neurodivergent conditions, rather than traits just associated with one.

As we consider these traits, I believe it is essential we take a strengths-based approach looking to understand what the individual is great at, while at the same time helping them to understand the things they find difficult and how to mitigate the impact of these on their effectiveness.

These neurodivergent traits include (this is not an exhaustive list):

Neurodivergent traits (strengths)

Creative, imaginative, energised, solution finders, emotionally intelligent, persistent, inquisitive and have fresh eyes.

Neurodivergent traits (difficulties)

Short-term memory, anxiety, fear, disguise and sensory overload. Screening diagnosis and understanding of these various traits and conditions are improving rapidly, though there is still much more to do.

How these traits impact an individual’s working environment and their effectiveness at work is unique to them. I work with a wide range of individuals across several different sectors. Though their stories are all different the recurring theme is that they have hit difficulties at some point in their working life that has caused them to reach out for support. Some of these individuals have been recently diagnosed, while others have known about their traits since primary school. The challenge is not just to know that you have these traits but how these traits affect an individual’s effectiveness in the workplace.

Some of the ways that common neurodivergent traits impact individuals’ effectiveness in the workplace include:

Memory and concentration

Working in environments where a lot of information is shared orally can be extremely challenging for individuals who have poor short-term memory.

A way to think about this is like a bookshelf. The average person (if they exist), can typically hold around 7 to 9 books on a bookshelf. However, someone who has difficulties with their short-term memory is likely to be only able to hold one to three books on the bookshelf. The implications of this are when a new book is added the first book is pushed off and the individual is forced into a situation of grabbing the book that has fallen, often disrupting the rest of the shelf.

If the culture of the organisation means that this is just the way things are done it can be incredibly challenging for these individuals to keep and recall information.

There are ways to help individuals through coaching and technology that allow them to support their short-term memory. This can enable them to work effectively within their organisation.

Organisational skills

In a workplace being organised and understanding what is going on is an essential skill, especially when collaborating with others. If however your sense of time and your ability to follow processes is challenging, then this can make life very difficult. We often assume that having a calendar allows us to be organised, but what we take for granted is that there are a whole bunch of skills around making that calendar work for us. These include building in time to do post and pre-meeting work, accounting for travel and building in buffers to deal with unexpected situations.

Not being able to organise effectively can be very debilitating but through co-building processes, the individual’s situation can be improved dramatically.

Time management

Having a sense of time and being able to estimate time effectively are again essential skills within our current workplaces. If you are unable to do this effectively it can detract from your credibility in the workplace. For some individuals, this could just be that they have no sense of time, while for others they may be overwhelmed by the sensory inputs from their environment.

There are various solutions to this difficulty, including the use of alarms and wearable technology. It is important to work with the individual to understand their unique working environment and how time management affects them.

Wellbeing

Some individuals feel that they are unable to share or not aware of their neurodivergent traits and as a result, try and mask them. This can often mean that they spend far more time working on tasks than their colleagues. This type of behaviour can generate a considerable amount of anxiety, especially when coupled with change. This is because the individual may well be barely hanging in there when they need to reconsider changing all their strategies.

Spending time assessing an individual to help them understand their traits and how these impact their work is invaluable. It can help them flourish and become their true self at work. This should focus on amplifying their strengths and building strategies to help mitigate their difficulties.

Don’t underestimate the power that these changes can have

Christopher Reeve the actor who played Superman, paralysed in a horse-riding accident in 1995 – put it like this.

“When the first Superman movie came out, I was frequently asked, ‘what is a hero?’ I remember the glib response I repeated so many times. The answer was that a hero is someone who commits the courageous action without considering the consequences – the soldier who crawls out of the foxhole to drag an injured buddy to safety. Now my definition is completely different. I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

Unfortunately, overwhelming obstacles are present for many individuals with neurodivergent traits and if we do not change this then our organisations will be poorer for it with implications including:

  • Non-compliance under the equality act 2010.
  • Attrition of staff who can add value to our organisations.
  • Loss of competitive advantage and innovation.

To this point, we have discussed supporting the individual. It is important that changes to support the individual are not sticking plasters, but instead part of an organisational wide environmental support.

The road to success

This journey starts with raising awareness of neurodiversity and specifically neurodivergent traits. This mustn’t be a sheep dip approach, yes neurodiversity training is good, but it needs to be supported by mentoring and coaching for managers and leaders of neurodivergent staff.

This then needs to be supported with high-quality processes that are easy to understand and are embedded across the organisations, (not buried at the bottom of some old filing cabinet).

For example:

  • It should be obvious where to seek support.
  • It should be clear how you will be treated.
  • It should be clear what you can expect to happen and when.

Is there an opportunity to be assessed by a professional who can look at your strengths and difficulties and then be given tailored help and support to amplify your strengths and manage your difficulties?

If you have met one person with neurodivergent traits, you have met one person as we are all uniquely different.

Article originally published on FE News