Minds Stuck on Repeat
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
While many people don’t pay much attention to Groundhog Day, I mark my calendar each year—not so Punxsutawney Phil can tell me how much winter remains with any degree of confidence, but because my oldest grandson was born on this holiday of sorts. He is an amazing young man and I could not be more proud of him!
In case you missed it, Punxsutawney Phil came out of his burrow on Sunday and could not find his shadow.
In view of the massive snow storm we just experienced it’s hard to believe the forecast of an oversized grass rat predicting spring is just around the corner.
Since the movie release of the same name, who can think of Groundhog Day without remembering the other Phil–the infamous weatherman, Phil Conners? Stuck in a seemingly endless time loop, Phil is forced to relive the same day over and over again. The changes he makes each day don’t seem to matter—he awakens to the same alarm, the same annoying radio announcer and Sunny and Cher’s, “I Got You Babe.”
Exactly how much time elapsed during Connors’ time warp is a topic for those who have more time to waste than do I. One online guru—and of course, you can believe anything you read on the Internet–suggests 8 years, 8 months and 16 days.
Whatever the answer, the movie depicts a lot of wasted time reliving the same thoughts and actions over and over again.
Ruminating on Obsessive Thoughts
Like Phil Conners, part of living with ADHD for many is dealing with obsessive thoughts—thoughts that ruminate sometimes incessantly. Often, it seems the harder an individual tries to ignore them, the more the thought returns. Unfortunately, the thoughts are usually negative and self-defeating in nature. Caught in an endless loop one becomes disheartened and discouraged.
Here’s how an ADHD mind might deal with a dating relationship being ended by the other person.
Besides endless hours of ruminating about what you might have done wrong even if the fault (if there was one) belongs to the other person, you obsess about every other rejection experienced in your life—whether it be at home, in dating, in school, with job applications, or from work-related experiences. The obsessive ADHD brain finds every ill-fated detail.
It all leads you to conclude you somehow don’t measure up, you’ll likely be single for the rest of your life and there’s really not much in life for which to be hopeful.
Of course none of that is true and those who know you would be utterly shocked if your thoughts were known. They see you in quite a different light and probably know you as someone with many positive traits and someone who has every reason to be hopeful about the future.
Overthinking in an ADHD Brain
It becomes even more defeating when one who doesn’t know how an ADHD mind works suggests some variation of, “Just get over it!” An individual with ADHD has used the try harder approach most of their life with little success.
Dealing with an obsessive thought in a brain without an off switch is a bit like when Phil is driving his car down the railroad tracks towards an approaching train and says,
“I’m betting he’s going to swerve first…”
While try harder may work for some, those dealing with ADHD may have to take a different approach.
Here are a few suggestions:
Mindfulness – find ways to relax your brain so you don’t end up listening to your harshest critic—yourself. Some people really enjoy Yoga because it often tends to focus on breathing & relaxation, both of which could refocus an otherwise fixed brain.
Physical activity – find an activity you will truly enjoy whether it be walking, running, cycling or joining an exercise class. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain and trigger a positive feeling in the body. Make certain you choose something you will enjoy and it doesn’t necessarily involve a financial commitment to get started.
Pre-planned course of action – prepare in advance to play video games, do word-search or crossword puzzles whenever obsessive thoughts make their way into your brain. I like to read and I’m a sucker for black-and-white movies, so I have a book or movie in waiting for my next obsessive thought. Plan ahead to give yourself a reward and get your mind off of your thoughts.
Distraction – in the event you did not plan ahead, simply do something that forces your brain to concentrate elsewhere. One of my favorite go-to distractions is working on cards and making creative, design-oriented labels for things around the house–it really gets my creative juices flowing and away from ruminating thoughts. Consider puzzles, favorite games, writing or crafts of any kind.
Journaling – another means of diverting destructive thought patterns is to write them in a journal. Providing harmful ideas a permanent place to reside sometimes has the effect of rendering them powerless. Some report that recording positive thoughts to replace negative ones is also productive.
Music or some other relaxation technique – listen to soothing music that relaxes your body and brain. Lie down on the couch and focus on each part of your body starting with your toes and moving upward. Concentrate on breathing and make certain to take in deep-cleansing breaths rather than the shallow ones that usually accompany stress. After a few minutes of breathing good oxygen you will feel less anxious and stressed. While that genre of music works best for me, others may choose positive, memory-filled, mood music. As mentioned in my husband’s guest Journal entry, he’d rather listen to music that causes him to get up and dance (although his dance moves aren’t those you necessarily want to see).
These are just a few ideas; I’m confident you can create many more. You are intelligent, creative and resourceful. Take time to stop and think, “What do I need to do to get to a happy place when ruminating begins?” Use your inborn creativity to figure a new way to view the situation.
I’ve mentioned my love of Dr. Seuss’ wisdom before. His advice is also good in this situation,
“With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.”