Lead us Not into Temptation

Gettin’ UP and Gettin’ Going – Part III

Two more of my TEN “Practices” that beat back
ACTIVATION struggles

©Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

click images for source

click images for sources

always available
in mousetraps.

We humans are a funny lot.  We’ll do practically anything to run away from the feeling of task anxiety — except the task itself, of course.

There are always consequences.

The following portion of this article will increase your task anxiety awareness as it illuminates what you need to pay attention to whenever you note that task anxiety is a significant contributor to your lack-of-activation struggles.

But lets do a quick review of the first six tips before we go on to number seven.

In Parts 1 and 2 of this article we covered the following six of my Top Ten Tips to Combat “Laziness:”

1. Medication can help, but not by itself
2. Avoid shoulds and should-ers – and know why you must
3. Write it down, write it down, write it down
4. Distinguish Task Anxiety and begin there
5. Feed your head
6. Go like Glenda

If you haven’t read part one, read it HERE.
Read part two HERE

NOW we’re going to take a look at #7 and #8:

7. Stay off the Slide
8. Best breathing for best focus

Before we conclude with:
* Cross it off, cross it off, cross it off
* RATE IT – both before and after

If on-screen reading is frustrating for you, even with the article broken into parts,
try taking it ONE Practice at a time.

Okay – lets get right back to it!

Be sure to check out the sidebar for how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>


click images for sources

Lack-of-Activation Quicksand

In the Task Anxiety section of “Laziness” Vaccinations, the previous section of this article, I went over six of the primary sources of task anxiety.  I also illuminated what was probably lurking in the shadows beneath the surface of each of them.

Task anxiety, remember, is what I call that glitch-in-the-gut feeling we get when we need to begin even the simplest of tasks that makes the idea of action seem like more than we can manage in the moment.

We know that we’ve already got one foot in lack-of-activation quicksand. We are fearful of what will happen if we can’t remove it and kick ourselves into gear. We don’t want to even think about it.

So we don’t.  We do something else instead.

Some of us check our email, click a few likes on Facebook, maybe check out our favorite blogs or YouTube channels.  Some of us play computer solitaire or whatever other game is our flavor of the moment.

Some head straight for our smartphones: Words with Friends anyone?

We’re snackin’ on FREE CHEESE — we’ve managed to sidestep task anxiety.  But not for long.

Whatever it is that YOU find yourself doing when you really need to be doing something else, the end result is the same.  Time itself disappears into the black hole of hyperfocus and another day goes by with the “procrastinated” task undone.  So tomorrow it will be even worse.

SNAP!  Caught in a trap of the consequences of going for that free cheese

What do *I* do?  Write a new article for ADDandSoMuchMore.com, of course, actually convincing myself that “writing ahead” is a great idea.

Although it DID turn out to be a great idea to help mitigate the consequences of the first part of 2014, normally it is more of a creative procrastination task than anything that actually moves MY life forward.  (Yet here I sit, writing ahead to avoid seemingly endless unpacking and organizing – even though I know better than anyone that it’s not a good idea).

So why do we continue to do it?

Task anxiety is a limbic system activator — which primes our bodies to “fight, flee or freeze,” NOT to get things done.

According to scientific studies conducted in the past few years by Dr. David Rock and his team, and Emotional Regulation Research founder, Stanford’s Dr. James J. Gross:

the degree to which your limbic system is aroused is
the degree to which your prefrontal cortex is deactivated.

Getting things done depends on prefrontal cortex activation (which is already under-performing in those of us with Executive Functioning struggles)

  • Those seemingly amazing individuals who manage to push through and FORCE themselves to tackle the tasks on their To-Do lists when their PFC is flying at half mast aren’t doing themselves any big favors.
  • According to the latest studies, they will be up to 50% less effective than they would have been.
  • It turns out that JUST DO IT is not the best advice — handle the task anxiety first.

But running away from it is not the same as handling it.


Living Mindfully Now – click image

Becoming aware

Becoming consciously aware of what you do is ALWAYS the first step of changing any habit.  In our case, three-step awareness is our best bet.

Step one: the minute you suspect you have one foot in lack-of-activation quicksand, call it. Identifying and naming what we’re feeling is essential.

Simply identifying what’s going on, whether we actually DO anything about it or not, helps to bring the PFC back online.

Step two: name the game. Remind yourself of what you’re up to. Say it aloud.

There used to be a funny commercial that is an excellent illustration of this step. We watch as a man crawls out of bed and goes about getting ready for his day, repeating aloud to his sleepy brain, “It’s time to make the donuts.” 

Great idea, actually! I’ve heard more than a few people remind themselves to get back to doing what they are supposed to be doing with exactly the same phrase.

Those of us finding it difficult to activate would be better served by stating specifically what it is “time to do,” however.

Step three: Pay attention to the urge to do anything that you already know is one of your task anxiety avoidance activities, and aim yourself in the other direction.

Don’t go anywhere NEAR anything that you already know will be a recipe for hyperfocus on anything but what you need to get done – which brings us to the next of our Ten Tips.

arrowgold7. Stay off the slide

©Gemwish on DeviantArt - click image for source

©Gemwish on DeviantArt – click image for source

Have you ever been to a water park?

Almost all of them have a long, slippery, winding slide that eventually dumps you into a pool.

If you watch by the pool long enough, you’ll eventually see somebody who will look completely surprised about the fact that they are about to be dunked.  Heads pop out of the water with that look.  At least one little kid will start crying.

What did they THINK was going to happen
at the end of a water slide?

The Law of Natural Consequences at work

Here’s the thing about those slides – you can’t change your mind half way down.

  • Once you’re on the slide, make friends with getting dunked.
  • It only happens every single time.

If you don’t want to get dunked, don’t get on the slide!

And here’s the thing about getting in line for the slide – it’s really hard to turn around and say no at that point.

Don’t kid yourself

What do you think is going to happen when you launch into one of your “procrastination tasks?”

If you don’t want to get dunked, don’t get on the slide!

  • You know what you do.  If “one quick game” of Words with Friends usually turns into a marathon, don’t play game number one.  That’s getting on the slide.
  • Don’t check to see if anybody new wants to play with you.  Don’t even pick up your smart phone. That’s getting in line for the slide.
  • Don’t kid yourself that this time you will be able to handle it “responsibly.”
    That’s flat out denial.

Fortunately, there is a better alternative to running away or sitting and spinning in task anxiety — breathing.  Deep breathing.  But not what you probably thought I meant when you saw those words.

I’m speaking of deep breathing of a particular sort that I have found to be particularly helpful, for a legitimate, brain-based reason.  Not only does this kind of breathing oxygenate your brain, which helps all by itself, it keeps it just busy enough to loosen anxiety’s grip.

arrowgold8.  Best breathing for best focus

©John Atkinson - click image for source

©John Atkinson – click image for source

How aware are you of your breathing?

Probably not very, since breathing is part of our autonomic system, but paying attention to it can serve as a “calm down” modulator of sorts.

How do you breathe?

Do you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth? That’s the best way to anchor focus on your breathing. Take two or three complete breaths this way — in through your nose and out through your mouth.

It’s difficult to remain UNaware of your breathing when you do it that way, isn’t it?

Are you expanding your lungs fully with every intake of air.

Take a huge breath and notice how much more air you can take in.

Now try it to a count.

Breathe in through your nose to a full count of eight. Make sure your lungs are full when you reach eight.  Then breathe out slowly (through your mouth, remember), completely emptying your lungs.

Did you take the same eight counts to exhale? Most of us don’t.

Try it: complete breaths both ways — eight counts in, eight counts out. It’s a bit more complicated that way, isn’t it.

Let’s add one more step: holding.

  • This time, breathe in to a slow count of eight and hold your breathe for the same eight counts (at the same speed) before you release the air.
  • Breathe out to the same-speed count of eight
  • When your lungs are empty, wait eight counts before you inhale.
  • Remember to inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth, and to take complete breaths both ways to the same count at the same speed.**

1. In through your nose for eight counts
2. Hold for eight counts
3. Out through your mouth for eight counts
4. Hold for eight counts.

(**Adjust the speed of your “slow count” to whatever is comfortable for you
to maintain for “all four sides of the square”).

That is what I call “one set” of square breathing.
It may feel silly, but there’s nothing else like it for recentering.

How come?

To understand why, we need to back up a step for a quick look at a concept referred to as “prefrontal cortex shut down in response to stress.”

The PFC, remember, is the area that is responsible for coordinating your Executive Functions: critical thinking skills like judgment and decision making, as well as attention span, concentration, impulse control, organization and planning, sequencing, attending to, remembering and recalling details — and managing time and space in a myriad of other functional ways.

STRESS, in this context, needs to be thought of more in the way we think of stressing a muscle when we ask it to do useful work — in addition to the meanings we frequently associate with the word stress (i.e., greater than usual life-pressures that create emotional, physical or psychological problems).


click dancers for source

Everybody’s danced to that tune

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t experienced prefrontal cortex shut down,
whether they recognize it as such or not.

I think we’ve all had those moments when we can’t recall a particular word as we are attempting to explain something, or the name of a person we know when we need to introduce them.

How about delivering a presentation at work, when your mind seems to do a stutter step and feels like it has momentarily gone completely blank – or the spelling of a familiar word?

It seems that the harder we try to recall something, the less likely we are to be successful in our attempt. I always say, “Don’t chase it, it will run.” 

Haven’t you noticed that when you move on to something else that your “brain-freeze” seems to thaw and the word or name pops right in?  I’ll bet you’ve thought to yourself at least once, “Now why couldn’t I think of that when I needed it?”

Phillip Martin, artist/educatorThe reason is prefrontal cortex shut-down, and it is has been known to be common in the ADD/EFD community for decades.

PFC shutdown is a type of “startle” response, and a close cousin to what is referred to as amygdala hijack, a term coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence.  I’ve written about our friend Mr. Amygdala many times**, but here’s a quick review.

The part of our brain called the amygdala has evolved to sound the alarm whenever danger lurks. 

It has the power to pull resources from parts of the brain that aren’t directly involved in fighting or flighting – like the parts necessary to access our reasoned responses and our sifting and sorting mechanisms – effectively “shutting them down” to ensure our survival in the presence of eminent threat. 

The problem is that Mr. Amygdala hasn’t kept up with the times.  He can’t tell the difference between our response to a pack of howling dogs heading our way and one of the everyday stressors of everyday life.  The minute he senses anxiety, he jumps in to keep us alive.  And he takes that job v-e-r-y seriously.

** check out The Impulsivity Rundown™ for a more about working with Mr. Amygdala

Studied by Scientists, still not fully understood

SciAmMindA study reviewed in Scientific American by Amy Arnsten, Carolyn M. Mazure and Rajita Sinha suggested that when under great stress the brain can inadvertently flick from its higher cognitive functions to primal reactions as it assumes we need to react instinctively to save ourselves.

“Primitive brain pathways can stop us on a dime or ready us to flee,” they wrote.

“These mechanisms may serve a similar function when we face danger in the modern world – say when a reckless driver cuts us off and we need to slam on the brakes.” However, they went on to say that if we remain in this highly-aroused state prefrontal function weakens.

They said this could be a “devastating handicap in circumstances where we need to engage in complex decision making . . . or organize an important project to a tight deadline.” [Mind & Brain Scientific American Volume 306, Issue 4]

So when you are struggling with lack of activation, your most important task is to reduce or eliminate task anxiety as quickly as possible to be able to move beyond it.

That’s where square breathing is magic.

  • It’s mundane, so it’s adding no additional stress.
  • Yet it is just complicated enough to keep you and your brain distracted from inadvertently making the situation worse by agonizing over potential consequences.
  • Unlike dancing (which also works, by the way), square breathing is a bit boring. You’re much less likely to jump from the activation quicksand frying pan into the hyperfocus fire — you will find that you will tend to be eager to do almost anything else after a few rounds.

Try it

Go back and read the “instructions” and breathe along.  If you give it a try NOW, you will remember what to do when you need it.

Four to six rounds of square breathing will generally calm down even the most sensitized amygdalas.

But you DO have to try it for it to work for you. Reading about it or thinking about it won’t cut it.

Along with writing things down, unfortunately, square breathing is another area that tends to invite the greatest push-back.  Please don’t do that to you.
USE the techniques.

Speaking of which, the best thing to do after square breathing is to write it down, write it down, write it down.  Make a task list.  Chunk an item on the list you already made into parts.  Scribble a few paragraphs about what made you boggle in the first place.  Don’t try to keep your thinking in your head – put it on paper.

Whatever else you do, keep reading to keep learning. And keep coming back – there’s more to come next Wednesday  (don’t miss it!).

What’s next?

  • Cross it off, cross it off, cross it off
  • RATE IT – both before and after

© 2014, all rights reserved
Check bottom of Home/New to find out the “sharing rules”

No TIME to read all this stuff? Want more help?

man-on-phoneOnce my own life recovers from a protracted repair deficit situation where even the ability to use the systems I have put in place was taken from me, watch for the announcement of an upcoming 12-week TeleClass on Modular Success Systems.

It will help you sort through a great many of the “functional modules” so that you can design an action plan guaranteed to be easier than what most of you are currently attempting to work with.

Classes are a much cheaper alternative to hiring my personal coaching services (and the FIRST time I offer a new class is always your least expensive option by far!). As always, class size will be small to allow for personal attention, so don’t miss the announcement if you want to make sure you sign up before the first class fills.

If you already know that this is something you are going to want to be part of, let me know in a comment below and I’ll make sure you have advanced notice (don’t forget to fill in your name and email on the comment form or I won’t be able to contact you).

Meanwhile, keep reading as often as you can! Until my own life recovers, I won’t have the time to post as often as I have in the past, but there is A LOT already on the site.

Don’t waste this free resource – and I’d REALLY appreciate it if you would help me out by taking a few moments from your own life to spread the word about the blog and the upcoming TeleClass, OK?

To double the benefit, whenever you read a new article, make it a habit to pick at least one of the Related Content links to read at the same time (embedded in the text and duplicated in the Related Links at the bottom of every post).

If you’ll “like” or comment after the pages you’ve read, it will help you keep track and will point others to posts you find especially helpful (as well as helping ME to know what you want me to cover in upcoming articles and Series).

As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Time & Task Management Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series (one-on-one couples or group), click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end (or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page). Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!). 

You might also be interested in some of the following articles
available right now – on this site and elsewhere.

For links in context: run your cursor over the article above and the dark grey links will turn dark red;
(subtle, so they don’t pull focus while you read, but you can find them to click when you’re ready for them)
— and check out the links to other Related Content in each of the articles themselves —

Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
(in case you missed the links above or below)

LinkLists of other supports for this article – on ADDandSoMuchMore.com

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

One Response to Lead us Not into Temptation

  1. Pingback: “Laziness” Vaccinations | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

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