ADHD Tendencies and Self-Regulation: The Struggle to Find The Perfect Pace


Cars have gauges to let them know when something is out of balance. Thermometers so that we know when the engine is too hot, gas gauges let us know when we're almost out of fuel, and speedometers let us know when we're moving too fast or too slow. 

As people we can overheat, we can run out of steam, or we can move at a steady pace. In general, our bodies are self-regulating. When something's out of whack, we experience a symptom of some sort. For those with ADHD tendencies, self-regulation can be a real challenge to say the least.  

Have you ever felt that one of your gauges didn't work? Or like maybe you were born without one?

As someone with ADHD tendencies, I have definitely felt like my time regulator or inner sense of time has always been a bit off. I have also felt that I may be missing an inner pace-setter. That part that tells me when to push harder or that I've pushed hard enough. How fast I should complete something vs how fast another hard worker would complete something, albeit someone without adhd tendencies. 

I've often thought what is the baseline? The industry standard? As someone who "listens in" and pays attention to others interactions, I've wondered how do they know what the pace should be? I have no natural sense for that. 

Here's what I mean:

In the past, when it came to how I lived my life, I would often say I was a "sprinter, not a marathoner", meaning I could go hard and fast for awhile and then would need some downtime. I wasn't good at pacing myself and didn't actually enjoy a slow and steady pace. 

Often I would channel an intense attention span (often referred to as hyper-focus) when necessary. When something really interested me I'd be all in, often at the expense of everything else.

It wasn't until I actually began running a few years ago, that I learned that I actually could run long distance if I paced myself. This made me consider what that would look like in my everyday life, in my work life.

What would happen if I paced myself? I had a belief that if I paced myself I would be holding back. Not giving as much as I was able. My challenge became, how do I overdeliver and yet set my own pace? When you don't have a pace-setter, how do you judge what is a perfect pace? If I used a frantic pace to determine when I'd worked hard enough, what did I use once I chose to drop "frantic" as a way of being?

When I found myself in job situations where the pace was fast and everchanging, I loved, loved, loved it, until I didn't. I would eventually burn out for lack of boundaries. The challenge of learning a new job, tackling a new challenge, solving a new problem was energizing. I would say "yes, sure, no problem, whatever you need" and then later wonder why I had hit a wall. For some reason, I believed it was my employer's responsibility to give me a reasonable amount of work. To have an idea of how long something should take. So. Not. True. 

My motto for this was "I can do anything for a week..., I can do anything for a year...I can do anything for a month." I was basically up for the challenge for as long as I could handle it. This wasn't a terrific way to live. I would let exhaustion be the key that I was done.

I'm still figuring this out. Not gonna lie. But I am getting better at it. I began planning more. Doing things on purpose, not because I could or felt I had to, or wanted to be a people pleaser. I began saying "yes" because I had time in my planner, or didn't and so would say "I can't today, but can by Monday" or "thank you for thinking of me, I just don't have time for that right now".

Want to chat with me a bit about some of your self-regulation issues? Book a 30-min consultation and see how coaching may be just the thing to help.