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adhd and Doom boxes - what, why and how many can you possibly have!?

ADHD has a lot of daily side effects that we all recognize - inability to sit still, trouble paying attention, an overall lack of organization. We can spot it in our children, see it in our coworkers, and even in ourselves when we catch our ADHD brains in a spiral. But there are plenty of behavioral situations that don't get talked about as often - one aptly being named 'Doom boxes'.

What is a Doom Box?

Have you ever helped a friend move, and during the unpacking process find a series of boxes just full of ... stuff? Bits and bobs and random things here and there, all packaged in a box - waiting to be organized and sorted. A lot of us midwesterners probably have something similar in our kitchen - a junk drawer! The idea being a container/box/bag of some variety that holds all the extra STUFF that eventually, the ADHD brain needs to sort through. In my personal experience, it's usually makeup and art supplies!

When the time comes for our ADHD brains to organize and sort, it's hard to pay attention for long. Boredom strikes quickly, and now we've hit a wall and are ready to mess around with some other activity. But what to do with the half-finished project you've already started? Doom box. The 'I'll take care of this later' mentality (which is a side effect of the natural inattentiveness and inability to focus, but can be coupled with executive dysfunction) ends up resulting in a home or office full of doom boxes just waiting to be sorted.

The problem? That same reason that we put the project/drawer/organizational task into the box in the first place was the struggle to focus/to complete tasks as they are 'assigned' to us (via someone else or ourselves) - and that hasn't gone away. But now, when you pick the doom box back up to organize - it's out of control! ADHD comes with a constant struggle of prioritizing tasks, which means if this doom box has fifteen things for the bathroom, acrylic art paints and brushes, a spatula, and an assortment of cables/bits/bobs (think junk drawer again), we are going to immediately become overwhelmed. ADHD patients can often end up with many doom boxes floating around their personal spaces due to the stress it induces to try and sort through, prioritizing what to do first and execute said actions accordingly.

How does this affect mental health?

As with a lot of the other ADHD side effects/symptoms, especially with it being a mental disorder that often doesn't reflect physically, there is a stigma that happens - especially around neurotypical folks. Doom boxes, areas of mess, etc. are often immediately viewed as symptoms of laziness - "Why can't you just put it away?" Having others in your life view you as lazy or messy when it's your brain causing the mess and not you, it's very frustrating. It can cause ADHD brained people to question themselves, the validity of their diagnoses, and overall their value. This can affect other aspects of their day to day, when situations reflect similar response from outside sources (you forget to prioritize correctly at work and your job reprimands you; you meant to buy milk three days ago and keep forgetting until breakfast the next day, etc.) and end up causing a compounding stressor that never really seems to go away.

How to resolve Doom Boxes?

If you or someone you love struggles with the organizational problems and dysfunctions that come from ADHD, and you have noticed the doom boxes building up, there's plenty of ways to deal with them. If it is a friend or loved one, see if they'd like your help - often times, it's something that feels so overwhelming but it's really very minimal when it comes to the amount of work actually being done. For the ADHD brain, prioritizing the tasks becomes more stressful because they're looking at each item as it's own individual task - whereas if you are neurotypical, you can (using the example earlier in this post) take everything for the bathroom in one swoop, and similarly organize the art supplies, etc. and it will probably only take you a few minutes! If it is you that is struggling with the doom boxes, try to work on one at a time. Looking at a stack of boxes can be even more stressful, and make the task at hand seem entirely insurmountable! But if you just take that top box, categorize it out on the floor in front of you, and immediately put everything away. If you are a background music multitasker, play your favorite calming music to help you focus. I personally find orchestral music helps a lot because there's no lyrics to draw my attention! Remember - take it one task at a time. Even if there's a long list, give yourself the freedom to focus solely on the first item on the list and go from there! Progress is still progress at the end of the day - no matter how long it takes to get there.

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