Avoidance, ADHD Triggers and Letting Go of Shoulds


The word “avoidance” vibrates with negative connotation. It refers to an absence of doing something that should be done. But avoidance can actually be a good thing, especially when it comes to “triggers” and “shoulds”.

People with ADHD have often associated avoidance with the first description – “not doing something that they know they should do”. We avoid things that seem too hard, frustratingly boring, or outside our skill set.

Avoidance can be a good thing

Managing ADD “better” is a worthy pursuit. It’s essential if you want to be happier, and if you want important people to be happier with you. While it is helpful to concentrate on things you need to start doing, you shouldn’t neglect the things you need to stop doing too. Let me explain.

On and Off

ADD is a lifelong state-of-being YET it doesn’t show up all of the time, in every situation.

I’m sure there you’ve had times when you haven’t felt very ADD at all. These may be a fleeting moments or for longer periods, but you probably didn’t notice them because “functioning well” doesn’t grab your attention.

The times that ADD wanes is different for everyone, as are the times when it is aggravated. In essence, everyone has their own triggers.

For example, I don’t notice ADD much when I am at the “day job”. It calls upon my ability to be hyper-focused in time-crunches and crises (which is most days).

Triggers (Everybody Get Down!)

My ADD is at its worst, though, when I am grocery shopping. The noise is intense, the lighting grotesque, aisles are too long and too many idiots, erm… I mean people, inhabit those aisles like they’re touring the louvre. Never mind the shelves with too many choices (but never the one you want). It’s like looking for Waldo after he’s been dead and buried for 10 years.

I fare much better in small stores with less than 15 (very short) aisles. Sometimes, though, the budget dictates a bigger store shop. The moment I step inside, my ADD flares like a Molotov cocktail in a pulp mill. I’m pretty sure smoke seeps from my ears like a Looney Tunes character.

So imagine my melt down every time I attempt that shop with two kids. Kids who wander up and down the aisles, sauntering in front of the cart, talking incessantly, asking all sorts of questions, most starting with: “Can I have…?” Hiroshima pales in comparison to the explosion inside me.

Recently I figured something out: I don’t have to do this anymore! Don’t laugh. This realization was an epiphany. I really thought I HAD to grocery shop with my kids.

Because that’s what normal moms do. “Normal” moms run errands with their children. They go to the bank, they wash the car, they grocery shop. They don’t avoid these things simply because their kids are with them.

But they aren’t like me. They haven’t “checked out” long before reaching the checkout counter. It doesn’t take every brain synapse firing simultaneously just for them to find the mushroom soup.

Just because I am a mom, doesn’t mean I have to do anything (the only exception: I do have to refrain from eating my offspring – I am not a goldfish, after all).

Errands with kids is a “should” not a must. Life is full of shoulds. But they are pointless and they can be ignored. Sometimes, they should be ignored. Even God Himself avoids them. If he didn’t, he would have dictated that 10 Recommendations or the 10 Guidelines, rather than the 10 Commandments.

I have other triggers of course, but grocery shopping (with kids) is the one that never fails to unleash my ADD like a can of whoopass. So now, I don’t do it if I don’t have to. I leave them with the hubby or he goes for me.  I go late at night, on my own. Hell, I’ve even gone at 7 am and done it before work. Yes, it IS THAT BAD that I would get out of bed to avoid the crowds!

And guess who’s a happier mommy? Guess whose kids are no longer subjected to mommy tantrums?

My life, my kids’ lives, are better because I have let go of a should. If my kids get to twenty-years-old with no idea how to behave in a grocery store, I will teach them then. By that time, dementia will have taken over. I will wander the aisles, pestering them for fruit loops and pop tarts. Revenge will be bliss.

Shoulds are the bane of the ADD life. We have fought so hard, all our lives, to feel normal. When we see other people doing things easily, we think we should do it their way too.

Not so. Sometimes the best way to get over a challenge is to go around it. Avoidance, at times, is more functional that giving in to something you think you should do. Learn to let go of shoulds so you can focus on getting things done in the way that works best for you.

Be a pal! Share your triggers and shoulds in the comments below – they might help the rest of us who suddenly realize these things are triggers for us too!

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