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Getting Fired Up: Unconscious Activation

Are you aware of what you are doing to help stimulate your brain? Sometimes you may be doing things unconsciously that are very stimulating and they end up being an activator for you. Kids (Adults do this too but may seem less obvious) do this all the time, they bounce, chew their shirt, wiggle around to help them activate. I came across a different way of activation the other day while reading Driven to Distraction by Edward M hallowell and John J. Ratey that made me stop and think. “Argument is stimulating, and people with ADD love stimulation.”, “It can be more exciting to have a family fight than to act reasonably and cooperatively and peacefully.” Wow, sometimes people seek out a fight instead of peace because that is how they stimulate their brain. It is more exciting and delivers the required stimulation for the brain to function optimally.


It makes me reflect back on the conflict that I’ve had through my life. I truly love stimulating conversation and I would prefer to go deep than have a normal on the surface conversation. It is one of my skills to have deep conversations with almost anyone. I truly enjoy it. However this skill can also lead me deep into the waters of argument. I like the exchange and for those who know me well, I don’t back down very easily from something I truly believe in. I tend to die on the hill. I have many hills. After reading those sentences I had an ‘aha’ moment. I have used conflict as a way of stimulating my brain since I was a young adult. How many relationships have I strained needlessly with this push for stimulation through feisty conversation?


Recognizing this, is difficult for me because I have to face up to the involuntary ways I use to give myself stimulation so that my brain functions optimally. I need to be mindful and use more productive ways to get myself going than that of others and a disagreement. It is a bad habit and isn’t a good way of making or keeping friends. Realizing this in myself is the step I need to no longer have silly arguments or debates. When I realize that I am about to go down the argument path I hit 'pause'. This is really hard to do, learning how to pause and not let impulse take over. My pause is to think about what my intention for the conversation is. That doesn’t mean I won’t still have feisty conversations now and then but I am going to choose to have it in an appropriate time and place instead of just letting myself go every time.


Another part of using argument to stimulate your brain is you are activating your adrenal system by getting upset. When you get angry you are turning anger into dopamine. To constantly use this way to activate you are needlessly stressing your system and body. The adrenal system is not meant to be kept in a constant state of stress. You will wear yourself out and become exhausted and can increase the risk of having other health conditions.

I’ve only just recently realized how hard the body works to make up for what it is missing. When a young child has a hard time sitting still is because the body is making itself move so that it will produce dopamine so that the child can concentrate and learn. This is subconscious. These movements are involuntary. All of ADHD behaviours or symptoms are involuntary and can be very frustrating for people with ADHD. Working hard to be aware of what you are doing and why can help you decide what behaviours you want to keep and are serving you and how others are just holding you back. It will take effort to change the ones you no longer want but you can change it.


You may want to think about the ways you use to stimulate yourself. If you realize that you are using ways that are counter productive and don’t make you feel good in the end, you should consider finding ways that activate you in a positive way. Here are a few ways you can stimulate your brain without having to resort to an argument:

Dance to your favourite song. Shake it up before you have to do a task focusing on each body part. Do deep breathing exercises for 5 mins. Do some yoga. Do 15 jumping jacks. Chew some gum. Have a cup of tea or coffee. Do a couple of balances. Do something that make you brain wake up without it having to be harmful to you or your relationships.


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