Picture this. Early morning sun streaming through the window, you have your (most likely a bit procrastinated?) project in front of you, you adjust your horse blinders, activate your tunnel vision, and become obliviously passionate at the task ahead of you: *write write write* *read read read* *click click click*. Let the hyper-focus flow commence...
Time passes, how long you’re not sure.
Your vision has blurred, your brain is pulsing, and you make the courageous decision to check what time it is. Here we are again, old friend. You did that fun ADHD thing *again* where you hyper focused past the point of rational rhyme and reasoning. Oops!
Nourishment and hydration were far away concepts during those hours and you’ve reached the state of ravenous reptilian brain. All earnest sense of “I planned on making this…” have *vanished* and your kind compassionate frontal cortex (and all the organs for that matter) are patiently waiting for their basic needs to be met before you’re allowed to use them to their full potential again.
Whether this is a newer cycle for you due to a life transition, or you have a fuller life plate than you’ve had in a while, or this is a somewhat purgatory pattern you’ve found yourself in many times before, I’m here to share some words of wisdom and tasty tips with this quick survival rule of 3’s in mind:
We need air (aka) LET’S GET BREATHING
We need water (aka) LET’S GET HYDRATED
We need food (aka) LET’S GET NOURISHMENT
When trying to fill up your basic needs cup, this guidance will help you get started on the path from ravenous reptilian to nourished and supported mind, body, soul during that hyper-focus flow.
So you got caught up in the all-gas-no-breaks-focus-flow– totally get it, totally been there, and totally will be there again. What’s usually my first tell? The flow trance-state tides start being met with waves of overwhelm and inability to be present with one task at a time. Once I acknowledge the uncomfy overwhelm sensation, I tap into a moment of intuitive a w a r e n e s s that I’m pushing my basic needs limits and need to pause.
An object (your brain) in motion (thinking) wants to stay in motion (keep the thought train runnin’ full steam ahead) and it can bring up feelings of resistance, difficulty, and feel fully against the laws of nature to slow down. I get it. But tell me, did you notice that you’re breathing right now? Like right now? And now? And how about now? And another one’s coming. And another one’s leaving. In. Out. Rising. Falling. Welcome to the presence of breath my friends.
We take around 18-20 breaths a minute, around 20,000 breaths a day, and if we’re lucky, we give full attention and presence to maaybeee 1% of these literal life-givers. In a very complex, closed-loop, lifelong cycle, breathing brings oxygen-rich blood to all our hard working organs so THEY’RE able to breathe and thrive and do good work for us. Bonus!
Breathing through our nose signals the body to go into a “rest-and-digest” state (shoutout to our parasympathetic nervous system), and helps cultivate feelings of ease. What more could we want to feel during our hyperfocus flow?
So the next time you are able to cultivate that bit of a w a r e n e s s during your “please notice my basic needs” state, start with some deep, full breaths in through the nose, slow and long breaths out through the mouth, one after the other, until the brain starts to sllooooowwww doooowwwwn and the body starts to loosen up.
TAKE A BREATH: This is a great practice to couple with a visual cue (like a toy on your desk, a picture in your room, a post-it note you put on your mirror, or whatever you’ve got. Use the visual cue as a friendly reminder to breathe baby breathe until you feel a bit more 😌.
Hydration is usually the first basic need that gets forgotten and neglected (🥺), and can often be a culprit for feeling tired, unfocused, and even physical discomfort. Water is an essential need (we wouldn’t make it 3 days without it!) and signs of dehydration range from *mellow yellow urine* to *WHAT HAVE I (NOT) BEEN DRINKING?? neon urine*. If you’re thirsty, you’ve most likely been under-watered for a while now! Go ahead and take a second to toast with some hydrating liquids in order to begin filling that basic needs cup. Then the goal will be to have those liquids around and in sight to keep 👏🏼on 👏🏼 sippin’ and hydrating throughout your hyper-focused journey.
When it comes to meeting your basic hydration needs, there is some research that indicates that it is optimal to drink at least half a gallon of water each day, in order to to feed your cells, keep your electrolytes in balance, and overall feel more well being in the present moment - but everyone is different, and your unique-being-ness will determine the amount of hydration that your individual body needs. It is also important to remember that water comes in MANY forms, and we get hydration in lots of ways, including from the foods we eat.
FILL THAT BASIC NEEDS CUP (literally): I personally like to have at least 2 different liquids placed obviously (because out of sight, out of mind is so real) on my desk before I start my workflow. For me this looks like a fav-mug-of-the-day of hot jasmine/green/herbal tea, a large temp-keeping flask of hot water (to continue to fill said mug throughout the work session), and an aesthetically pleasing tall glass of “fun” water (bubbly, lemon squeeze, some berries floating on top) for some pizzazz and attraction (😉). That amount of “desk liquid” easily hits 50-75% of my body-water needs and keeps my brain buzz feeling fresh and hydrated!
Repeat after me: food feeds our organs. Our brain is an organ. Let’s feed this quirky brain so we can keep it doing what it does best: creating ideas, solutions, and dreams! Little sappy, a lot true. It’s really difficult to do our best work and be our best self when we aren’t nourishing our hard working cells and organs with the nutrients and energy that they’re needing to thrive. We’re asking a lot of our first meal of the day (especially after hours of energy-dense focus) to get us through our tunnel-vision flow. We get out what we put in so let’s do a little prep and prioritization on nourishing our ever-changing basic needs cup.
TASTY TIP: We all love a lil snack - and while diet culture would like you to think that snacking is sinful, the anti-diet and neurodivergent-affirming dietitians at Wise Heart Nutrition have a PSA to share: snacking and grazing throughout the day is a *perfectly acceptable* way to nourish your brain and your body.
And similar to the liquid tip sentiment above, having abundant, and easy to access nourishing, tasty, sensation-stimulating snacks around before you go-go-go-focus-flow will make it a million times easier to actually meet your nourishment needs! Play around, try some new snacks out (nuts, popcorn, seaweed with a juicy ripe summer fruit come to mind) and keep ‘em close (like, really close 😏, where you can see them) as you make your way down the hyper-focus worm-hole. Feeling stuck on what snacks to have on hand? Check out these easy-peasy snack pairings for some tasty inspo!
LET’S GET BREATHING
Notice the sticky sensation of the overwhelm wave, take in a handful of oxygen-rich breaths through the nose, and out through the mouth in any fashion that helps slooowww the brain doooown
LET’S GET HYDRATED
Keep your focus close and hydrating liquids closer! Fill your desk with multiple hydrating receptacles of all sizes and taste/temperature/bubbly sensations for best chance of staying hydrated on the journey ahead
LET’S GET NOURISHED
Hyperfocus is energy-dense work! Have your snacks on hand and readily available to fuel-up the brain and body to meet your energy needs with eaaaaaase
There you have it! Some new tools to fill your basic needs cup up-up-up for the best chance of sustained hyper-focus flow while also meeting our bodily needs. Start small, find what works for you, and remember that these things take practice - aim for C+ work!
…take a pause and remind yourself that, yay, getting new tips and tricks can be motivational and give your some new momentum, but if this all feels a bit overwhelming, like an uphill battle to meet yourself where you're at and meet your basic needs with gentleness, you are so not alone.
Yes, you know to breathe, you know to drink water, you know to give our body energy, but you also know those actions can feel oh so daunting at times. It’s not easy to transition, it’s not easy to change routines and patterns, and definitely all the more difficult when you feel you’re doing it alone. Omg, What a relief that we don’t have to! If you are neurodivergent, and can relate to any of these struggles, there’s support out there (hint hint, it’s us!) through our Eating with ADHD® monthly membership program - Neurished!
In our Neurished program, we give you in-depth resources, tools, and a community to learn, connect, and grow with so that you can move from “survive on your own '' to “thrive with community”. Check out what's coming up this month!
Need a fast, delicious, and satisfying meal option for when you are in the midst of your hyper-focus flow? Thistle provides pre-made meals and snacks that can be delivered to your door as often as every week! Their menu is constantly rotating, which keeps things fun and interesting, plus provides lots of variety without all the extra work. You can try Thistle and get $100 off over your first four weeks of boxes using this link.
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