"I'm really passionate about giving people the tools they need to live better lives."

Raven Ishak
Jan 17, 2021 @ 7:30 am
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Credit: Peter Dakota

Sundays are a day to recharge and reset by hanging with friends, turning off your phone, bathing for hours on end, or doing whatever else works for you. In this column (in conjunction with our Instagram Self-Care Sunday series), we ask editors, experts, influencers, writers, and more what a perfect self-care Sunday means to them, from tending to their mental and physical health to connecting with their community to indulging in personal joys. We want to know why Sundays are important and how people enjoy them, from morning to night.

Several years ago, ADHD coach, positive psychology practitioner, and writer Sam Dylan Finch unknowingly tripped and fell into their career path. "I started a blog about my mental health journey back in 2014, and within a few months, it went viral," the 29-year-old tells HelloGiggles. "After that experience, I realized that digital media has so much potential to educate and empower people."

Since then, Finch has held several editing, writing, and social media roles, from Lead Editor for the website Healthline to Social Media Manager at PsychCentral, where they learned, "the nuts and bolts of how to make information about mental health more accessible to the everyday person."

But while they were learning how to make mental health more accessible for other people, Finch was going through and trying to navigate their own mental health journey with OCD and ADHD. "I spent several years misdiagnosed with so many different disorders, with none of those treatments ever helping me. It got so bad that I was hospitalized twice in my early twenties," they explain. "When I finally found out that I had OCD and ADHD, so many pieces of the puzzle came together. My life improved drastically."

According to Finch, this made them realize how critical it is to be your own advocate. "It completely changed the direction of my career, too. Misdiagnoses, and delayed diagnoses, are so incredibly common," they say. "The more people have access to credible information about their mental health, the more empowered they are to advocate for themselves and get the right support."

That's why, after years in the editorial and social media world, they're now developing and writing the curriculum for the ADHD management app, Inflow, while also coaching others who struggle with executive dysfunction and ADHD. "I'm really passionate about giving people the tools they need to live better lives," they say.

For this week's Self-Care Sunday, we spoke to Finch to learn more about their journey with wellness, their go-to self-care rituals, and how they believe self-care looks differently for someone with ADHD.

Mental Health

HelloGiggles (HG): How has your relationship with ADHD impacted your mental health? 

Sam Dylan Finch (SDF): ADHD impacts me in so many different ways, but a big one was my self-esteem. For a long time, I thought that I was just bad at adulting or even just lazy (I hate that word, by the way). I would constantly lose track of emails, bills, tasks, entire projects. It was like my brain just couldn't organize information and hold onto it. You can only drop the ball so many times before people start to think that you're flaky and unreliable. I hated how often I was letting people down. And I couldn't figure out why! 

Getting that diagnosis was the first step out of the shame spiral I'd been stuck in for so many years. I finally understood that it wasn't my fault.

HG: What are some practices or regimens you'd suggest others do if they feel like their ADHD is becoming overwhelming?

SDF: Simplify, simplify, simplify! People with ADHD tend to overextend themselves and say "yes" to far too many things. Cutting back on responsibilities wherever possible is important self-care, even if it means disappointing someone.

The other thing I tell my coaching clients is to work with the brain you have, not the one you want. A lot of us try to bully ourselves into new habits or routines, and it makes us miserable. Sure, we all want to be the productivity guru that wakes up at 5 a.m. to meditate! But we're probably not going to be, and that's 100% okay. You can find your own rhythm that makes you much happier.

If you know you're the kind of person who throws your clothes on the floor at the end of the day, put a basket there. If you won't do chores without some kind of accountability, create a buddy system. You actually know yourself better than you think you do. You just have to come up with solutions that meet you where you're at.

HG: What do people get wrong about how ADHD affects mental health, and what do you want people to know?

SDF: A lot of people believe that ADHD is just a lack of concentration. But it's so much more than that.  People with ADHD experience their emotions more intensely than their neurotypical counterparts (this is called "hyperarousal"). They have neurological challenges that make planning, prioritizing, and task completion incredibly hard. Their working memory is often compromised. We're not just flaking out or lazy. ADHD is a disability and requires a very specific kind of support.

Physical Practices

HG: What physical activities have you been doing lately to aid with your ADHD management?

SDF: Yin yoga is a really important practice for me. I find it hard to meditate because sitting still and slowing down my mind is challenging. But with yin, I'm able to move, stretch, and extend, while still having all the benefits of a meditative practice. It helps me to slow down, which is so important for people with ADHD, especially those of us who struggle with hyperactivity.

HG: As a positive psychology practitioner, how do you suggest others physically connect with their bodies to feel more connected to themselves?

SDF: My hope for anyone that's looking to connect with their bodies is that they do so not as a punishment, but as something that helps them to feel more grounded and even joyful. Do it because you want to. And trust that, if you don't want to, your body will let you know when it's itching to move again. Stop forcing it! Our bodies are so wise—we don't need to force anything.

Community Care

HG: What forms of community care have you been gravitating toward lately? And how do you believe they've impacted you?

SDF: I've been thinking a lot about shared laughter lately. You know when you laugh so hard, you can barely breathe, and you're tearing up? I'm trying to be intentional about spending time with people who make me laugh like that. We can care for one another by creating intentional space for joy. Human beings are inherently playful… I think we forget that sometimes.

HG: As an expert practitioner in the LGBTQ+ community, how have you been trying to support the community's mental health during this time?

SDF: Most of my coaching clients are LGBTQ+, and the pandemic has impacted them enormously. Some are confined to their homes with unsupportive family members. Some are disconnected from their communities that they relied on for validation and care. And nearly everyone that I've worked with has said that not being able to share spaces with other LGBTQ+ people has been detrimental to their mental health in some way. I think just acknowledging this pain and its very real consequences are meaningful. LGBTQ+ people are having a unique experience of this pandemic. 

Donating when I see fundraisers for young people to find safe housing is important. And I try to offer as many free resources as I possibly can because so many folks can't access mental health care right now—and while an Instagram post or free coaching session isn't at all a substitute, it can still be a liferaft for folks in need of one.

Personal Joys

HG: Are there any self-care products you've been gravitating toward lately?

SDF: The floral milk bath and rose bath bombs from Modern Skyn Alchemy are giving me life right now. And I've been reading My Body, My Home over and over again; it's the closest thing to a sacred text that I own. I can't recommend them enough.

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HG: How do you think self-care looks different for someone with ADHD?

SDF: For me, self-care is all about slowing down. I'm constantly in motion in my daily life, but I'm a big believer that every single human being needs moments of stillness. To feel, to be, to integrate, to process. Moments of stillness can be hard to come by if you're someone who struggles with anxiety, trauma, hyperactivity, or even just the workaholism that underpins our culture. So many of us have this urge to fill every moment with something "productive." 

It even shows up in self-care—how many of us want to be the "best" at it… just to turn around and work even harder, like we're cars that just need to fill our gas tank so we can get back on the road. But self-care, to me, is about healing the parts of ourselves that are afraid of ease. To be able to let everything go, and still have that be enough. We don't need to be driving all the time. It's enough to just be.

A lot of us with ADHD struggle with this. We're restless—sometimes externally, or sometimes just internally. So self-care really challenges us to figure out a way of finding stillness that accommodates our ADHD tendencies.

I find yoga (like with Jessamyn Stanley of The Underbelly) and breathwork classes (with Frequency) to be just active enough to keep me engaged, but still easeful and soothing so that I can find my own version of calm. Every brain is different! Experimenting with different practices has been hugely helpful for me in finding what works best with my own ADHD brain.

HG: What are some self-care practices that have been bringing you joy?

SDF: I've been taking a class with Caleb Spaulding at Frequency called "Breath is the Rhythm of Happiness." I know it sounds very woo-woo, but it's brought me so much joy. We breathe to the rhythm of a drum and we move intuitively with the sound. It really unlocks something for me.

If you've ever gotten hyped about a drumline at a football game, or felt the urge to move when you've heard an awesome beat, imagine combining those big feelings with meditation. It's amazing. Rhythm is so inherently energizing! I'm always surprised by how much better I feel afterward.