I have ADHD. I was diagnosed in high school. I tried a couple medications, but found them to either make me feel nauseous or have no effect. Because of this, I’ve learned my own strategies to adapt and become successful. A huge game changer was when I discovered I could use knitting to help me focus.
ADHD comes in many different shapes and sizes. I think people who are less familiar with it picture a very social, hyperactive person who can’t sit still. While that might be true for a lot of people with ADHD, it’s not true for me. I’m introverted, and much more inclined forwards “Attention Deficit” than “Hyperactive.” I highly recommend Dani Danovan‘s Faces of ADHD comic which shows many of the ways ADHD can show itself in different people. One speaks out to me far more than the others: The Space Cadet.
I have a very hard time focusing on just one thing. I noticed that when I watched TV, after a few minutes I’d pull out my phone and start playing a game to keep my fingers busy. A few years ago I wondered if I could do something productive with my hands instead. My mind quickly jumped to a skill I’d learned several years before: knitting. I could knit basic stitches and keep my hands occupied while watching the show. I tried it out and it worked perfectly. I could watch and make something at the same time!
A little over two years ago I started working 100% remotely. On one hand, working remotely keeps me from being distracted from coworker chatter, something that occasionally made concentrating at my previous job difficult. Working from home, I found myself easily prone to finding ways to distract myself: particularly during meetings. Some of my meetings require me to participate a great deal through most of the meetings: I can pay attention in these fine. But the more “info dump” style meetings where I’m listening to other people made my brain itch for a distraction. I didn’t want to surf the internet: then I might start completely dropping my focus from the meeting. So I tried knitting during those meetings, just like when I watched TV.
It worked perfectly, and I’ve been knitting during meetings ever since. I make sure I have something super basic to work on, like a vanilla sock or a project where I know I’ll be knitting rows of stockinette, and I knit away. Then, while my hands are busy, I can actually pay attention to what’s being said during the meeting.
I wish I’d thought of it years ago. How much more attention could I have paid in high school and college lectures if I could’ve knit? (Of course, the teachers and professors would’ve had to understand that the knitting was actually keeping me focused, not distracting me.)
The rhythmical act of knitting one stitch after another relaxes my brain. It’s more meditative than any attempts I’ve taken to meditate have been. I would love for someone to take a brain scan of me before I knit and while I’m knitting and compare the results. For more complicated projects, I can put on a podcast or audiobook (something I don’t need to look at) and knit. It fully occupies my hands and my brain.
If you’re a “Space Cadet” like me, I encourage you to give knitting or crochet a try. You’ll relax your brain and get some warm woolens to wear in the process.