Spoon Theory and Resource Management

Maintaining Mental Health if frequently about resource management. Do I have enough neurotransmitter to do this task? Do I have enough bravery to overcome my anxiety to do that? Do I have enough attention to focus on this? Can I put enough towards remembering the details of this course, without having to pull the necessary ability away from relationships?

Spoon theory is a good way to look at this. The cost of tasks is simplified to spoons. We get a certain amount each day, depending on how well we slept, whether we took our medication and have we eaten enough suitable food.

We spend spoons to do tasks, both starting them and completing them. Not all tasks are created equal. Getting out of bed is quite cheap for most people, but it is darn expensive if you are depressed and or have back pain. Some tasks replenish your spoons back, such as eating, but you needed enough to make the food in the first place. How often have you stood at the fridge door looking for something to eat, but you only see ingredients?

Some spoons are specialised. When you run out of social spoons, you may be able to use other spoons at a ruinous rate, with the result that you get very tired very quickly. Sometimes it is worth the cost, but sometimes you really should just leave. You may have the spoons to be Arts and Crafty, but have run out of social spoons, so can’t People or make decisions right now.

We can look at tasks that are commonly expensive and work out ways to make them cheaper.
– If a problem with social is that auditory processing differences means lots of energy is used to compensate for noisy environments, ask for the gathering to be held in a quieter place, or bring noise cancelling headphones to help filter out some noise
– We can gang a few similar tasks together so that the startup cost only needs to be paid once and only the doing task cost is needed
– We can pre-choose some things, so that the default option is both simple and cheap, and only chose differently if you have spare energy and desire to do so

Often ADHDers release spoons in block amounts. If a task isn’t complex enough, or important enough, no spoons are released for that. A solution for ADHDers can be to add complexity to some tasks (multi-tasking, music/tv in the background, adding a personal challenge) so that the big block of spoons you release all get used up, instead of wasted. Urgency can trick your brain into releasing a block of spoons, but over use of this can leave you exhausted without much being done. There are many more ADHD hacks than this.

It can seem frustrating to put effort into streamlining some processes as you don’t see the benefits of that streamlining immediately. When you next do that task, you’ll find that it’s easier and you have extra spoons for other things. This can require financial set up, or logistical set up, or sorting and categorising. Maintenance of this efficiency can be hard when we are exhausted, because we ran out of spoons.

Learning to keep an eye on your spoon level and start to shut the task down before you get that empty. This is a form of enteroception that many people with mental health struggles also struggle with.

We can over streamline and fall into perfectionism. This can lead to endlessly trying to ease our anxiety by doing some kind of improvement that never pays off, because you are fixing the wrong thing.

It can take time for spoons to regenerate. We need to eat regularly, sleep and give ourselves some down time. Down time can look like switching off or doing a fun and different activity. You’ll know it is regenerative as when you finish that bit, you feel more able to do other things.

This is just a quick snapshot. If you want some help beyond this, perhaps contact us for an appointment.

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