A Neurodivergent’s Journey into J.O.Y.
By: Renee Rosales, M.Ed., Certified Cognitive Coach
Finding J.O.Y.: The Beginning
My own journey into joy came on the heels of grief. It has been almost eight years ago, but the memory of rushing to my car to hide my tears after hearing my son was profoundly dyslexic seems like yesterday. We had already been through five years of intensive therapy for Childhood Apraxia of Speech. I would later learn that, unlike 98% of dyslexics, he might never learn to read, even with all the appropriate support in place. As an English teacher, writer, and avid reader this was devastating to me. The life I had envisioned for my son, so many things I hoped to share with him seemed out of reach. Additionally, my marriage was in turmoil, my career was stagnant, and I felt as though I was neglecting my other children. I had lost my joy. I sat in the car staring at a keychain a friend bought me and there right in my hand was the answer, “Choose Joy”.
So, how does one go about inhabiting joy? I began by creating an acronym. As an English teacher, acronyms had proven to be one of the most effective learning tools I had employed. Before creating the acronym I visualized joy as a possession, like a handbag or a wallet. If someone were to steal my handbag I would frantically chase them down and do all I could to get it back. That is the fervor with which I began my pursuit of joy. I decided to create an acronym for joy that guided my thoughts and behavior toward joy every day. Joy is a short word so I could immediately begin implementing the acronym as a simple brain-training technique. Each letter of the word was built to represent an action. As a neurodivergent, I struggle with balancing executive functioning skills, so I embedded these skills into the acronym. The end result was Journey Forward, Organize for Optimism, and Yield to Wellness. Then like chasing after my stolen handbag I began a journey into joy and the results were amazing!
The “J”- Journey Forward
I began starting my day with the “J” in J.O.Y., asking myself, “What does the journey forward look like today?”. I translated the concept first to mundane tasks attempting to use my time more efficiently. ADHD symptoms can make establishing new habits difficult. I began recognizing J.O.Y. as an essential and implementing positive micro-habits as a result. A micro habit is a small, very simple action that has a big, positive impact on your daily routine. For example, I started working to shave off time in my routine wherever I could. Instead of having a laundry day, I started a load every morning when I got up and threw it in the dryer before I left the house. It was little things at first, like cleaning the shower while showering, delegating more simple tasks to my children, and asking friends for efficiency tips. Then I slowly began the “Journey Forward” in relationships. This was much harder for me, but also more rewarding. What could I do to enhance communication with co-workers, friends, and family? I began engaging others with questions about them to communicate my value to them right away. This also helped me avoid talking too much,. This was particularly helpful with my husband. Simply engaging him with a question opened the door for more intimate conversations. When conversations got tough it became easier to regulate my emotion because the words “Journey Forward” were at the forefront of my thoughts. Focusing on the “Journey Forward” helped me let go of yesterday’s struggles, frustration, and mishaps and search for the opportunities right in front of me. The benefits of practicing “J”, just one letter of the acronym, had manifested in every area of my life and this was only the beginning.
The “O”- Organizing for Optimism
Challenges with organization skills are common among Neurodivergents. For this very reason, the “O” became my “go-to” resolve for difficulties with self-regulation. Decluttering was the first strategy I utilized to implement the “O” in J.O.Y. because it is proven to reduce anxiety and depression while increasing clarity and efficiency. The actions of decluttering and organization also provide the sensory stimulation that many neurodivergents need to self-regulate. Like executive functioning, sensory integration challenges are also common for neurodivergents. Therefore, creating opportunities for sensory-related activities throughout the day naturally encourages well-being. Let’s explore how you might employ the “O” in a mixed neurodivergent home. Perhaps, you may have both ADHD and ASD represented in your family. Clutter can be an incredible challenge for individuals in this type of environment. Autistic individuals often experience increased anxiety in cluttered environments. Implementing a container system in your home can substantially reduce anxiety for all members of the family, while also creating efficiency. This does not need to be expensive or challenging, simply repurpose a basket or container that you already have and assign a specific purpose to that container, labeling it for a certain type of toy or belongings. You can even utilize the container to help with meltdowns. For example, you might have an Autistic little one that is having a rough moment. clear the room for them, provide them with a container, and allow them to organize the items within. This will supply them with a sensory satiating activity and at the same time contribute to the overall organization of your home. Organizing for optimism is designed to Increase both sensory integration and executive functioning and your end result will be inhabiting joy. These simple tasks will literally help your entire family begin a new journey toward more joyful living.
The “Y”- Yielding to Wellness
“Yielding to Wellness” is easy to understand but the motivation for this might present a real challenge. Time is quite often the leading barrier we face in terms of personal fitness and wellness. Engaging the entire family in wellness goals can be a great way to assist with this challenge. Perhaps you have a child engaged in regular sports activities and as a parent, you are traveling children back and forth between events. You might consider utilizing drive time to listen to a Podcast on mindfulness or remain with one of the children at practice and take a walk or run, getting laps in while they practice. Water intake is also another key factor to overall wellness. Using a permanent marker to write reminder times down on a water bottle can assist with this. Implementing a micro habit here is another great solution: simply have the whole family begin the practice of drinking an 8 oz. glass of water first thing in the morning and start your day with hydration. There is substantial evidence that supports that adequate hydration improves mood and well-being. Daily meditation and deep breathing is another easy, quick way to implement the “Y” in J.O.Y., just a 5-minute timeout to focus on gratitude and practice deep breathing can help regulate your emotions and increase your joy.
As neurodivergents, we face microaggressions and discrimination on a regular basis. It is incredibly important that we do all we can to invite joy into our lives. Creating positivity through the implementation of J.O.Y. is a wonderful way to overcome these challenges. As a Neurodiversity Life Coach (with focus on ADHD, ASD, and Dyslexia) , I have found that providing my clients with acronyms as tools to increase efficiency, equity, and empowerment has been exponentially fruitful. Neurodivergents need lifestyle accommodations at home, school, and work. Theara acronyms provide those accommodations by supplying you with a list of actions to employ that increase sensory integration and executive functioning. These are the two most common trouble zones for many neurodivergents. Unfortunately, traditional behavioral science therapies and services are not often modified to meet the needs of Neurodivergents. I was not diagnosed with ADHD until 29 and I have invested in years of counseling services with my ND identity rarely addressed. As a result, I became a Board-Certified Cognitive Coach and created a roadmap for Neurodivergents into well-being. Join me along the journey into J.O.Y. and invite wellness into your home and every day.
Renee Rosales is a dynamic transformational leader. She has established two
successful virtual schools in Arizona; Marana Distance Learning K12 and Northern
Arizona Distance Learning. She continues innovations with the launch of Theara: an
organization designed to support Neurodiverse well-living. Although diagnosed with
ADHD as a young adult, her interest in Neurodiversity did not peak until she began to
recognize this in her children. Theara is the integration of Renee’s passion for wellness,
education and Neurodiversity. She brings her mother-heart to the table and offers a sure
path to efficacy, equity, and empowerment through Theara.
For more about Theara: www.theara.com