PDA makes most things difficult and hobbies are no exception.
Perfectionism, outside expectations, executive functioning, being watched, multiple steps needed completing before starting the hobby, having to practice or follow rules or set ways of doing the hobby, sensory issues, limited time, having to transition in order to perform a hobby, finishing the hobby, needing to replace supplies, praise and criticism from others, motivation, demand avoidance, and more, can all work to making it hard to partake in hobbies. With so many things having an impact it’s no wonder PDAers struggle so much, and for many of us the more we want to do something the harder it can be.
In order to partake in hobbies we need to find ways of reducing the effects of negative impacts and increase the likelihood of success. Below are some tips on how to do this that I’ve discovered over the years. It’s important to note that what works for one person may not work for another, so figuring out what works for you and adapting the strategies as needed will help the most. You might need to alter the strategies depending on the type of hobby too, hobbies that involve team work or multi-step sequences might require very different techniques to solo activities or one-step activities.
If you’re a friend or family member of a PDAer and are wanting tips to help your PDA loved one with their hobbies then some of these strategies might not work or might need adjusting to best fit. It always helps to ask the PDA individual on how you can help them too as what might look like it might work may actually have a negative affect.
Keep it private or tell everyone?
Over the years I’ve discovered it’s a lot harder for me to partake in solo hobbies if other people are aware of the hobby. Somehow, just having others know about it increases the difficulty level of it and makes demand avoidance stronger. Whether it’s the risk of having other people asking about it or being offered advice or praise, or having a negative response from others reducing my enthusiasm and motivation. Often, choosing to share my hobby can stall it before it’s even started, so it helps to consider this when starting a new hobby in order to ensure success.
For some hobbies though, particularly ones involving team work, sharing them with others can be encouraging and the expectation to not let down the team can help me to push through demand avoidance.
Sharing our hobbies or love of hobbies with others can help encourage us to keep trying, being part of a club or group dedicated to the hobby can help increase enthusiasm for the hobby. Sharing stories, information, tips, advise, achievements ect with others can make a hobby more exciting and purposeful making it easier to participate in for some.
Make it as accessible as possible
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to hobbies is accessability. If a hobby requires setting up, travelling to, changing for, tidying up for, or any amount of preparation it automatically increases it’s difficulty. Sometimes even opening a book can be one step too many for a hobby, so making sure hobbies are as accessible as possible or having someone who can do the preparations for you can make all the difference. Of course this isn’t possible for some hobbies, so finding solutions to this may be needed. For example, planning to go swimming after shopping while you’re already outside, this cuts down on travelling making sure it’s easier to manage.
Some find leaving supplies for hobbies out makes it easier to get started, things like painting or baking are easier to start when the supplies needed are already waiting ready for you.
To plan or not to plan?
For some people, having a set time or a plan of when to participate in a hobby can help, for others they need the freedom to dabble when the motivation hits. I tend to take the middle ground by making sure I have lots of time available to do a hobby but without it being a strict regime. Sometimes being flexible can make it easier while other times it can have the opposite effect of making it impossible to get started.
Practise regularly but don’t force it
I’ve found it’s easier to participate in a hobby if I’m practising it regularly, whereas if I go for long periods of time without partaking then it’s a lot harder to get into it at all. By doing a hobby regularly you can make it such a natural part of your everyday/week that you act without even thinking about it, this reducing demand avoidance towards it overall.
I’ve also found that doing things just for the sake of doing them and forcing myself often makes it harder to participate in the future. Negative associations can quickly build up and restrict hobbies. Trying to ensure participation is as positive and worthwhile as possible helps to increase motivation in the future and increases the likelihood of future participation.
Multiple hobbies or just a few
For some, having multiple hobbies to pick and choose from means you’ve always got something you can be doing. When you lack motivation for one hobby you can do another, and you can utilise demand avoidance to do one hobby by avoiding another.
Some people prefer having a small number of hobbies, or even just the one, meaning they can focus all their time and energy on that one hobby, making them better at it due to having more practise.
It helps to think about what works best for you and looking at what PDA strategies you use to help you manage demands. Often those strategies will be key to helping you participate in your hobbies, so knowing how many and what type of hobbies you have/want will be helpful in choosing which strategies you need to help you perform those hobbies. Having many hobbies that all require lots of setting up may need different strategies to manage than one or two hobbies which have little preparation.
Practise makes perfect
Most hobbies require some amount of practise to become efficient at, some only require a little practise, others require hours and hours of continual repetition. Depending on what your aim in regards to your hobby is, and presuming you’re starting a new hobby, you may need to think about how much time and effort you’ll need to dedicate to the hobby and whether this is achievable. Most PDAers will manage at the start of a hobby due to the novelty factor, but after the excitement and motivation has worn off it can be difficult to continue on with a hobby.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth starting it, there’s a lot to be learnt from starting new hobbies and some people are the type that accumulate a little experience in many areas rather than a lot in a few. It does help to keep in mind though that a new hobby may only be a short term interest and so you may want to adapt accordingly. Some people throw themselves into a hobby, devoting a lot of time and energy into it at the start because they know once the novelty has worn off they will stop participating and wish to gain as much as possible from it while they can. Others are more able to continue with a hobby long term so may choose to take things slowly so as not to burn out and put themselves off the hobby before it has began.
Use goals or rewards
Some PDAers find it easier to stay motivated with goals or rewards, whether self-chosen or decided by others, sometimes the reward is being able to accomplish part of the hobby (finishing a jigsaw, reaching the cliff-hanger of a book, winning a competition, perfecting a trick or instrument, reaching the next level of a game), other times it’s the satisfaction of simply participating in the hobby itself.
Some people find it best when they have clear goals to work towards, others find it easier when there are rewards given as a surprise upon perfecting a part of the hobby. If these work for you then utilising them to help you participate in your hobby is a good idea.
Use PDA strategies
Sometimes we get so focussed on using PDA strategies to manage the demands we need to do that we forget that we can use them for optional, fun things too. There’s nothing wrong with reducing demands around our hobbies so we can enjoy ourselves, having time to recharge and have fun is just as important as eating and sleeping, it’s important for our mental health and wellbeing. If we can utilise some PDA strategies for our hobbies then we should do. Sometimes hobbies are part of our PDA strategies for coping with other aspects of our lives and that’s fine too. Whatever works.
Be kind to yourself
When we struggle to participate in a hobby we can often beat ourselves up about it, feeling like a failure or like we’re not trying hard enough. It’s important that, during these times, we are kind to ourselves and accept that sometimes no matter what we do demand avoidance might prevent us from participating in things. It’s not our fault, we sometimes need to step back and try again or take a break and hope to come back to it in the future. Demand avoidance can make it difficult to do even fun things like hobbies, when we are struggling is when we need to be our most understanding and kind to ourselves. Hopefully the avoidance won’t last and we’ll be able to do our hobbies again soon.
If you know of any other tips that might help or that have helped you feel free to comment and let us know. I hope this post has been helpful.