Having ADHD as an adult can be incredibly stressful. “Adulting” is hard enough as it is; bills need to get paid; family obligations need to be met, and relationships need to be managed. If you have trouble regulating your focus, your emotions, and your sensory perceptions on top of all of that (as most people with ADHD do) it can all be quite overwhelming! But do not despair, just because your brain works a little differently doesn’t mean that your life has to constantly be an uphill climb. There are ways to manage your ADHD to make things a little bit easier.
Many people suffer from the “shoulds,” that nagging voice in your head that tells you your life should be a particular way. It can make you feel bad that you do not do laundry twice a week or that you have not started working on that project or that you still can’t afford to buy a house. It is a normal part of living in today’s world. But if you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, especially as an adult those “shoulds” can feel crippling and overwhelming. With its rigid work hours and long-term deadlines, it can often feel like today’s world simply is not built to accommodate the unique way your brain works. As an adult with ADHD you may sometimes feel like you have fallen behind your peers and have trouble keeping up. ADHD treatment and medication, when properly prescribed and administered, can be an enormous help. But they are not a cure-all.
Even with medication and treatment, people with ADHD may still find the challenges of living in today’s world a little overwhelming. Worry not! Here are four easy tips to help you live your best ADHD life.
Use that alarm clock app. A lot of the time, adults living with ADHD can come off as absentminded, flaky, or inconsiderate simply because they lose track of time very easily. Time-blindness is a common ADHD trait, and it can lead to missed appointments and work attendance issues. One way to compensate for that is to set an alarm for every single item on your schedule. After all, alarm clock apps don’t have to be exclusively for waking you up. You can use them for just about anything. Want to do a bit of yoga before breakfast? Set an alarm. Have a doctor’s appointment at 3pm? Set an alarm. Want to start working on that report by 1030am? Set an alarm. Set your phone to vibrate and pick out a pleasant-sounding alarm so you’ll be sure to notice when it rings.
Make lists. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you have a mad tangle of random information writhing around in your head. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Often people with Adult ADHD have trouble with executive function, that is, figuring out how to arrange information, prioritize tasks based on that information, and carry them out. If you have things to do and have trouble figuring out where to begin, simply take a piece of paper and write down every single little thing that needs to be done. No task is too small. If it’s part of what you need to do, write it down. Taking what’s in your head and putting it out where you can physically see them can help you make better sense of them. Afterward, see if you can arrange them in bullet points and in an order you can follow. If you prefer, you can use sticky notes and post items on that list in the places where you need to accomplish those tasks. You can keep your list in a little notebook that you can refer to at your convenience. Be creative, figure out what works for you.
The Three Minute Game
For household chores and routine tasks, play the “three-minute game.” A lot of the little things that keep someone’s house or office running can fall by the wayside by someone with ADHD simply because they don’t feel particularly important. One way to make sure that those tiny, crucial tasks get accomplished, is to play the “three-minute game.” The premise is simple. If you find yourself feeling bored and restless, see what small task you can perform in three minutes or less. For example, if you’re waiting for your coffee to finish brewing and find yourself itching for something else to do, see how many dishes you can wash before that coffee pot fills up. You can turn it into a personal race. At the end of it, you’ll have kept that dreaded boredom at bay and managed some clean dishes along the way.
Simplify! Some people can juggle multiple hobbies, a side-business, an active social life, and a full-time job. As an adult with ADHD you might struggle just to keep up with ordinary day-to-day work. That is OK. Do not hold yourself up to other people’s standards. It might be nice to have three million followers on Instagram, but is the effort really worth it? Figure out what’s important to you materially and emotionally, get rid of the rest. At the end of the day the only person you have to answer to is yourself. If making a daily ‘outfit of the day’ post feels like a chore, don’t do it! If hanging out with your office mate’s after-hours doesn’t feel right, politely decline and let them go! Expand your valuable energy on what is important to you. Life is short. Be true to yourself, ADHD and all.
If you or someone you know is living with adult ADHD, we know it can be hard and our entire team here at Jeff Ditzell Psychiatry is here when you need us. If you are looking to learn more about Adult ADHD send us a message or if you are living in New York go ahead and make an appointment. We are still offering telepsychiatry visits to our patients as an option to continue to stay accessible and be there when needed.