ADHD Essentials: 8 Tips for thriving with your ADHD brain

IMPORTANT: This blog is not a substitute for therapy, but provides evidenced-based education for the purposes of self-help, or to compliment the therapeutic process. ​ ​This blog is non-monetized.

By: Christina Crowe, RP, ADHD Therapist & Coach, Clinical Supervisor

This article takes us into the next phase of managing adult ADHD, which is all about skill building.  What are the things we can do to start to rescue our future from the things that challenged us in the past? 

​In our ADHD Pro Tips article, the three pillars of treatment recommended by Canadian Guidelines are medicationbehaviour training and psychotherapy (specific to ADHD).  ​If you are taking medication to manage your ADHD symptoms, ensure you are tracking the specific symptoms you want managed, and sharing that details information with your doctor.

​(Download a free tracker from our ADHD Resource Hub). 

​Medication alone doesn’t organize and plan your life for you, but you want to be taking one at a dose that works for you. 

Stimulant medication helps regulate the neurotransmitters in our brains, which facilitate normal levels of motivation, concentration, impulse control and alertness, so we can get up and do life.

​Essentially, these medications function like glasses for our brain – you can live without glasses, but life can be blurry.

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​If you’ve gotten to this point, you might be tired. The entire assessment journey, the search for what exactly it has been that has been making life hard for so long can be overwhelming.  Not only does it take a toll on us, but ADHD affects everyone in the family (diagnosed or not!), so our relationships might be affected.  

Taking our time, managing the journey in phases and finding time to be kind to ourselves, creates the space and opportunity for us to continue to move forward, so we can thrive.

​If that first part was assessment and diagnosis, this next part is about building new skills so we can manage our life in new ways.

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Maybe you’ve been through the zigzag of assessment and diagnosis in Ontario, either for yourself, or your child, and have seen more doctors and therapists than you ever thought you could. If your child was diagnosed, you might’ve started to realize you too have an ADHD brain. 

Maybe you were diagnosed as a child, but, short of a less-than-stellar experience with an older stimulant, you didn’t receive any other support post diagnosis, and have remained largely untreated.

Maybe you’ve been told you have an anxiety disorder. You’ve tried antidepressant medication, yoga, attempts at therapy, and combined with your spotty academic record and work history, you’re still underemployed and your life is a bit of a hot mess.  Then you finally met the therapist who could connect the dots. What’s been underpinning your struggles, is, in fact, undiagnosed and unmanaged ADHD. 

And now there’s more work to do?

Yup. Bit by bit, by understanding exactly how the issue with ADHD, low levels of brain dopamine, affects things like motivation, impulsiveness, focus and the willingness to take on difficult tasks, we can slowly rebuild so you can believe in yourself again.

The first two items in our list here are listed as ‘foundational’. Once we understand these as non-negotiable, we can get on with the rest of it.

MAKE IT REAL:
Grab yourself our fillable pdf download
Track yourself and keep yourself accountable to you. 

THE FOUNDATION

1. Emotional regulation. Positive emotion is not an extra. It’s the necessary foundation for healthy mental wellness, which includes healthy relationships. When you feel secure in your relationships and surroundings, you think better, behave better, work better, and connect better with others (and with yourself).

​Mindfulness training has shown benefits for ADHD brains, and understanding the ins and outs of nervous system regulation help you bring calm into your life.  

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​2. Protect your sleep & fuel your body. Good sleep is everything, and it’s something ADHD brains struggle with. Adults with ADHD rarely fall asleep easily, sleep soundly through the night, and wake up feeling refreshed.

​The chronic exhaustion hurts overall health and treatment outcomes (because of the ability to then go onto steps 3-8 below).

  • Create a 45-minute bedtime routine that helps signal your brain that it’s time to sleep.
  • Stick to it consistently.
  • Plan your meals so you aren’t binging or overwhelmed with last minute meal time decisions. There are lots of nutrition and practical tips in our earlier, ADHD Pro Tips article.

NEXT: LEVEL UP

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3. Prioritize. There are so many things to grab our attention, but knowing what matters most and being able to act on it, will help to keep you focused.  

Visual (and intrusive) cues are best – around the house, post it notes, whiteboard lists, the home image on your cellphone.  

Being able to say “no” (or at least insert a reflective pause) to every new and exciting thing you see, is a hard-won skill worth strengthening.

​​
4. Manage your hyperfocus. Don’t waste time “screen-sucking.” Being glued to your TV or computer screen, which interferes with the brain’s ability to focus. Whenever possible, limit electronic hypnosis as much as you can. Not sure where your time goes (aside from TikTok)?

Create a chart, and record everything you do. Use a visual timer that helps your brain track time passing in a more seamless way. 

​Find creative ways to eliminate the time you spend doing things that could be automated with routine and organization (hanging a key hook near the front door can reduce the never-ending key search).

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​5. Proactively minimize distractions. Things that distract you on a regular basis should be addressed. Keep losing your glasses? Train yourself to put them in a special place, special baskets, trays or bins clearly labelled for everyone in your home to see.

​Designate 20 minutes at the end of your day to loop through your home to make this a routine, and to make your mornings easier. While you want to automate and use technology to your advantage, you also don’t need 4 apps that do the same thing, so declutter.
 
6. Delegate and outsource. Often or occasionally forget to pay your bills? Ask your partner to take over. They also have ADHD? Set up auto-pay.

Automate a vacation savings account so you limit the impact of impulse spending.

​Your goal is not to be an island unto yourself, but to be effectively  interdependent— that is, to share responsibilities for tasks with other people you trust.

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​7. S l o w  down. Periodically ask yourself why you’re in such a hurry, and take the question seriously. If the answer is “because I’m late,” assess your priorities and cut out unnecessary responsibilities. If you’ve got too much on your plate, see #1.

​The time you save should be devoted intentionally to personal or family time. Designate one day on the weekend as a home day, with no outside commitments, other than solo or family time.

8. Pay attention to your relationships. Inattentiveness might be one of the most painful experiences in any relationship, and we all need to know we matter to the ones we love. ADHD brains don’t mean to ignore their loved ones, but it’s not an excuse either.  

​Literally schedule the time into your calendar to spend 20 minutes, eyeball to eyeball, with the ones you love every day – to call your mother, to check in on your friends. And protect that time. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

​Both keeping our eye on the long game, and breaking these skills in to manageable chunks, helps to manage invisible symptoms, like Overwhelm, which can be quite debilitating for ADHD brains. 

We have to create reasonable expectations about how we are doing, given everything our brains have been though trying to make it a neurotypical world. Its important to remember to schedule in your fun, make your rewards immediate and remember to keep your sense of humour above all else.

This article was written mindful of the fact that ‘treatment’ in western therapy can be patriarchal, heteronormative and full of microaggressions.

From our perspective, in no way does our approach to ‘treatment’ of ADHD aim to change cultural values, norms or judge past experiences or family culture. It’s meant to be completely tailored to the individual, their goals, preferences and values.  The suggestions outlined are based on best practices gathered from both data and our clinical experience. 

​If you are looking for structured direction and knowledgeable clinicians and coaches to help keep you accountable, get in touch with us to find out how we can tailor a plan for you.


​ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Did you miss our first 2 ADHD articles? 

and

OUR NEURODIVERGENT-FRIENDLY AND AFFIRMING SELF-MANAGEMENT GUIDE:

​BOOKS RELEVANT TO THIS POST:

  1. Taking Charge of ADHD, 3rd Edition: The Complete Authoritative Guide for Parents by Russell Barkely, PhD
  2. The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD: An 8-Step Program for Strengthening Attention, Managing Emotions, and Achieving Your Goals
    by Lidia Zylowska, Daniel Siegel 
  3. Smart but Scattered Teens: The “Executive Skills” Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Potential. by Richard Guare, Peg Dawson, Colin Guare ​
  4. Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers by Suze Yalof Schwartz​​

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Picture of ​Christina Crowe, H.BSc. MACP, RP, (S-Cert) OAMHP (she, her)

​Christina Crowe, H.BSc. MACP, RP, (S-Cert) OAMHP (she, her)

Registered Psychotherapist, Validated Clinical Supervisor, ADHD Therapist & Coach Podcast Host The Christina Crowe Podcast Christina is a Canadian Registered Psychotherapist, a member of CADDRA's Advocacy Committee and relentless mental health advocate. Christina believes great mental health information should be available to everyone, loves creating content that makes invisible things VISIBLE and finding new ways to bring healing experiences to as many people as possible.

2 thoughts on “ADHD Essentials: 8 Tips for thriving with your ADHD brain”

  1. What a wonderful post, you have put quite a lot of effort into this one, I can tell. Love everything about this, great post. Hope to see more such posts from you soon.

    Reply

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