Learning to cope with ADHD
A couple posts ago I wrote about my ADHD diagnosis. Although I won’t be able to try medications for some time, I have found success in other methods of treatment. Mainly learning and applying coping skills.
So here are some of the tricks I’ve had success with so far, along with a couple I’ve only just started using, and will let you know how it goes at a later date.
Many of these tricks are things I think could benefit almost anyone. You could really call them “life hacks.” But I especially think they apply to those of us with mental health disorders that effect our daily living.
So without further ado, here’s my first ADHD skills list:
1. Eat breakfast
One of the first things I found in researching ADHD natural remedies was eating high protein first thing in the morning.
Boy was this one hard for me. Still is actually. Still doesn’t always happen everyday, but guess what?! I’ve had eggs for breakfast THREE TIMES in the past two weeks. I think the last time I had eggs for breakfast was… high school maybe?
Normally they would make me feel kinda sick. But my dear amazing husband made them over easy, not too well done, on toast with ketchup. This seems to be the best way for me to handle them.
I also had to make a lot of progress on overcoming my eating disorder to be physically comfortable eating breakfast. I got really used to running on empty a lot of the time, so eating that early in the morning has to start out slow.
But what a victory it was to work my way up to eggs! And it’s AMAZING the difference in my day when I eat a high protein breakfast. I can focus so much easier. I have way more energy. And I have an easier time eating for the rest of the day. It’s not only helped me cope with the ADHD but it has caused exponential progress in overcoming my eating disorder.
Exercise helps bring oxygen to your brain, which helps you focus. Exercise has also been proven to help with a variety of mental health disorders. And, as icing on the cake, it helps you feel more energized.
I’ve never been good at regular exercise. I’ll for the most part try to be active. Go on walks, have dance parties with my son, stand instead of sit… but as far as having a workout routine goes, I’ve always just gotten so bored so quickly with it.
The thing with ADHD, is I can hyperfocus on things that are interesting to me, but things that bore me are extremely difficult to stay focused on. (So many things about my childhood make so much more sense now… like why I sped through some homework assignments and couldn’t seem to finish others.)
But a recent event in my life pushed me to start a regular routine. But to avoid getting bored, my doctor suggested I exercise for short spurts after every meal instead of one long routine once a day. This is easy to remember, because I can create a trigger that after eating I exercise. And it has the added bonus of staying active throughout the day. It’s also supposed to be really good for helping your body process the glucose consumed during a meal. So this is a great thing if you have diabetes.
I don’t get bored as easily this way, and can actually encorporate the exercise into my routine. For example, I’ll jog in place while planning with my husband, do lunges on my way to the bathroom, stretch while tutoring, or do simple Pilates moves when I unwind at the end of the day with a tv show. I don’t have to worry about getting “enough time” in, because the three times a day add up.
3. To do list scheduling
I’ve always been a list person. But I’ve never been fantastic about actually getting my list done. Often I’ll do other non-list items and then add them to the list, or I’ll forget the list entirely. Or it’ll take me days and days to get the list done.
And it’s not that my lists are super long. I used to make that mistake, but since becoming a mom I’ve learned to only have 2-3 major items in a to do list each day.
I just totally space my list. Or the tasks are too boring and I can’t get myself to do them. Or they require things like making phone calls, which give me anxiety. Or the task is overwhelming and daunting, and when I try to start I feel hopelessly stuck.
My doctor suggested I make my to do lists and then plan out each hour of my day, with appointments, meals, and my to do list items all scheduled in.
So now instead of “clean bathroom” written on a scrape of paper somewhere I have “clean bathroom” in my planner at 4:00pm.
Then… here’s the biggy, I set an alarm on my phone that goes off every minute to nag me until I do the task.
I also have alarms for meals, my son’s naps, and family routines like scripture reading and daily council with my husband. And an alarm telling me to get ready for bed. Because when I get stuck in a YouTube vortex after my son goes down… well I could be lost for a long time…
4. Reward system
So sometimes to do list scheduling and nagging alarms aren’t enough. Sometimes when that task just feels super overwhelming all the alarms in the world won’t help. 4:00 will come and go but the toys will still be scattered all over the house.
This is when a reward system comes in handy.
Because with ADHD, if a boring or daunting task isn’t fulfilling enough to motivate you, you need something on the other end that WILL be. For example, you decide you will spend 15 minutes tidying up the toys (and you set a timer). You pick an activity you enjoy and schedule 5 minutes of a break doing that activity AFTER your 15 minutes of work. This way you have somethig fulfilling at the other end to motivate you.
If you can’t think of good activities to do, if the things you enjoy aren’t 5 minute friendly, or if it’s going stress you out to think of an activity after every task, then a token system works well too.
Yea, it seems like the kind of thing you do for potty training toddlers or getting your 7 year old to clean his room, but it works for adults too.
This reward system is something I’ve only just started. But so far I’ve been a lot more successful in accomplishing my to do lists. I have this little wooden fish that used to be on a mobile. It got pretty badly tangled so I took the fish off and saved them in my craft box. There’s like 30 of them, so I decided to use them for my tokens (the more $$ you can save by using things lying around the better). Every time I accomplish a to do list task or do a chore for 10 minutes, I put a fish in a bowl. When all the fish are in the bowl I get a small reward (a Cadbury cream egg, because what else could you want?!) After I fill the bowl five times (which I have yet to do since I just started this) I get to choose either a $4 or less treat from diary queen or drugstore makeup item. If I want I can save up my $4 5x bowl fills to get something nicer. Like maybe movie theater tickets? Totally worth it reward!
Yea, it seems childish and almost a bit silly, but if it keeps my house clean, why not do it??? The act of putting a fish in the bowl is really satisfying. And knowing I’m working towards something is highly motivating, even if it’s just a piece of candy.
5. Chore chart
This is another one I’ve just started. I mentioned above doing a chore for 10 minutes. That seems like nothing, but it’s actually a lot, and here’s why.
I used to assign different chores to different days of the week. Living room on wednesdays, bathroom on mondays. But waiting a whole week to tidy and vacuum the living room made it overwhelmingly messy by time that day rolled around. So I started this idea I got from a mom in an ADHD support group I’m part of on Facebook.
Instead of assigning each room/chore to a day, I do 10 minutes in each room EVERY day. This way nothing gets too overwhelming. And if it is overwhelming I know I just need to work on it for 10 minutes. It’s actually super surprising what you can get done in just 10 minutes.
Each room is assigned a number, and every day I do one room for 30 minutes instead of 10 to ensure deep cleaning. However, I’ve found that so far, especially with the 10 minute daily thing, the deep cleaning happens much quicker than 30 minutes.
I also have chores that only need to happen weekly assigned to different days of the week. Like empty all the trashes on thursdays. Clean out the fridge on fridays.
It’s a good system so far. I hope it keeps working as well as it has been.
I know this was a pretty long post. So thank you for bearing with me. I guess I had a lot to say about each of these ADHD hacks.
Until next time!