As a person who has lived with an ADHD diagnosis for over half their life, and as someone who has spent a lot of time studying this disorder, I know how complicated living with ADHD can be. School and work life feel impossible, relationships suffer, and as a result, you may struggle with feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth. ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is not easy to live with. Most people are not taught how to design their life to in a way that makes sense with this diagnosis. On top of that, many tips that are taught come from people who do not understand the diagnosis. So, here is a list of helpful techniques that move improve your quality of life from a fellow ADHD-er.
1. Teach your body specific cues for certain tasks. Our bodies associate different stimuli together very easily. That’s why a certain scent might remind you of a trip you took in high school, or why your favorite meal reminds you of home. We can also use this principle to trick our brains into being more efficient. By having specific cues for work time, such as always keeping your shoes on or wearing specific clothes, our brains learn that those sensations mean it’s time to work. The same goes for relaxing. Putting on sweats right when you get home from work is most likely going to tell your brain that it’s time to rest. So, if you have work trouble working from home, consider formulating a specific work wardrobe to help.
2. Stuck in a cycle of ADHD paralysis? Change your surroundings. One of the best ways to get yourself moving again when your brain has paralyzed you is by changing the sensations around you. Some examples of this are changing into different clothes, styling your hair a different way, lighting a candle, drinking water, or changing the lighting in the room. The change in sensation gives your brain a spike of dopamine, which usually increases motivation.
3. Set a timer for small tasks. When small tasks begin to pile up, it can be very overwhelming. One thing that can be helpful is setting a short timer, like five or ten minutes, and doing as much as you can in that time frame. You may not get it all done, or even most of it. But you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish in a short amount of time. Remember, it doesn’t all have to get done at once. Something is better than nothing.
4. Use a body double. One thing that people with ADHD find to be effective is “body doubling.” A body double is a person who sits with you, whether in person or virtually, while you work. This technique provides accountability for the person who is working, which results in higher productivity.
5. Practice self-compassion. Living with ADHD in a world designed by neurotypical people isn’t an easy task. It takes time to find tricks that work for your brain. The most important thing you can do is to have compassion for yourself. Continually comparing yourself to people who don’t have the same struggles will only cause your self-esteem to lower. Take your time and celebrate the small wins!