Many ancient tribes revered what are suspected to be their ADHD members because they were the ones who found new hunting lands, water sources, and were fierce warriors.
By nature people with ADHD are often risk takers and willing to go beyond the boundaries others feel contained by.
The ADHD person forgets they are there or why they exist if it doesn’t make sense to them, before they know it they’ve gone off the beaten path just because they saw something interesting.
This is still true today it’s just in the classroom, on the work project, or when cooking a meal. Unfortunately many of us were shamed for our inability to stick with a project or task, sit still, stop interrupting, and having lots of ideas at one time.
ADHD is about how the brain processes information1. In the ADHD brain, parts of our brain run a little different than other parts. This makes it hard to concentrate and focus. We bounce from idea to idea sometimes without even noticing it. Here are 5 ways to hack your ADHD and make it work for you3.
First let’s look at impulsivity.
For many with ADHD they are impulsive2. On one hand this is great. We spring into action and aren’t afraid to take risks, however when we are meeting our partner’s boss and we impulsively comment on their outfit without thinking about it first we might find ourselves in trouble. Part of learning to work with our impulsivity is having a few tools for us.
First notice your own pattern. When and how does your impulsivity show up? Notice which foods make you more antsy, how impulsive you are if you haven’t slept well, and how much movement you need to feel calmer inside.
My experience with clients learning this path is impulsivity is a product of other things that we can shift to regulate more effectively. These are things like sleep, exercise, dietary choices, and social relationships. Doesn’t mean impulsivity completely goes away, the impulsive ability to shift our attention and focus quickly is a gift in some regards, but we want to work with it rather than be a slave to it.
The ADHD brain is great at this one. We can be doing one project and suddenly be doing another. We look out the window and start thinking about the tree and then the leaf and then wonder about the root system. The tree next to it and then trees around the world. This can be an amazing skill for putting together abstract and unthought-of-yet patterns and concepts, not so good when you just have to finish and get something done.
For many of us we don’t realize that working with our brains is better than trying to be like others. As a result of struggles to focus we often procrastinate. We can’t figure out where to start so we don’t, we know if we wait a minute we’ll be thinking about something else anyway. Often the procrastination is about having enough stimulation so that we can focus.
The ADHD brain needs stimulation to get things going. It needs stimulation to actually focus on one thing. So having music on, dancing a minute, watering the plants, walking in circles around the house for a bit, studying at the bar are all ways we work to build in stimulation so that our brains have enough to focus on. Then it makes it easier to get started. Most of us weren’t taught how to do this. We were told to slow down or to sit still which is the exact opposite of actually helping us focus and learn.
Third, let’s move.
For people without ADHD what we do seems stressful and overwhelming – our fidgeting, our looking around, our fast speech or speed when we walk. But for us it is a way to get our bodies engaged and help our brains slow down enough to focus. We are giving the brain more information at one time to help it have things to do so we can concentrate.
Many of us are what is called a kinesthetic learner. We need movement to learn and we live our lives very embodied. We find this all-in sensory experience to be enjoyable and are confused why others wouldn’t want to get moving, go do stuff, or use their hands to make something happen.
Rely on the body to help you ground your thoughts. You might need to tap your toe inside your shoe, or wiggle your hand, stand on your toes so you can slightly bounce. These small movements do not need to be large or distracting to others, in fact working to make them smaller may help you focus more. The extra stimulation helps you slow down a bit and decide if you should say that thing that’s on the tip of your tongue. Feel free to apply a little pressure to that tongue until you are ready to speak … just don’t hurt yourself.
Movement is your medicine. Make sure you don’t skip your workouts. Movement is a friend of those with ADHD. It helps focus the body and mind in rhythm.
When you have made sure to get your workouts and movement practices in, you will be more able to enjoy a calmer experience throughout the day. For ADHD we often need a combination of movements from fast to slow and back again, we need compound movements, we need a variety of exercises every week, and we usually get a little bored with slow yoga and machine weights. Often doing a quick HITT cardio blast right before weights can help us get our head in the game and give just enough focus so our weight training session is optimized.
Movement is your medicine. Don’t skip taking your daily dose.
With all the unique things about ADHD, many do not know how to communicate their needs to family and friends, teachers and co-workers.
Our fourth hack is learning to communicate more clearly.
We do not know how to express ourselves clearly because our thoughts and words get tripped up in so many thoughts at once, details of the story we can’t figure out how to let go of because we use them to make sense of things, and we don’t always operate with a great filter.
Communicating with ADHD can be hard. Often thoughts come into our head and out of our mouth in the same breath.
Effective communication is all about knowing your audience and being clear in your requests and statements. This is often hard for the ADHD brain where we feel like there are so many thoughts, colors, images, and items to explain what we are really thinking and feeling. We think we are eliminating a lot … others’ experience of our detail says otherwise.
We often express using our hands, remember movement is our friend, and this can be distracting or inappropriate depending on the place and time.
You want to learn your own communication style. Are you an expressive person or someone who speaks in bullet points? Do you want to have everyone be friends and get along or are you someone who is all about the details of the project? It is important to figure out your communication style strength and then learn about the others. This helps make you effective shifting your communication output to match the other person. Sometimes this means we do a little of ours and theirs to be effective and feel heard. Other times we can just send that email in their style.
Another big thing for the ADHD communicator is to start learning to notice when others are tuning you out. Many of us have been there where the other person has that glossy-eyed look and we’ve been talking for how long? We have no idea.
How many times have we interrupted?
How high has our energy risen as we’ve become more excited about the topic?
Did we shut down the other person with these pieces of our experience?
We have no clue.
As you get better at noticing this you can get better at turn taking. Then use the movements to help you stay focused on the other person’s words and concepts.
If it’s hard to stay focused on what the other person is saying it may be time to take a short break. Walk around the office, excuse yourself for the bathroom, go get more food at the dinner party, move to a new group of people to introduce yourself to.
Sometimes we just need to shift our focus for a short time to be ready to launch back into an intense or long discussion.
Fifth, consider time.
For ADHD time often runs on a different schedule than other people’s concept of time. That’s ok, however living in a world of linear time means you have to figure out how to work within that world too.
You’ll want to set some timers on a day you aren’t rushed and get a true gauge of how long things take for you.
How long does it really take you to get ready for work?
How long to really read through that report?
How much time to you really need to get out the door?
Often people with ADHD take longer to complete things. The beauty is, it is because they are noticing a lot of other things other people are not seeing, thinking, or hearing.They are good at noticing. Problem, all that noticing takes brain power and makes it hard to remain focused on the task of getting out the door for your morning commute.
Of course that’s just the time you remember where you put that shirt you wanted to wear today, but couldn’t find, so now you go to get it and low and behold find the shoe you were looking for last week. What luck!
However all that treasure hunting is not going to get you out the door on time. Once you have an accurate gauge on how much time it really takes you to accomplish your tasks, then we need to plan your schedule around those accurate times.
Make sure you consider transition times and transportation timing. Often these get forgotten about, It’s good to add in some “time padding” around every item just to allow yourself some joy in noticing your environment.
All those hacks to say if you have ADHD you need some structure4.
However, ADHD folks often hate structure because it is so hard to stick to. They tend to create rigid structures based on how the rest of the world would like them to be and then fail miserably at them.
For a person with ADHD we can build flexible structure. We have a couple of morning routines, evening wind downs, and daily commutes we know fit within our time needs. We can stick to the timing and the process but change up the actions. This can help make sure we stay on track and focused on creating the life we want, while working with our gifts and helping ourselves stay away from our pitfalls.
When we approach our mental health from a place of acceptance, we can work with what we have.
We can use our gifts for our benefit and strengthen our weaknesses.
We can make sure to choose the right environments for us and say no to activities we know will be disastrous given the way our brains work.
When we are clear about what we need to be successful we can communicate those needs and behaviors with acceptance and joy to our loved ones and help them work with us rather than against us.
So today take stock of what is working, what is not, and begin to accept yourself just as you are. Then you can decide which areas you need to focus on to improve upon your current situation and build better patterns for the success you want to experience.
If you are interested in learning more about how to thrive with ADHD click the link below to read about psychology and physiology or check out our upcoming program for Women with ADHD and hack the way your mind and body create health from the inside out.
I want to help you work on changing your life one small step at a time.
If there is something you’d like to see more of in the psychology and physiology realm reach out. I love to create more videos that help people take control of their lives or at least their perspective of how life is going.
Small changes overtime build …. health from the inside out.
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If you are a woman with ADHD struggling to take action in your life, don’t know where to start, or want a guide. Join us for our 30 day Women and ADHD program. We run this program throughout the year and focus on specific needs women with ADHD have. Guys we are working to build one out for you too.
This program is all about owning what’s great about ADHD. We’ll address the usual difficulties like impulsivity, lack of follow through, and overwhelming idea streams.
Plus we’ll also look at building our ability to use tools to help us stay on track. We’ll deal with self worth, increase our ability to follow through and feel accomplished, the fatigue that comes with having so many ideas, and the difficulty communicating what our needs are to our friends and family.
Ready to find your tribe of others who can follow multiple threads of thought at once, have lots of energy, and creativity?
Ready to learn how to harness the gifts of your distractible brain and make it work for you rather than against you?
Then this program is for you. Over the course of 4 weeks we’ll target the hardest pieces of ADHD and learn tips and tricks to hack your own patterns.
Movement & Diet Support
Our Love / Hate relationship with Structure
This program goes after all those old hurts and helps us heal the shame, frustrations, low self esteem, embarrassment, and guilt as a result of our distractible brain.
Using email, we’ll have a daily focus and skill/task to practice.
We’ll meet live 1x a week for an hour long coaching session. We’ll focus on the topics of the week and a Q&A session to really target what you are struggling with.
As part of the program, you’ll get a meal plan, shopping list, and workouts to help make sure you are maximizing the benefits of a healthy body and mind using exercise and nutrition to manage your ADHD.
- Krain, A., L., & Castellanos, F., X. (2006). Brain development and ADHD. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 433-444.
- Wender, P. H., Wolf, L. E., & Wasserstein, J. (N.D.). Adults with ADHD. An overview. Annals New York Academy of Sciences. 1-16.
- Weiss, M., D., & Weiss, J. R. (2004). A guide to the treatment of adults with ADHD. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 65[suppl 3], 27-37.
- Weiss, M., Saftren, S., A., Solano, M. V., Hechtman, L., Rostain, A. L., Ramsay, J., R., & Murray, C. (2008). Research forum on psychological treatment of adults with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 11(6), 642-651. DOI: 10.1177/1087054708315063