To understand how to manage attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it is helpful to know what this disorder is and signs and symptoms to look out for. People with ADHD typically have a hard time paying attention and may act impulsively. While everyone might experience these issues occasionally, people with ADHD experience these problems more often and at a more intense level. Many people that are diagnosed with ADHD might find that with age, some symptoms decrease. To help with symptom management, treatment including a combination of therapy and medication is helpful.
The signs of ADHD are broken down into two main categories: inattention and hyperactivity:
Signs of Inattention
Struggling to pay attention (mind wanders, easily distracted)
Often forgetting responsibilities (forgetting to do chores or turn in homework)
Making careless mistakes
Very disorganized/often losing things
Avoiding mentally demanding tasks
May seem to not listen when spoken to
Signs of Hyperactivity
Difficulty sitting still
Often feeling restless/feeling on edge when sitting or waiting
Overly talkative/struggling to be quiet and listen to others
Constantly moving or “on the go”
Often speaks out of turn/interrupts
If you have ADHD, one of the best things you can do is to create structure. When there is structure and a steady routine, the obligations and tasks on your to-do list will feel less overwhelming and leave less room for distraction. To help with creating a structured routine, you should first create a daily schedule. Remember to set aside time for every day tasks such as eating, sleeping, self-care activities, working, and socializing. If possible, try to keep it at the same time everyday. When first starting out, it can be hard to keep a routine, but with practice it becomes easier. In addition, it's often better to under-schedule than to over-schedule when first starting to get into a routine. To help you stick to your schedule it can be helpful to write things down and set alarms.
To help with completing tasks, it can be helpful to break large tasks into smaller parts. This can be helpful because when a task feels large and scary, breaking it down can help it to feel more manageable. For example, instead of writing “clean the kitchen” on your list, write “wash the dishes, take out the trash, wipe the counters, sweep the floor." If there is a task that is more difficult to break down, it can be helpful to set time limits. For example, instead of saying "exercise", you could write “use the treadmill for 20 minutes”.
It is important to note that when completing tasks, it might be accompanied by some discomfort. You may not be in the “mood’ to do something, but that is okay as long as you are working through it. Most of the time, people find that once they are able to start a tasks, the task itself is not as bad as they expected it to be. To help with this, people are encouraged to try and focus on the outcome of completing the tasks. For example, focusing on how you will feel when you complete something on your to-do list.
Make a Distraction Plan
When working on a task on your list, it is a good idea to also have a plan in place for handling distractions. This can be done by creating a list of common distractions and making an “if, then” plan for each one. This may include “If my coworkers ask me to meet for coffee while I am writing a report, then I will tell them I’m busy, but can meet for lunch.” In addition to identifying potential distractions, it is helpful to identify procrastination behaviors. Procrastination behaviors tend to be mindless and unproductive, such a scrolling on social media or flipping through TV channels. Sometimes these behaviors might not be enjoyable, but they are less strenuous than the other tasks. Once these behaviors start, they can be difficult to stop. To help reduce procrastination behaviors, it is recommendation to create a distraction free area for completing tasks. This can include things such as keeping the area tidy, with everything you need to complete your task ready to go. When sitting down, silencing your phone and putting it in a drawer and letting other’s know that when you are in that area you are busy can help reduce distractions. If you do not have access to a designated area, then creating a signal, such as closing the door or playing music can be helpful.
Set Small Rewards
When focusing on tasks on your list to complete, it is important to know the objective and stick to it. For example, if you have to go the grocery store for milk, go directly to the dairy aisle. Or, if you have to go on the computer to pay a bill, do not go on a different site first. Try to avoid taking any detours when completing a task. When you have successfully completed a tasks, you should reward yourself. This can be done by having a small treat, such as a special meal or a fun activity. In order for a reward to be effective, it should be something that you do not have often. Having a small reward can make the boring/mundane tasks more appealing.
When To Seek Additional Support
Sometimes having ADHD can be difficult to manage alone. If you are experiencing symptoms of ADHD that are interfering with your everyday life or are experiencing associated symptoms of anxiety and depression, individual therapy can be helpful in managing symptoms ADHD. Therapy for ADHD typically includes learning practical skills for time management and organization, improving social skills, reducing unwanted behaviors, and managing emotions.
At Balanced Minds Psychology & Wellness we specialized in assisting children, young adults, and their families with navigating life’s challenges. To learn more about me and the services I provide, checkout my profile. If you are ready to start the therapy process, contact us today to start a free consultation.