Think you have ADHD? 8 practical ways to feel in control today
Waiting for an ADHD assessment can feel like you’re stuck in between two worlds. You’ve done your research, seen your GP and got a referral. But there can be months, if not years, between seeing your GP and the ADHD appointment, which can leave you feeling unsure about what to do with yourself and impatient to take the next steps so you can feel more in control of your life.
But, fear not. There are ways to manage your ADHD challenges that don’t have a waiting list, which will help you feel less overwhelmed and able to cope right now.
1. Find support online
Connecting with others going through similar experiences and sharing your day-to-day online can help you feel less isolated, especially if starting to doubt yourself or your diagnosis.
- Facebook groups: You can find local ADHD groups, parenting ADHD groups, Women’s ADHD groups, Entrepreneur ADHD Groups and more!
- Instagram: Plenty of ADHD friendly accounts to follow – from those explaining ADHD in scientific detail to light relief from funny ADHD memes.
- YouTube: One of my favourite YouTube Channels is How to ADHD. The host's TED talk is a must-watch for anyone who is going through ADHD diagnosis later in life.
2. Rework your self-image
If you are going through diagnosis later in life, chances are you’ve internalised a lot of negative messages about your ADHD symptoms and what they mean about you as a person.
Many ADHDers grow up with labels of “lazy”, “stupid” or “crazy” – which are in reality just reflections of the executive functioning challenges in ADHD brains. They’re not unique character flaws to you.
You may also grieve the life that might have been, had you had support earlier. But, even though it’s hard to separate long-held negative beliefs from what is really true, there are ways you can try:
- Change your language: from “I can’t do this” to “My ADHD brain is making this hard for me”.
- Do what works for you: Drop the judgement. If you need to change the way you do things, to make them easier, do it.
- Make a “done” list: Many ADHDers are also closet perfectionists. And they apply this 'skill' to their never-ending to-do lists. Instead of beating yourself up about what you didn’t do, create a “done” list and celebrate what you have achieved each day.
3. Simplify your environment
Minimising distractions is important for people with ADHD, and distractions don’t just come in audio. They can be visual, too. This is why making it easy to keep 'on top of things' and minimising clutter is so important to help you focus, especially if you work from home.
One of my favourite programmes on Netflix is The Home Edit. They have a four-step process to organise and manage clutter:
- Edit: get rid of what you don’t need
- Categorise: sort into categories
- Contain: give everything its own place
- Maintain: put things back in their place
The end results of the show are nothing less than beautiful.
Over to you. Start somewhere small, but impactful, like a drawer you use every day. Follow the four-step process and see how it makes you feel.
4. Boost your dopamine naturally
One of the biggest challenges for ADHD brains is they have less available dopamine, so finding natural ways to boost this important neurotransmitter throughout your day can help you feel more motivated and focused.
Here are some ideas to try:
- Ending your shower with a 20-second blast of cold water.
- Dancing and singing along to your favourite song.
- Connecting with other people.
- Going for a walk in nature.
- Play Wordle – it's short, once per day, and gives a sense of accomplishment.
5. Look after yourself
Alongside finding natural sources of dopamine, looking after your brain and body so they can work at their best can also help reduce the impact of ADHD symptoms.
- Are you drinking enough water?
- How much quality sleep are you getting?
- Are you giving your brain the right fuel? (food)
- How often are you moving your body and working up a sweat?
6. Get some tools
Having tools that outsource some of the executive functions can really help you feel more in control.
Here are my current favourites:
- Focusmate.com – Work alongside someone else to help you focus.
- Apple Air Tag / Tile – Stick these to your phone, keys, purse – whatever it is you don’t want to lose.
- Mini white board – I have this on my desk with a list of meetings for the day and I wipe each off once they’re done
- Post it Notes – They stick anywhere, you can carry them around, mine are brightly coloured.
- A real diary – I use my online calendar, but also have a physical diary I carry with me everywhere to write notes, dates, to-dos… all of the above.
7. Get an accountability buddy
ADHD brains are more likely to do what they’re told if someone else is going to check up on you, so, getting some accountability is a great way to get the things done you want to.
This could be a friend, partner, mentor or coach. Or all of the above for different pieces of your life and what you want to achieve.
If you find it hard to exercise alone, getting someone to go with you can really help. If it’s getting work done consistently speak to your boss or a friendly colleague who can help keep you on track.
An ADHD coach can help you understand how ADHD is affecting you day to day and work with you to create bespoke systems that fit in your life and help you feel more in control.
8. Be kind to yourself
You have probably lived your entire life wondering why everybody else seems to have their stuff together and you find it so hard. Well, now you know. Or at least you have strong suspicions. Now is the time to be gentle and compassionate with yourself, as you would be to a friend.
Remember, it has taken you years to get here, and it will take a while to find the right tools that work for you, so the change won’t happen overnight.