Along with medication, taking steps to improve your overall physical and mental health is one of the most important things you can do to help manage your ADHD more effectively. Read about some of the top wellness habits that help with ADHD and learn why they can be particularly effective in dealing with this disorder.
Wellness Habit #1: Learn how to manage your stress.
For many people with ADHD, stress is one of the key triggers for their symptoms. When anxiety increases, executive functioning skills like focus, decision making, and problem solving become more difficult. To make matters worse, these stress-triggered symptoms can start a vicious cycle in which experiencing the symptoms creates even more stress.
That’s why it’s so important for people with ADHD to develop good stress management techniques. If you’re able to alleviate some of that tension, you’ll be more likely to keep your ADHD behaviors under control while avoiding the inevitable stress spiral.
First, it helps to identify what causes you the most stress and then take steps to prevent exposure to those ADHD triggers if at all possible. For example, if you find loud, crowded places to be overwhelming, you can go grocery shopping during off-peak hours, order takeout instead of eating in a crowded restaurant, or stream a concert online rather than attending in person.
Reducing your exposure to triggers certainly helps, but none of us can avoid all sources of stress. So when stress does arise, make sure you have a plan in place. Mindfulness is a scientifically proven technique for getting back to a calmer state of mind. Try breathing exercises or meditation to help when you’re anxious or overwhelmed, focusing on recognizing what you’re feeling, accepting it, and then letting it go. It may take some practice, but you’ll get better at it the more you try. You can also reach out to your therapist or contact a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) expert if you need some guidance.
Wellness Habit #2: Make getting enough sleep a priority.
The mental and physical restlessness that’s associated with ADHD often causes people with this disorder to suffer from sleep problems, like trouble falling or staying asleep, tossing and turning through the night, and difficulty rousing from sleep in the morning.
Unfortunately, a lack of sleep can also exacerbate ADHD symptoms. Even for someone without ADHD, poor sleep can quickly lead to feelings of brain fog and trouble with focus and other executive functions. For people with ADHD who already struggle in some of those areas, the effects can be even more significant.
Getting enough sleep can help to alleviate these issues. Try being especially strict about following a sleep schedule, and start winding down about an hour before bedtime (which means no bright lights or screens). Avoid naps during the day and limit your caffeine consumption. If you’re still struggling, you can ask your doctor about whether changes to your ADHD medication or taking a low dose of melatonin could help.
Wellness Habit #3: Plan your meals.
Do you ever miss a meal, but not notice until later? Or do you forget to pick up groceries, then realize there’s nothing to eat in the house? These situations could be caused by your ADHD. When you get distracted or hyperfocus on a task, you might forget to eat or complete tasks like grocery shopping. Meal planning and cooking can also be more challenging if you have ADHD since these activities involve a considerable amount of organization and time management.
This creates the risk of unhealthy eating habits. Besides skipping meals by accident, people with ADHD might opt for fast food and other options which aren’t as healthy because they are more convenient. But foods like these may disrupt blood sugar levels, which affects your mood and energy.
Fortunately, there are some tips you can incorporate into your routine to make sure you’re regularly eating healthy meals, such as:
· Go to the grocery store with a list so you don’t get distracted and forget important items.
· Buy frozen or pre-chopped ingredients to make cooking easier.
· Eat whole grains, lean protein, and high-fiber veggies to feel full and stay energized.
· Set aside one day for making meals for the week rather than trying to figure out what to eat every day.
Wellness Habit #4: Find exercises that you enjoy.
Excess energy is common in people with ADHD, especially those who primarily have hyperactive symptoms. Exercise can help to relieve that energy while also helping you to live a healthier lifestyle overall. Better yet, there’s quite a bit of research showing that exercise may help reduce ADHD symptoms.
There’s no single exercise that’s best for ADHD. Instead, a better way to approach physical activity is to find what you like so you’ll be more likely to stick with it. That might be cycling, jogging, dancing, yoga, or team sports depending on what you prefer to do to be active. You can also switch things up from one day to the next if you tend to get bored of doing the same activity every day.
ADHD can cause problems with procrastination and time management, both of which can make it hard to stick to a daily fitness routine. If that’s the case, remember that you can exercise in small spurts instead of in one long session. When you’re feeling distracted or short on time, you could split up your daily exercise into three 10-minute segments rather than one 30-minute session, for example.
Wellness Habit #5: Know your limits.
When you have ADHD, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and put a lot of pressure on yourself. One important facet of your wellness journey is learning your boundaries. Don’t take on more than you can handle, and give yourself plenty of time to complete tasks. It’s easier said than done, but the more you get to know what your limits are, the better you’ll be able to manage your ADHD in the long run.