When I discovered I had adult ADHD, the puzzle pieces of my past reformed themselves, and things started making sense.
The clutter. The procrastination. The unfulfilled dreams and goals. The way I constantly asked my husband what had just happened in the movie we were watching, because my mind had drifted off—again.
I have an ADHD brain, which means I struggle with focus, organization, emotional regulation, and other executive function challenges.
After some grieving for not understanding how my challenges were connected sooner, and for the eroded self-esteem that my ADHD had helped create, I threw myself into research about how to manage my symptoms and increase my productivity.
While I may pursue medication to treat my ADHD in the future, for now, I’m excited about using natural solutions. Here are some tips to naturally work with your unique ADHD brain chemistry and get sh*t done.
- Know when you’re at your best. For me, it’s first thing in the morning when I’m at my sharpest and clearest—and most caffeinated. With that knowledge in hand, I plan my day so that I start the day tackling whatever tasks require the most concentration.
- Schedule regular breaks. For every 50 minutes that I work, I take a 10-minute break. During that time, I sit down and read for pleasure. This keeps me motivated when I’m struggling to stay focused—when I know that in 20 minutes, I get to read something I’m enjoying, it keeps me going. It also gives my brain a break, and when I return to work, I’m ready to dig in again.
- Get an accountability buddy. This has been the most effective tool that I’ve recently integrated. Every week, I have friends who I commit certain projects to—for instance, I promise some writing buddies that I’ll write 2,500 words of my memoir that week—and then I’ll report back to them the following week. I don’t exactly know why this works so well, except that if I tell Jody I’m going to write 2,500 words, I darned well don’t want to report back to her that I didn’t follow through. In terms of moving forward on projects that scare me, and projects I would otherwise procrastinate, this has been the most motivating and effective tool I’ve found. It’s the only thing that’s gotten me going on the writing project I’ve put off for years.
- Dial back electronic notifications. The notifications from my smartphone were siphoning away too much of my attention. Since I already struggle to stay focused, I literally can’t afford to have my attention dragged around even more. If this is an issue, and the constant beeps and dings of your phone are driving you to distraction, consider changing your notifications. I realized I didn’t need to hear the “bing” every time I got a new (usually spam) email, and that having news headlines constantly popping up was not only distracting, but wasn’t great for my mental health, either.
- During low periods in the day, try exercise and protein. My energy tends to sink in the afternoon, and I find it harder to concentrate. Knowing this, the early afternoon is the perfect time for me to take a brisk walk or do yoga to get my heart rate up, release endorphins, and regain focus. Additionally, research has shown that a blast of protein can kick-start the neurotransmitters that promote alertness. Harnessing the tools of exercise and nutrition to support us through the more sluggish times of the day can yield great results.
With a bit of planning and understanding of our energy patterns, we can outsmart our ADHD and become more productive.
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Image: Bonnie Kittle/Unsplash
Editor: Catherine Monkman