My diagnosis came after my father passed away. While I was grieving for the loss of my father, I basically lost the ability to focus on absolutely anything. Now, don't get me wrong, grief can do that to anyone, but this was an extreme case. All I did every day was sit and watch Netflix. I would get up to start a task and end up right back on the couch. They say that depression and grief can be a huge trigger for ADHD symptoms to flare up and it definitely was for me.
Not knowing what my problem was, but knowing that I absolutely needed to fix it, I went to a psychologist. After some discussion and answering a LOT of questions about myself and my life, he diagnosed me. His theory was that it is something I have had most of my life (and looking back, it makes PERFECT sense). The thing that helped me manage without medication though was that I developed very efficient coping mechanisms, so my ADHD never really held me back in life (that's not entirely true, I definitely have deficits because of it, but they never kept me from being an A student and a high achiever).
After my father passed away, I couldn't rely on my coping mechanisms through my grief. I was put on medication for a short while and it was just long enough for me to
A.) get a bit further along in the grieving process so I could go back to my coping mechanisms and
B.) realize that the medication I was on had some very unpleasant side effects for me.
First off, I want to be very clear that I am NOT offering medical advice. Some people NEED medication to cope with this disorder. Do NOT go off your medication based on anything some random mom blogger says works for her! Nope, don't do it people!
Secondly, I don't think these coping mechanisms are specific to people living with ADHD either. I think they can be helpful for ANY busy mom! I hope you will see what works in your life and what doesn't, that is my purpose in sharing this post with you.
Without further ado (considering we're at almost 400 words of "ado" at this point...), here are my top 10 Coping Mechanisms for living with Adult ADHD:
1. Write it down - Write it down. Write it down in multiple places! If you have ADHD you know we're always on the hunt for that "PERFECT" System. That planner that makes all the difference. That book that gets our lives fully in order finally. Let me just tell you, it's likely not going to happen. The way our brains are wired, it will work for a bit...we'll be utterly obsessed with it and then bam...it's boring and you are over it once again.
The planner I have had the most success with is the Erin Condren planner (of course, the one that cost an arm and a leg, right? But I think my frugal nature wins here because when you use such a pricey planner, you feel obligated to use it!). I also utilize a notebook, sticky notes and my phone. I write things down in multiple places and often take pictures of my calendar so I also have a visual in my phone of my schedule.
2. Use alarms - There's a meme that says something like I am either completely uninterested or utterly obsessed. This is so true for me. I can easily become incredibly engrossed in what I am doing to the point that the outside world and time as we know it does NOT exist. I'd love to say that that happens when I am working or playing with my kids, but it's usually when I am doing something that isn't a productive use of my time (because that's just the way the world works, right?).
Sometimes I need audible cues to move me on to the next task. This is why you will rarely see me without my phone nearby. I have alarms that ring all throughout the day reminding me about things like "Pick up the kids", "Start dinner", "Pay this bill", etc.
3. (On the other hand) Eliminate Distraction - Even though my phone is right there, I don't always answer it when it rings. In fact, I rarely do. A phone conversation (even a short 30 second one) can totally derail my focus for an ENTIRE day. Same goes for Facebook messenger, impromptu house visits from friends or family, or really anything that takes me away from the task at hand (oooh shiny!).
Because I work from home, and my MIL works from home as well (and lives with us), I often have to put music on VERY LOUD (with earphones) because if I hear her while I am trying to work...even a little bit, I completely lose focus for the rest of the day. I can sometimes get it back, but for me, I know I generally have ONE pocket of the day (thankfully during the time the kids are at school) during which my ability to focus is at its PEAK and I HAVE to take advantage of it.
It's unfortunate and I wish I could focus without it, but I've always been like this. I remember even finding it difficult to concentrate in school when a teacher would come in to talk to my teacher. Any stray from my "normal" and my focus is just GONE.
4. Organize In A Way That Makes Sense to YOU and YOUR Brain - This can be tough if you live in a household with others that don't "get" you. Thankfully, my husband is perfectly accepting of some of my more "ecentric" ways.
The way that life looks organized to you might not be how it looks organized in Martha Stewart Living. For me, if it is in a drawer or a closet, it is like it doesn't even exist. Therefore, important things need to be in eyesight for me or at least along daily traveled paths. This can lead to a cluttered look, but oddly it leads to a LESS cluttered mind.
5. Enjoy the Fun Things In Life and Keep Busy! - Take ADVANTAGE of your ability to flit from thing to thing when you are in an unfocused state of mind. Sometimes we have to view this disorder through rose colored glasses and delight in our ability to overlook the piling up laundry and stack of dishes in favor of playing with the kids.
Have fun with it! If you can't focus on a task, sometimes forcing yourself is the worst possible thing you can do. Take that moment as a reminder that there are things that you enjoy doing that don't require you to hyper focus. Play with your kids and jump from project to project. Go tackle something small so you feel that BIG win from accomplishing something on your to do list. I have friends who literally cannot sit down if their house is messy. Thankfully, I don't have that problem 😉
The Keep Busy part comes into play because I find I get depressed much more easily when I allow myself to have too much downtime. Too much downtime usually means I am letting too many important things GO and when I give myself time to reflect on everything I should be doing, I end up giving myself a giant guilt trip!
NOTE: This might be the "H" part of my ADHD. I don't have ADD, so I'm not sure if this tip would be helpful for you if you don't have the "hyper" aspect of the disorder!
For some this might be more play, some it might be more exercise, for some it might mean more volunteer work. Whatever productive/busy looks like for YOU.
6. In Addition to Alarms, Set Timers - Sometimes, you need to GET THINGS DONE. Your brain is not cooperating and you just can't do it. You don't want to and it it feels physically difficult to do so. There are times though where you just HAVE TO. If you can, break it up into chunks. Work on it for 10 minutes and tell yourself you are going to do this for 10 minutes.
You are going to give this 10 minutes and you are going to set a timer for it. Know that you can do ANYTHING for 10 minutes. 10 minutes of focus for someone with ADHD can be physically stressful, but you CAN do it. Set timers and then reward yourself when the time is up.
7. Keep 2 Ongoing To Do Lists At All Times - One to do list for today and one for long term. One of the most frustrating things about being ADHD is that we are usually pretty creative people. However, you would NEVER know it because as soon as an idea flits into our brain, BAM! Out the window the very next second. So frustrating!
Keep a running list of what needs to get done today/now/this week, but also keep a running list of things you want to do for the future. Like, if I decide I want to make my daughter's 4th of July outfit, I might put that on my list NOW (for reference, I am writing this article in MARCH). Otherwise, July 3rd will peep up on me and I'll be so disappointed in myself for not getting my act together and not remembering until that day. This ongoing to do list is really the secret to me looking like I have it all "together" btw 😉 . I would constantly be last minute doing things without it!
8. Tell Others - Now I'm not telling you to tell others so that they will pity you. I'm also not telling you to tell others so they will let you off of the hook. No, tell others so they can help hold you accountable. Also, I find telling others is helpful to explain some of my personality quirks 😉 I've also learned that a lot more people deal with the issues I do (diagnosed or not) than you might think!
9. Have a Schedule and Stick To It - I try to be a bit flexible when I can, but for the most part we have a schedule and we stick to it. It changes daily based on various activities, but it helps keep my sanity. To be successful with ADHD I think you NEED to have a schedule. The clock gets away from us too quickly otherwise (plus I abhor lateness basically to a fault!)!
10. Allow Yourself Grace - Oh Grace. It's a beautiful thing and as moms we suck at giving it to ourselves. You are going to forget things, you are going to let time get away from you, you are going to do a halfway job on something you wanted to be awesome at. You are going to have friends over when your house is a mess. You are going to be embarrassed that you dropped the ball somewhere. It's going to happen. I'm going to let you in a little secret though, it happens to EVERYONE...ADHD or not. Give yourself GRACE. I'm not saying use your ADHD as a crutch or as an excuse, but when you tried your best and it wasn't good enough, acknowledge it and move along.
I hope these tips help someone. Thankfully as long as I write things down, have people to hold me accountable, build some fun into my days, keep a schedule and eliminate distractions, I function pretty well in my day to day life. I know that probably seems like a lot, but start small and work your way up. I falter constantly, but find when I get back to these basics, my life starts moving along smoothly and I go to bed feeling productive and successful every day.
Do you have any tips for dealing with ADHD? I'd love to hear from you about your experiences below!