As I was recently reading Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence: Bring Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges it struck me (again) how much adults with ADHD benefit from learning to be present in the critical moments of their lives. I also know just how hard it is for ADHD Adults to do so…
But, while learning to be present may not come easily, because it can really enrich our lives in many ways, some of which I explore below, I think it is worth the time and effort to do so. You may also come to the same conclusion as you read on.
And, while there is much to take away from Cuddy’s book, since I am writing for you, an Adult with ADHD, I focus on how learning to be present can help you manage your ADHD symptoms in an effort meet life’s big and small challenges.
Ready to dig in?
What It Means To Be Present
When you think of being present I’m sure many of you conjure up an image of sitting Buddha-like, chanting “Om,” trying to achieve a mind like water. And, as you are laughing at the thought of attempting this, you are likely also thinking, “There is no way I can do that!”
I get it. And that is definitely not what I am suggesting you learn how to do. The presence I’m referring to is, as Cuddy defines it:
“…the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values and potential.”
In everyday life this includes those moments you are confidently and authentically:
- interacting in an interview.
- socializing at an event.
- making a presentation at work.
- having an earnest conversation with your spouse / child / friend.
And you can only do this when you embody your best self so you can focus on the impression you are making on yourself, not on the impression you are making on others.
Knowing and Owning Your Story Can Help You Be Present
One of the ways to bring your best self to your everyday life, as well as to your small and big challenges, is to know, express and act on the story you tell yourself about who you are when you are at your best.
This is the story about the:
- values that are most important to you.
- traits you have that you hold in high regard.
- strengths you want to nurture.
Telling yourself this story before a challenge, like the ones I mentioned above, helps reduce your anxiety about any anticipated social rejection and increase your openness to others, which will help you be present.
And, what is even better is the components of your story — values, traits and strengths — do not need to be related to the immediate challenge you are facing. Just being grounded in who are you are when you are at your best will help you feel better about yourself.
Then you are more likely to stop worrying, at least in that moment, about the impression you are making on others and increase your ability to be present.
How To Create Your Story
To create your story reflect on and, perhaps, write out answers to the questions below:
- What three words best describe you as an individual?
- What is unique about you that leads to your happiest times and best performance?
- Reflect on a specific time—at work or at home—when you were acting in a way that felt “natural” and “right.”
- How can you repeat that behavior today?
- What are your signature strengths and how can you use them?
Once you know your story you can express and act on it.
Not sure if t will work? As the saying goes, “You have to try it to believe it.”
How Your ADHD Symptoms Make it Hard to Be Present
While reflecting on your story before critical challenges can help you be present, to focus and attend better in the moment you will also likely need to work on managing your ADHD symptoms, such as:
- being impulsive — saying or doing whatever first comes to mind when that may not necessarily be a reflection of your best self.
- struggling to attend because there is just too much going on around you — too much stimuli.
- having a difficult time finding the right words or ideas because of working memory challenges.
- trying hard in the moment to manage your frustration and other emotions.
To get an idea of some of the workarounds you can use to manage some of these challenges click on the links above. Then read on for some more tips below.
4 Techniques You Can Use To Manage Your ADHD Symptoms And Be More Present
While a few of the strategies below are probably familiar to you, you may not be using them now. And one of the strategies may really surprise you.
1. Be Prepared
Yes, you already know being prepared will help decrease your anxiety. But are you doing enough? Whether it is a talk, interview or some other challenge you can prepare for, being ready will not only reduce your anxiety, but also enhance your ability to be present.
Of course, too much planning can get in the way of being present, right? So, at some point you need to stop preparing and focus on getting grounded enough to be present. To be sure, it is a careful balance between preparing and knowing when good enough is, well, good enough.
2. Breathe Deeply
This one, breathing deeply, you’ve probably also heard about before. But have you tried it?
Pay attention to what happens in your body the next time you are facing a challenging situation. Then try breathing deeply. What happens to your feelings of anxiety? They dissipate a bit, right?
This happens because what we do with our body can affect our feelings and cause emotions. So, you can feel better when you practice deep breathing before challenging moments even though the situation has not changed. And you are also able to be more present.
Try it this week and see what happens.
3. Power Posing Your Way To Presence
Now you may be as surprised by this tip as I was when I first read about it. But it really works!
When you pose in powerless ways —— hands clutched, legs crossed, hunched over — you are not present and sharing your best self. Rather, you are making yourself small.
But when you expand your body — power pose — you can feel powerful and present, as Cuddy notes:
“Carrying yourself in a powerful way directs your feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and body to feel powerful and be present (and even perform better) in situations ranging from the mundane to the most challenging.”
So, before a challenging encounter this week, duck into a room and pose like Wonder Woman or Superman. And, if you are interested, check out more about power poses you can use in your everyday life.
Give it a try today.
4. Speak Slowly
You may also have a hard time being present because you have too many ideas swirling about in your head. And, because you have a difficult time organizing them and are afraid you might forget them, you talk too fast. Then you get that look from people that says, “What are you talking about?!”
Speaking slowly and organizing your thoughts in the moment, though it may not come easily for you, is one of the workarounds for this. Just like the power poses, when you speak slowly you will feel more powerful, confident and effective.
At the same time you have to feel deserving of the time and not be afraid to pause. That is you have to feel powerful enough to “take up social space” by speaking slowly.
Questions For You
Where would you like to be more present today? What strategy will you use to do so?