You know it can be hard to make the changes you want to work better with your ADHD. You also know you will need to put effort into maintaining these changes. But you may also hold the perspective exemplified in the quote below from a client (used with permission):
I have all these tools, to do list, etc. I need to perfect the art of using them. My ADD seems to be flaring up a bit, if that can happen, and I am getting distracted in a big way. I cannot let this business fail. The work I am doing and the lives I am touching are too important. I must figure out a way to make this all work.
If the above sounds familiar, it will be useful for you to consider what it will take for you to be resilient when your ADHD symptoms flare up. Because they most certainly will on occasion. And, if you don’t have clarity on your expectations, you might consider throwing in the towel when things become a little wonky. And I know you don’t want to do that, right?
So, consider whether, like my client, you hold implicit expectations like the ones below:
- need to be perfect at the art of using the tools
- cannot let the business fail
- must figure out a way to make this all work
- surprise that ADD is flaring up
Of course, instead of business, you might say, “I cannot fail at XYZ.” But otherwise if this sounds familiar, you’ll want to think about how you can adopt a more supportive perspective and accompanying self-talk. So, you can work effectively with your ADHD, and not be tempted to give up.
#1 Can You Cure Your ADHD?
To be able to effectively manage your ADHD it is important to accept it is a lifelong condition. Though, the way your symptoms manifest will almost certainly change over your lifetime. But you can’t get rid of your ADHD. And it may even feel like a game of whack-a-mole at times.
That is, just when you think you have it all figured out, one of your ADHD symptoms you thought you had under control flares up. It happens. Of course, you can minimize these occurrences by being proactive. One way is to follow a holistic treatment plan. Another way is to practice good self-care by:
- sleeping enough
- eating well
- connecting with others
- practicing mindfulness
- playing plenty
- getting enough downtime
- managing your energy
- handling your stress
But, no matter how hard you try, sometimes things will fall apart. It’s life, right?
Your ADHD may even seem like it’s getting worse when you’re under a great deal of stress. Unfortunately, this may also be the time when you slack on practicing good self-care and following your treatment plan. Makes sense. No doubt, you want to try your best to manage your stress. But it is also important to expect sometimes will be, well, wonkier than other times.
The upside of expecting this to happen on occasion is you can be proactive. That is, if you can anticipate these occurrences, you can also be more compassionate with yourself. You can also be ready with a process for getting back on the wagon, so to speak. So that the gap between things falling apart and getting back to your best practices is short.
One helpful technique is to have a checklist of your best practices for managing your ADHD. So, you can check in as needed to determine what you need to do in the moment to course correct.
# 2 How Do You Perfect Your Strategies and Skills for Managing Your ADHD?
If I asked you, you might tell me, “I’m not trying to be perfect.” Yet, if your approach to adopting new strategies and skills is marked by a desire to do it “just right,” you may inadvertently be striving for perfection. No doubt, it can be a fine line between trying to do something well and trying to do it perfectly. For sure.
So, to be sure you don’t cross over this line, think about your expectations for working with your ADHD before you start on your journey. If you’re interested in learning more about perfectionism, check out The Cost of Perfectionism When You Have ADHD.
Even if you recognize perfectionism is getting in your way, you may be reticent to give up this way of being. Because, over time, you’ve come to see it as a means of striving to do well. And, you may think if you’re not striving to do well, you may believe you will set the bar too low. While you may not recognize it, implicit in this thinking is either you strive for perfection or you do poorly.
If you’re prone to this black and white thinking, you know it can get in the way of persisting. The key is to work toward doing well enough. That is, if you want to address your perfectionism, you will need to temper your tendency to set unrealistically high expectations. To learn how to do that, check out How to Let Go of Perfectionism When You Have ADHD.
The bonus to addressing your perfectionism is you may also increase your productivity. You know you avoid some tasks because you want to do them perfectly. So, if you begin to address your perfectionism, you can address your procrastination at the same time. Win-win!
#3 Do You Just Need to Push Yourself Harder to Maintain the Changes You Want?
Believing you need to force yourself is another way of thinking that may be getting in your way. I know this because it’s not unusual for a prospective client to say to me, “I just need someone to make me get my work done.” And, while accountability is useful, enlisting a taskmaster will never work. At least not in the long run. So, I never agree to play this role.
Think about it. What happens when you tell yourself, “I have to get XYZ done!”? In the moment, you believe this authoritarian message will be motivating. But I bet it doesn’t work. In fact, for most people, especially adults with ADHD, this message is counterproductive.
Because, as you feel forced to work, your stress level increases and you become even more overwhelmed. Subsequently, the resentment you feel at having to do XYZ also increases. Then you may even resist doing what you told yourself you must get done! See what I mean?
Using force for motivation, whether it comes from yourself or someone else, just doesn’t work. At the risk of sounding redundant, it’s important to recognize, regardless of how hard you try, you will fall off the wagon at times. Remember, the hallmark of ADHD is inconsistency. So, don’t try to be 100% consistent.
Instead, remember compassion, rather than force, will help you persist. Toward this end, remind yourself, “One of my challenges is inconsistency. My goal is to shorten the gap so I can get back to my best practices. And forcing myself isn’t going to help me do this. I just need to focus on starting again. And I can do this by referring back to my maintenance plan.
#4 When Can I Go on Cruise Control to Manage My ADHD?
When you’re able to work with some parts of your ADHD well you should celebrate, of course. But be careful. You may also be tempted to shift into cruise control. That would be a risky gambit. Because, going into cruise control might mean losing all the progress you’ve made. Using your maintenance plan will mitigate the chances of this happening. So you will not revert to your old ways.
The temptation to fall back on old habits will happen. Promise. It might happen because you are bored or feel it is too hard to persist. Other times, it might be because of a life event, such as a job loss, illness, etc. And, remember, when you are feeling overwhelmed, there is a greater chance of letting your best practices slide. But you don’t want to backslide for too long, right?
The key to not getting completely derailed is to, yes, have a plan in place to address the occasional detours as they arise. A weekly review of your progress and maintenance efforts will help you stay the course, counter the pull of immediate gratification, and address any relapses.
During these weekly review sessions, ask yourself:
- What went well? What strategies am I using that are contributing to my success?
- Did I have any challenges? Are there strategies I can use to address these challenges?
- If my plan is no longer working, what do I need to do to course correct?
- Do I need support? If I do, what kind do I need?
While you can’t go on cruise control, a commitment to maintaining your progress in managing your ADHD can make life easier.
The Cliff Notes Version
If you are struggling to work with your ADHD now, you can definitely learn new strategies and skills to make it easier. But it is still a lifelong journey because:
- you can’t cure your ADHD.
- the journey won’t be perfect.
- forcing yourself doesn’t work.
- you can’t go on cruise control.
So, once you adopt new skills and strategies, you will also need a plan to maintain your progress and course correct when you occasionally falter. Then it will be easier to get back to your best practices when you trip up on occasion. Because you will. That’s not a bad thing, though. It just is. Right?