Do you sometimes feel your ADHD symptoms are in the driver’s seat and you are not able to steer your life?
In my last post, I made the case that mindfulness, as part of your ADHD treatment plan, can change this. And I focused on how you can easily incorporate meditation into your mindfulness practice. If you have not read it, check out, “Here Is How You Can Easily Use Meditation to Treat Your ADHD.”
But there is more to mindfulness than just meditation.
Being mindful also includes adopting practices that allow you to be more intentional in your daily life. And when you do this you will be able to steer your life, rather than letting your ADHD be the driver. Below are strategies you can use to be more intentional — mindful — in various contexts.
Do You Have a Habit of Following the Squirrel?
I know, as an adult with ADHD, you can point to countless times when you wish you were more intentional.
Maybe you said or did something you wish you had not. In other instances, you made promises in the moment you weren’t even sure you could keep. And then there are those days you put in a lot of hours, but don’t do your most important work. So, after the fact, you end up thinking:
- “I wish I wouldn’t have said/done that.”
- “I really don’t have time to do that. Why did I promise…?”
- “It is already 6:00 pm! I meant to…”
“Hey look! A squirrel!” I bet you’ve heard this joke applied to adults with ADHD many times. Sometimes it’s funny, and other times it really isn’t, right? The good news is you can learn how to be more intentional.
Because, while many of your challenges are due to your brain wiring, there is also a habitual component. That is, no doubt, your ADHD makes it difficult to be intentional. But you have also developed a habit of doing whatever comes to mind. And, you will do more of what you are used to doing unless you work on making it different.
Makes sense, right?
The strategies below will help you change this habit, as well as help you manage your ADHD symptoms. Because you really can adopt new habits and drop those that do not serve you well.
Using Mindfulness to Manage Your Emotions When You Have ADHD
Think of the last time you exploded with anger, sadness, or frustration, seemingly out of nowhere. Your ADHD challenges with emotional regulation likely impact your ability to be intentional across many areas of your life.
So, managing your emotions is the best place to start exploring how to be more mindful. And the first step is to know the cues your emotions may spill over in ways you do not want. These cues may include:
- physical cues, such as a tight stomach, pounding heart, etc.
- thoughts, cognitive cues, of revenge, putdowns and more
- actions or behavioral cues, including shutting down, retreating, being sarcastic, not making eye contact or clenching your fist
- emotional cues, like feeling disrespected, humiliated, rejected or just tired
Once you are aware of the ways your emotions present themselves The next step in managing these emotions is to notice these cues in the moment.
Then pause so you have the space and time you need to decide what to do next. For example, if you are in conversation, you may suggest talking another time or excusing yourself for a short break. If you can’t physically leave the situation such as a large meeting, you might try taking notes, and not talk for a bit.
Above all, remember, emotions are not bad or good. They’re just a message. The key is to learn how to name your emotions in the moment. And then pause to decide what you want to do.
How ADHD Adults Can Be Mindful in Their Conversations
One time you may find it particularly hard to manage your emotions is when you are having conversations where there are strong emotions, the stakes are high and opinions vary.
These are also called Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson et al. And they are exactly the kind that can be difficult for adults with ADHD to manage. So, they can easily go awry. You know that. You also may tend to avoid them because they are so challenging. Sound familiar?
The first step in managing these conversations, when possible, is to identify in advance the various contexts where you might have one. Discussing finances at home or a critical project at work are two examples. And then create a plan beforehand of how you want to approach the conversation.
You may be wondering, “what do I do what I find myself in the middle of one and is unplanned?” When you are in a crucial conversation and it is not possible to plan:
- Recognize the cues (see above) you are becoming excited, frustrated, sad or angry.
- Acknowledge how the story you are making up may be prompting your feelings and actions. (Check out the section in the post, How to Stop Letting Your Stories Guide Your Actions, for an example.)
- Then pause.
- Next, explore whether there is another possible story.
- The last step is to learn how to have healthy conversations. You can start by reading or listening to Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
Yes, it will take a lot of practice. But, being mindful in the moment can help keep your conversations from going south.
More Upfront Thinking Will Help You Do Your Important Work
Another time mindfulness can help you is when you are feeling overwhelmed with everything you need to accomplish. Not surprisingly this is also the time it is hard to slow down and be mindful. You just don’t feel like you have the time. You have too much to do, right?
Yet, one of the reasons you may jump from task to task is the lack of upfront thinking — mindfulness. So, taking the time to do this is critical to following through on your important work. And the first step to adopting the suggested strategies below is to trust it is time well spent.
Check out How ADHD Adults Can Do What Is Important But Not Urgent for an explanation of how to adopt the strategies below.
- Adopt a practice of weekly review.
- Create a list of your projects so you can see what is on your plate.
- Identify at least one next action step for each project.
- Schedule time in your calendar to do your most important task.
- Decide the top 2 to 3 task you must get done each day.
- Use the 4 Criteria Model to decide what to do in the moment.
- Review your intentions throughout the day.
Choosing to practice a couple of the above strategies will help you be more mindful so you can be productive. Which one will you try this week?
Ready to Stop Following the Squirrel?
What is one strategy from above you will experiment with this week so you can be more mindful?