Learn how you can create a treatment plan that works for you to leverage those ADHD symptoms that are helpful and manage others that are challenging.
- A holistic treatment plan is necessary to manage ADHD
- Medication alone is not enough to treat ADHD.
- There are a variety of options adults with ADHD can choose from to manage their challenges and leverage their strengths.
- Spark, the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by Dr. John Ratey
- The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD by Dr. Lydia Zylowska
- How to Stop Fixing Your ADHD and Rely On Your Strengths
- How to Take Charge of Your Sleep When You Have ADHD
- The Four Reasons You Need Exercise to Treat Your ADHD
- Here Is How You Can Easily Meditate to Treat Your ADHD
- Here’s What You Need to Know About ADHD Coaching
- What ADHD Adults Need to Know to Find a Good Therapist
- Confused Whether You Need Therapy or ADHD, Coaching?
Do you know about all the forms of treatment you can use to manage your ADHD? Sure, you know about medication is one form of treatment. But if it’s the only form you use, it just won’t be enough.
You’ve tuned into Scattered, Focused, Done – Reimagining Productivity with ADHD, a podcast for ADHD adults, like you, who want to learn how to adopt the best strategies, tools, and skills, to be able to get your essential work done in a way that works with the way your brain is wired. I’m Marla Cummins. And I’m glad you decided to join me today on this journey to re-imagining productivity with ADHD. So you can get what is important to you done without trying to do it like everyone else.
When you first thought about treating and managing your ADHD symptoms, I know medication topped the list of options. Maybe it was the only option that came to mind. You might also have thought of therapy. And since you’re listening to this podcast, you’re at least aware of ADHD coaching, as well. True, those are three standard methods of treatment.
However, if you consider treatment as a means of reducing the ADHD symptoms that cause you to struggle in your daily life and leveraging those symptoms that can support you in doing what is important to you, you’ll find a plethora of ways to treat your ADHD beyond medication, therapy and coaching. These other possibilities, which I’ll cover in a bit, are likely already familiar to you. And in some cases may appear to just be common sense.
Yet, I think probably your current treatment plan may not include these. And, if they don’t, you’re likely not treating your ADHD as well as you could be.
My hope is, as you listen to this podcast, you’ll consider how to create a more holistic plan to help you best manage your ADHD. A heads up. I know you’ve tried some of the strategies I’ll be talking about, and if you haven’t been able to follow through, it might be your ADHD got in the way of adopting the very strategies that could help you manage your ADHD. Frustrating, I know. But I hope you won’t discount them out of hand and instead consider what kind of support you might need to adopt those ones you think make sense and might help you.
This may seem obvious, but before thinking about how to treat your ADHD, you’ll want to know how it affects you. So you can decide which symptoms you want to minimize and which ones you want to leverage in different contexts. For example, let’s say when speaking to others in meetings, you’d like to be more on point and not.
For example, let’s say when speaking to others in meetings, you’d like to be more on point and not ramble. If this is a challenge for you, your ADHD may no doubt be contributing to this tendency. And the way you choose to address this challenge could be multifaceted.
For example, you could decide you need to eat better and drink enough water so you are at your sharpest, prepare for meetings better, time when you take your medication, if you take medication, use strategies to navigate multi-person meetings better, exercise if possible before meetings that will run longer than two hours.
The bottom line is there’s no magic bullet, just many different options you can choose from to manage situations you find challenging. Once you specify your exact challenges, then you can decide what you need, including support to be able to effectively adopt the workarounds you think might help address those challenges.
Okay, now the part you’ve been waiting for. I’ll start covering treatment options. And this first one may surprise you. But I think the first step should be being aware of and developing your strengths.
I know this is not necessarily a means of reducing your symptoms. Operating from your strengths allows you to avoid having to compensate for your weaknesses. That is, by relying more on your strengths, you might be able to bypass needing to do those things that are challenging for you because of your ADHD symptoms.
As Drs. Hallowell and Ratey, authors have Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction, point out the best way to change a life of frustration into a life of mastery is by developing talents and strengths, not just shoring up weaknesses. For an introduction in how to do this check out my blog post, How to Stop Fixing Your ADHD and Rely On Your Strengths. An apt title, I think.
But, because medication can form the cornerstone of a holistic treatment plan, let’s look at that next.
In short, while the medication is active in your system, it may help minimize the impact of your ADHD even though the symptoms remain. Specifically, it can help you self-regulate better to be able to achieve both your long run goals and your moment-to-moment goals. That is, follow through on your intentions.
As Dr. Thomas Brown, ADHD expert, explains: increased dopamine in the synapse can act almost as a kind of viagra to encourage the brain’s response to the task. The stimulants may counter the chronic problem with motivating oneself to do necessary, but intrinsically not interesting task.
While it has its benefits, medication also has limitations. And may not be very effective in managing your ADHD if it is the only intervention. For example, if you find it challenging to decide what work is essential, and then create an execution plan to follow through on that work, you probably need to upgrade your skills in these areas.
For example, if you find it challenging to decide what work is essential, and then create an execution plan to follow through on that work, you probably need to upgrade your skills in these areas. Medication won’t help. Because, as you’ve probably already heard, pills, don’t teach skills. You get it. If you choose to use medication, you’ll also need to include it as part of a holistic treatment plan.
Another piece of a holistic treatment plan is taking care of your body and brain. And this of course includes the usual suspects, good nutrition, enough water, sleep and exercise. Without these you know, your ADHD symptoms can be exacerbated. That is, you may find it even harder to self-regulate so you can show up the way you want, as well as focus, attend, and follow through on what’s important to you.
If you want to know more about sleep and ADHD, feel free to check out my article, How to Take Charge of Your Sleep When You Have ADHD.
And as far as exercise goes, both anecdotal evidence and studies show that it can help you focus and attend to the task at hand, at least for a period of time after exercising. That is exercise can turn on your brain.
As Dr. John Ratey, author of Spark, the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, notes, “Exercise turns on the attention system, the so-called executive functions – sequencing, working memory, prioritizing inhibiting, and sustaining attention.” And for a briefer explanation, you can check out my article, The Four Reasons You Need Exercise to Treat Your ADHD.
And a holistic treatment plan for ADHD would just not be complete without a mindfulness practice. Wait, don’t stop listening just yet. I know you might balk at the suggestion thinking, “I can’t meditate. I have ADHD.” Hang with me for a bit, as I unpack this idea. While your challenges with self-regulating toward a goal are largely due to your brain wiring, there is also habitual component. That is, because your ADHD makes it difficult to focus and attend you have also developed a habit of not focusing and you’ll do more of what you’re used to doing unless you work on making a different. Makes sense, right?
And without a system for bringing yourself back to the present and taking control of your thoughts, actions and emotions, you just can’t steer your life the way you want. So adopting a mindfulness practice will help you manage your ADHD symptoms and become better at focusing your attention. At the same time, I know your ADHD symptoms may make it challenging to develop this habit. The key to persisting is to remember that your ADHD might make it more difficult and to be compassionate with yourself on this journey. So you might say to yourself, “I know this is worth it, but it’s also really hard.”
One of the first studies released by Dr. Lydia Zylowska, author of The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD, found that 78% of participants reported a reduction in their ADHD symptoms. And since that first study, there have been many more done. If you are curious, just Google the key phrase, mindfulness based therapies for ADHD.
So to make adopting a meditation practice easier begin with a mini habit. Stephen Guise describes these habits as ones that are stupid small. The beauty of this strategy is, while you’re focusing on creating the habit, you will feel very little resistance. Even when the novelty wears off. Here’s one way you can go about doing this. Get up first thing in the morning, go to a cushion or chair you want to use for meditation. Count your breath. As you inhale silently, think one, exhale, two, inhale three, exhale, four, all the way to 10. Repeat three times. Alternatively, you could try one of the one-minute guided meditations. Try doing this for three weeks. And, if you’re interested in learning a bit more, check out my article, “Here Is How You Can Easily Meditate to Treat Your ADHD.”
By the way, another example of mindfulness is telling yourself in the moment I’m doing this and not that, I’m doing this and not that… It’s one of my favorite mantras. Because mindfulness doesn’t have to be only about meditation. It’s about trying to be intentional in the moment.
This next suggestion, forming connections, may seem odd to include in a podcast about treating ADHD. Yet fulfilling your emotional needs by forming positive connections can help you be at your best because you’re generally happier and more content than without these relationships, right? And then it might be easier to progress toward your goals because you will have more energy and creativity in spite of the challenges, like ADHD. Also spending time with supportive friends and family will help you feel less stress. This is certainly a good antidote for the stress you may feel in attempting to manage your ADHD.
In fact, Dr. Hallowell notes that our connections with others is critical to our well-being. It’s so important that making sure you keep up regular contact with a few good friends is included in his list as one of the seven habits of highly effective adults with ADHD. So, I hope you’ll consider this and take out time to connect with family and friends.
But at different points in your treatment journey, you might decide you need professional support. Therapist and ADHD Coaches are two you might turn to. Of course, the type of help they offer to you will depend on the person you’re working with.
But in general, ADHD coaching deals more from a present and future oriented perspective. That is, an ADHD coach can provide you the education, support and accountability you need to reach your goals to be able to get from where you are now to where you want to be in the future. For more specifics on how an ADHD coach might help you do this, you can check out my article, “Here’s What You Need to Know About ADHD Coaching.”
And, while a therapist may do this as well, generally speaking therapy can help you uncover and heal from destructive thought patterns, behaviors, and painful beliefs in order to help you operate better in your daily living.
For example, you may have regrets about your past and wonder what might have been if you had known about your ADHD sooner. Perhaps you’re still suffering from past or present ridicule or criticism as a result of your ADHD and have come to believe you’re just not capable of succeeding. These issues, of course, if not addressed, can impact your ability to effectively take the necessary actions to reach your goals. In order to create a better future for yourself it helps of course, to be in a place where you accept your ADHD diagnosis and can commit to managing it.
So, if psychological concerns like some of the ones I mentioned above are keeping you stuck, you may need to work through some of these with a therapist either before or concurrent with a more action oriented approach, like working with an ADHD coach. If you want to learn more about how to pick a therapist who understands ADHD, check out my article, “What ADHD Adults Need to Know to Find a Good Therapist.”
And, if you’re still just not sure whether you need an ADHD coach or therapist right now, you can check out my article, “Confused Whether You Need Therapy or ADHD, Coaching?”
Learning, how to treat your ADHD can be confusing. I know. So take your time. Think about your challenges, and then consider what might help you address those challenges. There are definitely many options to choose from. And I’ve shared a few to help you get started. I’m sure you’ll find more along the way.
That’s it for now. I’m really glad you joined me and stayed until the very end. If you’re interested in learning more about my work with adults with ADHD, please do check out my website, marlacummins.com. Of course, if you’ve learned a thing or two from today’s podcast, please pass along the link to anyone else in your circles you think might also benefit. And until next time, this has been Scattered, Focused, Done, and I’m Marla Cummins wishing you all the very best on your journey to reimagine productivity with ADHD.