Wouldn’t it be great if your mornings were less chaotic and you were more intentional? That is, everyone in your household would get up and out the door. You would transition to your workday. And you would be able to do this without a lot of stress. While not a guarantee, adopting the right habits can definitely make it easier to start your day right.
This isn’t the first time you’ve heard this suggestion. I know.
I’m sure you’ve even thought about and tried many different routines for your morning. But, if you haven’t met with success yet, you may be struggling to decide what your morning should look like. In addition, you may be having a challenge with adopting the new habits you’ve chosen and unlearning old habits.
You may even have fallen into the trap of thinking if habits are good, then more habits are better. Not really. At least not for adults with ADHD.
You need the space and time to follow your energy and interest. Because, if you feel too boxed in, you likely will resent the structure. And, consequently, resist following through. Can you remember a recent time when this happened? Deciding on a morning routine is a matter of finding that sweet spot.
Just enough structure and not too much. Below are some options for you to consider so you can start having a less stressful morning. Wouldn’t that be nice?
How Your ADHD Can Get in The Way of Forming Habits
It’s not as if you don’t already have habits.
In fact, you operate on autopilot out of habit for about 45% of your day. Think of what you typically do when you get up in the morning. Whether or not it’s a helpful way to start your day, you get up and do your thing. So, you know it’s possible to have routines. But you really want to create the right morning routines — ones that will make the start of your day less stressful.
Understanding how your ADHD can get in the way of adopting habits can help you create ones that really work for you. Because this understanding will allow you to address the related challenges along the way. Below are a few possible ways your ADHD may make it harder right now to adopt the habits you want.
- Until you are really on autopilot your challenges with working memory may make it hard to remember the routine(s).
- Even though the habit may really help you, it may not be intrinsically interesting to execute. And, if it’s not stimulating enough to your brain, it can be hard to get started.
- Having ADHD doesn’t mean you can’t pay attention. Rather, it means you pay attention to everything. So, if there are other stimuli pulling at your attention you may get distracted.
- Last, difficulties with transitioning may make it a challenge to stop what you’re doing and engage in the habit.
Knowing the above can help you adopt the right workarounds to address these challenges as you work toward creating and adopting the habits you need.
How Habits Can Help You Manage Your ADHD
You already know habits can make following through on what is important to you easier. Habits are also a way to manage your ADHD symptoms, including the above challenges.
For instance, you’ll need to rely less on your wonky memory. Of course, habits aren’t 100% failsafe. So, you may still forget on occasion. But, once the habit is fairly entrenched in your muscle memory, you’ll just do it. At least most of the time. And it might even feel weird when you don’t engage in the routine.
Also, once you really see and feel the benefits of the habit, you’ll have a visceral connection to the reward. And this anticipated reward will provide your brain the stimulation it needs to get started. Even if the habit itself is not intrinsically interesting. So, then you will have an easier time choosing to do it in the moment
Deciding in advance you want to adopt a particular habit will also make it easier to focus your attention where you want it. Not easy, but easier. Of course, it will likely take a lot of practice and experimenting before you get it “right.” But making the decision and setting the intention is the first step in being able to follow through.
Similarly, it will be easier to manage distractions. Because, once you set the intention to adopt a habit, you can also anticipate possible distractions. And be in a better position to think of workarounds in advance. Then, in the moment, you will be able to say, “I’m doing this and not that!” And follow through on your routine, whatever it is.
Why a Morning Habit is So Critical for Adults with ADHD
You already know transitions are difficult for ADHD adults. And mornings may be more difficult for you because your ADHD brain is still waking up. Having a morning routine can make getting up and out the door easier. As you will be able to avoid some of the morning chaos and stress that can come from needing to make a lot of decisions.
While the routine may not always work, especially if you have kids, having a core structure can help prevent some of the stress. So, you can be in a better place to leave the house prepared for the day. And, if there are other people in your household, interact with them in the way you would like.
In addition, A morning routine will help you to be more grounded as you move into your day.
Whereas the stress and accompanying raised cortisol levels from a chaotic morning can leave you feeling anxious. Then you might react by going into flight-or-fight mode. You know what happens then. You likely default to whatever you’re feeling in the moment and do whatever grabs your attention.
Obviously not the way you want to start your day.
A morning routine can help reduce the stress you may feel in the morning and allow you to be more mindful as you start your day. Then you will be in a better place to pause-and-plan. So you can set the course for your day. Rather than letting the stress from your morning dictate how your day starts.
Below are the steps you can take to do this.
#1 Prep the night/day before
I know this piece of advice is not new to you. And it’s hard to do in practice. But, you get that laying out your clothes, getting lunches ready, creating a launching pad (keys wallet phone etc.) the night before will make the morning easier.
Similarly, deciding what you want to accomplish the next day will make it easier to start your workday. And minimize the chances that you’ll default to some easier, maybe less important task. Because you’ll have the clarity you need to get started on your important work
What is one small thing you can do to prep for tomorrow?
#2 Don’t Hit the Snooze Button
If you get up with the alarm, you may be groggy for about 15 – 30 minutes. However, the ADHD brain may take longer to engage. So, if you take medication, you may choose to set the alarm a half-hour before you need to get up to take your medication.
But, if you’re a fan of hitting the snooze button in the morning, be careful. Because, when you go back to sleep, the hormones that are released send the message to the body that it’s falling into a deep sleep. Then, if you wake during the early sleep cycle or during deep sleep, you may be groggy for up to 2– 4 hours.
#3 Hold Off Looking At Your Phone
Okay, this one is really hard. I know. Because you may already have a habit of picking up your phone first thing in the morning. But when you do this, depending on what you see, you might get distracted by some bit of news before you even have a chance to get out of bed.
So, go ahead, leave your phone across the room.
Then take a few minutes to breathe, really. Rather than letting the stress of the impending day take over your thoughts and your body first thing in the morning, take a minute to breathe. Just a few minutes of deep breathing can help you center yourself before you jump — okay, maybe crawl — out of bed.
#5 Go Through The Motions
The morning is not the time to try to make decisions. Your brain is just not engaged. And this makes it even harder to remember everything you may need to do in the morning. So why try? Instead, have a checklist of what you want to do in the morning. And make sure each of your family members, including your kids, have a checklist, as well.
By doing this you are also deciding what you are not going to do in the morning. So you can more easily avoid one more thingitis
#6 Avoid One More Thingitis
You definitely want to avoid doing “just one more thing.” Because doing so can really wreck your morning, as you are more likely to get distracted. I know you tell yourself you are going to do just one more thing. But then all of a sudden that one thing leads to… And then you’re wondering, “Where did the time go?!!”
So, especially in the morning, it’s important to do the bare minimum to get out the door. And remind yourself: “I’m doing this and not that.”
Okay, I’m not kidding on this one.
Once you leave your house to go to work there’s nothing you can do to get there any faster. So, take a deep breath. Because you definitely don’t want to get in the car in a frantic state, right? It’ll just increase your stress and make it harder to transition into your day. Never mind the dangers of driving in this state.
#8 Plan Your Day
Once you’re ready to start your day, whether at home or at the office, you’ll want to have a routine, too. Because, without a regular routine, it is too easy to default to whatever catches your attention, not necessarily what is most important. A routine also minimizes the stress you may feel of needing to make more decisions.
While it may be ideal to go into your day with a plan you made the previous day, I know this may not be possible. So, before you start your day, create a plan using some of these suggestions:
- If you can hold off tackling your email, that’s great. If you do need to look at it for any urgent matters, go ahead.
- Since you may have forgotten what the day holds, first look at your calendar. So, you know what the fixed landscape of your day looks like.
- Then decide on the 1-3 tasks you must get done that day. The Urgent-Important Matrix can help you make this decision.
- Next, if you have time in your day and have not done so already, block off work time for your projects. Otherwise, you may waste these pockets of time, unsure of what to do.
Being more intentional with your day will help you get to the end of the day and feel that you’ve done what is most important.
If you’re finding that your mornings are really stressful, having a morning habit can change that. What is your morning habit going to look like?