Living with Adult ADHD

Living with Adult ADHD

Minimize symptoms of adult ADHD with lifestyle changes and professional help.

Work, money, relationships, emotional well-being, and health—ADHD in adults can affect many areas of your life. And when you've been living with adult ADHD for a long time, it's easy to get used to the chaos it causes. But here's the reality: It's not okay for ADHD symptoms to disrupt your life. You don't have to "just live with it." And there are many things you can do to minimize your symptoms and improve all areas of your life. Use these strategies to get control of ADHD:

Exercise. Physical activity is a great way for anyone to reduce stress and burn off excess energy. But it's especially beneficial for those coping with ADHD in adults. It's a great outlet for the restless, often boundless energy that people living with adult ADHD tend to have. It also boosts blood flow to the brain, enhances your mood, and decreases anxiety. What's more, exercise helps improve alertness and focus. Aim for at least 30 minutes of brisk walking, jogging, or cycling every day. (Find out the top 10 benefits of walking.)

Sleep. Many people who have ADHD also have problems with sleep. You may not get enough sleep, or you may wake up feeling unrefreshed. People living with adult ADHD also have higher rates of sleep disorders, including restless legs syndrome (RLS) and sleep apnea. Sleep problems and ADHD can aggravate one another, creating a cycle of worsening symptoms, so make sleep a priority. If you have trouble getting 7 to 8 solid hours a night, talk with your doctor. (To help you get your ZZZs, here's a list of bedtime do's and don'ts.)

Relax. Stress is something we all deal with it, but it takes a greater toll on people living with adult ADHD. That's because the symptoms of ADHD in adults cause stress, and stress exacerbates ADHD symptoms. Break the stress cycle by doing something relaxing every day. Here are a few strategies that can improve mood, decrease nervous energy, and increase focus.

Eat better. Several studies suggest that people who have ADHD may benefit from eating a diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids, complex carbohydrates, and good-quality protein. Limiting your intake of sugar, simple carbohydrates, and food additives may help as well. Read this article for more information on diet and ADHD.

Get organized. Stacks of paperwork, piles of clutter, a succession of lost items, missed deadlines, and unfinished tasks -- these are the signs of ADHD. And that can be pretty stressful. So it's time to get organized. Find a system that works for you. If you'd like to go paperless, turn to technology. Use computer programs to keep track of your schedule; the names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers of your contacts; the dates of birthdays and anniversaries; and other information. Pay bills online with automatic bill pay whenever possible. Use software programs that create lists for you and set alarms and reminders to help you stay on track. Find a program that syncs to your smartphone, if you have one. Let these electronic devices pinch-hit for your brain when you're feeling overwhelmed.

Or if paper records are more your style, use file folders, day planners, labels, and a good color coding system. A good rule to live by? Develop a system that means you touch every piece of paper that comes across your desk only once. Pay bills, answer correspondence, and toss out junk mail immediately to keep paper from piling up. Set aside 20 minutes every day to organize and keep clutter to a minimum. If you're still overwhelmed, hire a professional organizer to help you sort things out. Here are four more tips for tackling clutter.

Develop your skills. ADHD in adults causes problems with executive function, which is the ability to organize, plan, pay attention to details, and manage time. Working with an ADHD coach or skills trainer can help you improve in these and other areas. Trainers may come to your home or conduct sessions over the phone or via e-mail. They can also teach you skills to improve communication, boost productivity, manage stress, and deal with procrastination.

Taking Control
Living with adult ADHD doesn't have to interfere with your everyday life. Lifestyle changes and ADHD treatment professionals can help you get better control of your symptoms. And all those areas that were once a source a stress can start to feel satisfying, productive, and under control. Learn about medical treatments for ADHD, from prescription medication to counseling and therapy options.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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