6 tips for managing adult ADHD

Minimize symptoms of adult ADHD with the right treatments and lifestyle changes.

A woman living with adult ADHD walks down a park trail with her dog, getting exercise and relaxing, to minimize his symptoms.

Updated on May 2, 2024.

Work, money, relationships, emotional well-being, and health—attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults can affect many areas of your life. And when you've been living with adult ADHD for a long time, it can be easy to get used to the disruption it causes.  

But here's the reality: It's not okay for ADHD symptoms to unsettle you. You don't have to "just live with it." Aside from getting the proper medical and prescription treatments for adult ADHD, there are actually many things you can do on your own to minimize symptoms and improve your everyday.

Tips to manage ADHD

These strategies may help you manage ADHD. But don't stop here. If you find something else that helps, add it to your routine. Speak with your healthcare provider (HCP) for even more recommendations: 

Exercise. Physical activity is an effective way to reduce stress. But as an outlet for restless, often boundless energy, it's especially beneficial for those living with adult ADHD. Working out can also: 

  • Boost blood flow to the brain
  • Enhance mood
  • Decrease anxiety
  • Improve alertness and focus

Aim for at least 75 minutes of vigorous or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. That’s about 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking, jogging, or cycling each day.

Sleep. Many people with ADHD 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. 

Since sleep problems and ADHD can aggravate one another, creating a cycle of worsening symptoms, it’s important to make sleep a priority. If you have trouble getting seven to nine solid hours a night, talk with your HCP. 

Make a plan to relax. Stress is something we all deal with. It can take a particularly harsh 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.  

Eat a healthy overall diet. Some studies suggest that people who have ADHD may benefit from eating a diet that includes:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in walnuts, edamame, and fatty, cold-water fish like salmon and tuna
  • Complex carbohydrates, such as beans, vegetables, and whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice
  • Good-quality protein, like poultry, seafood, nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy products

Limiting your intake of sugar and processed foods may help, as well.  

Organize. Stacks of paperwork, piles of clutter, a succession of lost items, missed deadlines, and unfinished tasks—these are common to ADHD. And they 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.

If paper records are more your style: 

  • Use file folders, day planners, labels, and a good color-coding system. 
  • 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 and you have the means, consider hiring a professional organizer to help you sort things out.  

Develop your skills. Adults with ADHD often have 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 video conference. They can also teach you skills to improve communication, boost productivity, manage stress, and deal with procrastination. Note that coaching services are not typically covered by health insurance.

Taking control

Living with adult ADHD doesn't have to interfere with your everyday life. Lifestyle changes and adult 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.

Article sources open article sources

The ADHD Center (UK). Why are Sport and Exercise Crucial for ADHD Symptom Control? June 22, 2022.
Mehren A, Reichert M, Coghill D, Müller HHO, et al. Physical exercise in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - evidence and implications for the treatment of borderline personality disorder. Borderline Personal Disord Emot Dysregul. 2020 Jan 6;7:1.
Edward Hallowell, MD. Exercise and ADHD: Dental Floss for Your Brain. ADDitude. April 8, 2024.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: 2nd Edition. 2018.
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). ADHD and Sleep Disorders. Accessed May 2, 2024.
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). Managing Stress When You Have ADHD. Accessed May 2, 2024.
Attention Deficit Disorder Association. Health & Nutrition. Accessed May 2, 2024.
Cleveland Clinic. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. November 17, 2022.
MedlinePlus. Complex carbohydrates. Reviewed July 30, 2022.
Better Health Channel (Australia). Protein. Reviewed January 13, 2022.
Judith Kolberg. 33 ADHD-Friendly Ways to Get Organized. ADDitude. November 29, 2023.
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). Organizing the Home and Office Space. Accessed May 2, 2024.
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). Executive Function Skills. Accessed May 2, 2024.
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). Coaching. Accessed May 2, 2024.

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