Diagnosed with Adult ADHD

10 Basic Tips for Reducing Stress and Managing Symptoms

If you are an adult who has finally been accurately diagnosed with ADHD after a lifetime of struggles, frustration and self-doubt, the ADHD diagnosis can be the first step in initiating the healing process. Photo © James Ross

Just diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Feeling stressed and overwhelmed may seem like a constant in your life. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to help reduce stress and better manage ADHD symptoms.

Positive changes begin with an accurate diagnosis. Make sure that you are connected with a doctor or mental health professional who is knowledgeable about adult ADHD and can partner with you effectively on a treatment plan.

For many adults with ADHD stimulant medication is often very effective at reducing core symptoms.

Below are 10 additional tips for adults just diagnosed with ADHD.

1. Understand Your Own Unique ADHD

Understanding your own unique ADHD comes with time and education. Learn how your ADHD affects you day-to-day and from situation-to-situation. ADHD is a complex, often misunderstood condition. Symptoms can present so differently from person-to-person and throughout one's lifespan. Actively educate yourself to better understand your ADHD and how to best manage it.

2. Improve Sleep Habits

Many adults with ADHD do not get enough sleep at night, making symptoms even more challenging to manage during the day. There may be a number of reasons for this lack of sleep - an overactive mind that can make settling down to sleep difficult, losing track of time because of getting engrossed in a stimulating activity (computers are often the culprit here), getting to bed too late due to procrastination or the need to do "one more thing" first.
Additionally, medication issues or even an accompanying sleep disorder may be affecting the quality of your sleep. Read tips on getting a good night's sleep.

3. Incorporate Regular Exercise Into Your Day

Exercise and physical activity can reduce stress levels, help you to feel better, improve attention, reduce impulsivity and improve sleep quality.
Be sure to incorporate routine physical activity into each day. Make it simple. Make it fun. Mix it up. That way you will be more likely to stick with it. Read more about exercise and ADHD.

4. Eat Right

A healthy, balanced diet benefits everyone. It is easy to get stuck on the run and make food choices that are not nutritious (junk food, fast food). Many adults with ADHD may find that they can forget to eat at regular intervals if they get caught up in something. As a result, they may find themselves ravenous, eating anything they can get to quickly or eat on the go. Stress can also result in poor food choices (sugary or fatty foods). Cut back on the caffeine if you tend to drink lots of coffee throughout the day. Too much caffeine can make you jittery, agitated and jumpy. It can also interfere with sleep if you are drinking it late in the day or it's causing you to get up several times at night to urinate. Read more about eating right.

5. Simplify and Create Structure

Simplify life by getting rid of clutter and external distractions.
Create boundaries to help you "unplug" from the phone, email and other ways through which people have instant access to you. Create routines and structure to help you stay on track. Psychiatrist, author and ADHD expert Dr. Ned Hallowell explains that once in place, "structure works like the walls of the bobsled slide, keeping the speedball sled from careening off the track."

6. Say "No" More Often

Being impulsive or quick to please others can lead you to say "yes" too often. Taking on too much will soon lead to exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed and even total shut down. You cannot do your best when you spread yourself too thin. And when you fail to do what you promised to do, you may end up letting yourself and others down. We tend to be our own worst critic, and this can pile on the stress even more. It is okay, and actually a great skill, to learn to say "no" more often.

7. Get Support

Connect with positive adults, nurture your relationships and join a local ADHD support group. Ask for help when you need it. Divvy up household responsibilities and delegate tasks.

8. Connect with an ADHD Coach

An ADHD coach can be a great help in providing support and partnering with you to develop skills in such challenging areas as organization, prioritization, goal-setting and time management. An ADHD coach can also help keep you focused and in a problem-solving mode even when obstacles occur. Learn more about ADHD coaching.

9. Readjust Negative Thinking Patterns

If you have just been diagnosed with ADHD, you may have a long history of negative self-talk, of feeling less than, damaged, abnormal or different from others. Now that you have been accurately diagnosed you can look back on your past and understand it in a different way. Consciously work to readjust negative thoughts about yourself. Use self-talk to turn these damaging misperceptions into positive messages about yourself. Celebrate your strengths. Understand you will have setbacks. Rebuild your self confidence one step at a time.

10. Laugh and Have a Sense of Humor

There is nothing better for reducing stress than laughter, fun and humor. Don't sweat the small stuff. Enjoy life. Practice forgiveness. Be kind to yourself.

Read more on Finding Help for Adult ADHD

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