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My whole life is a reflection of what’s it’s like to live with untreated ADHD, because for 50 years, I didn’t know I had it. Looking back, I can see how my ADHD impacted my life before the age of about 21, before I came across these natural ADHD interventions that improved my life immeasurably.
But before the age of 21, I was a hot mess express. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t stay organized or neat or remember things. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t tell time until I was like 14 or understand math, or any of these things that are very common for ADHDers. I just thought it was stupid. But something happened at the age of 21 and it changed everything
Whether or not it’s diagnosed or you’re taking medications or in therapy or anything like that, all of these tools will make your life better on multiple of levels.
1. Physical Movement – The Next Best Thing to ADHD Meds
The number one thing that I did to manage my ADHD naturally, and it literally changed my life, was to start moving my body on a regular basis. When I first started exercising regularly, I was 210 pounds. I was the most non-athletic person you could ever meet.
I hated moving my body, but more than that, I hated being overweight. When I was 21 years old, it was not in any way acceptable to be heavy and it wasn’t the norm, either. So I was completely ignored by men, I couldn’t find anything to wear, and I didn’t like how I felt on my body and my skin.
Finally, I got to a point where I was just so sick of being overweight that the fact that I hated to exercise started to become, the lesser of two evils. I remember the day so clearly when I put on my cheap pair of Keds, and I ran around the block. I gave myself hideous shin splints, but I got up the next day and I did it again, and again, and I just kept doing it.
I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t consistent and I was just making stuff up as I went along. But the more I started to see a little glimmer of results, the more hyper-focused I got and the more consistent I became.
I still don’t like to work out to this day, but I do it every day because I realize the magic that it provides my brain. So if you look at the neuroscience when you work out, you send blood flow to the brain. When that happens, you have better access to your prefrontal cortex, which, is what helps us manage ADHD symptoms naturally.
Exercise opens the door to your executive functions where you make better decisions, you’re less scattered, you’re more organized, and therefore you do better in your relationships, at work, in school and in life. So that’s what happened as I started working out.
I ended up dropping 80 pounds, but the best part was that I such a better person when I worked out. It’s the one thing I’d tell any ADHDer to start with – no matter what.
2. Take Sleep Seriously
Originally, the motivation to start taking my sleep more seriously was because I knew that when I slept better, I was able to get through my workout with less dread.
I also started to realize that when I went to sleep late, I was cranky, I ate way too much sugar and I didn’t wanna move my body.
So all of a sudden I’m now working out on the regular and I’m sleeping instead of going out partying with my friends at night and I’m saving money, I’m eating better, and I’m just doing a better job at life in general.
Sleeping more would never have occurred if I didn’t start working out, so one was definitely a result of the other.
3. Create a Personal Space that Nurture’s You
As a result of being in better shape, being more alert and focused and sleeping better, I started making more money at my job (bartending). I also wasn’t wasting money on going out as much, so I had more money to invest in myself.
At the time, I was living in a rented house with a bunch of other kids that worked in hospitality, so I my space was always chaotic, crowded and noisy. There was no opportunity for downtime or proper relaxation – something that this introvert desperately needed.
So finally had enough money to afford my own space and set up in a way that worked for me. This completely changed my energy, my sense of security, and my sense of peace. I’ve always been a highly anxious person, but it wasn’t until I got my own apartment that I was able to start managing it a little bit better.
Granted, I was still very disorganized and messy. There was never a point in my life that I achieved anything close to the perfectionist standard I had in my mind, but these small steps made my life so much more manageable.
Over time, I noticed that when my little apartment was full of papers and dirty dishes, it added to my anxiety. So on the days when I took the time to wash the dishes that were in the sink, or organize the papers and go through them and decide what it is I needed to do with them, I started to sense this real sense of relief.
That awareness helped me to build better housekeeping habits that stick with me to this day. I can’t stand mess or clutter and having a nice clean home is so gratifying for me, and has a huge impact on managing my ADHD.
4. Yoga is Insanely Effective for Managing ADHD Naturally
Years later, I was in my mid-thirties and going through a lot of life changes. I had lost my mom to cancer, went through a divorce and moved from Toronto to California. At this point, I still didn’t know I had ADHD, but I knew something was off with me because the stress felt overwhelming.
Without knowing what else to do, I tried yoga at the recommendation of a friend. I started going to a studio a few days a week, and what started out as just a way to manage my stress, ended up turning my life on a whole new path.
Within a year, I had decided to throw caution to the wind (hello, ADHD), quit my job and move to India to learn how to teach yoga. That experience was life-changing and while it didn’t turn out as I would have expected it, it was still perfect.
Yoga is AMAZING for ADHDers because it helps with breathing, balance and getting present. Many ADHDers find they can’t sit still for mediation, but can get even more quiet and at peace when they do a gentle flow practice.
Also, because Yoga challenges your balance, it stimulates the cerebellum which helps to access your pre-frontal cortex and all those beautiful executive functions. I’m always my best self when I get a 30-minute practice in.
These days I practice about 3 times per week from home. I find it easier to follow a video than go to a studio. My favorite yoga is on Alo Moves and BODi, but you can also find great stuff on Youtube.
5. Create Systems and Structure that Work for Your ADHD
Creating systems and processes to automate the crap out of everything and setting up structure in your day is critical to beating overwhelm. This is why I do my weekly and monthly reviews and it’s also the reason I love notion so much. It’s a system that I can’t do without!
I love watching planning videos on Youtube and seeing how other people stay dedicated to being intentional with the way they spend their time. I also love having systems in my house, like pills by the coffee maker and Alexa to remind me about appointments and tasks. Having all these different systems and routines set up so that I don’t have to spend precious cognitive energy figuring out how to do those things myself in the moment, is priceless.
Having systems, customized systems that work for you and your life and your preferences is important for running on full steam towards your goals and the life you want.
So that’s what I did to manage my ADHD symptoms naturally for over 50 years! Today I still do all these things along with everything I learned in my ADHD coach training.
If you want support creating your best ADHD life, then consider working with me as your ADHD coach and mentor.
You don’t have to live in a constant state of overwhelm.