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Managing ADHD with or without medication can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. As someone who had been living with ADHD for years, long before I knew it, or used medication to treat it, I learned that it’s not just about “trying harder” or “being more disciplined”. Instead, it’s about creating a lifestyle that supports your unique needs and helps you thrive.
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Why Managing ADHD (with or without Meds) is SO Important
Contrary to popular belief, ADHD is not just a lack of focus or willpower. It’s a body/mind disorder that affects the state of your nervous system, which in turn affects your access to executive functions. This why it’s so important to understand how to manage it. Even with ADHD meds, without proper management strategies your symptoms will only seem worse.
The good news is that there are many effective ways to manage ADHD, that has nothing to do with medication. It’s not that I’m anti meds. I actually use them and they have a ton of benefits. However, the pill is NOT the skill. You still need to learn how to manage your ADHD so you can live well now, and as you age.
Here are some of the ADHD management strategies that have worked for me:
Create spaces that feel comforting and calm
Our environment plays a huge role in our ability to function and feel at peace. That’s why it’s important to understand how your surroundings influence your state of mind. Start by taking a look at your home, office, car, or anywhere else you spend a lot of time. Which spaces give you the most trouble? What aspects of them are causing you friction? For example, maybe your workspace is cluttered and disorganized, causing you to feel overwhelmed and distracted.
Once you’ve identified areas that need improvement, make a list of tolerations – the little things that you tolerate on a daily basis that seem small enough to ignore but collectively drain your energy. What needs fixing, adjusting, or decluttering? Try to avoid trying to fix everything at once. Instead, focus on making micro-changes that are easier to manage.
Prioritize Self Care + Exercise
Exercise is one of the most effective natural treatments for ADHD. It helps to regulate the nervous system, improve mood, and increase focus and attention. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, such as walking, swimming, or cycling.
But self care goes a little further than just movement. It’s how you treat yourself, what you say to yourself and how you choose to spend your time, money and energy. The more intentional you are about choosing what fills your cup, the more in control of your nervous system you will be.
The last thing I’ll say about self care, is to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. This is essential for managing ADHD. Lack of sleep can exacerbate symptoms of ADHD and make it more difficult to focus and stay on task. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and establish a relaxing bedtime routine to help you wind down.
Get Serious about Spiritual or Personal Growth
I’m not saying you have to adopt religion or join a monastery. But I am saying that creating an intention around developing your spiritual self, can help you manage your ADHD symptoms.
For example, building a Mindfulness Practice has been such a huge game changer for me. Mindfulness isn’t just meditation. It’s the practice of being present and non-judgmental. It can be an effective way to reduce anxiety, improve mood, and increase focus and attention.
I really encourage you to try to incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine, such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga. One or all of these approaches can help you stay present, focused and manage your nervous system so you can access your prefrontal cortex.
If spirituality doesn’t sit right with you, consider this exploration through the lens of personal development. As you continue to learn more about yourself, including your strengths, values, and needs, you’ll start to make choices that align to what you want, instead of what you don’t want.
Build Simple Structure and Routines
Creating a routine can be incredibly helpful for managing ADHD. It provides structure and predictability, which can reduce stress and overwhelm. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, and schedule your activities and tasks in a consistent manner.
I have shared my morning routine in the past, and I encourage you to think through how you can get your day started on the right foot.
Structure is what keeps us on track! We’re not always aware of what we’re focused on, or the passage of time, so by creating external structure, we can help ourselves manage our focus, and our other ADHD issues.
Personally for me, structure is about scheduling and planning. I need this to maintain my business and my life. I lean heavily on Notion to mange my day to day schedule, and it’s also how I organize my business. I honestly have no idea where I’d be without it!
Create + Cultivate Supportive Relationships
Managing ADHD can be lonely and isolating, and it’s important to have a support system in place. This can include friends, family members, coaches, therapists, or support groups. Reach out to others who understand what you’re going through and can offer encouragement and support, but also be mindful about minimizing time with people who don’t support you.
Personally, I’ve found the most support through other ADHDers who understand what I’m going through and can relate to how we see the world. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone in your experiences or struggles. It’s also equally important to focus on the positive however, and not just share the hard parts. This comes back to intentionality, mindfulness and personal development.
Managing ADHD Comes Down to Managing Your Lifestyle
Managing ADHD (with or without medication) is possible, but it requires a holistic approach that addresses your entire life. That might sound daunting, but it’s not something that you can fix in a day. This is a life-long approach to understanding your needs and getting them met.
Remember, managing ADHD is not about “fixing” yourself or trying to be someone you’re not. It’s about embracing your strengths, understanding your challenges, and creating a life that works for you.
So if you’re struggling with ADHD, know that you’re not alone. There are many effective strategies that can help you thrive and live the life you want.