Behavioral Strategies to help ADHD
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders diagnosed in people today, according to Psychiatry.org. Symptoms of ADHD include:
- Inability to focus/concentrate (losing things, forgetful, difficulty organizing)
- Hyperactivity (fidgeting, moving around a lot)
- Impulsivity (interrupting, procrastinating)
ADHD can then lead to poor self-esteem, lack of motivation, poor socialization, and a host of other issues if left untreated. This disorder usually begins during childhood but can be missed into adulthood.
ADHD is categorized into three types. Inattentive ADHD is when people have trouble focusing, concentrating, and organizing/completing tasks. Hyperactive type ADHD looks more like people that have trouble sitting still, controlling impulses, and may talk/blurt out too much. Some people with an ADHD diagnosis can present with all of these symptoms, therefore making it combined ADHD.
Part of treating ADHD can be with medications, often stimulants. However, medication is generally not enough by itself as a true lifelong treatment for ADHD. Stimulants also do not work for everyone, as they come with many side effects and can also be habit-forming.
There are many behavioral strategies that can help people cope with ADHD, help to stay on task, control impulsivity, and calm the body. If you practice these coping mechanisms consistently, the results can be quite remarkable.
So let’s dig into some of the most effective habits you can start building to manage adult ADHD.
- Physical exercise is one of the most important non-medication treatments to help ADHD symptoms subside. According to the National Library of Medicine, exercise can help increase focus, decrease hyperactivity, improve motor skills and academic performance, and help hone executive functioning skills like working memory and cognitive flexibility.
- Mindfulness meditation can be highly effective in treating ADHD symptoms. A 2017 study found that 40% of adults find it helpful. Mindfulness meditation can look like sitting quietly, doing a walking meditation, or practicing yoga. It helps increase your ability to focus and complete tasks as well as decrease anxiety and depression. Meditation may sound intimidating to an ADHD mind that has a lot of quick thoughts running through it, but try to focus on the space between each thought. Start with just a few short minutes daily and slowly increase the duration over time.
- Protect yourself from nutrient deficiencies. Deficiencies in magnesium, B vitamins, and essential fatty acids can lead to decreased focus and concentration. A 2016 study found that 72% of kids with ADHD were also deficient in magnesium. A simple blood test from your doctor can determine if you are deficient in magnesium and other vitamins.
- Reduce artificial colors from your diet. For over 30 years, artificial colors have been studied and shown to increase hyperactivity in people, even those without ADHD. If you struggle with ADHD - hyperactive type, it is best to eliminate all artificial colors from your diet.
- Eat a high-protein breakfast and a diet generally low in refined sugars/carbohydrates. Starting your day off with a high-sugar breakfast such as a donut, pastry, or high-sugar cereal will not only cause you to crash and burn but will also cause sugar cravings throughout the day, making that sugar high>crash and burn pattern continue through the rest of the day. Instead try some eggs, a smoothie filled with fruits, veggies, and protein powder, or nut butter spread on an apple or banana.
- A consistent sleep schedule is vital for people struggling with ADHD to improve focus and concentration, keep motivation high, and avoid procrastination. You can achieve this with good sleep hygiene. Stick to a consistent wake time each day, exposing your eyes to natural light for at least 10 minutes within one hour of your wake time (through a window is not as effective as being directly outside). In addition, turn off all electronics, especially those with blue light, at least 1 hour before bedtime for ease in falling asleep.
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you are struggling with ADHD and would like support. There are lots of ways to manage your ADHD symptoms, but it’s about figuring out what works best for you as an individual. Implementing some of these new strategies can be difficult to do on your own, and we are here to help!
My passion is to help you live your healthiest and most harmonious life, but in a way that’s realistic and practical for you as a unique individual on this planet. My philosophy is all about “balance,” never a diet since a diet is not sustainable for life, aka Kill The Diet.