The symptoms of ADD/ADHD in adults can cause stress for everyone. Few of us can stay calm when we have an important appointment in 15 minutes and can’t find our keys. Or when we miss the bus and know we’ll be late for work yet again. Or when we accidentally disappoint someone we care about because of forgetfulness, spacing out, or not finishing what we started.
What’s interesting is that chronic stress or anxiety can cause symptoms that mimic ADD/ADHD. So if one already has ADHD, stress can make life a little (or a lot) harder. Some examples are decreased short term memory, difficulty retrieving stored memories, and inability to focus. Irritation and impulsivity can also get worse and so can difficulty sleeping. But don’t despair! There is hope. Here are a few strategies to try:
1. Start a planning routine every day so you don’t feel so out of control. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or before bed at night, take some time to plan out your day. In figuring out priorities, what will have a negative consequence if it doesn’t get done or at least addressed in the next few days? In all my years as an ADHD coach and in my personal life, I’ve learned that planning is crucial to well-being.
2. Find a way to take timed breaks from stress. I remember reading that even taking a short break from stressful thoughts can help bring our bodies back to equilibrium. A crucial aspect to giving ourselves a break is to time it if we have other responsibilities or work to finish. Not getting back to what we’re supposed to be doing can be even more stressful, kind of defeating the purpose. So set your phone for a half hour or whatever feels right.
At work, some examples of a stress relieving activity might be going for a walk around the block and trying not to think about work. A good strategy is to listen to sounds as you’re walking.
You could also force yourself to take a coffee or lunch break and read something captivating, inspiring or thrilling that has nothing to do with work. No matter how busy you are, your brain will function better after a rest. At home, do whatever feels relaxing for a specified period of time. Just do what you can to forget your worries for a while.
3. Practice speaking up for yourself. Sometimes that means saying “No” or at least asking for some time to consider a request that may put you over the edge. Helping other people or taking on additional tasks is a good thing to do unless it makes you feel overwhelmed or too stressed out to function well.
4. Read books or articles about the challenges of ADHD and how to to overcome or cope with them. Work with a qualified ADHD coach who can help you manage life with ADD/ADHD.
Any of the above can help. Stress can be a good thing when it helps us get things done or function at our best. But for too many of us, stress makes life harder and whatever we can do to lessen it is a gift.