Adult ADHD Is Exhausting! What Can I Do That Works?
7 proven strategies to boost your sense of well-being
Posted Jan 16, 2020
You’re tired of feeling like you’re barely getting by.
You’ve noticed lately that it’s getting more and more difficult to get things done. Everyone around you thinks you have it all together, but you’re beginning to miss deadlines, and you wake up feeling anxious and worried to face another day of being behind on your work.
When you really think about it, you realize that it’s been this way for a long time.
For as long as you can remember, you’ve walked around in a fog, feeling like there are cobwebs in your brain. You assumed this was how other people felt, and you didn’t realize that some people could focus and stay on task without so much effort and anxiety.
You often have a vision of what you want, but you can’t seem to make it happen. You’ve tried harder and harder to get your projects in on time, and while you’re great at certain aspects of your job, you find that many of the important tasks (timesheets, expense reports, billable hours, accounting, etc.), often take a backseat.
You’re confused and wondering why you’re always procrastinating or not achieving your goals even though, deep down, you know how important your goals are.
You’ve bought the books, went to therapy, and listened to podcasts. You’ve maybe even tried medication, but it didn’t feel like a total solution. The strategies worked for a while, but you felt like you were having to figure it all out on your own.
It’s been exhausting, and you’re ready to figure out how to get out of this rut.
You are getting treatment for your mood and ADHD, but life just doesn't have that "zing" that you envision for yourself.
Fortunately, there are brain-based and effective strategies that can help! Positive Psychology is a scientifically-based field of study that seeks to understand what can increase positive emotions and the benefit of positive emotions. It isn't Pollyanna thinking or positive thinking. It is proven strategies that enable individuals and communities to thrive and have helped many people thrive with adult ADHD.
I recommend keeping a curious attitude since it may be difficult to believe that these strategies may be of benefit. The research also shows that different strategies benefit people more or less depending on the fit with the person. Thus, experiment with different strategies, perhaps starting with the ones that seem to resonate most with you.
1. Express Gratitude
The research shows that people who practice gratitude have a greater sense of wellbeing, a better mood, and less anxiety.
There are many ways to practice gratitude. One strategy is to keep a gratitude journal once a week, writing five things for which you are grateful and the reason why.
Another technique is to write a thank-you note to someone who has helped you in some way and to send it.
2. Focus on Your Strengths
In school and work, we are often encouraged to work on our challenges; however, the research shows that focusing on our strengths can improve our productivity and sense of well-being. A study conducted by Michelle McQuaid discovered that 70 percent of professionals who use their strengths are more engaged at work.
You may be aware of many of your strengths and yet may not appreciate others. One resource to help discover your hidden strengths is the VIA Survey.
3. Imagine Your Best Possible Self
Professor Laura King at the University of Missouri-Columbia has performed extensive research demonstrating that imagining and writing about what your ideal life will look like in the future can have a significant impact on your mood. Besides, it can help you think and be more aware of your ideas and goals, clarify your thoughts, prioritize, what's important to you, increase a sense of capacity and control, feel more hopeful about the future, enhance motivation and create a strategy or path to move forward.
In the study, participants experienced a boost in their mood that lasted for weeks and even had fewer physical symptoms for several months.
4. Practice Kindness
Practicing acts of kindness has been shown to boost our mood. One theory of why this is a mood booster is that it increases the focus on others and less on ourselves. Also, it can lead to a greater sense of connection and community, which has long been known to boost mood and resilience.
There are many ways to practice kindness. Acts of kindness can include making a donation, saying hello to a stranger, or buying a gift for a friend. The act can be something small or large. We all do acts of kindness at work and with our family and friends. So, for the maximum benefit, it is important to do something different, something above and beyond your normal acts.
One way to do this is to have one day a week where you do a certain number of kindness acts. The research shows that the benefit is larger when it is done within a short period such as a day rather than spread out over a week. Also, it can be helpful to track the number of kind acts and to notice the impact it may have on the person as well as on you.
5. Set Goals
Several strategies to boost your success with goals include writing down specific and measurable goals, creating a written strategy, and recruiting and tracking your progress and success.
6. Savor Pleasurable Experiences
Another strategy to improve positive feelings is thorough savoring. When you experience something pleasurable such as good music, eating something delicious, or seeing a beautiful sunset, notice it and savor it.
Another strategy is to write, think or talk about past positive experiences. It is helpful to think about the specifics, including colors, sounds, and tastes.
You may select new or additional pleasurable experiences to add to your day such as taking a walk in the park, listening to music, or getting a massage. This can add positive experiences in your life and expand your positive emotions.
7. Practice Mindfulness
There is significant research that shows mindfulness and meditation improve mood and positive feelings. Moreover, meditation has been demonstrated to improve many symptoms of ADHD including focus, concentration and mood regulation.
There are many strategies for increasing mindfulness. One way is to connect mindfulness to an activity you do every day such as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Bring your complete attention to the activity and notice the sounds, sensations, and thoughts that are taking place. A key element of mindfulness is paying attention and noticing when your attention drifts and also paying attention in a non-judgmental way. You may have thoughts of your ability to attend to an activity or not attending and thoughts and opinions of the activity. These are judging thoughts. And just noticing that and allowing these thoughts to pass away.
Developing a formal practice of meditation can also improve the ability of mindfulness. The meditation doesn't need to be extensive. Even a brief practice of 5-10 minutes a day can be beneficial. I have found with my patients that when they practice with a guided meditation on a recording, this helps them become more successful.
There are numerous strategies from the field of Positive Psychology that have the potential to boost your well-being and help you to thrive even with the challenges of ADHD.
You may not find every tool helpful. Try out a few and discover which ones resonate with you.
Bryant, F. B., Smart, C. M., & King, S. P. (2005). Using the past to enhance the present: Boosting happiness through positive reminiscence. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6, 227-260.
Cohn, M. A., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2010). In search of durable positive psychology interventions: Predictors and consequences of long-term positive behavior change. Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(5), 355-366.