How I Removed ADHD Stress from My Life

Taking specific steps to slow my life down helped me tackle the constant stress and chaos that overwhelmed my ADHD life.

Every ADHD treatment plan should include stress-management techniques. VEER

My ADHD made me different from other people. Once I recognized that, the self-imposed pressure and stress lifted. I could handle almost anything.

Jennifer Koretsky, ADHD coach and ADD adult

In my early 20s, I lived and worked in New York City. One morning, I was riding a crowded subway. I was late to work, as usual. I had an early meeting that I hadn’t prepared for. I also felt guilty, because I had to leave my brand-new, whimpering puppy home alone for several hours.

If all this weren’t bad enough, a nearby passenger kept stepping on my toes. The first time he did it, I huffed. After the third time, I yelled at him, unleashing a string of epithets. I nearly had a breakdown.

My Life, Pre-ADHD Diagnosis

From the outside looking in, I seemed to have a great life: I was a superstar in my company. I had a nice apartment, good friends, and a supportive family. Yet I was overwhelmed by everyday life. I felt as if I always ran behind. My apartment was never neat enough or clean enough. I didn’t go to the grocery store often enough. I looked around and saw a city full of people who seemed to juggle it all. I judged myself harshly.

So I pushed harder to keep up with everyone else. It didn’t work. Pushing harder only led to more stress and, eventually, to burnout. Thinking about all the things I should be doing was so taxing that I fell apart regularly. It was a cycle I went through many times.

Stress and Adult ADHD

The day of my subway rant, I knew that something had to change. I saw a therapist and was eventually diagnosed with adult ADHD. As I educated myself about the condition, I discovered that the feeling of being overwhelmed was common among adults with ADHD. When I was stressed out, I had less control over my ADHD symptoms. I was more likely to get distracted, and I lost track of time more easily. On the other hand, when I was calm and centered, I could pay attention in boring meetings and keep the fridge stocked with something more nutritious than Crystal Light. I decided I would break the cycle of self-imposed stress, once and for all, so that I could enjoy the happiness and success that I deserved.

Slowing Down

I gave myself permission to slow down. Sometimes it was easy: I’d listen to music, take a long walk with my dog, or meet a friend for lunch. Other times, I had to force myself to turn off my chaotic brain by attending a yoga class or going to a concert. I soon learned that a little bit of relaxation went a long way in helping me meet the challenges that my ADHD symptoms threw at me. It was only when I slowed down that I realized that my unhealthy lifestyle was increasing my stress levels. I ate takeout food at mealtimes, barely got by on five hours of sleep each night, and used my free time to camp out in front of the TV.

I started small, by making dinner for myself a few nights a week. When I became comfortable with that adjustment, I worked on getting more sleep, forcing myself to turn off the TV at 11 p.m. and reading a book until bedtime instead. I hit the gym after work, as well as before a meeting -- exercise always cleared my head.

Accepting ADHD as a Part of Myself

Most important, I stopped comparing myself to others. My ADHD made me different from other people. When I accepted that truth, I didn’t care whether my desk was as neat as my coworkers’ desks. If I could find what I needed, I was in good shape. When I stopped worrying about what others thought of me, the pressure and the stress lifted. I could handle pretty much anything -- even having my toes stepped on by a wobbly passenger in a crowded subway.

This article appears in the Fall issue of ADDitude.
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TAGS: Adult ADD: Late Diagnosis, Stress, ADHD Relaxation Tips

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