Brain Health

ADHD Fatigue Is a Real (Exhausting) Thing

ADHD is mentally, emotionally, and physically draining. When you feel thoroughly worn out by tough symptoms, recharge with a massage, a medication change, or these other strategies.

A woman getting a head massage to help overcome her ADHD fatigue
Woman with ADHD getting a head massage to recharge brain

I thought ADHD meds were hit or miss. I’d take medication when I remembered to (sometimes) or when I thought they’d help (occasionally).

Then I hit a wall. Work. Family. Politics. More work. I knew I was drowning in ADHD fatigue, so I called my lifeline, Dr. L. He listened closely, changed my meds, and pleaded with me: “Just take them!” And for the first time, I took my medication as prescribed. The difference was astonishing. Within a week, I was bright and chipper. I was me again.

After years of excuses, I awoke to the truth: ADHD requires more than a lick and a promise. It needs a boost now and then, perhaps on a regular basis.

Why ADHD Brains Need to Recharge

It’s like my car battery. If I leave my car lights on overnight, the battery will use all of its energy to keep them burning, but will eventually run out of power. Once I jump-start it, the battery will recharge with regular, smaller “boosts” generated by the engine.

If I permit my ADHD to leave me mentally exhausted, I need a large boost of outside support — in this case, a change of medication. But if I get smaller, regular boosts — from taking my medication every day — I can operate normally (at least, “normally” for me!).

[Free Download: The Ultimate Guide to ADHD Medication]

Simple Ways to Send More Energy to Your Brain

As I thought about it, I realized that I have lots of ADHD boosts. I work with a professional organizer. I have an ADHD coach. I admit to an embarrassing attachment to my labeler and to my wireless headset. I have a key finder on my keys, purse, camera, and cell phone.

Sometimes my ADHD boosts are unintentional. I was having some trouble with my right hip, so I made an appointment with a massage therapist. To my surprise, the twice-a-week massages opened up a new channel for me: I get so much done now. My mind is clearer and more focused. I wouldn’t have guessed that such indulgence could help my ADHD symptoms. But it did.

Join My ADHD Brain Booster Club

So I’ve decided to start my own ADHD Booster Club. Membership is free and open to anyone who has an ADHD brain. Creativity and spontaneity are encouraged. There’s only one rule: Find boosters that work for your ADHD brain.

Perhaps it’s a meditation class or hiring someone to clean your bathrooms. It could be an afternoon nap or a quick run on the treadmill to refocus your mind. Your boosts might include playing with your phone. You might get an alarm clock that jumps off the table, forcing you to chase it.

Boosts can be big — a week at the beach to recharge — or small — 30 seconds of deep breathing to refocus. Even a dishwasher can be an ADHD boost, or the time-honored bubble bath.

So consider this an invitation to join the ADHD Booster Club. Create new, customized boosts for your ADHD brain. There is no shame in needing a boost or two — or 20. Everyone — especially you — deserves support to live a happy life.

[Read This Next: “When Mental Fatigue Sinks Its Claws in to My ADHD Brain…”]

7 Comments & Reviews

  1. These are great solutions… if you have money and time for them. Some of us can’t afford about 80% of the activities mentioned here. What do you suggest for those of us that can’t afford a massage once a month, let alone twice a week?

  2. Aenkh- Try a Q-flex in lieu of an expensive massage. I got mine at Walmart for about 10-12 Dollars (I do not sell them, or work for the company that makes them) It looks like a large purple hook- kind of like a question mark. It’s about 29 inches long and I found it in the Pharmacy section. It helps me with neck and back pain that causes me to get tension headaches that drain my energy and make it hard to focus/concentrate. It works pretty well for me and you only have to pay for it once.

    As far as the paid coaching/organizing… I have found the ADDitude Magazine really helpful in those areas.
    If I need help with tackling a onerous job, on occasion I have hired a college student or mature High School student to help with that- at minimum wage. Or in a pinch a friend or relative can give a hand, or offer at least a fresh perspective on a persistent problem. This may or may not work for everyone, but it has helped me on a number of occasions.

    My best to you.

  3. I tend to experience fatigue when I’m pulled in too many directions at work. Some of my work is interesting enough that I will get hyperfocus (although not a lot of it lately) and other parts are pretty tedious. Overall though it is fairly mentally taxing and I do experience a bit of fatigue by the late afternoon most days. I’m thinking about finding or buying my favourite Math Textbook from uni days (Thomas Calculus) as prior to being diagnosed with ADHD I used to do calc in my spare time as a way to stimulate my brain outside of fairly menial service and admin jobs. I’m just wondering if seeing as I’m now in a more taxing job (mentally) and being treated for ADHD – could I potentially make the fatigue worse or could something like Calculus for fun actually be an ADHD brain booster..? It doesn’t really align with any of the suggestions in this article… should they be more physical things and less mentally challenging things?

  4. Work. Family. Politics. More work?? How is that possible when most of us with ADHD cannot even get passed the word work!
    If you are on meds often you rely on the meds to give you boosters, and with medication comes fatigue and less appetite, and even lesser energy. For me boosters are more effective without meds, because I have not already exhausted my mind, have a regular appetite, feel calmer, and have a more normal routine. After I stopped taking meds I had to rebalance my mind, and body which took about one year, then I quickly realized that without boosters I will simply not have enough drive to keep motivated. Martial arts, and cycling is great for the ADHD brain, but it never ends there. Being inventive with our boosters to prevent boredom is essential to getting through the day.

  5. I would like to present a more realistic view of ADD and ADHD that is not being portrayed correctly in this post. We the people with ADHD and ADD are not as productive with or without our meds as you suggest. We suffer greatly just applying for a job, keeping a job, and struggle have a normal life with or without family. ADD/ADHD are not the only issue as side effects from the meds cause anxiety and even without meds many of us have debilitating anxiety. The lack of affordable resources means that we are more likely to live off grid and less likely to get the help we need. Our doctors only care if they are paid a large sum of money to give us minimal help or a booster. Fatigue is a serious factor in living with ADD/ADHD and very little activity or thinking is required to feel exhaustion. Having a great diet, exercise, and plenty of high quality vitamins do not help either as I am the living proof of it.

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