I never knew I had ADHD until my son was diagnosed. As I research the topic, I find people like you that are exactly like me. I just always thought there was something wrong with me, I didn’t fit in, I couldn’t do things as fast, I was disorganized … yet not understanding what I had, I worked hard to combat all these things. In my 20’s I was a mess. One thing that kept me grounded was my Dad who had been in the Air Force. He taught me structure – which is so dang hard for us ADHDers, I couldn’t get my act together long enough to keep structure in my life, but at least I knew what I was aiming for. One thing he did ingrain in me was never, ever be late. I was terrified to be late, so I had that going for me, fear was motivation to stay on task like my life depended on it, I still stress over being late, time still does disappear on me, but I’ve gotten better at managing it. I’m a natural night owl and would work on things until 4 or 5 am, have no idea how it got so late, and then have to get up for work in 1.5 hours. Dinners, like you, could take me 5 hours to make and many time I would forget to eat at all. There would be times I made dinner and found it in the morning. How the heck does one do that??? Dang distracted mind.
So that’s some of my background, but helped for me? Acupuncture, breathing techniques, yoga, setting limits, and forgiving myself. I did Acupuncture on and off for 4 years. I originally went for stomach issues, learned I had extreme anxiety and was taught how to manage it with breathing techniques (I was breathing wrong, yup, totally wrong). As the anxiety quieted down, my exec functioning skills started to kick in. I was getting more sleep (so important to help quiet our distracted minds!). Eventually a friend of mine got me to go to yoga and she didn’t want to go alone so she made sure I went. That was the trick! Have a buddy that makes you accountable. She would constantly call or email me, that was my prompt to get ready, she was always on time and I did not want to let her down (from my Dad, fear or making someone else wait). So we went 4/5 times a week, on time. And after a few weeks or so I noticed a huge shift. I was far more focused and less distracted. Between the acupuncture and yoga (breathing), I was able to find my exec functioning skills and start flexing them.
One of the things I’ve learned recently was for those of us with ADHD, there is NOW and not NOW. This is why we struggle with time. We do everything NOW, our brains do not comprehend later, that would be not NOW. I managed to get through having to do everything now by making lists and limits.
Unfortunately I overwhelmed myself with lists, lots of lists, my lists had lists – it all fell apart. But I would just start over, simplifying my lists. An amazing business woman once taught me, every night before bed, take 1 hour of time – be it in a bath, sipping tea at the table or in bed – just make sure to take the time, no more or less, breath, come to a state of calm and write 5 things you hope to accomplish tomorrow. And know you will only accomplish 3 at the most, and be ok with that. Don’t make the list overwhelming and something you cannot succeed at … keep each task doable and small – like read the manual for installing the dishwasher, write 5 thank cards (address and mail will be tomorrow’s list), pay electrify bill (not all the bills), etc. keep it doable and uncomplicated. Check off items, which makes you feel good that you did indeed accomplish a task or two or three. Some nights I can’t make my lists, I fall off the wagon and my life gets chaotic … back to list making. I don’t beat myself up, just take a breath, commend myself for doing it for so long and just get back to it. If I finish the items on my list, awesome, I can add more items, if I want, or call it a day and feel accomplished.
I do live my by calendar which is on my phone and online. And I reference it multiple times a day because I do forget my appointments, a lot. And I tell my husband to remind me. So every morning I look at my calendar, I do it as I eat breakfast and that is the only thing I allow myself to look at, well that and the weather. Every other app is off limits (limit your known distractions). I look at it when I get to work because I’ve already forgotten what was on it today. I look at lunch, again just before dinner and after dinner to plan for tomorrow, and again during my list making time. I look at that app and only that app. If I need to leave early from work, first thing I do add a reminder to the event for 1 hr before (it emails me and pops up on my phone and desktop) and I also place a sticky on my monitor because I’m going to forget, it’s just a fact that I’ve learned to live with.
And yes I need my downtime, lots of it, but I’m stingy with it and limit it. I do not watch TV, I’ll binge watch anything, so it’s off limits. Movies, I schedule them when I know I have time. If my kids are watching something I would love to watch and find myself sitting down with them, dropping whatever I was doing, I catch myself – is this essential? Nope. But I want to! my brain screams. To bad, finish the list and watch it some other time. But I’ll forget! my brain screams. Will it change your life, will you feel guilty after, will it help in any way? Nope. Ok, back to my list and prepare my tea for my down time to make tomorrow’s list. I do check out my online favorites from time to time, look at the news, FB, research stupid things I need to nothing about, but I give myself a time limit by setting the alarm on my phone. When it buzzes, I’m down and have to get to the task at hand whether it be sleep or laundry or driving my kids somewhere.
The other side of limits – I plan my schedules for getting ready whether it be work or a night out or some other event. First work backwads. So for work .. walk to desk from parking lot, parking car, drive to parking lot, exit from house, get shoes on, make up, hair, etc… to wake up. then I map out how long I have for each item. If I need to be at work at 9am, and it take 15 minute from parking lot, 3mintes to park car, 30 minute commute … all the way to what time I have to wake up. So now, I have a timeline I can follow – at 7am I eat, if it’s after 7:05 and I haven’t sat down to eat yet, I’m skipping breakfast that morning, onto the next task. At 7:15 I do my hair, I have 15 minutes, if it’s not done in that time frame, I go to option B – hair goes up in a pony tail. I don’t like it, but if I’m running late, it’s an option to keep me on time. At 7:30 I haven’t gotten to the make up task, I’m going makeup free so I can catch up to my timeline, and so on. I make custom schedules for every event I get ready for, I now know how long things take me and know all my options if I’m running late. And after all this time, I still make these schedules. I know I have to and I’m ok with that. I am managing my ADHD mroe and more, it’s not managing me.
How I manage
- exercise, get a buddy that can help you be accountable and keep you going. Exercise has the biggest impact on keeping our brains in a happy place and acquiring the hormones that help with exec functioning. It helps us sleep better, also a huge impact on the brain and focusing and functioning. I think excercise is so important. When I fall off, I begin to struggle daily even at this age and all my habits
- Make lists, I do not use my phone, it’s too much of a distraction and the light feeds our distracted minds, I use pen and paper (small notebook), which I misplace a lot, so I have many notebooks in my bedside table so I never have an excuse not to do it and there is no stress of finding paper.
- Know your limitation – make a list of your limitations and come to terms with them. Knowing them helps you find ways to deal with them. As well as realize when you beginning to manage them better. And some of them, while being a weakness are also our greatest strengths – my hyper-focus makes me an amazing researcher. I am not great at getting myself to the gym, so I enlist the help of friends to come with me and keep me going
- Medication, that is a tough one, I’ve never been on it. I’ve used my hyperfocus abilities to research the heck out of natural food that have helped. For my son, meds were an awful experience, until we were guided to treat him for depression rather than ADHD, huge difference and has helped.
- Set limits on items you know are the most distracting – tv, internet, etc. Either set a time limit or just don’t go near it
- Stop and assess – get used to stopping periodically and asking yourself, what am I doing right now? Is it essential? Get back to what you were doing and forgive yourself! It will become a habit over time. Saturday mornings I have to stop and ask myself every 10 minutes. Make sure you ask yourself nicely, do not judge yourself, do not put yourself down, this is just a question to help redirect yourself, not a time to bash yourself
- losing things? Keys, I have a special hook. Periodically throughout the day I make an effort to make sure they are on that hook. If not on the hook, whatever I’m doing stops and I go find them and put them on the hook. Same with reading glasses. They are on my nightstand. Every time I go in and out of my room, I look at my nightstand, if they are not there, I stop and find them and put them back. It’s become such a habit I no longer lose either one. My kids and husband are also trained that if they find them, let me know where they are, make me get them and make me put them back, this teaches me to understand where I leave thing.
- Forgive yourself – I have to forgive myself many times a day. I’m late and it drives me crazy, I forgive myself and commend myself for getting there. I lost that check – I forgive myself and know I will find it when I desperately looking for something else. When I find it I will put it on my nightstand with my notepad and put it on the list for tomorrow. Learn to let go – let go of guilt, resentment, hatred of this debilitating condition, you can learn to work with it and come to terms with it.
You may already be doing these things and everyone has their own little things that work for them. Just wanted to share what works for me – took me 4 decades to get to a place where I can live with myself. It does get better, it is a lot of work. I don’t think there is any magic solution. Surround yourself with people who can help you, let them know your struggles and never get upset when they remind you that you are off task or question you about what you are doing or try to push you in the right direction. I get upset with myself when people point these things out to me, I’m not mad at them, so I take a deep breath, remind myself they are there for me and let go of whatever I was hyper focusing on that moment. There is a later, it doesn’t have to be NOW. And if I don’t get to it later, then I guess I didn’t need to be doing it in the first place, I let it go.