How to Live Your Best Life: 32 ADHD Tips
Figuring out how to live your best life with ADHD is complicated, but people with ADHD are resourceful and creative. During the early months of the pandemic, experts and readers shared ways to simplify grocery shopping, cut down family stress, manage relationships, and more that remain relevant years later. Here, we’ve pulled together our favorites.
How to Refill ADHD Medications at Home
1. Pursue a 90-day mail-order prescription: If you have prescription drug coverage from an insurance company, ask your physician to write a script for a 90-day mail-order supply of your ADHD medication to save you from running to the pharmacy every 30 days. (Authorization for the length of prescription supply may vary according to state law.) Still, a 90-day supply is widely accepted, and the process can be expedited if the physician has an electronic submission setup. Mail-order prescriptions offer patients increased convenience and direct delivery — even to another state. The trade-off is that an adult must sign for the package.
Patients may also secure an extended supply of medication by getting a “travel override.” This is issued by an individual’s insurance company when a patient is traveling for a long period and needs steady access to their medication. Proof of travel is not necessary to obtain this override.
Read more about stocking up on ADHD medications from William Dodson, M.D.
How to Save Money and Time
2. Download budgeting and price-comparison apps: You can’t save money if you don’t know how you are spending money. I use the website and software called You Need a Budget (YNAB). The program gets you on track to stay current with bills and have a cushion for next month. It sounds impossible to the ADHD brain, but it works. And when I have my budget in place, I always compare prices when I do online shopping.
Avoid paying full price by using a price comparison app. Retailmenot.com is one; camelcamelcamel.com, Amazon’s free comparison shopping site, is another. The Honey browser extension also works for many people. Comparing prices engages the ADHD brain. Doing research is fun. And I like stuff even better when I pay less-than-retail for it.
Read more about saving money from Linda Roggli, PCC.
How to Limit Screen Time
3. Schedule non-media activities: Instead of limiting screen use to a certain number of hours, make time for non-media activity. Go outside with a pet. Play a card or board game. Watch a nature show or funny videos. Pillow fights and tickle contests are other great ways to have offline fun.
A no-fail way to compete with screens is to give your kids your undivided attention for an hour every day. On weekdays, from 4 to 5 p.m., my kids, who are 6 and 10, know that I will not be distracted by work emails or texts. During that hour, we do whatever they want. When kids know it’s mom time, they close their laptops. Focusing on the family reduces stress for everyone.
Read more about limiting screen time from Jenny Radesky, M.D.
How to Work Better from Home
- 4. Set up a defined workspace. If you must work from a table or makeshift desk in an open space, that can work, too. (But don’t work in your bedroom or use your bed as your desk.)
- 5. Wherever you are working, load up a basket with all of the items you may need and place it within easy reach. Having to leave your workspace to find the stapler will undercut your focus.
- 6. Decide what time you will start and end your work day—and stick to it. Determine what time you will begin listening to voicemails and reading emails. Just being awake doesn’t mean you have to start your work day. Savor your coffee, listen to a podcast, exercise, meditate, or stare out the window. This is self-care and it restores boundaries. When you are done with your work day, turn off your computer, as well as the notifications for your email and texts on your phone. Close your office door, or throw a sheet over your workspace. Very intentionally separate from your workspace and bring the work day to an end.
Read more daily schedule advice from Liz Matheis, Ph.D.
How to Harness Your Hyperfocus
7. Build barriers to rabbit holes: Hyperfocus can cause us to block out the rest of the world and lose track of time — and it can keep us from completing essential tasks. Because we have trouble breaking out of a fixated state and switching our attention to something else, we need to anticipate our mental sand traps. Figure out where your fascination lies, and create a boundary of time around it. After identifying the culprits that lead you down a rabbit hole, resolve not to begin that activity without setting a timer. Or bargain with yourself — you can watch something on Netflix after you finish cleaning your kitchen sink.
Read more about managing your hyperfocus from Tamara Rosier, Ph.D.
How to Simplify Grocery Shopping
8. Take inventory, add items to an app, repeat.
Step 1. Look in your fridge, pantry, and cabinets. Write down the answers to these questions:
- Which staples am I out of today?
- What does my family like to eat?
- What dinner recipes will we prepare?
- Are there any special foods I want to buy?
Step 2. Walk through your house to give yourself visual prompts. Write down the answers to the following questions:
- What do I need to clean the house?
- What do I need for doing laundry?
- What do I need for bathing and taking care of my body?
By making these two lists, you take more than 50 percent of the hassle out of grocery shopping. Make a copy, log your items in an app, or take a picture of your list, so that you can use it again. About 80 percent of what we buy is the same week-to-week, so keeping a digital master list for easy reuse makes a lot of sense.
Read more ADHD grocery shopping advice from Ronit Levy, Psy.D.
How to Practice Positive Parenting
9. Prioritize being present: We share physical space with our kids every day, but that doesn’t translate to emotional presence. There will be times when they need us to be there to listen, play, process, and support. What form this presence takes will depend on your child: You might get an invitation to play a game or be pulled into a philosophical conversation just after the lights go out. It might be an offer to help you cook dinner, garden, or clean. Our response to all of these should be the same: Be present. By being there for them, we contribute to their self-esteem. So let’s do our best every day, and practice relentless self-compassion when we fall short. This is how we support our kids.
Read more pandemic parenting advice from Deborah Reber.
How to Relieve Anxiety
10. Label your feelings: The quickest way to find relief from fear, anxiety, or worry is to name what you’re feeling — label it, say it out loud, or write it down. Labeling is an effective way to manage what you’re feeling. It sounds simple, but it’s not usually the first response, especially if you have ADHD. We are more likely to run away from feelings of discomfort than to acknowledge them.
Strength of character comes from naming your discomfort, rather than running from it. If you name it, you can manage it. Talk to a non-judgmental friend about your thoughts. If that doesn’t work, write in a journal. Spill your guts. Labeling thoughts gets them out of your head.
Read more anxiety-calming strategies from June Silny.
How to Improve Physical and Mental Health
11. Prioritize exercise: The physical benefits of daily activity are well-documented, but did you know that exercise boosts your mind and mood as well? Exercise releases proteins that improve brain function. It also promotes restorative sleep and alleviates anxiety and depression. A brisk 15-minute walk will help in many ways. There are websites — Peloton, BeFiT, Fitness Blender, HASfit, and others — that offer lots of routines to keep you from getting bored.
How to Set Boundaries with Five Approaches
ADDitude readers offer ways to keep our thoughts and lives under control.
- 12. “I set boundaries for myself: Instead of compromising, I prioritize doing what I know is best for me.”
- 13. “I practice saying no. This has been a problem in the past, but I’m learning it is not selfish to take care of yourself.”
- 14. “I give myself the freedom to be imperfect. It’s OK that some days I have a hard time. I can acknowledge and accept that.”
- 15. “I go easy on myself and let the kids have chill time when they ask for it; otherwise it just backfires.”
- 16. “Our family is careful to consume media that is beautiful and uplifting, not just news or video games.”
How to Cut Down on Siblings Fighting
17. Set clear ‘team rules’: Sibling squabbles are inevitable. Without clear boundaries for behavior, children feel they have to referee themselves, which is scary and overwhelming. Focus on a few basic rules. You can explain, for example, that in our family we don’t hit, we don’t swear, we don’t insult each other, and we don’t damage each other’s things. Kids should know that disagreements are OK. It’s even OK to dislike each other from time to time, but siblings must understand that they are always on the same team. That means caring for each other.
Read more strategies for mitigating sibling rivalry from Ronit Levy, Psy.D.
How to Create a Resilient Mindset
- 18. Practice kindness. Think about how you can help someone now, despite your own struggles or limitations. Kindness also involves being good to yourself, so don’t be afraid to take time for you, and walk away from the things that add anxiety. Cut yourself some slack—celebrate your accomplishments and don’t sweat the small stuff.
- 19. Practice gratitude. There are many things to be grateful for, and gratitude can get you through some rough situations. Start and end each day by reflecting on a couple of things for which you are grateful. You can just acknowledge them, journal, draw them, or make a collage.
- 20. Find humor. Think of things that make you smile, and try to make people laugh. Share some funny memories with the family. Maybe you could post one funny thing on Facebook every day (something I’ve started doing).
- 21. Forge connections. Strengthen bonds with the special folks in your life, and take advantage of technologies that allow you to connect. I’ve had some fun get-togethers on FaceTime and Zoom, and I love using Trickster to play card games with my friends.
Read more about creating a resilient mindset from Michele Novotni, Ph.D.
How to Develop People Skills from Home
22. Play games online: If going out in groups doesn’t mesh well with your inattentive ADHD, write a letter to a family member or friend who is on your mind. A handwritten message is a special way to send love. Ditto for phone calls. Instead of texting, initiate a phone call to a loved one and enjoy a conversation. Many board and card games have online versions that enable several players to participate from their homes. Check out Words with Friends, an online game similar to Scrabble, that boosts your word skills.
Read more about combating isolation in ADHD adults from Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.
How to Get Unstuck
When you can’t seem to start your day and get into gear, don’t judge yourself harshly. Use one, two, or three of these seven daily intentions to move forward.
- 23. Do something for your brain.Help your child with their online learning or teach them a new life skill (I have a client who is working through the auto manual with her 16-year-old son), read a book, learn a new skill, or dust off an old one. Do something that requires some heavy mental lifting.
- 24. Do something for the house.Whether it’s cooking a meal, creating your monthly budget, paying bills, or planting your spring garden, make sure that every day you put in some “house time.”
- 25. Do something for your body.Whether it’s a virtual yoga class, going for a walk, eating healthy, or morning meditation, the way you treat your body affects your ADHD brain. Engage and invigorate your brain with a walk in the fresh air or do a dance cardio workout in your living room.
- 26. Do something for yourself.I firmly believe that self-care is more important than ever—whether it be relaxing in a bubble bath, catching up with friends on a Zoom call, or indulging in your favorite ice cream (OK, that’s mine!). Building “you time” into your day is not selfish but essential and medicinal. Taking care of yourself allows you the brain power to take care of others!
- 27. Do something for someone else.This one is my favorite. Our desire to help and support each other—from our immediate family to our community—is powerful. Not only does it enrich our lives, it also keeps us happy and filled with purpose.
- 28. Do something for your space.Making beds, doing laundry, and, yes, cleaning can provide some much-needed order. Performing small daily tasks will give you small successes, building the confidence muscle you need to tackle larger, more daunting projects!
- 29. Do something for your goals.Balance your focus between today and what comes next. This is critical to your wellbeing. It is impossible to precisely plan; we can’t predict the “when.” But working toward our goals gives us the control to be ready when it does.
Read more about structuring your day from Leslie Josel.
How to Manage Familial Stress
30. Express gratitude: Practice positive communication and express appreciation for one another. Families who are able to compromise, and to have fun with one another, will thrive in tough conditions. They use “I” statements to convey empathy and awareness. They express feelings and needs without triggering defensiveness in the other. They show gratitude for small things, like putting down the toilet seat.
Read more about family stress management from Rachel Silverman, Psy.D.
How to Get Organized
31. Follow your energy: There is no perfect, mood-boosting organizational project. You’ll get more done if you follow your energy. If the clutter in your bathroom drawers has been driving you crazy, start there. If you have an urge to go through your closet at the beginning of a new season, start there.
Wherever your organizing energy is highest, that is where you should start. The chances are greater you’ll be able to sustain your energy longer and achieve visible results. You’re doing something you’re excited about. You’ll keep going even when it gets boring.
Read more about getting organized from Lisa Woodruff.
How To Deal With Worry
32. Flex your power:
“In my work with families and adults, I use the idea of the brain having two sides — the thinking side and the worry side — to help my clients see that they have agency over their thoughts; they aren’t powerless.”
—Laurie Better Perlis, Psy.D.
Live Your Best Life: Next Steps for ADHD Brains
- Read: ADHD Life Rules: 15 Tips to Stress Less and Live Better
- Download for Free: 73 ADHD-Friendly Ways To Organize Your Life Now
- Personal Story: Ping! Alert! Why That Barrage of News Updates is Bad for Your Mental Health
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