One of the sessions I attended at the 2019 Annual International Conference on ADHD was about ADHD and wellness. The presenters focused on the four pillars of wellness – nutrition, sleep, exercise and stress. Wellness is important to managing ADHD. We must eat healthy, sleep enough, get exercise regularly and reduce stress. I believe this is hard for most people but especially so for those affected by ADHD. Follow through and consistency can be difficult for us.
Now I am not going to discuss nutrition because I don’t know much about it. It is something I hope to learn more about in the near future.
Sleep can be difficult for those affected by ADHD. We often have trouble falling asleep and some people also have difficulty staying asleep. Many of my clients say their mind has trouble quieting down so they can fall asleep. What I have found most helpful is listening to podcasts as I go to sleep. I choose podcasts that are interesting but not riveting. Interesting so that I stop thinking but not riveting so that I do not get sucked in to listening until the end of the podcast. It takes some time to find the right podcasts. One that is specifically designed to help you fall asleep is the podcast Sleep with Me. It works for some of my clients and not for others but it is worth checking out. I also tend to listen to old time radio broadcasts. They distract me enough from my own thoughts but do not pull me in so that I want to stay awake.
A lot of people affected by ADHD stay up too late and get a second wind and then find it difficult to fall asleep. Set a standard bedtime and then an hour before start to wind down and get ready for sleep. Many of my clients set an alarm for an hour or 45 minutes prior to bedtime to help them remember to start quieting down and get ready for sleep.
Exercise is also important for managing ADHD. After exercising we are often able to focus better. If you are not already exercising set a realistic goal and start small. I have clients who try to go from no exercise to five times a week and often experience failure. This discourages them. It is better to start small and build slowly. The best scenario is to find someone or a group to exercise with to hold you accountable. If not that then an accountability partner or coach to support you in your exercise goals.
Finally, stress. Stress can exacerbate our ADHD symptoms. It makes it difficult to focus and sleep and can even affect your eating. All those can contribute to our difficulties. Do some reading on mindfulness exercises. Simply breathing in for a few counts, holding for a moment and then exhaling slowly can be helpful to do a few times to help you calm down and get more oxygen in. If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness and ADHD I recommend the book “The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD” by Lidia Zylowska, MD.
Of nutrition, sleep, exercise and stress, I would pick one to start working on and as you get some success under your belt add another to start working on and so forth. Instead of trying to change too much at once, failing, and then getting discouraged go slowly. Take baby steps. Celebrate even small milestones of success to encourage yourself to keep going.