Self help for ADHD: practical strategies to help you cope with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - and all the problems that come with that.
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The information on this page relates mostly to adults and teens.
Attention helps us to concentrate and focus on what we want and need to do. Some of us experience problems in maintaining our focus on most things, but maybe also have the ability to focus REALLY well and for long periods of time on things or activities which really interest us.
Adults and young people with ADHD can therefore struggle in several key areas, as a result of a neurobiological imbalance which itself arises mostly due to genetic factors. These difficulties can impact on our mental health, causing stress & frustration, anxiety, depression, and low self esteem. Individuals with ADHD may also experience relationship difficulties, debt, and can also have a vulnerability to substance misuse.
However, the news isn’t all negative! There are thought to be many positive factors to ADHD, including high energy, creativity, innovative thinking, high motivation, the ability to hyper-focus. Many celebrated innovators of past and present are known or thought to have or have had ADHD.
The symptoms in girls or women can vary substantially from those experienced by boys and men, with girls being quieter, and having less hyperactive symptoms, but maybe more inattentive and thought of as “daydreamers”. The problems are often much less likely to be noticed or addressed.
In spite of these challenges, it is possible to learn techniques to help us deal more effectively with every day events and lead successful lives. Use these techniques as you need to. For instance, if you don’t impulsively spend money, and have no financial concerns, then you can ignore the section on “budgeting”.
Is this (thought) fact or opinion?
This is the ADHD talking - just because I have ADHD doesn’t mean it has to be this way... I can make wise choices about how I react…
What advice would I give a friend about this? What advice would a trusted friend give me? What’s the bigger picture?
Don’t believe everything you think! Thoughts are just thoughts
Be understanding and compassionate to yourself, rather than self-critical (see self esteem).
For help with other problems, please visit this page the Self Help page and click on these links:
Low Self Esteem,
The brain is “plastic”, or able to develop and change – think of it as being like a muscle. The more we stretch and use it, the stronger and more flexible it will become.
Attention training exercises, or using mindfulness, can help us improve our ability to focus or hold our attention for longer periods of time, help us improve our listening skills, make less careless mistakes etc.
Set aside a short time to just notice your breathing. You don’t have to change your breathing in any way, just to notice it. Noticing sensations of breathing in your chest and belly. Other thoughts and distractions will come to mind, that’s ok. Just notice when your attention has wandered, then gently bring your attention back to your breath.
Do any everyday activity or exercise mindfully, such as walking, eating, showering. E.g. when washing up, notice the temperature of the water on your hands, the sensation of the crockery, the bubbles.
Notice the sounds of the washing up, including the bubbles! Notice any smells, notice the way your hands and arms feel and move, and your spine and body as it supports you etc.
Meditation and Mindfulness training.
Make it part of your daily routine. You can gradually increase your meditation time every week – start small and build up slowly.
The Iceberg model of ADHD - at school (but also relevant in other situations)
Set a timer for 5 minutes (increase by 5 minutes a day) and focus your concentration on one activity. Take a 2 minute break before continuing (increase break by 2 minutes each day).
Attention Training Exercises For Children
Identify problem areas
Make a list of all the areas in your life that need changing, perhaps using broad headings e.g. home, work etc.
Decide which of those problem areas on your list are the most important or most urgent. Do the most important item first.
Budgeting - Budgeting Worksheet
Make a list of all your weekly/monthly income, and all your expenses for the same period – approximate as closely as you can e.g. food, fuel, divide quarterly bills by 3 (monthly) or 13 (weekly) etc. You may choose to keep receipts or a diary, study bank statements etc. for one month to find this information.
Subtract expenditure from income to see how much is left over (or how much of a deficit you have).
Assess how you can make savings in particular areas, then plan how to make those savings
Write out your weekly/monthly budget
It can be helpful to write down your daily spending to help you keep track. Some people find it helpful to put a weekly allowance into separate tins (purses etc).
Pay bills online or via regular payments (direct debit or standing order)
Online banking helps reduce need to check through paperwork to balance books
Set up notifications on your bank account so you receive a message when your balance falls to a certain level
Many companies or banks offer “non paper” billing to help reduce post.
Create one folder/box for receipts. Once a month, sort them into recycling or put those you need to keep in an envelope and label with the month/year.
Manage impulse spending
Use cash only – leave cheque book or cards at home
Use only one credit card (destroy/cancel all others)
Use a shopping list and stick to it
Use a calculator (on your phone) to tally your purchases on the go
Reduce online spending
Set a daily budget
Write down your spending (diagram for visual impact?)
Use only one payment method for online purchases
Change account settings on websites e.g. remove option for “one click” purchases
Remove shopping apps from your phone
Block certain websites
Sell items to make money and pay the income into one account (e.g. particular paypal account for ebay selling). Then use only that account for purchases.
Structure / Routine
SELF CARE - Positive Steps to Wellbeing
Notice: Where my attention is
Observe: What I'm doing. Think: "I am walking", "I am sitting", "I am breathing", then notice those sensations in your body
Wise Mind: What now? How shall I continue? Doing or Being?
MINDFULNESS FOR BUSY PEOPLE
Everything Flows. Nothing is fixed. Heraclitus
DEALING WITH STRESS & DISTRESS
Use STOPP skill to incorporate many strategies
STOP - just pause for a moment
Take a breath - one slow deep breath
Observe - there's the mind bully again. My body and mind is reacting to the thoughts and distressing feelings.
Pull back - this is just the anxiety talking. Don't believe everything you think! Let's stick with the facts - these thoughts are just opinions (Fact or Opinion). These feelings are normal - it's just the body's alarm system doing its job, when it doesn't need to. These feelings will pass.
Practise / Proceed - What can I do right now?
I can use these strategies:
Where can I put my focus of attention right now? (Mindfulness And Mindfull Activity. What else can I do that would help me tolerate these thoughts and feelings without reacting to them?
Complete your own STOPP Worksheet
This Adult ADHD guide by Carol Vivyan & Naomi Cottam
Learn effective skills to help manage ADHD online - The Decider Skills for Self Help online course.
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