Living with ADHD: How to Make ADHD Work for You

Living with ADHD: How to Make ADHD Work for You

2 April 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 3 mins

Being an online therapist, I realize that more people have been diagnosed with ADHD lately. Perhaps this is due to increased awareness and acceptance of neurodiversity and differences; thus, people feel more comfortable stating their challenges with everyday tasks. Whatever the reason, we see an increase in diagnoses on a clinical level. Chung et al. (2019) confirm the rise in ADHD diagnoses in adults globally.

If you struggle with initiating tasks, and maintaining your focus and motivation to persevere in completing these tasks daily, you could probably do with a few ideas on increasing productivity. You might already have a diagnosis of ADHD or perhaps have a partner or child with a diagnosis. Either case, these strategies could help you turn living with ADHD into something that works for you.

3 Ways to Manage Living with ADHD

Go with YOUR flow

You might be well aware of when you are “in the zone.” You can work like a machine during these times, and you often forget even to eat when you are in this ultra-productive state. Some people call this the “creative flow,” and others feel elated when they are this focused. This hyper-focusing ability is usually experienced by people living with ADHD, but it can be pretty unpredictable in timing or duration.

When you are in this mode, go with it. Get done what you can – remind yourself to eat by possibly adding a gentle alarm. Remember to drink enough water and add movement breaks. You can always listen to a podcast while walking around for a bit to give your body a break. We want to optimize these periods as individuals with ADHD work differently – they have superpowers during their flow, but they might freeze a bit during their stagnant periods. What to do during the “other times”?

Give yourself grace during your “stagnant times”

I was diagnosed with ADHD in my 30s, and before this, I felt that I was able to get a thesis done for my Master’s degree over a weekend. If I could only sustain my attention during those “off days.” I didn’t realize that my workflow is different from the typical brain – I work exceptionally hard on certain days, and on other days I struggle to get through a newspaper article. With my diagnosis came acceptance and grace. I can now give myself time off when I feel sluggish, and I know, with every fiber in my body, that I will get double or more done during my powerful “flow days.” So, to get recharged for those days, give yourself time to recuperate during the days when you just know that work is not going to go as well as what you are used to. The flow will return!

Change your routine – often

I read a lot when I was diagnosed with ADHD, and almost everywhere, it said – “routines and schedules are important.” I often wondered if I “scheduled it wrong” or was different from others living with ADHD. I have since realized that routines are essential, but they become incredibly dull for someone with a brain that has a thousand thoughts at once (or it feels like this often, at least). We need routines, but I want to call this more “habits.” We should exercise every day, we should practice mindfulness when possible and we need to stick with work schedules, but that doesn’t mean we can make these fun and interesting. Try creating a flexible routine for yourself where you add “exercise in a different way” as part of your schedule. Your mind will enjoy this challenge of finding a different way to get your cardio in for the day.

I have so many more ideas on how to change possible struggles into ADHD superpowers, but I will share more of these another day. For now, celebrate your differences – after all, it is what makes life interesting.

Chung W, Jiang SF, Paksarian D, Nikolaidis A, Castellanos FX, Merikangas KR, Milham MP. Trends in the Prevalence and Incidence of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Adults and Children of Different Racial and Ethnic Groups. JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Nov 1;2(11):e1914344. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.14344. PMID: 31675080; PMCID: PMC6826640.

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental