A Wellness Plan for People with ADHD
“Because people with ADD live fairly fast-paced lives, they can forget to slow down a little and consider whether they are living a balanced life,” writes ADHD expert and psychotherapist Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D, in her book 10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADD: How to Overcome Chronic Distraction & Accomplish Your Goals.
Self-care is key to balance. In her book Sarkis shares the various ways people with ADHD can practice self-care. This includes attending to your physical wellness, emotional wellness and spiritual wellness.
(By the way, these tips also are great for everyone.)
Here are valuable suggestions from Sarkis’s book on practicing each type of wellness.
Physical wellness involves exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep, according to Sarkis. Exercise offers a bounty of benefits: It decreases depression and anxiety, and ups dopamine, which helps improve focus. (People with ADHD have low levels of this brain chemical.)
I think the key to exercise is finding activities that you genuinely enjoy, whether that’s walking, swimming, gardening or biking.
People with ADHD also tend to rush through eating and, in turn, overeat. Sarkis offers several great suggestions for eating mindfully and focusing on your food:
- Say a blessing before dinner.
- Before eating, think about where your food came from and the hard work involved in getting it to your plate.
- Avoid multitasking when you’re eating. That means no reading, no TV and no other distractions.
- Sit down when you’re eating.
People with ADHD experience sleep troubles. Sarkis notes that they’re more likely to struggle with sleep disorders, have impaired sleep since childhood and problems with insomnia, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.
Sarkis suggests several key sleep hygiene strategies. For starters, about 30 minutes before bed, stop any stimulating activities such as watching TV, which only keeps you awake. Instead, spend your 30 minutes engaging in a relaxing activity. As a reminder, set your alarm for 30 minutes before bedtime, Sarkis says. And you can activate the automatic shutoff on your electronics.
Also, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Use your bed for only sleep and sex, not for working, reading or watching TV. And consider getting a nightguard — if your dentist says it’s necessary. Individuals with ADHD may be prone to grinding their teeth at night because of excess energy. If untreated, this can lead to broken or sensitive teeth, headaches and jaw pain.
According to Sarkis, emotional wellness consists of relaxation, creativity, fun and coping effectively with your emotions. Adults with ADHD tend to manage their time ineffectively, so they become exhausted as the week goes by. Sarkis suggests devoting one day per week to doing something fun or creative. She also suggests regularly engaging in relaxing activities, such as yoga.
People with ADHD have a short fuse, and this can have a damaging effect on their relationships. “The goal is not to eliminate your anger; it is to change what you do with your anger,” Sarkis writes. For instance, how does your body react when you’re getting angry? If you can spot the signs, you can reduce your reaction.
Spiritual well-being means realizing that you and others are interconnected and that your actions affect others, Sarkis writes. It also means “taking the time to nurture your soul.” For instance, you might attend religious services and activities and volunteer for a charitable organization.
People with ADHD can experience many annoyances throughout the day, including trouble focusing and getting organized. Practicing gratitude can help to ease stress and improve your attitude and mood. Sarkis suggests writing five things you’re grateful for every night. I especially love this tip: “Also write down one thing that inspired you, one thing that surprised you, and one thing that touched you.”
Another part of spiritual wellness is discovering your purpose. “Consider what legacy you want to leave. Ascribing meaning to your life allows you to put things in perspective,” Sarkis writes. She suggests checking out the book Find Your Purpose, Change Your Life: Getting to the Heart of Your Life’s Mission.
Listening to Your Body
Sarkis also stresses the importance of tuning into your body. This is something individuals with ADHD have an especially difficult time doing. Sarkis writes:
Check in with yourself during the day and ask, What is my body telling me? Think about how your body reacts in different situations: fatigue, hunger, sadness, boredom, and stress. For example, when you are hungry, your stomach may growl or you may feel lightheaded. Your hands may become shaky. When you are more aware of how your body reacts, you can take steps to prevent wearing yourself out. For example, if you notice that you become ravenously hungry if you do not eat for six hours, make sure you eat every four hours.
She adds that it’s important to check in with your doctor if you’re not feeling well. This is especially important if you’re taking medication, started a new medication or had your dose changed.
Tartakovsky, M. (2012). A Wellness Plan for People with ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 12, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/01/11/a-wellness-plan-for-people-with-adhd/