Most people don’t understand, or even know, much about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. They think it’s just a matter of someone not wanting to focus, or being lazy, or not having life goals. In reality, ADHD is a mental health disorder that physically affects how the brain works. For people with ADHD, it can be extremely difficult to manage daily tasks and stay organized.
The good news is that there are ways to manage ADHD and help people with ADHD lead successful lives. With proper systems, ADHD life hacks, and understanding, people with ADHD can learn to manage their symptoms better, know how to deal with their symptoms and side effects of it, get medication if needed, put in place systems that work with their brains to improve focus, figure out what to focus on, etc.
In this blog post, we will explore why ADHD is so difficult to manage and discuss some strategies that can help make life a little bit easier.
WHY is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurodivergent condition, which means that the brain is wired differently. This can make it hard to focus and pay attention to tasks that are boring or repetitive, or even tasks that we are interested in. During my research deep-dive into ADHD (yes, I ADHD-hyperfocused on ADHD), I found studies that showed that our brains are physically different. The neural pathways that bring daily tasks into our subconscious to make them into habits, for example, aren’t even using the same usual path that neurotypical brains do.
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OMG can’t you just keep a routine and stick to it?
But why can’t we keep habits? Our brains literally cannot integrate habits. Without the subconscious to gradually move “effort-based action” into “thoughtless action”, the entire concept of routine and habits falls apart in front of our ADHD brains. For people with ADHD, tasks are always effort-based.
Brushing teeth? Conscious effort.
Making the bed? Conscious effort.
Making the morning coffee, drinking some water? Conscious effort.
Going for a jog, do a morning yoga routine, get dressed and ready for work, make lunch to bring to work…
Having to consciously make ourselves do each step of each task presents multiple issues, of course.
- We can (and will) forget some of the steps, as the subconscious cannot nudge us to the next thing.
- We get tired. If you know about the trick of “limiting the amount of daily choices” by, for example, choosing outfits to wear for the entire week, you might understand the impact of our constant choice-making. We have to make ourselves choose to do each step, and that takes a lot of brain power that we can’t get back throughout the day.
- Our own little voice in our brain is really mean. Keeping a habit is something we have tried to do many, many times over, and most of the time failed. That makes our brain tell us “why bother? You know you’re just gonna fail again” when we want to take up something new.
- Many of these tasks that should be automatic would save us time, energy, or money, and failing to do them usually ends up being costly, aka “the ADHD tax”.
You were late only 3 times this week! (but it’s wednesday)
People with ADHD often struggle with executive functioning skills, such as planning and organization. This can make it difficult to keep track of what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and in what order.
It’s not uncommon for people with ADHD to lose track of time(also known as time-blindness), or start a task and get sidetracked by something else before finishing the first task. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed, as there seems to be an never-ending list of things to do. and post-its. and notebooks… emails sent to oneself…
One strategy that can help us with this is using a planner or some sort of system to keep track of what needs to be done and when. However, most planners and apps are made for neurotypical people. Also, for many of us, a physical planner only works until it gets out of sight and we forget about it until 4 months later (been there).
Dang, where did I leave that important thing again…
It has been proven that for the ADHD mind, the visibility of items matters a lot.
That can be worked with!
For example, my partner kept losing his meds and all kinds of small items, but now that he has a small basket for these things and that he keeps it visible and close, but out of the way, he’s doing much better! For myself, when something is very important, I write it on a post-it note and I stick it in the middle of my computer screen. I spend wayyy too much time on my PC, which means that I’ll be bothered by that post-it until I do the thing.
Impulse spending, talking without thinking, and the occasional fuck-up
On another note, ADHD can also make it difficult to control impulsive behaviours. We might blurt out things without thinking, or act without considering the consequences. This can lead to social difficulties and conflict, as well as accidents. Or in my case, mostly regret about past purchases.
There are various strategies that can help with this, such as taking a step back before reacting, counting to 10 (or 20, or 50…), or using positive self-talk to reframe the situation. For example, instead of thinking “I’m so stupid, why did I say that?”, try “Everyone makes mistakes” or “Nobody’s perfect” because, well, it’s true, and it’s less negative on yourself.
Urgh, why am I being such an ass?
Having heavily negative self-talk is something very common with ADHD, I noticed. Beating yourself up for every little thing doesn’t help you or anyone else, and it makes it even harder to try again.
Would you talk to your best friend the way you talk to yourself? I sure as hell wouldn’t!
The individuality of ADHD
What’s tricky with neurodivergence is that we all have our own little flavour of ADHD. What will work on one person may not work on someone else, and systems created for an individual usually have to be personalized quite a bit.
What works for me might not work for you, and what works for you might not work for the next person, but that’s okay. The most important thing is that you don’t give up on yourself and that you keep trying different things until you find a system that clicks with you.
What was I saying again?
ADHD is not a choice, it’s a disorder that we can’t help having. It’s something that we have to work around and manage as best as possible. ADHD is a real, physical disorder that affects the brain in many ways. It can be incredibly difficult to manage and keep up with habits or chores when your brain is working against you.
We lose focus easily, can’t seem to keep up with routines or habits, and struggle to organize ourselves physically and mentally. For people with ADHD, it’s important to understand how your brain works and learn different strategies for managing symptoms. For people without it, it’s a good thing to learn on it and keep that information in mind when dealing with someone who has ADHD. I hope this article has helped you understand ADHD better if you have it, or helped you be more understanding and empathetic towards those who struggle with it.
Check out my YouTube channel for more information on how to cope with ADHD and other invisible disabilities!