This list contains both short-term and long-term advice to follow if you have ADHD and feel you want more calmness in your life. Doing one or two of these should have a compound effect, and doing several will likely be noticeably beneficial to the quality of your life.
- Breathing exercises. Deep breathing exercises not only are conducive to a meditative state but also act as a physical intervention (the expansive movement of the diaphragm masses the vagus nerve and internal organs in a way that communicates “everything is ok” directly to your nervous system). I highly recommend Box Breathing.
- Meditation and mindfulness practice. See above re a breathing meditation practice, but any method is great for general calm. Like any skill that you learn by rote, practising mindfulness means you are more able to trigger that relaxed and conscious state whenever you want to.
- Routines. Planning your day and making sure you get the things done that you want and need to do is incredibly soothing and helps get rid of the kind of anxiety that often comes with ADHD of constantly feeling you’ve forgotten to do something important.
- Good nutrition. Eat foods that are ingredients, not have ingredients. Whole foods, and as little processed foods as possible. Lots of vegetables and make sure to eat oily fish twice a week (from sustainable and non-toxic sources).
- Regular exercise. Everyone who has a good handle on their ADHD likely as not exercises — regularly. It’s a great way to get out of your head and also get any frustrations out, plus great for your long-term health so no excuses.
- Spend time outside in nature. Connected to exercise, but not always inclusive, is being in nature. Soothing for everyone and helps clear your head and promote overall well-being. No one ever felt worse after standing next to a tree.
- CBD. This benevolent oil has been proven to help people with moderate levels of anxiety and is also a great anti-inflammatory. Make sure you get a high-quality one from a company that lab-tests their product.
- Phosphatidylserine supplement. Lots of people with ADHD benefit from taking phosphatidylserine, which is a cortisol blocker. Whether you do or do not take ADHD meds, you are producing a lot of cortisol, a stress hormone which is terrible for your long-term health (google it) and also responsible for feelings of anxiety. Taking this supplement blocks the cortisol and thus can contribute to feeling less anxious.
- Good sleep habits. If you have ADHD, you are likely prone to having bad sleep habits (I once went for 54 hours without sleep — no extras, pure ADHD — very bad). It’s crucial you create a good routine and observe good sleep hygiene. Herbal sleep aids are beneficial, consider taking melatonin regularly and don’t use screens or exercise too late. Don’t eat too late and have a cool, comfortable, sleep environment. If your sleep patterns get messed up, track them using a sleep tracker app and find out what’s going wrong and then work on correcting it. It doesn’t matter that you can do without sleep, you are burning reserves which not only result in all-round less satisfactory performance but the detrimental physical results of which will eventually catch up with you.
- Do good things for other people. There is a subtle feature of ADHD (fed by many variables) that means it can be easy to slip into being self-absorbed. This might manifest ‘positively’ (you are self-interested and are only interested or talk about things you like) or ‘negatively’ (your self-talk is negative and think everything is about you). Doing charity work or volunteering, or in some way doing social good that gets you looking outward instead of inward will increase your empathy and understanding that people have different experiences — and help you feel good about yourself.
- Having people to talk to about having and dealing with ADHD. Having people around that understand ADHD is pretty critical; it’s tough inhabiting in a world that operates differently to you. Being able to talk things through and communicate abstract thoughts and feelings helps with an overall sense of calm. There are online communities you can join, too.
- Diagnosis. Get an ADHD diagnosis so you can start to understand yourself and know what to research. It can be tough to get one depending on where you live but don’t only self diagnose. You might need medical intervention (meds, therapy referral, sleep aids), and this is way easier if you have a diagnosis. Plus as either a student or an employee and also in your personal relationship, it’s easier to start conversations about what you need to do differently if you have a formal diagnosis. If you are having trouble getting a diagnosis, try implementing the newly passed legislation The Right To Choose via Psychiatry-UK.
- ADHD medication. Here are several commonly heard comments you will hear from people with ADHD who take prescription meds for it. “I am more productive” “I have way less anxiety” “My lows have decreased in intensity” “I can concentrate more” “I finish more projects” “I sleep better” “I experience less intense emotions” (not everyone likes this last one). They are a serious group of medications, and while the ideal is that you can manage your ADHD without them, it all depends on the severity of your ADHD. Some people find they can use meds intermittently, others have to take them every day, and some people (usually with ADHD light) manage it through a lot of these practices mentioned in this article.
- Don’t self medicate with things that are bad for you or illegal. Studies show people with ADHD are more likely to smoke and take drugs — because we react differently to stimulants. Stimulants are calming for people with ADHD, but if you are using street drugs to do this, well it doesn’t lead to anywhere good. Additionally, you don’t really know what you are taking and if your life requires this kind of support, get it from a prescription from your doctor. Just a side note, if you go to your doctor to get diagnosed and you tell them you have in the past taken recreational street drugs, they might not prescribe you with ADHD meds.
- Coffee :) As coffee is a stimulant, many people who have ADHD find that caffeine relaxes them, with some people being so affected, it can cause them to nod off.
- Flexible working conditions. It’s essential to have structure and be accountable, but having flexible working conditions is a godsend and can dramatically help reduce anxiety and contribute to a calm and productive lifestyle. If you are a professional, try using Juggle Jobs who help place and broker flexible working positions with like-minded companies.
- Have a creative outlet. Find something you can pour your energy and crazy awesome brain into. There is so much going on in an ADHD brain, and mere conversations or interactions often don’t suffice to express yourself — music, crafts, painting, dancing, poetry/writing, experiential design, ikebana — anything you can think of is on the table :D
- Seek out positive new experiences. People with ADHD crave stimulation, so make sure you get it in positive ways; otherwise, it can turn in on itself and be self-destructive. Do good by using your need for stimulation to bring more into your life — read more, do a course, travel or commit to trying a new thing every week. You’ll find that burning this particular type of energy in positive ways not only enriches your life (and makes you more interesting) but contributes to feeling calm and content.
As ever, I’d love to hear people’s comments or feedback. Especially if you have calming methods that I haven’t mentioned, I’d love to hear about them. You can hit me up in the comments below, or find me on Twitter :)