How to win the day (and let go of perfect) with ADHD.
I’ve had ADHD since 1992. Waaaay before it was cool, and also way before most adolescent girls were being diagnosed.
My son also has ADHD, as well as Aspergers.
I treated my ADHD with meds throughout college, but then stopped taking them in my twenties. I figured school was over and I could manage my inattention issues on my own in the, “real world.”
It wasn’t until my son was born that I noticed that my ADHD symptoms weren’t confined to memory issues and time management problems.
So I talked to a therapist, who encouraged me to talk to my family doctor.
I then went through about two years of using Effexor. My doctor didn’t want me to take a stimulant in my thirties. He felt I’d been off them for so long there was no point in going back.
I was mildly irritated, but I went along with the plan to treat my anxiety.
Until I started to research. I read Terry Matlen’s Book, The Queen of Distraction. Then I read Sari Solden’s book, Women with Attention Deficit Disorder. (Affiliate links. See my full disclosure)
All of a sudden my whole life made sense. I started searching for more info on women and mothers with ADHD. Since I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for I started this website.
You may have developed some compensatory strategies of your own. Women are very good at “masking” some of the symptoms of ADHD, which is why so many of us go undiagnosed for so long.
I’ve been trying to put into words why I do what I do, and why it’s so important.
All I can say is this: Life can be better.
How To Win The Day With ADHD
untreated ADHD in women
The first thing you have to do to manage ADHD is to acknowledge it.
ADHD isn’t something you can ignore and hope it goes away. In fact ignoring it substantially increases the risk that the symptoms will get worse over time and with hormonal changes throughout our lives. There’s even evidence that suggests untreated ADHD can shorten your life.
You will be faced with a never-ending series of choices throughout your life. Sometimes the choices will require action on your part. This is scary shit!
You won’t always know in the moment if you’re making the right decision or how it will turn out.
With ADHD, the day-to-day uncertainty is difficult to manage. Your brain doesn’t like not knowing how to start. And it really doesn’t like not knowing what the outcome will be.
A lifetime of missteps, and tiny rejections ads up to a sense that we can’t trust ourselves.
You might find it hard to try new things if you feel that you’ve failed many times before.
But*** you can work through this discomfort. Like Brene Brown says, “We can do hard things.”
Listen, I know your brain is always humming. They say we have 10k thoughts in a day.
Unfortunately, your ADHD brain might be giving you some negative feedback. This is totally normal, many of us struggle with negative rumination.
You aren’t doing anything wrong. You aren’t screwing up every day the way you think you are.
I know it means little hearing it from me, but you have to think about your mind in a new way. Not everything you think is true. As the saying goes, thoughts aren’t facts.
Develop an awareness for your own patterns of thought. Start a journal, you can’t fail at journaling and it doesn’t matter if you forget for a while.
Ask for help and support from the people around you. Talk to qualified professionals about the way you think.
When you share your experience of ADHD with other people it allows them to better understand you. Neurotypicals are not mind readers.
YES I’m harping on EFs again.
This is because for most women, it’s the executive function crap that we most struggle with. Women are expected to behave as if their EFs are online at all times. Planning, prioritizing, caretaking etc.
Is this not the stuff you beat yourself up for?
If you’re really motivated buy Russell Barkley’s book. (see my full disclosure)
Please don’t ignore the EF aspect of what’s going on in your life.
ADHD women will always have competing priorities. Partners, children, bosses at work, friends, parents – errrrbody wants a little piece of your attention and energy. And you feel stuck and unable to decide where to put your attention.
Just so we’re clear, this is an issue for women without ADHD as well.
Prioritizing is difficult for the ADHD brain. Weighing options requires attention to detail. There’s also an emotional component to all of our decision making.
In order to get anything done we have to avoid decision fatigue.
The best way I’ve found is to limit my options in every way possible.
First, I select only three tasks to complete each day. See my post on Prioritizing Your Busy Life.
Next, I eliminate excess decision making in my environment. For example, I don’t have five choices about what to eat for breakfast, I only have two. The same goes for everyone in my house.
Less decision making equals less stress.
Do more of what matters
I had a member of the Enclave tell me recently that she wanted to get more done. But then she listed off about twenty things she’d already done that day.
The problem wasn’t that she wasn’t doing enough, the problem was that she was doing too much.
You can probably identify with this. Her desire to do more things.
I’m proposing that instead of getting up earlier, or going to bed later, you do LESS things.
You just have to get really picky about what those things are.
Get clear about what matter the most to you ~ family, work, whatever it is. Don’t be ashamed if what matters to you most seems, “selfish.” Sometimes being selfish is necessary to move toward wellness.
Then you can make decisions about where to put your mental and emotional energy every day.
Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of working harder.
Create Structure in Your Day
You don’t have to have a color-coded schedule for every hour of your day. But you should probably have a few chunks to break it up.
Remember that as much as we think** we don’t like structure, our brains thrive on some predictability. Also, research indicates that time management isn’t just about setting timers.
Parkinson’s Law states that, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
You and I both know when it comes to time blindness this is absolutely true.
Create some structure in your day, choose your tasks mindfully, and see what happens.
But don’t focus too much on the results.
You’re hoping that report you did for work isn’t just good, but better than everyone else’s.
You care about the outcome, and controlling the outcome, more than the process.
You’d stay up for forty eight hours straight if it meant you’d be immune from ever making another mistake again. Am I right?
If so, you are a perfectionist living with ADHD. Like me. I feel you.
But since we can’t define perfect, and we won’t know once we get there, maybe we should just STOP.
STOP adding an element of difficulty to everything we do. And also, stop comparing ourselves to other women and mothers.
It’s draining you of your energy and it’s not worth it. Here’s my post on perfectionism.
My last point is a crucial one.
Even if you are an extrovert I encourage you to find some white space in your day.
You can prioritize, create structure, and journal til the cows come home – but if you don’t take any time for yourself you will burn out.
I’ll be doing a post on creating white space in the future. Maybe even another video with RenaFi.
Life can be better. You can win the day with ADHD.
You aren’t alone, and you aren’t crazy. We’re in this together.