I want you to think about ADHD as a metaphorical cake you’re about to bake. Each ingredient in that cake is a different facet of your treatment such as medication, routines, and other skills. And adding the below skills and similar skills to your psychological tool kit.

When one of those ingredients gets ignored or purposely left out, the end result will end up differently than you expected it to turn out. One of those ingredients is learning various coping strategies and following rules such as the following five rules I mentioned in this article.

Rule One: Don’t be so hard on yourself, no one is perfect

One of the hardest things I struggle with is my fear of failure. When a person diagnosed with ADHD constantly has people tell them they’re lazy, stupid and other demeaning comments. 

Living with ADHD isn’t fun! Because of things like imposter syndrome and self-stigma. When they hear phrases like you’re lazy, stupid, Adduh (just to name a few). We begin to think we are lazy, stupid and not good enough and breaking this toxic self-talk cycle isn’t easy.

So my first rule and the most difficult rule is a little self-care & compassion goes a long way.

Keep these simple tips in mind when you’re hard on yourself

  • No one is perfect, and that’s fine. So remember, if you struggle at something, you’re not alone.
  • Remember to celebrate your little wins not just the big ones because you deserve it. Also, base your progress on your own gains not on what everyone else is doing.
  • It’s normal to take time out for yourself because self-care isn’t a selfish act it’s a selfless act.
  • Watch a video or read something that inspires you, my favourite is Jessica McCabes Ted talk on Adhd. I highly recommend checking out her channel HowtoAdhd.
  • Remember, self-care isn’t always about doing easy things. Self-care can mean dealing with tough things like emotional regulation, trauma, toxic behaviour and relationships.

Rule Two: Mindfulness is easier than you think

Most people, when they think about mindfulness, they think it’s about Buddhism. The truth is psychology and Buddhism have a lot in common and psychology takes many of the fundamentals of Buddhism and implements them into various therapeutic techniques like ABT & CBT. 

Buddhism also isn’t a religion

The biggest therapeutic technique that comes from Buddhism is mindfulness. Mindfulness doesn’t mean you have to move your family to Tibet and meditate in a cave till you achieve enlightenment. 

Mindfulness simply means being present in your life it’s incredibly helpful in areas of your life such as:

  • It helps improve your ability to recognize your emotions by developing emotional dysregulation. It’s also a great coping tool for recognizing your triggers, and anxieties.
  • Mindfulness teaches you how to accept your tough emotions and unhealthy thoughts and behaviours.
  • Mindfulness can be helpful for developing grounding techniques and help you recognize when you should be using those grounding techniques.
  • Mindfulness helps to build skills like self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-compassion, impulse control and conflict resolution.
  • It can also help you to recognize when your brain is becoming overwhelmed or overstimulated.

Rule Three: Routine, routine, routine

When you think about ADHD do the words resilient, hard-working, funny come to mind? Many people view ADHD through stereotypes like Adhder’s are lazy. And that’s not the case. 

Most people don’t realize people with Adhd thrive on routines. Here are my rules for building routines:

  • Be SMART when working on developing skills such as; creating habits, sleep schedules, work schedules, study habits and organizational skills. By taking the SMART approach, to making long term routines. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
  • Think about your end goal. Ask for help from a parent, therapist or peer support worker or even your smartphone is beneficial by using apps such as Fabulous or Youper.
  • Reward yourself for a job well done once a week.
  • Start with baby steps and be flexible.

Rule Four: How to deal with microaggressions

Microaggressions are like a passive-aggressive way of putting someone down and can be damaging. I used to tolerate microaggressions. Because when I was younger I was verbally and emotionally abused when I spoke up I was abused more so I stopped speaking up. 

Until I realized that I wasn’t a bad person for wanting to be treated with respect

Webster’s defines microaggressions as; “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority)”

A couple of examples of Adhd microaggressions are; “everyone’s a little ADHD, right!” or “Did you take your pill today.” 

When dealing with Microaggressions and other types of stigma or dealing with toxic people. I found these to be useful for not letting them get under your skin.

  • Don’t feel bad for sticking up for yourself even if that means putting that person in their place. Also, don’t feel bad for walking away from a conversation because you don’t have to tolerate abuse.
  • Practice healthy self-talk, and stick to your boundaries.
  • Educate yourself and remember your job is to focus on your recovery. It isn’t to educate the local self-proclaimed expert. When you give in to that toxic person they feed off your reactions and when you don’t it empowers you and takes away their power.
  • Stay away from unsolicited advice from friends, family, celebrities who think they’re Google searches are equivalent to a university degree.
  • Not tolerating or getting upset about stigma is a normal reaction. It doesn’t make you a snowflake or mellow dramatic or weak. Stigmatized beliefs about mental illness and pill bashing are forms of discrimination and verbal abuse. 
  • Focus on what’s in your control to cope with what’s out of your control.

Rule Five: Remember, medication is important but you play a role in your treatment as well

Remember, taking a pill doesn’t mean BOOM no more ADHD! Medication gives a person the clarity to cope with symptoms such as impulse control, emotional regulation and focus. 

One of the biggest aspects of one’s treatment is the role they play in their treatment. So for my final rule, I’m going to make it about personal responsibility

  • If you have any issues or questions about medication. Write your questions down or concerns. Then make sure you ask your doctor or pharmacist who will happily answer your questions and on the other side of the metaphorical coin. Stay away from mommy groups, celebrity advice and pseudoscience and alternative treatments like vitamins and supplements.
  • If you have any questions about your treatment can you guess who you should talk to about your concerns? That’s right, a qualified medical professional whose trained to answer your questions because being honest with yourself and your doctor is vital.

I know how tough it can be to talk about your struggles. I’ve been there many times. I can tell you from experience keeping things on the inside just leads to more issues. The unfortunate truth is unless you communicate with your doctor or therapist they may not have all the information they need to make an accurate assessment.

  • There’s another person you need to be honest with yourself! Two of your most powerful tools are acceptance and acknowledgment. Might like a weakness but saying “I need help.” I can tell you from firsthand experience acceptance the saying to yourself I need help. 

While acknowledging those areas with yourself and with your doctor or therapist will be life-changing, I promise.

  • I’m a huge fan of technology.  I know technology gets a bad rap but technology is like everything else in life. It’s more about how you use that tool which dictates whether it’s effectiveness. Smartphone apps help with areas like organizational skills, scheduling, grounding techniques I use mental health apps daily and they’ve been an integral part of my treatment.
  • Don’t take the Polly positive philosophy to your treatment. The glass is half full approach may sound great, but it’s a form of toxic positivity. When you only focus on the nice things you’re avoiding a very important part of your treatment. Doing this will influence your emotional and psychological well-being.

It’s about acceptance, not avoidance and if something is tough, break it down with your therapist

  • Also listen to your doctor or therapist you may think you know more than they do but you don’t because they’ve spent over a decade in school in the medical and psychological fields. If you’re offended by that here’s a metaphor to explain it.

You’re at the dentist and have two options for performing your surgery. Dentist one is a dentist with a decade of experience and has certifications and qualifications needed to do your surgery. Dentist two is a random person whose experience is having their wisdom teeth pulled, and they never even went to dental school

I’m guessing you want dentist one performing your surgery am I right!

Remember, first-hand experience doesn’t always mean that the person is an expert. Qualified professionals have more experience and knowledge of the complexities of properly treating mental illnesses. And we go through things differently.

In conclusion, creating a balance in life means doing a lot of self-reflection. It takes time and patience. It won’t always be easy, but it’s important to practice these rules and any rules you or your therapist find beneficial to help create your balanced life.

To build resilience so you preserve throughout your entire life.

About the Author

Sandy Pace is a mental health advocate from Calgary, Alberta and also the author of Your Mental Health and You (Austin Macauley USA in NYC).