Self-help and Lifestyle Tips for ADHD

There are some practical and simple changes you can make to your lifestyle to make living with ADHD or living with someone with ADHD less challenging.

Exercise

Physical exercise provides a number of benefits to fight stress, anxiety, depression, and improve working memory, cognitive function and positive thinking (Archer & Kostrzewa, 2012). Exercise stimulates the release of specific neurotransmitters in the brain which help both calm and focus the nervous system.   Regular exercise also has a healthy impact on sleep habits and on diet and appetite.

As an added benefit, for adults and children living with ADHD, exercise helps to burn off excess energy.  The Australia’sPhysical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines by The Australian Department of Health recommends a minimum of 3 hours daily for children aged up to 5 years; a minimum of one hour per day for children aged between 5 and 17 years; and approximately 2 and a half to 5 hours per week for young adults into adulthood (www.health.gov.au).

Diet

Eating a balanced diet of healthy fats, proteins, fruits and vegetable and complex carbohydrates, free from processed and sugary food and drinks, can be another important component of managing ADHD behaviours and symptoms. Poor diet and poor gut health can exacerbate many symptoms and behaviours of ADHD, including poor sleep, poor focus and concentration, poor memory and mood changes.

There are a number of animal studies that show an association between levels of omega 3 fatty acids wth levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine (Sin, 2008).  Therefore, eating foods high in healthy fats, omega 3 oils, and even adding supplements such as probiotics and omega 3 oils to your diet,  can boost your gut and brain health.

Sleep

There is nothing better than a good nights sleep! Sleep is a vital active process to rejuvenate the body and brain function. However, for many people and children living with ADHD, this may be easier said than done.  Difficulties with falling asleep; staying asleep; resistance by children to going to bed; and daytime sleepiness have been reported by parents of children with ADHD (Weiss and Salpekar, 2010). Establishing a good sleep routine is very important. 

This includes going to bed at a similar hour most nights; and avoiding screen time at least 60-90 minutes before bed. For children, having a routine that includes quieting-down time and calming activities before bed could be beneficial.  This may include a bedtime story, book on tape, some calming music at bedtime, mindfulness activities, and/or a warm bath. Adding in sufficient physical exercise and a healthy diet to your daily routine can also have a significant impact on sleep quality.

Mindfulness

Including a daily mindfulness practice as part of your routine, may help reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Regular mindfulness practice can help decrease stress; reduce distractibility and impulsivity; and improve emotional self-regulation. These are important skills for everyone, but can be particularly important for children, adolescents and adults living with ADHD (Hepark et al, 2014).

Mindfulness activities can include meditation, breathing activities, going for a walk, and yoga, to name a few. It involves paying more close attention to your thoughts, feelings, emotions and body sensations, without judging yourself.  It can be done at home, in the car while driving, or while eating.  Once you have practiced “checking in with yourself” regularly throughout your day, or helping your child check in with themselves,  you may then be able to apply the same techniques to times when you, or they, are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious.

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