This week one of my clients inquired about my ADHD and how I manage my schedule/life to be most effective to my neurodiverse needs. My initial response was – I’m not sure how much extrapolative advice I can give.
Due to early experiences of burnout cycles in my career, I’ve spent years tailoring my life to be sustainable under my unique needs. That means I work from home and provide significantly less direct service hours/week than most in my field. This has required a multiyear process of transforming and adapting my business model and how I view the services I offer.
Over the course of the week though, I have realized there is some method to the madness that I can share with my ADHD squad.
Exercise is imperative to my mood regulation. I aim to exercise 5 days week – this usually looks like 2 days of kickboxing with my trainer, 2-3 walks at a local nature preserve (I alternate between 3 different locations ranging from 1.3 – 2.7 miles). Other activities might be going to the pool, yoga (in studio or at home), horseback riding.
Anything that has me in nature and moving counts because the goal of this exercise is to release tension from my body through movement. In the past I’ve always associated exercise with weight loss. While I’d love to lose about 35 lbs right now – that is not where my focus is and not a goal I’m compounding with this.
I have a pretty serious supplement regiment (and it helps contribute to my other routines). I use a 3/day pill divider. Those doses help remind me to eat and give an artificial blocking to my often nebulous days. In the morning I typically take my first round without food – and to increase the effectiveness – I drink them with water. I prefer to start my day with Dr. Pepper, but I know that I’ve invested in these supplements and I want them to work – so I’ve paired a desired behavior with another desired behavior.
By starting my day with water consumption, I’m more likely to continue that pattern throughout the day. My second set pairs with lunch (and is a reminder to eat before 4 pm). Final set is at bedtime – another reminder to finish my day with proper hydration.
I also have a pretty serious sleep routine. I go to bed and wake up within an hour window at least 90% of the time. I don’t do late night events and I have no problem telling somebody thanks for the invite, but I’m in bed by 11. Sleep has been a battle my entire life and routine has been the thing that most helps regulate it.
I have a meditation practice that suits me. I am not a morning person. I don’t like waking up and I hate being jolted awake. No alarms here. In the morning, I wake up, stick my puppy outside, go to the bathroom, and then lay back down for anywhere from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours. (again I acknowledge that my life is tailored to my needs which has been a multi year process and this would not be sustainable for many people’s lives). My preference in this time is to doze back asleep – because I tend to have really vivid dreams during this period, which I then can lay in bed and interpret. Sometimes I sleep, sometimes I stay in that in-between space. I 100% consider this meditation – because it is a time without any extraneous noise – nobody is influencing my thought (I don’t turn on the TV or look at social media). This is my brain’s time to play and to set my intentions for the day.
I set a loose plan for each day. I try to accomplish 5 things on any given week day – a couple of days a week that looks like 4 client sessions + exercise + filming educational Tik Tok. Once I’ve done that I’m allowed to do whatever I want. On the days without sessions – tasks might include: personal appointments, phone calls, home chores, blogging, marketing, art, errands, etc…
I do 1 thing to feed my soul each weekend. Since I do not participate in organized religion, I give myself the task of doing something growth oriented. This might be a workshop or course at the yoga studio, a hike with my dog, intentional time with friends who are spiritual or just laying by the pool (because capitalism has moralized rest). Vintage hunting also falls in this category for me – I love the energy of antique malls and my spirit feels connected to generations past when I am surrounded by items that have endured.
I go grocery shopping on the same day every week (Thursday). This originally started because Z got paid on Thursday mornings, but it’s something I have realized really suits me. This way I go into the weekend with a stocked fridge and am way less tempted to splurge on meals out/convenience food. I also alternate between HEB (my preferred grocery location) and Walmart every other week. I try to rotate where I stock up on things like dry goods, household items on Walmart week. On HEB weeks I treat myself to some higher quality produce and prepackaged items.
I do not commit to things I don’t want to do. Because I have anxiety and am an introvert, I can spend days thinking about how miserable an upcoming event might be. So I say “No thank you” to a fair amount of invites.
I try to prepare for the week on Sunday. This is the day I do home chores that I don’t like. Let me acknowledge with ADHD my home is typically not near as clean as any of the spaces I grew up in. Cleanliness (like rest) has been moralized, used as a tool of our oppression. I had to set my own bar for my household and the standards I was OK with. I do not want to expend my energy sweeping and mopping ever single day – I find that really futile. So I do it once a week and that’s good enough for me.
I also do my laundry, make sure the dishes are run (if I start the week with an empty sink I’m much more likely to end with one), and refill my supplement pack. I do not do any work on Sunday. I usually cook a big meal which gives me leftovers for Monday (a session day for me).
The key to all this in DBT terms is EFFECTIVENESS. I do what works for me. As part of the ADHD club – that has required letting go of a lot of “shoulds” from my childhood. There is no perfect way to approach life and it is a constant process of assessing and modifying.
I’d love to hear what you find helpful from the list or your own personal modifications of some of these strategies. Feel free to share your tips & tricks in the comment section as well!
Happy human-ing 😊
After posting I realized there was one more really important piece – check out part 2 of this series.