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  • Writer's pictureRyan Sheridan, NP

Coping with ADHD: Integrative Tips You Can Try Today (Part 1)

Updated: Apr 5, 2023



 

Key Takeaways

  1. Coping with ADHD includes making changes to behavior and routines.

  2. You can quiet an ADHD mind with mindfulness techniques that help reduce anxiety and improve focus.

  3. ADHD can (and should) be addressed outside of medication. Certain foods can help improve focus by fueling our brains.

  4. All of these concepts, and more, are part of a sound integrative treatment plan for ADHD

 

Coping with ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder involves making deliberate and targeted changes to behavior and lifestyle. The coping mechanism that work for some may not work for others because ADHD is complex and symptoms of ADHD differ from person to person. Identifying solutions outside of medication is a huge part of integrative psychiatry. With integrative psychiatry, mental health is conceptualized in the context of the whole person.


In this article we are going to go over tips for managing ADHD, addressing ADHD outside of medication, how to quiet your ADHD mind, and explore ADHD’s relationship with food. Then in Coping With ADHD Part 2, we will talk about caffeine, sleep, vitamins, and exercise.


Basic tips for ADHD


To get started, let’s talk establish some key basics that are important to consider. There are several holistic tips that can help individuals cope with ADHD.


Establish a routine


Try to establish a consistent routine for your daily tasks, including work, study, exercise, and leisure activities. This will help you to stay organized and manage your time more effectively. When we establish a routine, it is important to understand prioritization.

Use a planner


Use a planner or calendar to keep track of important dates, appointments, and tasks. This will help you to stay on top of your responsibilities and avoid forgetting important deadlines. More elaborate planning systems, like timeboxing can be very effective. Using a planner, along with a healthy routine, can significantly improve ADHD symptoms like procrastination.

Break tasks into smaller steps


Breaking down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps can help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed and make it easier to focus on one thing at a time.


Reduce distractions


Try to minimize distractions in your environment as much as possible. This can include turning off your phone or email notifications, closing unnecessary tabs on your computer, or working in a quiet, distraction-free space. Reducing distractions is ultimately about accountability - no one can do this part for you.


Remember that everyone's experience with ADHD is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. I recommend experimenting with different strategies and find what works best for you. This list is not exhaustive, but is a good place to start.


While all of these tips can be safely implemented without a provider, it is always a good idea to work with a professional to help maximize any changes. As an integrative provider, ADHD treatment is one of my specialties. I work with individuals to help fill in the gaps and truly optimize routines, exercise, nutrition, and more.

Can you fix ADHD without medication?

ADHD can and should be addressed outside of medication, even if medication is used. I am adamantly opposed to any treatment plan that is medication-only, especially ADHD. I discuss the ins and outs of ADHD medication in another article, but the key to remember is that medication has side effects and loses effectiveness over time. If we don’t take steps to address our mental health concerns outside of medication, we’re doing a terrible disservice by avoiding highly effective interventions, including for ADHD.

Back to the “can you fix ADHD” question… well, you can’t really fix ADHD. It is not a broken bone we can cast. But we can build a strong, resilient mind that is less likely to be impacted by ADHD. The idea behind changing behaviors, thought patterns, and routines is the optimize and fine tune our lives so that we can better manage ADHD.

So, yes, you can absolutely address ADHD without medication! However, our approach, perception, and expectations need to be in line with reality because ADHD cannot be cured, even with a pill. Just a reminder, the most effective treatment for ADHD isn't a single intervention but rather a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to each person and their needs, goals, and symptoms.

How to quiet an ADHD mind


Quieting an ADHD mind can be a challenging task. Learning to harness the power of the mind is truly a lifelong quest. There are several techniques you can try:


Mindfulness Meditation


Practicing mindfulness meditation can help to calm and focus the mind. Start by sitting quietly and focusing on your breath, observing each inhale and exhale. When your mind starts to wander, gently redirect your attention back to your breath. This can be overwhelming, so you may find it helpful to use an app like Insight Timer to help get you started.

Deep breathing exercises


Deep breathing exercises, such as belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, can help to reduce stress and anxiety and improve focus. When we focus on our breathing, we are quieting our minds.

Visualization


Visualization techniques can help to calm the mind and improve focus. Try picturing a peaceful scene, such as a beach or a forest, and focus on the details. This can feel funny, so try to narrate in your mind in great detail the first time you saw the beach or snow. In your mind, consider all of your five senses. Be imaginative!



Progressive muscle relaxation


Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group in the body, starting from the toes and working your way up to the head. This technique can help to reduce tension and improve relaxation. Again, we are using the mind to focus here.

Therapy


Therapy help you identify and reframe negative thinking patterns that can exacerbate ADHD symptoms. A therapist can teach you practical techniques to help you manage your thoughts and emotions more effectively. This can feel overwhelming at first. Look for a provider that you can connect with or that shares common traits or interests.


Everyone's experience with ADHD is unique, so experiment with different mindfulness techniques to find one that fits your preferences and situation. There are no right answers, only what works for you. Start small, take 5 minutes a day and build from there.

What foods help focus ADHD?

I talk about the link between nutrition and ADHD in more detail in another blog post. But let’s go over it again here. While there is no specific diet that can cure ADHD, there are certain foods that may help to improve focus and concentration for individuals with ADHD. Believe it or not, there are actually certain foods that contribute to symptoms of ADHD.

Here’s a quick rundown of the key points between food and ADHD:


Protein-rich foods


Protein is essential for brain function and can help to improve concentration and focus. Good sources of protein include lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and beans. The goal is not to skip other food groups, ever, but to make sure we have a strong foundation of food to support our brains.

Complex carbohydrates


Complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain bread, pasta, and rice, can help to provide a steady source of energy to the brain, which can improve focus and concentration. Yes, sugary, highly processed foods can be an issue. If you have a donut here and there, there’s not an issue. But if the bulk of your nutrition is coming from refined sugar, processed sources, it is likely to impact ADHD symptoms in a dramatic way.

Fruits and vegetables:


Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that are essential for brain function. They also contain antioxidants that can help to reduce inflammation in the brain. Dark leafy greens, berries, and citrus fruits are particularly beneficial.

Water


Staying hydrated is essential for brain function and can help to improve focus and concentration if we aren’t getting enough. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help to keep the brain functioning at its best. This is especially important for those on stimulants.


Foods may be helpful for improving focus and concentration, but the expectations should be realistic. Much of the time, other interventions are needed to successfully manage ADHD – and that is okay! So, while a balanced and nutritious diet can be helpful, we cannot forgo an overall treatment plan for managing ADHD symptoms.

Coping with ADHD (Part 1) Conclusion:

In conclusion, coping with ADHD requires targeted changes to behavior and lifestyle that vary from person to person due to the complex nature of the disorder. Integrative psychiatry recognizes the importance of identifying non-medication solutions for managing ADHD within the context of the whole person. This article aims to provide tips for managing ADHD, addressing it beyond medication, quieting the ADHD mind, and exploring its relationship with food.


In Coping With ADHD Part 2, we will cover caffeine, sleep, vitamins, and exercise.

If you have any additional questions about ADHD or integrative psychiatry in general, shoot me an email or reach out through my website. If you're looking for a provider and you're in the Washington, DC area, I'd love to help you on your treatment journey!


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