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Why Self-Care Is So Important When You Have ADHD

Reading time | 4 mins

Some days, I feel like I’m on top of the world. My schedule runs smoothly, I get to all of my meetings, I don’t lose my temper (not even once!), and life is lovely.

Today, as I write this, is not one of those days.

Today I am having an absolutely terrible day. It’s almost noon and I haven’t walked my dogs. My body aches all over, possibly because I’m also in the midst of a depressive episode. I have too many deadlines staring me in the face, and I just want to go hide.

At times like this, I feel like life has knocked me over the head. The good thing is that over the years I’ve learned not to panic when life seems chaotic. Everything comes in cycles; sometimes the cycle is positive, sometimes it’s not. It all comes down to finding ways to cope when things get tough.

Self-care is one of the tools we can use to make managing the day-to-day a bit easier. No matter who you are, what you do for a living, or how old you are, taking time out to tend to your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs is important — and it is even more so when you are living with ADHD or other chronic health conditions.

My self-care routine may never be “perfect” — everything in life is about balance, and that’s something I can only achieve about three days out of the week. But just because I’m not capable of perfection doesn’t mean that I can’t do my best and pay attention to self-care for the sake of my own well-being.

Here are some reasons why self-care is so important when you have ADHD.

Avoid burnout

My life with ADHD means constantly having to juggle wanting to commit to doing everything versus actually being able to accomplish everything. My heart is in the right place. There are many things I would like to do but when the day comes, I just don’t have the energy to power through them. When I overcommit, my stress increases, my mood goes south, and by the time I finish the (too many) things I said I’d do, I’m so exhausted that it can take up to a week to recover. One of the ways I care for myself is by not overloading my schedule and not saying “yes” to something if it’s not realistic.

Sleeplessness is not your friend

I have always, always struggled with getting a good night’s sleep. I often suffer from bouts of insomnia and can only get a few hours of sleep if I’m lucky. At other times, I sleep too much and am a groggy mess. My sleep issues often go hand-in-hand with my scheduling problems — if I’m overcommitted, then I push through the night (hello, hyperfocus!) to try and get everything done. If I don’t make it a point to get somewhere between 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night, my anxiety, ADHD, and depression symptoms go off the charts. Self-care is hard for me when it comes to sleep. Most nights I find my way into bed at a decent hour, but sometimes rest remains elusive. In this case, I stay focused on doing my best to have good sleep hygiene, and try not to beat myself up if it doesn’t work out every single night.

A HUGE mess

Keeping things tidy is one of the most important parts of my self-care routine. ADHD and disorganization are two peas in a pod. That means that those of us living with ADHD tend to make piles of paperwork, clothing, and other important items all over the place. We all get a little messy sometimes, and I can deal with it up to a certain point before it feels like things are out of control, but to stay in a good headspace I have to keep things relatively neat. The piles and stacks of paperwork still happen, but I make sure to sort through them regularly and find a home for everything — otherwise my anxiety spikes and I feel like I’m just creating a mountain of extra work for myself.

The takeaway

Prioritizing self-care isn’t selfish! Taking the time — even if it’s just a few minutes each day — to do things that help your body and mind can make you a more well-rounded and potentially much less anxious person. There is no one way to care for yourself — you don’t have to go to an expensive spa, or buy a bunch of stuff. Self-care might be taking a walk every day at lunch, going to bed early, or drinking enough water every day. Whatever that looks like for you, I want you to make one small step towards working on one area of your self-care this week. Once you get pretty close to mastering that, get started on the next one. Some areas may always be a challenge, but even taking small steps toward a healthier, happier you is better than doing nothing at all. You can do it, I believe in you.

For more information on how to manage ADHD, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

ADHD-US-NP-00052 MAY 2019