In my last post, I talked about why ADHD and anxiety often go together. So much for the problem, but what about the solution?
Today I want to share some strategies I’ve found helpful for managing anxiety that accompanies ADHD. Doing these things didn’t wipe out my anxiety in one fell swoop, but it did make my anxiety less overwhelming and help me reframe it in a way where I could start making progress.
1. Treat the ADHD
If you have ADHD with anxiety, treating the ADHD is essential. Part of this comes down to finding professionals who have experience with both anxiety and ADHD.
Because anxiety is in many ways a more obvious diagnosis to make than ADHD, some doctors will jump right into trying to treat the anxiety. But without working on the ADHD, there’s a good chance you won’t be making much progress on the anxiety.
2. Practice Acceptance
Acceptance is the holy grail of ADHD diagnosis. Once you know why you have your symptoms, you can work toward both treating them and accepting the aspects of them you can’t change.
After you’ve been diagnosed, you still have ADHD, and your symptoms are still going to cause things to go wrong in your life. When ADHD-precipitated problems crop up, work on accepting them for what they are by saying “well, that just happened, it sure did” and then moving on. Accepting the parts of ADHD you don’t have control over and taking it for what it is when your symptoms interfere with your life will reduce stress overall and take some burden off your anxiety.
Learning to laugh at yourself can also be a form of acceptance. Finding humor in your symptoms can be a way of moving past them, although there are some parts of life with ADHD you probably won’t be able to see as funny no matter how hard you try.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is about being non-judgmentally aware of the things you’re experiencing and feeling. For ADHD-related anxiety, mindfulness is helpful in a couple ways.
For one thing, mindfulness is a kind of acceptance. So when you practice mindfulness, you’re also practicing acceptance.
Second, it’s a way of relaxing, slowing down your mind, and transcending tangled, anxious thoughts. Focusing on your breathing and practicing meditation are similar ways of accomplishing this.
4. Use Organizational Systems
The chaos of life with ADHD is double-edged. On one hand, some chaos can actually be helpful for stimulating and focusing the ADHD brain.
Other kinds of chaos, though, add stress and turn everyday tasks into things that are complex and threatening. For unhelpful chaos, work out some kind of organizational system or routine that will simplify what you have to do. Simplicity means fewer things to worry about, which means less stress.
5. Don’t Try to Pretend You Don’t Have ADHD
Part of accepting an ADHD diagnosis is accepting that you need to find ways of operating that work for your brain, not try to force yourself to do things the way you would if you didn’t have ADHD. Having ADHD might mean you have to approach school differently, look for certain kinds of work environments, or structure your life to fit with the way your brain functions.
This isn’t a bad thing. It’s about finding what works best with your unique strengths and weaknesses so you can flourish. And there’s no question that you can flourish with ADHD.
Not adapting your life to your brain, though, can be an extremely stressful exercise. Trying to force yourself to live the way you would if you didn’t have ADHD can create all kinds of problems and make any anxiety you have worse. One of the best ways to deal with ADHD-related anxiety is to give yourself permission to create a life that works with your ADHD.
D’you have other tips for managing anxiety with ADHD? Share them below!